Wednesday, November 14, 2012

World's Apart

The sun sets a little earlier every night it seems, as the temperatures nose dive and settle into gentle icy, rounded hills of lofty snow, that stand proudly on street curbs and at the end of driveways, after the seasons first winter storm.  On television, commercials are already beginning to entice children with promises of mountains of toys on Christmas day.  In the lawn of a perfectly manicured, expansive South Jordan home, bedazzled with cherry wood shutters, and beige stonework, a large oak statute of a moose, adorned with a Santa hat, and highlighted with hundreds of twinkly lights signals the beginning of the warm holiday season,  the little girl who lives there will grab the wooden cheeks and squeal, "Hello moose!"

At the corner of Stagg and depot Streets in Midvale, Utah, the temperatures seem a bit colder, the snow a touch deeper, and darker, those mounds of what used to be brilliant white, are now splattered, soiled and splashed with tar like mud shed by thousands of aimless, passing cars.   The small, weary neighborhood of manufactured homes, is almost an afterthought, oddly dropped in the middle of metal shops, car repair joints and vast fields filled with lumber shrink wrapped and ready for shipment.   If you weren't looking for it you would surely pass it by.

The trailer homes, have long since lost their newness, and are now patched together by cardboard, masking tape, and plywood. Scattered among them, sit several rusting RVs.  Once built to prowl the open road, filled with blue haired ladies and their potbellied retired sailors husbands, sporting baseball caps honoring the U.S.S Alabama, now instead, these rolling fortresses are wedged preposterously and likely illegally among the handmade plywood sheds, to the west, and manufactured homes to the east, and an illogical, pock marked cinder block wall to the south.  These RVs are no longer rambling the highway, but are now homes to men, women and children who have found themselves with no other options.

Number 49 is the one for which I'm looking.  The Unified Police Department says it is ground zero for an aggravated kidnapping attempt and robbery that ended with the arrest of two men.  Officers spent the lion's share of the day working on this case.  According to them, two men came to 49 and argued with it's owner over a car swap, eventually pulling a gun on him, before he runs away and they steal his car.

I was hoping to speak to the owner of this metal house, but when I knock on the hollow, flimsy door, there is no answer.  The dented shell is adorned on one window with tinfoil to keep the heat in, and on another with plastic wrap to keep the cold out.

In this neighborhood, a knock on the door is met with suspicion.  At the house next to 49, I rap on the worn screen door, only to see the lights flick off and the TV go dark and mute.  Whoever lives here, has likely learned, that when the bell rings after dark, it's best to let the ringer move on to the next house.

As photographer David Yost shoots video of the rumpled metal house, a boy on his aging Huffy peddles by.  As he veers close to me, he eyes me carefully, wondering, perhaps, if I'm an cop.  I smile and he returns the gesture, as his rusty bike, sounding like it's owner is hording a box of mice, squeaks away.

Near a red, creased, peeling mobile home, that is weighted down with pots pans, tools and duck tape, I meet a man named Alex.  He is kind, and not at all concerned about my presence in his neighborhood, we talk casually, and he tells me the owner of number 49 is a hard working scrap metal collector, just like Alex.  He says, the man is nice, and has never had any problems with police before.  Alex excuses himself at about 5:30, and says he has to get back to work, then climbs into an ancient red pickup driven by his wife or girlfriend, and the two head out to track down more scrap.

As I load into our news truck and David plunks his camera down into a sliding protective draw, two girls, likely 11 or 12, pass by coat-less  and snuggle together, as they giggle and laugh about boys, or school, or gym class, they seem as happy as that little girl in South Jordan, who is greeted every morning by a towering wooden moose.  All three girls, it seems to me, will dream of a Christmas filled with gifts and good cheer, despite living only a few miles, but yet, worlds apart.

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