Thursday, October 16, 2003


Garvin has moved into the 62-room palace, albeit into one of the facility’s main-floor bathrooms. But that’s not as bad as it might seem, since the two-room bathroom is larger than many motel rooms and has enough space for a full-sized bed and all his gear.

It’s so large that Garvin’s “office” is the bathroom’s waiting room.

He spends most of his days, and all of his nights, at the palace, where he has also become the de facto palace security guard.

“I’ll get up in the middle of the night and take a walk and make sure nobody’s taking down one of the chandeliers,” he said.

Visitors, whether Iraqi or American, sometimes want souvenirs from the palace.

“We get a lot of visitors here,” he said. “I don’t mind that, but some people come and want to take things. That’ll just destroy the place.”

What Garvin knows, but many people don’t, is that what appear to be gold-plated faucets and dozens of crystal chandeliers really aren’t.

“It looks nice, but it’s plastic and tin,” he said. “The [current] fixtures ... [seemingly] went to the cheapest bidder.”

Despite knowing the palace’s secrets, Garvin is still awed by the place.

“If you think about how many man-hours it took to build it, it’s phenomenal,” he said. “Why one person would need all this room is unbelievable.”

So far, none of the palace’s former residents have come back to explain why.

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