Saturday, December 31, 2011


For those who've not read part one: 30 friends and I are visiting the Infamous Slabs intent on a bold experiment:


Effie leads this morning---cross country to the Northeastern edge of this square mile where Container Charlie lived and built his quirky museum.  A few months ago he dropped dead of a heart attack.  We want to know what happened to his art work.  His family had no interest in it we were told.
Luke (always out front) enters first.
Well this is something new---wasn't there last year---nor the "flash" car on the left.
And this is new---Charlie loved to half bury things

A mammoth made of tires---it's been tweaked a bit.
A bottle wall---that's new also.  Someone, it seems has taken up the mantle of quirk and is wearing it well.
Many of you will remember this buried bus---good story of a group on a mission---that ended right here. (too long to tell)
Someone moved into it and made it livable by constructing a level floor inside.
Remember this?  It's called XANADONT--a play on XANADU (Shelly poem)

Ah---we meet the new caretakers---Even a quirky museum abhors a vacuum.  Meet Penny--the new, cheerful docent who welcomes us---invites us into the inner sanctum.
Where we meet the entire caretaker community.  Meet "Kat" and company.
Of course you want a closer look at him---as I did.  Amazingly, he was undefensive (a trait I wildly admire) about his odd tattoos
Shows off one of the t-shirts that Charlie made to generate revenue.  He called his place "East Jesus".
Prepare yourself for the backside......
Now you get some sense of Charlie's ----Humor??

His kitchen---being put to good use---I presume.
When they learned that I had written Charlie's memorial poem---they offered to show us his remains.
We are led into an alter- like cove. 
They honor me with a baggie inverted over my hand---allowed to dip in and get a pinch of Charlie as a keepsake. (I will do something interesting with you charlie)
Now here's the spooky part.  As I left---on a whim---I turned and snapped a shot of him.  Do you see what I see?  That's not my reflection in the mirror----I swear to you it looks like Charlie---in the flesh.
Wait!----I'll go get a shot of him--so you can judge.

Charlie--adressing visitors 2 years ago.---See what I mean?

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Oh I'm not superstitious in the least.  If there were such things as ghosts--I would make it a point to enjoy them. When I noticed this surprising image I flashed on the strange lady I photographed peering into Lido's Ballroom in Tierra Amarillo:
I think what we've learned today is that our doings---our beings---have momentum.  Charlie's life and vision persist----and inspires.  And yours will too---for good or ill.  A Better legacy than fame or riches is to have set something in motion.

P.S. Haven't forgotten the "walking stick story"---it's up next.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


ENOUGH WITH BYSTANDER JOURNALISM!  ENOUGH WITH "SPECTATORISM"----I WILL GO AND "DANCE" WITH THE LOCALS----I WILL GO AND "STIR" THE POT.  I INVITE 30 OF MY BOLDER FRIENDS TO GO WITH ME----TO THE INFAMOUS "SLABS". People here are a mite touchy about visitors who gawk and go---so I propose we dig in for a 10 day stay---stretch our imagination for ways to get up close and personal---to engage---learn---teach--appreciate.

We each arrive separately---having discovered the many disadvantages of caravaning.  Our advance man--George--has selected a suitable camping area and phoned its coordinates to us. Those not already acquainted with the slabs click here for a briefing:
A distance shot showing the barren nothingness that has become a world celebrated happening.
Early arrivers select an assembly spot and gather firewood. Behind my rig you can see rigs of another adventurous group --- the Boondockers and behind them is a mega club---the LOWs (Loners on Wheels) who camp at the Slabs all winter long.
We assemble---are entertained by two guitarist---then make plans to "get personal" with the locals.
We begin next morning with a new kind of hike--we will march in a line (greater visual effect) behind a "leader".  At each stop, the leader goes to the rear and the next person becomes leader and must choose a destination for us.  Sure enough---people noticed our "march" and out of curiosity (I suppose) were willing to engage us.
Leaving the famous "range" night club area---Trish leads us to our next stop.
And a great one it was---At another club called The Stage Door. (focuses on children)  This pretty lady told us all about their home schooling program and assorted ongoing projects such as movie night and a documentary on homelessness being filmed by their father.  Just days later her pretty face and story was featured on CBS nightly news.
Next, we are led to the Oasis club.
Where Linda invited us in for a 30 minute Q&A.  The takeaway for me was that really good, warm, community can be generated anywhere and a pretty good clubhouse can be built for about $500.
The spunky lady leading this nightime adventure is Joann---my co-host.  She is famous for her creative ideas.  This one we called a "spooky walk sing sing"----because we boldly marched into the spooky areas with candlelight---singing christmas carols to people living in bushes and other odd places.
We returned to the Stage door and serenaded these kids--who came bounding out of the bus they are living in.  Despite their circumstances, they seemed spirited and happy.  They too were featured on the CBS nightly news.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Oh sweet people--I've only begun to report this saga.  In part two I will report how we got seriously heart to heart with slab citizens. I will show you a remarkable walking stick that put really good shoes on all these kids.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I INTRODUCE TO YOU A REAL LIVE FOREST GUMP--A SIMPLE GENIUS.  I've known him for 20 years and the feelings I have for him are similar to the feelings I felt for the movie character. I don't think he would be offended by the comparison.  And, like Forest Gump, the effect my friend has had on the world is  way, way disproportionate to his intellect. In fact it is very likely you have seen him on the silver screen in the movie INTO THE WILD--produced by Sean Penn.  Royalty checks still come to him.

Meet leonard Knight---artist--Christian--a man with a message.
I took this picture one year ago.
He lives here!
He made this!  It is called Salvation Mountain--located 3 miles east of Niland, a very un-scenic desert. 27 years of labor are represented. Tour busses bring the curious to view it.

Here are the most recently used-up paint cans.  An estimated 100,000 of them were used in the painted mud art work---all donated by well wishers. 
And here he is a few days ago---clearly Leonard is in decline.
Here's the full story:
His spirits rise when I sing a song to him---he joins me: "Jesus loves me---this I know---for the Bible tells me so---If I love him when I die---he will take me home on high". I have interviewed him several times over the years. Once I ask him for his religious views.  He said I was the first person who had ever asked.  His theology is heartrendingly simple and childlike:  God loves us---wants us to repent and accept Jesus---and love each other. Little did I suspect that this very day would mark the end of his career----for in the night he was taken to the hospital---diagnosed as incapable of managing his life and will be sent to an El Cajon, Ca nursing home.  Word quickly spread through the Slabs and perhaps around the world.

I seize the opportunity to quiz his caretaker Kevin Eubank MSW who protected and befriended the ailing artist these last few years. He told me that Leonard has asperger syndrome--a mild form of autism with the downside of  diminished ability to read social cues (and the host of relational problems that entails) BUT with the upside of a super ability to FOCUS  and PERSIST.  Want to know more?
I think you may be surprised at the famous people (allegedly) affected--for good and ill-- by it: 
 Leonard came to this spot 27 years ago bringing a giant home-made hot air balloon that he tediously pieced together from scraps-- thinking the desert environment would make inflating it easier--it didn't and eventually that years-long project was abandoned.  He lingered awhile-- long enough to generate another vision---paint his message---GOD IS LOVE-- on the nearby hill---and then plunged headlong into the task FOR THE NEXT 26 YEARS.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:----Is this a life well spent? ---He seemed happy-- told me he was excited each day to work on the mountain----delighted by everyone's support: (people donated equipment, vehicles, paint)--- (the nearby restaurant gave him free meals) ---But he lived a lifetime without intimate friends---or lovers--pushed them away, Kevin said.  I find it interesting that larger minds--(-like Kevins'--- as well as writers, photographers) centered on him--gathered around him at various times for inspiration---just as they did around Forest Gump. Perhaps we are drawn to people not afraid to commit---to something--anything---people who by genetic defect are not troubled by the anxiety of meaninglessness.  We complicated, confused personalities (most of us) might sometimes envy those simple spirits who dive boldly into---anything.  They at least have the courage to dive.  I may well  have dabbled my life away as a dilettante.  I've been discussing the title question for a week now with my friends--I have answered no--- that life is a smorgasbord of infinite dishes and that Leonard stopped--tragically-- at the bread.  But in the end, they persuaded me that the answer is yes--by my own criterion of a good life: RESPONDING TO ONES FASCINATIONS-----WAKING UP ONES CREATIVITY-----SHARING ONES ADVENTURE.  Leonard did these three things and his brain seemingly glowed for a lifetime AND INCIDENTALLY , THE WORLD BEAT A PATH TO HIS DOOR.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


IF YOU DOUBT THAT HUMAN TROLLS EXIST-----check out this blog from last year:
I find myself in the same area and would like an update.  Here was a gentleman with a limited income but who wished to stay forever drunk.  And so he found this free place to live so that his income of $600 a month could be devoted to his passion.  Apparently a person can stay inebriated and even eat on $20 a day.
My readers may remember that I was probing about in this old abandoned Motel near the Salton Sea when I met him---bellowing out at me from one of the dark rooms.  My companion managed to soothe him and a good interview followed.  This day, the Motel seems unchanged--strewn with trash.

The gentleman is nowhere to be seen---but it appears he stills dens here.

Two couches have been added to the kitchen area.
And a couch graces his summer sleeping area. (It's about 118 degrees here most summer days) I have a suspicion where he may be---about a half mile away--I will go look for him.
Here is where I surmise he would hang out.   Wait---is that him I see there playing cards?

Yes it is----I Meet Mark again---he doesn't remember me till I mention my lady companion--then he brightens up.  What I really want to see is how staying drunk 365 days a year is affecting him.

To my amazement---he is doing fine---and as if to punctuate that conclusion, this lovely lady comes over to share the photograph.  I chat awhile to detect if he is again drunk----and yes he is.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  If anything, he seems more alive and alert than last year.  Maybe a person can stay drunk for years---with that as the only focus of their lives.  I see that he has at least 3 friends---two of them were drunk also.  They invited me to join their poker game. I speculate on his likely fate----screaming into the night--with the DT's ---and no one to hear---and to be found dead in his "motel room".  That is what happened to "Shorty" my childhood friend---we found him in his abandoned school bus/den in my hometown.

Monday, November 28, 2011



Parked (free)in the Paradise Casino parking lot---Yuma, Az.--Hardly a care in the world--Living the good life.

Glancing to my left, I see the world famous Yuma Crossing---high bluffs of granite on opposite sides of the Colorado river--the perfect place for bridges--railroad and auto---built there in 1930.

And glancing just left to see the guard tower for the Yuma territorial prison. (remember the movie: "3:10 to Yuma)

My mornings are filled with beauty as balloons drift over my rig.

AND THEN---AND THEN---That very night a drunk smashes into my truck.

Two doors and this bed damage. 

The cops come---test him with a field sobriety test---handcuff him and take him to jail.

I'm able to get "home" but barely able to drive around.  Next day I get an estimate: $4,866.00.

While I'm waiting, I read this magazine and learn that automobile crashes, insurance, fault-finding, and repair shops, police reports are a vast web of money-making enterprises---with policy buyers footing the needlessly high bill. I also learned that I'm not likely to be reimbursed for my damages.  And that begins to upset me and mobilize my thoughts.

My friends are waiting for me in Borrego Springs, Ca--for our annual Thanksgiving gathering. Quickly, I gather facts---learn about the wrecking business and the nationwide linkup for used parts---order two doors (my truck is the 3 door model) for $500.00 and go looking for a reliable body shop. 5 shops later, I found my guy.  2 shops refused the job--at any price--replacing doors is highly tedious--I learned.  This one said yes when I sweetened the offer.  It took most of the day to accomplish this much.  I hung around out of curiosity.

And then things got very difficult--trying to fit the auxillary door into a damaged post.---THEN I saw why other shops refused the job.  They gave up for the night---tuesday night---the clock is ticking--my friends are 152 miles away.  In the night--believe it or not---I saw in my mind how to fit the door in place---I called the guy--Jacob Garcia--and told him---he said ok---and guess what--It worked---the door fit and the truck was drivable by Wed night. (not painted or undented--but drivable---good enough to travel) 

I was proud of my unconventional idea and surprised that the expert was open minded enough try it. He bit off a very difficult job for not a lot of money---I recommend him. (G-Styles Auto Body and Welding 928-726-6889----2766 Ave 3E---Yuma, Az, 85365)
I MADE IT--- by the hair of my chin chin chin---10 minutes before dinner was served.

My friends heard of my difficulties and saved a choice seat for me.  Our group ( ) gathers at this spot every year for a week of desert adventure.

This little triangle of land is famous in RVin circles---It is called PEG LEG SMITH'S in honor of an old prospector in this region.  One may camp free here indefinitely and many do. Orange groves green the environment to the right and the resort town of Anza Borrego, Ca lies against the distant mountains---2,500 desert loving citizens---completely surrounded by California's largest park.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I give myself decent marks for dealing rationally with this unpleasant episode.  I noted how vulnerable my whole lifestyle is---a simple crash could clip my high flying wings for some time as I carry most all my possessions with me.(yes my trailer was attached--but not damaged)  More importantly, I noticed my runaway feelings---I felt powerless in the face of an injustice (the drunk lied about the accident---it may go down as a "he said/he said" in the report and I may have to fix my vehicle.) A sad, numbing, depression settled on me for a few hours.   My mind replayed the facts over and over.  By morning, my WATCHER had kicked in:

 "I am not contained between my hat and boots----apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am----stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary---looks down with sidecurved head---curious what will come next---both in and out of the game---watching and wondering at it---I WITNESS---AND WAIT---(Whitman---Song of myself)

And I saw that it wasn't that big of a deal---a few thousand dollars at worst.  All over the world countless millions suffer real and enduring injustice.  And No doubt I have imposed much wrong on others. It's part of the cosmic drama.  So--slowly I came to acceptance--got cracking--gathering info--locating doors--ordering them, finding a body shop, etc.  In less than a week my joy returned -- I'm mobile again--and willing for the matter to take whatever course it takes.