Thursday, January 13, 2011


THIS IS A LARGE STORY THAT MUST BE TOLD IN BITS. A story of accident, chaos, meaning, freedom and order. I come here to conduct a series of experiments as my "tribe" joins me for a week long visit. Here's the edge of the thing---a most incredible square mile---the remains of a military base closed down in 1946---squatted upon by RVers seeking free--warm--winter camping---evolving into a loose knit society of mavericks and outlanders.
But first---I show you the infamous "HOLE" ---that's it's name--located just a few steps to the right of the guardhouse pictured above. An entire community bathes here. Warm water from a nearby spring pours into this hole and is shunted under a canal to dissipate into a field.
The entrance is a bit soggy at times--but no mind---strip yourself--and carefully hang your clothes on the bushes.
Then climb down this ladder for one of the most delightful showers of your lifetime. Thousands have bathed here---an experience to brag about---Have you been in the hole? Be ashamed to say no if you've visited the slabs.
The water comes from the outflow of this warm spring a half mile away.
Salvation Mountain---made world famous in Sean Penn's movie INTO THE WILD . Google it for the full story.
Leonard Knight--its builder---now very old and feeble ---He's famous---and apparantly on fire with purpose. I wonder whether he's squandered his life.
The guy out front addressing my tour group is a refugee social worker from New York who lives near Leonard and has assigned himself the duty to protect the old man from predators. (He was robbed) Tomorrow I plan to show you scenes from the slabs heartland that struck me. and the next day report on my experiments and finally philosophize a bit.


Jim said...

Looking forward to hearing more about The Slabs. Haven't been there myself yet but I have read a wide variety of opinions about the place. Seems that folks struggle with the notion of a place -- any place -- where the inhabitants are totally and truly FREE. Free to do whatever they want. Even free to do nothing at all.
Our western culture only rewards doing and doesn't allow anything beyond that doing to define us but aren't we, after all, called human BEINGS? Why isn't it *enough* to just BE? Sadly, for most, just being will never be enough. And if it's not enough for them? It can't be enough for anyone else either.
Yet, victim of my culture that I am, while I'm BEING there, I'll also be doing = picking up some trash. It's what I've always done to 'pay the rent' whenever I camp for free, but mostly it's just to leave a place somehow better than it was when I got there.

Tesaje said...

I've never seen the place either. I've wondered how safe it is for the more vunerable with no bounds. Sad the old man was robbed. I personally think he is wasting his life on a mission based on fictions, but so long as he harms none, it's his life to do with as he wants. Pretty much my guiding principle for living & judging.

I find it rather amazing that the place remains open to squatting for so very many years. Does the govt. still own the land? That could explain it.

Always find your ruminations interesting.

Kelly said...

Looking forward to more of your thoughts. We have spent time there.
Did the library manage to survive?

Rob said...

"squandered his life."

When I see the words used (by someone else) to describe how "a" life was lived (always someone else's) I'm generally not happy with the author's choice of words.

My initial reaction is generally "Who are you to judge?", my second reaction is "living your own life isn't good enough for you? You want to tell others how to live theirs?".

I listened to a guy on the radio talk about how his dad "used" his life to build and his mom "spent" her life on the family... Wow, such judgement of his mother's choices.

My final thought/reaction is a shrug as I get on with living (or spending or squandering or wasting) my life as I see fit and fate-the universe-my sense of right/wrong allow.

I am looking forward to the rest of the story and my first visit to the slabs...

Dixxe said...

Oh how hot is the spring...looks awesome. I have to come to see this place for myself...I did learn of it by reading "Into the Wilds" when it was a book before the movie. Too bad the old fellow was robbed..that just sucks on so many levels! He is there trying to have a happy life no matter if wasted or not its his to design.

Paxie said...

I love your stories. I sit here in NC in my house and live vicariously through your world.

Thank you for sharing it with us...

Randy said...

Thanks all for your interest, comments and questions---will deal with all at once.
Jim: Good insight Doing/Being---worth some deep thought.
Tesaje: Yes, the State Government owns the land--received it as a gift from the Teachers Union, who bought it from the US as an investment but chose to divest itself (for liability reasons?) And yes, I feel safe enough there--lots of eyes are comforting.
Kelly: The Library is in serious decline from just a year ago--will mention it in my Drama post.
Rob: We agree about judgementalism
(a useless social tactic) but disagree about whether it's possible to squander life. I've done lots of it and I see heartbreaking squander everywhere--gambling, religion, addiction--I think whole societies squander their life energies---like the Egyptians building pyramids and Easter Islanders carving statues--while the Greeks were THINKING ---and writing---a much better use of time.
Dixxe: The spring is just barely warm and not appealing to me.

Anonymous said...

Leonard Knight has created one of the greatest pieces of outsider art known to mankind. If he squandered his life then so did Picasso, Dali and Van Gogh.

Michael said...

Hey VanDwellers in Slab City! You have the very well known Daniel Suelo living amongst you. Meet him if you can! Here's his latest blog entry:

Telly said...

You have accurately captured a visitor's perspective of Slab City. I'm glad that you had the opportunity to come visit us and would happily welcome you back any time.

I have only one comment: "free rent" is not quite accurate. Slab City is one of the last places where you can experience freedom. But it is NOT cheap. There are no resources here except what you bring with you... we do not have water, electricity, or garbage pick up. We must bring those things with us, and take them when we leave.

Freedom only happens with responsibility. It is earned, not given away.

thanks for posting our wonderful place. Come by for a chaotic cup of coffee any time.