Monday, May 16, 2011


THE SLAB'S MOST INTERESTING CHARACTER DIES OF NATURAL CAUSES. Received word yesterday that this most colorful character died 5/5/11. His story astounds me and I think has something to teach us all. I've gathered from my archives this gallery of pictures--and as I show them will tell you why I am celebrating his life and contribution.
This shot is from a 2009 lecture/tour Charlie gave to a group of about 40. Behind him is the famous insulated container he had shipped from the coast and in which he lived for a long time.

Charlie was lost, in spirit, when he came to the Slabs---attached himself briefly to another Slab artist --but soon decided to stake a claim for himself and make a home here at the "end of the world"

Choosing a most unpromising spot---a one acre pile of trash---he began to build his base. Cleaning up the trash--incorporating much of it into an assortment of folk art pieces. Here's his kitchen in 2009.

A gaggle of visitors on tour through his house.

Two of his art cars.

Slowly he got physically comfortable and began his grand project of building an art museum around his house. This is the Eastern entrance.

In time various friends would donate unusual objects such as the whirlygig and geodesic dome.

He was smart--friendly and well spoken---here conducting a Q&A session.

I think he intended his pagoda as a never-to-be-finished project---forever changing.

I am hard pressed to know what Charlie wished to say to the world--but he had lots of definite ideas.

He was a spectacular accumulator---somehow acquiring this massive array of batteries---which he kept charged with a huge array of solar panels.



He was lost and he came to the Slabs;

Came to the end of the earth.

Lost souls cluster here:

Less lost for being together.

He staked his claim in a pile of trash:

Made art from junk.

Gave name --and even fame

to East Jesus Museum.

Morphed rubbish into spectacle

fashioned whimsey from his mind;

and thousands beat a path to his door.

He did no harm,

He had his say;

He kept his brain alight

in a very dim corner.

Forged an identity

Won respect.

Here's to Charlie:

He found himself in a pile of trash,

and found himself----in a pile of trash.


Diana said...

That is so sad - I will always remember him - he was a really neat guy.

farmlady said...

I didn't know him but I feel like I do now, thanks to your tribute.
A wonderful, thoughtful prose poem.
Thank you....

Sondra said...

Bravo..he died as he lived free and true right up to the end!

Jim said...

IIRC, Charlie was only 48. That hardly seems a death by "natural" causes. My Dad was only 48 when he crossed over and it certainly wasn't "natural" in his case. I've outlived him by 10 years already!
Any additional word on the actual cause of Charlie's death? In my Dad's case, he came to believe he would never accomplish even the most modest of his life's dreams. The disparity between his daily reality and the life he had imagined for himself became too great. Life can be a tough gig when you postpone all your pleasure for some distant day which never quite arrives. To finally get "there" after a lifetime of little more than work only to learn there is no there there is more than most mortals can embrace.
For my own life, I've learned to maximize my joy on a daily basis; to live each day as if it were my last and simply do the best I can at whatever I'm doing (even if it's goofing off!) and have as much fun as possible (even at work!). The best life is one lived in the moment with NO regrets. Leave no room in your head for guilt about the past OR worry about the future. We have absolutely NO control over either one. Kick all that God shit to the bloody curb. Free your mind and your ass will follow. If Charlie found himself -- was true to his vision -- and enlightened a few others along the way? That's more than most of us will be able to say when we're through, eh?

Randy said...

Well said Jim--and I agree that 48 doesn't seem quite natural. Might try to learn more.

joeychen said...

Charlie was only 46 yrs old. The coroner has said appears to be natural causes, but cause unknown. They are doing autopsy, results in about 90days.

Up here in the SF Bay Area we're planning a memorial for early June, where we will (as Charlie preached) DO BIG FUN, MAKE MORE ART

thanks for that lovely poem Randy.

--joanne (one of Charlies ArtCar friends)

Anonymous said...

Randy, I read your poem tonight at our memorial for Charlie,thank you again for it. I hope to think I did it justice, cheers -joanne

joeychen said...

I read your poem at Charlie's memorial last night, thanks again for it.
I hope to think I did it justice,
cheers, --joanne

terrymdayjr said...

Charlie was an AMAZING character. He will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I never met Charlie, but talked with him several times by Ham Radio. Of course he had passed the toughest exam to earn Amateur Extra, the highest class of license. I was always fascinated by his life out at the slabs and that he said to hell with the rat race and retired early to life a life of freedom in East Jesus. I'm glad he at least spent a few years doing what he wanted, it would have been a shame to have passed away without having had that experience.

We miss him on the airwaves...