Monday, January 30, 2012


EVIL IS A FORCE FOR HARMFUL EFFECTS---IT LIVES BEHIND A FACE--INSIDE A HEAD---IT IS AN IDEA---A VALUE---AN ATTITUDE.  It comes in three forms that I can think of: ECONOMIC---RELIGIOUS---IDEOLOGICAL.  Today I'm going after Economic evil.  I can only show you the face where it resides---AND I WILL!
This day I have thought of a question so carefully constructed that it will OUT (reveal, disclose, make known) an economically evil idea and attitude.  I will go find an investment banker and ask the question.  If the answer is yes---I will have outed an evil idea.
I wangled my way into the office of an investment banker and after establishing some rapport I asked the question.

Here he is in the very act of answering the question. (I have distorted the image slightly out of consideration for him)  He answered the question with a resounding YES.
HE SAID "YES"---and added:  "that's capitalism---profit--is the American way---it is honorable."
"but this much profit?"  I said---"for a simple days work".  "Yes," he said again, "Brokered payoffs are called transactional wealth----and transactions have made America the financial juggernaut that it is."

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Oh sweet readers--I think I have taken you with me into the den of devils.  This man does not know that VAST OVERCOMPENSATION FOR THE FEW DIMINISHES THE REST OF US---DISTORTS THE ECONOMY--- THAT  UNBOUNDED GREED IS IMPOVERISHING THE MASSES. THAT NAKED CAPITALISM SORELY NEEDS TO BE CREATIVELY TWEAKED. (Not dismissed--understand---just tweaked) What it needs is 1. OVERSIGHT 2. CAREFULLY MODERATED TAXATION 3. WEALTH RECYCLING WHEN THE SUPER WEALTHY DIE (i.e. Death taxes---again---carefully moderated) (Wealth is earned in a context--the wealthy owe something to the context)   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


HE WAS A MISFIT IN HIGH SCHOOL---He looked wierd---and he stuttered---was teased---was the brunt of jokes--was not intellectually gifted.  (how do I know this?  By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to interview a classmate---and friend) So off he went into the world---short of all the qualities we think desirable.  AAAh but he had three hidden qualities that guided his life to what I consider a spectacular success: 1. He knew what he wanted---a life of leisure, freedom and mobility. 2. He developed an iron WILL to press toward his goal. 3. He conceived a PLAN to get him there.

Meet Jeff----a spectacular success in my opinion---He no longer stutters---carries himself with pride--Is well aware that--like the tortoise---he has won the race with slow and steady steps.  Long ago he won his liberty, leisure, financial security and mobility----YET HE HAS NEVER EARNED MORE THAN A COMMON LABORER'S WAGES---- working only seasonally for  State or National parks---and then only half a year---after which he collected unemployment for a half year before returning to work.  HIS BIG SECRET STRATEGY WAS NEVER TO PAY RENT OR A MORTGAGE.   
For 23 years he has lived in this trailer----always rent-free in the parks or nearby.  He says he saved almost everything he earned---and the money piled up---till now he has enough to coast out the remainder of his life.  His monthly living expenses, he says, are about $200 a month.  Traveling only about 2000 miles a year, he moves from low-warm areas to high cool ones---"hanging out" much of the season at Lake Havasu, Az to wind surf.  I met him in Yuma, AZ.
Note this posture---I immediately flashed on that classic picture of an Australian Aboriginal, totally relaxed, standing on one foot, exuding the quiet pride and satisfaction of being stress free---at home in his universe.  You are looking at a man who has found his groove.  I'm humbled.
And so is his high school friend Tim---who gave me the early years story.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: What Jeff has in common with the Aboriginal is EFFORTLESS LIVING.  Both look with disdain at the mass of humanity---tripped up by its own traps---seeking to solve " the problem of a livlihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself." (Thoreau)
Tim--no doubt--as awed as I am of Jeff's effortless living style--comes to camp with his friend
on occasion. 


Saturday, January 21, 2012


FOUND: MEANING AND DIGNITY IN THE HINTERLANDS.  My readers have (properly)chastened and hopefully sensitized me a bit regarding the eccentric folks I encounter.  I shall now ask how I would feel if my own story were told by someone in the harshest spin----and would I be willing to show my interviewees the story I had written about them?  So here I go---with a new resolve:

Deeper into the bushes near Yuma, Az--than I have gone before---following this track---I am prepared--with camera and a gift.
Bingo---someone lives here.  I shout out a hello.

Out comes "Mike" ---the builder of a real-life house of sticks---(you too, might have reflected: Just like the second little piggy in the fairytale)

I  give him my gift and admire his handiwork. He shows me the inner structure--bedroom--cooking area etc. but asked that I not show it.

There it is---dear readers---a house of sticks.  Can you guess why he has piled branches in this manner?  To camouflage it of course from casual observers.  From a hundred yards ---it disappears --despite being built on a slight hill. Of course I want to ask: Why--and eventually I do.
His answer touched and amazed me:  He did it 2 years ago FOR HIS 2 CATS.  He was living in the Mission, somehow caring for them on the outside---when one day (he says) one of his cats SPOKE to him telepathically---but in clear english--saying: "PLEASE TAKE US AWAY FROM HERE!" He then searched---found this spot and began to build.  But coyotes kept trying to get his cats--creeping close in the nights.  So he constructed this escape trough so they can scamper to safety.

From the house area, they run down this protective tunnel

 down this hole
Down that plank into the safety of this cage.
I engage mike at some length and learn a lot---about mission life---living in the bushes like this---LEGALLY.  Turns out for $65 a year the Quechan Indian tribe will sell you a permit to live on their land---however you wish to live.  Another surprising revelation was that his family comes to visit him here on some occasions.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I'm delighted there is still room in the world for mavericks. I wish conventional governments would allow off the grid--in the bushes living.  He does no harm and cost us little. More significantly--to me--HERE IN A MOST UNLIKELY SPOT---MIKE IS GENERATING MEANING.  His head is on fire with purpose--he's interested--he has projects going.
He has enemies---coyotes to defend against.  Most importantly he has sentient beings to care for and who care for him--He has someone to love. I have engaged hundreds of loners and invariably, those with pets seem more approachable------and happier.

Friday, January 13, 2012



75 yr old water tank--100 ft in diameter--17 ft tall--2 of them served Camp
Dunlap--this now abandoned Marine base.  Stay with me---I will have a surprise for you.
Perfect space for the graffiti artist.  Shall we go closer?

See what he has on his mind? A protest against corporate evil---He names the bad guys!

And--- he's also mad about:  Military waste---the horrors of war.
But here's the surprise:  In 70 plus years, no one had been IN these tanks---What's in there? We wondered---AND THEN---AND THEN---My friends and I........
click here for the full story.  (courtesy my ex who filmed the adventure)
Only one man here has a reserved parking spot.  He's 80 plus and more vigorus than any of us youngsters ---- His people (the LOW's---Loners on Wheels)  honor him in this fashion.

Continuing my walk by this camp---probably a full time Slab dweller.  The fence blocks harsh summer windstorms from the West and furnishes shade from the afternoon sun.

Ah--this interested me when I heard about it.  A subterranean dwelling---now collapsed --- another effort to beat the fierce summer heat---117 degrees regularly.  I walk on---
My timing is great here---This unimaginative squatter/builder was just exiting his Box? (Yeah--he lives in that box)--to throw his trash into the nearby bushes.  Where are the windows, I wondered.
I walk past the Library--- now languishing---but once thriving---it's keeper is losing interest after 12 years of attending it. 
A sign of the times---internet cafe---that's new.
Note that line of stones---clear proof of Desmond Morris's (author--the Naked Ape?) theory that 5 things characterize human behavior everywhere: 1. Territoriality 2. Tribalism 3. Heirarchy 4. Gender specific division of labor 5. Weapons--and war
I think he could have added---ARTISTIC EXPRESSION.
Here's a guy very serious about power.  See all those solar panels? That's enough electricity to run a fully electric household.  Note also the wind turbines---their big advantage is that they can generate power at night (if the wind is blowing) ( they cost about $500 each and when active do the work of two of those panels) 
Completing my walk--I cross paths with two friends on an interesting quest---using a high-tech treasure finder to locate a watch--buried somewhere here 25 years ago.  They reported later that they failed.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Walking anywhere with senses alert is interesting.  Walking the Slabs is mesmerizing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Before I leave the Slabs for good--I Share with you a potpourri of mini Dramas I witnessed.

An elderly gentleman Lee Horning-- skilled at carving but suffering from Carpel Tunnel syndrome,  put forth heroic effort to create one last work of art---- then gave it away to be raffled off by the LOW (Loners on Wheels) organization to raise money for a needy family of 7.  Seemingly, the entire Slabs community bought chances for it.  Many hundreds of dollars were raised and the money purchased 14 pair of good shoes---36 pair of socks and 14 school shirts for the kids. 
One of our "neighbors" got mad and set this small trailer on fire.
Though he didn't call for it---the fire truck hurried in from Niland, Ca and put it out.
The fire setter unflinchingly took responsibility and was unapologetic---yelling at the firemen---"It's my trailer---I can burn it up if I want to."
Next day he's scraping away any inconvenient ash.
The incident gave me the opportunity to chat briefly with Vince----the now-famous father of those children receiving the shoes.  Two days after this meeting--he was featured on CBS nightly news as a dramatic example of a middle class family man losing his job and house---forced to retreat to this free campground.
This tiny drama touched me----a devoted believer---wishing to tell the world that he loves Jesus--lives in that tiny tent and arranges somehow to light up that cross at night. (battery power I presume)
This busy lady paints her pictures on whatever scraps of material she can scavenge---they sell for 3 to 5 dollars.  Do you weep with me? I can't exactly say why---but I do.  So many people give their heroic best to receive so little reward.  You are looking at a 99 % er.
This is sad too---but somehow--less so that the artist lady---These kids told me they had formed their own church..  They were enthusiastic and hopeful.  Born in an earlier time they might have gone on the children's crusade.
The famous RANGE night club---featured in the movie INTO THE WILD-----all solar powered---free to all comers---the vision and gift of an interesting Slab citizen called Builder Bill.
Here's where you sit to enjoy the performances.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I Noticed these little dramas as I walked around. I intend to NOTICE my way to------(enlightenment? maturity? A fuller humanity? ) A tiny thing to do----to notice---yet it is a real experience---as opposed to a thought.  I think a few hundred "notices" a day keeps my brain alive.
I hope to report more mini-dramas tomorrow--to finish up with the Slabs.

Friday, January 06, 2012


1. Become an audience;
2. Throw a party;
3. Give something away.

This morning we're marching our way to "church"
We pause briefly at the entrance to LOW road --showing signs to various organizations----LOW's (Loners on Wheels) ----Karma Kitchen and down at the bottom--(tiny red and black checkerboard thing) Our sign WINs (Wandering Individuals Network) The second lady in line is the Famous "Trish" Who leads caravans to wild and wonderful places--Alaska sometimes.  She is worth a separate entry.  
But I digress---We're on our way here.  My Co-host Joanne has arranged a group interview of the Pastor about life at the Slabs.
And here we are---It was a Wowser.  From a summer low population of about 50 to a winter high of about 500.  Most surprising revelation: He speculates that many come here to die--older--broken--men mostly who just want to die anonymously and fade from sight (on the county's nickle)--not wishing to trouble their kids or relatives.
He introduces Dave---His assistant---and a Bible Scholar. Don't be misled by his appearance--he carries himself with dignity---speaks intelligently.  The interview went so well that Joann declared on the spot that we would throw a party for all our new friends.  The date was set. 
Oh how I love to crank things up----so when I heard about a diminutive, mysterious, individual living in the bushes with a friendly mule, I resolved to find and invite them.  Maybe they will come to the party.  I find the place easily and approach warily.
And surprisingly---am received warmly--invited to photograph.  It is a tiny girl/woman?--who tells me she has lived at the Slabs for years---then drove to Montana in search of a small Mule/companion/pet.
She lets me pet APPLEJACK.  I introduce myself. She tells me she is known as "LITTLEBIT" or HALFPINT .  I tell her about our party and ask if she will make a surprise entrance to thrill everyone.
She says "OK".

The group bicycles around this unique square mile looking for other interesting folks to invite. 

The Day of the party.  We prepare a pot luck for our guest.
They come---and eat---and talk with us. Our guitarist entertain. We sit down to eat,  I have told them to expect a special guest.  They wonder who.  And Then---And then---
"She" appears out of nowhere---like the hero in a western movie.  She pauses for full effect----Cameras click---I grin---Perfect!
I welcome her invite her to come and dine.
And she does--Ambling through the silent awe her presence inspires --her chaps rustle with each step--spurs jangle--the hunting knife on her belt commands respect.  She knows she is a quiet  sensation. I sit and eat with her ---just a bit atwitter--trying not to say silly things.  was surprised at her gentleness and openness.

Then I performed.  Hard to resist a friendly audience.  Quoted my signature poem "The Magic of Motion."

Then persuaded Lois---the preacher's wife--to sing for us--a very touching moment for us all.  We learned that she has no friends in the conventional sense---her role as pastors wife isolates her.  But we gave her a golden moment---with applause and request for an encore.  She beamed with satisfaction and sang another----that she had written---about life at the slabs.  
Then Joann sprang our big surprise for the Preacher and his wife----presenting them with a few hundred dollars worth of food we purchased for them in town.  They promptly gave it away to needy families the next day.  What a great afternoon!

And to make good on my promise ---here's the famous walking cane that put really good shoes on a family of seven.  (good story---hope to tell it next time when I wrap up our Slabs experiment)
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Goal accomplished---We abandoned the spectator role---diving (carefully but clearly) into the lives of those around us.  The experiment went eeriely well---in this most challenging environment.  So satisfying--that I may just abandon bystander journalism altogether.  I want to get personal with everyone in my orbit.  (unless my "radar" beeps)
Already it's affected my approach to the guy living in a (literal) house of sticks. (an upcoming story)