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)


BlackSheep said...

So interesting!! Kudos on a successful adventure! I wonder, do you think this new style of group approach would work on that guy you met back in Bluewater Park in New Mexico??

NE'er said...

Wonderful post.

Boonie said...

Your habit of over-glamorizing Slabs people is counter-productive to what I think is your intended purpose: encouraging lifestyle examination and experimentation.

For most people this will not come from trying to emulate smelly homeless guys, Sterno bums and alcoholics, semi-deranged Viet Nam vets, hard core hippies, back to nature kooks, Jesus freaks, and all the other assorted losers at the Slabs.

They are not creative, individualistic, or inspiring. They are simply the human refuse of the desert.

Michael Kane said...

I found this a very interesting post. Who would know that there is a church ministering to the needs of all that live in the Slabs. Could you ask the pastor and his wife if there is anyway to reach them maybe thru email? ( Thanks so much. Pay no attention to the comments of Boonie. You have to be pretty heartless to describe others as "the human refuse of the desert". Thank God we are not all the would be awful if everyone was like Boonie.

Maria said...

More and more lately I'm philosophising on the importance of connection. Whether we do it as a group or individual it's important to connect to our fellow humans in a more personal way than most of us do now.

So glad you demonstrated this, and illustrated how people are indeed friendly generally open rather than wary and stand-offish.

Boonie said...

Indeed I regretted using the term, "human refuse", two seconds after pushing the publish button. I should have stopped with the opening paragraph. (The Kodger gets me frustrated sometimes, and I got momentarily hot-headed.)

katrina said...

another great post, randy... i'm starting to feel like a broken record, saying that.

farmlady said...

I don't think that Randy over-glamorizes Slab people, Boonie. I do wonder sometimes if his quest is valid or invasive.
I like the fact that there seems to be more of a likable attitude now instead of "curiosity" journalism.
"Human refuse" they are not. Your apology should be to the folks out there in Slab City... but they probably don't care about us and our opinions, anyway.
Interesting post, as always.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that as I read your blog Randy I find myself wondering about people who judge others so harshly.

It's not just Bonnie unable to accept that others wish to live a life so 'different' that they cannnot imagine it's anything but a waste, you too often judge just as harshly.

To your credit I do not recall you coming down on someone for living thru the horrors or war like Bonnie did on the VietNam vets.

I do wonder about you people who 'have all the answers'.

I keep reading anyway, even if I do sign comments as "Anonymous".
I might run into you folks someday at a gathering and am not sure I want you to view me as a waste to be gotten rid of because of anything past who I am in person.

Anonymous said...

Randy, you fascinate me! Keep it up! I LOVE reading your blog, and how you're so "in touch" with all people, no matter they're circumstances. I applaud you! Boonie, I don't think you're very nice. Shame on you!

Gracie said...

The money from raffling the carved walking stick and donations gave us enough money to buy 14 pairs of good shoes, 36 pairs of socks, and 14 school shirts for 14 homeless kids. It took 4 trips to El Centro at Christmastime. I’d like to give a shout out to Payless who worked with us on prices because they knew what we were trying to do, so I would recommend them if you’re ever in the market for shoes.

Mary Matzek said...

I'm a dislocated person. I saw Leonard Knight in a documentary. They made him out to be a quirky nut. You give him a lot of credence. Glad I got to see your blog. I liked that you took Leonard seriously. Question. Are you Christian and a believer? I'm answering this on my sister's machine, Mary Matzek.
Norman is my name.

Randy said...

Hi Norman And thanks for the question (am I a Christian?) No I'm not. I'm a Deist/Atheist Which means that I'm as awed and mystified by the Universe as any believer but I choose to live as though there were no God. (If there were one, I think He wants us to live that way)
and P.S. We love your sister and her blog.

xviiiaman said...

Randy, I have been following your blog for some time and have visited your older posts as well. I have enjoyed your posts on Slab City recently as I have visited there and have friends who winter there. We are heading there for a short visit tomorrow and will be touring Salvation Mountain at last..such a shame about Leonard's decline. Perhaps we will run into you there this time if you haven't moved on.
Best regards, Jim (xviiiaman)

Anonymous said...

randy you are such a tool... standing up there with your arms open wide begging everyone to focus on you. And, of course you're leading the line of silly walkers. That was probably your idea to get everyone to notice you.

You'd do well to try blending in once in a while instead of standing out.