Friday, April 15, 2016

A MONTH AT THE SLABS---Part 3 conclusion

I went to the Slabs like Thoreau went to Walden Pond--to see what it had to teach.
And I enrich my presence there with friends,  so I have two experiments running sinultaneously; will show you some pictures then give you my conclusions.
Look carefully at this bad photo, taken at the Range theater.  This young flute player HAS WINGS.

I remembered her from weeks ago at Quartzsite where I took a slightly better pict.  She was very elusive, turning her head; would have loved to see up close how they were attached.
Meet Doc 420 a stable character at the Slabs---member of the board--a well spoken, intelligent guy I chatted with at some length.  He unashamedly wears dresses every day.  That's his house behind him.

Meet Cuervo, the mule riding, mystery man who stormed the stage while I was performing. No one seemed to know where he lived or how he managed to feed his animals.
Builder Bill, the stable mind and able hands that constructs things;  If the Slabs were a watch, he would be its  mainspring.  Here he is performing around the evening fire at the oasis.

Here is Pish in a self made costume, marching with her doggie in the Tomato Festival parade. Note the tomato she carries atop a  stick.  She is a lovely and complicated person I had the pleasure of engaging at length.
Local personages (Royalty)from Niland, Ca--home of the Tomato Festival.

Slab organizations sent perhaps the most entrants to the Parade.  The sign says: SLAB CITY LOVES NILAND.

Also from Slab City--this float representing EAST JESUS--an artist colony on its northern fringe.
And look!  Its Doc 420--riding his bicycle backwards the entire parade route.

Local futurist making their statement.

 A family of 4? establishing their "homestead".
The HOLE!  See the gushing water?  It's from a spring a half mile away.  Slabbers stand in the hole to  shower.  I've done it several times over the years;  one of the great showers of my life.

Here's the spring ---about body temperature--much used by Slabbers.

Nightime around the Oasis campfire--musicians take turns entertaining us.

I'm atop a tower overlooking the art colony of East Jesus. Down there was once a trash dump.  Container Charley chose to live there in his (insulated) steel container and fashion art pieces from the Junk.  When he suddenly died a few years ago, I wrote his eulogy:
Container Charlie

He was lost---so he went to the slabs
for meaning and warmer weather.
Lost souls cluster here;
less lost for being together.

He staked his claim in a trashy dump;
began to shape art from junk.
Made his home in a steel container;
hunkered down like a monk.

Slowly, work by work he found himself;
began to feel his power;
named his acreage East Jesus;
built a zen-like tower.

Morphing rubbish into spectacle;
shaping sculpture from his mind;
made a thousand artsy items
of the whimsey kind.

And the world beat a path to his door.
And as he brought light to that space,
he forged a confident identity
in that most unlikely place.

Better than lemons to lemonade;
trash into art---go see them.
Man finds himself in a pile of trash
and builds a fine museum

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I trust by now you have a fair hint of the Slabs. Here's what I think:
1. I think it is a wonderful, accidental experiment--tolerated and subsidized to some extent by authorities of Imperial County.
2. It is an approximate ANARCHY---minimal government--that has validated one of their prime contentions:  WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, PEOPLE WILL SELF ORGANIZE. The 5 major clubs that formed there are real and satisfying communities of order, duration, adaptability.  They survive and thrive at minimal expense, WITHOUT TAXING THE GENERAL POPULATION.
3. It is practically free of prejudice, welcoming all.
4. It is practically free of the profit motive--no rent, no property taxes.
5. It is an inexpensive mental institution for some personalities that in conventional society would require very expensive care.  It saves the state millions while providing a tolerant place to be.  It is a gentle challenge to these personalities  encouraging their theraputic adaptation.
6. It does little or no harm to conventional society.
7. It is fun, exciting, challenging to find ones place in this community.
8. It is a free refuge for the weary, the stressed, the lonely.
9. The rise and fall of Slabs population can be a bellwether for crises in the larger society.
THAT'S JUST OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD.  You could probably add to this list.

I SAY--LET THERE BE MORE SLABS--ALL ACROSS THE NATION--ALL ACROSS THE WORLD.  Let there be refuges for the weary, the uncomfortably different, the wildly creative who shock conventional society.  Let us make maverick sanctuaries and save a ton of money.


kaBLOOnie boonster said...

Let's concede that Slabs-characters are interesting on some level. Wouldn't your celebration of them be more solid if they managed unconventionality in a way analogous to what some people recommend towards "heresies" and humorousness?

Somewhere or other, Chesterton recommends that a person be frugal and judicious with their "heresies", lest they wear themselves out on unimportant ones.

Or make an analogy between unconventionality and humorousness: we all know how tedious a person can become if they act like a frustrated entertainer, and how a comedy movie can fall flat if the humor seems forced.

I cannot praise Slabs-types as much as you: I find their over-strained unconventionality to be a tired formula, just like the hippies of the 1960s.

In a way, ostentatious unconventionality is just a new conventionality.

Randy said...

Thank you Boonie for the comment--especially the quote by Chesterton, which is true enough--and good cautionary advice for people who adopt eccentricity as a lifestyle. They do indeed grow tedious.


Movies and novels often invent OUTLANDS where the hero retreats to and finds allies and insights which he uses as a base for heroic actions. Interestingly, the Slabs have inspired heroic and creative actions--like the Artist colony East Jesus--like the Range theatre--like Salvation Mountain--Like the Loners On Wheels compound--The Oasis club--Traveling Pals--Wireless Cafe--Viper Lounge--several worthy artist.

Before I went to Slab City, I spent some days at the luxurious Fountain of Youth spa. I sampled its luxuries and its luxury loving people. Both were nice! Nice enough! They dabble at art and assorted recreations and do no harm.

BUT AHH BOONIE--You and I know that out of such a place no Great Spirit is likely to rise.
Life there is not raw enough to polish a soul, inspire a great insight, propel a great deed. They are tame rabbits, helpless in the real world of coyotes.

Go back Boonie----Go back to the Slabs---and focus that big brain of yours on the big picture. The Slabs are a living laboratory where world relevant experiments are (inadvertantly) being conducted. Experiments with water use, welfare, social organization,
mental illness, poverty, etc.

And one thing more: Before you lose yourself wandering solitarily in the wilderness--Drop in and visit our little mobile band of boondockers, currently near Cottonwood. ( Chardin: ISOLATION IS A DEAD END---THE SELF IS FULFILLED IN COMMUNITY.)

Maxcactus said...

Randy, I have never been there but have read and viewed many accounts of that community. It certainly is an intriguing place. What do you view as the main danger to its continued existence?

Randy said...

Hi Max: Good question. I think the Slabs most likely challenge would come from county authorities becoming alarmed at some Slab happening and feeling pressure from citizens to shut it down. Health concerns is an easy excuse to shut down things.

Across the Salton Sea some 15 years ago, a Rainbow family sanctuary was shut down on those grounds: bacteria found in their small hot pool. Bulldozers were dispatched to fill it in and so it remains.

Ferdaus Hasan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Arnold said...

Randy, I'm with you. Slab City is a wonderful, and now long term experiment in beneficent anarchy. I may stop in there myself after May 7 when my housesitting gig is done in the luxury of Rolling Hills, CA. After a month camping between San Felipe, Ensenada, and Bahia Soledad in my own Stealth RV [patterned after yours], it's nice to sit around at my daughter's and son-in-law's place and enjoy the pool before they move in next month. Until then I'm playing at being a 3d rate general contractor coordinating with various craftsmen in their absence. In the meantime I've been keeping a journal of sorts. It's starting to morph into a detective story... maybe. I'll share an episode at random:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Notes, Part I
Puerto Santo Tomas to Bahia Soledad
‘Winston,’ I’ll call him, came by at noon. He’s 6’ 4” within a year of my age, bald with gray mutton chops, beard and mustache. He seemed in no hurry and we visited until I wondered when we would hit the road for his place.
I’d just had an hour’s notice when I finally checked my email, but I was packed and ready to follow. Said goodbye to Dan, Kirsten & John, gave Hector a small tip and was on my way. He asked, “When you come back.” I didn’t know.
I’d wondered why Winston would make the trip from S Cal, just to show me the road. I found out. The cutoff to the ‘road’ to Bahia Soledad wasn’t so hard to find, if you knew the mileage from la Bocana. But having the conviction to take the unmarked turn and persevere without certainty would have been another thing altogether. The little ship ‘Stealth’ barely stayed together as it pitched and yawed simultaneously on a rutted road that went up grades where all I could see was sky. 4WD in ‘Lo’ was a must.
Even following Winston, who stopped for me at crucial spots, I still blew the final turn to entry to his property and had to back up the trailer 40 yards. At times the road is overgrown and seems to disappear entirely. Had to back down another narrow pass down his ‘driveway’ because of an acute entry angle and no place to turn around.
Winston and I were apparently, as Groucho said, ‘vaccinated with a phonograph needle.’ He’s a talker too, and _I_ was the one [trust me dear reader] to get us back on track. At any rate we’re kindred spirits who each thought the other was doing the greater favor.
Before I’d set up camp and and discovered the interior disaster of the trailer, an unhappy looking Mexicano about 50 approached us. Valentin was carrying a machete....

Terri Reed said...

Hey Randy, you might enjoy these poems

David Worrix said...

Thank you for your insightful and informative writings regarding Slab City as I am planning to visit. Am grateful!