Hello all, John here.
I know, it’s been a while since I have posted. I really haven’t had much too add from what Derek has been keeping you up on.
We are still in Slab City (Niland, CA). I am finding this place very unusual, and very much so a mental/emotional roller-coaster. It is very odd for me, and I am having a difficult time attempting to string accurate words together to fully describe this place. I will try though. First off, Scott made it here from his ATV trip this weekend. We backed him in perpendicular to us, as that is where he thought he would get the best Sun. I forgot to get a pic of our “Camp”, so you will have to wait for that.
It is very different that what I found on the web, most from a “physical” or “landscape” aspect. The “Slabs” is very not linear, which is sort of what I had in my mind for the settlement to be. It is much more helter-skelter with some really crappy roads thrown in the mix. The actual slabs from the Camp Dunlap Marine Base that once occupied this land, are mostly taken by the full-time residents. Those that are not taken are basically unusable. There is garbage everywhere, ranging from household trash to burnt out trailers, to tires, etc. Most of the Snowbirds have cleaned up their areas somewhat, but you can’t go far to find another trash heap. I can get past all that.
There is definitely a community here. We haven’t fully broken into it, but I did get some time talking to Ron, the guy who sold the firewood to Derek yesterday. Ron is parked next to the library, and has become it’s caretaker. He used to come to the Slabs to winter, and used to work summers in Oregon. After his very close friend Roselia (Peggy Sadlik was her real name) passed away, he took over maintaining the library. For being constructed of only things found in the Slabs, it is really a unique place. It also has a better book selection than some local libraries we have been to.
Ron was a nice guy, and we had a great conversation. He is one of those that want to live here, not because he has to, or knows nothing else, or is limited, but craves the freedom that only a place like this can provide. He lives in a modest motor-home, and sells firewood. He seemed very content with his life here. Our conversation led from the library to the local communication (news and Party Line on CB Channel 23!), Simple living, and the community.
In my conversation with Ron, he pointed out we should go see the “Hot Spring” and partake in it’s luxury. Scott wanted to check it out since he was sore from his ATV trip, so we drove down there to see. It was certainly Warm, and smelled like sulfur, and was muddy. There was a woman in it, who I forgot to ask her name. When we approached she shouted that we should jump in. “You don’t need to wear anything, just get in, I don’t care”. “I only wear a suit because I am an old lady!” Scott’s first thought was “Thank You” but didn’t say anything. She was actually a very nice person, from DC, and now lives full-time in the Slabs. Scott dipped his hand in, but neither of us could bring ourselves to getting in the muddy pit. I have never been much for natural settings for swimming/bathing, either being naked, or swimming with critters and dirt.
The first thing you see as you drive down Main St. from Niland and enter the slabs is Salvation Mountain. Now, being fair, I have yet to meet Lenard Knight, so for me to call him a Wing Nut, is based solely on his creation, but I bet I am not far off.
My conversation with Ron spurred into life in the Slabs. A statement that stuck out was when he was talking about Roselia, the librarian. She passed away in 2003, and was laid to rest at the site I photographed above. This site is just off the library door. His statement was “We don’t ask in the Slabs, we just do.” Those of you who really know who I am understand I have a pretty strong “Survivalist” strain in me, and I really value the freedom these people have, and the community they have developed basically as squatters here on government land. The other side is there are people here who are not “happy” or “content” to live this pretty hard life in the desert, even some school aged children. These people know nothing better and are simply the fringes of society as we know it, and probably some are victim of the Reagan era laws that made it more difficult to commit the insane.
I haven’t fully passed judgment on this place, as I can’t say I have fully broken into the community here. I am not entirely sure I want to. My emotional “sine-wave” has has quelled a bit since Scott has arrived. I can say that I am suffering from moments of horrendous anxiety to moments of utter calm. The beauty of the sunrise/set and the night sky are beyond words. Some of the people we have met are the nicest we have encountered. Yet, knowing we are living in this area, on the last grasp of the fringe of what we know as normal society, in a basically lawless and baron desert has done something strange to my mind. I am not sure if it is fear that we could be steps away from living this life, or the fear that we are steps away from living this life and liking it so much we cannot or will not go back.