Happy Wednesday Friends!
I hope you’re all ready for a dose of far out thought-provoking fun! Slab City and East Jesus sit just down the dusty desert road from Salvation Mountain. You won’t find Slab City on a map nor will you see signs leading you to the off grid community until you’re in very close proximity. Only then you will see signage made by the slab residents themselves. Slab City was many years ago known as Camp Dunlap, a World War II Marine artillery training base. Beside the forgotten bombs which are occasionally still found by residents and detonated by professionals, the concrete slabs are all that remain, inspiring the cities unofficial name. People of all walks of life make up the community and many different paths lead them to the unmanaged, heat stricken piece of desert. Some end up there because of hard times, some choose to park it there during the tolerable winter months, others prefer the outskirts of society. Veterans, snowbirds, runaways, artists, a kaleidoscope of colorful characters occupy the barren desert acreage that many would describe as post apocalyptic.
Your mind must be pretty open to notice, consider, or appreciate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the residents. Or you may just perceive it all as a desolate wasteland. At first glance you may see what looks like a semi-organized and some-what structured landfill but as you look beyond what most of us consider trash there exists a loosely established, self-governed commune who intelligently and creatively utilizes old things, perhaps making them better than before. Pallets, halved tires, and old mattress wire make up fences while glass bottles, old toys, car parts and other stuff uniquely decorates individual plots. Solar panels are sold by the Sun Works camper, community gatherings and live music happen at The Range where the stage is strung with mood lights. There’s even a hostel. Not your typical hostel but they will accommodate you pretty well for having no running water, electric, or sewage. Real desert hospitality. People don’t pay to live here, there aren’t police patrolling the unpaved, unmarked roads, there’s no hospital or convenient store. You’ve got to be tough to make it -especially year round. And while many would see a place occupied by only squatters, crazies, and junkies I saw a collective of intense creatives who never fit the box society created for them so they birthed their own sanctuary on the outskirts of a highly conditioned society.
Besides a couple of relative exceptions (and despite the amount of garbage) the grounds are clean. All of the waste is being reused and often reconfigured into large-scale art installations. As it is with East Jesus. East Jesus is essentially an evolving art gallery in the California desert made with America’s once must have or most relied upon items.
In a time where we must reevaluate all of our own needless waste born out of costly consumerism I think the people of Slab City are doing something worth thinking about.
Looking around at the items that made up scenes I recognized how many of those things I had a connection to. VCR’s, must have 90’s toys, shoes that looked like my moms, movie characters brought to life. It brought a sense of nostalgia and at the same time, overwhelm. So much stuff. When you look around at a barren desert with no electricity or running water and all of this stuff, making better use then its intended purpose might I add, you realize just how unnecessary so much of it is. And how much we rely on the unnecessary. We believe we need it because we’re conditioned to think so. We are conditioned to be dependent. Dependent on faulty products and corrupt systems. We spend more time watching other people’s lives than living our own. We need more, more, more never finding what we’re searching for. It’s an exhausting and unfulfilling way of life. The artists of East Jesus open ones eyes to what consumer culture and the greater world doesn’t want us to see. The truth behind the scheme *clears throat* I mean screen.
Corporations profit off of insecurities they created for us. We attempt to live a narrative of a story we aren’t writing and we’re so heavily influenced that most of us can’t separate our own organic thoughts from the modified lies. We believe someone else will save us, someone else will do something, someone else will find a solution. We ingest heavily processed and artificial foods and we absorb heavily processed, artificial information. We perceive different as dangerous. East Jesus artist, Flip Cassidy, created a mind-boggling, thought-provoking installation out of the phenomenon. It’s all far out. Far out of the ordinary. I pondered the perceptions others might have regarding a place like Slab City. The questions, the disbelief, possibly even disgust at a life so different from ones own. When compared to society outside of the Sonoran Desert though, the major difference is we’ve been taught to perceive our ways as normal and acceptable. And we believe it is so. If you decide to visit for yourself fill your gas tank and reusable water bottles, wear proper clothing, watch out for tarantulas and rattlers, open your mind, and bring your TV.
It’s a wild wacky world out there but all the more intriguing. How do you feel about Slab City/East Jesus? Would you venture there? Or have you already been? Share your thoughts with me below!
Thank you all for joining me here and until next time,
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