If the Mojave is considered to be the cosmic graveyard of the West, then Slab City is the home to its unknown detritus, the potters field of the barrenlands and home to a bunch of lost souls that don’t even know that they’re dead yet. I had come here once before with Abi, venturing forth from the Los Angeles hinterlands, boiling alive in the middle of the desert with the stench of the Salton filling our nostrils. There was something intrinsically cool about it then, but maybe it was just some sort of hallucinatory side effect from our brains overheating inside of our skulls. I wanted to come back, to recoup after this great American voyage. The Last Free Place on earth, proclaims a painted concrete guard bunker upon one’s entrance to Slab City, an abandoned army base turned squatters’ haven laying just outside of Nihland California. This is Ground Zero of the middle of nowhere and the nexus of the American Dream. You could drop an atomic bomb out here and no one would notice or care.
I had to come back, it was preordained.
Part of the allure of this place comes from the fact that it’s free to stay here, or at least no one hassles you, which is great if you’re travelling on the cheap, or a drug addicted vagrant. The chocolate mountain gunnery range borders Slab City directly and provides a dramatic backdrop. Weird aircraft whip up the air sending thunderous and powerful vibrations in all directions and strange lights fill the night sky. The earth beats and shakes as bombs are dropped a million miles away. You can’t see but can feel them, exploding somewhere off in the Chocolate Mountains.
Look, freedom isn’t free anymore. You have to pay for it now with dollars and cents and tooths and nails. It becomes apparent after you’ve spent more than a day here that there’s no where to shit at Slab City, and there’s no water. I guess these people make do somehow, like animals. Savages in a savage and unforgiving land. You do what you got to do to make it, I guess. But where does all the shit go?
Stray Dogs roam the grounds at all hours of the day and night, settling into mean and lean packs, both wild and unforgiving. Their favorite hangout is the makeshift garbage dump and I ran into them there while searching for supplies to build a makeshift palapa. Don’t touch that discarded piece of plastic sheeting, it’s mine, snarled the alpha dog. I opened my swiss army knife. What was I to do? I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to gut this thing, or at least stab it repeatedly over and over again as it gnawed on my favorite arm. It was a tense standoff man, but luckily my Masters Degree in Psychology from Adelphi University paid off and I was able to calmly talk the dog out of mauling me. If that didn’t work, and I didn’t have my trusty blade, I would have had to do him chimp style and bite off his face. Then what? I would be stuck as some sort of hybrid human/alpha dog, forever roaming the wastelands and leading my newfound wolfpack across the desert and into Eden.
It had cooled down some since my last visit, yet the heat was still palpable. 100 degrees feels cool sometimes, like when you’ve been travelling through the desert for ages and you know that summer is winding down. I took it with little complaint, for I am the Sundog and the memory of Alaska and the North will always hold sway, but it was still hot; an uncomfortable heat that steals your prana and drains away all of your chi. There’s a weird and powerful energy that runs through the desert and Slab City is no exception, sitting out there in all its glory, the county seat in a terrible land that only God can appreciate, and only then with a great salty tear running down his cheek. All the negative vibrations from the city of Angels collect here as they drift towards the East, trapped in this gross basin well below sea level, where they can never ever escape.
Slab City. Take it. Leave it.
I would leave it in haste, in the dust, literally, as a massive sandstorm hastened my departure. But look, this is all old news (from several moons ago) and it is my duty to report it.
I’m not in Mexico anymore. I’m somewhere else, dreaming Mayan dreams of the American West…