Sometimes, you just need to get in a car and follow a rumour. That is what Don and I did when we followed a random lead about a strange place out in the Californian desert called Slab City and the nearby Salvation Mountain. After getting directions from a leopluridon, we found it.
Imagine an old semi-crazy man finding nothing at all in the desert and deciding that this is the perfect spot to build an adobe mountain. Add to that 40 years (years!) of hard labour, several Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of paint and a devotion to God that borders sanity and you get Salvation Mountain.
Mr Leonard Knight built a mountain and covered it in brightly coloured bible verses. He also dug out little caves, and covered the cave walls in bible verses. He built a strange forest and… covered it in bible verses. He also parked several vehicles, cars, RVs, diggers etc, and covered them in satanic… no wait, bible verses, both inside and out. He lived out here, for forty-years, doing this.
Sadly, Mr Knight died last years, so I didn’t get to meet the man, but I am sure it would have been an experience. I am deeply impressed by what he did, and as Don said, I sure hope he managed to go to Burning Man sometime because this project of his is right in the spirit of Black Rock City.
“Look at you, in your Starbucks sofa with your skinny latte and skinny electronic tablet computer thingi, grabbing a break from the hamster wheel of corporate ‘civilization’ before you head back to the Man and roll over like whipped dog and whimper, ‘please let me serve your mighty corporation so I can earn some bills to pay off some other bills in my endless cycle of meaningless comfort!’. Yeah, you! You’ve forgotten what it is to be your own man, to boldly put down a stake in the ground and say, ‘this is mine and fuck you if you try to fuck with me I protect my own and who needs punctuation when your holding a goddam shotgun’, then flick the finger at ‘civilization’ and their Babylonian services. Come to Slab City and I’ll show you what real freedom is!”
Welcome to Slab City, the most disturbing place you’ll ever visit. The favelas in Rio were doggie spas compared to Slab City. Slabbers (as the Slab City residents are called) live completely off the grid. There is nothing here but snakes, scorpions, sand and unbearable heat. There is no water, electricity or sewage. It is just a desert where, for reasons incomprehensible to rational individuals, hundreds of people decided to live. It is the stereotypical image of meth-swigging, gun-toting hillbilly redneck trailertrash crazies come to life. Only. In. America. It is deeply disturbing.
I know, I know. You want me to get to the point. How can you become a Slabber and live out the rest of your life in this rubbish-strewn desert? Easy. Turn up. Pitch a tent or park your car. Preferable position your favourite sofa under a tree. Mark your new land with a fence made from old plates, tin cans or whatever else you can scavenge. Find some cardboard and in big angry letters, paint the word ‘Occupied’, secure your sign to a pole and, tada! You are now a proud land-grabbing slabber! All you have to do now is survive. Good luck!
But it’s not like the … city… is completely devoid of services. There is a library (open 24/7), an internet café and the Mike Bright Memorial Dumpster, none of which I checked out since Don refused to stop and let me take a look. I don’t know why. It was probably safe. Probably.