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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Can I Help You? - The Slabs

Above is a piece of art at the Slabs.

I am posting here my personal observations about my experience at the Slabs during my three night stay.

I stayed in Slab City for 3 nights (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) leaving Thursday morning for another camping site to be covered in a blog later.

I was not personally fearful for my safety while I was there.  In public areas like Salvation Mountain and East Jesus during the day there should be no concern.  

Monday - 

When I got to an area I thought would be good to stay I saw a woman outside her trailer and asked about picking a spot and she said anywhere and stay as long as you want, possibly forever.

I picked a spot between two bushes to be out of the way on the main traveled ways of criss crossing dirt roads.  I got their in the early afternoon I set up camp and sat in my backpacking lawn chair and gave myself a haircut.  

There was a Class B to my right about 75 ft away across a small but steep gouge in the earth.  Further behind me about 150 back is a series of camping vehicles including a makeshift trailer.  In front to my left was a Class A about 100 ft away. The guy with it was out and about but no glances or words were spoken.

I boiled water for the morning and cooked dinner and went to bed.  A few people walked by and if they looked I would say hi.  

I went to bed and could hear music thinking it was from the Oasis Club about an 1/8 mile away. I slept with no issue.

Tuesday - 

I got up early befor the sun as I had a two hour drive to go to Algodones, Mexico.  No one was up and about.

I returned mid afternoon and because of the maze of criss cross dirt and bushes I had to search for the spot I have as in the night before.  I briefly parked then noticed the Class A was home that I was using as a marker so I finally found the spot I had and with the Class A gone I could move across the so called road giving over 100 ft between the Class B I was closest to the night before.

Again I parked between to bushes as my Prius is small and in tucked out of the way.

Within minutes of parking with my windows open sitting in the drivers seat a 30 something 5'8" guy was speaking loudly to me to get my attention saying "Can I help you?"  I responded, No I'm all set. Inmy literal way.  

I could see by his body language he was not satisfied with my answer so I got out of my Prius and put a big smile on and said hi I'm Brent.

He came down the mound and shook hands and I proceeded to tell him I was here the night before and when I came back today with the Class A home I could leave more distance to the Class B from here.  He referenced he knew the Class A had left and he used the name of the guy in the Class B.

He ten says, You wouldn't have a beer in there?, meaning my Prius.  I told him no that I didnt have the room to carry beer.  In retrospect I should have brought beer as a welcoming gift to him I guess.

Anyway he seemed all set and went his way and I got my stuff out and cooked dinner.

Other people passed some would look and I would say hi and others never turned a head.

Near dusk this same guy comes by the front of my Prius headed in the direction of the Oasis Club and my car window was still open and we exchanged niceties.  I could hear live the direction of the club and turned in for the night with no issues.

Wednesday - I get up later washing and shaving with the hot water I made that previous afternoon.  I wave about 7:30 and decide to circum navigate the Salton Sea.

After a protracted stop in Brawley, CA at Vins for groceries and McDonalds for iced tea and some great internet speeds I head back to my spot at the slabs.  I'm better at finding my spot that I had the night before and no one was close.

Again a few people pass and since in in my car I only got to say hi to two people.

It's about dusk and I'm sitting the drivers seat as I do before bed and the say guy walks in front of my car with two soda cans in his hand and we exchange niceties like the night before and then he stops dead in his tracks and walks up to my car window that was open and says to me that people are concerned about me taking pictures and I said well I took pictures of Salvaton Mountain and he says no.  The pictures I'm taking of people and rigs around me.  I told him I took a picture of the sun rise but none of the people or rigs around me.  I then remembered I took one of the sunset but I was a bit late in that response.

He then says well you may not have taken any but it's the image you are leaving that you are taking them.

I then say well I will be be very careful not to look like I'm taking pictures and he shook my had and went towards the Oasis Club where I later heard music.

I had wanted to experience to Oasis Club on Thursday and the Range on Satirday night but I had become reluctant to leave my care unattended.

I want to stress that I did not feel personally threatened by my conversation with the guy, but I did sense a form of intimidation.

When I say intimation it is in reference to ensuring that I don't take pictures of people and places.  I use the same respect when at the RTR unless people were presenting or in a public forum but mostly groups were taken from behind.  

I do not assume that people unilaterally give up privacy in certain settings. At least I'm very aware of the need to take care.

In retrospect I'm an oddity in their environment.  I stick out in many ways.  I am clean shaven, short hair, no tattoos, no piercings, I wear newer clothing and all this doesn't fit with their norm.  

I was thinking later that they may think I'm a cop of some sort.  It's also interesting that the Slabs is supposed to be an open free society that another would be questioned as I was.  There's a sociology paper in this somewhere.

In any case since I wasn't going to leave my car and go to the Oasis, I was just about done with that experience and would look for other free camping in the area.

When I was leaving this morning I found the hot spring at the Slabs through deduction as it isn't marked.  I went to check it out before leaving and there were a number of locals sitting and what appeared to be waiting to go bathe but I'm not positive.

What is also interesting is that the people that live at the Slabs do not pay property tax and are basically off the grid. But they get regional bus services.

So the Slabs will exist until the State of California decides to close it but for now it exists as a counter culture not seen elsewhere.

I would not refrain from going to the Slabs but I would recommend that you be respectful as I was to those there as it is their home.  They do not want their pictures or their homes taken.  Although I wasn't personally fearful I would always lock up your vehicle. Oh, bring beer to give to your neighbors as I think this will leave you in better standing than I was.


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