Sep 22, 2009

Unknown California

I've been to the End of the World and it is called Slab City, California.


Slab City is a former marine base, current RV squatter frontier land, 60 miles from Palm Springs, 30 miles from the Mexican border, within view of the beautiful, but toxic Salton Sea, just a fence an irrigation channel across from an active bombing range.


There is no electricity, water, or any municipal services whatsoever, but there is a golf course (no greens, only browns), pet cemetery, a library that is always open and operates on the honor system. There is also a stage that hosts a talent show every Saturday.



The locals also call the place "Check Republic" because most of the residents persist on government checks. The norm is extreme poverty. Yet in the winter months the "snow birds" arrive, from as far as Canada, often in hundred thousand dollar campers.


It would be easy to write this place off as a bizarre Mad Max style site, but like most things in life, it's more complicated. I barely got a glimpse under the surface, and I will not make any attempt to pontificate about it. It would not be my place.


Just outside of Slab City is Salvation Mountain. The creator of this artwork is Leonard Knight whose car broke down at this spot decades ago. He stayed and built/painted his message at the side of the mountain.


In 2001 it was declared as a National Folk Art Site by the The Folk Art Society of America, and in 2002 it was entered in the Congressional Record as a national treasure.


Leonard is 78 years old, but he still lives at the site and works on it every day. He welcomes visitors who drop by any time of the day, he loves showing them around. He often gives the visitors gifts; postcards, puzzles featuring his mountain.


20 comments:

Viewliner Ltd. said...

INCREDIBLE !!! Very, very cool!

Jean Spitzer said...

Bizarre and interesting. The website for salvation mountain describes it as built out of local adobe. I wonder if it's constantly being rebuilt/repainted.

Lynnae said...

Great pictures. There's an artist man just doing what he loves!

Cafe Observer said...

I wish more people knew this CA. Especially those thinking of moving or getting a job here.

dive said...

Wow, Vanda! What a cool place!
This makes me feel very sane and boring and European. I can't wait to head for California next year.

Diligent Daydreamer said...

such an odd place, yet it seems to me it is a place worth visiting. Thank you for sharing.

Adrienne Johnson said...

I was in Slab City back in 1988 or so. I doubt it has changed much since then. It is a place that sticks with you, that is for sure. When I was there, the Salton Sea was in the middle of a massive fish kill (happens there periodically) and the stench was over whelming. I still wonder how the locals out up with it.

Emma J said...

Thanks for this - I love that there may be no electiricty but there is a still a library, a golf course and a pet cemetery. Turns the idea of civilization on its side? Someone needs to make a quiet and careful documentary . . .

Layla said...

That's really cool. You don't see places like this very often.. I've heard of salvation mountain, though.

altadenahiker said...

These people are unique. Once I travelled around this area and met a man who had what seemed like miles and miles of things -- old coke bottles, a hammer, a mason jar, for example, laid out in rows on the sand. This was his store. He had two sons. "One day," he said, "this will all be theirs."

pasadenaadjacent said...

Did you bring Leonard some paint? He likes that.

I once saw a independent lens production on PBS about the residents of tent city with a special emphasis on the pet cemetery. Seems that the number of elderly snowbirds (and others) travel with small dogs so there was a need.

Petrea said...

Slab City is special.

I try to explain to people that LA and San Francisco are the exception. California is mostly "other." A lot of it's a farm state, and then there are these other places. Desert places. Mountain places. Hidden places where most people don't go. You can still have adventures here.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

OMG that is SO bizarre, especially compared to the homogeneous vinyl village I live in. What a strange world.

AmyR said...

I kicked myself for not making it over to Slab city when I visited the Salton Sea. It's another reason to go back!

Vanda said...

California is... different. Once you leave the city there are so many nooks and crannies of unexpected finds, and whole alien worlds.

Robin said...

I love your blog and have been reading it for a while :) It's one of my favorites to visit so I linked you for an award, come over and claim it :)

Vanda said...

Thanks Robin!

... daisy... said...

Fascinating... I hope I will be able to visit it in my trip to California, which I am planning next September!!!
Thanks! and cool blog!!!

Vanda said...

Thanks Daisy!

editor said...

Hi! I work for Natural Home, a magazine that focuses on green homes and eco-friendly lifestyles. We're running an article about Slab City in our next issue, and we were interested in maybe using some of your photos (if you're interested). Could you tell me how to get in touch with you? I couldn't find contact info anywhere on the site. My email is smelgren [at] ogdenpubs.com