March 22, 2012
The Last Free Place
“Want to go explore this place?” I asked Jason as I flicked a piece of gravel from a scrape on my elbow caused by a slam in the deep end of an abandoned pool.
“Yah, I’m over skating this spot.” Jason said leaning against the wall in the shallow end.
“Which way do you want to head?” Looking around in a 180-degree motion, the occasional satellite dish on an RV punctuated the otherwise unremarkable deserted landscape. In the distance a two-stroke engine, presumably from a motorcycle, whined.
“That stage looked really cool,” Jason nodded west towards the main road.
“Yah, ‘check that out. I spotted some pretty neat campers too.”
Leaving our skateboards by the van, we headed back along a dirt road towards the center of an abandoned military base base in the California desert known as Slab City.
Following the road a half mile back towards the pull off, we passed a dozen or so makeshift camps composed of a vehicle and a structure of sorts, usually an awning or tent. Each winter, thousands of snowbirds, travelers and vagabonds pass through the Slab City. These “slabbers” as they are called avoid rent and other obligations known to the majority of society by camping on abandoned building foundations or slabs. An entire community has developed with a church, a barter-based internet cafe, post office, communal water source and a music venue, the Range.
Tyler Mummar impersonating a local.
Haven is trailer in the California desert.
“You guys just get here?” A kid in his 2o’s said sitting next to a Chevy Astro van, some twenty feet from the road.
“Yea, just a few hours ago. We are just passing through.”
“This place is pretty wild,” I said excitedly. ”How long have you been here?”
“Oh, two or three weeks. I come through a few times a year,” He said, kicking a beat-up tennis ball across the road for golden retriever.
“Ever been here in the summer?”
“Hell no. It gets to 120 in the shade. You’re not consider a true “Slabber” around here until you spend at least two summers camped out.”
“Yah..No thanks, that sounds miserable.”
“When are you hitting the road again?” Jason asked.
“Soon, real soon. I’m feeling restless. Maybe two or three days.”
Nodding in agreement, Jason and I continued down the road towards a group of RV’s pulled together in a semi circle. The golden retriever followed for fifty feet or so before being called back to the Astro.
“People lose track of time here.”
“They sure do. Did you hear that guy? He said he was leaving real soon, ‘…. two or three days.’ Real soon for me is ten minutes. Maybe fifteen.”
“Haha. When life’s cheap, things move slowly I guess.”
“They do call it, ‘the last free place on earth,’” I joked.
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