Slab City Is For Bernie

A Mere Update from The Slabs


Slab City is 650 acres of abandoned Military land located in the southeastern desert of California. Also known as hell. When the U.S. Marines left in 1944, what remained was a bunch of concrete “slabs” and lots of big, nasty bushes spread intermittently throughout. Slab City, depicted in book and film versions of Into The Wild is very very hot in the summer. It’s probably pretty hot in the spring too. On a day in early March, the temp peaked at about ninety. Ninety is like nothing at the slabs. It’s child’s play.

Into The Wild is about a fellow named Christopher McCandless, who was born into upper-middle class turmoil (Too sensitive? Too stupid? Those are questions that arise.) and upon college graduation decided to wander the world. I think his journey began in the eighties and ended in an old Volkswagen Bus in Alaska circa 1990. The Slabs and Into the Wild are given space on Wikipedia in case you’re interested. Also, there is a twenty minute Vice News documentary about The Slabs. All of that is, you know, at your fingertips.

The reason why you’re merely reading an update from The Slabs, is Destructo Oblivion believes that Slab City was accurately represented in the aforementioned depictions. So much so, that for the brave destructo oblivion crew, it wasn’t worth more than one night of terror. A hoard of mangy dogs inhabited The Slabs and destructo oblivion was informed of bites, so the old Honda scooted the team right out of the land of so-called suspended reality after one night.


Main article added March 8th:

Alrighty, so last week I went to the slabs. The Slabs. The Slabs. Slab City, USA. I’ve always been curious about the place, which is little more than a two-hour drive from San Diego. The plan was to stay for a couple of days to do some meditation and general “sorting out.” The fact that I could interact with some real characters and maybe take some photos, you know-“blog” about it-was a little bonus.

Honestly, I was planning on taking a trip to Boston this month, but some car trouble arose and it wound up costing a bit more than I anticipated. I wasn’t very happy about not going back east. This trip was a consolation prize. So I packed the car last week and drove to…THE SLABSSSS. 

I only stayed one night though because of the Pitt Bulls. I know it’s not politically correct to be afraid of Pitt Bulls, but they are used in dog fighting for a reason and if a Slabber told you that there had been bites, because after all, this is The Slabs, would you hang around a long time?

Anyway…let’s have a look at the notes. While in Slab City, I recorded a campfire conversation, hand-scribbled some notes and typed a few lines into a google doc.

In fact, here is, word for word what I typed into a google doc:


My article about the slabs is just an update to the vice stuf and depictions in book and film, into the wild. Lots of dog’s barking. situated a tarp blah blah blah. take lots of photos and get out of here in the morning.

The dogs must have scared me shitless. Why else would I have made dog’s possessive like that? Clearly I wasn’t in the mood to write about my sleeping situation, though I felt a writer’s burden of talking about it because I knew it was pathetic, which meant that it would be funny to the readers. I felt an obligation to show how I had hastily set up my camp next to a bush at dusk and what resulted was something really pathetic involving a tarp (no tent) and bungee cords attached to the bush. Needless to say I felt obligated to take photos of my domicile, but art lost out to shame there folks.

Alrighty, what else do I have…? Here’s what I wrote into my iphone, verbatim:

Eduardo drove around in his diesel Mercedes. He looked more like an Eddie. Perhaps he was Ed when he left this world of suspended reality. He looked like a prefect candidate or mall Santa moved to the desert a long long time ago and lost a lot of weight in the process.

I’m certain that I meant to say Eduardo looked like a perfect candidate for a mall Santa. Though I like thinking of Eduardo as a Prefect Candidate.

All this talk of candidacy reminds me that I should get around to the title of this post. I had dinner with some nice folks at The Slabs and campfire talk turned to the election this year. (What else?)

-Who’s leading?
-But this Bernie guy is close behind.
-What’s he like?
-He’s all about equality.
-I don’t like Trump.
-You know, at least Hitler’s people, they were more poverty stricken. So…

Some of the slabbers looked fine. One guy had a luxurious, modern set-up which consisted of a Toyota Tundra with a long Airstream trailer. Others were not as well off. Not everyone had complete sets of teeth. Weed and booze circulated plainly. Some partook and others didn’t. Harder drugs were spoken of. One toothless fellow made a cameo at the fire and made it clear how much he liked drugs. My guess was meth. I would be leaving in the morning.

These people, some of whom don’t trust SOCIETY and REALITY and all that, have to endure the occasional torture of a Sheriff’s patrol car passing through. Yeah, bummer huh? Additionally, freight trains are heard at The Slabs, circulating the country’s blood. And distant, low rumblings from what I guessed was our military- “protecting us,” my old man would say. When I lay down on my tarp at night, I couldn’t help but thinking that the experience wasn’t all that different from a spot maybe not too far off, where I would pay a nice park ranger twenty bucks to sleep on a tarp in a more “controlled” environment.

Are the slabbers free? Am I free? I don’t know. David Foster Wallace would tell you that “everything is contextual” and my old man would say “it’s all relative.” We’re all American, I know that. Even with those Pitt Bulls roaming through the “decommissioned, uncontrolled land” I knew I was safer at The Slabs than most other places in the world. And that was a “reality” that I just needed to face.

Recorded on my phone is a series of “You Know You’re A Slabber When-.” This was a bit easy. A handful of folks around the campfire began firing off some Slab City aphorisms:

-You know you’re a slabber when you say “Awwww, it’s only head lice.”
-Ahhh ha ha ha! SCABIES!!!
-You know you’re a slabber when you drip dry. Right? How many times you go to the hot springs and someone forgets a towel? Oh my gosh.
-You know you’re a slabber when you have to dig a three foot trench to take a shit cuz you’ve been up all night.
-Uh huh. Or like you’re up in the morning breaking branches to start a fire to get the chill off your camp. All you hear is crack! Crack! Crack! And you see the headlights like he’s got on over there and WHOOP, up comes the flame.
-Yup. You know you’re a slabber when you leave The Range at midnight to walk home but you’re too drunk to go across the desert so you gotta stay on the road. Oh Yeah, and you’re meetin’ people that are doing the SAME THING! Huh huh huh.
-Alllll night long man! Headlights-flashlights I mean-
Drunk in the Desert on a horse with no name-yeah baby yeah-there we go sing it baby, sing it! In the desert you can’t remember-it’d have to be a mule though, huh huh-Drunk at The Range on a mule with no name-

Sitting around the fire with those folks, I really began to feel a sense of urgency to get my shit together. I’ve been feeling it for a while, The Slabs just underscored it. You can engage or you cannot.

One woman, she went by Zee, talked about how she wasn’t speaking to people in her family. Children, grandchildren, she wasn’t speaking to anyone. Zee was also smoking resin out of a weed pipe because she had no weed. It was okay though, weed always “showed up.” Zee was 59 years old. I’ve heard Zee before. A bit of her was in me. A bit of her is in all of us. The parts that cling to injustices, as we cling to a little glass pipe, sucking on the resin. Everyone’s got their own resin, their own desperation.

Am I breaking? Am I settling? Feeling old and traditional? Feeling elite in my estimation that some of my journeys are through? Zee spoke of a DMT trip. A trip I haven’t taken; I drew a line in the sand a while back. Zee’s DMT trip was amazing, wonderful, changed her perspective, showed her the light. All the things a great drug experience can be.

I guess I’m old. Not cool. I’m sacrificing the potential to see things in yet-another-way.  I’m giving it up. I’m not going to the well one last time. I’m throwing in the towel, I’m drawing the line so that I can polish my journeys past, I suppose. Or use them for a more polished future. Lord knows I need polishing. Point is, I’m not planning on smoking resin at 59. Where was Zee’s DMT trip now? What’s it doing for her NOW?

Youthfulness, that’s their reward, the slabbers. They’re pure. Zee, she’s a writer too, she mumbled. She’s a writer too.

I know you are Zee, I know. By some measures, you’re one of the very best.

After the campfire, I retired to my tarp area. I heard a drunk fellow stumbling around so I became silent and hopped on my bag, immediately feigning sleep. Too late! The man approached and asked me if I had any weed or booze for him. I offered what was left of a can of Natural Ice that had been handed to me at the campfire. I was relieved that it was enough to send him on his way, tripping through the desert.


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