The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when engineers attempted to divert the Colorado River inland to irrigate the Imperial Valley. The flood engulfed the lower than sea level plain and created the Salton Sea over a period of two years. When the diversion was capped, it was thought that the lake would soon dry up, but nature and man said no…
The 50’s and 60’s brought the cream of Hollywood. This was, after all, the Riviera of the West Coast.
Fishing, boating and seaside leisure weren’t the realm of the rich, and everyone enjoyed life on the the great inland sea.
OK, TMI: the Salton Sea is dead, and so are all the surrounding towns, whether they know it or not. So on to Slab City…
From Wikipedia: “Camp Dunlap was a U.S. Marine Corps base activated on October 15, 1942, as a training facility during World War II. The camp was named for Brigadier General Robert H. Dunlap. It was used to train artillery and anti-aircraft units of the Fleet Marine Force. The base was located at the present-day location of Slab City (also known as The Slabs) in Imperial County, California. In October 1961, the United States Department of Defense conveyed the land on which Camp Dunlap was situated back to the State of California.” Let’s visit…
I guess it’s a Christian thing, but a very colorful pile of dirt greets you at the entrance to The Slabs. And sadly, it’s become very touristy–a small scale Disneyland. So much so that they closed the yellow brick road to the top, which is still very cool.
From what I’m told by the overlords, this area is owned by an affiliate of the Burning Man group. It was originally created by Charles Russell as an art studio and creative space for artists to, well, create. According the docent I spoke to (a crazy old hipster dude), there are three rules of East Jesus:
- Don’t stay on the carpet
- Touch everything
- If you break it, blame it on the artist for using shoddy materials or because he didn’t properly realize his vision
The entire facility is a magical dream of a dystopian future: beautiful and haunting. I long to be there, even as I write this.
The Range is the outdoor theatre built by Builder Bill, and on the weekends it hosts many local and outside musical thing., I was told open mic ran from noon til ??? So when we drove by and saw people jamming we dropped in. I met Bill and introduced myself as Bob the Builder, and are we related? It was a good ice breaker, but Bill said Sunset til ??? Bummer because we brought our guitars, etc. While we had a good chat about the state of the Slabs with Bill, we offered food and drink and smoke, which made us many friends. Chuck chatted up Bob and Jinxie, who are a few of the more talented of the group, but everyone had something to offer. We have been offered a slot in two weeks to come and play, local friends!
This place is a big reason I decided to come. The level of artwork in The Colosseum is astounding. Of course, someone has ruined part of it, but the portraits on the large tower are so big and so high, no graffiti artist can wreck them. And the Graffiti is astounding, as well. I guess if you’re gonna wreck something, do it right.
When you first arrive, it seems like a video game, truly a vast wasteland of scrap metal and debris/trash. But then you notice an order to things, very twisted–yet it has a flow and an odd rhythm to it. I felt at peace, and didn’t carry any weapons. I felt no need. Every person I spoke to was quite adamant about the lack of violence and crime. They take care of their own, they tell me. OTOH, everyone I met seemed a bit… off. I took no pics of locals, and didn’t intrude on anyone, no video interviews, etc. It seems tacky to me to treat these people in their homes as zoo animals.
Whilst enjoying the peace of East Jesus a pack of six or so giant dune buggy things came up, spewing noise and tourists all over, ruining the experience for us. SAD!
We are going back in two weeks to overnight and play some songs. Here’s a link to the entire album, which has many more pics.
More info is out there, but I went for myself and for you guys. Glib reportage, as it were. It is a very free place, and you could feel the vibe everywhere. I’m going back, and spend more time there, I must.
Until part 2!