Deep inside a Californian Desert there’s a “high-tech hobo camp” that’s home to a whole host of oddballs. There’s a toothless snake obsessive, assorted hippies and burn-outs, aged stoners, backyard philosophers, jury-riggers, unwitting pit-bull breeders and other assorted society-dodging free folk. Slab City is a famous community that has been name-checked in Into the Wild, American Nomads and Grand Theft Auto V, for starters – and it’s inspired some bespoke works of art, too. If you’d like to visit, buy yourself a ride-on Esky and don’t forget to check out these highlights.
East Jesus is the place to rest your weary head
How good is art you can live in? Sure, East Jesus may not have the most traditional residential architecture, but it’s one of the world’s coolest installations, a labyrinthine living space created over the course of years by an ex-tech worker called Charlie Russell. Since his death, it’s been expanded, revamped and carried on his spirit, becoming an landmark icon and an iconic landmark.
Salvation Mountain continues the Christian theme
This is actually the entrance to the community, and straightaway you’ll have a sense of what this community values. Imagine a hill completely covered in paint and Bible verses. Created by a former resident named Leonard Knight (now deceased), it’s an eye-catching example of folk art that people are fighting to save...just like Leonard fought to save our souls. Also, if it sounds familiar, you might recall Jarvis Cocker profiling the artist back in the day.
Party like it’s Studio 54 on The Range
How does an open-air nightclub sound? What about one with comfy chairs all over the place? And weekly talent shows? You can picture it already, can’t you? According to the Yelp reviews, you can even get a veggie burger there.
Take a beer or six to the hot springs
One of the natural highlights of Slab City is the swimming area. Best enjoyed with a case of Tecate cans, these hot springs might have a bit of algae to them, but they’re custom-built for chillaxing times with good friends and game locals.
Have a chuckle with the jovial crystal meth dealers
It’s a bit of a drive, and you’ll probably have to be careful who you ask directions of, but once you arrive at the dealers’ place, you’ll not only be able to buy drugs – they’ll also crack a couple of gags about not doing anything they wouldn’t do. Take someone with you, so they can share in the laughter and make sure you don’t get ripped off.
A Day in Slab City screens on SBS VICELAND on Thursday 2 February at 9pm