Slab City is a squatters' camp deep in the badlands of California's poorest county, where the road ends and the sun reigns, about 190 miles southeast of Los Angeles and hour's drive from the Mexican border. The vast state-owned property gets its name from the concrete slabs spread out across the desert floor, the last remnants of a World War II–era military base. In the decades since it was decommissioned, dropouts and fugitives of all stripes have swelled its winter population to close to a thousand, though no one's really counting. These days, their numbers are growing thanks to a modest influx of recession refugees like the Angios, attracted by do-it-yourself, rent-free living beyond the reach of electricity, running water and the law. And while the complexion of the Slabs, as the place is locally known, may be changing in some ways, the same old rule applies: respect your neighbor, or stay the hell away.
In Slab City, there are Year-Rounders who brave the 120°F summer inferno, and Snowbirds who land from as far as Canada with their souped-up RVs and pensions, soul-searching Gypsy Kids who arrive by train with little more than the ragged clothes on their back, Spaz Kids and their electro-psychedelic outdoor parties, and Scrappers who risk life and limb to collect shrapnel from the gunnery range that flanks the camp, where Navy SEAL teams train year-round. That's to say nothing of the rowdy bikers who pass through, or the meth-addled loners on the outer edges inclined to greet a trespasser with a gunshot. If the Burning Man festival were a permanent settlement instead of a weeklong escape — remixed with a hard dose of reality — this might be it.
"The Last Free Place in America" lives up to its nickname. Want to hang out nude in thermal mud baths or skateboard stoned in the bowl of an Olympic-size pool? Go for it. In the mood to dig an SUV-size trench for no particular reason or play 18 holes of golf on a grassless course to the sound of bombs in the distance? This is the place (excerpt from here).
East Jesus is in the harshest, most remote part of Slab City, and is an experimental, habitable, extensible artwork in progress since 2006. It is constructed entirely of salvaged refuse and recycled materials and powered by the sun. It is a place that inspires one to think outside the box. To think about what it is modern society throws “away” while reminding us to consider where is “away” (excerpt from here).