Like many people, I first learned of Slab City by reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. Later on, Sean Penn’s feature film provided strong visual imagery of the settlement. A brief history: Slab City was a WWII military installation, Camp Dunlap, in Southern California’s Imperial County. After the need of military use, the camp was dismantled leaving remnants which were only concrete slabs.
Hence, when the squatters arrived, the moniker, Slab City.
The land is neither county or state owned, so people can live out there fairly harassment free, as far as “the man” is concerned. East Jesus is an experimental art installation within Slab City, and this was the second stop for Edie and me following our pilgrimage to Salvation Mountain.
East Jesus is as iconoclastic a place as I’d ever seen, and creatively applies refuse into sustainable sculpture while thumbing its nose at US consumerism. It’s a bit sassy but incredibly clever. From what I could see, the materials are all reclaimed and reused.
East Jesus artisans are equal opportunity icon bruisers. Think of them like an artistic, rough shod, Steve Bannon. Opinionated, audacious, intelligent, and outspoken – in your face kind of outspoken. But nowhere near as vile and loathful. East Jesus provides you with intelligent commentary and provocative social observations as opposed to the vile bigotry propagated by the parallel reference.
The temperatures were punitive and Edie was really hot. Even when I carried her in her sling and she wasn’t walking on the hot ground, she was still struggling. Not in danger kind of struggling. Struggling, as in, she needed some AC.
Edie’s double coat is completely non functional. She has enough fur to shed like a persian cat and be hot in the summer. But not enough to protect her from the sun, so I invest, heavily, in doggie sunscreen. She doesn’t have enough hair to not be cold in the winter, so she has a sweater collection that would be the envy of any ivy leaguer. There is no utility functionality to her fur. At all!
There was only one other couple who followed me from Salvation Mountain through the dusty drive to East Jesus. He asked if I was an art student. Apparently, he was dumbfounded as to why anyone would make the effort to walk through the sculpture garden in the height of the sun on such a hot day 108F (42-43C) unless I was there on assignment. Chuckling at his assumption, I understood his intent, and we briefly chatted on his tourism motivation. He and his wife were on holiday from Singapore.
There is a donation tower on site. I didn’t have any smaller bills with me. Having just put in $20 to Salvation Mountain, I couldn’t defend another donation of that size. Instead, I nearly seared my fingertips and palms while I emptied out my cup holder of all my parking meter coins to give about $6 and some change to East Jesus.
And, then, we were on our way to seek Salton Sea and Palm Springs. AC on full blast, seat belts fastened, and road trip appropriate playlist coming through the speakers.
Stick around to find out about our venture to Joshua Tree!
Dog is my co-pilot.