Sleepless in SoCal [El Paso, Los Angeles, Slab City - August 2013] / by a zugunruhe

Another road trip video From Ausin to El Paso to Los Angeles for FYF Fest. I spent nearly a week in LA sleeping in my car and attending countless comedy shows. I capped it all off with an amazing music festival. It's the closest thing to heaven I've ever experienced.

The Trip

Slab City map. Click to enlarge.

My favorite part of this trip was the few hours I spent at Slab City near Salton Sea in Southern California.

The city gets its name from the foundations of buildings left behind after an army base, Camp Dunlap, was torn down and abandoned. Laying just outside the city of Niland, the roughly square mile Slab City is mostly un-policed. Leaving the inhabitants to live in a sort of anarchic harmony. It's a beautiful thing really. I was told that the year round population is only around 40-50 people since the summer months can be scorching. Once the snowbirds come back, the town can explode to around 4,000.

While I was there I met two wonderful people. First, Sandi, an older lady from whom I bought a few paintings. She lived in a small cul-de-sac off of the main road. She and her son's family lived in Slab City and I had the pleasure of meeting most of them. She let me know about the set up at Slab City. A lot of the people there, including herself, couldn't afford to live anywhere else. Since there are no property taxes or landlords, the cost of living is extremely low. You come as you are and bring what you need. She told me that there is a small number of people that live there for the lawlessness and take advantage of the freedom. They give the area a bad name and don't represent the true culture of the people living here. For the most part, everyone lives a peaceful existence and they form a strong community that meets every Saturday night at The Range. The Range is a large amphitheater of sorts that holds a bar, a stage, and multiple car seats set up as couches and cocktail tables. On Saturdays, people meet up and have an open mic in what sounds like a fantastic time.

The second was Jake. Jake lived in a trailer just outside of East Jesus named the "House of Spools" (as a large number of spools are laying around the house). I stopped to talk to him as I was leaving the East Jesus gallery. He was an incredible guy. From what I remember, he had a decently high-paying gig in San Francisco and left it to be more free. Outside of his trailer, he had various solar cells step up and routed to a few dozen batteries to collect power. We sat around in his "living room" which was basically a covered area outside of the trailer. At one point I asked him about the cost of his home. He gave me one of my favorite quotes:

"Well I bought this one for around $400, the one behind us for $300, and I got that one over there for about half a pound of weed."

Fucking remarkable. He also told me his plans of buy a few more trailers and turning them into a loose hostel complex for people passing through with prices set as pay-what-you-can donations. Jake also expanded on how he obtained the rights to a large (empty) swimming pool down the road and wanted to turn it into a functioning skate park. A true entrepreneur.

I love that I met this guy. I'm not sure if I would have understood half what I do about the city if I hadn't had run into him. While parting, he directed me to the two large tanks on the outskirts of town, both covered in murals. The first containing dinosaurs with the name of large corporations marked on them. The other, which came with the apt description of "kinda like an alien kama sutra," lay a short walk to the west.



0:10 - Fuck yo' Hollywood Stars




0:50 - Salvation Mountain


0:55 - Tanks at Slab City



1:10 - East Jesus



1:13-1:18 - Dashboard pan




The Video

The first verse I concentrated on showing the up front touristy things I encountered. On the second I wanted to show deeper cuts of the area. Things you need to search a bit for: Sunken City in San Pedro, Slab City near the Salton Sea, various art galleries. 

I used the transition of a pan out to sea from Palos Verde to Sunken City to signal the change in subject matter as well as show how closely these places are related, that there are multiple layers to this area.

The things I was most excited about shooting was the rotating shot from my dashboard. I basically just duct taped a small tripod to the center of my dash and a few times a day shot a long pan of the road I was on. I had intended to do a full 360 degree shot in this way, but various difficulties arose of which I could only solve a few. But I'm very happy with eight seconds I got out of the experiment.

The Music