Monday, January 6, 2020

This land is my land

The first time I went to Slab City was 2014 when I’d been a nomad for about six months. It’s sort of a mecca and cultural touchstone for us rootless folks on very low budgets. You have to visit at least once or they take away your nomad license. I stayed several weeks, hanging with artists, musicians, writers, runaways, survivalists, hipsters, druggies, Canadian snowbirds, and plain old poor people. Most Slabbers were nice, some of them were scary.

I made a few one-night stops in the ensuing years because it was conveniently on the way to somewhere else. A waypoint rather than a destination. Because I’d done the Slabs thing. And because both the place and I were changing.

The population of Slab City has probably doubled in six years—partly because it has become increasingly well known, but mostly because of the same forces that are driving homelessness all over the country.

It seems as if a greater proportion of the new Slabbers are determined homesteaders, building more substantial abodes. There are far fewer sleeping-bag-under-a-bush types, far fewer snowbirds in large RVs—because there’s less room for them.

The homesteaders not only take up ground for their structures, most of them also lay claim to their compound with fences, walls, containers or anything else that says, “This is mine.” There are private property signs, even though no one owns the ground they’re living on. The state does.

So, while the Slab City population is becoming more stable and less transient, it’s also becoming more exclusionary. The signs might welcome you to “the last free place,” but these days the greeting seems less authentic, more self-congratulatory. “Woo-hoo! We got free land! Now buzz off.”


  1. All over the world, no matter their age, people seem to be stuck at a Jr. High School level of morality.

  2. I could care less about visiting Squatter-town. If I wanted to see that stuff I just have to walk along the nearby railroad tracks that have woods along side of them.

  3. Next thing you know, a small set of busybodies among them will form a government, decide they need road improvements, decide they need money to do it, start a "voluntary" tax to pay for it, then form a goon squad to "encourage" the slackers to pay their share. People!

  4. Well, you're inspiring envy; it's sunny here in ABQ, but too cool to get by in just a t-shirt.

  5. Squat city has indeed changed, still a good place to stop for the night and dump the pee bottle.

  6. I gotta say your looking very slim and dapper these days!