Living Without Laws: Slab City, USA

Uploaded by vice on May 15, 2012


ERNIE QUINTERO: Hey guys, this is Ernie reporting for VBS
from Imperial Valley.
In the toxic piece, we focused on all the crazy environmental
issues going on in the region, from the air pollution, to
drastic bee die-off, to the sewage-filled rivers, and
everything in between.
But during the shoot, we also met a bevy of characters from
our buddy Alan's town in Slab City, who are just as
intriguing as all the eco-problems.
MALE SPEAKER 1: Well, have you been out to Slabs?
MALE SPEAKER 2: It's the last free place--
MALE SPEAKER 1: Free place in America, yeah.
MALE SPEAKER 3: It's isolation.
It's desolation.
It's not involved with the popular culture.
MALE SPEAKER 4: Everything here is hostile.
The desert doesn't give you anything.
It's treachery, and it takes away.
You have to know what you're doing if you're going to
survive in the desert, or you'll die.
ERNIE QUINTERO: We thought it'd fun to show you what a
typical day is like this bizarre stretch of area loaded
with tweakers, eccentrics, army vets, hippies, and just
plain old fucking weirdos.
MALE SPEAKER 5: Oh, welcome to California.

ERNIE QUINTERO: We're about to head in to
Slab City right now.
The people there are really cool, but they really like if
you bring them beer--
beer and smokes.
They like to party.
I like to party too, so it goes hand in hand.

MALE SPEAKER 3: It was originally designed by NASCAR
for use in the pits and the garage areas.
But it's eminently suitable to the environment out
here in Slab City.
So I just had to have one.
It's called a Cruzin Cooler I bought it from one of those
outfitter's catalogs.
Hey, can we take that into Niland, get some more beer?
MALE SPEAKER 3: Ernie, settle down.
MALE SPEAKER 3: Us Americans, we now how to
design top-shelf stuff.

People have been living here for free since the late '40s.
And at one time in the early '90s, the place was like a
giant flea market.
Believe or not, this land belongs to the California
State Teachers' Retirement Pension Fund Management
Now that's a long acronym.
It belongs to the state of California teachers union.
It should make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing
that your tax dollars are being spent appropriately.
Culturally, this is the farthest.
If anybody's ever been to California and then go to Slab
City, they'll understand exactly
what I'm talking about.
There is no California culture here at all.
And by that I mean strip malls and apartment buildings and
dune buggies and off-road racing and crowded freeways
and filthy beaches and arrogant politicians.
I like to call Slab City a high-tech hobo camp.
You look in this little window here, and you can see that the
flame is burning.
That way you know it's on.
You open it up and reach in here.
And you can feel this thing starting to get cold.
I just replaced the propane this morning,
so it takes a while.

Then I use these other little propane bottles to run my
heaters and my lanterns and stuff.
And I fill them up off of that tank.

So I have two of those and a bunch of those little green
ones, and that's about all I need.

Slab City has the same cross-section that you would
find in any so-called civilization.
You've got really cool people, you've got dumbasses, and
you've got all those in between.
We're no different from any other outfit that way.
We just have fewer people and we have a general consensus to
live and let live, and to let each other alone, and to mind
their own business.
There's a lot of people that certainly have seniority, that
have been here for very long time.
But what we try to do is, we try to avoid things like that.
We try harder to be polite, perhaps, than,
say, New York City.
Something like that.
I moved out here because I like it.

MALE SPEAKER 4: Ooh, ooh, ooh, ahh, ahh, ahh.
He's a good boy.
And relax.
Remember, you're amongst friends.
This is a Western Diamondback.
It is a neurotoxic, more than hemotoxic snake.
And it kills more people in the United States than any
other reptile.

Up north, you'll see snakes, they have black
splotches on here.
This is part of what I'm trying to tell you.
If you go up north, and there's a snake, and he's
green, and this is red, and there's yellow borders, it's a
Mojave Green.
There's a 70% chance you're going to die if you get bit.
I think it's 7 people out of 10--
I mean, you're lucky if you live.
Because it goes right in.
It shuts you off.
It's neurotoxic.
It doesn't make a big bite.
You don't think much of it.
But it goes in there.
And it's death.
He's in there shutting you off.
I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.
If I hated your guts, I wouldn't wish that kind of
death on you.
If I was trying to extract information from you or
something, I might use a snake-- just that
psychological part.
You know, like, where are the children?
Where'd you hide them?
I'll get the information from you.
Use your fears on you or something.
But I wouldn't wish it on someone.
It'd have to be real serious.
I was just one of those little kids, and my mom wouldn't let
me have rattlesnakes.
And then what happens, after getting bit and being through
all the hospitals and things, I learned to catch them and
get them out of people's yards so people don't get hurt.
So I can use the talent I learned from a lot of pain
that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy for catching them
and getting them out of the yard.
And then I take them up a mile or two away.
See these bombs?
See those bombs exploded?
Look at them.
If I get bombs, I take them.
And I call the fire chief.
We get a hold of somebody If we can't handle it ourselves
and ask them to come and blow them up.
Because there's a marine base out here, and sometimes people
go over to get bombs.
And sometimes bombs are over here.
So what I'm saying is, this rattlesnake is just like one
of those bombs.
It's like a bomb right there ready to go off.
It can make you into a casualty.
So what I'm saying is, those aren't some kind of toy.
Those are just like a hand grenade that somebody lobbed
in the window, a landmine that you're about ready to step on.
ERNIE QUINTERO: Well, you are doing a good thing capturing
snakes so little kids don't get bit by them.
I think that's an awesome thing.
MALE SPEAKER 4: I don't have no sympathy for these.
All this is, is an hors d'oeuvres.
When it gets right down it, and I'm starving.
And I'm dying, and I'm trying to survive.
And I'm trying to get through because my foot's got a hole
in it or something.
And I've got to crawl.
I'm going to eat this son of a bitch.
And I'm going to crawl over and eat the
man's butt, not yours.
Because a man's butt's got more meat to it.
Chop off half of it.
And eat it and crawl down the road.
And eat that dog's butt if he'll let me get away with it.
You know, survival, that's what I mean.

ALAN: This is the back side of Slab City right here.
And it is home to a lot of older folk.
I like coming out here because it's like good scenic route.
How you doing there, guy?
ALAN: Are you far from moving?

ALAN: How are you doing there, my friend?

ALAN: It's mine.
I traded my bus in, and I got this.

ALAN: I just wanted to let you know that we've been playing a
lot of music over there.
ALAN: We have three new musicians.
So come on by, you know.
ALAN: Bring Susanna and come on by, and--
ALAN: Well, anytime really, just come on by and if you see
people there.
And guess what?
My dog had four puppies.
I was going to leave for Quartzite today, but I can't
go nowhere now.

ALAN: All pit bull, two boys and two females.
ALAN: Yeah, it's just the owners you've
got to worry about.
ALAN: All right.

ALAN: This is it.
This is my homestead.
I've been staying here for about three months.
My friends LD and April let me move in over here.
And I've been watching their spot for them while they're
gone throughout the week.
And this is my home.
It's also my dog's home, who unfortunately, at this time,
has four puppies.

She took this place over and kicked me out.
I don't even like being in here.
I just crash here.
I'm really into the mineral aspect of things.
And I go out and dig rocks and little
knick-knacks and things.
I mostly get my stuff from gem shows, and I make
little cabs and shit.
TARA: How'd you learn how to do it?
ALAN: I don't know, I just kind of took a pair of pliers
and some copper wire one day.
And I just twisted up some rocks.
But I would make stuff like that.
It's like, not even good work.
I don't have no tools or no inventory or anything.
Come on, dog.
Take a pup.
Take that puppy.
Take that pup.
Good girl.

Camps are all different.
Each one of them are unique.
And they have unique people staying there.
And everyone's different, so no camp is
going to be the same.
But a lot of people come here because there's a lot of music
here every night.
Me and my friend Tony, we sit out here and play.
And people just show up out of nowhere.
And I've met some really good people that way.

MALE SPEAKER 7: Did you get that?
ERNIE QUINTERO: Did he hit himself?
MALE SPEAKER 7: Oh, it was fucking awesome.
ERNIE QUINTERO: Did he hit himself?
MALE SPEAKER 7: He just had the whole thing down.

TARA: We are going to go to some hot springs.
Alan's going be taking us there.
We're pretty much going to be taking some
bum baths, I guess.
TARA: And hopefully, we're not going on another Alan
adventure right now.
WHITNEY: Is this where the hot springs are?
TARA: I think he's got his own agenda on that, I'm not sure.
But it'll be interesting if we do.

ERNIE QUINTERO: Where's the water come from?
ALAN: Right there.
From the water table.
ALAN: It's hot.
It's like 110, 115 degrees.
TARA: It's like a hot spring.
ALAN: Are you getting in?
ALAN: All right, [LAUGH].
ERNIE QUINTERO: I'll get in if you make a fire.
Are you going to get in?
ALAN: Only if you get all these girls around here naked.
You've got to make a fire.
ALAN: All right, deal.

ERNIE QUINTERO: Ahh, it's all slimy.
TARA: Can you grab Ernie another beer?
ALAN: Sure.
ALAN: Well, right now we're--
ERNIE QUINTERO: Deep inside Slab City hot spring, which is
about 110, 115 degrees.
WHITNEY: Yeah, I bet this plays really good for--
ALAN: And if you were to feel the--
TARA: No, don't.
ALAN: Even 50 feet down from here, it'd be boiling water.
The Earth's crust out here is only about a
mile and a half thick.
TARA: Here.
ALAN: I'm going to baptize you.
ERNIE QUINTERO: He's going to baptize me.
I'm going to be an official slabber.

ALAN: I do baptisms.
I'm doing baptisms.
Come on, baptisms.
I baptize you in the name of the Lord,
son of the Holy Ghost.
TARA: Wait, don't do it yet.
TARA: Oh, that's too much.
ALAN: Secure the pants.

ERNIE QUINTERO: You haven't experienced Slab City unless
you've been to the hot springs.
And I don't want to get out.
ERNIE QUINTERO: I can't see in the light!
Whoa, that went right in my hand.
ALAN: That would have got me right in the balls, and I
would've been pissed.
ERNIE QUINTERO: It would've knocked his boner down.
You can't blame the guy, dude.
How many girls are in Slab City right now?
ALAN: None that I'd fuck.

TARA: This was a good idea.
WHITNEY: So what's your MO, do you just stay in a place for a
set amount of time?
ALAN: I'm just, kind of, like, I don't know, I come out here
just to relax.
WHITNEY: Is this your first time out here?
ALAN: Huh?
WHITNEY: Is this your first time out here?
ERNIE QUINTERO: Been for like three years.
ALAN: No, I've been here for like three and half years.
WHITNEY: So it was just time to move on?
ALAN: No, not necessarily.
This place will always be with me.
I always come back here.


ALAN: Do you want to go with?
I'm just meeting up with somebody real quick.
With everybody, or--
ALAN: Just you and me.
Is that cool?
I mean, like, they can stay here for 10 minutes, right?
While we do this.
Just someone has to come with me.
ERNIE QUINTERO: OK, yeah, yeah, I'll go with you.
ALAN: I mean, you don't have to go with me, but I sure--
ERNIE QUINTERO: No, no, I'll go with you, man.
ALAN: [INAUDIBLE] want someone to go with me.

ERNIE QUINTERO: Hey Alan, where are we
going to right now?
ALAN: Dope man's house.
ERNIE QUINTERO: What kind of dope are we going to get?
ALAN: Crystal meth.
Meth has been going on here since shit, Christ was born,
it seems like.
But more often than not, you'll find good people, even
if they are tweakers.
I hope my mom doesn't see this.
ERNIE QUINTERO: That looks fucking-- a little sketchy
right there.
FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Going out for a drive?
ALAN: How are you doing?
FEMALE SPEAKER 1: I'm just fine.
ALAN: You like my new car?
ALAN: Yeah, let me talk to you for a second, yeah?
You need dope, huh?
ALAN: Uh-huh, I want some dope.
FEMALE SPEAKER 1: I'll have to go get it.
FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Hey, be nice, be nice, be nice.
ALAN: All right, you take care.

Oh god.

ALAN: Hmm, running out of places to go, huh.
I usually do.

MALE SPEAKER 8: What do you think, Ernie?
ALAN: Oh shit.
Oh shit.
ERNIE QUINTERO: I'm just going with the flow.
ALAN: Oh shit.
ERNIE QUINTERO: Now we're getting stuck.
You're neutral, are you in neutral?
ALAN: No, I'm in reverse.
I'm just feathering it.

TARA: Are we stuck?

ALAN: All right, I might need for you to push it.
ALAN: All right, before we get incredibly stuck, we're going
to dig this bitch out real quick.
It's only going to take 10 minutes.
It's right there.
It's that tire.
ALAN: Is the shovel in here?
I hope the shovel's in here.


MALE SPEAKER 8: He's backing up.

You almost had it, dude.
ALAN: No, I got it now.
All right, y'all get in.
Seriously, get in.

We're good.
We're good.
We're good.
It was just a hallucination.
ALAN: There we go.
That's the road I missed.
I was looking for that bitch.

ALAN: Slab City.

ALAN: Well, Mr. Toad's wild ride has ended.
ERNIE QUINTERO: I was in the red.
ALAN: How are you doing, Mr. White Knuckles?
ERNIE QUINTERO: No, I stopped drinking a while ago.
ALAN: Yeah.
I could drive, if you don't want to drive.
ALAN: Was that fun?
Was that fun or what?
ERNIE QUINTERO: Yeah, that was fucking fun.
I was on edge the whole time.
ERNIE QUINTERO: Growing up in this area of California, I've
always felt a strong connection to Slab City.
But it never felt like home to me.
Now though, I feel like a slabber, and I
fucking love it.