Friday, June 10, 2016

Being a Friend

Being a Friend

This is not sometime I came up with all by myself. It has been written and added to by many people, but it is an important topic.

We all need friends.

We all need different kinds of friends.

Some people deny this, but I believe that this is because they never actually sat down and identified what a "friend" is to them.

Each friendship varies with the friend, but certain traits are mandatory for me. These are a few of them:

Friends can occupy the same room/space without robbing the space of solitude. They appreciate the difference between conversation and pointless noise.

They don't snipe and bitch about other friends.

They do their share of the mundane tasks without prompting. They acknowledge the mundane tasks their friend does without prompting. That doesn't mean "thank you" every 2 minutes, it means real gratitude. That is done sometimes silently.

Friends seldom whine.

Friends are secure in their own purpose

Friends do not anchor themselves to an energy zapping cloud of defeat and ready-made excuses when a challenging project presents itself.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2016 Slab City Prom

Prior & Current Year Prom Queens

Prom King Jordan & Prom Queen Andra
This year's Prom Night Under The Stars at The Range at Slab City was a great success. Everyone appeared to have a good time. The annual Prom at Slab City was initiated about 12 years ago by Robin (Builder Bill's girlfriend) with her friend Shannon. There have been newspaper and magazine articles about it, especially in the last few years given the popularity of social media, even here in the "off the grid" community out in the middle of the desert.

An event like the Prom Night Under The Stars at The Range at Slab City does not happen by magic. There is lots of hard work put into it each year and this year was no exception.

A little history: Prom Night Under The Stars started as an event at the end of the Snowbird season to give the residents and long time inhabitants at Slab City an event that would cap off the year and be an opportunity to go to a Prom Night, no matter how old you are, no matter your relationship status, whether or not you had a date, or a fancy dress or suit. It was aimed at all those that did not have fun at their own Senior Prom in high school for whatever reason.

At Slab City, there is a relation of social rules of engagement. This relation means that you can come and have a good time even if you don't have a date. You can come by yourself, with friends or a date. You can come dressed to the nines, or come as you are. Your choice.

To give people options, residents and snowbirds shopped the thrift stores for dresses, suits, shirts and ties during the year. These were brought out a week before the Prom for people to choose a dress. There were no rules about the dresses, just a suggestion that if you wanted to keep it at the end of the night, you brought another one back to replace it. Now, after 12 years, we don't have to shop so much any more. We get lots of donations. These are often the only fancy dress some people at the Slabs have worn.

A few years back, we started to take pictures. For free. We do a little fundraising before hand, put out a tip jar for the photographer and his helper. The fundraising helps with the cost of the paper and ink for the printer.

We usually help decorate The Range for the night. Sometimes a new coat of paint. Last year, it was new floorboards for the stage. Lights are strung up, sometimes beads. It will often depend on the weather. We were lucky this year. No wind. It rarely rains in the desert on Prom Night, but it can be windy.

Flip Cassidy & The Junkyard Gospels

Neil Malik & Barry Wayne

Megan Bee

The band is by donation. This year in addition to the Slab City Band, we had Flip Cassidy and the Junkyard Gospel. They were all great!

So, thanks to everyone who helped out.

With the decorating, getting the flowers, the crowns, the lighting, the photography, the music, the great audience and all levels of participation!

Have a great summer, and take care out there in the world!

Slab City 2016 Prom Pictures (pictures were taken by Bob Zahn

Builder Bill & Robin being photographed by Bob Zahn

If you want to know more about Slab City, visit our website
If you want to ask about Slab City, go to this FaceBook page: Slab City

and of course, if you want to make a donation (US tax deductible) go to our GoFundMe page.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Garbage In -> Garbage Out

Freedom at Slab City, is just like freedom everywhere in the world. My freedom ends where yours begins. We have had a challenging year at Slab City this last season, in large part because some new people (and a few returners) have misunderstood what the "Last Free Place in America" is all about. They thought (erroneously) that it was all about them doing whatever they want at the expense of anyone else. NOPE, it is definitely not that.

Freedom has responsibility. I mean that from both ends. Freedom to experience it, and freedom to maintain it. I will be specific with my example here: Trash. Yup, that smelly Yucky, dirty, often dangerously septic and infectious stuff that people throw on the ground because they are "finished" with it. Its a wrapper, a bottle, empty tin can, a plastic thing that broke off another thing, a liner, a diaper (usually used), dog dodo, and even human waste. Something you don't want with you any more. So you toss it over your shoulder. Or you even put it in some kind of container, thinking "I'll deal with that later" and then forget about it. Or you move it over to the edge of your eyesight. If its on the perimeter of your consciousness, you don't have to think about it any more.

Sorry my little Babylonians, that's not the end of it at Slab City. That's only the beginning.

You needed to think about what this means before you even think about coming to Slab City. There is no free lunch here (there are some potlucks, but no free). Alice's Restaurant is NOT here. The ONLY thing that is free out here in the middle of nowhere is that little patch of dirt under your feet while you walk on it. That's all. No free food, no free bathrooms, no free water, no free lunch, no free garbage removal. NO NO NO.

If its out here, then someone brought it here and is using it. They might have stepped away for a minute, or maybe you just can't see them right now, but its theirs. Not yours. You can't have it without asking. That includes… well EVERYTHING, even some things you didn’t think about.

That includes the garbage removal. That includes water. That includes a toilet.

You need to take care of three things for yourself when you come to Slab City: Food, Water and Waste. If you don't know how to take care of those things, then ask for advise. BEFORE you get there. YES before.

I know ... you thought it was FREE... FREE .... FREE ... well, its not that kind of Free.

The "free" at Slab City is personal freedom. Free not to be bothered. Free to live (and die) the way you want, without a bunch of people telling you how to do it. That freedom comes at a huge personal cost.

Yes, cost! Remember... NOT FREE

The cost is that you have to take care of the essentials yourself. You have to take care of your own food, your own water, your own waste. All of it.

Now, I'm not saying that there are not people here that won't help you. They might. But its not their job to help you. You can't just come here and then feel "entitled" to that assistance. Your sense of entitlement is one of my pet peeves and I'm not going to rant about it today. Just know that FREE is attached to your ideology about entitlement and I (or anyone else at Slab City) don't owe you anything.

Now I'm going to tell you a story... I ran the Oasis Club for a long time. I did a great job at it, and its now been handed over to someone else who is doing a great job of it (thanks Lo!). When I was running it, I would often have people come and ask me for toilet paper while I was behind the counter at the Club. It got to be that every other person that seemed to come in the door was asking for toilet paper. At first I started to simply say no and go back to whatever I was doing, like dishes, or sweeping, or doing prep work, or even just making coffee or talking to someone. The asker would look at me like I owed them an explanation, and like I said, I would just ignore them.

Then one day some jerk called me a controlling biotch for not handing over what he perceived as a secret stash of toilet paper. I responded with my rant, that went something like this:

"... what? you came to the desert, to the middle of no where... because you wanted to see what it was like to be in the middle of no where, knowing full well that there was nothing here. That we lived off the grid ~ without the use of electricity brought here by wires from the power grid, knowing there was no water, no food, no amenities whatsoever. You came out here to Slab City, knowing all of that, and with a huge expectation that those that came here before you now OWE YOU something? You think I owe you toilet paper? When you forgot to bring your own?  Your stupidity is not my problem! You have been here at Slab City for how many days now, and you finally decide that its time for ME to GIVE to YOU something that YOU didn't bring. Why the hell would you be so stupid as to think that I actually owe you anything? Especially given that I have to go out of my way to bring things here to the desert for myself. I didn't come here to provide you with stuff. You are not MY responsibility. I came to Slab City to experience freedom. Your coming here is infringing on my freedom. You should go somewhere else.”

The strangest part of giving them my rant was that they stared at me the whole time. Usually with their mouth dropping open. Sometimes, hopping from one foot to the other because… well, they needed toilet paper for a reason! They were free to walk away any time, but instead, they stood there listening.

Of course, a legend was born out of these rants. I became known as “The Sarge” and if anyone came to me asking for "free" anything, they got this discourse. Sometimes people came just for the rant, and I'd be happy to give it to them. Some of the recipients made songs of their being chastised by The Sarge (I think the most popular was a Canadian kids who did the “Toilet Paper Blues”). Some thought I’d gone crazy and others thought I’d gone too far. Of course, a few people came for toilet paper, but they didn't get any from me. They got the rant.

One day, a little miscreant came and asked for toilet paper, thinking of course, that he was entitled to it. He got the rant. Plus he got the jeers that the audience gave him while he got the rant. He got embarrassed and annoyed and stormed away. He went into the clothing closet at the Oasis and took one of the t-shirts in there, and took it to the outhouse and used it as toilet paper. Of course, this didn't work out well for the outhouse. It stupid entitled idiot plugged up a perfectly functioning outhouse because he didn't think it was his job to take care of himself. Its was everyone else's job, and specifically mine to give him toilet paper. As a result, we shut down the outhouse. Everyone lost out because of one stupid entitled little F(*&^'er. He knows who he is. He knows what he did. He knows the consequences. So does everyone else.

The moral of the story. If you screw up other people's freedom by not taking care of the basics for yourself, especially when you KNOW that you have to take care of yourself in an environmentally hostile environment, then you are not going to be welcome to return.

The idiot in the toilet paper story is not welcome anywhere near me. I don't want to experience his Freedom. He can go back to Babylon where he belongs. He doesn't belong at Slab City. He doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand what Freedom is all about.

If you want to come to Slab City GREAT!! Come on down! Please bring your own stuff, and when you leave, take your stuff back out with you: Pack it in & Pack it out. We do NOT need any bad garbag’ers. If that's you, just stay home and watch Slab City on YouTube and FaceBook.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Learning Curve is Broken: Instagram

My Learning Curve is broken, at least for social media stuff. I'm trying to learn Instagram and I'm having trouble.

What do I mean? I mean its just not sinking in.

So, like most things, if I write it down, then I can sort through the learning process again... Sorry you have to be part of this, but what the heck, maybe you are over 60 and having social media challenges too?!!

so INSTAGRAM... what is it?

Is it like FaceBook? No, but they apparently own it.

Is it like Twitter? I don't think so, but you can post between your accounts (from Instagram to Twitter ~ and THAT's useful!)

Is it like PinInterest? not really, but sort of.

Its pictures. My pictures and pictures other people post.

Its sort of like PinInterest in that I can post pictures and follow other people's pictures.

But its sort of like FaceBook in that you follow people and they follow you. Its not like FaceBook because you don't have to be "accepted" as a friend to follow others and have them follow you.

Is it like Twitter, well sorry of (again). Its got "feeds" and the pictures can go "viral".

You can link up from Instagram to Twitter. Haven't figured out if you can link up to FaceBook yet.

PinInterest hookup? don't know that either.

So, this is as far as I got... this is where my Learning Curve got broken. What do you do when something is broken? You stop using it until it mends.

Yea, that doesn't work for a broken Learning Curve about the computer. That kind of "broken" doesn't just fix itself (its not a starfish after all). So, what to do? RESEARCH!!!

Research means plot out a plan, (remember, a Plan & a List), so:
Look up Instagram on its own "About" page
Look up Instagram on Wikipedia:
Find comments about Instagram on search engines
look up social media "help" on the web and AT THE LIBRARY
Report back ... ok, "engage":

First up is the web, then the library and the printed word: Yes, AT THE LIBRARY. Physically at the Library, touching books; but also in a search at the Library webpage.

While this looks like one of those discussions that differentiates between the "World Wide Web" and "internet". It is NOT. We at the end user stages don't really care what the difference between WWW and Internet is. We just simply use it. Do I have to understand it to use it? No. I might anyway, but that's besides the point for Instagram. This is NOT IRC, its not even a chat room. You go there if you want... I'm just trying to get my Learning Curve fixed.

After some Web research:

I found a few places where there is easy to use information. So far, this is one that I could follow without getting broken again. Its a little outdated, but covers the basics:

This one is ok too, but its a bit cluttered and you have to copy and paste to get the links happening, so you might want to set up your own research grid anyway.

This one is easy to follow and includes some reasons why you might want to use Instagram too.

Wikipedia's article about Instagram is heavily focused on the history and content, as opposed to "how to". Therefore, it was not much help. It does give a good background, and their "controversy" is clearly noted.

After the Library, actually touching real books:

There are some books (of course!) "The Instagram Book" from 2014

"Likable Social Media" from 2015

"Snap and Share" from 2014


So, back to the basics again. Is my Broken Learning Curve fixed? Do I understand Instagram? Not all the in's and out's, no. But I understand enough to get an account going and start using it. I understand why I might want to use Instagram (easy access to pictures from me and about subjects I want to explore). Yup, its cool. Will it help my business? No idea: check back in a month or two.

Want to follow me on Instagram? Try this link: (remember I'm new to this, let me know if the link is broken)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Roasted Root Veggies with Fenugreek

OK, So this is one of my first recipe posts... Its got (I hope) lots of pictures. I was inspired by my Cousin Terina who is an ammmmaaaazzziiinnnnggg chef! (Thanks Cuz'n T ~ I'm hoping she'll have her recipe blog up soon!)

So the two ingredients that you might not be familiar with are anise, a root veggie. Some people call it Fennel. It has a licorice flavor. When you roast it, especially with fenugreek, it has a full soft flavor that is worthy of the claim: food porn!

Fenugreek is a seed herb. It has an aroma reminiscent of chocolate, but its taste is truly unique. It is not harsh at all, but a very soft aromatic herb that cuts down the spiciness of strong flavors such as fennel or anise.

This roasted root veggie dish is great on its own, or as a side to any main course. It is low in cholesterol and bursting with warm comfort.

Preheat the oven to 375 F

chop Anise, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets... 

Over a low heat, roast fenugreek seeds until toasty brown, then grind them
I use a non-stick pan. It is fast, so don't walk away!

I like using the mortar & pestle because it looks cool :)
but you can use a grinder (i.e. coffee grinder) or
just the flat of a knife on a board 
Put the chopped veggies in a plastic baggie, with the fenugreek and some olive oil

Use 3 Tablespoons oil


add ground pepper

Next put 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar into the baggie

Close the bag & Mix the veggies

Make sure that all the veggies are coated with liquid & spices

Now pour all of the contents of the baggie into a roasting dish

Get all that good stuff in the baggie into the pan
spread the veggies around evenly in the pan 
Cook for 40 minutes or until the veggies are tender

Monday, February 1, 2016

SCCG Inc. = The Slab City Community Group Inc.

Section 36 is currently owned by the State of California, and administered by the State Land Commission. They want to sell it. We live on it. So, we have decided we want to buy it. We are going to administer it as a Community Land Trust so that people can have access to this land in perpetuity (forever). We want to keep Slab City the way it has always been. Free and accessible.

To that end, we are in the midst of a fundraising campaign to make this happen.

The SCCG Inc. is a registered Charity in the State of California with federal s. 501(c)(3) status. That means we can give you a tax receipt for your donation.

We can also accept "in kind" donations.

If you can't find a few $$ in your pocket to spare for Slab City, you can still help... Just spread the word about what we are doing. Post it on FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, tell your friends over coffee (it is the social glue after all), or over a beer, or whatever... better yet, bring them to Slab City for the weekend. Come camp and enjoy our music, our ambience, our culture and our art. Come participate. You are welcome here... any time...

Here are the links to our fundraising pages:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Blah's, Its not all Bah Humbug.

Winter Holiday Season, yah that one: Christmas. This has always been a really tough time of year for me. I know I’m not alone. This is probably the hardest part of the year for many people. SAD (seasonal affect disorder) is now recognized as a “common” disorder.1 This is (in my view) not a disorder in the colloquial sense, its a natural physiological event that occurs because our brains react differently when there is not enough light. Now couple the diminished daylight hours with these humungous expectations of behavior and overloaded sensations at the Yuletide, and there you have it. All I want to do at this time of year is crawl into my cave, pull up the welcome mat, get in front of a nice roaring fire with a glass of whisky and hibernate for the next four weeks. Grok it? I bet you do.

The hype about Christmas started getting to me when my children where very young. I noticed that they LOVED to open presents. They didn’t give two hoots what was in the box, they just loved the whole *let me unwrap it” thing. That’s when I started to clue into how I was experiencing uber anxiety and angst at this time of year. I noticed that my depression seemed juxtaposed to their joy. I wasn’t looking forward to the “unwrapping” like they were. Theirs was a pure joy. One that had more to do with tearing at colored paper and ribbon to get the stuff off the box than the things inside the box.

My anguish about whether they would like their presents evaporated in the joy they experienced in that moment. If they didn’t care about what was inside the box, well then, neither did I! Ok, so one part of the angst was solved. On to the second part.

I am supposed to look forward to this time of year and I don’t. Hmmm. Why not. Well, because I know the pattern all too well: the drama of where to spend the holidays. Remember, I just want to curl up in a ball with my glass of whisky and my faithful and loyal dog in front of the roaring fire. However, If I don’t put in an appearance at friends and relatives then they will think the worst and assume that I need to be fixed.

Then there is the drama: if I don’t go visit/call/write Aunt Sally, she will call my mother and tell her how awful a daughter she raised. She will then get to compare her beloved and perfect offspring to my mother’s, well: me. Never mind that Uncle Bert doesn’t like my dog. Or that I have to travel 16 hours to get there! Then if I’m late to my mom’s for dinner, she will think I spent too much time with my dad and get jealous and vindictive. Nope, that whisky and fire is sounding way better now isn’t it?

Then the competition starts: my brother tells me all the things he got his wife and that she got him. If I don’t chime in with my own version of the “one-up-manship” game, I lost. If I don’t admire all the cool (and stupid shit) my brother buys me then I am in the “less than” category for a long long time.

And then the actual cost in money, time and effort!! When I could be sitting curled up with a good book, a glass of whisky in front of a roaring fire with my loyal and faithful dog. Instead, I’m fighting lines at stores, post offices, freeways and airports with lots and lots of other people who would rather be elsewhere. How silly can we get?

Then there is the compare what the kids did this year: “Mine went to Hawaii for the holidays”, “oh how nice, mine went on a Brazilian outback adventure”. “We got tickets to the Nutcracker at the Met this year, the grandkids loved it!” No they didn’t Aunt Flo, they wanted a hotdog and to see the new Star Wars flick you idiot.

Oh shit, see how my anger just radiates to the surface with all this crap? Come on, admit it: whisky and a roaring fire are looking good to you right now, aren't they?

Then dinner: Never mind the extra calories, lack of exercise, indulgence of alcohol and other substances. There is the absolute facts: some of my relatives cannot cook their way out of a wet paper bag! Stuffing that is limp, shortbread that will crack your teeth, and tofu turkey?!? OMG give me a break! I want bacon wrapped steak, perfect roast turkey with fresh cranberry sauce and too much mashed potatoes with butter AND gravy! Is that too hard? Yuck, now I’m pouring a whiskey whether you like it or not!

Expectations suck. Drama sucks. Abandoned consumerism sucks. What’s this seasons’ saving grace? The fact that I’m not alone in my misery. Its not that I want everyone to commiserate with me. Its that I know, in their hearts most people are.

Yes, the holiday season can be nice. Operative word is “can”. However, it requires a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. Its hard to park our blatant consumerism at the door at this time of year. I start on Black Friday. That’s my “Buy Nothing” Day. Then I focus on the meaning of the holidays: enjoying friends and family. I do love them and love being part of our wonderful family. We are misfits and dysfunctional jerks, but I love us, one and all.

That’s the biggest key to surviving the holidays: LOVE. I love my family. I love my friends. I don’t care that they might appear to be broken. To me, they are all whole, unique, cryptic, chaotic, psychotic, and unexpectedly enlightened wonders of joy who love to tear into packages for the sake of opening them. Its hard not to love that joy, isn’t it?

That is what I focus on at this time of year: Joy. I remind my friends and family (and now you), that this time of year isn’t about ignoring the screwed up pandemonium inherent in this dark season. Its about embracing it. Its not about glossing over the bumps of life, including depression. Its about loving each and every one of us just as we are and spreading that love as much as we can. That’s called hope and that’s makes it all worthwhile.

So, enjoy the season. All of it, warts and all.

Joyous Noel