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.