“If you want, you can. I have a lot of want and I want to get it”
A place on the edge of a deserted area, a little further away from the California State Road 111. According to the map, it’s a city. But in reality, it is not a city like any other. There is of course a Main Street, but there you won’t find any drugstores or supermarkets. Neither will you find one of these dinners from Laundry or gas stations that you usually see on the side of the road. No. Here, on either side of this dusty and silent main street, you’ll find the California desert scattered with makeshift settlements, huts and motorhomes: Homes for the ones that will, for the most part, end their lives here. This is Slab City, an almost No Man’s Land; a forgotten place, a space out of time where dreams are pursued, and many utopias are shattered.
The United States are the world’s leading economic power in terms of Gross Domestic Product and continue to make people dream. But the daily reality is much less glowing for a good part of the population. According to the figures, the American population is getting poorer, the middle class is getting weaker and the gap between the richest and the poorest is growing. Many have very little access to basic education or health care, not to mention the 2008 financial crisis that engulfed savings and retirement plans for most of the small middle-class. Often, these people find themselves living on the margins of society or giving up many of their life plans.
It is true that Slab City is home to the hippie community, the idealists who refuses to join the system and wish to live freely, without any constraints or restrictions. But you’ll also find there the veteran of the US Army who receives a miserable pension and who has no choice but to stay there, in a makeshift cabin. You’ll find too the father of a family who finds here a little dignity and respect that the “big city” did not offer to him or his children. We meet people to whom life hasn’t been kind, but above all an economic and social system that has left them no alternative but to settle in this part of the desert and marginalize themselves.
In April and October 2018, I went to Slab City. I met some of its inhabitants there; they shared parts and pieces of their story and their daily lives. They told me of their divides, of what is now their lives in this city; they entrusted me with their hopes for a better future. [Official Website]