Post Games I found myself in beautiful San Diego hanging out with a dear friend who shall be known as Scrampy. Why the nickname Scrampy you may ask? Well, if you know your Dave Chapelle movies, Samson Simpson was a colorful drug lord in the stoner classic Half Baked. The Scrampy in our story aligns more with a disheveled and resourceful fellow unafraid to do what is necessary. Interpret that however you like.
Scrampy is a unique character. And Scrampy loves adventure. Which is perfect for my predilections because I actually never know what to expect from Scrampy on a day to day basis. It is quite exhilarating and also quite terrifying as I have found myself pushing the limits of my boundaries – especially in terms of safety. However, through these nefarious adventures, I have learned a valuable lesson about life and how I want to live it. Here are a few of my adventures with Scrampy.
As soon as I landed in San Diego, Scrampy mentioned to me that we would be going to Slab City: a strange desert town free of jurisdiction from the police and a community focused on barter and trade. No rules really apply. I was intrigued but also wary. The desert would be hot and the drive a couple of hours. What were we going to do out there? What was the master plan? But that is the thing about Scrampy – seemingly there is never a plan. Every adventure Scrampy takes me on is somewhat ill-prepared and in some way always disastrous. I am a pretty go-with-the-flow gal but even I have my limits. Yet there is a great lesson to be learned here. Scrampy doesn’t necessarily think about all the details and the items we will need on our adventure; that is more of an afterthought. But the key here is we just GO. We get in the car and go. Yeah, it can be a bit reckless but it is incredibly refreshing. I have noticed as I grow older, through experience perhaps, I have become increasingly more “safe” with my decisions. I have become increasingly risk-averse. One could, of course, argue that this is part of survival, Darwinism, the evolutionary funnel, part of aging. Yes, all those things are true but perhaps we go overboard. Maybe this is what makes us age prematurely because we stop adventuring and get bogged down with the seriousness of our adult reality. “You want to do what?” people scoff when you tell them about a wild or outlandish plan. They proceed to tell you all the problems with your idea or maybe you convince yourself that you are being ridiculous. Slowly, this picks away at our childish soul.
I digress. Next thing I know I am in the oppressive heat of the desert pulling up to Salvation Mountain. A trippy shrine made out of thousands of tons of latex paint, hay and religious idols: a literal mountain created by a U.S vet Leonard Knight. There are busted old cars and buses splattered with biblical sayings parked right where they probably broke down years ago. Scrampy ripped off his shirt and tied it around his head as he tramped towards to spiritual summit. Everywhere I looked there were rivers of colour and religious verses. Families had placed pictures of their lost ones carefully in different grottos and shrines throughout Salvation Mountain. It was a powerful place that left me with a simple message: Love is Universal. The heat was intense but so was the energy of this place.
Soon, Asiatic tourists began to arrive in droves. Scrampy surveyed the scene, slid down his speed dealer shades onto his face and in a very Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry-esque fashion spoke, “Let’s move.” Where to next? Slab City.
We drove along a dusty road and passed by a derelict grocery store with a drooling meth head shaking out front. We then turned down another dusty road dotted with trailer parks and abandoned sheds: remnants of town trying so hard to thrive at some point in the past decade. We passed over a bone-dry culvert and saw a hand-painted sign that read Slab City.
If you have ever been to Slab City you know that it is a “free city”. Free of capitalism, police, any government rule and uniformity found in regular American cities. Busted out hippie vans, hoopties and patchworked sheds littered the landscape. Sides of old RVs were blown out allowing the passer-by to glimpse into the life of a fringe hippie. My favourite lot was a sweet 1970’s RV painted with images and quotes from the 1980 classic film The Goonies (HEYYY YOUUU GUYSSS!!!) I bet that RV gang would be a blast to party with.
As we ventured deeper into the Slab we saw a performance stage and signs welcoming U.S military personnel – unexpected in a place like Slab. We then found ourselves coming upon a hostel complete with a teddy bear cemetery. Yes, a teddy bear cemetery- bleached by the hot desert sun. They were placed in different positions and stacked just so, like a high-end art installation one would see at a museum of modern art. This was better because it had been created by the one and only Raven, the unofficial “owner” of the Slab City Hostel. Raven, donning flip-flops, faded yellow gym shorts, a baggy t-shirt and an obligatory greasy gray-haired ponytail.
“Well hello!!! Admiring my Teddy Bear Cemetery? People send me teddy bears from all over the world! This little fella is from the Netherlands,” pointing to a cross-eyed, shabby stuffed animal doubled-over a Barbie doll and a candle. We asked Raven to show us around the hostel. He unlocked the gate fences and I was certain this would be it. Raven would be my murderer. It was a perfect slasher film beginning: two unsuspecting Slab City tourists exploring a secretly depraved, bloodthirsty commune out in the desert. Despite my racing mind, Raven showed us the fire pit and the outdoor living hostel. This hostel is almost too difficult to describe because there was so much going on. Have you been to a hoarder’s house? This is how most of Slab City’s dwellings look – a veritable hoarder’s paradise. Raven had assured us that a dust storm had just blown through but I had a feeling that was his way of saying the garbage strewn hostel floor was not normal. There was shit everywhere. Stacked old chewing gum towers, pens, pencils, cardboard walls with insane graffiti and verses, wine and liquor bottles, homemade wind chimes, sea shells, desert rocks, string lights and hanging door beads, a couple crusty ovens and stovetops, hammocks and various trinkets. Raven meandered through the ceiling-less floorplan highlighting the interesting people and parties that had taken place within the walls over the years. Cinderblocks had been stacked to partition palates of wood which were rudimentary beds (with some crusty old sheets and blankets strewn down as well… I couldn’t help but wonder how many bodily fluids were crusted on those linens). There was a wall of mortar and drunken wine bottles which, as Raven informed us, was from desert people who had finished their wine and began to stack up their empties thus creating a wine wall. That’s how many of the permanent pieces are in Slab – drug or alcohol induced art installations that, as an afterthought, end up serving some kind of functional purpose. At the end of the tour, we inquired how much it would be for us to stay for a night or weekend. Raven stopped dead in his tracks and turned toward us. With his patchy, white ponytail blowing in the hot desert wind and his watery red eyes peering deep into our souls he spoke, “We don’t accept money. Greed is ruining this world,” and after a few moments of letting this sombre message sink in, “You can perform Saturday nights on the stage in town or teach something new to someone! Nudity is also welcome. Now, I suggest you head up to the library to have a look – you can take anything you want!”
Scrampy and I hopped in the car and drove up another dirt road to the Slab City public library while peeking into other ramshackle abodes, of course.
The Library, unsurprisingly, was a tired old shack. It seemed that over the years, hell itself wanted to keep swallowing it up, but in random efforts of Slabians, logs, steel beams, and mud had been used to buttress up the walls. Old gas tanks, cars, airplane seats, and garbage (maybe treasures for the Slabians?) peppered the front yard on the way to the entrance. Upon entering, two chickens and a rooster scooted past our feet and we were assaulted with the smell of human sweat. And books. And dusty trinkets. A TV was blasting CNN in the distance, dogs lay on some shredded bamboo mats. In a dark corner sat two Slabians, aloof and debilitated by the desert heat.
“Howdy. Take whatever you want,” spoke the first in a nonchalant tone. She was a hippie chick, on the large side, with dreadlocked hair and wearing minimal buffalo style loincloths. She also only had one leg and a peg on the other. Her partner was a greasy looking gentleman with long nails and lizard-like eyes carefully watching my movements as I took in the garbage heap style library.
Suddenly I had a very strong urge to go to the bathroom. A bowel movement was imminent and I had no idea when my next opportunity to use a bathroom would present itself (this is typical on all Scrampy adventures). I meekly asked the one-legged hippie chick if there was a bathroom.
“Just go outside somewhere,” she lazily droned.
“I need to take a shit,” I strongly replied, the panic starting to set in. A trickle of sweat dripped down my back. The hippie chick’s eyes opened wide and then narrowed in on me.
“We have an outdoor toilet I guess you could use. Follow me.” She stood up. Holy shit, this hippie chick was like Brienne of Tarth of the Niland desert (if you know your GoT references). She would destroy me if I became increasingly uppity about my bathroom situation.
“Do you have toilet paper?” she asked as we walked out the back of the library. Shit.
“No,” I replied.
“I have some,” interjected Scrampy. “Always do, it’s in my trunk,” and Scrampy tossed me the keys. I hustled to the trunk and found 2 large rolls of soggy toilet paper. Why are they soggy…? I didn’t have the luxury of time to question such things. I ran back through the library where the hippie chick was climbing up a slight dusty incline in the distance. We reached the top of the hill where there was an impromptu waist height curtain strung around an old handicap shower chair which had been placed over a hole in the ground. There was a table with matches and an old tomato tin sitting next to it.
“Light your ass-wipe on fire in that can after your business is done. Don’t throw it down the hole.” She clambered off back to her library refuge leaving a distinct sent of layered patchouli and sweat. I sat down to do my thing and looked up to a beautiful view of the desert. The heat radiated off the horizon and I saw people moving in the distance. They were sand people, draped in long cloths and shrouded with head coverings, like something out of Star Wars. They were also moving towards me. I didn’t really care though: this was the coolest place I had ever taken a B.M.
I finished up and used the matches to burn my TP refuse in the can. Toilet roll in hand, I scampered back to the library where I found Scrampy holding a fractured magnifying glass.
“They said we could take anything- It’s all free. This will be our memento of Slab City.” We got back into the car and went searching for water as the desert had completely parched us in a matter of a couple hours.
Teeth Cleaning in Mexico
I had been complaining to Scrampy about the astronomical prices of dentistry in Canada. If you aren’t on a dental plan or have benefits, a single teeth cleaning costs $350 if there isn’t anything wrong with you. I refuse to pay that but I also want to take care of my teeth. Scrampy decided to head south-east to Yuma post-Slab City. I was going to get my teeth cleaned in Los Anglodones, Mexico, a haven of medical tourism for Americans. There was no going back now being so close to the Mexican border.
The night before I made an appointment with a seemingly reputable establishment. I can’t recall the name, but they told me it would cost $40 USD. Incredible. Hopefully, I wouldn’t need a root canal or hospitalization after just to save some money. However, Scrampy was committed to finding me the best deal. After spending the night in Yuma, we woke early to head to the border crossing. We parked the car on a Tehuacana Indian run parking lot (they are raking in the dough!) and stuffed all our necessary items into our pockets. Phones, cash, passports. We were a little nervous, however when we saw ol’ New Balance Bob and mouth-breathing Betty clamber out of their Oldsmobile we knew that this would be a safe crossing.
Crossing into Mexico is easy: no questions, no checks, just a dude holding a big gun as you walk into the streets of Los Anglodones. We were swarmed by Mexicans, dressed in medical scrubs, coaxing you with low-priced medical procedures. The comments we received were crazy. Scrampy is quite muscular and I was walking around in a tank top so we got a lot of, “Hey, you two want some steroids?” or, “Lady how much you bench press?” One bold woman came up to me and asked,
“What do you need?”
“Nothing,” I replied with a smile.
“What do you NOT need,” she spoke locking onto my eyes, standing a little too close. I awkwardly laughed and hurried to catch up to Scrampy. What if I had asked for a black market kidney? Or some horse tranquilizers? I shivered because I knew her look meant that she could procure me anything from the streets of Los Anglodones or deepest, darkest Mexico.
We reached the dentist office and entered a beautiful facility. In the waiting room sat three old-timers from Yuma clucking about the benefits of medical tourism. They regaled us with an eclectic mix of stories of Yuma in the seventies and various sights to see in Arizona (now was that lake off the I-95 or I-15?… Goddamnit who cares!).,
Thankfully I was called to the dentist chair leaving Scrampy in the midst of the old men. I had a very professional and thorough cleaning. No cavities! I paid my 40 bones and left. When I got back to the waiting room Scrampy was nowhere to be found. Slightly panicked I ran out into the streets ready to high tail it back to the border without him. Soon I found him conversing and laughing with a young Mexican man in medical scrubs. Scrampy is excellent at making quick friends who give us the local esoterica. We browsed some pharmacies (you can get cheap medication without a prescription, like my inhalers for asthma) and headed back towards the good ol’ U.S of A. Of course, because Scrampy looks super sketchy, he was pulled in for secondary which made my palms sweaty and heart palpitate. I paced back and forth for some time before he emerged from secondary screening with a sheepish grin on his face. In the words of Tina Fey, I had to manually unclench my butt cheeks on the walk back to the Indian parking lot.
Since the beginning of writing this blog, Scrampy and I have been on many more harrowing adventures (I am an expert procrastinator). I will speak of the details in more posts to come but I wanted to leave you with a simple message if you find yourself waffling over your next risk.
Take it. Just go.
In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk (I’m paraphrasing), “Stop dwelling on stupid shit. Speed is greater than perfection. When you’re not spending any time worrying, you are spending time executing.” And Scrampy, with his “no fucks given” attitude, perfectly embodies this ideal. Less fucks= more danger= greater reward. Now get out there with your haphazard plan you tough nutcracker!