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. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] Hey, can we take that into
Niland, get some more beer? MALE SPEAKER 3: Ernie,
settle down. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] 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 Association. Now that’s a long acronym. Yeah. 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. [LAUGH] 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. [LAUGH] 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? MALE SPEAKER 6: Hello. ALAN: Are you far from moving? MALE SPEAKER 6: [INAUDIBLE],
yeah. 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. MALE SPEAKER 6: Oh yes? 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. [LAUGHTER] 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. [LAUGH] 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. WHITNEY: Shit. 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. ERNIE QUINTERO: Oh, OK. ALAN: It’s hot. It’s like 110, 115 degrees. TARA: It’s like a hot spring. ALAN: Are you getting in? ERNIE QUINTERO: Fuck yeah. 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. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] You’ve got to make a fire. ALAN: All right, deal. ERNIE QUINTERO: Ahh,
it’s all slimy. [YELLS OUT] TARA: Can you grab Ernie
another beer? ALAN: Sure. WHITNEY: Jesus. 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. ALAN: [LAUGH] TARA: Oh, that’s too much. ERNIE QUINTERO: Oh ALAN: Secure the pants. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] ERNIE QUINTERO: You haven’t
experienced Slab City unless you’ve been to the
hot springs. And I don’t want to get out. ALAN: [LAUGH] 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. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] 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. ERNIE QUINTERO: In the car? ERNIE QUINTERO: What? ALAN: Do you want to go with? I’m just meeting up with
somebody real quick. ERNIE QUINTERO: OK. 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. [LAUGH] ERNIE QUINTERO: That looks
fucking– a little sketchy right there. FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Howdy. ERNIE QUINTERO: Hi. ALAN: Hi. 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? FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Yeah. ALAN: Yeah, let me talk to
you for a second, yeah? FEMALE SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE] You need dope, huh? ALAN: Uh-huh, I want
some dope. FEMALE SPEAKER 1: I’ll
have to go get it. [DOGS BARK] FEMALE SPEAKER 1: Hey, be
nice, be nice, be nice. ALAN: All right,
you take care. ALAN: OK. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] 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. MALE SPEAKER 8: Yeah. 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. ERNIE QUINTERO: All right. It’s right there. It’s that tire. ALAN: Is the shovel in here? I hope the shovel’s in here. OK. 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. ERNIE QUINTERO: [LAUGH] ALAN: There we go. That’s the road I missed. I was looking for that bitch. ERNIE QUINTERO: Next stop– ALAN: Slab City. [LAUGHTER] ALAN: Well, Mr. Toad’s
wild ride has ended. [LAUGH] ERNIE QUINTERO: I
was in the red. ALAN: How are you doing,
Mr. White Knuckles? TARA: [INAUDIBLE] ERNIE QUINTERO: No, I stopped
drinking a while ago. ALAN: Yeah. ERNIE QUINTERO: Either/or. 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. ALAN: [LAUGH] [ALAN PLAYING GUITAR] [INDISTINCT CONVERSATIONS] 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.