The Range

One of the first texts we received about the Slab City group when we were in Tonopah mentioned The Range. Not knowing what that was I was tempted to text back and ask but instead took the initiative and just looked it up on the Internet. What a concept!

Knowing it usually starts at dusk we had the whole day ahead of us and, unfortunately, ended up packing far too much physical activity in which ill prepared us for the high energy of The Range later that evening. We took a walk to the Pet Cemetery that was close to our camping spot. We walked with friends over to Salvation Mountain. We got a minivan unstuck from the sand. We took a hike over to the Coachella Canal and visited the Slab City Library on the way back. By then it was time to change out of my still wet cloths from the canal incident and prepare some food. Once those tasks were taken care of it was getting dark and we once again took a walk to the other side of the Slabs to where The Range was jumping.

The place wasn’t packed but it was already getting crowded. We squeezed our way past two mules hitched out front and up the stairs onto the main dance/lounge floor and took a quick walk up and down the few aisles of hand-me-down and 2nd hand (actually more like 5th hand) couches and chairs in various levels of lack of upholstery and padding and sharp springs and broken wood.

The Range Stage
The Bus to Stage Left is Part of the Stage and a Dressing Room I Believe

Several dogs were running loose including one little guy whose name we later found out was Stinky D (for Stinky Dog) who really liked Willow and kept trying to mount her for the rest of the evening. He was a nice guy but had obviously not been trained in the art of when to say when.

We shared the “couch” we found with a young couple making out enthusiastically on one side and a dread-headed gentleman with a cat in a harness on the other. Nice cat. Not particularly a fan of Willow but was nice enough to give a ladylike hiss and a gently raised paw to indicate that dog noses were an unwelcome intrusion into her space. The cat walked back and forth along the back of the couch and onto the chair next to us and we offered to hold its leash when it wandered too far from its caretaker a couple of times. Eventually the music got jumping and the sound was too loud for her dainty feline ears and so her human took her back to her bus. It was nice to have some kitty love and energy while it lasted.

The people up on stage playing music were actually quite talented and when it was time for them to take a break things calmed and quieted down for a couple of minutes. Then a lady took the microphone to introduce someone I had met at the RTR who was going to change things up a bit and recite a couple of poems. This was the beginning of the end of our night as you will soon read about but first, a bit about Randy. Randy Vining is a philosopher, poet and gadabout has been on the road for 40 years. He managed the Tin Can Seminar at the RTR and seemed like a fine elder (no offense) statesman of the nomadic arts and lifestyle. He is an interesting gentleman and you can find out more about him at his blog Mobile Kodgers. He has also just published a book, “Forty Years A Nomad: Poems From The Road” which you can get as a paperback or for your Kindle here. Willow and I highly recommend it.

On stage Randy said he was going to recite two original poems, one about something he likes (women) and the other about something he does not (loud generators). Inconsiderate generator users are also one of my all-to-often annoyances as I had once again been reminded here in Slab City after those two blissfully calm and quiet weeks at Saddle Mountain. Camouflaged in the guise of poetry he deftly calls out those inconsiderate types who run their generators well past the somewhat recognized standard quiet time of 10pm. I had heard the Generators poem at the RTR and it is one of my favorites that I now have on my Android tablet. Below is the man himself doing a multi-media, artistic rendition of the poem in question.

Towards the end of the recitation on stage, he raised his voice in artistic indignation to the final line of “…I Hate those noisy Son’s of Bitches” and laughter and applause break out. This is where it gets interesting.

Randy Vining on stage at the Range
Randy Just Before the Storm

Even before the applause has died down a local stomps up on stage loudly proclaiming anger at the perceived slight of the previous poem and slams the mic stand out of Randy’s hand and onto the ground. I’m guessing he has an old, loud generator because he is mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it any more “God Dammit!” Randy wisely steps out of the way and stands, stage right, arms folded with a bemused expression on his face as the “Drama” plays out for all in attendance to witness. I now remember Mr. Stage Crasher as the guy who owns the two mules out front and had earlier had a hissy fit as we were arriving because someone had dared to park their little scooter too close to his beasts. He has taken his Slab City name from a brand of mediocre Mexican tequila and that libation is obviously a close, personal friend. He is gaunt and shirtless, wearing a kilt with flowing white hair and beard looking somewhat like an elder Viking if they hung out in the desert. He picks up the mic stand and swings it around a few times threatening the bass player who was just standing on stage quietly waiting for this little storm to blow over but is now holding tightly to his bass guitar and seemingly weighing the merits of whacking the malcontent upside his head with it. Soon enough several people who look to be members of Mr. Malcontent’s Clan surround the aggrieved party and usher him slowly off stage all the while nodding in appeasement as he continues with his wild arm-waving gesticulations and further angry words. Fun fun.

Randy did finally get to recite his second poem and as the next group of musicians is getting situated on stage I have to several times keep forcefully reminding Stinky D that “No, leave her alone and Go Away!” as I lead him down the aisle and away from Willow and her strange, new and enticing doggie buttocks. The new band starts up and a fire has been started in a 50 gallon drum all of 10 feet from where we sit and soon is pumping gouts of flame out the top like a jet afterburner. It seems like only 10 minutes or so have passed before Mr. Angry Viking puts in another appearance at the barrel fire to our right holding court with those who are nice enough to listen to his semi-incoherent ramblings. Just about the time I have another bout of Stinky D management Mr. Angry Drunk Guy has apparently not gotten the sort of sympathetic attention he desires and so turns to leave and finds me in his way while dealing with doggie issues. There is more than enough room for him to maneuver around me but that seems to be too much trouble so I get a dismissive “Get the Fuck out of my Way” and a shove. I have several options of varying intensity I could respond with but choose the easiest and quietest of just sitting back down, taking a moment to calm down and then collecting Willow, saying “See Ya” to a few acquaintances and heading back to our camp.

We heard the next morning that things really got jumping around 10pm and that there were some really talented people who shared their gifts on stage. We expect to come back through at a later date if only for a quick overnight stopover to someplace more our style. Now we know for future reference to take it easy on Saturday when at The Slabs in order to be fresh for the fun at The Range that night.

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