Travel Porn: Issue 006

The Batcave and Slab City: Get a taste of the squatting life by hitting up one of these meccas of free-living.

Cross-Country Squat Palaces

While these two spots are on opposite coasts, they do share some interesting commonalities: Both are covered in incredible graffiti and located near the most polluted bodies of water in the United States, the Gowanus Canal and the Salton Sea.

The Batcave

Brooklyn, New York

Originally built as a power station for the MTA along the Gowanus Canal, the Batcave served as a squatter shelter, housing artists, homeless people and drug addicts, for about 10 years until Verizon bought the place and (almost) sealed it off to public entry. If you'd like to roam around the colorful graffiti, syringes, empty 40's, and rehab release papers, you'll have to get really sneaky. The only point of entry is a small inlet in the aluminum siding, which you'd have to crawl to along the canal, avoiding the rusty barbed wire, after hoping a small bridge about a block away.

OTP Tip: Scientists found gonorrhea in the Gowanus several years ago so don't you dare touch the water. Not even the tip; not ever.

Slab City

California

Slab City is an artist commune along the Salton Sea in the desert, built entirely upon the concrete remains of an old military base. Whereas Burning Man is an annual event, the festivities in these parts carry on year round. Situated right next to an active military practice range, the amazing graffiti, sculptures, art installations and abandoned structures, are sound tracked by daily bombing drills in the distance. One of the most interesting sights (and most disgusting smells) to be found here are the “beaches” of the filthy Salton Sea. Instead of sand, the ground is littered with millions of crushed up fish bones. The sea itself is green, with many dead animals floating about, which oddly doesn't deter the residents from dipping in their fishing rods and catching dinner. You can camp here for free; better bring a bagged lunch to avoid the local cuisine.