.An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

An excerpt from my novel 'Cruise Quarters'

When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Have you ever thought of just chucking it all in, walking away from the routine of everyday life? Well I know a place thousands of people escape to every year. The name is Slab City and if you have ever wondered what a post apocalyptic world would look like this is probably the closest you will find.

Even though Slab City is less than two hours from my house I had never been there, but one day a friend from Vegas came to visit and that was the only one place he wanted to see. We drove past the splendid decay of the Salton Sea, a huge slowly dying lake in Southern California which ends mere miles from the Mexican border. 

When we reached the small town of Niland we took a left and traveled three miles to the remnants of the World War II-era Camp Dunlamp Naval Reservation. It is on that deserted base that thousands of snowbirds descend every year, rent free to spend their winters. A few hardy souls live there year round although in the summer temperatures routinely break the century mark.

Religion always features prominently in a post-apocalyptic scenario and the first thing that greets you as you enter this community is Salvation Mountain. Started in the eighties Leonard Knight a self-proclaimed Christian built a colorful mountain out of adobe clay and donated paint. His recurring theme was, Love is everywhere at Salvation Mountain. Climb to the top and feel the love around you. Although Leonard is now deceased the work continues.

Travel down the road past the community center, a library and an open-air nightclub - The Range. Pass fields filled with RV's, where some of the 47% have found their place due to economic limitations and the rest of the population just want to be left alone to do as they please.

But for me the most interesting place can be found just north of The Range. It is an experimental community using predominantly recycled, re-purposed or discarded materials to create incredible works of art. The day we came the inhabitants were happy to give us a tour of the art, the living quarters and shared their plans for the future. They plan to make their community self sustaining. We made a donation and were rewarded with the coolest T-shirt ever. Although Charles Russell, the founder of East Jesus, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his mid-40's he left a legacy and a community that is expanding and pays tribute to his vision. And if you visit bring a book to donate to the library, the nights are long in the desert.

So if you would like to visit America's version of the back of beyond, a place closely resembling the world of Mad Max without the violence, just take a trip to Slab City, I know I will be back.

About the author:
Cara Bertoia is the author of Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships. Her novel is really a travelogue, a narrative, a romance, a self-help manual for gambling and cruising, and a real-life story all rolled into one funny, obsessive, and entertaining story of two people whose separate life journeys meet at a crossroads. Kindle Fire Dept. says, "This novel is a gem that is nothing short of a vacation in a book!"

Below is the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

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