Cayucos: A love supreme

June 4, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted weekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

By DELL FRANKLIN

This is a good time, with daylight savings providing an extended radiant sunset as I sit in my car, seat in recliner position, listening to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” while surfers, their vans and pickups with camper shells parked backwards in the lot facing the sea, mill around or sit on tail gates drinking beer.

This popular parking lot (called the South Lot) is a block off the pier and beside Jim Ruddell’s Smokehouse. A few surfers in wetsuits trudge up the sand and arrive toting boards, while a few others sit on boards waiting for last rides in moderate surf. Some change beside their vehicles, wearing towels to hide their asses, slipping into shorts and hooded sweatshirts, hoods pulled tight over ball caps—style of the breed, or some say a cult, but mostly a tribe.

This is my occasional after dinner ritual. Sitting and watching some kid riding the curl, joggers along the shore, dogs chasing birds or frisbees or plunging into the ocean after tennis balls, couples strolling along the beach wall, flashing photos with their smart phones. Tourists picking at shells and rocks and mountains of driftwood from the storms, oblivious to their surroundings.

But the crew of ten or twelve joking and laughing and exchanging surf talk one car over from me have perfected jocular lollygagging into a profession. One of them, tall slender long-haired John, is a sort of icon. He is a writer, and for almost ten years lived directly below me in an old white wooden house with his girl friend, their small child and little aggressive wiener dog.

He held parties next door in three of the last adjoining empty lots in town, the music blaring from a local volunteer rock band, old heaps lined up along the block. I never ventured down though occasionally John invited me, but these are young people getting it on with booze and drugs like I did in the old days down south before I got worn out and moved up here to sleepy Cayucos to salvage my existence.

John’s rental was such a happy old battleaxe of a house, and now it has been razed, along with the two towering trees that provided shade, to make room for three no-personality super homes built by a millionaire from the Valley who bought up the triple lot with cash. He is fat with success and has another home around the corner, which he seldom lives in except during the July 4th parade week when he drives around in a golf cart with American flags flapping in the wind.

He is glad-handing unctuous, and the entire neighborhood is leery of him and will probably continue to be so when he sells these homes to people like himself who are never in town, so that these monstrosities sit empty while some of the blue collar surfer boys right here live in their rigged up vans as boondockers, or on the couches of those fortunate enough to find an affordable place, as John did, down the street in another old wooden box where he took on a couple roommates to help pay the rent.

The street where I live seems a little dead now, but here I am, the crescendo of Coltrane elevating me into some form of spiritual hierarchy, like the choir at the black A.M.E church on Adams in LA. A couple surfers spot me and tip their beer bottles in salute, and I bip my horn and wave, keeping my window up so their music and guitar plucking doesn’t interfere with majestic Coltrane.

There are a couple girls among the crew, surfers, shapely jock hybrids willingly accepted, raised in town when their daddies put them on boards as toddlers. Several rescue mutts, including John’s, circulate; some chasing hurled balls on the sand, and one comes over by my door and stares at me, and it occurs to me I probably rolled down my window a year or so ago and gave him a biscuit.

I roll my window down, inviting the blast of music and pet him as he rests his paws on my door, but he’s peering into the car and I tell him no. He gets down and walks over to a girl in tight fitting jeans and halter top who, like a needy but pretty poodle, has visited with all the guys for lingering hugs when not patting at her hair or sitting in her little jalopy reapplying make-up, all the while consulting her smart phone and moving to the music like a child born of crank-afflicted parents. Hummingbird.

The sun is plummeting toward the horizon. Shards of crimson and tangerine creak through scattered gray clouds. It is winding down. Ragged engines start up and rattle. Soul shakes and hugs are exchanged. Some who can no longer afford to live here but come for the surf and camaraderie, will drive twenty miles to Atascadero, a sort of bible belt with its landmark In-N-Out, and Paso Robles, an over-grown bus stop where rents are cheaper.

The boondockers will steer their rigs down by John’s house or spots where no neighbor will complain, after a visit to the bathrooms beside the pier. Or maybe they’ll have a beer at the nearby Tavern and Schooner’s Wharf.

Unlike in jam-packed LA and Orange County beaches, where prime surf spots turn into ant-hill turf wars, Cayucos surfers are a joyously unstructured brotherhood where men with pudgy bodies and snow white hair, and kids a third of their age, religiously share the waves while pursuing a lifelong passion and look out for each other like foxhole buddies.

It’s all good. I turn off my radio and pull away as the sun dives down below the horizon and the last surfer heads toward the lot with his board.


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slophocles

Hope you are all getting by there in Cayucos. I live in Missouri where we’re up to our knees in floating turds. Maybe we’ll send you some aid to get you through the foggy season.


Boldguy

Really Dell, need a little cheese with that whine!!!

Cayucos once upon a time had 5 gas stations, a lumber yard, hardware store and it’s own doctor office, yes it started changing well before Dell got here.

Hwy 1 ran thru the middle of town(Ocean Blvd) and had multiple Motels and Motor Courts for weary travelers, when they realigned Hwy 1 around the town, with the loss of traffic, those Motels became cheap rentals or by today’s nomenclature, affordable housing.

Cayucos was the cheap place to live compared to Morro Bay or Cambria!

And not by the best of folks at the time.

Those old motels started getting demoed in the early 80’s until most are gone!

Yes Cayucos has changed, but the World has changed too, but in some respects, for the better, with the loss of riff raff, schools are great, property values are sky high and crime is non existent.

Not really sure if Dell or others would want to go back to the bad old days, but absence does make the heart grow fonder:)


Francesca Bolognini

Perhaps if the young lady were hugging him, he would speak a bit more charitably of her.


sbjcl

I remember playing with a guy named Dell at the schoolyard courts. He had a nice jump shot but was slow as a snail with two left feet. He said he liked Converse shoes because he could buy two left shoes and get them for the same price as a pair.


Gramelin

Just like the “Old Venice Noodle Company” referred to by LameCommenter”, whom ruined Venice Beach by inviting outsiders. In Cayucos, we have “The Brown Butter Cookie Company”. They ignited the downfall. Somehow, they became the destination influenced by Queen Oprah herself! Thus inspiring the Cookie company’s moved to the prominent spot on the “Blvd”. Our very own refuge was inundated with the “Outsider Tourists”. They bombarded our quiet haven. We put up with it, albeit frustrated over the trash they left behind.

But even the Cookie Company wasn’t as clever as our Chamber of Commerce! They have done a FABULOUS job selling our little town! Last 4th of July was overwhelming. We were besieged upon by the masses.A new record! Close to 100k I heard! I found myself standing at the Chamber of Commerce booth on Front Street, eyeing their impressive slew of colorful advertisements. “CAYUCOS”, “THE LAST OF THE CALIFORNIA BEACH TOWNS”. “WoW”, I said. “You guys have done an incredible job selling our town!”. “I can’t even find parking to take the grandkids to the beach on the weekends anymore!” I did leave the lady speechless. IT is frustrating not being able to find parking. and worse, seeing the trash left behind by the apathetic visitor. I DO think if the Chamber is going to hearken the masses, they should at least put in more garbage cans!!


Wildrnes

The likes of Dale Kaiser, Jay Chiasson, and Chris Bath are selling out Cayucos. Their images pop-up when you type “gentrification” on the search engine.


Bert

This is a bingo! Dale is one creepy SOB who’d sell anything to make a buck.


LameCommenter

More trash cans is a good idea, but they’ll fill too. Someone named C. Northcote Parkinson wrote that “work expands to fill the time available” and so it would go with invasive tourist cast away trash.


While not Cayucos residents, we suffer the same blowing litter, and formerly carried just a “poop bag” when walking the rescue mutt, now it’s TWO bags including an old guy grabber reach stick and a Tribune bag.


You know what the first bag is for, and we pick up bits of trash and butts with the grabber stick thing and can often fill the Trib delivery bag on a single walk. We find this behavior appropriate since the Tribune bag already arrives on the doorstep filled with trash anyway.


Gramelin

I do the same! It was my Monday agenda. Walking the Beach filling up the Poop bags or even the kids sand bucket. FULL! (Haven’t done it over the past few months though, life has kept me over busy. But I’m dedicated to return to my routine.)

Last Summer, a van pulled up in front of the house, packed full of Outside Tourists (Outside Tourist – Those who live outside of SLO County, I don’t consider people living in Paso or Atascadero tourists, this Beach is their own backyard too.) Anyway, this Van parks in MY parking spot, sits there for 8hours while they were on the beach…then when they returned to the vehicle, they toss a Poopy Diaper out the side door and drive away!! I was pissed! There was our garbage can not more than 10ft from their van!! I hated to think what they left on the beach!


LameCommenter

Pretty well written, not Kerouac or Tom Wolfe but getting there. Nice that you bemoan the gentrification of Cayucos. Sadly, It happens. I remember renting an illegal little place off Speedway Alley in Venice Beach (it runs 1/4 block behind the sand) and a common spray paint tag at the time was “Venice is NOT MDR”, referring to the gentrification creeping in from Marina Del Rey. Venice began to be lost when the restaurant the “Old Venice Noodle Company” first dared invite outsiders to it’s notoriously crime and counter-culture-ridden area.


While such change may be unavoidable, thank you for publishing your descriptive sentiments and your respect for the old ways, the old places, the funky inexpensive places.


Gramelin

Years ago, my Sister and her Hubby rented an apartment in MDR, just 2 blocks up from the beach.We used to ride the bikes along Venice Beach! Her Gorgeous apartment on the 7th floor, was riddled with cockroaches! The blame belonged to the neighbor in the adjacent apartment, whom everyone accused of not keeping up with his dishes. The Battle Royal! But they could only hold out there so long, What a disappointment! In the end the Roaches won and my Sister moved on, to a not so exciting house further inland.


sweethome

Sounds like my kind of town! Hopefully the SLO Sheriffs don’t hunt me down!