El Nino is coming! El Nino is coming!

October 10, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following series of tales from behind the bar, “Happy Jacks Saloon: The Last Morro Bay Fisherman’s Dive,” to be posted bi-weekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. The following snippet from the past was written in the 90s, years before the politically correct atmosphere of today.


Monday evening Happy Hour at Happy Jack’s and the usual half-decent crowd of locals is discussing El Nino, the storm that pounded the area with a touch of disaster a few years back.

“No use stickin’ around here when El Nino hits,” says Eugene Pitlock, a sometime fisherman. “Cuz there ain’t gonna be no fishing. Might as well take a vacation—or go work at somethin’ else.”

“This El Nino’s supposed t’ be three times worse than the one in ’83,” claims Maggie, a 50ish woman with excess heft in her ass and bosom. “And it damn near wiped us out.”

Chubby Estelle, her fellow chain-smoker and best friend, says, “Don’t I remember! It rained 58 straight days, didn’t it?”

“Maybe 30,” says Ed Stone, who lives with Estelle and has been on the wagon for months and sips soda with lime and gazes at the Keno board even though he’s a broke gambling addict helping to pay rent collecting cans. He’s bundled up in ill-fitting rags from the local thrift store. “I believe it wiped out the pier in Cayucos and damaged other piers up and down the coast. I believe Cayucos was flooded.”

Maggie nods, blowing out smoke. “Main Street was closed off, businesses flooded out.”

“I might go to Florida, try and fish there,” Eugene muses, holding up his empty mug. “Maybe try the Keys.”

“The Keys is nothin’ but a bunch-a goddamn queers,” offers Rafe Monk, known as One-Eyed Pitbull, who hunkers over his chain of numerous keys, cigarettes, ash tray, change from a hundred dollar bill, and a Stoli driver in a bucket.

“You can’t escape El Nino in Flor-uh-duh,” says Estelle. “El Nino’s got the whole world by the balls.” She giggles, holds up her empty shot glass. She’s already survived a bout with cancer and started breeding at around 15 back in some hollow in Kentucky. Her kids are institutional parasites.

“I’ll tell yah one thing,” says Eugene, a strapping, rumpled man with swollen, inflamed eyes. “Fishin’s all screwed up. Water’s so damn warm the albacore are only six miles out, in some cases right off shore. Half the fleet’s down from Oregon and Washington pullin’ ‘em out like minnows. Hell, they’re half jumpin’ into yer boat. All those fishermen out in the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles out, they’re scrappin’ to survive.”

“Whole world’s cockeyed,” agrees Maggie, squashing out another butt. I light her a new one. “Goddamn pollution and the ozone layer.”

Estelle nods gravely. “Global warmin,’ they call it, love.”

Stone nods, too, filling out a Keno card. “We’re getting’ our comeuppance, it seems. Maybe we destroyed the goose, laid the golden egg. Bad karma after hoggin’ all the resources on the planet and attacking other countries.”

“Aw bullshit,” grouses Monk, a shrimper. Lacking front teeth, his incisors flash like fangs in a thick, mash-nosed mug topped off by a watch cap. “All them little bastards been leeching off us for years. Fuck ‘em.”

“I’ll tell yah one thing about tuna,” says Eugene. “That is one helluva fish. You pull up one of those babies and he’ll look yah right in the eye, tell yah it ain’t gonna be no picnic, kick yer ass. I gotta lotta respect for that fish.”

“There ain’t gonna be many of the poor fishies left the way this El Nino is going,” laments Estelle.

“Water’s so warm,” nods Maggie. “It’s killin’ em all off.”

“I feel sorry for them poor people live up north on the Russian River, the way they get flooded out every year. They might be run out to sea.”

“There’s just a bunch-a queers up there anyway,” says Walt, a fisherman at the far end of the bar, hunched over a draft.

Monk, on perhaps his third pack of non-filter Camels, nods. “Bad Karma. I laugh my ass off every time them butt-stuffers get flooded out.”

“You catchin’ any tuna lately, Walt?” asks Eugene.

“Hell no. Boat’s down. I’m just drinkin’.”

Sheila, around 30, still cute and only a little slack and nubile and fair-skinned, always broke and looking for a job but picky about taking one, says, “I remember El Nino. It rained so hard every day we got washed out of our house. We got evacuated and had to go live with my aunt in Atascadero.”

“I’ll tell yah one thing,” Eugene says, holding up his empty mug and glancing down at Walt. “There’s no rush like hookin’ a 30-pound tuna and fightin’ that son-of-a-bitch. He’ll come right out of the water and half onto yer boat and look yah right in the eyeball and let yah know it’s gonna be hell t’ pay. He’ll tear you apart.”

Walt grunts, “Ye, yeh.”

“You still down at Virgil’s Landing takin’ out shit-ass tourists?” Monk asks Eugene.

“Oh, yeh.”

“Whyn’t yah come out with me and do some real work and make some real bank, Eugene? I’m about fed up to the gills with One-Trip Dick and Weasel Frazier and his so-called shot-off dick in Veet Namb. Been lookin’ for both of ‘em for two days now. I can’t pay ‘em more than half their wages or I won’t see ‘em ‘til they’re broke or in jail.”

“I’m doin’ okay at the Landing, Rafe. Make decent tips baiting up the tourists. Plus, I score a lady time to time.”

“Suit yerself.”

“I hear El Nino’s bobbing on the equator and takes up half the continent, a third of the world’s oceans,” Maggie states gravely. “It’s like this huge monster jelly fish of hot gas, just comin’ at us!”

“I think we’re gonna get washed out,” Sheila says. She loves drama. She had a relationship with this maggot Jerome who sat in with certain weekend bands as some sort of guitarist, and tried to get on here as a bartender before I sabotaged his chances with the owner.

He dealt drugs, was one minute deeply in love with Sheila and the next acting the playboy, so she broke up with him and paraded this dullard named Eric in front of him, reportedly the first guy Sheila dated in ages with a real job. This dork never experienced a woman devour him like Sheila, and when Jerome got jealous and wooed her back, this dork went berserk and broke into the pad Sheila and Jerome shared and beat Jerome up and set his long precious hair on fire, and disappeared from Morro Bay.

The whole ordeal was on the TV news, with Sheila putting on a good show of emotion. “I hope I don’t hafta go back to Atascadero. They only got two bars and thirty-six churches…borrr-ing!”

I keep mixing drinks and pushing Keno cards and emptying ash trays and mopping down the bar.

“And the waves!” exclaims Estelle, in awe. “They’ll be like…tidal waves.”

“Tsunamis,” Stone corrects dryly.

“They’ll wash all our itty-bitty houses off the beach. If it floods Cayucos in ’83, how’s it gonna be if it’s three times as worse?

“What I hear is it’s five times as worse,” Eugene says. “It’ll be so rough at sea, nobody’ll try and fish.”

“Who gives a shit?” Walt says. “Christ, I survived worse. It’s only a goddamn storm.”

“You got that right,” Eugene agrees. Then he turns to Rafe beside him. “Hey, Rafe, I hear Joe Farraday’s lookin’ for work as a deckhand. Maybe you can hire him.”

“I wouldn’t hire that lazy lowlife piece of shit if he was the last beggar on the goddamn pier. I already fired his ass ten times and he still owes me fifty bucks.”

“All right. Gotcha. Just tryna help is all.”

“We had three feet of water on our house,” Sheila is telling Estelle and Maggie, who sort of look after her, though Maggie, unlike Estelle, will not loan her money or put her up for the night and castigates Estelle for doing so. Sheila, after more ups and downs with the maggot Jerome, actually married a Mexican with three jobs and ran off to Las Vegas and returned a year later skinny and emaciated. “Everything I owned was ruined or destroyed. I had to start over.”

Dell Franklin behind the bar in the 90s

“I hope it’s not like what you see on TV when them rivers overflow, like the Mississippi,” Estelle says. “All them little doggies and kitties on rooftops and volunteers saving the poor, scared little things, and everybody’s house underwater and all their treasures ruined. That’s so sad.” Almost in tears, she holds up her empty shot glass and I fill it with her usual—cinnamon schnapps. I pat her hand. “Wouldn’t it be terrible of it happened to us? It always happens to them, but I don’t want it to happen to us, because we’re all friends and we love each other.”

“Them goddamn queers up in Frisico gonna be scurryin’ like a pack of rats,” says Walt, managing his first corroded smile. “I got a good notion to go on up there and pick a few of ‘em off with my Remington. Damn El Nino’s probably gonna cost me huntin’ season anyhow. Shit.”

“I’ll tell yah another thing,” says Eugene. “You go up to Alaska and fish salmon, those big mothas’ll pull yer ass right on out-a the goddamn boat! They’ll come right on outta the water and take yer finger off!”

“Settle down for Christ’s sake,” Monk grouses out of the side of his mouth.

“I hear Farraday’s in county jail,” Walt tells Monk. Walt, before getting his own boat, once worked for Monk and couldn’t take it, joining a long list of deckhands who couldn’t deal with his hard-bitten and tyrannical ways.

“Maybe he’s in there getting’ some red-eyed, Rafe.”

Rafe lights a fresh camel. “He’s too nasty. They don’t want him in county jail. The accommodations are too good for him.”

Sheila says, “Joe Farraday has always been the sweetest gentleman around me.”

“He probably had good drugs,” Maggie snorts.

”That’s not true,” Sheila says, wounded, pouty. “Joe and me are just really, really good friends.”

“Yeh, well,” Monk grins. “You must be his only friend. Come on over here, doll.”

Sheila rises off her stool and wiggles that tender ass, and places her hands across her ample chest like a helpless little girl, beseeching.

He hands her a sawbuck. “Get me another pack of Camels and have one yourself.” She pecks him on the cheek, takes the bill and heads for the cigarette machine beside the video games.

“Give her a shot and a beer,” Monk says. “And gimme a refill.” I mix his drink, pour out a shot of Jack and a beer for Sheila, and when she returns with his cigarettes, Monk hands her another sawbuck.

“Go play something on the juke, somethin’ to drown out the bullshit in this turd-hole.” He flashes his incisors as Sheila downs her shot of Jack Daniels like a longshoreman.

Just then an apparition materializes through the back door, and in comes the lanky, raw-boned figure of Joe Farraday. Estelle is up and in his arms, and Sheila scurries over to snuggle up. Farraday, a modern day Pirate in a pea coat and watch cap, flashes his filthy, mean black Irish grin while Monk shakes his head.

“A round for the house,” Monk says. “Shit-head, too.” He drags on his cigarette and blows smoke through his crooked, mashed nose towards Farraday. “Ready to go out tomorrow, shit-head?”

Farraday grins. He looks fresh and clean and ten years younger after a month in county. “Does the bear shit in the woods?” he says. I pour his shot and one for myself, and we clink and drink.

Eugene tosses a precious wrinkled bill on the bar. “One on me for big Joe,” he says.

I pour him out another shot. He lifts the shot and salutes the crew.


Loved it.


I totally appreciate the bar tale Del.

Reminds of when men were made of iron and ships were made of wood.


Tuna Fishing & Canning circa 1930

“Bar Tale Del.” If the shoe fits…

fat chance

I love it. Typical bar talk………