A 67-year-old casualty of the gentrification of Cayucos

September 13, 2020

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


If you live here, or have lived here for three decades, you’ve probably seen her around, though she’s shy and private, the kind of person who likes to hide. You can drive for half an hour on a trip with her and she will be silent, thinking, musing, fretting, dreading, fearing, until she finds herself in a highly anxious state.

That kind of person. For those of us who have confidence and a larger supply of courage in a world where some measure of courage is needed, it is hard to understand a person or people who are timid, afraid, and terribly vulnerable.

That she is astronomically intelligent and has a college degree and can discuss most any subject with logic and a profound perspective, doesn’t and hasn’t seemed to help.

That for years she worked at jobs far below what a college degree demanded, also did not help. But what did help was that she always worked, has been working since she was a little girl, was always on time, outworked everybody, and was so pleasant working with the public that people who came to the hotels she ran wrote about her on Yelp and Facebook, and left her little notes of what pleasure she’d given them.

Perhaps they recognized her bleeding heart, a person who could not inflict pain without suffering two-fold, and who seemed somehow to find herself in pain much of the time, and was and is perhaps too sensitive for this world. A person who treated everybody as if they were as sensitive as she is.

Some people are this way. And, of course, at one time she was head-turning beautiful, and because of her nature, ended up in one wild yet painful relationship after another.

But she always worked, and worked, and for the last 27 years lived by herself in Cayucos, and for over a decade lived in a meticulously neat little one-bedroom stand-alone apartment one house up from the beach for a reasonable rent, until it was sold and razed and the real pain began.

How do you manage to remain in Cayucos at what is these days called an “essential job?” Especially when health problems crop up, and then the drinking.

Well, she managed, and managed for years and years, as rents sky-rocketed, and she became older, and the fretting and dread and lacerating fear took over; and when one job ended the next was harder to come by at an age when youth is demanded, and things are supposed to be easier for people approaching social security.

But it’s not easy. Friends helped. There’s some big-hearted people in this town, people who have known her for years and understand, the same kind of people who will help anybody in need, and we all know who they are.

But, in the end, along with health problems, she ended up in the streets, a delicate thing used to the cleanest of hygiene, an HD TV, piped in blues and jazz, and magazines like the New Yorker and Vanity fair—no longer with an address to be mailed to.

She sold just about everything valuable and sentimental that she had accumulated over a lifetime—jewelry, heirlooms from her family (who would not help!), clothes elegant enough for a fashion model, crystal goblets from Ireland; little reminders of the good things in life that just glancing at in hard times made her feel better, including gorgeous, comfortable furniture.

So she ended up with just about nothing but her car, a small sedan, which she lived in, and was forced to sleep sitting halfway up instead of upon a bed she invested in that was fit for a queen.

So now it was strictly social security, the total of which was not enough to come close to paying for a studio garret in Cayucos, let alone a small comfy one bedroom.

Her health declined. Several trips to the emergency room. “Sorry,  a care facility is above your pay grade!”

Hours spent every morning in a public restroom. Dropping in on friends to get her clothes laundered and take the occasional shower. Staying in a cheapo motel when the money comes in—for at least a couple nights—so she could finally luxuriate in a long hot shower, watch some TV, and zap some food from the local market, hoping it would not cause a riot in her bleeding ulcer.

This is what happens when one lives in dread and fear.

A woman approaching 70 living in her car, selling the car and buying an old van, which makes for a more comfortable night’s sleep, so she didn’t have to bend from the front seat and lay her head on the shotgun seat on a weekday morning along the seawall as strollers walk by and peek in.

Nobody can tabulate the sadness and loss of pride and abject humiliation a person inflicts on themselves in  this situation, as they sit in their cramped, claustrophobic home-on-wheels and watch those who live in real homes circulate all around them, living the life they once did, which now seems unattainable in the future, so that one is left with a whole lot of hopeless nothingness, and little to look forward to for a delicate woman desiring only a few feminine luxuries in her life, and a shred of integrity.

Think she’s angry and bitter? Try those shoes on.

There’s a lot of crying involved. Plenty of men, old and young, live like this, but they are more suited for it, can protect themselves, and do not experience dread and fear, but instead, because of their presence, possibly are fearsome to others observing them because of their desperate states.

But not this lady. She is mostly alone, heading down the loneliest road possible. And it just doesn’t seem fair in the wealthiest country in the world.

Postscript: At 67 years old, and because she suffers from acute colitis and a bleeding ulcer, she has been parking overnight near the public restrooms. But now the sheriff’s have warned her not to park there anymore, threatened to fine her $250 and tow her van, and told her to “get out of town.” She is terrified.

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I am one of these people sorry to say.I was on my way to the coast to start self-sustaining farming at 63 but covid lockdown hit.It saddens me some of these comments.It also shows me maybe I don’t want to try to move over there.This guy who wants her families take on her…Forget it. My cousin was holding a grudge for 25 years because I was late to a Genesis concert and made him wait.We are the kind who help others. We are being targeted for what little we have like my house in a prime spot,my RV,travel trailer etc..We have a hard time asking for help never had to because we are proud and it’s humiliating.Im a artist that kept to my self wasn’t rich enough for my town of 37years and people spread lies to get you out.NO ONE CARED about MY SIDE of the story.Hand this lady money don’t ask questions show some compassion pray for her cause someday it might be you ?? Because of this PANDEMIC you just might find you have no friends or family because people don’t care to put on a mask!I’m trying to find land to put my ducks,chickens,cat’s and dog and son this is my family now.

Please try to love one another!

Hey Dell, perhaps you could provide a link or some other information if folks want to help, even in some small ways. Maybe a go-fund-me account, etc…?

Excellent article Dell. You are in the perfect spot to allow her to either allow her to crash on your couch or at least park in the driveway of your place to help her out. I am not being sarcastic you know her and have her best interests in mind. I really hope to read of the adventures and stories to come documenting how you are helping this woman. Thanks man.

I’m wondering what the author has offered this woman other than his pity and the chance to exploit her situation for his on going dribble of an article.

I’m curious as to why her family will not help? I’d like to hear their side of the story before I start feeling really bad. This is tragic no matter what though.

Anyone? You poor bleeding hearts must be setting up her room right now.

Open your own home? Anyone? Anyone. I’d never do it.