Portrait of a Cayucos artist as a young man

May 2, 2022

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. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


Kevin and his companion, Danielle, live in his personally remodeled, refurbished and brought-back-from-the-dead trailer on a former dairy farm resembling a garden of Eden about a mile or so inland from Cayucos. Kevin, an architect and furniture maker capable of building his own house, went to school at Cal Poly but learned what he wanted to learn studying art in Florence (Firenze), Italy, where he saw Europe on a bicycle, motorbike, his legs, and by thumb—an education in itself that helped shape his view of the world he wishes to create for himself and his like-minded woman.

“She’s a woman,” Kevin, a slight man with straight blond hair, maintains in a concise, measured tone of voice. “She’s not a girl. We are growing together as a man and a woman. It isn’t easy these days becoming a man and a woman. There has to be a commitment that I think is missing among young people today.”

Kevin has replaced the walls and ceiling of the trailer with blond birch wood that suffuses the entire interior in softly muted sunshine. It is obvious that he chooses his materials by instinct, by feeling, and not by the tired cliches dominating house building in this era by people with endless supplies of money but no real feelings or instinct, allowing cookie cutter architects to build vanilla homes.

Every item in the trailer has an individualistic tinge, and to them is a subtlety one uncovers only after sitting and looking around.

Against one wall is a table with the herbs, crystals, oils, and holistic nostrums collected by Danielle, who manages a yoga/wellness collective in Cambria.

The chairs and sofa were built by Kevin.

Every appliance has been installed by Kevin.

“And there’s no TV,” I say.

“No,” Kevin says, his eyes telling me there will never be one.

We sit and talk, and when I ask about his version of the American dream, Kevin says, “Most people who chase the American dream seem, to me, to be entering a trap. The dream is attained sometime in the future—if at all–while you slave over it in your youth in a system that pretty much controls you. My dream is right now. This little strip of paradise is my dream. My work, building furniture and various parts of homes, for a living, is a dream. It’s like a reversal of the usual path, the structure we are groomed to follow.”

He pauses. “Spending an hour around here, just soaking up the peacefulness, gazing up the hills at the cows, this is a dream I enjoy every day.”

We visit his spacious, open air work area, where he shows me an electric saw that is state of the art and built in Germany in the 1970s; it cannot be duplicated and is superior to anything on the market today. He spent time scrounging it up, something he is expert at, so that the building materials he searches for add to the authenticity of his creations.

There is a welding area, a long table surrounded by tools that fit his style of a working artist.

Kevin wears John Lennon granny glasses and usually a beanie. His jeans are cut off roughly at the ankles and filthy from extractions from his work. As he leads me to his garden, he says, pointing out an old shack-like structure on the premises, “That building was built in an era when thought and creativity,  even metaphysics, went into structures. That’s always my concern. Thought and creativity when building anything.”

“Much of the architecture I see today looks pretty tired,” I say.

“Lacking in individuality.”

Kevin is not outwardly critical of what he sees in this life, is not vengeful at the establishment, but he knows where he stands, and it is not with what currently goes on today in America. While so many people whine about being unable to indulge in self-expression, Kevin maintains this life style quietly, without a tinge of arrogance, but joy in going about his business.

He points to three seemingly withered trees that have delivered a bonanza of delicious walnuts.

“It took me a while to find this place, and I feel, after moving a lot and drifting, and living in my old van, I have found a spot I expect to be at for at least a good amount of time.”

We move to his garden, which straddles a creek that trickles under a bridge leading to the compound of milk barn — an old deserted and dilapidated Victorian built of redwood, and a few other structures. The rectangular garden, which Kevin tilled by hand, is enclosed by an eye-level fence. In time, he and Danielle will be dining from this garden.

“It took me five days to pull all the weeds.”.

“You built the fence.”

“Yes. Right now I’m making the door to enter, to keep deer and coyotes out. The coyotes come out at dusk.”

“And deer?”

“Deer everywhere.” He gazes toward the creek. “I’m going to build a deck beside the garden, above the creek, so we can sit out there, eat, have a drink, think.”

“Do you think people living in their McMansions in wealthy enclaves have what you have?”

“No. I love that everything here has my individual stamp on it, as well as Danielle’s. I love the isolation out here, but I love it also that four miles away I can visit Cayucos in the morning and hang out with my surfing pals (Kevin is a skilled surfer) and the crew who hangs around the sea wall. That’s my social life. That’s where I have my coffee mornings. Being on the beach is something I have to have. The peace, the serenity. I grew up on the beach down south.”

I’m thinking, “How many people live their passions? This is a person so talented and motivated that he can build his own environment with his hands and his brain, is in the process of doing so as a young artist, and, instead of working at a job, raising a family, fretting to get ahead and own a home and the stockpiling of trappings going with it, he is settled, and, somehow, in his own way, with a minimalist approach, serene and fulfilled, if not satisfied.”

Who in a life time attains that?

And he’s only 25 years old.

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As a woodworker I would like to know about the saw. My guess its an Ulmia. Those saws are treasured by those that own them.

Thanks Dell….we have all disappeared slowly….the golf carts from Clovis have taken over. Miss the old Cayucos

I wonder how many CCN readers understand the allusion in the title of Mr. Franklin’s excellent story. It is the ultimate in compliments to compare Mr. Franklin’s young subject to possibly the greatest literary artist of all time.