Turning 80 in style in Cayucos

September 4, 2023

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.


“I survived the cocaine chronicles and I’m closing the goddam bar!”

That was my drunken bleat in Schooner’s Wharf around midnight on a Friday after the owner introduced me to a raucous crowd as turning 80. Afterwards I received a rousing ovation, still holding onto a big glass of straight good vodka, as I had been since 4 o’clock that afternoon when the party started on my deck.

Hazel and Dell

I have to say this—I am not an alcoholic. No, my best friend and fellow bartender, decades back, claimed I was a “binge drinker,” and there is a difference. I did not drink mornings or while at work nor at home, but only in bars, where I was an engaging, embracing, sometimes funny, sometimes overbearing happy drunk who became happier as the booze went down, until I was no longer functional and knew enough to collapse in a safe place.

However, this new binge had a purpose and an aim—to show I could survive and cease coddling myself as a terrified pussy about to turn 80 and fearing inevitable decrepitude. I had been pestering my longtime, very patient doctor with paranoid claims of feeling like I was having a heart attack and stomach pains leading to my demise.

Well, all of these haunts of severe hypochondria left me when I went out and played an hour of full court basketball.

When I thought I might die in the first 10 minutes, but didn’t, well, the coast was clear for a monumental binge after my immediate family was up here coddling me as if THEY felt I needed tests for my sanity and mind acuity.

My sister saddled me with a small flip phone to “carry with me at all times!”

Well, people began arriving on my deck at 4 in the afternoon and with them came six and 12 packs of beer, bottles of wine, Irish whiskey, three enormous bottles of high grade vodka, and, oh yes, sandwiches and chips. Long time locals and former basketball pals (including a 7 footer), the Pirate, three teachers, an old, old friend from my wild days down south, a tennis partner, an artist and seawall gang member, three musicians, a few lady friends trickled in, and before long the place was booming.

I received phone calls from ex-girlfriends, ex-basketball teammates, and people I forgot about and had trouble recognizing in my dotage and drunkenness. Oh well.

Some parties are perfect. This one was. Many times people who have never met before clash. Not this time, not with the host (who provided nothing) introducing each guest as the best at whatever they did in this entire county, and making sure they had a strong drink in hand immediately.

This was such a great crowd that they knew enough to not even mention singing me happy birthday and ruining everything. They knew I was happy. I had a big glass of vodka on ice with a squeeze of lime (no mix) providing the ongoing golden glow.

Which was still aglow around 8:30 when most of the guests reluctantly left and a few remaining die-hards headed for Schooner’s.

I was just getting started. My tattered thrift store T-shirt advertising Harvard Business School was soiled. I ate an entire burrito before the party and a few Subway sandwiches during the party because an experienced drunk understands you need fuel for the grind.

I made new friends at Schooner’s. I don’t remember many of them. One wanted my email. Thor, the bartender, made sure I had a large glass of vodka in my hand at all times. My few remaining party friends made sure I didn’t pay. A slew of 30ish men who all looked like burly jocks were in the bar to liquor themselves up before a day of fantasy football picks.

They became a sort of fan club, praising my appearance at such an age, accepting my sage wisdom, and wishing they could end up like me, drunk in a bar at 80 and not backing down.

Sometime after midnight, the crowd began to filter out, disappointing a megalomaniac who only gets to turn 80 once in his life, goddammit.

Young Dan, a teacher and ex-college wrestler stayed to the end, aiming to make sure I didn’t collapse or die, and, along with Thor, offered to drive me home.

No way. No coddling this guy. I bobbed and weaved, found the key, found the recliner, and spent the next day wondering why I didn’t die.

Proud to be 80.


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The body is not made for drinking at 80 I don’t care who you are.

Maybe not in most cases but I remember an interview with George Burns who was still working into his 90s. Part of his “pre-show” ritual was an afternoon nap and a stiff martini (or two) before taking the stage.

Happy 8 0!

Liked the b-ball game, nice.

Lived in Cayucos been to Schooners many times Cayucos has always been a friendly caring town and not many of them left Happy 80

Sounds like 80 is the new 60.