An invasive species invades Morro Bay

November 13, 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, “The ballplayer’s Son” is currently on Amazon.

The four newly built pickleball courts at Del Mar Park are evidently not enough for local pickleballers, as the other Saturday morning at 8:45, the time my tennis partner Ethan and I play, one of two courts at Monte Young Park in Morro Bay was open and a 30ish/40ish dandified couple not only took it over while I waited for Ethan, but, against the supposed rules created by the Morro Bay recreation department, they knelt on their hands and knees with chalk and sullied up the court to pickleball specifications.

By this time, I was on the court as a couple tennis players volleyed on court one, and told the pickleballers that these courts were not marked out for pickleball and were for tennis players only.

Like officious twits inculcated into the deep bureaucracy, both these people, a man and a woman, repeated regulations obviously culled straight from the recreation department charters and ignored me as I scolded them for taking over “our” courts.

But I soon realized a cult as fanatical as pickleballers was impossible to reckon with, as they are prepared interlopers unabashed about planting themselves in foreign territory and, like an invasive species resistant to all manner of chemicals or poisonous toxins, they grow and grow and take over more and more territory. And the more they grow and take over territory, the more entitled and arrogant and self-righteous and odious they become, until we tennis players can only resort to visiting intimidated officialdom at the local rec department and watch them shrug, shrivel up helplessly, shake their heads sadly, and tell us there’s nothing they can do.

Soon the intruding pickleball pukes begin batting the ball around and filling the neighborhood with obnoxious pongs, pongs!

The two tennis players on court one, both of whom are friends I’ve hit with, seemed embarrassed and said nothing as I continued jawing at the enemy. To this attack, the pickleballers scrabbled about as if preparing for the Olympics—perhaps the next goal of this noxious effluvium.

“Why don’t you go to the rec department if you wanna play ping pong?” I sneered.

“Why don’t you go to the high school if you want to play tennis,” said the man, snottily.

“Yeh!” said the woman.

“Because the high school courts are occupied on Saturdays,” I yelled. “A tennis group plays there! Maybe you can get the city to turn those courts into pickleball courts.”

I was growing feint with a rapid adrenaline-spun heart beat. I am 80 and cannot allow myself to even engage in verbal combat anymore. Rage no longer suits me.

Ethan showed up and, a man 18 years younger, and much less scabrous and confrontational as I, walked right on the court and began abusing the pickleballers with a concise vehemence I found shocking, yet envied.

“Look,” the guy finally said, holding his paddle. “The courts at Del Mar were full and we didn’t want to wait and we need to practice, so we’ll only be here thirty minutes.”

“Why can’t you wait at Del Mar?” I asked. “I thought waiting around was a big love fest with your cult. You can talk about how pickleball is saving American slugs.”

Again, they stopped and went through a list of rules and regulations that allowed them to use our tennis courts as “open to the public.”

Ethan continued berating them. I was thankful to have eloquent back-up. We two-timed them, agreeing that if we made their thirty minutes a living hell, they would return to their cult grounds and warn everybody about the vicious psychos at the only playable tennis courts remaining in Morro Bay.

During a brief pause from our abuse, Ethan said to me, “You know, the local cult paid for those courts at Del Mar. I think it cost them around forty grand. Pickleballers have money. Their cult has big money. They’re like a corporation. It’s like they have lobbyists fighting for them day and night, because they realize they’re despised, that they’re an invasive species, but they’re rich enough to pay for lawyers and lobbyists, because cults, once they get going, collect money like these evangelical religious leaders.”

“They drive luxury cars,” I retorted.

“And I hate to say it, but I think the majority are liberals—Lexus libs.”

“The kind of liberals that give us a bad name—snooty, corporate, wine-sipping, money-grubbing hypocrites who never have enough.”

“There’s no stopping them.”

We went back to abusing the pickleballers, but grew weary and sat down and waited, glowering at them as the wife or partner returned little lobs here and there and her hero dashed back and forth, back and forth, lathering himself up.

“Tennis used to be the snob sport,” I told Ethan. “Now we’re the outcasts, the bums. We have no backing. Nobody cares about our rights. That fucking cult is massive, and they’ve gained the upper hand. They’re winning. It’s like a pandemic, and we have no immunity.”

“What about the ones we used to play tennis with and were kind of friends?” Ethan asked.

“The converts are by far the worst. The born-agains are the the most fanatical proselytizers. They’re unbearable.”

Ethan nodded. When the pickleball pukes finally finished, they strolled past us, heads held high in a manner of smug ownership, left the courts and headed for their vehicle.

“They know they’re winning,” Ethan commented glumly.

“That’s the worst part.”


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It would be fitting to rename this column “The Cantankerous Curmudgeon of Cayucos”.