Headed north on the train to San Luis Obispo

December 25, 2023

Dell Franklin,

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.

Sprawled in the observation car, facing the ocean, I am on the way back home from Union Station in Los Angeles and talking with Francisco, who is 21 years old, takes 15 units at Solano Community college in Fairfield, works full time as a mechanic at a Tesla service center in San Rafael, and lives with his mother, stepfather, two brothers and two sisters in a house that was listed at a million dollars before the pandemic, but which he and his family purchased for a little over 400 grand during the pandemic; and, along with family, converted four rooms into six in a suburb called American Canyon, so that the family can live in harmony with their four cats (one of which weigh 30 pounds!) just north of Vallejo, where Francisco was raised and went to high school.

“The drive from home to the Tesla center can take an hour and twenty minutes in traffic, and forty minutes when there’s no traffic,” Francisco notes, rubbing at his nose, jiggling his foot nonstop as he faces the ocean. “Sometimes I leave at four in the morning and snooze in my car when I get there, before they open up.”

We’ve been conversing since leaving LA, except when Francisco’s snapping photos with his phone. Francisco can explain in detail everything you want to know about both gas and electric cars, as well as the future of both.

Francisco started out at Sonoma State College but it was too expensive. Now, he and four others at home share the monthly mortgage ($2800) and hope to pay off their house in five years. Francisco is majoring in mechanical engineering and had to pass extensive tests to work for Tesla.

He wanted to go into the Air Force but has asthma. He is short (5 feet 6 inches), played goalie in soccer in high school because he is quick and has a 25-inch vertical jump. He wears shorts and a hoodie, has long hair piled on top in a sort of bun and a patchy beard he occasionally scratches, and has a girlfriend from Lima, Peru, who is back in Lima and is scheduled to return around Christmas.

Francisco isn’t sure they should be married or not at this stage of his life, though his girlfriend is beautiful and intelligent and educated, and five years older than Francisco and a nurse who refused to allow Francisco to cook when they lived together in his room. No, she insisted on doing “everything” for Francisco, which shocked him, as few American girls possess such generous traditions.

During our five-hour on and off conversation, Francisco, who is half Mexican and half Japanese, and was returning from a huge birthday bash for a legendary Mexican uncle in LA who can out-drink and out-work any man alive, showed me photos of his Peruvian sweetie (very pretty), and his cat (massive, orange), whom Francisco claims is docile and not really fat, but is an eating machine.

“I probably should have married Maria last time she was here,” Francisco admitted.

“So why didn’t you marry her?”

“Well, we lived together, you know, for five months. This was kind of arranged. The first two nights I slept on the floor, but then we became lovers. She worked full time as a nurse and still insisted on cooking, doing all the laundry, all the cleaning, and I am a clean freak. But she wouldn’t let me do anything, and she could handle anything, there was nothing she could not do, and no matter how hard she worked or how many hours, she always managed to keep everything spotless and was always happy and smiling and a wonderful lover, man, she is a woman!”

To demonstrate what a woman Maria is, Francisco, grinning, doubled up his fists and pulled them back toward his chest several times, intimating joyous sexual humping.

“Nobody in America has a woman like that, Francisco. Do you realize that?”

“Hell, yes I do. One night, I woke up around two in the morning after working and going to school, and I went into our kitchen to maybe make a sandwich, and here comes Maria, out of a dead sleep. She insists on making me a big breakfast! She is a fantastic cook, man, she can cook anything.

“And check this out—she’s Portuguese, and she picked up English in three months and speaks Spanish fluently, she speaks five languages, man. I mean, I’m supposed to be smart, I speak some French and Portuguese and a lot of Spanish, but Maria, she is really smart, and she’s quiet, and listens, and never complains.”

“So, you gonna marry her?”

“Well, I think so, otherwise she has to go back to Peru and can’t come back, so, it’s one of those kind of things.”

“Francisco, take it from me, a confirmed bachelor of 80 years who has lived with three different women who were too good for me, you will never, ever, under any circumstances, find a woman like that.”

“I know, man, I know.”

The moment I sat down in the lounge car, we immediately began conversing. Or, Francisco conversed. I didn’t think he needed to know what kind of nonsense I was up to as an old, late blooming writer returning from a massive gala wedding in one of downtown LA’s more ritzy venues — with a pretty good hangover. While Francisco talked and other passengers looked on, I savored a perfect day cruising along Ptoint Concepcion.

Before I entered the lounge car and consorted with Francisco, an Asian student had sat down beside me in my regular assigned seat, refused to acknowledge me, placed his school papers on the little throw-out table, and consulted his phone.

This is how most students of every color and nationality behave, and especially toward geriatrics, but not Francisco. By the time we reached San Luis Obispo and shook hands, I knew everything about Francisco from childhood through high school and on and on.

I learned about his family, where he was born (Japan), where his mother was from (Michoacan state), that his stepdad was a contractor, his real dad owned a garage, his last name (Tablas), his uncle was an ex-successful pro-boxer, stuntman whom, at 60, after out drinking everybody at the party, was up at dawn cooking breakfast for 20 people, his monster cat’s name (Naranja), that he had taken karate and jujitsu and had back surgery and showed me the wicked scar.

I’m telling you, if Francisco ends up with Maria, I might rethink where America is going.


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Wow, are we different.

I’ve probably taken that train trip about 100 times to San Diego County, an 8-plus hour trip (each way), and I don’t think I have ever conversed with one passenger. Not. One. Ever.

Sometimes, I’ll keep my headphones on even if I’m not listening to music (which is almost always), just to give the appearance that I’m listening to music so no one will bug me.

My version of these train stories would stories go something like this: Boarded train. Sat in the rear where there’s the fewest people. Put stuff on the seat next to me so no one would sit there. Blasted Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare directly into my head. Drank beer. The end.

That IS a fun trip though, especially the coastal parts, especially around Point Conception/Point Arguello. A spectacular stretch of Cali coastline, only viewable via train. No cars. No buildings. And — and this is very important — no people. Beautiful.

It’s always a pleasure to read Dell’s observations, insight and humor. Pleasant change from some of the political drivel and comments from this website. You are a Central Coast treasure Dell. I enjoyed meeting and talking with you at your last book signing.

Very nice story, Dell. I have been following your stories lately, always a treat. Sad to hear 5’6” is considered short You’re looking charmingly pensive in your photo. God bless