Fourth of July in Cayucos, 25,000 missing

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. 

By DELL FRANKLIN

No parade. No major fireworks at the pier. No sandcastles on the beach. No territorial zealots staking out trash cans and chairs yellow taped together to protect parking spots in front of their homes. No parade fanatics lining up chairs along Ocean Avenue for blocks on end. No cars driving up and down and around our streets by men with wives and kids and supplies stacked tight as they search for parking spots in our neighborhoods in the rush to get to the parade, or, later, the fireworks.

Twenty-five thousand people were missing—for the first time in decades.

Many of us were worried and almost fretful anticipating what might occur with the Cayucos Tavern closed and Schooner’s Wharf pretty much neutered. There was fear of an onslaught of wildness, rudeness, rioting; but there was none of that.

The 2020 Cayucos 4th of July seemed, to me, pleasant, relaxing, strangely steeped in lassitude; like Cayucos always is, and why people come here.

Last year, in going for a walk at midday without fear of pandemic germs, on almost every street, people of all ages, sloppy and sodden, staggered drunkenly along, clad in all manner of American flag regalia as they issued spouting, “Happy 4ths!”

The noise was near deafening. Even side streets were busy and clamorous.

On that day, I ran into Jake Straw, a builder in his early 60s whose live-in woman was not talking to him. On a motor scooter, and fairly lit, he said, “Where the hell you goin’?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Just wandering.”

“I ain’t goin’ to the goddam tavern,” he said. “I used to go every Fourth, but I’m sick of the assholes in there. I don’t know any of ’em anymore.”

“Me, too,” I said. “I quit going in there on the Fourth about ten years ago. It’s not fit for humans,”

“When did ya start considering yerself a human, asshole?” he asked.

“Look, asshole,” I said. “I’ll see you next week in Schooner’s.”

He putt-putted off. I weaved through the mob, down D Street and along Ocean, observing something out of Leningrad in a Dostoevsky novel—gibbering drunks everywhere, staggering, blithering, laughing, all buoyed by the holiday. I ran into a few locals and exchanged hellos and so on, and, when I walked past the tavern, I realized, peering in, that it wasn’t body to body, so I entered after observing Jake’s scooter parked close by and sidled up beside him at the end of the bar closest to the door.

“I’ll buy you a drink,” he said. “Asshole.” He grinned and slapped my back.

While waiting to be served, Jake began describing a Fourth he’d celebrated many years ago in a pub in Santa Cruz where people were openly snorting cocaine off the bar and a woman engaged in oral sex with a man directly below the bar right beside him. Jake’s description was God-awfully lurid and repulsive even to me, and he was still emphasizing details when our beers came.

“I thought you were going to buy,” I said.

“I got money,” he claimed, and showed me his wad  “But, since you’re such a cheap asshole, YOU buy.”

I bought. We drank ’em down and were gone.

I saw no sign of Straw this year. I might have run across him at Kurt’s down-the-street-after-parade spread of free booze and burgers and hotdogs and whatever his friends from the Valley brought—one of the great neighborhood traditions—but this year he held off

As I walked Wilbur later in the early evening, Kurt sat with a couple friends and rose to apologize and claim he was having his party on New Year’s Day, and I was to be there.

A couple people still complained of a mob scene downtown and on the beach. I saw none of that. Throughout the day and night several sheriff’s cars patrolled the streets.

Multitudes of flag flying electric carts of every size tooled down the streets, mostly filled with screaming kids.

Bill Shea of the Sea Shanty restaurant led his own abbreviated, absurd parade at 10.

In the later afternoon I cooked for Miranda, then we watched “Midway” on TV, and after she left, I went to the vodka, like a good ¾ Russian.

On the street below me, two sets of twins, 7 and 9, and a couple teenagers swept up and down the street on skateboards.

Next door, young people partied (all maskless), talking loudly, guffawing, and the party grew, and became louder and louder and happier and happier as more cars pulled up.

Some local fireworks started, and the Morro Bay fireworks went on and on, but I missed watching the pleasure crafts from Morro Bay pull in for the pier fireworks, and counting them (sometimes 30), and I missed watching my down-the-street neighbor Zeke, a 40-something family man and surfer, sprint down my street with his surfboard, so he could paddle out beside where the fireworks boomed and crackled and soared above him and other surfers beside the pier.

Sipping my vodka in the darkness, I realized that somehow this holiday lacking 25,000 people had a tranquilizing affect on almost everybody I ran into, creating an eerie yet therapeutic atmosphere among us. Everybody seemed so cozy and content. The pandemic has forced us to readjust, and perhaps reevaluate. It has forced me to think, since there’s little else to do besides read and watch TV, which I’m sick of.

I’m thinking, “The thirty something, hard-partying people around the corner, who are from around Fresno and own top-of-the-line bigger than big American cars and trucks and have a huge “Trump for President” flag flying from their house, and are very loud and laugh a lot, and doubtlessly disagree with me on almost any subject vehemently, would probably come to my aid if I fell on my ass before them and appeared in deep trouble; they would probably rally to rescue me. In fact, I’m sure they would.”

Otherwise, I’m not sure we’d have much to say to each other without getting pissed off—unless we talked sports.

Sunday morning, on my usual walk with Wilbur down to the beach and then up to the seawall, I found the usual suspects having their coffee and chatting, and I asked Greg, whose been here longer than just about everybody at 75, how he liked the Fourth.

He turned to look up and grinned. “Wonderful,” he said.

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