Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” postings include 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.
By DELL FRANKLIN
The other morning, the four most elderly charter members of the wall gang, myself included, were engaged in a conversation so toxic and negative that the professor, trying to get a word in among us, blurted, “Do you realize people are going to great lengths to skirt us? We’re like a nuclear fallout dump.”
Other younger members of the wall gang stepped closer as we paused from the cacophony. “Yeh,” said the retired lawyer, who still counsels. “They’re leaving the sidewalk completely and going around the cars in the alley.”
“They usually just sidestep us,” said the semi-retired entrepreneur who also counsels.
“The women especially are skirting us,” I said. “They’re cringing.”
“Even folks who usually stop and visit are avoiding us.”
“That’s because nobody wants to hear the truth.”
“If we don’t face the truth, we’re finished.”
“We’re all checking out pretty soon,” I said. “But I’m sure glad I don’t have any kids to inherit this mess.”
I had started up the discussion by mentioning an article I’d read in the New Yorker on how Facebook was essentially destroying the world. All four of us subscribe to the New Yorker and had read the article, which was horrifying in its implications for the future of not only America, but the world, and this set us off on a collective diatribe on how our world was doomed.
We halted our discussion when somebody mentioned the waves were actually pretty big for summer, but had no shape; but once the ball gets rolling on subjects we were rampaging upon, it’s like a runaway train, and, since the state was in a brutal drought we immediately brought up climate change.
“How dumb and uninformed can somebody be not to believe it when it was 109 in Portland and 107 in Seattle and half the goddam state’s burning?”
“Don’t ever underestimate the stupidity and ignorance of the American people.”
“Or their delusion in believing what’s happening isn’t the future.”
“This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the misery just over the horizon. The salad days are over. The real suffering lies ahead.”
“This pandemic is just an appetizer. Wait’ll the main course checks in.”
“Famine due to drought.”
“Panic among the starving tribes leading to an authoritarian regime.”
“So brainwashed by propaganda, they believe what they want to believe. Like Nazi Germany.”
“Facebook. The media streams. Godawful. Once they own the media and courts, we’re finished.”
“We’ve become a soft society.”
“A drug-addicted fat farm. Do you remember people in the ’60s being this fat?”
“If it wasn’t for us, the United States, there wouldn’t be any murderous cartels in Mexico.”
“And how about those Sackler brothers hawking opioids to the rust belt?”
“Opioids everywhere, and crank is even worse. Big Pharma. The Sackler’s get fined a billion—a hand slap.”
“They should do time.”
“The ruthless pricks should be tortured.”
“Ever looked at a hardcore crankster? They twitch like hummingbirds. Their teeth fall out. Their skin parches. They don’t eat or sleep for days…”
Tourists braving this time of morning and locals coming both ways along the seawall were stepping between parked cars several yards away, dragging their dogs away from our dogs, and hurrying to the far side of the alley.
There was no stopping us
“This stupid war! Same goddam thing happened in Vietnam! These goddam generals want war, and the military industrial complex gets richer, and who pays for it with blood and money—the saps who are sold this bullshit. It’s never been anything but a power grab disguised as national security and spreading so-called democracy. Our leaders and generals lied in Nam and they lied in Iraq and they lied about Afghanistan.”
“The big corporations made big bucks in Nam, and the same pricks came back to make hay during the Middle East wars.”
“Not to mention the mercenaries and those blood sucking contractors.”
“Unbridled greed. Capitalism at its most obscene!”
“Everybody should read Catch-22 again.”
“They should read about Blackwater.”
“We’ll never learn.”
“We’ll do it again.”
“We haven’t won a real war in 65 years.”
“We’ve got a war of politics going on in this country right now. The parties hate each other. What if these gun-toting, warmongering, right-wing zealots who attacked the capitol come after us weaponless coastal elites? We’re fucking hamburger meat!”
“It could happen! It’s ugly out there, away from this place…”
“…at some point, they’ll come for us.”
Never before, in all the time we’ve been meeting here mornings, has it become this desperate, ugly, dire, alarming, dyspeptic, apocalyptic.
Finally the professor put up his hand. “This has gone on too long,” he opined, shaking his head sadly. “I’m getting depressed.”
Everybody was pretty ragged and flushed, pretty depleted emotionally. We are almost all on BP medication. Some of us have had cancer. I was fairly hyperventilated myself. I took a deep breath. It was suddenly quiet and still. Vaguely we heard a wave splash. The beach near us was deserted, though a few people walked their dogs down by the water.
A very tall, elderly man ambled in a stooped but deliberate gait toward us along the wall, headed in direction of the pier. He takes this same walk every morning, at about the time we all break up after an hour or so of our bullshit sessions. He is familiar to all of us, is an ex-teacher and coach who refuses ever, under any circumstances, to be negative, insists on seeing the bright and sunny side of life, though he frets over his beloved Los Angeles Dodgers, being from Southern California.
As he neared us, he smiled, nodded to us, glanced at me as he slowed down, showing no intention of stopping, though he sometimes does, and said to me, “When are my Dodgers going to get into first place?”
“Stop worrying,” I said miserably, for I hate the Dodgers, consider them arrogant faux royalty. “They’ve got the best team and nobody’s gonna beat ’em in the World Series.”
“I hope you’re right, Dell,” he said, stepping nimbly past us and moving on.