Monthly Archives: October 2015

Godzilla, wingnuts and water


I take a long draught from the bottle of well water I carry with me in the field. Like all the other critters, I’m thirsty. I’m lucky to drink from a well that still runs. photos by stacey warde

by Stacey Warde

We get lots of European and Asian travelers this time of year, when summer morphs into fall and rain-starved Californians look expectantly to the season’s first downpour.

The tourists cruise excruciatingly slow along winding spectacular Highway 1, the coastal route through Big Sur; hordes of them park along viewpoints, at the cliff’s edge, laughing, taking pictures, peering down into the vast sun-burnished Pacific, then hop into their rental cars and RVs to hog the road again.

If you happen to be on the road at the same time it’s an agonizing slog behind a train of tourists who have no clue about pulling over to let others pass, or how bad is our drought or the state of the union.

Invariably, they pass through Cayucos, our little hamlet by the sea. I meet a Japanese man at a coffee shop in town who stops for the sights. “What is, ‘Wingnut’?” he asks, pointing at a “we have the right to refuse service” sign behind the counter.

I spin my index finger around my ear, “Crazy.” I show him how a wingnut works, spinning an imaginary one around my finger. “They’re spun tight.”

He laughs as though he gets my drift, and nods repeatedly, “Ok, ok, ok,” he says, heading quickly for the exit, “thank you!”

“I might have given him a few more examples,” I say to the barista, thinking of a few politicians, gun kooks, mass shooters and deniers of climate change, “but I don’t know if he would appreciate them.”


I spend most of my days alone, working in the orchard, a quiet working retreat away from the flow of tourists and the brutish world of American politics and wingnuts.

A lone hawk screeches in the gray distance overhead, obscured by the canopy of avocado trees under which I labor. A large dark avocado, a late ripener, drops heavily, clunking through the leaves and branches above until it plops to the ground with a thud. I’m glad it doesn’t drop on my head. It’s plump and weighty and I know how much it hurts to get bonked by one.

The only sound besides the hawk, is the breeze sweeping dry leaves along the ground, and brushing back green leaves in the trees. I stop to listen. The harvest ended several weeks ago, only a few ripe stragglers remain, like the one that just fell, hidden from view from a flush of new growth.

The leaves tremble in succession from one tree to the next, as warm air whooshes through the orchard like a twirling, invisible dancer. More fruit falls in its path. Plop, plop, plop. The season has turned ghostly. It’s fall in California, even though most days it still feels hot, dry and summer-hardened.

An abundance of lime-green bulbs, about the shape and size of small pears, grows on the trees, the promise of a new crop, next season’s harvest, food for avocado lovers, provided all goes well, no frosts, wind storms, or pestilence, and a winter full of rain.

Another winter without rain, however, will turn this semi-arid region of extreme drought into a desert with devastating crop losses, catastrophic fires, and panic for nearly 40 million residents competing with their straws for less and less of the less-than-half-full glass that remains of the state’s water.

Days like this, without the shortening and lengthening of shadows, time stands still; it’s hard to worry about shortages, difficult people, and lumbering RVs in the bleak white blanket of a thick marine layer, harder still to imagine this place without water, the only way these trees will survive or produce more fruit.

This morning’s cloud cover, the first heavy bit of moisture we’ve had in weeks, will soon give way to blue sky and sun. Until recently, however, there’s been little to no marine layer, unusual for coastal weather, the hot dry easterlies prevail, blowing like a furnace down the mountain passes and through the valleys, raising temperatures to record levels.

“This feels really unnatural. When’s it going to finally rain?” I hear people ask.

“Soon, I hope.”

Tourists—and some residents—seem to have no clue how dire things are.

Late October, and it’s still ungodly hot. Whether it’s unnatural I can’t say but the ongoing heat and sun have sucked whatever moisture was left in this drought-stricken land a long time ago, leaving plant and animal parched for precious water. Sightings of coyotes and mountain lions have become more common as they come down from the hills to search for food and water. Dried up reservoirs give the best visual of how bad it is.

Signs posted along rural roads in Paso Robles wine country tell another story, “DRY WELL.”

In some places, we’re drawing water from the Pleistocene era. Yet, we still must contend with billionaire water smugglers buying up properties in the north county so they can suck up, bottle and ship elsewhere what little of our water is left so they can get rich. I take a long draught from the bottle of well water I carry with me in the field. Like all the other critters, I’m thirsty. I’m lucky to drink from a well that still runs. I refuse to buy FIJI Water.

The sun’s intensity frightens rather than warms with its penetrating rays. I’ve already felt the knife to remove three melanomas, a skin cancer that will kill if left untreated. And these were borne from days of exposure when the sun felt—and probably was—much less intense.

Now, the sun itself cuts, its rays slashing through fiber and filament, making it unpleasant to bear more than a few minutes of exposure, as if the sun might actually make an incision and draw blood. I’m lucky to be working in the shadows of an avocado canopy that spreads out over several acres for which, thankfully, there’s still enough water to irrigate, and cover enough to stay sheltered from the direct sun.

As we head into the rainy season, all the prognosticators point to a potentially record winter with wetter-than-normal rainfall, fueled by what has been billed as a “Godzilla” El Niño. The above-normal temperatures of the Pacific  Ocean will pack our winter storms with a powerful punch, driving a flow of moisture and rain like a machine, dumping buckets as they go, forecasters say. We need the water and the snowpack to lessen the dire state of its lack in the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, according to those who have studied the phenomenon. But even Noah’s flood, apparently, won’t fix the drought.

Farmers fret as water shortages threaten to destroy field crops and fruit-bearing trees, and land sinks from an overdraft of groundwater in the Central Valley, while rich celebrities sitting pretty in LA and the Bay Area pour tens of thousands of gallons of water on their estate lawns and gardens.

The rationale, presumably, is that they will pay the fines and rate hikes, no big deal, they’ve got plenty of money. But what happens when there’s no more water? What good will their money do then? It’s a mindset that never ceases to amaze me, the “la-de-fucking-da” attitude toward precious resources like water.

Before the West’s major water projects, many driven by greed, land values in California, where there wasn’t any water, were cheap, even beachfront property. But land grabbers like William Mulholland fixed that, securing millions for himself and his friends in one of the state’s most ambitious and notoriously crooked water projects to develop the San Fernando Valley and LA basin. Water wars are nothing new here.

Only the promise and supply of water can keep us alive, let alone wealthy, and from cutting one another’s throats.


For sure, as I might have informed my Japanese friend, we have our share of wingnuts in this country and, like the rest of the world, they’re either politicians or religious or angry young men intent on killing, or scientifically challenged, many with their own radio shows, unable to fathom the potential devastation—extremes in weather, for example—from climate change, and who for no other reason than lack of an educated and critical mind don’t know the difference between civil law and religious superstition.

I wonder how so many seemingly intelligent people, Americans especially, since we presumably value a good education, can be so easily fooled by the crooked and the small-minded, giving precious time, energy and money to mean and vicious people and causes.

The GOP, for example, is in disarray, hobbled by the mean and nasty, ultra-right wing rabble, mostly members of the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, attempting to hijack the government, threatening at every turn to shut it down. I don’t understand or like this kind of thinking—if you can call it that—from hijackers and so-called “freedom” fighters. Yet, I encounter them nearly every day—not only in the news but in the coffee shops, bars and workplaces here at home.

“How come you have to be such a fucking liberal?” a local farmer and freedom fighter once asked me during a political talk. Not long after that, he cut off my water supply to a field I was tending on his farm. I begged him for water as the heat of summer intensified and the plants began to wilt and fruit was forming but going bad. He refused, the ripening fruit fell off, and we lost our harvest and all of the income from our hard  labor.

I’d rather be a liberal than someone who sabotages another’s labor or livelihood on the basis of politics and grudges, unless of course I want to start a revolution, or recklessly meddle in other people’s affairs, or become a hater and a fool, of whom we already have plenty. Only the wicked, as I  understand, seek to destroy what another has built to provide for himself and his family. Only a fool will try usurp what is not his to own or possess.


CITY LIFE.GODZILLA.COW IN FIELDIn many ways, I live and work like a hermit, mostly alone with plenty of—maybe too much—time to think. I like being physically active. It gets my mind off things, and that’s a saving grace out here. Still, the mind will play tricks. Maybe the world isn’t all quite as bad as I imagine, not as long as the sentient and wise prevail, who nonetheless appear to have been purged from the planet.

The only reliable witnesses to truth in this era are the modern court jesters—Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart, Matt and Trey and now Trevor Noah—the wise clowns and fools on network television, who aren’t afraid to mock and laugh at the pretenses and posturing of those who wish to put on a show and wear the emperor’s new clothes and get promoted by real fools.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling beat up from my labors, lower back complaints, hips, feet, neck and shoulders and try not to be too discouraged. But an even deeper hurt speaks to me: Where do I belong? Where’s my home? What happened to my country?

A lone plane passes overhead and the wind brushes through the leaves again. Two hawks soar silently above the southeastern hills, taking updrafts, diving, circling back, climbing, climbing, and circling closer and closer until they clip wings as they swing past each other in the late afternoon breeze, an aerial dance all predicated on food and water.

Through the long rows of trees, in the tunnel of green they form, I try to follow a light path but seem to carry a heavy burden. Imagine living fully present, I think, fully engaged. How would that look? What worries then? What difference would it make? It’s all I’ve got, really, to keep from falling into a pit of despair thinking of how far we’ve fallen as a “free” nation, where people will as quickly piss in their water as drink it.

I enjoy seeing my hometown through the eyes of tourists who pass through and look with wonder upon the beaches and ocean that surround us, who are curious and wonder, “What is, ‘Wingnut’?” They keep it fresh and real.

For the first time since late last winter, I hear the sound of a tree frog in the orchard. They’ve been so quiet in the dried up creek at home. Last winter they were so loud one had to raise a voice to be heard. If and when they return, the roads will be slick and wet and the road to Big Sur much less traveled, and Godzilla will be pouring down his fury upon us. §

Stacey Warde is a farmhand and publisher of He can be reached at

Hillary & the Benghazi goon squad

by Dell Franklin


Hillary maintained that arch calm, almost smiling at their little boy ineptitude and cry for attention, once flicking lint off her shoulder, as if signifying these men as no better than flies or gnats.

Elijah Cummings and Adam Schiff tried to come to her aid, but Hillary didn’t need them. She endured the inquisition, the steady bombardment of insulting drivel and accusations and falsehoods from the likes of Trey Gowdy and his menagerie of goons and held firm, displaying an arch calm and deliberate, articulate answers to their prosecutorial grilling, saying just enough but not too much, and what was evident in her demeanor was the bugaboo in theirs—lack of an unreasonable and bullying male ego, which seemed to be transfused into the two female members of the panel.

This ugly gob of male ego, always spoiling for a good fight and incapable of admitting defeat, pushed hard into the dinner hours trying to grind her down, but Hillary, like a slick shortstop from the Dominican Republic, kept fielding their vicious grounders and throwing them out with ease as they tripped over first base repeatedly and then kicked at the dirt and yelled at the umpires like sore losers, and little boys.

Hillary’s lack of male ego was what this miserable pack of jackals could not contend with. She exhibited no anger at their insinuations, their incriminations, only the same arch calm that held firm for eleven hours as they blistered her with one toxic salvo after another, one repeated, droning, boring question after another, one more strident hysterical raising of the voice, one more sententious play to the national audience for a little recognition as they became smaller and smaller, little men using a pea shooter to take down a giant.

Led by Gowdy, a man who resembles a hairless weasel with skin gloss and taped on ears, who looked like he was trying out for a John Grisham lawyer part in one of his novels turned into a movie. His two hit men, the wheedling, sneering Jordan and Roskam, played big for Fox News while Hillary maintained that arch calm, almost smiling at their little boy ineptitude and cry for attention, once flicking lint off her shoulder, as if signifying these men as no better than flies or gnats. All day long, as they tried to wear her down, she wore them down, until the whole sorry lot seemed to be talking to only themselves, like deluded sociopaths.

Hillary was too strong for them, too tough, too smart. And, fact is, because of what women have had to tolerate from men since the beginning of time, they ultimately have more steel in their gut. Just ask those who have tangled with Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Angela Merkel, who ate their male competitors for lunch.

I hark back to my own mother, a diminutive woman whom my father, war vet, professional athlete who played hurt and never missed a day’s work no matter how sick, said, “You think I’m tough? She’s tougher, believe me.”

My father, who grew up a Russian Jew in a German/Polish anti-Semitic neighborhood, where he fought every day and went on to become an amateur boxing champion, would punch anybody out who uttered anything derogatory about Jews, or used the kike, sheenie terminology around him. My mother, a Jewish lady with small, exquisite features and an IQ of around 160, had a far different way of dealing with such mean prejudice. She told me the story of driving across the country from Wisconsin to Norfolk, Virginia, where my dad was stationed in the navy before shipping out to the South Pacific. Dad had managed to arrange for the wife of a fellow navy man, an officer, to share the driving in dad’s Packard.

Mother agreed, and they set out from Madison, where the lady had been a cheer leader and debutante and almost immediately began informing my mother that the real enemy of World War II wasn’t the Germans, but the Jews, who were responsible for it. Roosevelt’s cabinet was infested with Jews. The Jews controlled the money. The Jews were greedy. The Jews this, the Jews that, the woman taking my mother for a gentile perhaps because she was so stunningly beautiful and perhaps not fitting the stereotype of what a Jew looked like in that era.

My mother said, “I let her go on. Unlike your father, I did not fly off the handle. She was spoiled and terribly entitled and she continued this kind of talk for an entire day. I still let it go. I remained calm and pleasant. I waited until we were about a hundred miles out of Norfolk, and when she started in again, I pulled over on the side of the road, and I just looked at her. I didn’t say anything for about a minute. And then I told her, ‘I want you to know you’ve been traveling with a Jew for the last two days.’ Well, I thought she might die right there. I cannot tell you how shocked she was, and how devastated she was when I just sat there and looked at her. I wasn’t mad. I just looked at her with pity and compassion for being such a narrow, shallow person who would never experience the privilege of compassion. She was from a rich family, I was poor. Well, she started apologizing, the poor thing was crying, she became hysterical. She apologized and apologized, and when she calmed down, she said, ‘but you don’t…look like a Jew.’ Oh, I said, what does a Jew look like?’ She cried and blubbered the last three hours of our trip.”

Mother said that the suffering this woman experienced those last one hundred miles was probably ten times worse than the damage my father inflicted on men who had uttered Jew-baiting remarks in his presence—several of whom ended up hospitalized. Mother said, “That woman will never forget that experience, and every time she thinks about it she will cringe, and maybe cry, and you can bet she will never repeat that business again.”

Maybe it IS time for a woman president, somebody without the kind of blustery male ego owned by an unfulfilled man like George W. Bush, who never played sports and ended up a cheerleader at Yale but couldn’t wait to go to war with his equally unfulfilled chicken-hawk pals. Maybe it’s time we had a cool, calculating, clever woman who’s been working her way around some of the biggest male egos on the world stage and in her own government and learned how to deal with them through thick and thin, victory and defeat, as well as the storm of bullshit they’ve thrown at her for decades.

You want tough? Just ask Bill. And now you can ask the Benghazi goon squad licking their wounds after getting torn up by this subtle tigress.

Bring ‘em all on, lady, they’re fair game. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. He’s the author of The Ball Player’s Son, a memoir about his father, Murray Franklin, and the early days of big league baseball. Visit his website:

Lulu’s and Wilbur’s shenanigans


Wilbur, as he appears when he’s not chasing after Lulu or peeing on the neighbor’s house. Photo by Stacey Warde

by Dell Franklin

Lulu is a black boxer/Labrador mix who lives around the corner two blocks down and sometimes gets out and prowls our street and ignores me when I call out her name from my deck. I surmise she’s not quite sure I’m the guy who used to live one door over and across the street before I moved here a few years back, but I feel she should at least acknowledge Wilbur because when we walk past her fence on her street she goes to the gate and barks at him like she means business, and Wilbur immediately pulls me to this gate so they can indulge in a heated, vicious, tail-wagging bark-off before I can pull Wilbur, who outweighs Lulu by a good 40 pounds, away.

When Lulu sniffs out our street, never moving closer than two doors down from my deck, she totally ignores Wilbur barking at her in a manner indicating he wants to rip her apart limb from limb.

On a morning some time ago, I was walking Wilbur down the street where we caught hell for my allowing Wilbur to pee on a row of new plants in front of a recently built house by a newcomer to our neighborhood. As Wilbur lifted his leg and watered several of these plants, which are actually little trees, a blind went up and we were chastised like criminals caught in the wrong back yard. Since then I have tried to pull Wilbur’s 90 pounds of powerful bulk away from those plants on a bad knee with some success, because I know this man and his wife are on a constant lookout for our violations of their shrubbery.

On this street I keep Wilbur leashed, which I don’t like to do because his walks are the highlights of his days and he treasures these nuggets of playful and agenda-driven freedom. Of late I’ve taken Wilbur to the bluffs north of town where he can run loose and sniff and pee and shit as he pleases on anything he wants, as long as he doesn’t chase skunks.

Anyway, the other Saturday night, around ten, I walked Wilbur past the home where we’d gotten severely chastised, feeling that at night the owner would not be anticipating dogs peeing on his plants, and when I peered into the open window, to my surprise, the man and wife and a young couple I took for a daughter and son in law, sat at a table facing each other and holding hands and praying, the good book in the hands of the father, the room dimly lit by a single candle, and no sign of the usual TV one saw in almost every house in town this time of night.

I felt this was as good a time as any to encourage Wilbur to pee on the plants, and he did, with gusto, while I lurked behind a parked car to view the new neighbors continue their prayer meeting. I have no problem with this. I felt their humble lowering of heads while the father read was perhaps something miscreants like Wilbur and myself might at some point in our existences need, just for the hell of it, as our intentions were surely not benevolent or respectful or godly, especially when compared to these fine, family oriented people attempting to do the right thing and become good neighbors—except for their intolerance of my dog.

Anyway, the following Sunday morning the father was out tending to the shrubbery when I came down the same street with Wilbur on his leash. The family live on the corner, a couple houses down and across the street from where I once lived, and on this morning Lulu was out, standing in the middle of the street, staring at us, bristling to become engaged with Wilbur. Wilbur became so excited at the prospect of playing grab-ass with Lulu that he pulled hard and cried. I felt it would be unfair to deprive him of one of his favorite pastimes and unleashed him, and the two dogs immediately began moving in a circle of sniffing each others asses, and then Lulu lay on her back in a submissive posture while Wilbur pounced on her and began doing what male dogs do when they feel it is their right to deliver rough affection to a female.

I peered up and saw the man stiffen at such outlandishness. I nodded toward him in a friendly manner but he did not nod back, seemed clearly worried as Lulu nipped Wilbur on the neck, jumped up, and took off on a dead run toward the man holding a spade. Wilbur lumbered after her. Just as Lulu neared the man, and he began to move back, she took a sharp turn and headed into an empty field across the street, and Wilbur continued to give chase. At this point I limped after them on my bad knee and made a pretense of corralling them, which I knew was futile as Lulu tore across the street and led Wilbur on a series of quick starts and stops and broken-field running, again tearing past the man.

He grew increasingly nervous, even rattled, as I apologized profusely for losing control of my pet and igniting this chaos. As Lulu led Wilbur toward the man again, he jumped back, sort of hurried after them as they headed for the row of plants beside his new house, and then he yelled, as if stabbed by a huge sharp knife, and indeed looked wounded, “They peed on my house! They peed on my house!” I scurried over just as they finished and continued their chase, past the man, who turned red, and I yelled at Wilbur, calling him a bad dog and tried to chase down the two animals, but there was no use as I spotted the wife at the window, not happy.

The dogs continued their chase, but this time, to my credit, as they began again heading toward the man’s house, I headed them off and sort of herded them up the street toward where Lulu lives with Dennis and his wife, four doors down. Dennis, my old neighbor and some time drinking companion at Schooner’s Wharf, is a landscaper and as easy going a person as exists in this laid-back small beach town, and when Wilbur chased Lulu into his yard I explained with some guilt the shenanigans Wilbur and Lulu had just perpetrated against our new neighbor.

Dennis, who was loading equipment onto his work truck, just chuckled, for in the past, when his gate was open, Wilbur has chased Lulu into the house, where he is not above peeing on potted plants and furniture. His wife quickly closed the door and I managed to get hold of Wilbur in the yard and leash him, and it was no easy feat pulling him up the street in his state of excitement as he repeatedly turned to look back, where Lulu stood at the gate, totally calm, as if nothing untoward had happened in our quiet neighborhood on a perfect Sunday morning.

Since then, taking the high road, I have changed Wilbur’s morning circuit to completely avoid these new members of our neighborhood, as there are plenty of places to pee without causing a disturbance. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. He’s the author of The Ball Player’s Son, a memoir about his father, Murray Franklin, and the early days of big league baseball. Visit his website:

Blabber mouths and baseball

Broadcaster Vin Scully singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the traditional "7th inning stretch" during a spring training game in Arizona, 2008.

Broadcaster Vin Scully singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the traditional “7th inning stretch” during a spring training game in Arizona, 2008.

by Dell Franklin

I was nurtured and educated by a professional baseball player and former big leaguer from the age of 7 on, and because of this, whether I like it or not, the game throughout my 72 years has been an addiction and intoxicant, and for that I am grateful, even if it has distracted me from other more urgent endeavors and interests, though when all is said and done baseball probably takes precedent over politics, technology, the spread of nuclear weapons, gun control, the environment, more serious involvement in the economy, international intrigue, terrorism, and even my favorite pastime, boozing in the local pub.

So, since I live 225 miles from the nearest big league ball park and 100 miles from the nearest minor league park, and will scarcely attend a big league game anyway because of the hassle, and I’m not driving 100 miles to watch a minor league game, I watch a lot of baseball on TV, and feel blessed with Dodger and Angel games and ESPN and now the MLB.

What I love about watching baseball on TV is that I can work a crossword puzzle and read a novel or magazine and still watch the game, as long as I tune out these people in the commentating booths who will not shut up.

I do not need every intricacy of the game explained to me. I haven’t learned anything new from color commentators since Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver retired. Joe Morgan was no chatterbox, but, being a second baseman taught the game by the great Nellie Fox, he disclosed nuances and situations in a quiet subtle way, like an understated teacher.

McCarver, like Vin Scully, remained quiet when something exceptional occurred and let the scene play itself out. A former catcher, he made intermittent but very incisive comments in anticipating what was to occur, actually feeling the game at a gut-level and transferring it to the fan. I felt myself “thinking” the game along with McCarver. He was uncanny. He was not afraid to upbraid a player too dumb or selfish to play the game the way it was supposed to be played, or to expose the behavior of a hot dog desecrating unwritten protocol observed by ball players for over a century.

McCarver and Morgan were gems.

What we have now evidently are former players or former sportswriters perceived as experts who cannot shut up. The sports writers accumulate so much useless information and intrusive statistics you want to muzzle them. I like Tom Verducci, because, like most of us, he loves the game. But I don’t need him. Nor his ilk of excessive verbalizers on ESPN and MLB who never played the game.

More than anybody, I do not need Curt Schilling. Despite his tremendous knowledge of the game, he is a self-righteous know-it-all and oozes an authoritative and patronizing attitude that exclaims, “This is MY game, not yours, so listen closely and you might learn something.” I don’t like his goody-goody jingoism supporting war and maudlin displays of reverence for the troops. Leave that to the politicians.

Schilling, by the way, got in trouble with his opinions and has been temporarily replaced by a cliché-ridden female voicing the insulting obvious, no doubt the choice of ESPN corporate stooges obsessed with marketing. What they should do is clean house and stick the excellent Joe Buck with only Rick Sutcliffe, a knowledgeable and brutally honest ex-pitcher possessing the colorful personality and charm of one of his mentors, the great Don Drysdale.

In some cases, there are three people in a booth taking turns or talking over each other, squelching and smothering the game so that you have baseball tape flowing out of your ears, and then they consult the sportswriter down on the field with the latest trade or gossip or tidbit, and sometimes we have to look at them as they eat something you want, like a knockwurst smothered in onions and mustard, or as in Texas where these guys are wolfing barbcue ribs!

I’m going to miss Vin Scully. That cliché—“let the game come to me”—is Skully. Alone in the booth and needing no help, he early on establishes an easy flowing rhythm, a cadence, and drops fascinating incidents and anecdotes observed in the past that are attuned to what is happening. He does not opine, or critique, or explain, but points out, being too modest and humble a man to think he has the audacity to expound on the game and openly criticize a ball player, people he admires for their  courage and incredible skills to play such a game he, Skully, knows is so heart-breaking and beloved. What Skully does is drop hints perhaps alluding to bad baseball.

Skully’s storehouse of knowledge and subtle involvement in the game is so profound and organic that it is a part of him as it casually pours out like good literature or understandable yet eloquent poetry, never pushed or stilted or obvious or show-offish or created to fill space because the game is “too slow” and the viewer so empty and stupid he cannot see or feel the same things he does and needs constantly to be entertained.

Vin respects the fan, understands the fan, gives the fan credit for knowing enough about the game and is sitting alongside the fan with an imaginary beer and cigar, making the game a little easier for the fan, a little more enjoyable, and taking nothing away from it.

With the playoffs and World Series coming up, the coverage and commentary will be so overdone and saturated, so drowned in statistics and technicalities that one will wonder how a simple game could become so complicated. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. He’s the author of The Ball Player’s Son, a memoir about his father, Murray Franklin, and the early days of big league baseball.

The pope’s shameless legions


Being a person who believes in no religion but has been taught to respect those who do and hoping they refrain from trying to convert or save me, I admit to liking Pope Francis very much as a person and inspirational leader and hope he can convert some of the scowling dumb-asses in this country to think about climate change and individual rights and the plight of immigrants, in whose shoes they refuse to place themselves in fear they might just start understanding their suffering and come to their aid, which would certainly infuriate their rancorous leaders demonizing them as criminals, terrorists and parasites sucking our system dry.

Amidst the pomp and pageantry of the pope’s invocations, the business moguls and politicians and glitterati of America fawn over and grovel before him in hushed tones like chastened sinners, temporarily humbled, and forgiven. Oh how magnificent they are in their new-found benevolence and humility. How wonderful it must feel; to be rich and famous and powerful and take time out from shitting on the little guy and bow before the pope and utter kind things about him when all the while you can’t wait for him to get his pious ass back to some place like the slums of Rio to pass his benedictions and blessings on to those poor saps who believe in his socialist bullshit and leave us to our merciless onslaught on democracy while we praise it as the savior of civilization.

The business moguls and politicians and glitterati of America fawn over and grovel before him in hushed tones like chastened sinners, temporarily humbled, and forgiven. Oh how magnificent they are in their new-found benevolence and humility.

When the pope critiques our capitalist system, he gets to listen to our conservative politicians and media pundits and heavyweight Catholics—the big time Catholics who for years ignored and denied the hideous rape of their children by their priests—explain how they “appreciate the pope’s deeply felt compassion and humility but he doesn’t understand our democracy and capitalistic system of government and how well it works for ALL Americans.”

Oh, he understands all right. He doesn’t see us as we see ourselves, does he, so inebriated are we with our greatness, our wealth, our reality shows of rich women getting drunk and squabbling over nonsense, our crazed hero-worship of athletic heroes in violent sports in over-priced venues, our descent into drugs of every kind at every level of society, our white police shooting black men down in the streets, our obscene narcissism in glorying in the trappings of material wealth, our hordes of mindless obese gobblers of artificial food, our defense of individual arsenals to supposedly fight our own feared government but that lead to monthly slaughters of innocent people, our enormous military power hogging money that could be spent on the needy as our homelessness spirals out of control, our meddling in countries where we do not belong with the propagandistic excuse it makes us safer and insures our national security, our massive and paranoid intelligence institutions that spy on us and warn us after starting these horribly tragic wars that “we know best, and you don’t, so trust us.”

This pope probably watches American television, which is everywhere, and observed a beaten down John Boehner, a good Catholic and former altar boy and basically a good guy, tormented by the hard-hearted zealots in his House of Representatives who want to cut taxes and eliminate regulations for the rich corporations and take away what’s left from the poor so as to “balance the budget and get the economy back on track.” Yeh, sure.

There is suspicion Boehner possibly, upon the visit of his pontiff, felt profound pangs of guilt and shame in meeting Francis while knowing he had been going along for four years with a bunch of bloodless pricks with no other interest but shafting the poor. So he quit, weeping like a kid who lost a Little League game.

This pope, if he can keep from gagging, probably turns on Fox News and watches the cruel expressions and listens to the cruel words of people like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and the rest of the rabble denouncing our black president as a Kenyan, a Muslim, a non-American, and, cloaked in the right language, “a nigger with the gall to think he can govern us old white fogies when the country belongs to us. The idea of this black bastard and his black wife and black children actually greeting the pope!”

Temporarily, the Marco Rubio’s and Ted Cruz’s and Chris Christie’s and Carly Fiorina’s and Rick Santorum’s take time out from their vicious attacks on any policies to help the needy to appear both proud and beneficent as they stand blessed by their beloved pope, so ensconced are they in papal purity. Meanwhile, their bankrollers, the Koch brothers and the Texas billionaires and the rest of that scabrous lot continue their assault on a country they’re trying to buy and wait patiently for this altruistic and obviously naïve pope Francis to get the fuck out of this country so they can take it over.

Trump, smartly staying out of this ghastly spectacle, bides his time, knowing that money talks and bullshit walks. He likes the pope, of course, might even consider him a good friend some day, wink, wink, somebody who might need a big fat donation down the line, ey? Get rid of that tin-can Fiat and step into my private plane, Frank…. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his dog Wilbur. His work can also be read online at