Monthly Archives: November 2015

Veterans Day observation

‘I’d never sign up for that’

Still, I felt guilty about leaving—until I got out to the road home on Highway 1 where the vistas of Estero Bay shimmering in the noon day sun opened before me in all their splendor. Photo illustration by Stacey Warde

I felt guilty about leaving work—until I got out to the road home on Highway 1 where the vistas of Estero Bay shimmering in the sun opened before me in all their splendor. Photo illustration by Stacey Warde

by Stacey Warde

I struggled to give myself permission to celebrate Veterans Day, even though I served and put my life on the line as an Army Ranger, jumping out of airplanes, traipsing through steamy jungles and frozen forests as part of my training for what was then known as the “Soviet Threat.”

Our mission, given there wasn’t an actual war, was to be in a constant state of readiness against all enemies—mostly supplied with Soviet weaponry, we were told—real and imagined, who might attack us at any moment. We were called on frequent alerts, awakened in the wee hours of the morning to pack gear and board planes before the sun came up and be on our way to an unknown destination.

Usually, we flew to the desert in California or to a mountain plateau in Colorado, and conducted operations in Europe, Canada, and Panama, all training sites where our mission was to jump out of those planes, rally ourselves on the ground and secure an airfield, rescue hostages, decommission a bomb or ambush supply convoys. In a few short hours, we received our warning order, plans of attack and contingencies, geared up for action, and set out for our targets, parachuting into our areas of operation under cover of darkness. We were always ready for action.

With a fool’s determination, I overrode my initial hunch to stay home to observe the holiday and shuffled off to work.

Fortunately, we never saw actual combat but were fully prepared for it. In the years since, the United States has engaged in several wars and many good service men and women have died or returned home with wounds that left some badly burned, blind, without limbs, sacrificing their bodies for cherished notions of freedom and security.

For some reason, on this occasion, a national holiday to honor those who served in uniform, I felt more compelled than ever to actually take the day off. Usually, as many Americans, I just power through my obligations—work and family life—giving the day and those to be honored little more than casual reflection. I might give a tip of the hat but only on my way to work.

With a fool’s determination, I overrode my initial hunch to stay home to observe the holiday and shuffled off to the orchard where I work, plugging holes drilled into the trees, which had been recently injected with nutrients. I started pulling out the injectors, then attempted to mold a small round of bees wax to fill the holes. My hands were shaky and my mind occupied only with veterans I’ve known and respected.

I thought about how poorly they are often treated, how one Vietnam veteran wearing a Screaming Eagles cap from the 101st Airborne Division, once took my hands in his, looked me in the eye, and urged me to get the health care I needed and, more importantly, deserved from the Veterans Health Administration when I couldn’t afford insurance coverage.

The wind was biting and the wax stayed hard in the cold and I couldn’t shape it to plug the holes. I tapped the little ball of wax with a metal tap into a hole and it squirted something, tree sap or residue from the injector, into my eye. I stumbled over fallen tree limbs and windblown young avocados on the ground. I paused. This isn’t going so well. I felt compelled to leave, drawn to a day of reflection.

I thought of other veterans who also put their lives on the line and wondered, would they be working today? Who actually gets the day off?

“Why am I doing this?” I finally blurted aloud.

I felt a fool to be working when so many others were given the day off to acknowledge veterans like myself. I fought the urge to fret over what the boss might think, but finally decided to leave early, just before lunchtime, and take the rest of the day off.

Still, I felt guilty about leaving—until I got out to the road home on Highway 1 where the vistas of Estero Bay shimmering in the noon day sun opened before me in all their splendor. I’d spend my day remembering, and enjoy this little bit of freedom.


Toward the end of my senior year in high school, my father, concerned about my future, since I’d done little to secure one, came into my room and handed me several recruiting brochures for all the armed forces. I looked at the brochures and handed them back.

“If you think I’m going to join, you’re crazy,” I said.

I grew up believing that with hard work and a commitment to the pursuit of happiness, one could enjoy the fruits of his labor and the freedoms and security guaranteed in a republic such as ours. I’d built a sense of patriotism on the idea that men and women were equal under the law, even though in reality they weren’t, and could pursue their dreams unmolested by their government. Besides, all through high school we were the bicentennial class of 1976, marking the 200th year of the American Revolution in which the colonists revolted against tyranny.

Toward the end of my senior year in high school, my father, concerned about my future, since I’d done little to secure one, came into my room and handed me several recruiting brochures for all the armed forces.

But what did I know? I was just a high school kid with an elementary understanding of government and history. Watergate played fresh on the minds of adults more attuned to the news and the workings of Capitol Hill than my young mind could handle, and President Richard Nixon had recently resigned his office in disgrace over his illegal attempt to sabotage the Democrats. He was a crook, even though he claimed he wasn’t, intent on undermining the democratic process. Revolution sounded like a good idea and I even mentioned it to the recruiter who had been working with me to gain entry into the Army.

“Good luck with that,” he said before suggesting the delayed entry program in the new all-volunteer Army that emerged from the ravages of the draft-intensive war machine in Vietnam. The people were tired of war. No more drafts, they said. The military responded with the all-volunteer model. “With delayed entry,” he continued, “you can sign now, and go active in six months but you’ll need your parents’ consent.” I was only 17, not old enough to sign on my own. My parents gave the consent I needed on the grounds that I was willing to defend my country.


Before leaving for work in the morning, I visited the Veterans Affairs website to see what events were scheduled. I could justify taking the day off, perhaps, by attending an observance. Nothing scheduled, not here in my neighborhood. As far as I could  tell, it was just another day. I scanned the list of mediocre food and coffee chain outlets offering free meals or coffee and doughnuts to vets. None, of course, were available where I live, nothing but mom and pop shops here, which is fine with me.

First stop after leaving the orchard, I decided, would be Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos where I could eat a salmon taco for lunch and figure out what to do with the rest of my day.

“What are you up to?” Adam said from behind the counter as I was about to order.

“I decided to take the rest of the day off,” I told him, feeling liberated. “I did my service. Why shouldn’t I take it off?”

“You’re right about that,” he said, informing me that lunch was on him. “Thanks for your service.”

Boy, this is great, I thought as I sat down to eat. What a glorious day! This is how it should be, true freedom!

The streets were unusually quiet, little of the hectic holiday and tourist and event traffic that seems to go year-round now, a perfect, quiet, peaceful day. I walked up the block to the coffee shop and ordered a cappuccino. This freedom to go where and order what I wanted felt great. Maybe I’d go home and read a book, go to my little mini-home castle in the sticks and retreat where no one could bother me.

At the coffee shop, a little boy, about 8, with a tablet or pad, I can never tell which, sat alone at the table by the window. A bench was open on the other side of the table and I sat down on it while waiting for my drink. The boy looked up and asked, pointing at a light fixture on the ceiling above us, “Do you think that’s a camera?”

A young couple at the table next to ours perked their ears, seemed interested in the question. “I don’t think so,” I said to the boy, “it looks like a light fixture to me but you never know these days, kid, cameras are everywhere. Do you worry about cameras?”

The barista gave a hearty laugh from her station at the espresso machine, “Oh, he does that,” she said, “he worries all right. I’m his mother. He’s a very smart little boy.”

I told the kid maybe he could develop a “camera-finding” app for his tablet, then he would know where the cameras were. He smiled, and the dude at the table next to us turned and piped, “You worried about cameras? What have you got to worry about? If you’re not doing anything wrong, you shouldn’t have to worry about cameras.”

My mouth dropped open and I wanted to finger-snap his ear. First, he butted in on a pretty good conversation with the kid, which was none of his goddamn business. Second, I could feel the warm glow of this rare Veteran’s Day freedom swiftly turning cool.

“That’s a false argument,” I snapped. “I don’t want anyone in my business and I don’t like being watched. This is supposed to be a free country, right?”

“That’s right!” said the barista.

“That doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want,” the guy answered.

“I can if I’m not hurting anyone,” I said.

“Everything you do has an impact on someone,” he responded, referring to the butterfly effect of quantum physics in which we are all like so many cells in a huge organism where every little movement, such as the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings, can stir up a storm.

“As a responsible human being,” I answered, my temper rising, “I will make amends wherever possible. That’s my moral obligation, right? But that doesn’t give you or anyone else the right to monitor my behavior.”

Eventually, the barista got upset and threw the interloper out. He complained that he wasn’t doing anything wrong and left.

The little boy looked up at the light again. “Are you sure that’s not a camera?”

“Pretty sure,” I said.


I’d never sign up for that, I thought on the drive home, where I’d break out my books, pop open a beer and watch the wild turkeys before they scramble clumsily into the air, beating wings, crash landing in the sycamore tree above me for their evening roost, their moral obligation to get free and clear of nocturnal predators already prowling the nearby hills. I’d never sign up for less freedom. §

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

Mecca of narcissism

After 40 minutes, her lovely face was still craned to within inches from the mirror, with pencil in hand, as she inspected herself.

After 40 minutes, her lovely face was still craned within inches from the mirror, with pencil in hand, as she inspected herself.

by Dell Franklin

I had an appointment today to get my hair cut by Toni, the wife of my tennis partner Fosdick, who is 18 years younger than I. She called early in the morning to remind me, no doubt figuring that, at 72, I am forgetful, especially when it comes to getting my hair cut, or, as she would put it, styled. I still have a full head of hair that is naturally wavy and partially grey. I usually get my hair cut every four months or so, when it becomes unmanageable and my sideburns sprout straight out an inch-and-a-half in grey and make me look like a stupid clown, according to Miranda, my woman of 26 years. Before my last haircut, I went nearly 20 months without doing anything to my hair and she became increasingly agitated at what she claimed was the ugliness of my being and claimed I looked like an old, old homeless bum and urged me in near hysterical terms to get a goddamn haircut, but the more she urged the more I resisted, until it finally came to the point where I gazed at my drivers license picture in horror and was sick of washing it and have it tangle up in my mouth and get caught in my teeth when I was sleeping, as well as watching people who did not know me cross the street when they saw me coming.

For years, I went to standard male barbers down south in Manhattan Beach and in San Luis Obispo when I moved up here in 1986. This one guy in San Luis did a very good job and I always tipped him well because I’ve been a bartender most of my life; but all this changed when Fosdick set me up with Toni, who is a “hair stylist” and known throughout the Morro Bay and Cayucos area and beyond as THE best. She has a large clientele of mostly women of all ages and styles and fussy men finicky about their hair.

‘That pretty young girl with the nice ass, is she O-C-D? She keeps doing the same thing over and over again and looking at herself and doing it over again. What’s wrong with her?’

I walked into the salon on time. Three young girls, all new stylists, and a slender kid around 22 named Aaron, who is flamboyantly gay but personable, stood or sat around between appointments. Toni, a petite woman who, like Fosdick, is a yoga fanatic and hiking zealot and looks 15 years younger than her age at 55, greeted me with the usual uneasiness most people do and washed my hair before seating me in a position where I did not have to look in the mirror and see my sagging, rumpled, withered puss that had once been called handsome by ladies of the very dark, very late nights.

Toni does not drink, eats primarily organic, and refuses to ingest anything even minutely unhealthy and coerces Fosdick to yoga retreats for only the most limber and non averse to torture.

Facing away from the mirror, I was pleased to have a perfect view of the cute and fetching young female stylists in their tight jeans and stylish blouses and accouterments, though none of them moved with the feminine flourish of Aaron, who wore skinny-type tight jeans and a sort of midriff blouse exposing his belly. Aaron is always stylish and friendly.

As Toni snipped, these girls and Aaron were all giggling and repeatedly glancing in mirrors and kibitzing, though one was studying and wiggling her fingers upon a flat object in total engrossment. I whispered, “Why aren’t those girls working? Are they bad hair stylists?”

“No,” Toni whispered back in a manner belying her embarrassment at me fingering her fellow associates. “Shhh!”

Just then a voluptuous woman around 40 approached Aaron’s chair directly across from me. He received her with a big warm hug and oozed sincere flattery and a fool could see the kid had real rapport with ladies. I recognized this woman as an employee at the gym in town I go to, and called out her name “Gwen!” loud enough to break up the clique of idle stylists.

She was now seated in Aaron’s chair and a bit stunned but then smiled and I said in a voice that I guess is too naturally loud and always embarrasses Miranda, “Hey, good lookin’. How yah doin’, Gwen?”

She could not help but grin. “Oh Dell, you are such a flirt.” She sized me up. “You look good.”

“Thanks, Gwen. I wish Miranda felt the same way.”

Aaron spun Gwen, who has no idea who Miranda is, around and put an apron on her and I asked Toni what Aaron was going to do with this woman and she whispered, “A dye job.”

I whispered back. “Aaron does a lot of the ladies working at the gym and when he walks around shaking his ass all the old latents on their workout machines make mean faces to give themselves away.”


Toni snipped for a while and I began to really notice one of the young stylists as she groomed herself in the mirror of her station. She did this for about five minutes and I whispered to Toni, “Why are these girls idle—because they’re bad stylists?”

“No!” she whispered harshly. “They’re young, just building up clientele. They’re doing fine. They have their regulars.”

“But not like you.”

“No…but, I’ve been here a while.”

I knew this was false modesty but let it go. Another five minutes passed and the girl, very pretty, with a short haircut like Aaron’s, continued primping her hair, shaking it out by whinnying, then combed it and looked at it and whinnied. Then she began applying eyeliner. She stepped back, gazed at herself, applied more, gazed at herself, picked up another instrument and continued grooming her face. At the 20-minute mark, as Toni snipped, I whispered, “That pretty young girl with the nice ass, is she O-C-D? She keeps doing the same thing over and over again and looking at herself and doing it over again. What’s wrong with her? I mean, nobody can look perfect.”

“All the young girls do that,” she whispered back. “Now stop it, Dell.”

I found this mild chastisement a bit hypocritical being that Fosdick, at our after-tennis bull sessions at the coffee house, relates a lot of the juicy, delicious gossip Toni collects from these women whose hair she cuts. Toni’s no angel in my book. These clients tell her everything, even deeply personal, totally bizarre stuff, according to Fosdick’s reports.

Into the 30-minute mark, while Aaron conferred amiably with the gym lady, the young girl continued her process of grooming. She now had bowls of powder out and swished them around with a brush; all this after applying several instruments to her face and doing the identical same thing to her hair over and over again and reappraising her face. Soon she was indulging in some intense powdering of cheeks, chin and forehead.

I whispered to Toni, who was closing in on my new image. “I have never seen anybody do what that pretty young thing is doing in the mirror that long, Toni. In my book, it’s a record.”


“She’s so pretty,” I said, not in a whisper, but loud enough for everybody to hear. “She doesn’t need all that make up.”

Only the girl did not react to my outburst, so obsessed was she with applying and reapplying powder to her face and then whinnying and roughing her hair and gazing with disappointment at her image and re-powdering.

Toni called out to her, “Kyla!” Kyla turned around, licking at her enameled lips, eyes far away, not exactly vacant. “Dell here thinks you’re so beautiful you don’t need to use make-up.”

Kyla turned and seemed to be looking at me, but maybe she wasn’t. “The way it is,” she said sassily. “Live with it.” She turned back to the mirror and continued her grooming.

That ended by inquisition in this mecca of narcissism. Toni finished, swiveled me around so I could look at my improved image. “Excellent,” I said.

Nobody else said anything.

“Let’s trim your eye brows and nose hairs,” Toni suggested in a manner indicating I needed help.


As I walked to the counter up front, the young stylist, at the 40-minute mark, was bent over, lovely face craned to within inches from the mirror with pencil in hand as she inspected herself, her blessed little ass jutted out just ripe enough for me to want to goose it. But all I did was look, even after passing her and paying at the desk as an older lady with white hair immediately sat down in Toni’s chair. §

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:

The witch doctor—unmasked


The real and very famous Dr. Ben Carson is indeed a witch doctor in the political stratosphere, full of ridiculous economic and foreign policy nostrums and voodoo.

by Dell Franklin

For a while it seemed the witch doctor possessed a suit of armor even the clever and pugnacious Donald Trump could not dent, much less pierce—he was a famously successful black man with a great American come-up-from-the-bootstraps story as well as blessed by the Lord and in the mold of ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, the exact kind of black man George H.W. Bush and the GOP brain trust loved to shove up the asses of politically correct white liberal Democrats.

The witch doctor did not use street lingo even if he was from the mean streets of Detroit and never uttered “y’all, or “you all.” The witch doctor carefully refrained from insulting his whiter-than-white competition and realized if he raised his voice or engaged in salty invective he would lapse into the stereotype of the white man’s version of the angry “uppity nigger.” The witch doctor was not an amen-shouting, gospel-singing, rocking-in-the-aisles Jesus-chanting Baptist but instead a deeply religious strangely serene Seventh Day Adventist who didn’t believe in evolution or climate change and claimed when he was at his lowest as a street psychopath he met God and found his path to being a world-famous neurosurgeon. The witch doctor was sweetly mellow and exuded a calm patience and tolerance toward his inquisitors when they tried to pigeon-hole him on his views, which he wriggled out of with some unusual circular double-talk that made absolutely no sense but was so coated in sugar that even his absurd flat tax or tithing and comparison of Obamacare to slavery was given a free ride.

The Donald searched for an opening to wound the great witch doctor as he gained ground on him and passed him in the polls after the Donald smugly conceded he was a “nice guy” when he was ahead. None of the candidates knew how to puncture the now front-running witch doctor as he continued his slew of sweetness to the evangelicals who would vote for a person capable of destroying the planet with either war or the denial of climate change as long as he promised to eliminate Planned Parenthood and believed in the rapture.

But the Donald played his cards just right, waiting for the dreaded, hated and despicable media to nail the witch doctor, and when they did, on exaggerations and myth-making of his personal history, the Donald, who also despises the dreaded, hated and despicable media and makes no secret of it, pounced, making a mockery of the witch doctor alluding to his own words of characterizing himself—the witch doctor—as a “psychopath” as a young kid in the ghetto. Ahh, the Donald instantly went after the witch doctor like a shark in a feeding frenzy.

As soon as the media began finding lies in his great story of “Gifted Hands,” the witch doctor began whining and blaming and turned into a petulant aggrieved wounded black man who now had to absorb far more media abuse than the dreaded, hated and despicable Obama ever had to absorb, boohoo. In fact, the witch doctor had to, in his own words, absorb more scrutiny and “vicious lies” than anybody in the history of the country, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, or anybody else who ever ran for high office in America!

The witch doctor is being persecuted because he is so perfect and genuine that the dreaded, hated, despicable media, along with the cruel incompetent Democrats, cannot stand it. They are “desperate” to take him down because they are terrified he will defeat them. During a press conference where his honesty was questioned, the witch doctor’s calm and pleasant and always sweet demeanor became animated and his eyes turned stony as he lashed out at his inquisitors, waving his arms around, adhering to the last bastion for politicians caught in double-talk or outright deception—blame the media!


The witch doctor is indeed a DOCTOR! Doctors in this country are exalted, placed on pedestals as the last saviors between sickness, pain and death. We worship them. We go to them hat in hand in our ignorance of our latest maladies in shrieking fear they will maim or kill us, and doctors make it all better and we want to hug them out of appreciation and gratefulness.

Doctors do not accept anybody taking them to task. They are in charge. They tell nurses and lab techs and anybody in their paths what to do and show up only to operate or diagnose, and very briefly consult. They are our gods, and if they’re good enough to heal us, well, like the witch doctor, they’re good enough to run the country.

But like all control freaks and egomaniacs, the witch doctor was not satisfied with his accomplishments and needed to embellish them further so nobody could ever question his greatness, his rightfulness, and when they did, he was outraged. As the inquisition from the dreaded, hateful, despicable media increased in its frenzy, the more grumpily the witch doctor whined and double-talked and denied; and the more angrily he condemned the media the more outraged his deluded evangelical tribe became and the more money they poured into his coffers.

The real and very famous Dr. Ben Carson is indeed a witch doctor in the political stratosphere, full of ridiculous economic and foreign policy nostrums and voodoo unfit for anybody outside of his deluded evangelical tribe to swallow. When it comes right down to it, he is the low-key evangelist mesmerizing his flock with the identical bullshit that has bamboozled those who want to believe for eons, the same evangelists who eventually get caught with prostitutes of either sex or the greedy feathering of their own nests with profligate spending on luxurious mansions, and profess their great contrition in tearful humility as their patient wives hang on and the disappointed flocks hang on too, believing the Lord forgives, and of course he does, just like he will the witch doctor when the country finds out what a complete fraud he is. §

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: