Tag Archives: Cayucos

Obsolescence and doing business

CITY LIFE.CAYUCOS SUPERMARKET*

 

by Stacey Warde

I run my life off a tired Apple computer, a MacBook Pro, that’s 10 years old, which has been a fine and dependable workhorse. I use it as an entertainment center for radio, news and tv. I write articles, run this magazine and my business on it. It’s my connection to the world.

It’s so old, however, the company that made it refuses to service it any more. “Um, yeah, that machine is obsolete,” an Apple techie said recently when I asked for help with a fan that had gone bad.

I watched a YouTube video on my cell phone to figure out how to fix it myself. Not long after that, I noticed the thin protective panel on the computer’s removable battery starting to peel off.

I made a quick run into town to pick up some super glue. Living in a small town, there’s only one store, the Cayucos Supermarket, which in its own peculiar way—with its leaky open cold storage, occasional cruddy fly strips hanging from the ceiling, and chipped, stinky deteriorating floors—is also obsolete.

I’ve often thought this place could use its own sprucing up, a much-needed upgrade and paint job and repairs, so the owner, for example, wouldn’t need to put towels down on the floor to soak up water leaking from the ancient cold storage; and maybe improve the selection by including some produce from the many nearby farms to give it a touch of fresh and local. But, when you’re on a budget like me, which I’m guessing is the problem here, you make do with what you’ve got.

I found my way to a corner of the store where knick knacks such as can openers, spatulas and other forgotten or missing kitchen essentials and fix-it items like super glue hang on the wall. It’s the quick-fix corner for the summer flood of tourists and vacationers who come to town and are likely to need missing items from their vacation homes or travel packs.

The fix-it corner sits at the end of the produce display at the south side of the store. The produce section features an incomplete and sad selection of limp and tired fruits and vegetables, where flies and gnats buzz the air, and where shoppers aren’t likely to get too inspired for their meal plans. The prices vary but verge on the high side; you don’t really get what you pay for here, but shoppers like me patronize the store anyhow, for the convenience mostly. It’s the only show in town.

As I stood there gazing at the wall, searching for super glue, I heard someone spraying down the produce. “How nice,” I thought without looking, “someone’s spritzing the fruits and vegetables.” Then, I smelled the distinct chemical odor of bug spray.

I turned to see who was spritzing the produce and got caught in a stinky cloudy chemical mist. The store owner, who apparently didn’t know I was standing there, seemed surprised to see me and waved his hand to brush away the mist. “Oops! Didn’t mean to get you too,” he said, waving a green can with thick black lettering, what appeared to be a can of RAID in his hand before he turned and quickly walked away.

“Did I just see what I think I saw?”

It was an embarrassing moment for both of us. I just wanted to get some super glue to patch my tired old computer without being exposed to bug poison; he just wanted to get rid of those pesky bugs bombing the produce without making a display of it, or accidentally dousing a customer with pesticide.

I didn’t know what to think: “I’ll never buy produce from this place again,” was my first thought, then, “how much of the bug killer got into my lungs? How much of that crap have I ingested over the years buying produce here? Should I call the health department? Will I ever come back to this store? Where’s that damn super glue?”

Finally, I spotted the package with the tiny little squeeze tube, which was hanging from a hook near the can openers, and pulled it off the wall. “This will work,” I decided, eager to get out of the store.

Before making my way toward the front of the store again, where the cash registers are, to pay for my glue, I made one quick glance at the bugless produce display. “Yuck,” I thought. I didn’t say anything to the cashier, mostly grousing to myself, eager to get home so I could fix the loose battery panel on the back of my old computer.

“I get it,” I thought, back at home, meticulously patching the super glue onto the loose panel, “you make do with what you’ve got, sopping wet floors with old towels, and hanging fly strips from the ceiling, just like I’m doing here, patching up this battery, wondering how much longer this tired machine is going to last.” §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com.

Murder and rape in Cayucos

Why do we remain silent, or worse, defend the perpetrator?

by Stacey Warde

(Screen shot from KSBY.com)

(Screen shot from KSBY.com)

In a small town like Cayucos, with a population of only a few thousand residents, at one point or another, you’re likely to run into just about everyone who lives here, including the nut cases and predators and their friends, not to mention the few people who don’t like you.

I’ll admit, I’ve befriended a few of the nut cases.

We’ve had our share of them, and I’ve loved them all, and for the most part they’ve been decent people, in spite of their peculiar behaviors. This town, as small as it is, embraces the stranger, the oddball, I’ve seen it more than once, so long as he gets along, does his share, and generally respects his neighbors.

In this town, we like to say that we watch out for each other, especially those who are vulnerable, the elderly and the young, for example, and we keep a close eye on our children. We’re a quick easy stop for kooks traveling the coastal road between LA and San Francisco. Sometimes they stop and stay, sometimes they keep moving. We’re wary of strangers who don’t quite fit in and, trust me, we know who you are.

Which is even more important when it comes to people of questionable character, whether they’re passing through or actually living here, those who do more harm than good, who prey on the weak, lie, cheat, steal and inflict pain on others, including murder and rape, both of which have recently occurred here.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to avoid getting too close to the predators—and we’ve had more than one in the neighborhood.

Matthew James Levine, for example, reported his grandmother, Dorothy Vivian Autrey, 84, missing from her home on Hacienda Way, where he also lived with her on the southern outskirts of town, at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 21, 2008, about a day after she was last seen alive.

Dorothy Vivian Autrey, whose body was never found, was murdered by her live-in grandson.

Dorothy Vivian Autrey, whose body was never found, was murdered by her live-in grandson.

Dorothy, apparently, had been getting on Matthew about his lifestyle and an argument ensued, and she disappeared. He claimed she must have gotten lost, being old and forgetful and all, wandering who knows where. Maybe she got swept out to sea. It happens. Her soggy purse was later retrieved near the Cayucos Pier but she was never found.

Meanwhile, according to one account, Matthew handed out fliers about his missing grandmother, asking for clues and signs, anything to help him find her, even boarding a Cayucos school bus to enlist the children’s help.

Matthew turned himself in a month later and confessed to killing his grandmother. He’d stuffed her body in a suitcase and threw it over a cliff near Ragged Point, a treacherous stretch of Highway 1 that winds high above the jagged Pacific coastline in Big Sur. Her body was never found.

He claimed to have misjudged a blow to his grandmother, a warning bump, an accident perhaps, because he’d been under the influence of marijuana and cough syrup. He got scared and took the mafioso approach to hiding the evidence, tossing her remains into the sea. She is still reported as a “missing person.”

I didn’t know either Matthew or his grandmother and this tragedy may or may not have been avoidable, but there must have been signs of trouble. Someone in the neighborhood or family or circle of friends might have seen the signs, and made note of them. That alone would make us safer, just noticing, talking, making sure everyone’s ok.

Maybe it’s unfair for me to categorize Matthew as a predator because I didn’t know him but I suspect he had other motives for moving in with his grandmother than simply keeping an eye on her and making sure she was safe. He was later convicted of first degree murder and elder abuse.

I suspect that something darker than good intentions were also at work in the case of Oscar Higueros Jr., a former volunteer Cayucos fireman and citizen in good standing, who was recently convicted on several charges of raping a minor and human trafficking, and faces the likelihood of spending the rest of his life in prison.

I doubt his actions in keeping company with an underage girl rose solely from a desire to protect and love her, as has been conveyed to me by friends who know and like Oscar, and who have tried to convince me there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Nonetheless, a jury found Oscar guilty on numerous counts and he will be sentenced for his crimes beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, May 9, at San Luis Obispo Superior Court. He faces a minimum of 64 years and a maximum of 183 years in prison.

I noted the fact of his recent conviction in a Facebook post, suggesting that it would serve the community well to begin a dialog about how we might in the future protect our children from others who wish them harm: “Dead silence in Cayucos about predators in our midst. When do we start the conversation about how to protect our sons and daughters?”

I got the following comment from the wife of someone who worked with Oscar at the Cayucos Fire Department: “Stacey, you need to get all the facts before you lash out.”

I responded to this effect: “What are the facts? Let’s hear them, especially since the court that convicted Oscar, and Oscar himself, might be interested, if the facts can show that he’s not guilty.” She deleted her comment.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been scolded or corrected after mentioning Oscar’s arrest and conviction, as if there were details I should know—such as he was in love, or the underaged girl was a tramp.

At Schooner’s, soon after Oscar’s arrest, a friend of his told me over beer that Oscar really loved this girl. He was protecting her, as a good fireman should.

“You really don’t know what you’re talking about, dude,” he said, as if my mentioning the news of Oscar’s arrest had put me in the wrong. I had mentioned only the facts of the case as reported in local news media, which basically was a rewrite of the district attorney’s press release on the subject.

Maybe I didn’t know the whole story, I responded, but the court would find out whether he really loved this girl, or was using and abusing her. In any case, I added, the fact that she was underage might have been clue enough for Oscar to leave her alone. So, why didn’t he? And why didn’t those who know Oscar, and who still defend him, warn him that he was treading on thin ice? Or, for chrissake, why didn’t they report him?

Well, came the response, love knows no bounds and people do what they must when they fall for someone. Perhaps, I said, but the law is pretty clear, even for firemen, regarding sexual behavior between adults and minors. Oscar crossed the line. Now, he’s guilty of rape.

I respect and understand friendship and loyalty, but these qualities, as I’ve known them, would never, in their best form, tolerate or quietly condone the abuse of a minor or elder, regardless of whether their friend was in love or his victim a tramp. His actions were reprehensible and cannot be defended on any grounds that I know.

I’d give less consideration to defending one who has been deemed a predator, a menace to the community, and put more focus on the victims who have suffered from their abuse. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice.com.

Remembering Charlie Mitchell: Comin’ atcha!

When I first met Charlie Mitchell, he seemed bigger than life. He was larger than life. He’d look people in the eye, size them up in a wink, extend his hand in friendship, find out how things were going. He drove a big truck with a shit-howdy smile and hat, and everyone in town knew who he was. Charlie, after suffering from a massive stroke several years ago, died at his home in Cayucos, Calif., March 17, 2016. He was born in San Luis Obispo in May 1931 and grew up in Gorda, Cambria, and Cayucos. Dell Franklin and I caught up with him in early 2006, and sat with him at his home to talk about his life. We ran his story as a Rogue of the Month feature in the February 2006 edition of The Rogue Voice. This is what he told us.

—Stacey Warde

A marvelously happy, unspoiled and uncomplicated man

Photo by Phil Klein

Photo by Phil Klein

by Dell Franklin

Charlie Mitchell, septuagenarian, in Western shirt, cowboy boots, and Levis®, has more ants in his pants than a row of teenagers in baggy pants and hooded sweatshirts lollygagging at the seawall in Cayucos. Old School? Not Charlie. Change is inevitable, he says, but he deals with it, like it or not, keeping his attitude, as always, positive, cheerful, exuberant, and youthful.

Charlie Mitchell is a rowdy, unapologetically profane, ass-kicking, barn-dancing, hay-bucking, pigskin-hauling kid in a 74-year-old body that has escaped eight close calls with death (he was nearly electrocuted), undergone a knee replacement, and owns a gizzard that finally, after sixty years of hell-fire social imbibing, has put a stop to his drinking.

“I started out when I was around twelve,” he says. “Haven’t had a drink in a month now. The old pancreas brought me to my knees, and the Doc said, no more. What the hell, if I can’t do it, I ain’t gonna miss it. No use letting it get me down. Nobody had more fun than I did. I can still go out to the bars and jaw with the boys and dance and flirt with the girls. Hell yes, I can!” he shouts, almost lunging at me, slamming me on the shoulder to make his point. “Hell yes!”

Charlie started out in a little shack with his family in Gorda on the Big Sur coastline. At six, they moved to Cambria, in those days no more than a cow town. At Coast Union High School, Charlie starred in all sports, stood out as a phenom in football, and ran a hundred-yard dash in 9.7 seconds. The world record at the time was 9.4.

Charlie Mitchell played football at Coast Union High School in Cambria and went on to bump heads with some future NFL great while in college.

Charlie Mitchell played football at Coast Union High School in Cambria and went on to bump heads with future NFL greats while playing at St. Mary’s College.

Charlie’s athletic prowess landed him at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. At that time, Bay Area colleges like USF, Santa Clara and Cal Berkeley were hotbeds for great football players. Charlie played with NFL legend John Henry Johnson, an All-Pro San Francisco 49er running back and one of the roughest characters on the field, and one of the wildest, most colorful off the field. Both men became fast friends.

“John Henry was a black man from Pittsburg. He liked to party—a fueler and a chaser, always wanted to take me to those black bars in Oakland, rough places. Well, hell, I wanted to go, but if Henry found a woman, which he was bound to do, and left me by myself, a white boy like me, in those days, I was liable to get my throat cut. So I stayed in. John Henry, he was about as mean as they came — you try and tackle him and he’d whack you good with forearm shiver, no straight arm. Helluva ball player.”

Charlie played against future Hall of Famers and NFL legends like Ollie Matson, Bob St. Clair (who ate two-pound steaks raw) and Ed Brown. He was offered pro tryouts, but declined.

“Pro ball wasn’t a big deal in those days. Hell, it wasn’t like now, with TV and all, where they were after you to turn pro. I just played to play. I quit St. Mary’s and played JC ball. I got married to Iona at twenty and went in the Navy and played some service ball before they sent me over to Korea on a destroyer escort.

“No big deal. I was no hero. I was just like a lotta guys. But those escorts, they really got bounced around. The seas got pretty rough and if you didn’t have a strong stomach you were in big trouble. Some of them boys were sick all the time. I didn’t like the service, but it didn’t hurt me, either. I’m glad I served.”

From working odd jobs all over the county, and for his dad, mostly on farms and ranches around Cayucos and Cambria, Charlie earned the reputation as a kick-ass worker. Later, he honed his skills as a heavy equipment operator/engineer, running loaders, scrapers, blades, etc. He worked for Madonna and various companies and helped build most of the county roads. He ran heavy equipment for 40 years.

In between this time, in the hurly-burly days when Morro Bay was a major fishing harbor and a sort of last outpost secluded from civilized society in San Luis Obispo, Charlie bought the notorious Happy Jack’s Saloon, known by fishermen and roughnecks up and down the coast and throughout the Valley as a place to raise holy hell and engage in intense fisticuffs,

Having worked Happy Jack’s myself for eight years, I was interested in comparing notes with Charlie.

“Yeah, I had a few fights. Hell, you had to,” he says, shoulders straightening, eyes suddenly agleam, and he paces like a seasoned panther in his kitchen. “I had to park a few guys who got too fueled up and challenged me. I never looked for fights. But when you own a bar and work it, guys are gonna come after you just for the hell of it. Sooner or later you had to go outside with ‘em. That’s the way we did it—go outside and settle things. Well, this one guy, I think he was from the Valley, he kept pestering me, wanting to fight, and so we went outside, and I parked him pretty good, went back in the bar to wait on trade and have a drink, and he comes back in, not satisfied, so we went back out and this time I really parked him good, and he didn’t come back in, and one of his friends told everybody in the bar that you better not mess with ol’ Charlie. After that they pretty much left me alone. I loved that bar. Had more fun. Now my wife, Iona, she pretty much ran the bar. Did the bookkeepin’. Took care of everything. There wasn’t much she couldn’t do. Run a home. Run a business. Great wife and mother. Clear out a bar…”

“Kind of a pioneer woman, Charlie?”

He lunges at me, pounds my shoulder. “Damn right! Married fifty years to Iona. What a woman!”

“What was the lowest point in your life?”

“Losing Iona four years ago. A tough time. Hell, I miss her yet.”

“What was the highest point in your life?”

“Marryin’ Iona in 1952. She was my high school sweetheart. I think about her every day. But you gotta go on. I got a family and a ranch. I keep busy. We got forty, fifty cattle. I know a lotta people. You gotta keep living, and I aim to do so.”

“You’re known as a guy who likes to spice up his conversation with a little cussing…”

“Goddamn right! Now, when Iona was alive, she didn’t mind my cussing, but there were a couple words she wouldn’t let me say, and I tried not to say ‘em.”

“Local legend is, you could stand next to a bar and, with no run, leap up and land on the bar — a four-feet standing jump.”

“Goddamn right!” he smacks my shoulder. “I made more goddamn money jumping on bars. I made other people money. People from the coast and the Valley, they’d put up money that I couldn’t do it. I did it about ten years ago but I had to cheat a little, grabbing the bar. These days I can’t jump much more than a foot. That’s still a pretty good jump, considering I’ve had a knee replacement.”

He shrugs. “At this stage of the game, I gotta admit I can’t do things like I could. I can’t go parking a guy if he’s outta line. No more fueling. But I can still have a damn good time. I had a good time New Year’s Eve drinking straight soda.”

“Anything you missed out on in life?”

“Hell no!”

Charlie Mitchell roars through town in a shiny big pickup, wearing a cowboy hat, and a big smile. Lots of guys these days do the same, but most of it is show. Charlie’s the real thing, no drugstore cowboy. He is testimony to the kind of man who grew up with very little and made more than a lot out of his life. Though born into the Great Depression, he never considers it a big deal, just something that everybody dealt with. He thinks Cayucos and Cambria are too big these days and can’t stand driving to SLO. He was happiest when fishing and hunting in this area as a kid, when there was nothing, not even a freeway to link Cayucos with civilization. He was grateful for work, worked hard, and the hard work developed his already indestructible constitution and transformed him into a man’s man: a marvelously happy, unspoiled and uncomplicated man, who is possibly cagier than he puts on.

When you run into Charlie around town, he always shakes your hand right off, and if you’re not prepared, he might, without meaning to, break your hand with a grip that indicates inner adrenalin strength few men can match, whether they lift barbells or not.

“You a meat-eater, Charlie?”

“Goddamn right!”

“What if the Doc says no more meat?”

“Bullshit! He can go straight to hell. I eat meat every day. I LOVE meat. I’m goin’ down swingin’.” §

Graveside services were held for Charlie on Monday, March 21, at the Cayucos Cemetery. Dell Franklin continues to write from his home in Cayucos and posts original content at dellfranklin.com. Stacey Warde is publisher of TheRogueVoice.com

A happy death?

Mental illness and threats of suicide

CITY LIFE.KEVIN LAWRENCEBy Stacey Warde

“If one of these dogs dies I’m going to make an art project out of this ceiling by blowing my fucking brains out,” Kevin said.

He waved his hand with a flourish, like a painter, above and around the living room where he kept a double-sized mattress on the floor behind a couch facing a big flat screen on the wall where he watched the news and endless rounds of music documentaries and concerts.

He slept on the floor, he said, because it was easier for him, the dogs, and the women who ventured to sleep with him, to crash there rather than climb into bed in another room. And the big screen was always turned on.

We had just finished smoking a joint in this living room in a house he rented in Cayucos, and began trimming some of the marijuana he hauled out from a back room dedicated to an indoor grow operation, a typical set-up with lights and pop-up grow tent for up to 12 plants.

CITY LIFE.KEVIN LAWRENCE mugHe grew pot, he said, to bring in a little extra cash flow. His disability payments weren’t enough to cover his expenses, which consisted mostly of caring for his dogs, dining out and women he met on the internet. He grew decent weed and I helped him on a number of occasions, trimming, getting his product ready for market.

Jeesus! You’re slow,” he said. “That’s the best you can trim? I could hire a retard who’s faster than that.”

“Dude, I’m a bit older than you. These fingers don’t work so well anymore.” Invariably, one of his three dogs would come around the coffee table upon which we worked to get some attention. He brushed up against one of the big 32-gallon bags of finished trim on the floor and put his head on my lap.

“He’s the sweetest, dog,” Kevin said, snipping away. “Always looking for love. Watch out he doesn’t jump up on the couch behind you!” And sure enough, the dog climbed up and squeezed himself between me and the couch, nuzzling his head into my back.

His dogs were his best friends, like beloved foster kids he’d raised, and had been for many years, through the best and worst years, through the prosperous porn years when, he claimed, he made millions and owned a lakefront home where he and the dogs could swim and play all day; and through the devastating loss of everything he ever owned—except the dogs—through a bitter divorce, which jaded him.

“My ex is a fucking bitch, dude. I gave her everything she could ever want and she just turned around and fucked me in the ass with it.”

He had a medical with one of his dogs, trained as a service dog and companion, who wore a vest indicating to all concerned Kevin’s most serious health issue—a mental illness that he freely admitted.

“I’m fucking crazy, dude, and this place is only making it worse.”

Kevin’s not the first Cayucos resident with a mental illness. There have been several. He was refreshingly honest about his, even though at times it got unbearable to hear him talk about how fucked up his life had become, how he’d gladly kill himself, and eventually would if he didn’t get out of this town quick. The only thing that stopped him, he said, were his dogs.

“I’ve gotta stick around and take care of these knuckleheads.”

He talked of moving back, with some desperation, to Santa Monica, where he had “true” friends and the world felt more familiar and real, less parochial and small and elitist and phony than Cayucos.

“This town’s so fucking small, dude,” he’d say, followed by a litany of complaints about the weakness of some men here, and the eagerness of some women, including their wives, who would come to his door in the middle of the night to fuck.

“If you don’t like it so much,” I said, “move! Go someplace where you can be happy!”

“As soon as I get enough money, I will. I’m fucking outta here.”

He loved the macabre, and the deep-felt poetry of the outcast and the malcontent and proudly displayed his parrot-sized tattoo of Charles Bukowski’s grizzled face on his shoulder and arm. He’d share it with anyone who showed an interest in the author.

“You like Bukowski?” he’d ask, rolling up his sleeve. “Here, check this out.”

He scanned the internet for possible hookups with women half his age. Periodically, he’d start an online “relationship” with one of these various exotic and sexy women who sent nude photos, and long, heart-felt notes of endearment, and eventually requests for money. He showed me the Facebook account of one of his twenty-something lady friends.

“Check her out! She’s gorgeous, fucking beautiful,” he said, pointing at his computer screen. “Can you believe it? I can’t believe a girl like that would be interested in a guy like me, my age, fucked up as I am. She’s asked me to pick her up in LA next week. All I gotta do is send her five-hundred bucks.”

Each one, of course, was a scam. He’d lost hundreds of dollars sending money to fake Facebook accounts claiming to be women who said they couldn’t wait to meet him in person. I tried to warn him, “Be careful,” I’d say, “save your money.”

I never quite knew what to believe from Kevin, who kept busy with a variety of schemes, always looking for an angle to make some extra money, or score a fuck-buddy, or even a steady soul mate. He never quit, although he regularly threatened to end it all by blowing his brains out.

He had a generous spirit, offered to help when he could. “I’ve got a route of about four or five mow-and-blow accounts,” he told me once, when I needed to earn some quick cash. “They’re shitty accounts and I hate fucking doing them. They’re yours, if you want them.”

We used to meet at Top Dog coffee shop in Cayucos for occasional conversation. He’d spend hours there sitting at the bar, eating a bagel, talking to the baristas, always pushing the limits of propriety with come-ons and sexual innuendos, never doubtful for a moment that one day one of them would come home with him.

Eventually, the owners built a barrier at the bar, making it impossible for whoever sat there to converse with the baristas. “What’s up with the wall?” I asked one day.

“The owners put it there so that guy, Kevin, won’t harass the baristas anymore.”

I helped him compose a letter to Bukowski’s widow, asking her to consider collaborating with him as a promoter, and website facilitator, of her late husband’s work. He’d developed other sites, he told her, including a dating website aimed at locals, which he hoped would go national, and a porn site.

He had the contacts too to make it happen, he said, and if he could just land this gig with Bukowski’s widow, he’d be set. “If she’d agree to something like fifty-thousand a year, I’d be just fine.”

He delivered the letter through an attorney, a lifelong and dear friend in LA. We never heard back from Bukowski’s widow. The attorney, whom Kevin considered one of his closest pals and confidants, who frequently visited Cayucos to commiserate with Kevin, committed suicide in February, 2014.

“That fucker! I was supposed to be the one who killed himself.”

It was a devastating blow and he appeared to decline even faster. I saw him less and less, and we talked less frequently as he became embittered and morbid, and angry at everyone in town, including me, just another Cayucos phony.

Sooner or later, Kevin figured, one of his schemes would take, and get him out of the month-to-month doldrums of collecting disability checks. He couldn’t wait to relocate, and all his energy went into moving back to LA, where at least he could tell the true colors of his neighbors.

I felt bad for him, didn’t know what to say and wished him well, not quite able to decipher truth from fiction any more. Kevin’s world, it seemed, had turned into a dark and morbid nightmare.

CITY LIFE.KEVIN.Rapidfire

Rapidfire band members: Bill Bailey (Axl Rose™), Kevin Lawrence, Mike Hamernik, Chuck Gordon.

His most recent project, before moving away from Cayucos, was his lawsuit against Bill Bailey, later known as Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses fame. They had performed together in a band called Rapidfire, Kevin claimed, before Bailey made it big.

He had filed suit to make public some unreleased recordings, an EP, Ready to Rumble,  that he and Axl made together. His plan was to turn a mint selling the new releases of Axl’s early, pre-Guns ‘N Roses career. He guessed millions, if only Axl would let them go.

“Axl’s being an asshole about it,” he claimed, “won’t release the tapes, so I’m suing the fucker.”

I listened with half interest, not knowing whether any of it was true, but wanting something good to happen for Kevin. HIs much-heralded Cayucos conquests, frequent online disappointments, and braggadocio over and scorn for the community, jaded me.

“That’s great, Kevin. I hope you it works out for you.”

Meanwhile, he pursued his usual routine, mostly sleeping in late, grabbing coffee mid-afternoon, growing pot and taking his dogs to the pool for exercise. Occasionally, he’d swing down to the Tavern or the Old Creek Ale House and inform anyone who would listen about his early days playing lead guitar for Axl, and how fans would be blown away by the quality of the tracks.

“They’re gonna shit, dude. When they hear this stuff, they’re gonna shit their pants. Axl’s early work, never heard before. Do you have any idea how much that shit’s gonna be worth?”

Toward the end, he seldom washed, his hair dirty and matted, pugnacious face grimy and oiled, but claimed he was regularly getting laid at all hours of the day, nearly every day of the week.

Eventually, he went back to Southern California, where he hoped to connect with old friends, perhaps with Bukowski’s widow to offer his services. Not long after he left Cayucos, however, in January, Kevin Lawrence died from heart failure and pneumonia. He was 51.

I learned of his death through an online heavy metal magazine, Metal Sludge, that confirmed, in fact, Kevin’s claim to fame, that he’d cut an unreleased album with Axl Rose.

At first, word of his death came as a shock only because he’d convinced me that one day he’d kill himself. It was just a matter of time. After one of his dogs died and he hadn’t taken his own life, he said: “I’ve got these two other guys to look after. But I guarantee you that when they go, I go.”

Death by pneumonia seemed the most artless way to go, at least for a guy who wanted to exit with a bang, for someone who wasn’t ashamed to admit his mental illness, and had a plan for how he was going to end his days.

I still have the book he loaned me, “A Happy Death,” by Albert Camus. I never finished the book. I doubt that death through pneumonia is a happy death. I wish his had been a happy death, but who ever heard of a happy death?

I would rather he had taken his life in the dramatic way that he first described, even though it made me sick to hear him say it. I can’t bear to think the real suffering of slowly, painfully losing your breath and drowning in your own fluids as the world closes in and turns dark. He deserved better, even if he suffered, as he freely admitted, from a serious mental illness. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice. Comments, inquiries and contributions are always welcome. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com.

Central Coast assholes

A day in the life of a retired cab driver

CITY LIFE.crazy_old_man

This area, slow and tranquil as it is, can be deceiving. There are pockets of hermits, social outcasts, borderline outlaws, and anarchists living in sheds, motor homes and old dilapidated ranch cabins a few miles inland from the beach.

by Dell Franklin

I was cruising along the frontage road in north Morro Bay, bordering Highway 1, around 10 in the morning, having just hit the tennis ball for over an hour with a friend, and headed toward Spencer’s Supermarket, on my way home to Cayucos, when a very big Army green military-type van was suddenly coming up fast on me, and hugged my tail with an over-sized, rather menacing looking bumper. Driving a 13-year-old Toyota, I glimpsed in my rearview mirror at the driver, who owned a large, bulbous face and wild grey hair sprouting in various directions, like a nest of snakes. He was so close I feared he was going to ram me, and I was driving close to the speed limit—40mph.

He seemed pissed off, and I figured it was my KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD and GREENPEACE bumper stickers that had him riled. I’m pretty sure he saw me eyeing him in my rearview mirror, and he was kind of snarling, his mouth crooked, teeth flashing like some sort of carnivorous feral animal on the prowl. I guessed him to be around 55 or 60.

I kept my eye on him all the way down the road, slowing to 35 the last quarter mile, because I was not about to be intimidated by a bully, and he stayed right on my ass as I turned right into Spencer’s massive parking lot beside Taco Temple Restaurant and tooled slowly toward some parking spots while the van veered past me and then cut in front of me and wove between gaps of parked cars and halted in a spot. I took my time and parked a row over and sat and watched him get out of his car and head in long strides toward the market, eyeing me the whole time as I sat in my car with an extremely malignant, nodding, knowing glower. He wore black Army boots like those we wore in the 1960s, cut-off cargo pants with multi pockets, and a tank-top. He looked work strong, probably three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier and 10 years younger than me, and he was still twisting his big head of shoulder-length snakes in my direction as he ducked into the market.

There were big canisters on his vehicle, meaning he was probably some kind of survivalist living in the hills, growing crops and weed and sitting on a porch with a vicious guard dog and a rifle, and shooting anything that moved when he wasn’t hunting wild pigs to barbecue and share with his beast. This area, slow and tranquil as it is, can be deceiving. There are pockets of hermits, social outcasts, borderline outlaws, and anarchists living in sheds, motor homes and old dilapidated ranch cabins a few miles inland from the beach, who come in every week or so for provisions.

I walked toward the market, holding a biscuit for a dog named Cinnamon who sat mornings with a bunch of ancient military veterans wearing ball caps signifying their outfits when they were in wars and gave the biscuit to the dog before entering. Inside, I headed straight to the bakery to secure a muffin to have with my coffee and LA Times when I got home to my dog, Wilbur. After securing my muffin, I wandered toward the deli section, looking for something special in case I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and ran into Cloyd, an old pal who used to frequent Happy Jack’s Saloon, where I tended bar for eight years back in the 1990s.

Pudgy and grey, Cloyd has clerked in a Morro Bay liquor store for 25 years at least, lives frugally in a mobile home, takes a walk on the beach every other day, and otherwise lives a life of quiet, cautious contentedness. We exchanged greetings and questions as to our health, and he was telling me how it’s cheaper to get his blood pressure medicine through the VA than Medicare when the driver of the Army-mobile was suddenly directly in my face, inches away, as Cloyd, not a swift-reacting person, quickly moved away to a safe position.

The snake-head held a small basket for his purchases, while I held my cloth grocery bag. Up close, as he gazed into my eyes, I recognized crazed hostility. He tilted his head this way and that, as if to further appraise me. Cloyd peered at me in a manner questioning what was going on between us. Shoppers skirted us, aroused, concerned.

The guy’s eyes seemed to glitter and scoured every pore in my face, and then, shaking his head sadly, as if dealing with a hopeless idiot, he said, loud enough for Cloyd and everybody in the vicinity to hear, “You cut me off.” Before I could retort, he said, “You’re an asshole.” He flashed me one last look of disgust and contempt and walked off in those long strides.

Cloyd stepped over. “What was THAT all about?

“Hell if I know.”

I headed for the meat section. He was down there, too, looking over the burger meat. When he finished, I got my burger meat and some American cheese and frozen French fries. I spotted him heading to the check-out line. I was done, but I waited until he was out the door, then checked my stuff and walked toward my car, saw him standing arms-folded against his dusty, dirt-encrusted Army-mobile, waiting, watching me.

I got in my car. I took my time. He stared at me—ugly person out of an Appalachian horror movie. I started up. I drove slowly, in a crawl, turned down the lane where he stood against his Army-mobile, watched him straighten up as I approached. I slowed almost to a stop, rolled down my window, and issued him the finger, making sure to thrust it at him with conviction and hold it a few seconds to make my point, and rolled slowly away at a snail’s pace.

He came unglued, shook his fists and cursed me violently, spittle flying from his trap. He challenged me to get out and fight, ran after me in an awkward, unathletic gait as I cruised away staying just ahead of him while he foamed at the mouth and threatened my life. I pulled away very slowly, my finger still out the window, gazing at him in my side mirror as he finally halted, obviously winded.

He was waving his arms at me and delivering the finger like a madman as I turned onto the frontage road, my finger still out the window. Soon as I was out of view, I hit the gas. §

Dell Franklin also puts his fingers to good use as a writer, blogger and commentator from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog Wilbur. For more of Dell’s original writing, visit his website, dellfranklin.com, where this article first appeared.

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 Voice.com. He can be reached at roguewarde@gmail.com.

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.”

“Shhhh!”

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.”

“Shhhh!”

“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.

“No!”

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: dellfranklin.com