Portrait of a Young Cayucos Artist

May 2, 2022

Editor’s Note: The next series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Seaside Cayucos,” to be published bi-weekly, features notes, thoughts, and opinions from an original American voice: author Dell Franklin.

Franklin’s memoir, “Life on the Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


Kevin and his partner, Danielle, live in their personally remodeled, restored, and brought back from the dead trailer on an old dairy farm resembling a Garden of Eden about a mile inland from Cayucos. Kevin, an architect and furniture maker capable of building his own house, went to school at Cal Poly but learned what he wanted to learn by studying art in Florence (Firenze), Italy, where he saw Europe on a bicycle, motorcycle, its legs, and in short, an education in itself that helped shape his vision of the world he wants to create for himself and his like-minded woman.

“She’s a woman,” Kevin, a thin man with straight blond hair, maintains in a concise, measured tone of voice. “She is not a child. We are growing together as man and woman. It is not easy these days to become a man and a woman. There has to be a commitment that I think is missing among today’s young people.”

Kevin replaced the trailer’s walls and ceiling with blonde birch plywood that floods the entire interior with soft, subdued sunshine. It is obvious that he chooses his materials by instinct, by feeling, and not by the trite clichés that dominate the construction of houses in this era by people with endless money but without real feelings or instinct, which allows cutting architects of cookies build vanilla homes.

Each item in the trailer has an individualistic undertone, and to them it’s a subtlety that one discovers only after sitting down and looking around.

Against one wall is a table with the herbs, crystals, oils and holistic nostrums compiled by Danielle, who runs a yoga/wellness collective in Cambria.

The chairs and sofa were built by Kevin.

Every appliance has been installed by Kevin.

“And there’s no TV,” I say.

“No,” Kevin says, his eyes telling me there will never be one.

We sit and talk, and when I ask him about his version of the American dream, Kevin says, “To me, most people who pursue the American dream seem to be walking into a trap. The dream is achieved at some point in the future, if it is achieved at all, as you enslave yourself in your youth to a system that practically controls you. My dream is right now. This little strip of paradise is my dream. My job, building furniture and various parts of houses, to live in, is a dream. It is like a reversal of the usual path, the structure that we are prepared to follow.”

He pauses. “Spending an hour here, soaking in the tranquility, looking over the hills at the cows, this is a dream I enjoy every day.”

We visit his spacious outdoor work area, where he shows me a state-of-the-art power saw built in Germany in the 1970s; it cannot be duplicated and is superior to anything on the market today. He spent time searching for it, something he is an expert in, so that the building materials he seeks add to the authenticity of his creations.

There’s a welding area, a long table surrounded by tools that fit your style as a working artist.

Kevin wears John Lennon granny glasses and usually a beanie. His jeans are cut roughly at the ankles and dirty from the extractions of his work. As he leads me into his garden, he says to himself, pointing to an old shack-like structure on the premises: “That building was built in an era when thought and creativity, even metaphysics, entered the structures. That is always my concern. Thought and creativity when building anything.”

“A lot of the architecture I see today looks pretty weathered,” I say.

“Lack of individuality”.

Kevin is not outwardly critical of what he sees in this life, he’s not vindictive of the establishment, but he knows where he stands, and it’s not what’s going on in America right now. While many people complain about not being able to afford self-expression, Kevin maintains this lifestyle quietly, without a hint of arrogance, but with the joy of minding his own business.

He points to three apparently withered trees that have produced a bonanza of delicious nuts.

“It took me a while to find this place, and I feel like, after moving around a lot and drifting around, and living out of my old truck, I found a place that I hope to be at least for a good amount of time.”

We move to his garden, which straddles a creek that runs under a bridge that leads to the milk barn compound, an abandoned and dilapidated old Victorian house built of redwood and a few other structures. The rectangular garden, which Kevin tilled by hand, is surrounded by a fence at eye level. In time, he and Danielle will dine in this garden.

“It took me five days to get all the weeds out.”

“You built the fence.”

“Yes. Right now I’m making the door to get in, so deer and coyotes don’t get in. Coyotes come out at dusk.”

And the deer?

“Deer everywhere.” Look towards the creek. “I’m going to build a terrace next to the garden, over the stream, so we can sit out there, eat, have a drink, think.”

“Do you think people who live in their McMansions in rich enclaves have what you have?”

“No. I love that everything here has my individual stamp, as well as Danielle’s. I love the seclusion here, but I also love that four miles away I can visit Cayucos in the morning and hang out with my surfer friends ( Kevin is an expert surfer) and the crew around the boardwalk. That’s my social life. That’s where I get my coffee in the mornings. Being on the beach is something I have to have. The peace, the serenity. I grew up on the south beach.

I’m thinking, “How many people live their passions? This is such a talented and motivated person who can build his own environment with his hands and brain, he is in the process of doing it as a young artist and instead of working at a job, raising a family, worrying about getting ahead and owner of a house and the accumulation of decorations that accompany it, is settled and, somehow, in his own way, with a minimalist approach, serene and accomplished, if not satisfied”.

Who in a lifetime achieves that?

And he’s only 25 years old.

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