Portrait of a Cayucos Artist as a Young Man

May 2, 2022

Editor’s Note: The next series, “Life in Radiically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” which is posted biweekly, features the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin.

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


Kevin and his companion, Danielle, live in his personally remodeled, refurbished, and recovered trailer on a former dairy farm resembling a Garden of Eden, about a mile inland from Cayucos. Kevin, an architect and cabinet maker capable of building his own house, went to school in Cal Poly, but learned what he wanted to learn by studying art in Florence (Firenze), Italy, where he saw Europe on a bicycle, motorcycle , his legs, and through the thumb – an education in itself that helped shape his view of the world he wants to create for himself and his like-minded wife.

“She’s a woman,” Kevin, a slender man with straight blond hair, says in a succinct, measured tone. ‘She’s not a girl. We grow together as man and woman. It is not easy to become a man and a woman these days. There has to be a commitment that I think is missing from today’s young people.”

Kevin has replaced the trailer’s walls and ceiling with blond birch that drenches the entire interior with soft, muted sunshine. Obviously, he chooses his materials by instinct, by feel, and not by the tired clichés that dominate homebuilding in this era by people with endless supplies of money but no real feelings or instincts that allowed cookie cutter architects to build vanilla houses.

Each item in the trailer has an individualistic touch, and to them is a subtlety that you only discover after sitting and looking around.

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

The chairs and sofa are built by Kevin.

Each device is 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, “Most people who chase the American dream seem to be falling into a trap. The dream is achieved sometime in the future – if at all – while you are toiling at it in your youth in a system that you more or less control. My dream is now. This little piece of paradise is my dream. My job, building furniture and different parts of houses, for a living, is a dream. It’s like a reversal of the usual path, the structure that we have to follow.”

He pauses. “Hanging out here for an hour, just enjoying the tranquility, up into the hills staring at the cows, this is a dream I enjoy every day.”

We visit his spacious open-air workspace, where he shows me a state-of-the-art electric saw built in Germany in the 1970s; it cannot be duplicated and is superior to anything currently on the market. He spent time unearthing them, something he is an expert at, so that the building materials he searches for contribute to the authenticity of his creations.

There is a welding room, a long table surrounded by tools that fit his style of a working artist.

Kevin wears John Lennon granny glasses and usually a beanie. His jeans are rough cut at the ankles and filthy from extractions from his work. As he leads me to his garden, he says, pointing to an old cabin-like structure on the property: “That building was built in an era when thought and creativity, even metaphysics, went into structures. That’s always my concern. Thinking and creativity when building something.”

“A lot of the architecture I see today looks kind of tired,” I say.

“Lack of individuality.”

Kevin is not outwardly critical of what he sees in this life, is not vindictive on the establishment, but he knows where he stands, and it is not with what is currently happening in America. While so many people lament that they are unable to express themselves, Kevin maintains this lifestyle quietly, without a hint of arrogance, but taking pleasure in doing his business.

He points to three apparently withered trees that have yielded an abundance of delicious walnuts.

“It took me a while to find this place, and I feel that after moving and floating around a lot, and living in my old van, I have found a place where I expect to be for a long time.”

We go to his garden, which extends over a creek that seeps under a bridge leading to the milking shed – an old, abandoned and dilapidated Victorian built of redwood and a few other buildings. The rectangular garden, which Kevin has worked by hand, is enclosed by a fence at eye level. In time, he and Danielle will eat from this garden.

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

“You built the fence.”

“Yes. Right now I’m making the door to go in, to keep out deer and coyotes. The coyotes come out at dusk.”

“And deer?”

“Deer everywhere.” He stares at the stream. “I’m going to build a patio next to the yard, above the creek, so we can sit there, eat, have a drink, think.”

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

“No. I love that everything here has my individual stamp, as does Danielle’s. I love the isolation here, but I also love that I can visit Cayucos six kilometers away in the morning and hang out with my surf friends (Kevin is an experienced surfer) and the crew hanging around the sea wall. That’s my social life. That’s where I have my coffee mornings. Being on the beach is something I must have. The calm, the serenity. I grew up on the beach to the south.”

I think, “How many people live their passions? This is a person who is so talented and motivated that he can build his own environment with his hands and his brain, and that as a young artist is busy, and instead of working at a job, starting a family, worrying about moving forward. and he owns a house and its stock of props, he is settled, and somehow, in his own way, with a minimalist approach, serene and satisfied, if not content.”

Who in his life achieves that?

And he is only 25 years old.

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