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The king of Moonlight Beach

And the other outcasts of Encinitas

"I enjoy a cold beer or two after work — except that I don't like to drink in bars." - Image by David Diaz
"I enjoy a cold beer or two after work — except that I don't like to drink in bars."

Anyone not familiar with the curious habits of Louis Ortiz might mistake this rasty-looking character rooting through the fire pit at Moonlight State Beach for just another beach wino out on his dawn patrol, rummaging for a taste of his favorite eye opener. “Crazy Louie," as he has been known in these parts for years, certainly looks the part with his wild hair and toothless smile, dressed like Sgt. Pepper on a three-day binge, scratching at his scruffy beard, laughing madly at the world from behind his rose-colored glasses.

Louie bought a street sweeper, completely rebuilt it, and even painted it yellow-green, the color of the city's fire engines. But he found he couldn't afford the liability insurance for the sweeper.

But those who know Louie understand that he isn’t foraging for his breakfast. More than most people, Louie understands that this is not a perfect world, and without constant maintenance,things tend to fall apart: fire pits fill up with trash, the streets turn to litter, teeth rot, sanity teeters into lunacy, and old friends bored with life drink themselves into oblivion. Spending a few hours every week bagging trash is Louie’s way of putting a little order back into the world. He picks the cans and bottles out of the fire pit, sifts through the sand for broken glass, and even gathers up cigarette filters so the pigeons won’t choke on them.

Of course, it’s partly theatrics, too. Louie’s a natural clown, a connoisseur of absurdity, and he loves to see the look of consternation on tourists’ faces when they try to figure out why somebody who appears to be a street tramp would be picking up their litter.

In 1970 when Louie first showed up at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, not many locals would have given this hard-drinking, wild-eyed, eighteen-year-old more than a few years to enjoy his buffoonery. But part of the paradox of Louie is that after sixteen years of beach life, drinking and smoking pot almost every day, he may have lost a few teeth, added a few pounds to his belly, and acquired a few scars, but all in all, he doesn’t seem to be much older than the day he got here.

Just about everybody who has lived in Encinitas very long has some favorite anecdote about Louie. Usually these tales involve Louie using his talents as a buffoon to make a mockery of the customary rules of civilized behavior. To hear these tales told, you would think the ancient mythological Trickster had been reincarnated in the form of an illiterate thirty-four-year-old Puerto Rican named Louis Ortiz. It was not uncommon, during the prime of Louie’s youth, to see him tear off his clothes and scramble bare-assed up the palm tree at Moonlight Beach. Or streak the volleyball court during a tournament. Public nudity, he found, could always be relied upon to offend and outrage at least somebody.

Once, in a more philosophical mood, he chained his ankle to an old steel lamp post he found somewhere and for several days afterward was seen dragging it around town. The symbolism of the act was never known to anyone but Louie.

Another time, during one of the worst rainstorms of the year, Louie acquired a large patio umbrella, corralled a half-dozen of the most lethargic drunks in town, and paraded them through the streets of Encinitas, under the protection of the umbrella. It was hard to say who looked the most startled, the town’s residents and shop owners who peered out of their windows at Louie’s bizarre production or the drunks under the umbrella.

Some people in town recall Louie’s association with a drifter named “Flower,” a Vietnam vet who wore a long beard, always dressed in flower-patterned clothes, and refused to speak to anyone. Louie practically adopted Flower, and the two developed an entire language based on whistling.

Often Louie’s sense of humor has conflicted with the law. Louie says it's impossible to estimate how many times he's been arrested, but friends say it might be as many as fifty. He’s almost grown fond of the Vista jail — his home away from home — and says his favorite meal there is fried liver. After years of being hauled before the judge to explain his persistent habit of drinking in public, Louie has fine-tuned a speech that he delivers in his happy-go-lucky way: “Your honor. I'm just a working guy," Louie says. “Like a lot of people, I enjoy a cold beer or two after work — except that I don't like to drink in bars. Bars have a bad influence on people. I like to be outside, your honor, under the sun and moon and stars. I've traveled all over the country, and the only place I've ever been arrested for drinking in public is Encinitas. But this is my home. What do you want me to do, your honor, move away from here? Dig a hole and live in the ground? Where can an honest, hard-working guy go to drink a beer in peace around here? Just tell me, and I’ll go there."

Louie has never harmed anyone, he doesn't own a car, and has never been arrested for drunk driving. He insists he doesn’t have a drinking problem, only a drinking-in-public problem. Taking all this into consideration — plus the fact that Louie does hold down at least two part-time jobs — the judge usually listens to Louie’s speech, gives him a fine of fifty to a hundred dollars, and tells him to get out of court. And by that afternoon, Louie is back at the beach, enjoying a beer with his friends, while he recounts the highlights of his day in court.

About nine o'clock, when the morning sun begins to warm the sand, a few of Louie's beach buddies emerge from the shrubbery and alleys to help him in his morning maintenance program. Besides Louie there is Ralph, a thin, redheaded fellow' who has lived in Encinitas all his life and for years has made his home just a few hundred feet from Moonlight Beach in a bamboo-and-palm thicket known as "Little Vietnam." Ralph has been arrested forty-four times for being drunk in public, though, as he says in his defense, “I was really only drunk about eight of those times."

There is Bob, an excitable, unemployed house painter from New Hampshire who heard about San Diego’s Riviera for the homeless before he’d even set foot in California. “Moonlight Beach is famous all over the country," he says.

There is Freddie, a long-time Moonlight local who, in spite of a cast on his leg, rides his rusted bicycle back and forth along the asphalt paths, tilting a battered radio to his car. Others come and go, too, curious to see what theatrics Louie might have planned for the day.

After a while, somebody lights up a joint, and the Moonlight crew takes a smoke break. They take their places on top of the “musical round table,” which Louie and his friends built from an old phone cable spool and three railroad ties. The round table, bleached gray with the sun and salt air, is the center of their social world, and the ground all around it has been stained black, like some ancient midden deposit, with the charcoal and grease from a thousand celebrations. Its top and legs have been carved with the names of an almost endless number of beach people who have whiled away their days at the table, drinking wine, playing music, and telling stories.

“I remember when everybody used to bring their instruments down to the musical round table on Sunday” Ralph recalls in his quiet voice. “We’d be barbecuing hot dogs on the fine. We had one very special brother, Vicente, who played the saxophone. He'd start at the top of the hill and march down blowing New Orleans jazz. When he got to the bottom, he'd say, ‘Church services have started. What do you wanna hear?' ”

“Lorraine'd be singing in the bathroom,” Bob adds, exuberant with the memory. “That old bathroom had really great acoustics. I was bummed when they remodeled it”

“Remember the time we collected all that old wood when they tore down Seeman’s Lumber?” Louie says. “We built a bonfire that must have been fifty feet high.”

“The sheriff said we were gonna burn down the beach,” Ralph laughs. “How can you burn down a beach?”

“The firemen came to hose it down,” Louie says, “and everybody stood in the spray of the hoses and took a nice, warm, steamy shower.” He closes his eyes and lifts his hands to feel the warm spray.

“I think it was either Harold’s or Frenchy’s birthday,” Bob recalls. “Back in '74. We built a monster pyramid out of wood blocks from construction sites. It took us all day to build this thing because it kept caving in. I was standing on somebody’s shoulders when I put the last block in place, so it must have been ten, twelve feet tall. When night came, we lit that pyramid on fire, and you could see the glow for blocks. After it burned down, we raked the coals together and laid refrigerator grills over it. Tommy came down with cases of roasting chickens — must’ve been thirty chickens — and we started cooking them on the fire. There was an army of guys down here, and they all had their own chicken. Frenchy was playing his ragtime music, Louie was playing the spoons, somebody else was playing the harmonica.”

“Even Tommy’s dog had his own chicken,” Freddie remembers fondly.

“A sheriff told me once they used to use us for training, because they knew we were nonviolent,” Ralph says. “If they had some rookie who'd never busted anybody before, they’d bring him down to Moonlight and tell him, ‘Okay, wait until they get drunk, then go arrest them.’ That sheriff said I was the first person he ever put cuffs on, and he’s a lieutenant now.” Ralph swells with pride as he considers his contribution to the man’s career.

“At Christmastime one year, we put a wreath on the palm tree and hung colored lights on the bathroom,” Louie says. “We were gonna have a different decoration for every season: bunnies for Easter, a sun for summer, a harvest scene for fall.”

Louie arranged to have a friend cut two large Easter bunnies out of sheets of plywood; they painted one bunny pink and one bunny blue and hung them on the palm tree. But the state park rangers took offense at the blue bunny, which was mounted behind the pink bunny with a lusty leer on its face.

“They thought that was obscene,” Bob says scornfully. “After that they said we couldn’t have any more decorations.”

The group slouches into a morose silence as they ponder the days that were but can never be again. It’s the end of an era for the Moonlight Beach gang, and they know it. Last summer all the state beaches in North County began enforcing no-drinking regulations and an 11:00 p.m. curfew. Almost overnight, the new regulations ended a twenty-year tradition of day-and-night, nonstop drinking and partying at Moonlight Beach. For a while, all the transients from up and down the North Coast converged at Swami’s, a county-run beach at the north end of Cardiff, where drinking was allowed. But that only turned Swami’s into a ghetto, so a nodrinking regulation was quickly implemented there as well. The boys still try to evade the no-drinking law, playing a game Louie calls hide and seek. But the law is clearly winning, and the boys are growing more and more demoralized every day.

At Moonlight Beach, county work crews have hacked away the bamboo thicket at Little Vietnam, depriving Ralph and perhaps a half-dozen others of their homes. At the same time, a committee of local business and property owners sponsored a program to spruce up Moonlight’s long-neglected appearance. Their improvements included hauling in new beach sand, trimming the trees and shrubbery, building new walkways, and adding two new volleyball courts. Last summer the state parks department remodeled the old rest rooms, paved the old dirt parking lot on the bluff above the beach, and began charging beachgoers a three-dollar fee to park there.

Though Louie and his friends don’t disapprove of the cosmetic improvements to the beach — they have certainly done their share to keep the beach clean — they take strong exception to the no-drinking regulation, which they feel was just another “cosmetic” improvement, designed to prune them out of the landscape. They say the sheriffs use the no-drinking law as a selective bust — tourists are still allowed to sit on the beach and make their mixed drinks, and even surfers usually get away with downing a few beers after a surf session. Only the “nondesirable” types get arrested for drinking.

“The problem is that the rich people don’t wanna see the poor people sitting around,” Bob says in a gruff voice. He seems the most disgruntled of the group today, and as he speaks, he works himself into angry bluster. “They come down to this beach and want everything here to be perfect, just like their homes. And they want everybody here to look exactly like them. But we don’t look like them, we don’t wear Jordache jeans, so they don’t want us here. This country’s getting to the point where there’s just two kinds of people: the rich and the poor. The rich are getting richer, and the poorer are getting poorer.”

The bitter accusations make Louie uncomfortable. Not only doesn't he like to see his friends unhappy, but he is unwilling to judge people according to how much money they have. One of the “rich” homeowners near Moonlight once paid for Louie’s dental work after his teeth had nearly rotted out. The kind gentleman even paid for a new set of false teeth for him, and even though Louie later lost the dentures, he is still appreciative of the man’s generosity. “There’s some nice rich people, too,” Louie says quietly.

“They’re the same rich people who won't give us any jobs,” Bob continues angrily. “At least not any that would pay enough to let us live around here. So we have to live outdoors. We can’t go into downtown Encinitas ’cause they’ll arrest us for vagrancy, so we come to the beach and drink beer ’cause there ain’t nothing else to do. And then they bust us for that. What do they want us to do, go live in the bushes like the Mexicans?”

In the last few months, there have been several violent crimes committed by illegal aliens at Moonlight, and the mood of all the townspeople is clearly turning against the invasion from the south. Even the transients and beach people feel their turf is being invaded. But the talk about Mexicans makes Louie nervous, too. Being Puerto Rican, he is sometimes mistaken for a Mexican. Not long ago, he was arrested with a group of illegal aliens who were drinking at the beach. For reasons only Louie understands, he refused to speak English to the arresting officers. He was held in jail until his birth certificate could be mailed to him from Puerto Rico.

“The trouble is, this town’s going through growing pains,” Ralph says, “and it’s gonna have to learn how to cope with street people in a different way than just arresting them, taking them to the Vista jail, and locking them all up.”

“Maybe we just gotta get smarter,” Louie calmly suggests.

“I don’t see why there can’t be something like the old CETA program they did away with,” Bob says. “All these kids hangin' around here with no jobs, no work, nothing goin’ on — why not make some kind of jobs, so they can work and maybe have a little something?”

Louie recalls that he had a plan like that once. “After Proposition 13 and the funding for sweeping the streets downtown got cut back, right? I did a little rainbow warrior thing. I went to the kind merchants and said, i’ll make you a trade. You give me thirteen bucks a month, and I’ll give you twelve sweeps.’ I figured if I could get enough of the good merchants to sign up, we could buy a bunch of equipment and put all the boys and girls on the beach to work. I figured we could get us a big hangar where we could put all our tools, and we could go out every night after the sun went down and clean up the whole town. Like a sanitation crew. We’d have Indians, whites, blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans — I mean the whole jamboree, everybody workin’. We could make a thousand bucks a month!”

Louie's plan wasn't just idle talk. Using his own money, he bought a street vacuum, about the size of a lawn mower. He rebuilt the engine on the vacuum and named it “American Beauty,” after the Grateful Dead album. He even had a friend paint the vacuum's name on the front, along with red, white, and blue roses. Once American Beauty was in operating order, Louie found he had little trouble signing up thirty Encinitas merchants for his sweeping program, and true to his word. Crazy Louie put his beach friends to work.

Before long, though, Louie found that most of his “rainbow warriors,” as he called them, would show up for work once or twice, then never show again. He does the sweeping himself now, three times a week. “I sweep every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” he says. “And if I don’t get it done then. I do it every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.”

For the most part, the “kind merchants,” as Louie gratefully refers to them, are pleased with his work. What he lacks in reliability, he makes up for in quality work and cheerfulness, they say. And in return, Louie has nothing but appreciation and admiration for them. “Merchants make the earth go by,” he says. “All I do is sweep it.” Even before Louie started his street-sweeping business, he had an interest in beautifying Encinitas. In 1971 when he was working at the Union 76 station on Santa Fe Drive, Louie noticed that a lot of fifty-gallon drums were thrown away when they were empty. So Louie asked the owner if he could have them. He collected eighteen of the drums, cut the tops off them, painted them yellow, and decorated them with stenciled happy faces, musical notes, question marks, and other artwork. Then he rolled the barrels down to the beach and spaced them over the four miles between Grandview Beach in northern Leucadia and Swami's — roughly the boundaries of Louie’s kingdom. He even arranged for the state parks maintenance crews to drive down the beach on low tides to empty the trash barrels. The following year, after seeing that his antilitter program could be effective, he increased the number of barrels to thirty-five. Louie's trash barrels were later appropriated by the state parks system, and his mysterious stenciled decorations were replaced with Coppertone stickers — an act of blatant commercialism that outrages Louie’s followers and mildly annoys Louie.

Nobody in Encinitas knows Louie as well as his landlord and sometimes employer, John Brunner, a fifth-generation Encinitas resident who lives just up the street from Moonlight Beach. John, a musician who looks something like a sandy-haired Frank Zappa, runs a moving business out of his apartment, and when he needs help with a big moving job, he hires Louie to help with the heavy lifting. “The guy’s strong as an ox,” he says. “And he didn’t get those muscles by spanking Hank, either. He’s a worker, no doubt about it.”

Louie lives rent-free in John’s garage and generally has permission to use the phone and bathroom as well. When Louie is particularly well behaved, he can sometimes obtain permission to make a peanut butter sandwich in the kitchen and watch a cowboy movie while sitting on the living-room rug.

When John Brunner talks about Louie, his emotions swing wildly between fondness and anger, amusement and concern — much like the parent of a bright but troublesome teen-ager. In some ways he is almost like a surrogate parent to Louie, even though, at thirty-two, he's two years younger than Louie. From his apartment window. John can look down onto Moonlight Beach and the musical round table, and on many a quiet night, he has lain in bed and listened to Louie and the boys’ raucous laughter above the sound of the waves. Over the years he has been a constant observer of the Moonlight gang and Louie’s influence on them.

“Those guys at Moonlight like to sit down there and cry in their beer these days,” he says. “But let’s be serious. Louie and his friends have lost the right to drink at the beach because they’ve been abusing the privilege for ten years. People around here started to feel like Moonlight Beach wasn't a safe environment for their kids, which it’s not. Most of those guys have been the local bums around here forever. One of them got picked up by the sheriff the other day for shooting up on the street corner. Louie’s never been into hard drugs himself — in fact he hates what he sees those drugs doing to his friends. He wants to help them, but at the same time, he’s part of the reason they’re there. Louie’s the leader of that group, he’s the instigator. Without Louie, they wouldn’t have much of a reason to hang out there.”

According to John, Louie identifies with street people, even to the point of pretending to be a street person, despite the fact that he works regularly and has a few thousand dollars in the bank and a warm bed to go home to every night. His intention is to help street people, yet it’s this desire to help that eventually gets him into trouble. “Louie trusts every lost soul who blows into town. He’ll spend the day down at the beach with them, then say, ‘Hey! Let’s eat! Dinner’s on me.' He keeps a wok stashed out in the bushes somewhere. He’ll go to the store, buy a bunch of food, and cook up a hobo stew for the whole bunch of them. When they decide to have some celebration, Louie says, i’ll buy the keg!’ Then, when the party gets out of hand, Louie can’t understand what went wrong.”

Once, when one of Louie’s beach parties turned into a drunken brawl, Louie tossed his $300 ghetto blaster into the fire to try to divert attention. “That was Louie’s soul sacrifice,” John explains. “Something so ridiculous, so absurd, the others had to stop fighting to wonder why he would do it.”

Louie doesn’t talk much about his past, but over the years, John has pieced together the facts of how he arrived in Encinitas. Apparently Louie comes from the small village La Cueva Indio, Puerto Rico. Nearby is a U.S. Navy installation where Louie’s father had been stationed for many years. Louie’s mother died when he was fifteen, and his father moved to New York to start a trucking business. In 1968 a group of California surfers passed through Louie’s town and, being an avid kneeboarder himself, Louie hit it off with them. He dropped out of high school and began traveling with the California surfers through the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, before finally arriving in Encinitas in 1970. Louie himself says the reason he decided to stay in Encinitas was because it reminded him of his village in Puerto Rico.

Louie spoke very little English when he first arrived here, yet within two years he was speaking it without a trace of an accent. Though Louie claims to be illiterate and in fact often asks his friends to read to him letters from his relatives in Puerto Rico, John says that Louie can read if he tries, and pretending to be illiterate is just another one of his tactics for playing the fool.

During his early years in Encinitas, most people assumed because of Louie’s wild and unwashed appearance that he lived in the bushes at Moonlight. And Louie did his best to encourage that impression, even among some of his closest beach buddies. But John Brunner is one of the few people who know the truth. “Louie might have looked like some shit bum, but he was living over on Melrose Street in a perfect little studio apartment he rented from Grandma Brownlee. It had a hundred-year-old bed, an antique dresser and vanity, and little handmade doilies on the pillows. The place was meticulous. Louie even had pictures of his family lined up on the dresser. Grandma Brownlee used to cook for him and wash his clothes. The rent was forty-five dollars a month — the best deal I’ve ever seen in North County.”

In spite of his odd behavior, Louie has always had a rapport with elderly people and often helps them with their gardens and yard work. They, in turn, respond with affection. Perhaps like many other people, they see Louie as the wastrel they would most like to reform.

When Grandma Brownlee died in 1979 and the rent on Louie's studio was increased to $150, John agreed to let him live in his garage off of Fourth Street, just until he could Find a place of his own. Louie has been there ever since.

The corner of the garage Louie calls home is smaller than most clothes closets. Like Louie, it is full of paradoxes. A stack of old wooden crates serves as his dresser, yet each T-shirt in his wardrobe has been washed and folded so carefully, you would think he has a maid come in to do his laundry and straighten up the place every day. His small cot is perfectly made, and a small silver cross lies on the top blanket. His socks are neatly rolled and arranged in rows. His tool kit, at the foot of the bed, is so immaculate that the tools look like eating utensils.

John's generosity in allowing Louie to live in his garage has been repaid in the form of a wealth of Louie anecdotes. One Halloween, for example, Louie got a haircut, made a trip to the Salvation Army, and showed up at a costume party in a three-piece suit, complete with briefcase and umbrella. “It was the perfect disguise,” John says. “The whole night he refused to speak to anyone and sat there pretending to read his newspaper.”

But at other times, John's association with Louie has not been so amusing. John recalls the time Louie developed a grudge against a woman who lived across the alley from his garage. One day when the woman was taking a load of garbage out to the alley, Louie was sitting on his bed with the garage door open, holding a hunting bow in his hands, as though he'd been waiting for her. To the woman's horror, Louie drew his bow, took aim, and shot a steel-tipped hunting arrow- through the woman's metal garbage can. It was Louie's idea of a joke.

“I kicked him out, threw his stuff in the alley, and nailed the garage door shut,” John says.

Another time, Louie showed up at John's door with an eighteen-inch corvina somebody had given him. He wanted to use John’s kitchen to cook the fish for his buddies at the beach. It was a hot August day, and John was entertaining some women on the front lawn. “Louie was pie-eyed, and I had this horrible vision of that madman trying to cook a fish in my kitchen. So I told him no.” Louie threw a tantrum on the spot. He bit into the still squirming fish and shook it like a dog. The fish scales splattered under his teeth and showered down over his face and hair. A family happened to be walking down the sidewalk on their way to the beach, and their young boy stopped in shock to watch this grotesque spectacle. Louie ripped a piece of flesh from the fish's belly and, with the fish guts streaming down his arm. held it out to the little boy. “Hey, Youngblood!” he shrieked. “You want some fresh fish?”

John shakes his head sadly when he tells the story. “I guess I’ve kicked him out three or four times. But it never does any good. He always comes pleading for me to let him come back.”

Back at Moonlight, after another joint is passed around, the bitter talk about the no-drinking laws and the rich people who inspired them soon mellows into nostalgic, almost reverent reminiscences of members of the Moonlight gang who have come and gone. “There was Frenchy, who said he came here to die and just wanted to have a good time," Ralph recalls. “He was from back East somewhere. Had cancer. He was a happy-go-lucky guitar player. Must have been about Fifty, but the way cancer kills ya, it’s hard to say.” “Caesar passed away," Louie says with fond recollection of his old friend who lived for several years under the wooden deck at Beacon’s parking lot. “He had sclerosis of the liver. Remember his friend Uncle Freddy? Always wore overalls, drove a VW van? He liked to smoke his Bugler and go fishin’ all the time. He passed away. And Tomato Bill, the farmer. He passed away, too.”

“Mr. Hank," Bob recalls. “He used to feed the birds right out there where the volleyball court is now. Pigeons would land all over his head and arms. He's dead now."

“Remember New York Johnny, who opened the deli up on D Street?" Ralph says. “He used to put us to work cleaning his grease pit. He'd feed us real good and maybe buy us a half-case of beer. He died of heart problems."

“Larry Aguilar," Louie says. “He died of a motorcycle wreck."

“Lots of good people died of overdoses," Ralph points out. Then, after a thoughtful pause, he wonders, “What are we talking about dead people for, anyway?”

“Probably because we know someday people will be talking about us the same way," Bob says with a strange, sad laugh.

Lately, Louie hasn’t been seen at Moonlight Beach as much as he used to. While many of his old buddies still wander restlessly up and down the lonely winter beaches, as if hoping to find the old gang just around the next point, warming themselves around a bonfire and passing around a bottle of Maddog 20/20, Louie seems to have found other things to do with his time. Some of his old friends tease him about spending so much time sweeping streets and moving furniture that he never has time to panhandle with them anymore. And several people around town have commented lately on Louie’s improved appearance. The ratty old denim jacket he wore for so many years, now held together by nothing but Grateful Dead patches, hangs above his bed. He only brings it out for court appearances these days — a legal strategy so absurd only Louie understands it.

Louie hasn’t abandoned his dream of putting all the old Moonlight gang to work maintaining the littered streets of Encinitas. Not long ago, he bought a street sweeper, completely rebuilt it, and even painted it yellow-green, the color of the city's fire engines. But later he found he couldn't afford the liability insurance for the sweeper, and it sits idle now, parked across the street from the firehouse.

For a while Louie was talking of building some kind of barge or houseboat, out of oil drums and wood pallets he's been saving. The idea was to anchor this thing off Moonlight Beach, w here he and his friends could while away their leisure hours in peace, just beyond the reach of the law. Somebody pointed out to him, though, that a barge like that wouldn't last the first winter storm, and besides, the Coast Guard would never allow it. Louie doesn't talk about the barge idea much anymore, but that vision of a safe haven, where the outcasts of Encinitas can drink and play their music in the sun, is still germinating in Louie’s mind and is certain to reappear in some other form.

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"I enjoy a cold beer or two after work — except that I don't like to drink in bars." - Image by David Diaz
"I enjoy a cold beer or two after work — except that I don't like to drink in bars."

Anyone not familiar with the curious habits of Louis Ortiz might mistake this rasty-looking character rooting through the fire pit at Moonlight State Beach for just another beach wino out on his dawn patrol, rummaging for a taste of his favorite eye opener. “Crazy Louie," as he has been known in these parts for years, certainly looks the part with his wild hair and toothless smile, dressed like Sgt. Pepper on a three-day binge, scratching at his scruffy beard, laughing madly at the world from behind his rose-colored glasses.

Louie bought a street sweeper, completely rebuilt it, and even painted it yellow-green, the color of the city's fire engines. But he found he couldn't afford the liability insurance for the sweeper.

But those who know Louie understand that he isn’t foraging for his breakfast. More than most people, Louie understands that this is not a perfect world, and without constant maintenance,things tend to fall apart: fire pits fill up with trash, the streets turn to litter, teeth rot, sanity teeters into lunacy, and old friends bored with life drink themselves into oblivion. Spending a few hours every week bagging trash is Louie’s way of putting a little order back into the world. He picks the cans and bottles out of the fire pit, sifts through the sand for broken glass, and even gathers up cigarette filters so the pigeons won’t choke on them.

Of course, it’s partly theatrics, too. Louie’s a natural clown, a connoisseur of absurdity, and he loves to see the look of consternation on tourists’ faces when they try to figure out why somebody who appears to be a street tramp would be picking up their litter.

In 1970 when Louie first showed up at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, not many locals would have given this hard-drinking, wild-eyed, eighteen-year-old more than a few years to enjoy his buffoonery. But part of the paradox of Louie is that after sixteen years of beach life, drinking and smoking pot almost every day, he may have lost a few teeth, added a few pounds to his belly, and acquired a few scars, but all in all, he doesn’t seem to be much older than the day he got here.

Just about everybody who has lived in Encinitas very long has some favorite anecdote about Louie. Usually these tales involve Louie using his talents as a buffoon to make a mockery of the customary rules of civilized behavior. To hear these tales told, you would think the ancient mythological Trickster had been reincarnated in the form of an illiterate thirty-four-year-old Puerto Rican named Louis Ortiz. It was not uncommon, during the prime of Louie’s youth, to see him tear off his clothes and scramble bare-assed up the palm tree at Moonlight Beach. Or streak the volleyball court during a tournament. Public nudity, he found, could always be relied upon to offend and outrage at least somebody.

Once, in a more philosophical mood, he chained his ankle to an old steel lamp post he found somewhere and for several days afterward was seen dragging it around town. The symbolism of the act was never known to anyone but Louie.

Another time, during one of the worst rainstorms of the year, Louie acquired a large patio umbrella, corralled a half-dozen of the most lethargic drunks in town, and paraded them through the streets of Encinitas, under the protection of the umbrella. It was hard to say who looked the most startled, the town’s residents and shop owners who peered out of their windows at Louie’s bizarre production or the drunks under the umbrella.

Some people in town recall Louie’s association with a drifter named “Flower,” a Vietnam vet who wore a long beard, always dressed in flower-patterned clothes, and refused to speak to anyone. Louie practically adopted Flower, and the two developed an entire language based on whistling.

Often Louie’s sense of humor has conflicted with the law. Louie says it's impossible to estimate how many times he's been arrested, but friends say it might be as many as fifty. He’s almost grown fond of the Vista jail — his home away from home — and says his favorite meal there is fried liver. After years of being hauled before the judge to explain his persistent habit of drinking in public, Louie has fine-tuned a speech that he delivers in his happy-go-lucky way: “Your honor. I'm just a working guy," Louie says. “Like a lot of people, I enjoy a cold beer or two after work — except that I don't like to drink in bars. Bars have a bad influence on people. I like to be outside, your honor, under the sun and moon and stars. I've traveled all over the country, and the only place I've ever been arrested for drinking in public is Encinitas. But this is my home. What do you want me to do, your honor, move away from here? Dig a hole and live in the ground? Where can an honest, hard-working guy go to drink a beer in peace around here? Just tell me, and I’ll go there."

Louie has never harmed anyone, he doesn't own a car, and has never been arrested for drunk driving. He insists he doesn’t have a drinking problem, only a drinking-in-public problem. Taking all this into consideration — plus the fact that Louie does hold down at least two part-time jobs — the judge usually listens to Louie’s speech, gives him a fine of fifty to a hundred dollars, and tells him to get out of court. And by that afternoon, Louie is back at the beach, enjoying a beer with his friends, while he recounts the highlights of his day in court.

About nine o'clock, when the morning sun begins to warm the sand, a few of Louie's beach buddies emerge from the shrubbery and alleys to help him in his morning maintenance program. Besides Louie there is Ralph, a thin, redheaded fellow' who has lived in Encinitas all his life and for years has made his home just a few hundred feet from Moonlight Beach in a bamboo-and-palm thicket known as "Little Vietnam." Ralph has been arrested forty-four times for being drunk in public, though, as he says in his defense, “I was really only drunk about eight of those times."

There is Bob, an excitable, unemployed house painter from New Hampshire who heard about San Diego’s Riviera for the homeless before he’d even set foot in California. “Moonlight Beach is famous all over the country," he says.

There is Freddie, a long-time Moonlight local who, in spite of a cast on his leg, rides his rusted bicycle back and forth along the asphalt paths, tilting a battered radio to his car. Others come and go, too, curious to see what theatrics Louie might have planned for the day.

After a while, somebody lights up a joint, and the Moonlight crew takes a smoke break. They take their places on top of the “musical round table,” which Louie and his friends built from an old phone cable spool and three railroad ties. The round table, bleached gray with the sun and salt air, is the center of their social world, and the ground all around it has been stained black, like some ancient midden deposit, with the charcoal and grease from a thousand celebrations. Its top and legs have been carved with the names of an almost endless number of beach people who have whiled away their days at the table, drinking wine, playing music, and telling stories.

“I remember when everybody used to bring their instruments down to the musical round table on Sunday” Ralph recalls in his quiet voice. “We’d be barbecuing hot dogs on the fine. We had one very special brother, Vicente, who played the saxophone. He'd start at the top of the hill and march down blowing New Orleans jazz. When he got to the bottom, he'd say, ‘Church services have started. What do you wanna hear?' ”

“Lorraine'd be singing in the bathroom,” Bob adds, exuberant with the memory. “That old bathroom had really great acoustics. I was bummed when they remodeled it”

“Remember the time we collected all that old wood when they tore down Seeman’s Lumber?” Louie says. “We built a bonfire that must have been fifty feet high.”

“The sheriff said we were gonna burn down the beach,” Ralph laughs. “How can you burn down a beach?”

“The firemen came to hose it down,” Louie says, “and everybody stood in the spray of the hoses and took a nice, warm, steamy shower.” He closes his eyes and lifts his hands to feel the warm spray.

“I think it was either Harold’s or Frenchy’s birthday,” Bob recalls. “Back in '74. We built a monster pyramid out of wood blocks from construction sites. It took us all day to build this thing because it kept caving in. I was standing on somebody’s shoulders when I put the last block in place, so it must have been ten, twelve feet tall. When night came, we lit that pyramid on fire, and you could see the glow for blocks. After it burned down, we raked the coals together and laid refrigerator grills over it. Tommy came down with cases of roasting chickens — must’ve been thirty chickens — and we started cooking them on the fire. There was an army of guys down here, and they all had their own chicken. Frenchy was playing his ragtime music, Louie was playing the spoons, somebody else was playing the harmonica.”

“Even Tommy’s dog had his own chicken,” Freddie remembers fondly.

“A sheriff told me once they used to use us for training, because they knew we were nonviolent,” Ralph says. “If they had some rookie who'd never busted anybody before, they’d bring him down to Moonlight and tell him, ‘Okay, wait until they get drunk, then go arrest them.’ That sheriff said I was the first person he ever put cuffs on, and he’s a lieutenant now.” Ralph swells with pride as he considers his contribution to the man’s career.

“At Christmastime one year, we put a wreath on the palm tree and hung colored lights on the bathroom,” Louie says. “We were gonna have a different decoration for every season: bunnies for Easter, a sun for summer, a harvest scene for fall.”

Louie arranged to have a friend cut two large Easter bunnies out of sheets of plywood; they painted one bunny pink and one bunny blue and hung them on the palm tree. But the state park rangers took offense at the blue bunny, which was mounted behind the pink bunny with a lusty leer on its face.

“They thought that was obscene,” Bob says scornfully. “After that they said we couldn’t have any more decorations.”

The group slouches into a morose silence as they ponder the days that were but can never be again. It’s the end of an era for the Moonlight Beach gang, and they know it. Last summer all the state beaches in North County began enforcing no-drinking regulations and an 11:00 p.m. curfew. Almost overnight, the new regulations ended a twenty-year tradition of day-and-night, nonstop drinking and partying at Moonlight Beach. For a while, all the transients from up and down the North Coast converged at Swami’s, a county-run beach at the north end of Cardiff, where drinking was allowed. But that only turned Swami’s into a ghetto, so a nodrinking regulation was quickly implemented there as well. The boys still try to evade the no-drinking law, playing a game Louie calls hide and seek. But the law is clearly winning, and the boys are growing more and more demoralized every day.

At Moonlight Beach, county work crews have hacked away the bamboo thicket at Little Vietnam, depriving Ralph and perhaps a half-dozen others of their homes. At the same time, a committee of local business and property owners sponsored a program to spruce up Moonlight’s long-neglected appearance. Their improvements included hauling in new beach sand, trimming the trees and shrubbery, building new walkways, and adding two new volleyball courts. Last summer the state parks department remodeled the old rest rooms, paved the old dirt parking lot on the bluff above the beach, and began charging beachgoers a three-dollar fee to park there.

Though Louie and his friends don’t disapprove of the cosmetic improvements to the beach — they have certainly done their share to keep the beach clean — they take strong exception to the no-drinking regulation, which they feel was just another “cosmetic” improvement, designed to prune them out of the landscape. They say the sheriffs use the no-drinking law as a selective bust — tourists are still allowed to sit on the beach and make their mixed drinks, and even surfers usually get away with downing a few beers after a surf session. Only the “nondesirable” types get arrested for drinking.

“The problem is that the rich people don’t wanna see the poor people sitting around,” Bob says in a gruff voice. He seems the most disgruntled of the group today, and as he speaks, he works himself into angry bluster. “They come down to this beach and want everything here to be perfect, just like their homes. And they want everybody here to look exactly like them. But we don’t look like them, we don’t wear Jordache jeans, so they don’t want us here. This country’s getting to the point where there’s just two kinds of people: the rich and the poor. The rich are getting richer, and the poorer are getting poorer.”

The bitter accusations make Louie uncomfortable. Not only doesn't he like to see his friends unhappy, but he is unwilling to judge people according to how much money they have. One of the “rich” homeowners near Moonlight once paid for Louie’s dental work after his teeth had nearly rotted out. The kind gentleman even paid for a new set of false teeth for him, and even though Louie later lost the dentures, he is still appreciative of the man’s generosity. “There’s some nice rich people, too,” Louie says quietly.

“They’re the same rich people who won't give us any jobs,” Bob continues angrily. “At least not any that would pay enough to let us live around here. So we have to live outdoors. We can’t go into downtown Encinitas ’cause they’ll arrest us for vagrancy, so we come to the beach and drink beer ’cause there ain’t nothing else to do. And then they bust us for that. What do they want us to do, go live in the bushes like the Mexicans?”

In the last few months, there have been several violent crimes committed by illegal aliens at Moonlight, and the mood of all the townspeople is clearly turning against the invasion from the south. Even the transients and beach people feel their turf is being invaded. But the talk about Mexicans makes Louie nervous, too. Being Puerto Rican, he is sometimes mistaken for a Mexican. Not long ago, he was arrested with a group of illegal aliens who were drinking at the beach. For reasons only Louie understands, he refused to speak English to the arresting officers. He was held in jail until his birth certificate could be mailed to him from Puerto Rico.

“The trouble is, this town’s going through growing pains,” Ralph says, “and it’s gonna have to learn how to cope with street people in a different way than just arresting them, taking them to the Vista jail, and locking them all up.”

“Maybe we just gotta get smarter,” Louie calmly suggests.

“I don’t see why there can’t be something like the old CETA program they did away with,” Bob says. “All these kids hangin' around here with no jobs, no work, nothing goin’ on — why not make some kind of jobs, so they can work and maybe have a little something?”

Louie recalls that he had a plan like that once. “After Proposition 13 and the funding for sweeping the streets downtown got cut back, right? I did a little rainbow warrior thing. I went to the kind merchants and said, i’ll make you a trade. You give me thirteen bucks a month, and I’ll give you twelve sweeps.’ I figured if I could get enough of the good merchants to sign up, we could buy a bunch of equipment and put all the boys and girls on the beach to work. I figured we could get us a big hangar where we could put all our tools, and we could go out every night after the sun went down and clean up the whole town. Like a sanitation crew. We’d have Indians, whites, blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans — I mean the whole jamboree, everybody workin’. We could make a thousand bucks a month!”

Louie's plan wasn't just idle talk. Using his own money, he bought a street vacuum, about the size of a lawn mower. He rebuilt the engine on the vacuum and named it “American Beauty,” after the Grateful Dead album. He even had a friend paint the vacuum's name on the front, along with red, white, and blue roses. Once American Beauty was in operating order, Louie found he had little trouble signing up thirty Encinitas merchants for his sweeping program, and true to his word. Crazy Louie put his beach friends to work.

Before long, though, Louie found that most of his “rainbow warriors,” as he called them, would show up for work once or twice, then never show again. He does the sweeping himself now, three times a week. “I sweep every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” he says. “And if I don’t get it done then. I do it every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.”

For the most part, the “kind merchants,” as Louie gratefully refers to them, are pleased with his work. What he lacks in reliability, he makes up for in quality work and cheerfulness, they say. And in return, Louie has nothing but appreciation and admiration for them. “Merchants make the earth go by,” he says. “All I do is sweep it.” Even before Louie started his street-sweeping business, he had an interest in beautifying Encinitas. In 1971 when he was working at the Union 76 station on Santa Fe Drive, Louie noticed that a lot of fifty-gallon drums were thrown away when they were empty. So Louie asked the owner if he could have them. He collected eighteen of the drums, cut the tops off them, painted them yellow, and decorated them with stenciled happy faces, musical notes, question marks, and other artwork. Then he rolled the barrels down to the beach and spaced them over the four miles between Grandview Beach in northern Leucadia and Swami's — roughly the boundaries of Louie’s kingdom. He even arranged for the state parks maintenance crews to drive down the beach on low tides to empty the trash barrels. The following year, after seeing that his antilitter program could be effective, he increased the number of barrels to thirty-five. Louie's trash barrels were later appropriated by the state parks system, and his mysterious stenciled decorations were replaced with Coppertone stickers — an act of blatant commercialism that outrages Louie’s followers and mildly annoys Louie.

Nobody in Encinitas knows Louie as well as his landlord and sometimes employer, John Brunner, a fifth-generation Encinitas resident who lives just up the street from Moonlight Beach. John, a musician who looks something like a sandy-haired Frank Zappa, runs a moving business out of his apartment, and when he needs help with a big moving job, he hires Louie to help with the heavy lifting. “The guy’s strong as an ox,” he says. “And he didn’t get those muscles by spanking Hank, either. He’s a worker, no doubt about it.”

Louie lives rent-free in John’s garage and generally has permission to use the phone and bathroom as well. When Louie is particularly well behaved, he can sometimes obtain permission to make a peanut butter sandwich in the kitchen and watch a cowboy movie while sitting on the living-room rug.

When John Brunner talks about Louie, his emotions swing wildly between fondness and anger, amusement and concern — much like the parent of a bright but troublesome teen-ager. In some ways he is almost like a surrogate parent to Louie, even though, at thirty-two, he's two years younger than Louie. From his apartment window. John can look down onto Moonlight Beach and the musical round table, and on many a quiet night, he has lain in bed and listened to Louie and the boys’ raucous laughter above the sound of the waves. Over the years he has been a constant observer of the Moonlight gang and Louie’s influence on them.

“Those guys at Moonlight like to sit down there and cry in their beer these days,” he says. “But let’s be serious. Louie and his friends have lost the right to drink at the beach because they’ve been abusing the privilege for ten years. People around here started to feel like Moonlight Beach wasn't a safe environment for their kids, which it’s not. Most of those guys have been the local bums around here forever. One of them got picked up by the sheriff the other day for shooting up on the street corner. Louie’s never been into hard drugs himself — in fact he hates what he sees those drugs doing to his friends. He wants to help them, but at the same time, he’s part of the reason they’re there. Louie’s the leader of that group, he’s the instigator. Without Louie, they wouldn’t have much of a reason to hang out there.”

According to John, Louie identifies with street people, even to the point of pretending to be a street person, despite the fact that he works regularly and has a few thousand dollars in the bank and a warm bed to go home to every night. His intention is to help street people, yet it’s this desire to help that eventually gets him into trouble. “Louie trusts every lost soul who blows into town. He’ll spend the day down at the beach with them, then say, ‘Hey! Let’s eat! Dinner’s on me.' He keeps a wok stashed out in the bushes somewhere. He’ll go to the store, buy a bunch of food, and cook up a hobo stew for the whole bunch of them. When they decide to have some celebration, Louie says, i’ll buy the keg!’ Then, when the party gets out of hand, Louie can’t understand what went wrong.”

Once, when one of Louie’s beach parties turned into a drunken brawl, Louie tossed his $300 ghetto blaster into the fire to try to divert attention. “That was Louie’s soul sacrifice,” John explains. “Something so ridiculous, so absurd, the others had to stop fighting to wonder why he would do it.”

Louie doesn’t talk much about his past, but over the years, John has pieced together the facts of how he arrived in Encinitas. Apparently Louie comes from the small village La Cueva Indio, Puerto Rico. Nearby is a U.S. Navy installation where Louie’s father had been stationed for many years. Louie’s mother died when he was fifteen, and his father moved to New York to start a trucking business. In 1968 a group of California surfers passed through Louie’s town and, being an avid kneeboarder himself, Louie hit it off with them. He dropped out of high school and began traveling with the California surfers through the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, before finally arriving in Encinitas in 1970. Louie himself says the reason he decided to stay in Encinitas was because it reminded him of his village in Puerto Rico.

Louie spoke very little English when he first arrived here, yet within two years he was speaking it without a trace of an accent. Though Louie claims to be illiterate and in fact often asks his friends to read to him letters from his relatives in Puerto Rico, John says that Louie can read if he tries, and pretending to be illiterate is just another one of his tactics for playing the fool.

During his early years in Encinitas, most people assumed because of Louie’s wild and unwashed appearance that he lived in the bushes at Moonlight. And Louie did his best to encourage that impression, even among some of his closest beach buddies. But John Brunner is one of the few people who know the truth. “Louie might have looked like some shit bum, but he was living over on Melrose Street in a perfect little studio apartment he rented from Grandma Brownlee. It had a hundred-year-old bed, an antique dresser and vanity, and little handmade doilies on the pillows. The place was meticulous. Louie even had pictures of his family lined up on the dresser. Grandma Brownlee used to cook for him and wash his clothes. The rent was forty-five dollars a month — the best deal I’ve ever seen in North County.”

In spite of his odd behavior, Louie has always had a rapport with elderly people and often helps them with their gardens and yard work. They, in turn, respond with affection. Perhaps like many other people, they see Louie as the wastrel they would most like to reform.

When Grandma Brownlee died in 1979 and the rent on Louie's studio was increased to $150, John agreed to let him live in his garage off of Fourth Street, just until he could Find a place of his own. Louie has been there ever since.

The corner of the garage Louie calls home is smaller than most clothes closets. Like Louie, it is full of paradoxes. A stack of old wooden crates serves as his dresser, yet each T-shirt in his wardrobe has been washed and folded so carefully, you would think he has a maid come in to do his laundry and straighten up the place every day. His small cot is perfectly made, and a small silver cross lies on the top blanket. His socks are neatly rolled and arranged in rows. His tool kit, at the foot of the bed, is so immaculate that the tools look like eating utensils.

John's generosity in allowing Louie to live in his garage has been repaid in the form of a wealth of Louie anecdotes. One Halloween, for example, Louie got a haircut, made a trip to the Salvation Army, and showed up at a costume party in a three-piece suit, complete with briefcase and umbrella. “It was the perfect disguise,” John says. “The whole night he refused to speak to anyone and sat there pretending to read his newspaper.”

But at other times, John's association with Louie has not been so amusing. John recalls the time Louie developed a grudge against a woman who lived across the alley from his garage. One day when the woman was taking a load of garbage out to the alley, Louie was sitting on his bed with the garage door open, holding a hunting bow in his hands, as though he'd been waiting for her. To the woman's horror, Louie drew his bow, took aim, and shot a steel-tipped hunting arrow- through the woman's metal garbage can. It was Louie's idea of a joke.

“I kicked him out, threw his stuff in the alley, and nailed the garage door shut,” John says.

Another time, Louie showed up at John's door with an eighteen-inch corvina somebody had given him. He wanted to use John’s kitchen to cook the fish for his buddies at the beach. It was a hot August day, and John was entertaining some women on the front lawn. “Louie was pie-eyed, and I had this horrible vision of that madman trying to cook a fish in my kitchen. So I told him no.” Louie threw a tantrum on the spot. He bit into the still squirming fish and shook it like a dog. The fish scales splattered under his teeth and showered down over his face and hair. A family happened to be walking down the sidewalk on their way to the beach, and their young boy stopped in shock to watch this grotesque spectacle. Louie ripped a piece of flesh from the fish's belly and, with the fish guts streaming down his arm. held it out to the little boy. “Hey, Youngblood!” he shrieked. “You want some fresh fish?”

John shakes his head sadly when he tells the story. “I guess I’ve kicked him out three or four times. But it never does any good. He always comes pleading for me to let him come back.”

Back at Moonlight, after another joint is passed around, the bitter talk about the no-drinking laws and the rich people who inspired them soon mellows into nostalgic, almost reverent reminiscences of members of the Moonlight gang who have come and gone. “There was Frenchy, who said he came here to die and just wanted to have a good time," Ralph recalls. “He was from back East somewhere. Had cancer. He was a happy-go-lucky guitar player. Must have been about Fifty, but the way cancer kills ya, it’s hard to say.” “Caesar passed away," Louie says with fond recollection of his old friend who lived for several years under the wooden deck at Beacon’s parking lot. “He had sclerosis of the liver. Remember his friend Uncle Freddy? Always wore overalls, drove a VW van? He liked to smoke his Bugler and go fishin’ all the time. He passed away. And Tomato Bill, the farmer. He passed away, too.”

“Mr. Hank," Bob recalls. “He used to feed the birds right out there where the volleyball court is now. Pigeons would land all over his head and arms. He's dead now."

“Remember New York Johnny, who opened the deli up on D Street?" Ralph says. “He used to put us to work cleaning his grease pit. He'd feed us real good and maybe buy us a half-case of beer. He died of heart problems."

“Larry Aguilar," Louie says. “He died of a motorcycle wreck."

“Lots of good people died of overdoses," Ralph points out. Then, after a thoughtful pause, he wonders, “What are we talking about dead people for, anyway?”

“Probably because we know someday people will be talking about us the same way," Bob says with a strange, sad laugh.

Lately, Louie hasn’t been seen at Moonlight Beach as much as he used to. While many of his old buddies still wander restlessly up and down the lonely winter beaches, as if hoping to find the old gang just around the next point, warming themselves around a bonfire and passing around a bottle of Maddog 20/20, Louie seems to have found other things to do with his time. Some of his old friends tease him about spending so much time sweeping streets and moving furniture that he never has time to panhandle with them anymore. And several people around town have commented lately on Louie’s improved appearance. The ratty old denim jacket he wore for so many years, now held together by nothing but Grateful Dead patches, hangs above his bed. He only brings it out for court appearances these days — a legal strategy so absurd only Louie understands it.

Louie hasn’t abandoned his dream of putting all the old Moonlight gang to work maintaining the littered streets of Encinitas. Not long ago, he bought a street sweeper, completely rebuilt it, and even painted it yellow-green, the color of the city's fire engines. But later he found he couldn't afford the liability insurance for the sweeper, and it sits idle now, parked across the street from the firehouse.

For a while Louie was talking of building some kind of barge or houseboat, out of oil drums and wood pallets he's been saving. The idea was to anchor this thing off Moonlight Beach, w here he and his friends could while away their leisure hours in peace, just beyond the reach of the law. Somebody pointed out to him, though, that a barge like that wouldn't last the first winter storm, and besides, the Coast Guard would never allow it. Louie doesn't talk about the barge idea much anymore, but that vision of a safe haven, where the outcasts of Encinitas can drink and play their music in the sun, is still germinating in Louie’s mind and is certain to reappear in some other form.

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