Stranger In A Strange Land
We just got back from a month in the US. The first 80% of my life (so far) was spent in the USA, specifically in Ohio, and because I still have family and friends there, I try to get back once a year to catch up on things.
But I think I’ve reached the point where when I say “I’m going home,” I no longer know which place I’m referring to. Part of the problem is that when you leave a familiar place and return, you think you are the same person you were when you left. And you expect everyone else to be the same, too. Sort of like you’ve put the world on “pause,” stepped out, and have now returned and hit “play.”
That isn’t the way it works and the longer you are away, the more you and other people change. Both physically and mentally.
This was brought home with a vengeance on this trip because I found myself driving a rental car around Florida visiting retired friends. Yes, me! I have retired friends in Florida!
But it was actually just like catching up in Ohio in the old days, except the weather and scenery were better in Florida:
We hadn’t planned a trip to Disney World, but I had the feeling that the GPS had malfunctioned and sent us to some sort of Disneyland for senior citizens when we visited a friend in a place called “The Villages.”
I’ve never seen anything like The Villages. The closest I can come to describing it is Disneyland without kids, rides and Mickey Mouse. It is spotlessly clean, well organized, seems to have everything you could possibly want, and is full of retired people zipping around on golf carts—even if they aren’t on the golf course.
It’s called The Villages because the whole complex is made up of several smaller communities (villages) each with a sort of town center of shops, restaurants and a recreation center. Mainstream retail stores and other amenities are interspersed between the various villages. Plus there are thirty-eight golf courses.
They also have softball fields, a polo field, a woodworking shop, several swimming pools, walking tracks, a golf school and something called the Lifelong Learning College. There are also lectures and activities at the various community centers.
The entire complex is connected by roads and a network of golf cart paths. The preferred method of transportation is by golf cart and houses in the village have little mini-garages for golf carts:
A major pastime seems to be, for lack of a better word, pimping one’s golf cart:
And this pretty much sums up the philosophy:
Our hostess advised us that each night in the village center there were free live concerts. We went along one evening to check it out and sure enough as we approached the square we heard the end of “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival version) and then the band went into a creditable version of “Jumping Jack Flash.” From a distance the band looked like the Rolling Stones do today (at least Keith Richard) but the audience was a bit of a disconnect:
Mosh Pit, Villages Style
After two days, the whole thing started to take on a bit of a Stepford quality. You have to be at least 55 in order to buy property there and no one under 19 is allowed to stay there for more than a month. I’m not sure if that is why everyone seemed so happy but I also read that The Villages is the fastest growing residential district in the country. And I can see why. It has a great atmosphere and there is always something going on and lots to do.
We continued on the trip with a lingering sense that by visiting The Villages we had stepped into some sort of alternative reality for a few days and were now back in the real world. Then I turned on the TV and heard Donald Trump telling us how proud he was.
And I jumped back in the car searching for real reality.
So I stopped in at a couple of Wal-Marts to see if I could spot any Wal-Mart people. No joy.
Now that we’re home I’m getting over my jet lag and getting used to smaller serving sizes in restaurants. Yesterday we took a ride up to the farm to make sure that all was well. Everything was fine except for one thing.
Because we were going to gone in early autumn, and that is when the mice like to find their way inside, I decided to lay down a gauntlet of mouse traps in the garage to prevent any incursions into the house.
Big mistake. Moral of the story: Don’t leave mousetraps unattended!
Each of the traps I’d left open for business had attracted a customer. I don’t know exactly how long the mice had been in the traps but dead mouse bodies undergo some sort of chemical reaction that not only smells terrible, it also fuses them to the floor. Very disgusting. All I could think of while cleaning up was how smart I had been to not make crime scene investigation my career choice.
The birds seem to have gotten the message and are staying away based on the absence of guano and/or bird corpses. However my friend Brian in the US made a gift of a black raptor silhouette which he guarantees will keep anything under 50 pounds at bay. Here it is, installed where swallows have been circling (and ignoring the owls):
I’ll let you know how it goes.