Facebook can be cool. I recently reconnected with a gal I knew from high school, Mary. She lives in a great community New Smyrna Beach, seven minutes away. We both mutually asked,”What brought you here?” In a sickening chorus, Mary and I chuckled and answered, “I followed my kids!” When I moved to Florida in 2008, my friend Sona yelped, “My God Lee, you are entirely too young to be moving to Florida!”
As a New Yorker, I had roots. I grew up on Long Island and lived in the beautiful Finger Lakes for fourteen years. Florida is a transient state and I’ve bolstered that demographic. In my short three year tenure, I have resided in four places. This last year was truly a halcyon one. I moved into a condo on the Intracostal that had been vacant for three years.
My new apartment was fifteen minutes further from work, but I could live with that. Each time I crossed the bridge named for a dead congressman, I felt as if I was going on vacation. Even when I came home late it was a visual delight looking at all the hotels and condos bathed in lights. When I slid open my patio door, the Intracostal was on full three dimensional display. Manatees slowly navigated by, fish flopped, pelicans soared, and the breeze, always briny. I had a box seat for the most incredible sunsets to boot.
Like many seaside romances, this one was fleeting. The real estate mis-management company informed me at the eleventh and a half hour that the condo was for sale and when my lease was up in less than thirty days, so was I. One of my first friends here, Gary, is a fellow New Yorker. I call him the Donald Trump of house flipping in 55+ communities. He showed me a two bedroom / two bathroom furnished home that I could purchase not for a song, but for a few musical bars. All I technically needed to move in was a toothbrush. As a salesman, I sniffed a hyperbole laced pitch, but it was true. My brother was visiting from Maine at the time and enthusiastically said I’d be insane to pass on this opportunity, he dug the simplicity of it all. Impulsive I ain’t, but I went for it.
I moved last Thursday. On Thursday night at 7:30 I muttered to myself, What the hell did I do?” I tried to bolster my decision and did a Ben Franklin close on myself. The positive side of the sheet was sparse, I listed: 1) lower cost of living, 2) no paternity suits, 3) no mortgage. There are a myriad of activities here – zumba classes, water aerobics, ice cream socials, bus trips for meds to the CVS, and walker races. I live on a quiet cul de sac, the operative word being quiet. The silence was beyond deafening. My former neighbors downstairs were surfers, my new ones shuffle boarders. On Friday I met Gertrude, a retired nurse. She was at Clara Barton’s side aiding wounded soldiers at Gettysburg. At age 57, I am the youngest single man in this community. Gary has crowned me the “Casserole King.” A stream of delightful ladies have graciously welcomed me and left a mountain of casseroles and baked goods. I had to create an excel spread sheet to solve the Pyrex return dilemma.
I like my music and was happy when Wes Borland rejoined Limp Bizkit. I played their new album at a very high volume and was the only resident that heard it (since many here use hearing devices). Last night I reheated a casserole and enjoyed it in my screened porch. The mature palm trees that frame my simple home swayed like nature’s wind chimes.
On my day off I planted lime, grapefruit, and fig trees. It was good to reconnect with the earth again. Then I hung my sheets on my clothes line. They snapped rhythmically in the breeze. I went to a Christmas party that night and met many lovely folks. There was a wealth of experience, interesting stories, and knowledge in the room. The big mystery was how could a young kid like me even be eligible to live in a 55+ community?
Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago when I was playing Pink Floyd in my dorm room? I hear a knock on the door and see another generous neighbor with yet another covered dish.