A Baby Boomer's Take on Florida
The Conveyor Belt of Life
Back in the 1990’s we were on a shoestring budget and the only family vacation that we could afford was to go down to Florida for a week each winter and stay with my in-laws. They lived in a high rise on Clearwater Beach, and it was not a perfect set up for kids at all, as they lived on the 5th floor, and had a balcony, without any screen, just open space above a waist high wall. Causing me many nightmares of our kids bouncing on chairs and then flipping off the balcony to fall to the concrete pool deck 5 floors below. It seemed back then, that the Florida world was still ruled by the WW II set, living out their years in leisure. On the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum was my grandmother who lived in Largo. She lived in a trailer park and loved shuffle board, bingo night, pot lucks at the community center, etc. Therefore, Florida for me was a place for rich people in gated communities and high-rise condos on the beach or way back from the beach, geriatric ghetto's where old poor people lived. Moreover, to me, Florida was just a place that northerners would go to die, “God’s Waiting Room” as it were. Therefore, I stayed away from Florida for about 25 years and swore that I would never move there. When Wendy retired in 2013 (I retired in 2010) she wanted to move to Traverse City as we had lived there when we first married and she wanted to rekindle those lost days. Well the reality of two brutal winters gave us pause and we began to look at the idea of a warmer climate year round. We again started to think about where we wanted to live that would be much more pleasant (especially in the winter months) while being relatively affordable and you guessed it, the answer was Florida. Down we came to take another look-see. And much too my surprise things had changed! The WW II set had mysteriously disappeared. The predominate age group now is baby boomers just like us. And on every corner there is now a rock bar, blasting out nostalgia hits from the 60’s and 70’s, as opposed to Big Band Music, guys on Harley’s (that in many cases looked like they shouldn’t be) as opposed to guys driving Lincoln Continentals and Cadillac’s. In addition, I have not seen so many men with ponytails since the 60’s as opposed to golf hats and Arnold Palmer apparel. Blue haired women are replaced by bikini clad; chesty boomers that have probably had “some work done”, but frankly still look good! So where have all the people gone that were here when my in-laws lived in Clearwater or my grandmother in Largo? Many are in fact still here but are now hidden in those one story residential facilities. The ones that are set back from the road with the beautiful landscaping and a really well appointed entrance where the families of perspective residents can meet with the admissions coordinator in her nice business office and have a cup of espresso from the well stocked Keurig. But who knows what is actually behind this façade? (Scary!) So for now, I/we are quite happy here and I feel like I really fit in as opposed to 25 years ago. In addition, like all snow birds (whether they are just here for the season or live here year round), the “no winter thing” is a “miracle”. From my northerner’s perspective, it just doesn’t seem real! So I will enjoy the sun, until inevitably it will be time to move on!