Twenty or so years ago those of my generation began reviewing their pensions and plotting their retirements.
Anywhere from San Diego to Vermont would do, or from Denver to Mexico. All were potential retirement destination points. The only location off the map and absolutely unthinkable to even visit was the American South.
That’s because the Deep South was filled with racist lunatics who spent weekends crashing around in pickup trucks drinking beer, yelling mean things at Black people, running over and shooting endangered species while shouting Yee Haw!
Icky, those redneck crackers.
It was around that time I told Trophy the Deep South seemed the perfect place to spend our sunset years because A) all it would take was one Hollywood celebrity to buy an estate in Virginia, or B) a single feature on Charleston in the New York Times Style section with a headline like “Hot Retirement Spots for Trendy Retirees!” to cause Boomer attitudes to reverse.
The story ran, the flip-flops began, and so here me and Trophy are, deep in the heart of Los Carolinos. We brung our dog, our toothbrushes and our life savings in canvas sacks slung over our shoulders. Realtors smile and wave when they see the California plates.
We bought a place for less than the cheapest houses in California, including houses you’d refuse to live in located in neighborhoods you’d refuse to drive through. Here, our narrow road is busy, but we lived on Dora Street, and what’s new?
So far it’s just one big gol durn hootin’ good time down here, y’all. We’ve not yet experienced collard greens, chiggers, kudzu, deep fried pork rinds, Confederate flags, street corner preachers, or anyone shouting Yee Haw! We’ve yet to spot a bumper sticker advertising a Presidential candidate, unlike Ukiah where 6.7 cars in 10 have a Hillary or a Bernie or a McGovern sticker.
Also we’ve had no wildfires or earthquakes, no flood or drought. But folks here seem ready. Unlike in Mendo County, where as soon as it rains everyone forgets about ways to collect more water for next summer (dig Lake Mendocino deeper) (pray) out here they find ways to deal with too much water.
I’m on the the Flush-o-Matic Toilet System for instance, and it allows me to run through 6000 gallons a day to reduce reservoir overflows downstream. Thus no floods.
Our block is cluttered up in old houses but it’s nice anyway. There’s a bunch of those big old plantation-style joints with tall columns holding up the balconies; one has a couple dozen two-story columns, and the big house on the corner has way more. Wonder who had the local franchise back then (“This week only! Come on down to Colonel Cottonmouth’s Corinthian Column Extravaganza! Buy one, get one free!”)
But life in the south is not all Mint Juleps, low taxes and free gasoline, not that we’re experts after five days.
The dog is lonely without her friends at Mendo Books, Mendo Bounty, Triple S and the Barkery. She goes on morning walks but must wonder where her lost friends Boo, Haley, Fiona, Ken and Cosmo have gone, plus their chaperones Arlynn, Rod, Pat and Dave.
Me, I’d miss my friend too, if I had one. And pity the poor Spousal Unit. How would you like to be marooned on a distant island, or in the Deep South, with just one person to talk to, and it was me? (But she is thrilled by cheap cigarette prices.)
Prior to a few days ago I’d only seen one cockroach in my life and it was six years ago in Malaga, Spain. He was son Lucas’s pet, sort of, so we didn’t kill him. In the last 18 hours I’ve terminated half a dozen cockroaches using primitive but effective boot heel techniques. Did I get ‘em all, or will there be more cockroaches in my future?
And oh, there’s even more on the negative side of the ledger. Yeah, yeah the days are mild, the nights are warm and all that, but earlier this week I found myself in the local emergency room. Next the dreaded cardiology wing. Heart surgery and all that routine stuff I’ve been through too (two) many times before.
They kicked me out this afternoon. It was raining. Driving home in the car we just bought we discovered the passenger side window won’t close and windshield wipers don’t work. Welcome, immigrant.
In Ukiah I can go months, years maybe, and not even know if my car has a set of windshield wipers.
(Leaving, the hospital gave Tom Hine a page of dietary restrictions with various meal suggestions, and a second sheet listing local morticians. TWK wants to come home, and so does the dog. It could happen sooner than anyone thinks.)