I am reminded almost daily via email from AARP that I must be nearing retirement age.
While I admire AARP’s persistence, and I’m flattered when I receive “exclusive” invitations that no one else gets, and I’m impressed that Betty White takes time from her busy schedule to send me spam, and I’m certainly tempted by the handsome insulated travel bag they’ve reserved just for me, AARP’s constant recruitment efforts tell me that I have more pressing matters to attend to.
I’m getting old and it must be time to start looking for a place to retire.
A generation ago, this was a no-brainer. You retired in Florida, which had the perfect combination of cheap housing, low taxes, and weather that made you welcome death. Or, if you were a true rebel, maybe you chose Arizona, so you didn’t have to carry a friggin’ umbrella every day.
But for us baby boomers, those states aren’t really options. I mean, who wants to retire near so many old people? You always end up behind them on the highway, and it’s horrifying, because it looks like there’s no one driving the car. Then you look carefully as you pass, and you can just barely see a pair of hands reaching up to clutch the steering wheel.
Plus, judging from the shows my mother in Ft. Lauderdale goes to, the live entertainment options tend toward performers you were pretty sure were dead.
Fortunately, we have other choices today, as noted in TheStreet.com’s list of the 10 Best Retirement Cities in America which, sadly, has absolutely no overlap with TheStreet.com’s list of the 10 Cheapest Cities in America.*
Number One on the list of retirement cities is Traverse City, MI, which boasts “its own film festival, historic theaters, scores of wineries and streets lined with restaurants and flowing with craft beer.” This demonstrates how much Americans have lowered their expectations. Used to be, we aspired to streets paved with gold. Now we’re perfectly happy if our streets are lined with brewskis and burgers.
Traverse City is on Lake Michigan, and is one of America’s Top 10 beach towns. This sounds ideal, but when I investigated further I discovered that Traverse City, MI. is in Michigan! I’ll be damned if I’m going to live in the same state as Detroit. Then I found out that Traverse City is in northern Michigan, and the average low temperature during the winter is at least fifteen degrees below “Hey it’s really cold!”
Number two on the list is Gainsville, home of the University of Florida Gators (and also, I imagine, their large-toothed namesakes). If I wasn’t already inclined to eliminate it because it’s in Florida and too much of a college sports town, a quick visit to its official website takes it out of the running. The first item listed under “typical cuisine” is pizza. First of all, what kind of town lists “typical cuisine?” I mean, maybe if you’re New Orleans, or Memphis, or Kansas City, and you have a regional cuisine for which you’re famous. But Gainsville? And pizza? All they’re saying is, “Hey, we’re a college town and the kids like their pizza.” I’m surprised they don’t have a “Local Pastime” section where they list beer pong.
Moving on, next on our retirement city list is Fargo, ND, which is even colder than Traverse City, and has none of the advantages of Traverse City, such as things to do. You know you’re in trouble when the town’s biggest draw is “good hospitals.”
That brings us to Omaha, NE, which I associate with two things: a wild kingdom and telemarketing. Omaha is, in fact, known as the telemarketing capital of the world, although not by normal people. A typical conversation in downtown Omaha goes something like this:
- Person #1: Mr. Peterson, how are you today?
- Person #2: I’m fine.
- Person #1: Are you the head of your household?
- Person #2: I don’t think that’s any of your…
- Person #1: I just wanted to make sure I’m telling the right person that you’ve won a free subscription to Time Magazine…”
Even if I could live in Omaha without having anyone talk to me, I think I would be put off seeing so many folks walking down the street wearing headsets. Unless they occasionally get their heads bitten off by lions from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom; that would be entertaining.
The next two choices on the retirement city list are Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC. We have friends who have vacation homes in one of the Carolinas, but I can never remember which one, so we’d have to make sure we were moving to the right Carolina.** According to TheStreet.com, Charleston has “sandy beaches, palm trees and temperate weather, give or take the occasional hurricane.” Well that takes Charleston off my list. I don’t like places where I have to worry about weather. Sure, we have blizzards in the northeast, but they tend not to remove your house from its current location and deposit it somewhere else. I want to avoid anywhere that’s prone to hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes and active volcanoes. (I know the last two aren’t technically weather-related, but I don’t think that would matter if, while evacuating from the path of the typhoon, I don’t see the large fissure that the earthquake has opened up in the road because my windshield wipers can’t get the volcanic ash off my car window.)
Number 7 on the list is Pittsburgh, but that’s just silly. Number 8 is San Antonio, which is in Texas, and sounds very nice, but, I repeat, is in Texas, a state with Rick Perry as a governor and a school board that periodically considers adding intelligent design to the curriculum. I figure my brain will be getting addled enough as I get older without living there.
Then we have Bend, OR., which also sounds nice, but may be a little too outdoorsy for me, and also has a ridiculous name:
- Abbott: Well, I’ve just finished moving.
- Costello: Where to?
- Abbott: Bend.
- Costello: Can’t you tell me while I’m standing upright?
- Abbott: I am telling you.
- Costello: So where do you live?
- Abbott: Bend.
- Costello: I don’t wanna bend. Look, forget that. Where did you move from?
- Abbott: North Carolina.
- Costello: Now we’re getting somewhere! Can you tell me what town?
- Abbott: Whynot.
- Costello: So tell me.
- Abbott: Whynot.
- Costello: I don’t know. Why not?
- Abbott: See? You do know.
- Costello: I don’t know what I’m talking about! Hey, will you be moving again?
- Abbott: Yes, to Wisconsin.
- Costello: Well, I’m going to want to send you a birthday card, so can you tell me where in Wisconsin?
- Abbott: Ubet.
- Costello: Well, go ahead.
- Abbott: I just did. I’m not gonna tell you again.
- Costello: Why not?
- Abbott: No, that’s where I used to live!
(By the way, Whynot, NC and Ubet, WI are real places. And if you’re too young or too uncultured to get the Abbott & Costello reference, you must watch this immediately.)
The last entry on the list is Spokane, WA. which claims to be the largest city between Minneapolis and Seattle, which isn’t saying much, considering the only things between Minneapolis and Spokane are North Dakota and Montana. (Certainly doesn’t say much for the #3 city on the list, does it?) One benefit of Spokane is that it’s fairly close to Canada, so I’ll have a source of cheap prescription drugs. On the other hand, do I really want to live in the Number 10 city on the list? (“We’re number 10!”)
This is going to be a tough decision. But I know one thing: when we move, that AARP travel bag will sure come in handy.
See you soon.
*Not surprisingly, all 10 of the cheapest cities (with the possible exception of Memphis) have in common the fact that you wouldn’t want to live there. Number 1 on the list is Harlingen, TX., which is 10 miles from the Mexican border and looks as though any dumped drug-war-related corpses would take about a minute and a half to decompose in the sun.
**It may be time for a president to tell them to “bring down that wall” so the two Carolinas can be united.