Search This Blog

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stepford or Utopia?

Sometimes watching the Andy Griffith Show, I long to live in a small town where you know your neighbors and every important holiday is celebrated with friends in the town square. But this week, I stared that dream in the face and what I saw was rathering frightening.

Welcome to The Villages, FL, the perfect town. The buildings are perfect. Downtown has lots of shops and restaurants. The town square was decorated in red, white and blue bunting in honor of the presidential candidate visiting. A "weathered" building near the water added to the authentic atmosphere of a quaint, safe town.

Neighborhoods with gleaming sidewalks and manicured lawns and almost identical houses -- each with a screened or columned porch -- completed the picture of utopia.

The surrounding retail and chain restaurants all perfectly fit in with the schemes of either a Spanish mission or a southern lake community.

The cars all glistened -- no dented old cars with bad paint jobs here.

A perfect community for those 55 and older. Though, by law, since they've incorporated, the city has to allow at least 38 percent of its inhabitants to be 50 years and younger. We didn't see any of those people during our visit. Though, the high school was equally as manicured and perfect as the surrounding neighborhoods.

Most of the 55+ folks who live there also drive golf carts to events down town. Some sported chrome wheels and fancy paint jobs. The names of the owners, frequently were part of the paint scheme.

But there's a darker side to the Villages and communities like them; permanent Walt Disney Worlds for old people. But reports like the one issued today about the amount of AIDS meds paid for by Medicare crack the perfect facade. That's right folks. STDs are rampant in Utopia. More alcohol is consumed in The Villages than most college campuses. It's no wonder that at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, a nice silver-haired granny was downing liquor shots at the bar of the restaurant where we ate a late lunch.

The "Bait Shacks" around the town square look quaint. On closer inspection, we found out they were actually bars. Four of them, each at the corner of the town square. I guess when you're 55+, you don't want to walk far for a drink.

This community isn't that unique in Florida, though. The TrumanShow was filmed in a community just like this on the Florida panhandle - Seaside, FL. A real town, not a sound stage.

I definitely don't want to live in the perfect town. Only one member of our group said they would move there. Not me. I want the real world, not an escape route to a la la land.

My travels around Florida are giving me an interesting view of this state. I love the capital city, Tallahassee, with its moss-covered trees and old mansions. Though, whatever possessed Florida to turn its beautiful historic Capitol building into a museum and build an ugly high rise building to represent the state's government eludes common sense.

The country roads between Tampa and Jacksonville with tall pines and rambling country ranches and farms with orchards are Florida. The Everglades are so overwhelming that you don't know where they end. I love it all: Miami with its foreign flair and Orlando with its parks. Then home, of course. Our own rag-tag beach community. Even southeast Florida - Boca Raton - with its "hurry up" attitude jutting against the laid back beaches is interesting. Florida is a quilt with many layers and pieces. I'm sure I'll find more of them.

But The Villages will definitely take honors in being just plain creepy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If mothers ruled the world

Sally Field made a good point -- well as much as she was able -- about if mothers ruled the world. If mothers ruled the world there probably WOULD be no war. Mothers don't want to send their babies off to die. At least most mothers don't.

What else would be different if mothers ruled the world?

No more dirty underwear on the floor.
Everyone would eat dinner together.
PTA meetings wouldn't start at 5 p.m.
Child molesters would be shot after the first offense, none of this register offender crap. (hey, a tigress does protect her cubs)
We would all have shorter work days and longer family time.
Our children would leave home, but live nearby

That's just for finish the thought, "If mothers ruled the world...?"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mormons and such

I've been thinking about Mormons -- members of the Latter Day Saints denomination -- lately. Probably because I'm spending a lot of time at campaign events lately and Mitt Romney actually visits Florida - a lot.

But I digress...which reminds me I have great admiration for folks like Melessa from the blog by that name, and my long-time friends Kimberly and Tim. Wonderful people. Most Mormons fall into that category of wonderful, NICE people.

None of the them is of the "Big Love" ilk.

Yet, all these nice Mormon folk are seen as outsiders by those in the "mainstream" religions. You know those who believe that you must believe in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. My friends tell me that Mormons do indeed believe in Jesus. They believe he was a prophet.

That alone has prompted many of sermon from the pulpits of good Christian churches. I remember once, in Canyon, Texas, at a METHODIST church where the preacher went on and on about all the Mormons going to hell. My daughter, who had friends at school who were Mormon, asked me, "does that mean going to hell?"

I fail to believe so. Yet, that belief sometimes goes against the grain of everything we are taught in Sunday School. You MUST be born again. You MUST believe in Jesus as Lord. Or you are going to hell.

Again, I fail to believe that nice, good people are going to hell. While the likes of some " born again" preacher who hates Mexicans, Asians, Blacks, gays, and anyone who didn't make enough money or come from the right family goes to heaven (any resemblance to any living person is merely a coincidence, I was just using that imaginary preacher as an example.)

So because I refuse to believe that someone will go to hell just for being a Mormon, does that mean I'm going to hell too?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cracker barrel of tears

Do you ever find yourself looking for the familiar? Last week I was a little homesick. This feeling was likely increased by the nervousness I was feeling about my impending trip to Miami.

Miami's always been a larger than life location, like Hollywood or New York City. I was going there for work. I'm new to this public p.r. position, so I was worried that I wouldn't live up to the expectations of the headquarters people that would be there.

I was worried that I wouldn't fit in with the beautiful people I was sure lived there. The two co-workers whom I had met from the Miami office did nothing to dispel that myth. They are both gorgeous Latinas with flowing hair, perfect bodies and runway-suitable clothing. I was worried that my Spanish wasn't going to cut the mustard (or plaintain) with the folks from Univision and the other media. I was nervous.

So on the way to Miami, I had hubby stop off for dinner -- at Cracker Barrel. This place is the same where ever you are. From the wooden rocking chairs to the corny shirts in the store, we could have been in Oklahoma. I order a sampler that provided me a variety of country fare to taste.

When I bit into the chicken and noodles that reminded me of the ones my mother-in-law used to make, the tears started. My husband didn't know what was wrong. I couldn't explain. I cried because my mother-in-law's memory has long softened. She can no longer cook the delicious meals that I wouldn't even attempt to cook. I cried because the old Gene Autry song playing in the restaurant made me long for the days when we had to run to keep up with my dad. I cried because the fried chicken reminded me of Sunday dinners, cooked by my mother for our big family.

I cried because I'm missing "Big 12" country.

Yes, I like Florida. Yes, I like my job. And, on any given day the beach and view of the water still take my breath away. But I was nervous and scared, and sometimes, the familiar is a good place to hide.

I wiped away the tears and laughed at my silliness -- crying at Cracker Barrel -- and we headed down the road.

I popped in a Dixie Chicks c.d. and sang loudly as we came into the city, which is as wonderful as I expected. The familiar for this Texas gal worked.

I survived. My Spanish was not near as bad as I thought. My clothes were fine. The bosses were thrilled with our work and the D.C. delegate sent me some flowers and a great note the day after.

Maybe the tears helped after all. I think I'll make it a habit to have dinner at Cracker Barrel every once in a while.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Miami Heat

Welcome to Miami. The city has been immortalized in our minds through television shows (Miami Vice, CSI, etc.) So I've been nervous and excited about my weekend here.

Yes, I'm in Miami! Work (Univision presidential debate) is keeping me busy, but I got a chance to slip away this evening. I headed to downtown Miami, and being the tourist that I am headed over to Bayside near the Port of Miami.

Fun. Great food, and live music everywhere. The lights, the colors, the language, the Latin music, people was fun. A bit overwhelming, but fun.

Tomorrow night, we're headed to Little Havana to meet friends for dinner. Fun.

And, yes, we thought about you tonight, Bart. You would love it.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Things I never talked about as a teenager

Being a teen in the 1970s meant changes. After all, the 60s generation had taught us to rebel. Some of my peers pushed the envelope, wearing bell bottoms and "hot pants" and talking openly about smoking pot. They challenged authority.

In high school, there were some things I would never have talked about or heard discussed even by those who were wilder than most.

Even when I left the sheltered life of Abernathy, Texas and moved to Sidney, Montana for my high school year. Yes, I had run off. Gotten married, and was married in high school my senior year. That was pretty risque for back then. I had rebelled.

In Sidney, my circle of friends were different. There was Meredith, the feminist who refused to wear a bra even though she really needed to wear one. Marty and Jill, the actresses. Everyone was different -- something never really celebrated in the cookie cutter world I had lived in before.

But still, some things we never talked about.

Which brings me to today. Hubby and I were sitting on a bench at the mall, deciding where to head for supper. A group of teens, young teens, probably about 14-15, some barely one year past puberty, were standing in front of us. They were all dressed the same, boys and girls, in wrinkled T-shirts and baggy jeans with long, stringy hair.

"Gay, or not gay?" asked the tallest of the group to one of the shortest boys in the group. "I'm not gay," says the little one. "I can prove it." He pulls out what is obviously a note from some girl that they all hoot about.

Tall boy points to another one in the crowd. This one a girl, "Gay?" She shakes her head, no. "Bi?" she says yes, looking embarrassed and yet at the same time as if she's seeking approval. She gets approval and a high five and a hug from another.

The game continues. They openly talk about sex acts that still make me blush.

Maybe it's my 50 years, or maybe it's our changing societal mores. But those were definitely things that I never would have talked about -- OK, or even known about -- when I was in high school.

I pictured my grandson and granddaughters a few years down the line, at the mall, talking to their friends. I shudder. Progress, I don't think is always for the best...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday afternoons

Sunday afternoons were always fun growing up. All the work of the week was completed on Saturday. Sunday morning we would all go to church -- Sunday school included.

My mother, like all good Baptist wives -- would put a roast in the oven before getting herself and her children to church. After Sunday dinner, we would all play or listen to music, while our parents too a "nap." Occasionally, my parents would allow us to go over to a friend's house on Sunday afternoon. Parents would be consulted and the friend, always from our church, would be deemed acceptable. We would be returned to our parents at the six 0'clock service. All good Baptists go to church twice on Sunday.

I loved those Sunday afternoons hanging out with the Sotos or Reynas -- they had cute older brothers so that was always the house of choice.

When my childen were growing up, we followed the same traditions -- "nap" included. Being Methodist though, we rarely attended church more than once on Sunday. We did however, usually have a big roast for Sunday dinner and created our own Sunday tradition of going to a Sunday morning buffet at the club on base.

But my children have lost those traditions. First, much to my disappointment and to my mother's criticism, my children don't go to church regularly. They don't take their children to church. They usually sleep in until noon, and breakfast might consist of frozen waffles or the occasional trip to one of the breakfast places like Dennys or IHOP.

There's no big Sunday dinner. Sunday afternoons are spent catching up on laundry and other chores too numerous to fit into a work week when both parents work.

Of course, things vary. Sometimes they go to the lake or the beach or movies. That's nice when they can take time off to be families.

My husband and I have fallen into a routine lately, I hear you do that when you get older. Saturday mornings we head off to a local place for a cheap breakfast then finish our chores. Sunday afternoons, we spend reading the paper over more coffee than we should drink at Panera, or scouring the bookstores in the area. We still go to church -- not as often as we should. For a while there we were caught up in the laundry and getting ready for the work week thing. Now we're trying to recapture Sunday afternoons. I think I'll have a talk with my children about those Sundays.

Sunday afternoons are important.