The Grass Is Always Greener…

…in another part of the state, in another part of the country, in another part of the world.  Especially when you’ve lived in one place for most of your life.

I’ve lived in Tallahassee (Tallahicky to me) for over 30 years now, which is about half my life.  I’m considering retiring somewhere else.  And it’s not just me who’s restless…

Recently, my maternal uncle called about possibly moving to Florida from New Mexico.  He’s lived in Albuquerque since graduating college in the mid-sixties.

Uncle Sonny was interviewing with Gillette for one job when they learned he spoke fluent Spanish.  They needed someone in their Central and South American operations unit and offered him that job, which he accepted.  He was based in Albuquerque and has lived there ever since.  (Working at one company your entire career is pretty much passé .)

Enquiring minds may wonder how my uncle became fluent in Spanish.  That’s an interesting story…

After Japan took control of the Philippines during the Second World War, my uncle’s American father was imprisoned for the duration of the war.  Uncle Sonny’s mother was not imprisoned since she was a Philippine citizen.  My uncle, his sister (my mother) and their mother went to live with her family at their rice plantation.  His grandparents were Spanish citizens and were also not interred since Spain was a neutral country.

My maternal great grandparents spoke only Spanish, even though by this time the Philippines had been under American control for over 40 years after it was seized from Spain following the Spanish-American War in 1898.  So my uncle, who was an infant at the time, grew up in a Spanish speaking home.  (My mother spoke Spanish, English, the dialect of her province and Tagalog, the Philippine national language.)

After 50 years in Albuquerque, I can understand why my uncle is restless. There’s about a half million folks in the city, which makes it almost twice as large as where I live.  But Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico so he’s got to leave the state for “big city” attractions.

Uncle Sonny was American School of Manila Class of ’58 and I was Class of ’70, and since I’m almost 62 my math says he’s about 74.  He says there’s not much to do in Albuquerque but I’m not sure what it is he wants to do that interests him in Florida.  (I love the southwest and would retire there if I do not leave the country, which I’m considering but Costa Rica is now behind Cuenca, Ecuador.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador

Uncle Sonny asked me about the Tampa Bay area, where I went to college and lived for two years afterwards.  He’s looking at Clearwater.  He’d be on the water, which there isn’t too much of in New Mexico.  And there’s lots of retirees there, so he’d meet lots of folks his age.  (Folks over 65 are 22% of the county’s population and that goes higher when the Canadians come down for winter.)

He mentioned cruises and while there are cruises across the bay out of Tampa, most cruises leave out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  But those cities are a lot closer to Clearwater than Albuquerque.

He and his wife like to play slots and there’s many Native American casinos in New Mexico.  Luckily for them, Tampa is home to one of two Seminole Hard Rock casinos in the state, the only true casinos we have.

Also, Florida is one of seven states with no income tax.  Not paying state income tax may offset what I’ve seen on the Internet about the cost of living in the Tampa Bay area being 17% higher than Albuquerque.

On the other hand, being on the water in Florida has its disadvantages.  All that water means high humidity, especially in Clearwater since the county is a peninsula.  In summer, the temperature and humidity will both be in the mid-90s and you’ll be drenched in sweat if you’re outside for even a few minutes. I’m a good 30 miles from the water and it’s still horrible during the summer. (Now Cuenca is at about 8,000 feet in the Andes and cool year round.)

Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater, Florida

Then, there’s hurricanes. The season is six months long, from June through November. Tampa Bay is not in the typical path of a hurricane but they’ve had some close calls. Even if there’s no hurricanes, there’ll be lots of rain.

Probably more aggravating will be pollen season. The Southwest is a good place for folks with allergies, since there’s not many trees. Clearwater is fairly urbanized but I’m sure there’ll be more pollen than Albuquerque.

I suggested to my uncle that they visit Tampa Bay in July or August, so they can experience the summer for themselves. The “summer” is about May through part of September.

Stay tuned…


4 responses to “The Grass Is Always Greener…

  1. Retirees concerns are typically health and financial. Tampa Bay has very good healthcare providers, especially for folks who have planned intelligently and have thorough coverage. Tampa General is perhaps the best Hospital in Florida and there are many others in Pinellas County. Tons of Doctors and drugstores on every corner. Healthcare is a growth industry here. attracting a strong cluster of medical professionals.

    The grocery cart is very competitive in Tampa Bay with many large chains providing a broad range of .food and household needs. There are specialty markets everywhere, with a broad variety of ethnic diversity.That applies to restaurants also.

    Pinellas is the highest density county in the State and new residents frequently are overwhelmed with traffic. Public transportation is lousy and not likely to improve but as long as one can drive life is good. We spend a lot of time in Pinellas and even after 40 years frequently discover new fun enclaves. Great international airport and a growing seaport.

    Entertainment is everywhere, fine arts, professional sports, great nature attractions and theme parks in Tampa and Orlando (80 miles away). But the main attraction is beaches and water sports. And seafood, tons and tons of seafood.

    If budget is not a problem I would suggest looking at Downtown St Pete which is undergoing a major retirement upgrade and is not as crowded as the beaches, but still on the water.

    • That population density is a reason I would not consider Tampa or St. Pete, even though it (St. Pete) has come a long way since I lived there in the ’70s.

      Now that I think about it, since my uncle is fluent in Spanish, I should suggest Cuenca to him. Then I could visit and see if I want to retire there….!

      (Damn, you’re up early…!)

  2. Yes I am an early riser most days.

    As for population density/traffic, remember everything changes for the better when you are retired. Don;t have to drive in rush hour traffic unless you opt to. In my area of Odessa I seldom have irritating traffic to drive in. And in Pinellas we plan our excursions between 10 and 3 Tues thru Thurs. So it’s about like it was when you were at Eckerd (Presbyterian?)

    • Actually, I didn’t drive much when I lived there. No car at college. I lived on 9th Street North about 12 blocks from City Hall, where I worked. Since parking was a hassle, I took the bus, which I could ride free weekdays until early evening by showing my City ID.

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