Sunday, April 3, 2016

get me out of FLA

My brother Max just celebrated the last birthday of his fifties. (Perhaps "celebrated" isn't the best choice of words.) He has mentioned to me, on several occasions, his desire to retire at the first available chance. He works in a state job and a major benefit of his position and tenure is a pension that the good people of New Jersey have unwittingly — and unwillingly — subsidized. Max hopes to take his retirement when he reaches the age of 63 — just a few short years from now.

One morning last week, Mrs. Pincus met my sister-in-law (Max's wife) for a cup of coffee. They chatted about family stuff and my sister-in-law repeated my brother's plans for retirement. This time, however, the plan was elaborated upon, with a detail that was, heretofore, unmentioned. A detail to which my poor sister-in-law expressed her displeasure. It seems that my brother's grand dreams of retirement all take place in Florida.

I first became enamored with The Sunshine State as a teenager. I took my first vacation sans parents in 1980. Three friends and I descended on Walt Disney World and a better time could not have been had. We all agreed that this was the place to be. Soon we realized that the only reason we felt the way we did was because we were on vacation. We understood that if were were to actually live in Florida, we'd have to get jobs and find permanent housing and it would become our lives. The novelty of a carefree vacation would soon disappear. But, the thought stayed in the back of my mind.

"Before we all lived here in Florida"
After a few years of wedded bliss, my new bride figured out that we could purchase a house for a little more than what we were currently paying in monthly rent at our little townhouse apartment. She took me to house after "on-the-market" house until we chanced upon the three-story, six bedroom dwelling that we now affectionately call "Pincusland." At the time, I was, as they say, "between jobs," This did not, however, stop us from applying for a mortgage. As we waited impatiently for an approval from the good folks at Chase Mortgage*, I made a proposal to Mrs. P. I told her if we get turned down for a mortgage, we will pack our belongings and move to Florida, specifically the Orlando area. I had it all planned. I would get a job in the Design or Marketing Department of the Walt Disney Company and Mrs. P would abandon her teaching position (she was a nursery school teacher when we met, a story for a future blog) and find employment at one of Disney's theme parks. My brother isn't the only Pincus with dreams! Lucky for us, Chase had faith and granted us a mortgage. Thanks to a long succession of increasingly better employment opportunities, we were able to pay off that mortgage before the agreed-upon thirty year deadline. I say "lucky," because after numerous visits to Florida, I came to discover that a move to that state would have been a huge mistake. While the tourist business certainly has been a boon for the local economy, there also seems to be an inordinate amount of empty buildings, stalled construction projects and shuttered businesses. On every subsequent trip to Orlando, my teenage fantasy world faded a little more. I saw another closed restaurant and another shopping center sitting empty... while, curiously, another shopping center was under construction just a few feet away. The sprawl and dereliction was a strange and unnerving dichotomy. It smacked of erratic instability.

So, instead of moving, we stayed in Philadelphia. I always managed to find a new and better job (all twelve of them!). Our family increased by one with the arrival of our son soon after settling in our new house. Dreams of moving to Florida became less and less of an aspiration and more of a silly childish pipe dream. To me, it revealed itself to be a frivolous, irrational thought associated with impetuous, unthinking youth.

I can't discount Max's dream of retiring and moving to Florida. After all, it has gained a reputation as the old Jew's equivalent of the elusive "Elephant's Graveyard." Perhaps, though, Max's wife will talk some sense to one of those elephants.

*At the time. Our mortgage was sold at least five times during the past thirty years.

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