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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sprawl and awl that....

More observations from my temporary perch in Florida:

Randi posted this picture on her blog to remind me that it snowed on Thursday. I have a talent for being out of town during snowfalls in Beverly. The last time I was around for such an event it was a "doozie" -- last January I got stranded in Beverly by one of the biggest blizzards in the region's history and could not make it back to Belfast (I was still on fellowship leave there at the time).

This time I am making do with the sunshine in the Ft. Lauderdale area, and while the 80 degree temps and sunshine are nice, I still would find it difficult to take this for more than a short visit. It isn't the weather as much as the "sprawl" that seems to characterize this entire region. It doesn't help that many trees are gone as a result of Wilma, but I had the same feeling the last time I was here as well.

My mother lives in an area that ten or fifteen years ago was prime retirement property for folks in their mid sixties. The complex she resides in has few folks younger than their seventies and eighties, although the place is open to anyone over 55 (which means babyboomers like me qualify). But this is not the kind of place folks of my cohort are likely to select for retirement. They might come to Florida, but their choices (I suspect) will likely be further north. I also get the impression that places like Arizona and New Mexico are more attractive to those who are hitting their sixties now (my older sibling, who lived her entire life in New York, finds Albuquerque to be a fantastic place to live)

Since I spent most of my teenage and college years in southern Colorado I can see the attraction of the southwest to northeasterners, but for now I actually find New England a good place to live. But then I am a bit short of retirement age.... What New England doesn't have, however, is that sense of sprawl. Yes, it has its vast suburban tracts, but perhaps there is something about the terrain that makes even the most suburban of areas seem somewhat more "rural" than suburban. We noticed the difference when we moved from New Jersey to Beverly -- in NJ the typical suburban homeowner strives for ostentatious display, while in New England the mode is quiet and quaint. (Compare, for example, the homes you see in "The Sopranos" with those being made over on "This Old House".) I don't know how these regional differences are sustained, but my impression is that there is a somewhat invisible cultural boundary one crosses somewhere in northern Connecticut where living style and standards tend to change.

Obviously, for now at least I prefer the northern side of that boundary....


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