Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Choose Charlotte, North Carolina

My son asked me today if I would even consider retiring to Florida if they didn't live there. "No," I said, "not in a million years".

"So where would you go instead if you decided to leave Indiana, Mom?"

The reality is that I'll probably never get out of Indiana. Where else could I go and duplicate a 3-bedroom, 3-lot house for $409 a month? Where else could I go out to eat at any restaurant in town and be hailed by at least half the people who are there on any given night? Where else would I get gas at a local oil company that gives me a swipe card and bills me monthly....and that let's me go three months without paying them in full when my company didn't reimburse me for mileage because the state held up my grant, saying "don't worry about it, Vic, we know you'll pay us." Where else would I vote where I actually know the candidates and so, push the button for people rather than Republicans or Democrats? All those homely qualities are comforting when you're in your 60's.

The other side of that is: do you want your life to just wind down without at least one more adventure?

If I could choose a place to move and could get there without all the stress and hassle of 1) selling the house, 2) getting rid of 3 decades of stuff, 3) packing what I want to take 4) hiring a moving company, 5) finding a new place and 6) getting settled in there - if that could all happen by magic - I'd move close to Charlotte, North Carolina.

For me, Charlotte the best of all possible worlds. First, it's the center of NASCAR, which has become my passion. I could visit the race shops. I might even be able to get a part-time job working for one of them or maybe, the NASCAR Hall of Fame. I'd probably volunteer to work for nothing if it was at Hendrick Motorsports. I'd see the transporters hitting the highway taking the cars to the next track. I could get involved in all the race weeks stuff in Charlotte. I might see Jimmie Johnson in the grocery store!

The land around Charlotte is green, like the Midwest. The absence of the kind of greenness that characterizes Indiana is one thing that turns me off about southern Florida. Oh, don't get me wrong. The Keys have green trees and various green plants and if they water, they can even grow grass. But left to its own devices, that part of the country is the beige and gray of sand and gravel.

And the plants around Charlotte are familiar ones. The trees and flowers look pretty much like the ones here at home instead of disturbingly  exotic flora like the ever-expanding mangrove islands in southern Florida. (Does North Carolina have kudzu? I hope not).

And those trees in North Carolina sometimes grow on hills instead of the flatlands of the Keys. In fact, if you go far enough west, the hills become mountains when you reach the wild, scenic country around Asheville and Cherokee and Maggie Valley.

The best thing about southern Florida is the water. I love Big Water but go east from Charlotte and you're plenty close enough for a day trip to where the miles-long beaches of the Outer Banks meet the Atlantic Ocean.

And North Carolina has seasons, not as extreme as the Midwest perhaps, but seasons with definite distinctions. Springs come earlier and winters come later and milder but seasons just the same. I can handle some picturesque but quickly disappearing snow. As compared to the Keys which basically has just two seasons: warm and hot.

These are probably just what-if daydreams. I'll probably remain a Hoosier, the status quo being the path of least resistance, but if I could just wiggle my nose and be there.....it would be Charlotte.