Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Flight Of The Snowbirds

During that recent trip made necessary by one of the seminal facets of life -- death -- my younger brother and I found ourselves in Mesa, Arizona, part of the Greater Phoenix Metro area.

With it being mid-September at the time, we arrived in the early stages of an annual migration known as the flight of the snowbirds. A time when many retired folk, who leave the summer oven of southern Arizona, choose to return there. They leave behind places like North Dakota, where summer gives way to the Ice Age.

Neither of us had been to Mesa heretofore; we didn't find it much cooler after 5, 6 or 7 in the evening, either. Not having considered the migratory season in process, we had a harder time finding hotel accommodations than had been anticipated, but find something we did: a Travelodge, along the main street of Mesa.

After getting settled, we decided to look around for a place to graze (our last sustenance had been via a McD's in southern Colorado, hours and miles ago). By merely walking around the corner of the east side of the hotel, I found a "family steak house", right next door.

When we entered, my brother immediately noted that it had to be a disguised Furr's Cafeteria: with only two exceptions (staff), we were the youngest people in the place. With us being 49 and 44, that said something. My brother suggested it said that adult beverages would be served fortified with shots of Geritol or Ensure; I told him to just do with the shooter what I usually did with a side of coleslaw: ignore it, and it might slink away. Over the next couple of days, our other restaurant experiences were pretty much similar. It quickly became obvious that Mesa -- like Sun City, on the NW edge of Phoenix -- was heavily if not exclusively geared toward the retirement generation.

Other tip-offs we noted:

-- a number of RV park communities along the main street and in other residential areas of Mesa, not to mention the ever-increasing number of RVs we encountered on the road as we got closer to Mesa. While hummingbirds migrate to their winter homes in Mexico on their tiny 90 mph wings, human snowbirds opt for the comfort of an RV, eliminating arm cramps and the need of copious amounts of Icy Hot.

-- the heavy use in neighborhoods of golf carts, in lieu of cars, bicycles, etc.

-- the seeming presence/appearance of a funeral home or mortuary, about every third block.

It didn't take a rocket scientist or his older brother much to grasp that we were in a community heavily geared to retirees. Of course, the presence of so many funeral homes made one aspect of our business there easy; it also added a touch of morbid humor to an otherwise somber visit (like during the arrangements we needed to make, our very pleasant, serious attendant cracked up when I lightened the atmosphere by asking if they served cadaviar at parties therein).

Our second evening there, while lounging outside of the room in the dark yet still very warm air of a September evening, we began waxing a touch philosophical. My brother began musing about how, 25 years ago, he had been accepted to attend Arizona State University, in nearby Tempe; only a lack of funds/grants prevented his following through. Years ago, the fiscal reality annoyed him; now, seeing what he'd seen of Mesa, he decided he wasn't sorry he'd missed the opportunity. I found that notion amusing: I suggested that were we to venture about 40 minutes to the west, we'd be sitting in environs probably more conducive to co-eds and tank tops tht didn't look so out-of-sorts as hereabouts.

It was about that time in the evening that we had our brief encounter with the rather interesting 'resident' of the Travelodge; but that's for another time...

Anyway, it got me to pondering life, aging and our diverse views of such. My younger brother -- married and having two daughters -- remains firmly in that category of folks who are "young at heart", and finds the advance of age merely a myth and technicality, easily overcome by vehement denial. He wasn't wild about hanging around in places where the average age could be our mother. Even though he reveres Ma.

I, on the other hand, have a more "that's life" attitude: while I do some things to sort of resist the advance of age, I tend to accept that I'm not what I was almost 30 years ago. Indeed, I subscribe to a notion that many men who reach between their 40s and 50 or so go through what I call "male menopause": they buy a sports car, get toupees, dump their wives and go get 20 year old girlfriends so they can show the world (and probably prove to themselves) that they can do now, what they did at 20.

Speaking for me, I can't afford a sports car, let alone the insurance for one (and living in four-season Colorado, don't want one anyway); I don't need a toupee; and even with not having a wife to dump, the notion of getting a 20 year old girl friend scares the snarf outta me. Bottom line: I don't need to prove to anyone I can do now what I did at 20: I didn't do much at 20, and I'm better than ever now at not doing much.

A person's view of life and aging is every bit as subjective as ones' view of humor: we all have our respective standards we adopt and tend to live by. A recently retired colleague of mine is 65, and fancies himself as still very young at heart. As such, he seeks the companionship of females half his age, many of whom don't see the young heart inside the 65 year old exterior. But the diminutive, energetic former Queens (NY) Italian named 'Vinnie' keeps trying.

More power (and Viagra) to him.

Other retirees, well...a goodly number of them are more physically active than I am. Take Mr. Six Flags (pictured above): he barely gets off the bus, then goes into a dance routine that would put me in six months of traction. And I'll be able to keep up push-up wise, with Jack LaLanne.

Maybe when he's 110.

Or not.

Funny how situations in real life can lead into philosophical examinations of a life and how it's lived, such as the flight of the snowbirds. Which was momentarily interrupted by a visit from that 'resident' of the Travelodge. That led to another interesting philosophical discussion in her wake, but I digress and that's for another time...


Blogger Monica said...

Hmmm, I could have SWORN you were going to enlighten us about your "encounter" before this.

Tapping....slowly tapping.

18 October, 2006 17:33  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Patience, Monica...patience ;)

18 October, 2006 20:15  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

Cadaviar. You are too funny!

18 October, 2006 21:18  
Blogger phoenix said...

Wonders what cadaviar tastes like... *shudders at the notion*

It is funny... the older we get the more we avoid the mirror. I have a mental image of what I look like and that suits me fine... until I have to look in the mirror and I have to wonder who that old woman is that is staring back at me! ;)

20 October, 2006 10:38  

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