Years ago — 8 of them — we made the BIG JOURNEY, interviewing places we’d like to end up. (I’m not talking ‘funereal,’ here.) Naples, Fla., was one of the magazine-hyped destinations we checked out for retirement. With that, we went on a weeklong vacation there.
I must say the beachfront villas were gorgeous; the shopping wonderful, albeit high-end and touristy. But it wasn’t for us. Here are the two prime reasons hubby and I are not Naples residents: The first is that restaurants are jam-packed. Now, considering eating out is practically our main priority (sorry — just being honest), that wasn’t going to work for us. We don’t give our name to maitre d’s, and we don’t polish someone’s palm to move our name up a long queue. OK, maybe we do wait 10 minutes at a certain pizza place, on Merrimon Ave., but that’s only because we chat with the owner/bartender, while we wait. So, waiting there is social engagement — never a punishment. There’s just no food that hubby and I figure is worth spending precious time on a bench or chair. And stand in line? Get serious!
Then, too, there’s another big reason: Hubby doesn’t dress in acceptable fashion — or in any fashion — least of all, not by Naples’ standards. Naples folks wear Tommy Hillfigger (hubby calls him Hillfinger, like he’s a James Bond character) or Tommy Bahama coordinated outfits. Sometimes if he jumps in the car to join me on a jaunt and we decide to stop for lunch, only then do I realize he’s wearing his 20-year-old bathing suit trunks that are missing the cord pull for the waist. You see, he thinks they’re shorts, and perfectly fine ones, at that.
Last week, when he was doing some pruning in his authentic, reasonably new Tommy Hilfigger (finger) shirt (I keep trying to upscale him), he cut himself on a thorny rosebush. Because he didn’t think he could get the bloodied mess off the sleeves, he did what any reasonable person would do — he cut the sleeves off the shirt.
Since I’d bought the shirt for him for the rare occasions he’d need something “nice” to wear, I went ballistic. You see, he never does that to the awful clothes he’s had for decades! That screaming eagle T-shirt with the crushed beer can in his beak has been with us forever, as has the white shirt with an Arkansas HAWG rutting across the front of it.
20 years old and hubby makes sure its “beauty” is never marred (I wish he’d treat his Tommy Hilfiger shirts that way.)
They’re all hanging neatly in the closet we share, where the ragged remains of Tommy Hillfigger stare at me daily. But I can’t make this column all about him, for I’d have trouble in Naples, too.
Naples women dress smartly and elegantly. They wear Jimmy Choo shoes and carry real Louis Vuitton bags — not the knock-offs. Their jewelry is real gold and their watches are Rolex. They’ve arrived, and they not only have they arrived, but they pulled up in the Rolls Royce, gave the keys to the valet and sailed in to meet their many friends, post-tennis. They don’t really “do the beach” (too aware of age spots and skin cancer) for that sandy strip is more like an accompaniment or an accessory. It’s there, to look good, or as perfect backdrop. Like the residents.
In contrast, most Ashevillians never really care how they look. The older ones figure they suited up all through life and now, they’re blessedly free from dress constraints. The younger ones most likely never cared.
Yep, there are specific, important reasons why we chose Asheville as our retirement home. It’s just that those reasons are probably nothing like what magazine writers think.
Colleen Kelly Mellor (firstname.lastname@example.org) came to Asheville eight years ago for a quieter lifestyle, but that didn’t happen. On a mountain road, four years ago, her husband was hit head-on by a 12-year-old girl in a truck. He “died” following surgery (staff shocked him back to life), and they’ve been crawling back ever since. In this column, Mellor opines on life in Western North Carolina as only the “born again” can do. Published in the Wall Street Journal, among others, Mellor adds her senior view of a region often touted as one of America’s “Best Retirement Towns.”