The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 September 2007

Welcome to Stepford, Florida

It's a retirement village and an incorporated municipality:

Welcome to The Villages, FL, the perfect town. The buildings are perfect. Downtown has lots of shops and restaurants. The town square was decorated in red, white and blue bunting in honor of the presidential candidate visiting. A "weathered" building near the water added to the authentic atmosphere of a quaint, safe town.

Neighborhoods with gleaming sidewalks and manicured lawns and almost identical houses — each with a screened or columned porch — completed the picture of utopia. The surrounding retail and chain restaurants all perfectly fit in with the schemes of either a Spanish mission or a southern lake community.

And you never have to yell at those damn kids to get off your lawn, either:

[B]y law, since they've incorporated, the city has to allow at least 38 percent of its inhabitants to be 50 years and younger. We didn't see any of those people during our visit. Though, the high school was equally as manicured and perfect as the surrounding neighborhoods.

But something's churning beneath the surface:

STDs are rampant in Utopia. More alcohol is consumed in The Villages than most college campuses. It's no wonder that at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, a nice silver-haired granny was downing liquor shots at the bar of the restaurant where we ate a late lunch.

The "Bait Shacks" around the town square look quaint. On closer inspection, we found out they were actually bars. Four of them, each at the corner of the town square. I guess when you're 55+, you don't want to walk far for a drink.

You'll note that we haven't even discussed humidity yet.

Maybe I tend to romanticize urban grit, but I am deeply suspicious of any community that seeks actively to suppress it.

Posted at 5:01 PM to Dyssynergy

There was a story in the papers a while back about all the naughty goings-on in The Villages among the retirees that live there. What didn't get mentioned is that these aren't our grandparents, who grew up during World War I (or earlier), and therefore had an older era's expectation of how to behave when one got old. That's what we think of when we think of retirees, but most of that generation has passed on. The new crop of retirees include more than a few Baby Boomers, though not all of them are.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 9:27 PM on 22 September 2007

I am not a Social Security Number, I am a free man!!!

Be seeing you (if I can find my glasses).

Posted by: Michael Bates at 10:28 PM on 22 September 2007

My parents recently purchased their second home in the Villages. The first one nearly doubled in value after 3 years and my mother decided to sell it before the real estate market started to freeze. The first year they moved into the first house the residents of the villages, my folks included, drank the town dry on Fat Tuesday. Dry.

Posted by: abroad at 7:17 PM on 23 September 2007