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Travels in America


America, January 4, 1999

Twenty Years in Vero!

How long have your parents lived in their "hometown"?

Choo! Choo! Sarah, Sean, and Wayan making tracks!
A family train to the beach!
And once he was my younger, dorky cousin!
My Stud Cuz is a man now!
Na, Na, I make more than you do!

Making faces at the crowd

When I sat down with my parents and did the math, I was shocked. I looked at the figures again, just to make sure, but they were right. My vagabond folks have lived in the same small town for the last twenty (20) years!

Wow. Twenty years! I am still in awe. Now I did my time in Vero, twelve (12) years by my count, and I know how the small town life can be deceptively smooth, but twenty years?! Now that I have lived in two nation's capitals, and I've visited most of the big cities in America and Europe, I'm unable to comprehend how anyone can stay in a small town.

Going 'home,' I wandered around the town in a daze. It was so small, so provincial, so slow, I was amazed that it has grown like it has, doubling the population in the last 15 years, so I started to ask random strangers why they lived there. I didn't ask any elderly, mind you, cuz I know they are there to die in the sunshine. I ask the 25-35 year old set. Those who have the means, desire, and the smarts to choose where they want to live. The majority I asked moved to Vero because of the elderly, in that they were directly related to someone who moved there to die. Amazing, the pull of parents to the young, even if they are not that young anymore. I wonder what's gonna happen when the Boomers start to retire & croak?

As I wander around in shock that my parents are still living in this town, I started to think about my life trajectories. I know I can never go back to the small town. The bright lights of the big city are too strong. Vero's only bar of any real sort shut down around 10 pm, and there is nothing in that town I would even attempt to call a club. I like a decent selection of pubs and at least one club is mandatory of any place I live. I know a few of you are thinking this will change as I 'mature,' but to a point, I hope not. I see couples who can remember Sock Hops, busting a move on the floor, and I am heartened.

I know I couldn't deal with the same assholes for twenty years, which is one of the great things about moving around in big cities, the faces change. In Vero, the same jerk running the Eckards is still there. The same three or four faces control the police and the high school football coach has complete his take-over of the county athletics. Short of popping a cap in the pigs, there isn't any way to get new faces into a small town. In dynamic, growing cities, faces change, dynasties grow, flourish, and die, people move in and leave, in short, faces change. Ok, so DC might have to deal with Marion Berry for a while longer, but at least he isn't mayor anymore!

I looked through the paper, and I wondered how anyone could survive on what they pay in these small towns. I saw ads for $18,000-25,000 per year jobs, with apartments at $300 a month and cars at the same price as anywhere else. At $2,000 per month, after 25% goes to Uncle Sam, there is just enough left over for rent, car payment, and some spending money. No way to save for a trip, much less for retirement too! I remember when I was looking for job, fresh outta school, and I was told to be happy with $18,000, in Orlando. I just laughed and headed to DC. Now I make more than three times that, three years later, while the guy who took the job is excited his '99 raise will put him over $22,000.

I have a plan. I intend, to the best of my ability, to never live in one city for more than three years, and hopefully, not in same country for more then five. The first year in any city, you are just finding out about its moods, quirks, celebrations, and politics. The second year you find the rhythm of the city and all the hidden secrets that you missed your first year. By year three, the comfort (read boredom) of the city has set in. If you don't leave then, I don't think most people can, until a life changing event comes along to jolt you out of the warm cocoon you make. The same goes for a country, though on a bit longer scale (unless it's tiny Luxembourg or something).

So far, I've lived in Moscow for a year and a half, which is actually three years in any other place, and I am getting worn a bit thin with the second long, cold, dark winter. It's gonna be time for a change soon...

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