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The Perfect Retirement Town

Retirees who want to move are always looking for a cute little village anchored by a vibrant downtown with lots of trendy bars and restaurants, and fun places to shop. Not us.

We picked from the other end of the lifestyle spectrum and found ourselves in far off North Carolina.  We found a nice big house in a dreary little town that'€™s kinda like Willits but without all the glamour.  Our new city has more car washes than LA, more churches than Toyotas and less nightlife than Calpella.

The nearest Starbucks is so far away I don’t know where it is. The best restaurant in town is a tiny grocery store, kinda like Ukiah’s old Wildberger’s, with a small counter off on the side to order sandwiches.

There’s one bar in town but it’s not really a bar. It doesn’t have bartenders or barmaids. It’s a big room with 30 or so beer spigots sticking out of stainless steel walls and operates like a vending machine. Among the many things the “bar” doesn’t have is a jukebox, bourbon, wine, or customers. Enjoy drinking alone in a warehouse? I found it.

Weather’s pretty good. The winters here are cute, especially if you’ve ever spent a February in Cleveland. Adorable, really. And summer brings lightning bugs, one of nature’s finest novelty acts.

Nature? There are more birds per square inch here than anywhere but an aviary. A big aviary. There are several million birds in this neighborhood alone, which means about a hundred thousand in my back yard. They all get squawking a few hours before dawn and between the chirps and the peeps and the tweedle-de-dees you can hardly hear yourself scream Knock it off already!!

Next, humidity in the South. Humidity is tiny atoms of moisture that gather silently on the back of your neck, then partner with other molecular levels of wetness until, millions of molecules and 10 seconds later, they form a fat sweaty blob that joins hundreds of others, then slides down your spine into your undies and enters the deep, hot, butt-crack puddle that makes summer here so stinkin’ fun amid the mosquitoes and boll weevils.

All this and lots of other things are part of the complicated process of moving. Some, like buying ketchup or bedsheets, is no different in California than North Carolina; other aspects of our new life are more unsettling.

Dogs, for instance. In Ukiah dogs are treated as minor deities and are better nourished, better housed and get better medical care than the average citizen. In our new town most dogs are very well cared for by their owners. But not all dogs. Ahem.

Let’s sidestep diplomacy and suggest some dogs are treated as if they’ll be butchered and eaten next week, their pelts sold for seat covers. The brutal reality is that some dogs live on chains in back yards. Lucky ones have dog houses.

If owners simply want something moving around in a small area of the backyard, why not get a Roomba with a collar?

Food is also on the list of differences.

If you want dinner out don’t arrive later than 7 p.m. unless you plan to sleep in your car for breakfast tomorrow. Dining spots close by 8 o’clock (!!) except fast food joints near freeway ramps.

And fast food in NorCal is different in NorCaro. Fewer McDonald’s here, and Taco Bells and Round Table Pizza are pretty rare. If you want chicken you’ve come to the right part of the world; poultry choices are many. This is all moot. Wife Trophy is a full-on Italian foodophile and cares little for dining options unless they include exotic dishes I can’t pronounce paired with wines I can’t afford.

Oddity: we live a bit south of the booming metropolis of Charlotte and our bleak speck of a city is surrounded by cutesied-up towns full of antique shops, hep restaurants, BBQ joints and brew houses.

These cities have white twinkie lights strung through trees, blues festivals six days a week and half a dozen real estate shops on every block. They are the popular, exciting, go-to spots I‘ve spent my entire life avoiding.

Once these charming villages are “discovered” real estate prices rise to the point where a really nice home in a desirable location is priced at almost half what a crummy house in a bad neighborhood costs in Ukiah.

This surge has not yet happened in our little burg. Big houses that once starred in Gone With the Wind remain reasonably priced, meaning less than Laytonville doublewides. There will inevitably be a real estate spike and we’ll know it’s here when a Whole Foods or Volvo dealership opens on the outskirts of town.

But by then I’ll be dead and my dear wife will be living in Italy with an unemployed gondolier pilot enjoying La Dolce Vida, courtesy of my life insurance policy.

(Tom Hine and his charming wife Trophy have partially half-moved to Las Carolinas. He’s a retired journalist and private investigator. TWK is his imaginary friend and typing assistant.)

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