Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gentrification Without Friends

My wife was profoundly saddened this past week by a friend who moved away. He has a portable job and he sold his 450 square foot for a  thousand dollars a foot or more and is now merrily bidding on "proper" homes in central Florida much closer to his family. My wife understands why he left Key West after decades in town, but now she has no one to go to the movies with when I am at work of an evening.
Her first teaching boss in Key West, the woman who took her in and gave her a chance to try a new career away from the law, has retired and gone on a world tour which could take years to complete. At last report Carol was in the Maldives after staining glass in Florence, picking wild flowers in Cyprus and doing I dread to think what on a beach in India. We helped Carol empty her home before she put it up for rent and one cannot be annoyed with a  woman who devoted almost four decades to education in Key West for going walkabout now she is retired.
A fellow teacher left Key West last December to take care of her mother in New York. She texts my wife daily and they talk and my wife reports she is taking full advantage of the cultural opportunities in her new/old city. Good for her my wife says sadly, also thinking about her office assistant who we visited last summer in her new home and new marriage in Illinois. Now she has a job she likes in the schools and is settled into a life away from the tropics. Her Key West adventure is done.
I think every day about what we will do in retirement. Our plan to get a small RV and live in it and rent homes as we go as the mood takes us will pout us too on the road away from Key West and sometimes his plan gives me pangs. Perhaps by 2021 Trump will have abolished Social Security I used to think but now that seems an unlikely way for me to lose the power to decide. With pensions and Federal funds we will be able to live quite well we are told and could even afford to stay in the Keys with financial care. But is that what we want? This town of change. People coming and friends leaving...
I have never liked living anywhere quite so much as annoying irritating vexing Key West. The exasperation factor is always there ready to leap out and remind you that you will be glad to shake the sand from your feet for the last time when you leave. Except you won't. Who wants to be the quitter?
And yet there is more world to see and shrinking time in which to do it as old age creeps forward. And like those who came before and left Key West is changing and adapting to new demands of a different demographic. I lived a good life in California in the 1980s after I decided Key West was too remote.And now after two decades of residence and proper work perhaps it still is for one who needs to roam. Meanwhile those that have left aren't coming back and they are the oxygen that help my wife to breathe. And those friends are slipping  off the greasy pole that is life in contemporary Key West.