They are retired. It's official. It says so on their income tax returns. If you ask, they will say that their working days are behind them. They have come here to retire - to golf, to swim, to sit iin the sun, to play some cards. No more work.
So my father who is retired works in a parking lot. The man who owns it has three others and he has asked my father to manage these, too. At 68, a new career beckons. This is maybe his fourth job here. He has worked in a department store, as a pollster for George Gallup and for an inventory frim that sent him deep into grove country, counting mobile homes and Kawasaki motorcycles. Before he retired, this was not his field.
They are all here now. A man named Murray who was a friend of my father's before retirement, came here also to sit in the sun. One of his first jobs was a guard at one of those parks where the lions roam free. Murray had been a cab driver. He is a thin, quiet man who writes long letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Murray was put into a uniform, given a gun and told, presumably, to shoot if the lion charged. He is now in the parking lot business with my father.
Most of them work. They work on delivery routes or as department store salesmen or, like the man who came to the house one morning, going door-to-door, calling the ladies "dear" and trying to sell them combs, brushes and things for the toilet bowl. They work also because they could always use the money, but they work also because they know no other way. It is what they always done, and if you think for a moment that they have totally given up making their first million, you're mistaken. How did this get to be called the Protestant Ethic?
This is a place where some of the people have no past. Take the accountant from Washington. He is a tall man, thin legs under his walking shorts, a wisp of a mustache giving him a distinguished look. He says he once had forty people working for him. He says he once had forty people working for him. He says he was a man of wealth - wealth, you hear - who went from one business to another and always made a success of it. This is what he says. He does not say why he lives from one Social Security check to the next.
We are sitting by the pool. It is Easter vacation and the children are here. The boys are rowdy and the girls strangely androgenous - poised as if deciding which sex to join. By next year, there will be no doubt I remark to my father that everyone is fat. "Especially the women," he says. "If they spent as much time working on their stomachs as they do their hair, they would be better off." My father has a second job. He is also a philsopher.
The dentist from Connecticut is waiting for me I come out of the shower. He is wearing tan shorts and a white tee-shirt over a bulging stomach. He has a hobby, he says. Would I be interested in seeing it? At last, a man with a hobby. I would be glad to see it. We got to his place where he shows me antique legal documents - leases, contracts, wills, bills of sale. Some date from the 18th century. One of them is the lease of plantation on the Caribbean island of Granada. It is dated 1825 and it is very detailed. It provides, for instance, that slaves during the period of the lease belong to the owners of the property - not the leases. Down at the bottom a record was kept; five slaves were born.
From the air, this place looks like a pastelcolored army camp. Nowhere else is the grass so well tended, the streets so unlittered. The condominiums, built mostly in a two-story motel style, stretch as far as the eye can see. There are maybe 15,000 retirees here and this is just one community - not even the biggest. Most of the people came down in groups. With my parents, it's as if the twister in "The Wizard of Oz" had lifted at their card games and gently set them here. The games goes on.
To the back of this place is the swamp. The front is a trailer camp. In the new delicatessen the waitresses are local women. One of them went into the kitchen and asks the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] "filthy fish." "Gefilta," he corrects [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the boulevard, two shopping centers have [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a third is under construction. Here you wait the sustenance of life - bagels fine fresh fish. Signs go up proclaiming the arrival of another hairdresser from the North. There holding back civilization.
At the pool, the noise is tremendous. and mothers hover over their precious ones. [WORD ILLEGINLE] their hearts that the next move will be [WORD ILLEGIBLE] yell, the kids yell back, and the parents act like referees. Break it up, break it up. [WORD ILLEGIBLE] there is conversation. Always some sort of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] The latest one concerns the developer, a millionaire for whom they have no pity. They have been hating landlords all their lives. Eitherthey rent or they were landlords themselves. It doesn't matter. They know all the tricks. Nevertheless the developer has allies. This makes for [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Recently a former prize fighter got carried a away during a debate and broke someone's jaw.
Like everyone else, he forgot he was retired.