We drink milk, and we don’t own a cow

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‘How I narrowly escaped a life in Florida’

Last week I had a birthday. Which is all well and good, especially since I am rather fond of drinking champagne and having people sing to me. But I’ve gotten to the age where it feels like every week I’m having another darned birthday. The pages on my calendar seem to be flashing by like one of those flip books.

It doesn’t help matters that my friends are moving to Florida. They’re buying golf clubs and boats and condos with a spare room for the grandkids. Why, just last week we bridge buddies bade good-bye to one of our number who was moving to some place called Jupiter. It’s a place in Florida, not a planet. Though it might as well be, since she won’t be able to make our weekly bridge games.

Visiting friends in Florida a couple of years ago. We were there for — you guessed it — a birthday

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Florida. Well, except for the fact that there are no sidewalks, people bank their turns in their huge boatlike cars, and there are bugs big as dogs. I’m sure Florida has some fine qualities. In fact, what with all those friends fleeing southward it’s starting to look kind of good to me.

Even I might enjoy Florida if I could live in the Ringling Mansion, toured on a recent visit. Nah, it smelled like mildew

But back when I was barely out of my twenties, it was certainly not the place I wanted to be. Especially since I fell in love with New York City the very second I arrived from the Midwest all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, freshly scrubbed and eager to please.

I lived in a terrific New York apartment. (Read about how I found it in “Horowitz plays the bedroom.”) I worked in a terrific New York ad agency. (Read about how I got there in “Take a letter, Miss Henry.”)

The Dude and I, shortly after we met. But before I got him to shave off that mustache

I met a terrific New York Dude. (See “The Jerk and The Dude.“) Heck, we even had a terrific-if-quirky New York wedding. (See “Winning the Dude-A-Thon”.)

A couple of years later after the mustache. And after our terrific New York wedding

Why, The Dude was even born in New York. (Which a whole lot of New Yorkers aren’t, believe you me.) He’d tell cute stories about playing near the grounds of Gracie Mansion as a tot, and about how he rode the New York City bus to Grace Church School way downtown all by himself when he was only six.

The Dude with his sibs in their New York apartment. (That’s Brother Bill adjusting his head) I don’t think he was taking the bus by himself just yet

Well. The ink was barely dry on our New York City-issued marriage license when, one night over dinner in our New York City apartment, The Dude announced that he thought it would be a good idea to move to Florida.

The Dude and I in our New York City apartment, ready to do some New York City Thing. (I still have that dress)

Florida?!? Yes, Florida. The Dude’s Older Brother Bill, like The Dude, was a doctor. A doctor who was doing very well, thank you very much, treating patients in Sarasota, Florida. He had a lot of influence on The Dude, having been around much more during Dude Man’s childhood than Dude’s Actual Father. (A story for another time. Or not. Probably not.)

Whitmore Males in the 80s on a beach not in Florida. Left to right: Dude, Younger Bro Carl, Older Bro (and Surrogate Dad) Bill, Actual Dad

Now, when I met The Dude he was already a doctor. So I was spared the Putting-The-Hub-Through-Med-School Thing. But he was a struggling Freshly-Minted Doctor working three jobs while his practice was revving up. (Which it — whew — eventually did.) So it was pretty tempting to hear about Older Bro’s lush Floridian Life. He had a car. He had a boat. He had a house on a canal with a dock to park said boat.

Older Bro Bill and Me. On said boat

“Dude,” I said. “I spent my whole life getting to New York. I sure as heck am not ready to leave here now. Besides, Florida is full of Old People. Who would we be friends with?”

“Hey, Pie.” (He sometimes calls me “Pie”; usually when he wants to get his way.) “We’ll do so well in Florida that we’ll be able to afford to leave anytime we want,” was his response.

“Who wants to live someplace where all you can think about is when you can leave?” I replied.

Well. To keep the peace, I agreed to go down to Older Bro’s place to “check it out” and “see what I thought”.

Things did not start off well when we met Older Bro’s friends for dinner. The “friends” were about a zillion years old (around my age right now, come to think of it). We met (at 4:30) at their favorite restaurant (a cafeteria) where one could not even get wine (which would have helped matters considerably) but where one could get “a very nice mac and cheese”.

After we bussed our trays we repaired to Poppy and Phil’s bungalow. (Their real names, but they’re probably dead by now so it’s okay.) It was, of course, still light out, so we moseyed out to the back yard.

The Dude reached up and plucked an orange. “Hey Pie! If we lived here we could drink fresh juice from our very own tree!

“Hey Dude”, I replied. “We drink milk, and we don’t own a cow.

We did not move to Florida.

Older Bro Bill and The Dude on a recent visit. Sarasota is starting to look a lot better these days. Tho the socks-with-sandals and/or shorts thing might be a deal-breaker

New York City. November 2018