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Things don’t always happen as we plan them

Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht.

There have been numerous versions of this Yiddish proverb, but this one is my favorite.

“Man plans, God laughs.”

Any time you work and work to get your life in order, so that there won’t be any nasty surprises, you can figure something will happen to throw off your well-laid plans.

It isn’t as if anything in particular has happened, but for some reason, my 62nd year on this planet has been getting exceedingly weird. I’m accomplishing very few of the things I really wanted to accomplish this year, and I am making tremendous progress in areas that really don’t matter very much.

I have no trouble blogging or writing witty remarks on political sites, but it has been three or four months since I have done any serious writing at all.

Add to that the fact that my golf game — which really doesn’t matter all that much to me — has been improving more than I really ever dreamed it would. Every time I play now, I’m shooting in the low 80s or even better.

So what?

I broke 80 on the golf course, something I figured might take me years, but I have an important book project that is sitting there, two-thirds done, and not progressing at all.

My emotions are weirdly close to the surface in a way I don’t remember them ever being. Almost every sentimental song or emotional moment in a movie brings me almost to tears, which feels very strange.

My sleep schedule is way off what I wish it were. Instead of sleeping from about 11 p.m. till 7 a.m. and then getting a good start on the day, I’m getting to sleep around 2 or 3 a.m. and waking up late in the morning.

It can’t be jet lag.

I have been in the Eastern Time Zone for nearly six months now.

I love it here in Georgia, but I find myself getting sad when I realize I can’t get into my car and drive down to Santa Monica or Huntington Beach. I find myself mourning the fact that I may never see the sun set out over the Pacific Ocean again.

Yeah, I know.

I wanted to be here. But part of it is that we moved to Georgia so that we could be closer to our children during the time they spend in Washington, D.C., between tours. Well, it will be another year and a couple of months before Pauline’s tour in Indonesia will be finished and a little longer than that before Virgile is done in Athens.

Actually, I’m excited that it looks like we’re going to Europe for three weeks this summer, and two weeks of that time will be spent visiting Virgile and our daughter-in-law Sterling in Greece.

I do love it here.

I do love my life.

I just feel weird.

posted by Mike in California,Family,Georgia,golf,Happiness,retirement,Travel and have Comments (3)

A first look at my new home golf course

16th green at Sun City Peachtree

I was on a golf course yesterday for the first time in nearly two months, but I didn’t take my clubs.

That may sound strange, but I borrowed a cart and drove around the 18 holes at Sun City Peachtree, which will be my home golf course now and presumably for much of the rest of my life.

I had been planning to wait to join — this isn’t the best weather for golf — but I wondered if there might be some sort of special membership deal at this time of year and decided to check it out. To my delight, there was one. I was able to join without paying the $750 membership fee and in addition get the first two months of dues for free.

There are two levels of membership. At the associate level — the one I chose — I’ll pay $119 a month and then play golf any weekday for $8 (plus $14 for a cart) or any weekend for $10 (plus the cart) as often as I want. The full membership level is $209 a month and golf is free except for the cart fee.

If you do the math, you have to play golf 11-12 times a month just to break even on the higher fee. That’s why at least for now, I’m perfectly happy with the associate membership.

The course itself is interesting. In the cold of December, the grass is a faded, washed-out shade of green, but from what I’ve been told, that’s typical of Bermuda grass at this time of year. In the summer it’ll be a deep, beautiful green. The length of 5,849 from the white tees and 6,340 from the blues isn’t all that long, but remember, this is a course that was build in a retirement community. Not too many of us are booming it 300 yards off the tees (as if I ever did).

Someone told me it’s a relatively friendly course from tee to green, but that putting is very difficult and it’s not at all uncommon to three- or even four-putt if you aren’t careful.

When I rode the course yesterday afternoon, the temperature was about 40 degrees. I’m pretty sure I’ve never played in temperatures that cold except for possibly the two rounds I played with Bill Madden in Virginia in January 2002. I know just from the driving yesterday — the cart, not with my driver — that I should plan to wear gloves to play in the cold weather.

One thing is definitely going to be interesting. This is the first time in my life I will have the opportunity to play regularly (I’m planning on twice a week). Theoretically, at least, that should give me a chance to improve my game and achieve at least some small level of consistency.

It’s a pretty course.

It’s going to be a nice life.

posted by Mike in Georgia,golf,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

Want to be happy? Just get off the interstate

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life …

This exit for Happy

… you just have to get off the interstate.

I played golf in Utopia this summer, relaxed for a few minutes in Eden and drove right through Happy on the way to Tucumcari, N.M.

If you know the geography, or maybe if you just saw the fairly obscure movie, you probably realize that I’m talking about towns in Texas, none of them really big enough to qualify as cities. Indeed, in Utopia I actually saw a cow walking — do cows walk? — down the main drag.

What surprised me the most about Texas, what surprised me the most about Georgia when my wife and I visited there twice this spring to buy the house to which we’ll retire in another four weeks, is that both places really seemed to give the lie to an old expression I had always believed.

“People are pretty much the same all over.”

The thing is, they’re not.

I’m convinced that for the most part, people who don’t live in the “great cities” are, well, they’re nicer. They might have a bit of a complex about how they’re viewed by the so-called “important” people, but in general they’re nicer to their neighbors and more tolerant of differences than you might expect.

I grew up in one of the great cities in the world — the suburbs of Washington, D.C. — and I have spent the last 20 years living in another of the world’s premier cities. I never imagined that I would come to love rural Texas as much as I did, or that I would find myself so totally thrilled with living in the Georgia countryside.

I guess Happy — or happiness — is wherever you find it.

You just have to keep your eyes open.

posted by Mike in American Dream,Georgia,Happiness,retirement,Texas and have No Comments

Some good news, and Georgia gets closer

I got some wonderful news from my wife yesterday.

Nicole came home from work and said, “We can give notice. We can leave for Georgia at the beginning of November.”

From front to back

Our beautiful new house outside Griffin, Ga., has been sitting empty since we closed on it at the end of March. The original plan wasn’t to occupy it until next March, but as the months passed, I think both of us simply became more and more ready to be there.

The view in this picture is from the entry foyer, looking back through the dining room, the living room and the sun room to the back of the house. The view out the back window is of a hillside at the back of our lot and then another house behind it.

It really is a beautiful house and it’s part of a beautiful community. I don’t know if I ever would have imagined myself living in a retirement community, but there are so many nice things about Sun City Peachtree that I feel very fortunate to have the chance for us to spend our retirement years there.

Of course I’ve been “retired” for nearly three years now, and Nicole is planning to work full-time for a while yet by telecommuting and then part-time for some time after that. I think that’s terrific, because it will ease the transition for here, and once we get to Georgia, I’m hoping to find something to occupy my time, whether it’s part-time work or simply volunteering.

In a way, a very real one, it’s a fresh start. I’m reminded of the wonderful Jimmy Buffett song “Come Monday,” especially one line of it:

“California has worn me quite thin …”

There is something about my native state, and particularly Los Angeles, that really does wear on you. I loved living in La Canada Flintridge for 16 years, because it seemed almost like a secluded little town even though it was less than 15 miles from downtown L.A.

But since we sold our house and moved into an apartment, it hasn’t been quite the same. I am definitely ready to have a yard again, and to grow a garden and put food on the table with my own hands.

I am ready to be in Georgia.

Six more weeks.

posted by Mike in Georgia,Happiness and have No Comments

Dreaming of Georgia as the time to move gets closer

Sun City Peachtree's golf course

I am so ready to move to Georgia.

I don’t know if it will be next March, or next January or maybe even this November when it happens — Nicole and I are deep in negotiations — but after more than 20 years of endless summers, I have definitely been about as entertained by Los Angeles as I care to be.

Today we drove down to Newport Beach, and a trip that took us 45 minutes or so on the way down took more than twice as long on the way back. And it wasn’t even rush hour. It was just L.A. traffic.

Georgia has been on my mind ever since March, when we visited and bought a house in the Del Webb Sun City Peachtree community. Our beautiful house cost us less than half of what the same house in a California Del Webb community would have cost us, and it has been sitting empty for the last six months.

Of course, that was always the plan. We intended to move to Georgia in March 2011, but it’s getting more and more difficult to stay away. Our apartment here in Glendale is nice, but the only air conditioning is in the living room and the last few nights have reminded me of my stuff St. Louis apartment in the mid ’80s.

I’m sure it’s every bit as hot in Georgia, but two words make all the difference.

Central air.

Besides, the sooner we move, the less likely I am to end up with too many decorations for my office in Georgia. I already have shadow boxes, posters, framed artwork, wood pieces commemorating my time in Texas and my nascent surfing career. Oh, and my autographed uniform jerseys signed by Chipper Jones and John Elway.

Our new home in March 2010

The picture here is our lovely house as it looked six months ago. I’m pretty sure we have a lawn now; at least we’ve been paying to irrigate it all spring and summer.

The front room will be Nicole’s office, and the upper windows in the middle are just for show. It’s a one-story house, which is probably for the better when you figure it’s going to be our retirement home. I’ve got no problem with stairs at age 60, but who knows how I’ll feel about it 10 or 20 years from now.

It really is a wonderful house and it will be a wonderful home for the two of us.

I just hope we can get there soon.

posted by Mike in Georgia,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

Is another ‘hero’ nearing the end of the line?

Heroes come and heroes go, and at some point in your life you realize a hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.

I’m not sure when it was I realized that being a good player in a professional sport didn’t necessarily make someone a person worthy of admiring. Maybe it dates back to the early ’70s when basketball player Spencer Haywood made a great statement about heroism.

He said that athletes weren’t heroes. He said parents raising four kids and giving them good values on poverty-level incomes were the real heroes.

I think it was after that that I stopped calling Pete Rose — yes, Pete Rose — my hero and just started referring to him as my favorite player. I admire the way he played the game, the effort he always gave. I certainly didn’t admire the fact that he said the only book he ever read was “The Pete Rose Story.”

By the early ’90s, when Rose was long gone from baseball and had exposed himself as somewhat of a scumbag anyway, I was in the market for a new favorite player. For some reason, I settled on Atlanta’s Chipper Jones. For most of the last 15 years, Jones has been my favorite player, to the point where I always look at the box scores to see what he did the night before, and I usually try to have him on my fantasy baseball teams.

I admired the way he played the game, and I particularly liked the fact that he stayed with one team throughout his entire career. When he won the batting title in 2008, at the pretty advanced age of 36, I was happy for him. He had a mediocre season last year and wasn’t doing much better this year, and I admired the fact that he said if he couldn’t play at a level that made him proud, he would retire and walk away from the rest of his big contract.

Chipper Jones' injury

The other night he got hurt, and even though he expressed optimism about the injury, it turned out he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament. It’s ironic that the injury, which might end his career, was the same one he had at age 22 that caused him to delay his rookie season by a year.

Is Chipper Jones finished at age 38?

I hope not, but I know he’s probably very near the end of his career. Maybe he can rehab his knee enough to play one more season and go out on his terms. That would be nice, especially since I’ll be living in Georgia next year and hope to make it to Atlanta for a few games.

At any rate, I’m going to need a new favorite player soon. I’m thinking maybe Jason Heyward or Brian McCann.

posted by Mike in baseball,Georgia,Happiness,retirement and have No Comments

A new home, a blank canvas to fill

It’s a very strange feeling to sit on the floor in an empty house and know that you will be one of the first two people ever to live in it.

From the front to the back

My wife and I bought a house last week, a brand new house in which we hope to live for the rest of our lives. No one else has ever lived in it and no one will for as long as we’re there. We will design it to our own style — actually Nicole will design it to her own style, but that’s fine with me — and we will enjoy the heck out of it.

There’s plenty of room for children and grandchildren to visit, even if we are only planning to use one of the two extra bedrooms as a guest room. We’ll have two bedrooms, two offices and plenty of space for living in the rest of the house.

If you look all the way to the back of the photo, you’ll see that we also have a sun room. It’s a good-sized room — about 150 square feet — and it’ll be a nice place to relax at the end of the day.

The only strange part of it all is that it will be nearly a year until we actually occupy the house. We’ll be spending the next summer, fall and winter here in California and then moving across the country to our new home in Georgia early next year.

It’s odd. I actually met several of our neighbors and talked with them, but it will be a tremendous accomplishment if I remember their names until next year.

By the time we move, I will have spent nearly 21 years living in Southern California. I spent 15 years planning to work my way across the country and accomplishing it, and I never imagined that I would ever move back. But California in 2010 isn’t what it was 40 years ago or even 20, and except for a few things, I don’t think I will miss it all that much.

No, I think I will enjoy living in Georgia a lot.

The people are very nice, and in the two visits we have made this month, Nicole and I have seen nothing but hospitality and graciousness.

I think a little of that is just what we need.

posted by Mike in American Dream,Georgia,Happiness and have No Comments

We’ve found our home south of Atlanta

So where exactly is Griffin, Ga.?

That’s a question I would have had no chance of answering without Map Quest before last week. I still haven’t been there, but I think I’ve been within five miles or so.

South central on the map

Nicole and I made the trek across the country, courtesy of frequent flier miles and some exceedingly strange flights and found the home where we hope to spend the remainder of our lives. It was certainly odd to have to fly to Atlanta by way of San Diego (it’s a 28-minute flight from LAX), but what part of free don’t you understand?

Oddly, we found ourselves in Georgia on a NASCAR weekend, looking at a home that is less than 10 miles from Atlanta Motor Speedway. It won’t really matter. Most of the big super speedways are only in use three or four weekends a year, and who knows, we might actually want to go to a race one of these years.

One thing is truly amazing about Georgia compared to where we’ve been living. The cost of living is ridiculously low, starting with home prices. The home we’re buying is about 50 percent less than it would be in a comparable Del Webb community in California, and indeed, we got more house than we were considering in Virginia for a price 25 percent lower.

We didn’t check out prices on a lot of things, but gas prices are about 40-50 cents a gallon lower than they are here in California. That will matter some, but once we’re retired, I don’t know how much driving we’ll be doing.

One thing that’s wonderful is that we’ll not only be able to pay cash for the house, we’ll also have money left over for the decorating Nicole wants to do.

Sun City Peachtree

I love the fact that the houses are built around an 18-hole golf course, even though the lot we bought will not have a golf course view. I’m looking forward to playing two or three times a week, although I’m a little nervous about having to find new golfing buddies after all these years.

It’s funny. From the late ’70s until 1990, I seemed to be moving to a different state every other year. But now the thought of moving seems strange. I’ve been in the L.A. area for 20 years now, and we probably would have stayed in California except that our retirement money will go much further in the South.

It’ll be nice to be closer to the rest of my family again, although I have to be honest. For me, home and family is wherever Nicole is.

I’m just glad she likes the idea of moving to Georgia.

posted by Mike in American Dream,baby boom,Family,Happiness,love and have No Comments

Looks like Georgia is on my mind

My dad was ill for most of the last five years of his life.

Indeed, there were times that if good medical care had been more than a few minutes away, he might not have made it. That’s why one piece of advice he gave me has really stuck with me — to make sure when we decided where we were going to retire that there was good medical care close at hand.

That’s why when we shifted our attention away from Virginia and looked farther south, when we were trying to decide between Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and Fort Mill, S.C., we realized that neither of them passed a very important test. Even though Mt. Juliet is just outside Nashville and Fort Mill is five miles or so from Charlotte, N.C., neither had what my wife wanted as far as health care.

We have had a Blue Cross HMO for most of our marriage. For a good part of the time, it worked out fine. But as we have gotten older, as we have had more need for specialists and we have occasionally had trouble getting referrals. So Nicole decided that she wants to shift to Kaiser Permanente for our retirement, and neither Tennessee nor South Carolina has Kaiser.

Georgia, however, does.

Georgia also has a Del Webb community just south of Atlanta — about 35 miles south — that has fantastic home prices.

We’re going to be able to get more house than we would have had in Virginia for about $40,000 less than we would have spent up there.

The community is built around a golf course, which really appeals to me, and one very nice side benefit is that for the first time in nearly 30 years, I’ll be living within a half day’s drive of my very good friend Bill Madden. He’s in North Florida, and I figure he ought to be able to come up for golf once or twice a month.

It will be strange to be back in the East. I have lived in the Pacific Time Zone for nearly 22 years, and the last time I lived in the East was 1984, when I was in Anderson, S.C.

One thing is sort of odd. I have lived in so many places in my lifetime that I have no idea where I would want to be buried. I might be cremated, but I’d hate to have my kids having to lug my ashes around the world. I don’t think I’d impose that on anyone.

So Georgia?

Could be interesting.

I’ll definitely have to become a Braves fan, but there’s no way I’m going to root for the Falcons, the Hawks or the Thrashers.

But hey, how ’bout them Dawgs!

posted by Mike in American Dream,baby boom,Family,Health and have No Comments
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