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Visitor to Florida Prefers Miami of the North

By Dan Lenard

Buffalo, NY – I recently had the opportunity to leave the frozen wasteland of Western New York, and wing my way to the palm trees of southern Florida. The first thing you notice once you get in the car and roll down the window is that smell of "green." That's something you don't really smell in Buffalo between December and mid-April. Then you head up I-95 and see the massive development that the East Coast of southern Florida between Miami and Palm Beach is experiencing. Development after development. Former swampland being swapped for moderately priced condos and 36 hole golf courses. There's also the huge flow of traffic making its way north and south. Little accidents on I-95 back up traffic for 10 miles.

I came down to help my mom with all little jobs you need done when you buy a new house. She, like many other seasoned citizens, had decided that winter in Buffalo was too much to take. She sold her house in Amherst, rented an apartment here for the summer months, and bought a condo in one of those massive southern Florida developments. This so she can have eternal summer.

My in-laws had chosen the same route five years ago. My mother's new place is conveniently right around the corner from theirs. For some reason, Williamsville's 65 and older crowd has found winter quarters in the Boca Raton, Delray Beach area. They play golf, tennis, bridge mahjong and canasta. They go out to eat, they go to concerts and plays. They are having the fun they always wanted. They truly are at summer camp.

If you can't stand the snow, the wind, the dampness and greyness we have here all winter and a great deal of spring, you might well consider joining them. If you're under 65 however, think about this.

First of all, driving in Florida is taking your life in your hands. Older drivers with slow reaction times, poor vision and no reference for the phrase "right-of-way" make it one of the most dangerous places to drive in the world besides New Delhi or Tel Aviv. My mother purposely avoids certain intersections because she says " there are always police cars and ambulances at them." I'll take the courtesy, caution and patience of most Western New York drivers any day.

Secondly, if your are under 65, you can find young people down there. You have to live in a large, populated, urban area to see them however. The developments are meant for what they call "active" adults. In other words "on Social security, and a hefty pension or well planned 401K." I ventured into this world while I was there. I played golf with my father-in-law and some of his friends. I know them well. They all are great golfers and try to stay young. However, this time, with the exception of my very active father-in-law, I began to see the affects of age on them. Aches, pains, Parkinsons. They still are fighting for youth, but are starting to lose. My mom also took me to a concert at a local Synagogue. The music was schmaltzy, outdated even to the large senior crowd. The worst part was I was the youngest person there out of about 500 people by about 30 years! The looks I got were akin to the looks you would get when your underage in a bar. 500 people over 70! All in one place. I knew there weren't going to be any cigarette lighters held aloft to prompt an encore.

Listen, it is cold here November to April. We get storms that the rest of the nation has a good laugh over. We shovel and plow and salt. We help each other out and get back to our lives. We ski and sled and ride our snowmobiles. I'm sure it gets tough to some when bones start to creak when Jack Frost comes a knocking, but I have always believed that the stronger the breeze the stronger the trees. We are used to it. How can you appreciate summer if you don't experience the opposite. Four distinct seasons that thump out the rythyms of your life.

You may think I'm nuts. I think Florida is a great place to visit your snowbird loved ones, play some off season golf and catch the "early bird" dinner specials. As for living my normal life however, politics and the economy aside, I choose the Miami of the north.

Listener-Commentator Dan Lenard is CEO of domestic operations and child transportation and support services for the Lenard family in East Amherst.