|By Betty Fitterman|
Having spent a month in Arizona, this last of many trips through the state as we have crisscrossed the country, I guess I am qualified to give you some impressions of the state as a possible retirement destination.
First of all, I can vouch that Arizona’s awfully nice in the fall, late winter and spring, the times I’ve been here. I’ve heard it gets really hot in the summer, but the heat is so dry you don’t feel it. Why would you, in your air-conditioned car and air-cooled home? The south is generally warm and pleasant and if you really want to see snow, you only have to go north to Flagstaff and you will be rewarded with magnificent panoramas of mountains and valleys blanketed in the white stuff. Personally, my bones will not tolerate skiing any more, so I am content with driving and looking, but I won’t be building a chalet there any time soon.
The further south you go, the more desert you encounter. Desert in AZ is dirt and scrub, not pillows of sand with Lawrence of Arabia galloping towards you. But in the spring, the brown vegetation turns into a glorious grey-green as the sage comes back and the desert comes alive against red rocks and blue sky.
A drive through Arizona is one “wow” after another. Not surprisingly, Arizona has the most national monuments of any state. Of course it does. It has the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, which I just happen to be driving through as I write this. Wow.
Arizona is one of the friendliest states in the Union. A polyglot of people from all over, it has maintained its Native American presence as well if not better than most states. The art of the Hopi, Navaho and Apache dominate the architecture of the state, and the Mexican influence is also in evidence.
Politically, Arizona is one of the most conservative, Republican states. Barry Goldwater was a flaming liberal compared to most. And yet, there sits Sedona, home of some of the most liberal, most artistic, most psychic, craziest people going. They must all be transplanted Californians.
House prices in the state are quite reasonable, especially if you come from a ridiculous corner of the coast like New York’s Westchester County, as I do. In the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, homes can reach into the millions, but generally you can buy a decent home in a nice area for under $300,000, and there are tons of retirement communities to explore. Want a place to escape to and play golf, make friends and live really inexpensively? Consider a senior mobile home resort where a pre-fab house can cost around $24,000 and annual rentals for a spot can run around $2200 plus electric. Our last stopover in Mesa offered two big pools, fourteen shuffleboard courts, a list of activities including woodworking, lapidary, three voice choruses, metal smithing, a huge weekly craft fair plus too many more to mention.
The food in Arizona is dominated, of course, by what I could call Tex-Mex. But there are all kinds of cuisines available and the closer you get to the big cities the better it gets. If you happen to have a secret longing for a certain kind of fast food, take heart. Every one of those bad boys has shown up to delight your tongue and turn your arteries into glue. I even found a really good Italian restaurant, Alessia, in Mesa. The owner is from New York, so I knew I could trust it. (And the chef trained in Italy. That too.)
The desert may not be your cup of tea, but don’t let that stop you. I’m a confirmed water person, a Pisces in so many ways, and there is something about this landscape that draws me. Maybe it’s the brilliant blue skies over miles and miles and miles of vista, with no tall buildings to get in the way. Maybe it’s the mountains framing every view. Maybe it’s the southwestern art and architecture. Maybe it’s the lure of something different from anything I’ve ever experienced in my coastal life. Or the simple, natural and open friendliness of its inhabitants, or the ease of the lifestyle, so free of the tensions of big city living.
Most likely, it’s all of the above. Arizona’s definitely on my short list. Now if it just had a seashore …
About Betty Fitterman:
Betty Fitterman was in advertising for over 30 years before her retirement in July of this year. An award-winning writer, she was EVP/Creative Director and a member of the Board of Directors of Lintas Advertising until 1997, when she and her partner Frank DeVito formed DeVito Fitterman Advertising, which today is a successful agency serving blue chip clients like Johnson & Johnson, Ricola, ASCAP, Fujifilm and Arch Insurance, among others. To read her humorous observances on mobile living, visit her blog at http://adventuresinthebettybus.blogspot.com.