Dear Mr. Blechman,
I started reading your book, "Leisureville..." tonight and am amazed at how correctly you described life in The Villages. My husband and I lived there six months of every year for nine years. We left because I just couldn't stand the place any more. I felt I was being intellectually and culturally smothered to death. You cannot imagine, or maybe you can, how small and petty people think and behave there. I had to get out.
The Villages is NOT a gated community. The roads are maintained by the counties, not The Villages, so anyone can gain access to any "village" at any time. We lived in Santo Domingo (Yes, it was spelled correctly when we bought there.) and there were two entrances. One for residents where we could swipe our card to have the gate open. The other lane was for visitors and a gate attendant was available. However, anyone could get into any area of our village at any time. In fact, we had three robberies within a few weeks on our block. No one was ever arrested. The place is full of workers all the time. The idea of a "secure" place to live is ludicrous. The Villages newspaper rarely reported any problems and if they did, it was just a paragraph or two on a back page. Did you know that only in recent years they printed death notices? That's how crazy it is down there.
I loved your description of the music played on the radio station. I never had it on in our home but soon before we decided to get out of there my husband and I were riding our bikes to Barnes and Noble in the new town square. As we were riding by the "lake Sumter" I heard the radio station broadcast coming out of a lightpost. As we entered Barnes and Noble the same radio broadcast was coming out of a pole by the entrance to the store. I looked at my husband and said, "We're out of here. This place is too much." I'd always said I felt like I had to behave like a Stepford wife but I wasn't proud of that. Your friend IS proud of that. Frankly, I think that's pitiful.
So now we live back north full time near our children and grandchildren. There are three small children living next door to us and I'm fully appreciating how "normal" life can be so enriching. We're scheduled to go back to The Villages this coming March. We've rented a small villa to spend some time with the many friends we have back there. But a month is enough. In fact, I don't know if I can stand being there for an entire month. We shall see.
You were right when you said they're segregated communities. I did see some "oriental" (funny word) couples there but they always socialized together. The few black couples we knew did seem to socialize with the 97% white population. But little racial jokes were always thrown out there when the black couples weren't around. It was disgusting. Also, if you aren't a conservative Republican you don't fit in. Gary Morse is one of the biggest contributors to that party and all the media reflects his political philosophy.
I tried all the activities. I was a cheerleader, line danced, clogged, golfed, played tennis, pickleball, mah jong and bridge. My favorite activity was the Friday afternoon Philosophy Club meetings. I actually met some thinking, intelligent people there. But it finally came down to this -- I dreaded going there in the autumn and was thrilled to leave there in the spring. And that was with three trips back home to see family during that six-month time period.
I'm worried about this country and how we have so many retirees who think that is the greatest lifestyle. It points out how shallow and self-centered we've become. As far as we're concerned there's never a "beautiful day in The Villages."