If retirees don’t stop moving here, we may have to blow up a whale

image Many of you have heard that Florence, Ore., where my family and I live, was once again named one of THE best places to retire in the United States. I say “many of you” because, at this very moment, both roads leading into town are clogged with traffic, most of which consists of giant U-Hauls driven by white-knuckled retirees from Florida. My guess is that they were told to evacuate due to hurricane [insert most recent here], and just kept heading west until they (a) hit water again, or (b) found the brake.

An article about our ranking recently appeared in USA Today, and the Florence Chamber of Commerce has been flooded with calls from news agencies wanting to know how it feels to be in the national spotlight, and if, due to the publicity, we expect Kanye West anytime soon.

The truth is, we Florentines have earned ourselves national attention twice before.

The first was in 1970 when, while attempting to dispose of a decomposing whale carcass (by utilizing a well-thought-out plan involving (1) several pints of beer at the Beachcomber Tavern and (2) a truckload of dynamite), several onlookers complained of “being injured” after being struck by a piece of flying blubber roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

Then in 1998, just as our tourism slogan “Stop Your Blubbering and Come To Florence” was losing its steam, we were back in the national spotlight after our citywide search for a pet monkey named “Bobo” was mentioned on the Paul Harvey Show. This led to our next tourism slogan, which I can’t repeat here since, nowadays, petting someone’s “lucky monkey” can mean something entirely different.

As you can imagine, being crowned as one of this year’s Magic Kingdoms of retirement is very exciting for everyone!

Except, of course, for those of us who (1) actually live here and (2) are not retired. That’s because we Florentines must now live up to a national image that, for the first time, doesn’t include a crisis involving some type of mammal. We once had the comfort of knowing that flying blubber, while helping boost tourism, isn’t an amenity most people look for in a retirement community. That has all changed. People now know we have a performing arts center, library, hospital, restaurants and, perhaps most importantly, a large supply of healthy sea mammals.

This has led to an unprecedented number of visitors, many of whom have already made arrangements to have their Lay-Z-Boy drop-shipped by the end of the week. It’s not that we don’t welcome the boost to our local economy; we just want to make it to the store without being struck by a Ryder truck.
So, to that end, we’d like to make two things clear in order to keep the situation under control.

#1: Running past a house and throwing a wad of cash in the yard does not constitute a purchase agreement.

#2: It’s NOT okay to keep circling the city in your moving truck until someone moves out.

As a community, we realize the impact national exposure will have on our small town.
Which is why, as a community, we’re not above blowing up another dead whale or launching a monkey attack in order to keep things from getting out of hand.



(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Disclaimer: Even if you choose Ned’s book for summer reading, you should still use sunscreen.)

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I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

60 thoughts on “If retirees don’t stop moving here, we may have to blow up a whale”

                1. That’s it. I’m having that made into a T-shirt and waiting for me when I ride the Fred Meyer circuit on Senior Tuesdays in 20 years… or thereabouts.

  1. On the other hand, I also hear that the whole Pacific Northwest is in line for the next big earthquake, so your problem could be solved right there.

          1. The zombies do not smell it for their noses fell off. Their noses are everywhere. You cannot go anywhere without bumping into a nosy zombie. They do not only want to eat your flesh but devour your secrets like yentas on steroids.

  2. Well, it could be worse Ned. For instance Claxton Ga. is the world’s largest producer of fruitcakes http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/12/12/167066177/georgia-town-makes-claim-for-fruitcake-capital-of-the-world . Your famous fruitcake post would have gotten you rode out of town. Or perhaps Austin, Mn the home of the Spam Museum. http://www.spam.com/spam-101/the-spam-museum . I mean how could you even advertise that? All e-mails would go into the Spam folder, ha!

    They make Florence, home of the exploding blubber, seem somewhat normal. Especially given it was a one time only happening and not an on-going business. Florence does, however have the draw of being the home of the internationally syndicated humor columnist and author of “Humour at the Speed of Life” (that’s the Canadian version). He has been known to adopt a tongue-in-cheek perspective to many topics, including the arrival of caravans of marauding seniors. He has yet to be censored by AARP , although FLOA (Fruitcake Lovers of America) has registered formal complaints with his employer. Ha!

    May the force be with you Ned.

    1. I lived in Georgia for three years and somehow managed to avoid Claxton. Or it avoided me. I’m not sure which. But it was probably best for everyone.

      And now I feel like I need to go through my Spam foledr to see if I have received an invitation to visit the SPAM museum…

  3. If it helps, the ones that weren’t hardy drivers came here – and not those nice folks from Florida – ours come from New York, New Jersey and DC. How’s that for “it could be worse” therapy?:0))

  4. Another hilarious and thought-provoking post. The thought it provoked in my case is: Whale Shrapnel would make one hell of a band name.

  5. Too funny. We are about to move to an area like that and we are not retirement age. We used to live in said area for 2 years. One must also be careful not to get run over by any scooters.

            1. What, no flags? Holey moley! When I operated a tractor trailer in the city, nothing was scarier and more impossible to see from the cab than wheelchairs/scooters and recumbent bicycles. Yikes! They were just not tall enough to see over the hood of the truck and without a flag on a pole, they were invisible.

                1. Bwahaha! In Florida they have “Love bug” migrations twice a year when the bugs are so thick that they block truck radiators and windshields and the dead bug juice eats the paint and glass. Every truck stop and service area has wash stations where hoses and squeegees are available to remove the squished critters. If you guys are going to let scooters wander around without flags, you are going to have to invest in wash stations to remove them from the grills. Ha!

  6. Spread the word that those damned sea lions that are always schlupping around the docks are rabid–or worse–a vector for some disease that sounds terrible. Try to work the word “pustule” into the press release.

  7. Sigh, if they would only be honest that a new resident might be able to get a new doctor in Florence one year after moving here. Better be a healthy retiree.

  8. Okay, I have a plan as to how you can ‘select’ who gets to move into the area.
    Release 3 sheep (goats, monkeys… whatever you have) and on their backs mark them 1, 2 and 4. Tell the hopefuls that whoever brings back all the sheep (or whatever) gets to stay… whoever figures out the gag gets in 🙂
    (I don’t recommend using whales for this by the way. Well, I suppose if you had waterproof paint and wanted to play a VERY long game).

  9. Has it occurred to you that some over-55, over-priced, over-caffeinated, over-itself city in Florida tagged Florence as “desirable” just to get a little relief?

    All you can do is make some other miserable town – it. Don’t even consider Almost Iowa, this is where all the retirees come from.

  10. Darn it! You just ruined my retirement plans! 😉 Seriously, though, I love Oregon. My sister used to be on the fire crew at Crater Lake National Park. The weather is beautiful there. (She’s in Arizona now. The weather is NOT beautiful.) Do you know of a town in Oregon that has some strange vortex where everything is backwards? Tall people look short, short people look tall, and marbles appear to roll up hill. I know it sounds like I’m making this up, but I swear it’s a real place. I can’t remember where it was, but I think it was about an hour drive from Crater Lake.

    1. Fine, Nicole — you can come! I’ll see what retirement homes are available in Gravity Falls, Ore. Maybe you can live in The Mystery Shack? 😉

  11. One of the best adventures the hubs and I ever had was a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ. We stayed with friends of friends – we didn’t know they were in their eighties until we arrived at their retirement village. Turns out golf carts are a bit of a hazard on the open road and my husband will never be able to unsee what was seen when “Bob” took him into the sauna at the retirement village social club. It was a scene right out of Seinfeld! I didn’t get invited into the sauna because I was busy with “Lucille” cutting out coupons for the 4:30 early bird dinner special.
    All kidding aside, we loved that little couple (more than the friends, who were our age, that we came with)
    Just think of the stories you’ll have with the migration of your new residents!!

    1. Ned strikes me as the sort who would clip the “early bird” coupon and then go to the restaurant demanding his bird. Ha!

  12. We just ventured north of you, to Newport, and might have uncovered the root of your problem. It is scary crowded up there, and either double wides or $400 a night. You must jump onto the tsunami/big one band wagon. Paper Florence with warning signs. Sell emergency water instead of lemonade on the street corners.

    1. I’d have to agree, J.B. It’s the busiest, most crowded summer here in years. If I’d known, I would have rented my driveway out for parking. Since live in the tsunami zone, I’d offer a discount.

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