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Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Decision To Move to Florida

When I decided to move to Florida for three months at the beginning of 2013 the question I planned to ask myself at the end of the period was whether the snowbirding experience was good enough that I’d be willing to do it again in 2014.  But midway into the second month I found myself asking myself a very different question: did I want to move to the Fort Lauderdale area permanently?
At that same point if I’d have asked myself to rate the visit on a scale of one to ten the answer would have been “twelve.”  Why was the answer that high?
Wilton Manors, Florida, where I was living is an almost exclusively gay environment.  Before moving here, like everybody else straight or gay, I’d lived only in an almost exclusively straight environment.  It was a shock seeing men casually kissing each other on the street as old friends met, and finding restaurants filled predominantly with tables full of men, laughing and talking, obviously having a grand gay time.  It’s all very liberating in the true meaning of that word! 

I have good friends and even relatives in Florida, and when I had only been here for nine days I met David Vargo, a wonderful Floridian who is likely to play a large part in my future. 
Douglas Whaley and David Vargo
The weather is terrific, and while in prior years I’ve spent enough time in the summer in Florida to know that the summers are very humid and hot, any place in the world has bad weather sometimes, and I’d rather have bad weather in the summer than bad weather in the winter.  This year was a particularly good winter to have been away from Ohio.  When I first came down I started sending daily “FS” (Florida Smirk) messages back up north (“82º today, what’s it like back home?”), but I soon quit because it became cruel.  When my friends in Ohio are looking at 22º days and six inches of snow, they don’t want to hear about the good life in Fort Lauderdale.  By comparison when one day in February the temperature went down to a high of 72º, I stepped outside of a restaurant at the same time as another woman who I didn’t know, and when she felt the outside air and said, “Brrr!, I smiled.

I will turn 70 on September 25th of this year.  It occurred to me that if I continue to live in Columbus, Ohio, a city I love and where I have a chosen family and many friends, it will be a comfortable life, but I certainly can predict what 2014 will look like, and I also know what 2015 will look like, and also 2016, 2017, etc.  But if I sell my house in Ohio and move down to the Sunshine State, my seventies will likely be very different: exciting and filled with new adventures.

So in the end, the choice was clear.  I’m putting my lovely condo in Columbus on the market, and by the end of 2013 I hope to be living in a new home in the Fort Lauderdale area, where just today I was looking at possible future homes.  I will sorely miss my wonderful Ohio family and friends (and of course I’ll come back frequently to visit), but a new life is opening up for me in Florida, so the cats and I are planning a return journey south in the near future.

Related Posts:
“Snowbirding, My iPhone 5, and the Coming Crazy Cat Trip,” December 5, 2013
“The Busy Snowbird: Florida Smirk #1,” January 24, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

“Imaginary Friend” Goes International: A Bookreading of My Atheist Thriller in Nottingham, England, Via Skype

Nottingham, England

I’ve done bookreadings from my atheist thriller, “Imaginary Friend” (available both on Amazon and Kindle) in four different states (Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Florida, with Kentucky to be added next month) but yesterday was a first: a reading in Nottingham. England!  Since I’m currently snowbirding in Wilton Manors, Florida, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, the ability to connect in this way across an ocean is a first rate marvel.

It took some experimentation ahead of time to make sure it would work, and that the Secular Society of Nottingham was able to project my image up on a screen, but in the end there were no glitches.  There was about a three second delay between when I said something and the audience reacted, and I had to learn to adjust for that.  Before I figured that out I thought my jokes were falling flat.  I did my usual half hour reading, which consists of two selections from the novel having the most to do with atheism (and none of the numerous incidents in the book that make it truly a thriller---it starts with an explosion at half-time at an American football game that kills a lot of people, and in the course of the novel there are kidnappings, a sniper, and much else).  The listeners found it fun (judging by the laughter) and after the reading I had a series of question and answer segments with members of the audience. We explored such things as when is it appropriate to mention you are an atheist and when (as happens to the hero in my novel) is it a major mistake.  I was asked such questions as whether I thought many people professed to a religious belief they didn’t really have simply to go along/get along, and I said that there were no data on that, though I also speculated that a creative use of “clickers” (see Related Posts below) could soon answer that question definitively in a way that was impossible in the past.

The startling difference between this bookreading and the other ten or so I’ve done is that a British audience has trouble crediting that an announcement of atheism could in any way cause someone trouble, much less the tremendous difficulties it inflicts on the protagonist of my novel.  In contrast, American audiences well understand that the incidents in the book are, as one of the reviewers on Amazon said, “frighteningly possible.”  In Britain most people are non-theists, as is shown by the following chart prepared by the British Social Attitudes Survey:
[Click to enlarge]

When I confessed I was astounded by this difference between the two countries, I was told that America’s attitude sounds like the one Great Britain had in the 19th century.  That was a blow, and an embarrassing one.  I said an American politician was unlikely to be elected in this country, and was told that the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain, Nick Clegg, is a nonbeliever.  I suggested to my British audience that they send over boatloads of non-believers to help balance things out, but didn’t get any immediate takers.
Nick Clegg

In any event, I thank the good people of the Secular Society of Nottingham for inviting me to their meeting, and Barbara Williams, who heads the Great Lakes Atheists Society (Toledo) for connecting us all up.  The whole experience was great fun, and it leads me to wonder how many similar Skype bookreadings I could do, and in what far-flung places they might yet occur.  I never cease to be in awe at the routine miracles that technology makes possible in the 21st century.  This was one of the most enjoyable of those miracles I’ve experienced, and it will always be a favorite memory.

Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Clickers,” March 17, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012