Sun Cities Today Blog

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Welcome

Welcome to my Sun Cities today blog. My term at the Del Webb Sun City museum has ended, and rather than shut the blog down, i have elected to continue posting commentary on life in Sun City. Writing has always been cathartic for me and given my new role on the Rec Centers of Sun City (RCSC) board of directors, this blog will allow me a safe haven to vent, applaud or simply openly communicate with those who chose to follow my comments.

Sun City Arizona has always been a very special place and one of my goals for the three-year term is to try to rebuild that sense of community that DEVCO president John Meeker made so prevalent in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It should be a fun and interesting ride, so feel to join in and send me your comments for posting.

Bill Pearson

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Words…cerebral

My bad; been busy playing with some new “friends” online of late and have done nothing in the way of telling the Sun City story. It’s actually been a hoot, given the mental stimulation of dealing with people who neither like you or what you stand for. There’s been an abundance of opportunity to grow in both knowledge and tolerance (though at times, apparently i’ve missed the mark on the latter).

The good thing is i’ve had lots of time on my hands. The RCSC is down (from a board perspective) for the month of July and we put mom on a plane back to Minnesota for a couple of months. Consequently most of my days and nights are open to do as i please. Suffice to say, i did just that. The best part of this exploration has been to open my eyes to just how important it is to continue to push the mental limits as we age. Way too many people think once they retire they know it all; nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the countless numbers of threads i started on newszap (much to the consternation of my more conservative new buds), was one called Words. Suffice to say; i love words. I love the sound , the feel, the texture. I love how one can play with them, twist them and mold them into multiple meanings. I love the fact they can spark an imagination, ignite a flame of fury or even help a romantic fall in love. Words when used well bring about a zest and appreciation of all things seen and unseen. Visual eye candy for those willing to simply seek them out.

Hence, the title: Cerebral. Love that one; just do. It conjures up all things mentally stimulating. Here’s one of the meanings of it: ” Appealing to or requiring the use of the intellect; intellectual rather than emotional.” Here’s what’s so intriguing about it: Using words well, engaging the process of thought and doing it with a touch of flare often can trigger those emotions. It’s like a two-fer…two for the price of one.

The significance to the importance of cerebral will hopefully reveal itself in the coming year. We (the RCSC) has always been brilliant at fulfilling its obligations to the physical portion of the equation regarding the active way of life contained in its mission statement. I’m not convinced it has done as well on the section dealing with the “well-being” of those living here (ie: the mental aspect). Stay tuned as we play this one out; i think most of you will be delighted.

A final note in closing; seems the irony of this should not be lost. I’m writing this just a day or two after the Aurora tragedy. Shocking we continue to see those things happen, but it’s pretty clear they will not end any time soon. A friend and i were emailing back and forth and i mentioned i got booted off newszap again (makes number 4). He was quite astute to note that since the shooting at the movie theatre there has been repeated cries for gun control. But this observation was far better: Guns apparently in our society are just fine…it’s words that get banned.

Truth truly is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Interesting commentary and spot on.

Banned Again

You’ve got to love my friends on the right; they talk a good game (well kind of; nuh not really, they cut and paste well), but when push comes to shove, they fall on their face trying to get out-of-the-way of anyone willing to challenge them. No offense to anyone posting on Newszap, but most of you are some really squeamish buggers.

I had no sooner than logged in under a new name, revealed it was me and bam, you went running off to the administrator claiming your feelings were hurt. Geez, grow some ovaries will you. What’s so funny is they have no problem filling the site with the most vile of attacks, insults and demeaning cartoons of the president they can find. And let’s be blunt, this isn’t mainstream political humor, this is vicious and bordering on libelous.

Perhaps liberals are more tolerant, because we don’t let our sensitivity undies get in a bunch and cry to the webmaster. We simply reply back. I hate politics, i love these kinds of games. Just mano e mano (i mean other than you all running to the webmaster to get me banned).

Too fun. I did get my post back about the goodly and godly gov walker and once the storm of controversy dies perhaps i’ll share it with you all. The interesting fact about this latest banning was my expulsion was within minutes of receiving that post back. Can anyone spell vindictive?

All together now: v i n d i c t i v e ?

Banned!

Awesome! There’s a first for everything eh? And let me say, back in my drinking days, i was thrown out of far better places than Newszap (but that was 37 some years back). But alas, it’s a sad tale of woe: On the morning after the white wash in Wisconsin (just doesn’t have the same ring as the thrilla in Manilla) where the heavy hitters bought their way into the hearts and souls of even the best of intended Wisconsinite’s, i got a little carried away.

Before we go there, for those of you who don’t know, our weekly newspaper The Independent has had a pretty good local community weblog/forum. For years different west valley communities have had their own online gathering place. Kudo’s to the Independent for doing so.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (too funny). Some genius in places unknown decided an “upgrade” was necessary. It took them months to release it and when they did, it was a mess. Impossible login, timed out postings and wholly illogical failures to proceed. Hell, even the brilliant right wingers were moaning.

But i digress; the site’s biggest problems came as all the west valley communities were thrown together as having one common ground. Nothing could have been more bizarre. The Surprise folks have a callous cast of characters whose primary purpose in life is to bash President Obama. You’d think adults would be more mature and civilized, but within short order it was clear thinking was never one of their strengths.

I have to admit i was giving serious consideration to asking Sheriff Joe to conduct one of his high level investigations. You know, something along the lines of what the hell are they putting in the water there to cause all of this adult attention deficit disorder (AADD). I tried calling Joe but he was on the line to Hawaii, guess a couple of the Posse got lost and he was on a search and rescue mission.

That Tuesday morning where the billionaires that paved and paid Walker’s way into the record books were all toasting themselves into oblivion (along with a handful of the more keen Surprise folks who posted cartoons) i took some liberties. Yup, unleashed some of my acerbic wit and rattled off some of my more lewd and crude rebuttals towards them.

The irony is, a week or two before as i told them i was leaving the site, they threw down the gauntlet (while in their case it was more like Michael Jackson’s one white glove). I picked it up, dusted off the whole ugly political crap and started dueling with them. It was boring and tiresome at best, but something to amuse me and confuse them.

Apparently my rapier like writing style pierced them to the heart (in actuality it got them about two feet lower and around the other side). With bruised ass and ego, they went whining to the webmaster (who is obviously a graduate of the Rush Limbaugh school of journalism and i was promptly ejected.

Worse yet, the weasel took down my post. I have demanded he return it to me and restore my honor (really, i have very little). I can live without Newszap, but i want my post back. It was one of the most on point succinctly done pieces i have ever comprised. To date he is failing to acknowledge me other than to quote some numbers (10, 17 and 32) from the code of conduct.

Persistence is my middle name; hard to believe my parents had that kind of foresight, so i will continue to pursue this. If i ever get it back, i’ll post it here and maybe send it off to some of my more liberal friends; perhaps it will go viral; maybe even drive some folks that lean towards the left go have some fun with the cut and pasters from Surprise.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for that petition for Joe to check the water supply in Surprise. How they behave may not even be their fault.; and as a caring liberal i’d want to see them get some quality professional help before Obamacare becomes the law of the land.

Cool

Maybe not the best header in the world given Sun City AZ will be topping out in the low 100 degree mark today; but the event that got me back into the writing mode is totally cool. I got called a few weeks back and was asked to fill in at the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum in May; seems they had some open spots for docents (guides for those of us less sophisticated) and could i pitch in? I’ve been sorely remiss in doing much of anything with the museum since i went off the board at the end of last year and quickly grabbed the two spots i had open on my schedule.

What great memories coming back and opening up. The past three years were very special for me. Fond memories would be a gross understatement. The joy of being close to those early years in Sun City is almost overwhelming. I know it may not be that way for everyone, but the history of Sun City is still something that leaves me feeling excited and nostalgic for those days gone by. Just knowing people threw caution to the wind and moved to the middle of nowhere and started over is thrilling to try to picture.

In my past life, i often started presentations with the simple suggestion for people to close their eyes and try to “picture in their mind” whatever the subject i was speaking on. The reality was (and still is) some folks can do it far better than others. I’ve always been about visualizing. Seeing the potential and experiencing the event or outcome beforehand is a technique that only enhances the enjoyment when it finally does unfold. World class athletes talk about seeing the shot before they make it, so if it’s good enough for them, why not us average, everyday Joes’?

And therein lies the beauty of the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum; walking in the door, it unfolds before your very eyes. Powerful stories, captivating pictures and staggering memories of days long gone help transport us back to the 60’s and 70’s. Seeing the pleasure on the faces of those who came before us speaks volumes. Reading the oral histories becomes an object lesson in what was happening back then still being a common occurrence some forty or fifty years later. All too often visitors depart feeling like they have become a part of something very special.

But why not? They truly have. Sun City and it’s story of success, pending failure and then rebirth are fascinating and engaging. Especially for those of us who have chosen to live either in Sun City or Sun City West. We are unique and understanding those differences only helps us appreciate just how good we have got it. There is no better place to find them than at the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum. unfortunately it is open only by appointment during the months of June, July and August. Small (or large) groups can set up times to tour by calling 623-974-2568 most mornings between 9 am and noon and speaking with Julie. If you can’t make it in, try visiting the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum website at this link .

One last thing, during this blistering summer heat…stay cool and if you can’t, at least be cool.

Learning at the knee of the masters…

Little bit of redundancy here, but i tend to do that. Writing for me is a bit like thinking out loud; it helps me percolate up what i know and how it works. If i’ve learned anything in life, it is virtually everything has been done before. Simply by taking the time to look i’ve almost always been able to avoid pitfalls and find road maps that spared me blunders.

Learning from those who been there, done that is just common sense. Rather than belabor this, let me put it into perspective that is both current and relevent to now. We (the RCSC) are in th the midst of creating a marketing program; something they have never done.

The last time that happened was under DEVCO, and once they were built out in 1978, the “selling” of Sun City ceased. Contained in those first 18 years is the perfect blueprint of how it worked. It is a fascinating study in quality and quantity compared to a simple, clean concept that for most would have appeared to be understated.

Quick recap: First 5 years (1960-1965), massive national campaign with ads that would have the cast of Mad Men drooling. Seriously, they were that damn good. The problem was, there was nowhere’s near enough return on investment. The 50 person advertising company working for DEVCO, as good as they were, it didn’t get the job done.

Meeker comes to Sun City, mid 1965 and one of his first actions was to let them all go. He replaces it with a 3 person team and they focus on a Play and Stay program and building a true sense of community. I won’t belabor it, he was brilliant and by turning the community loose as a sales force, he explodes the myth that Sun City was a place old people went to die. By the way, did i mention he sold 2000 homes a year from 1968 to 1978?

Here’s the real kicker; in those years there was virtually no competition. Today, there’s near on 400 age restricted communities and the builders selling homes in them have massive marketing budgets. Sun City can never compete in the “traditional” types of marketing; nor should they ever try.

Let’s be blunt, the value in us driving sales in Sun City is about two things: The more homes that sell, the more money we collect in the Preservation and Improvement Fee (PIF). Of more importance to those living here, we enhance the value of their property and make Sun City less desirable to those looking at Sun City as just a “cheap place to live” or invest.

Bringing this full circle, let me spell out it from my perspective. Our marketing program should be almost totally internal. By focusing on building a stronger sense of community, we go to the heart of what sells Sun City…those of us living here. No one loves it like we do and by arming residents with the tools to promote the community we follow in Meeker’s footsteps.

I see that being done in a number of different ways: More effective communications, better branding of the community, targeted marketing and events with a purpose and great promotion. I know it sounds like a lot, but we do some of those things already, we just need to do them better. Ouch; sounds trite, but by setting goals and reaching them we move that much closer to preserving both the value and values that were built into Sun City.

Awesome!

Yesterday in Sun City…

A glimpse of things to come: A great time was had by all as we gathered to listen to Judith Ann Trolander. The Del Webb Sun Cities Museum hosted the special presentation by the author of From Sun City to the Villages. This well done text-book is a must read for those who are interested in the growth and development of age restricted communities.

Professor Trolander, from the University of Duluth, took us on a journey of the senior’s migration from the rocking chair to the age of active retirement. It was enlightening and the one thing most clear was that Del Webb and his people were the innovators. The fact is, Sun City residents live in the place it all began. Other communities followed, but were all inspired by the original Sun City.

The question and answer session was great. We had several couples in the audience and after the event got a chance to talk to several of them. Perhaps the best commentary was from the most recent buyers who have found their place in the sun. They loved the community and like all of us, wonder why more “boomer’s” aren’t looking at Sun City.

Simple IMHO (in my humble opinion); if they know about Sun City, people still think it’s a place where old people go to die. Nothing new there, that’s been the case from the day they began selling homes in the valley of the sun. The perception has always been strangled by those blindly believing what their mind see’s rather than what the reality is.

Meeker understood this and combatted it by an aggressive program of bringing people to the community and letting nature take its course. Love affairs were instantaneous and home purchases followed time after time. The Play and Stay was his brain child. Odd, because today nothing has changed, people visit, buy and love their new home.

Last night we left the walls and went to Phoenix to the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum). First time there and quite an experience. The place is huge and we’ll have to back to see the bulk of it. Friends invited us to go see a show that was passing through and it was a real treat. The unusual group was both fun and frivolous. The Caravan of Thieves were unlike anything we typically find in Sun City but it was definitely an enjoyably night out.

All of this is just the lead up to what hopefully becomes a more interesting perspective of what Sun City is and where we hope to take it. The internet has so much potential to show and tell those looking for a retirement destination and that Sun City should be worthy a look. Within months the RCSC’s new marketing site will be live and looking for ways to showcase all Sun City has to offer. One of the feature’s i would love to see is a “yesterday in Sun City” complete with picture and blurbs about what made the day so special. We’ll see.

For now, we’re busy enjoying both the ride and the destination. Nice!

Quiet!

Let’s start with a very simple but cold premise: Sun City is not for everyone! For real; from the day the community first opened in 1960, the company behind the project (DEVCO) understood the vast majority of the population would have no interest in a community where everyone was a senior citizen. 50 and better when it first began and over the years it changed to 55.

Early projections by those trying to convince Del Webb to invest in the project told him flat-out the market of potential buyers who would be interested would be well below 10% of the senior population.. That’s a frightening number when you are creating something as expensive and unique as Sun City was. Building the amenities before a house was sold was bad enough, but then factoring in a small target niche market had to be terrifying.

Undaunted, they plowed ahead and the rest has become history (which you will see more of in the coming months). Carbon copies have sprung up around the United States over the years and the Pulte Corporation purchased the Webb company primarily because they wanted to use the name synonymous with age restricted developments. “Del Webb Sun City” is recognized as the name with the most skin in the game, as well it should be.

How things have changed in those past years. Today, senior developments are smaller and have less amenities. Builders don’t want to sit on them for 15 to 20 years. They will not dedicate valuable land to an infrastructure of churches, shopping centers and an abundance of golf courses and recreation centers they ultimately hand over to the community when built out. It just isn’t practical.

Consequently we see smaller lots, less need for organizations structured to be a part of the community and volunteerism plays a lessor role. It is a dynamic that usually is most noticeable once folks actually taste the lifestyle built into the way of life. Essentially you have to try it, experience the differences to understand why one is radically different from the other.

My point is this: There are those who have no interest in giving back to their community (at least in the way we need give back in Sun City) by donating 10 to 40 hours per month. More of the services in the newer settings are bought and paid for as part of the expense of living in them. They come wrapped in HOA or Rec fees. Nothing wrong with that, just different.

Here’s the bigger kicker for Sun City: We are quieter, cleaner and less expensive than almost anywhere else. That’s huge. Visitor’s often are stunned at first glimpse. All of the volunteer organizations tend to lend into the equation in ways that are nearly invisible. I say almost because unless you see the PRIDE out picking up the streets, you miss knowing why it’s so darn clean-looking. Our winter residents enjoy the POSSE checking their properties daily, and unless you are here in the dead heat of the summer, you would never see it. Awesome.

As good as all of that is, we are  quiet. I know for some that’s a drawback. They need the hustle and bustle of downtown New York. They want the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. There are virtually no “pickup” bars, the closest is a pizza/Italian eatery that has a small bar with an occasional performer; hardly where a heavy hitter would hang out.

The DEVCO folks had it spot on; Sun City isn’t for everyone. It wasn’t opening day and it still isn’t yet today. Between you and me, that’s just fine. I like clean; i like quiet and i love being able to give back to the community i have chosen to make my home. It’s a simple way to live, but then, i’m a simple kind of guy. Seems like the perfect fit eh?

Communication

Suffice to say, my first three months on the Rec Centers of Sun City (RCSC) board have been interesting. The challenges of working within a structure built over near on 50 years often are daunting. Time tends to solidify the process and because the day-to-day demands are so high on the paid staff, the organization moves slowly (that’s not a bad thing).

The important aspect of this is they do move. Glacially may be a bit slower than i’d like to see, but doing anything well is almost always better than just doing something differently. Perhaps the best part of this is i have found the board members have come to the table with an open mind and an eye to the future.

The biggest struggle for all of us are the time lines; a three-year term give us really a short period to make any kind of meaningful changes. Setting direction is the first step and working with committees to help determine where we are going is an important part in the process. Imagine how the staff feels with a constant revolving door as new board members bring new ideas.

For purposes of this discourse, i want to hone in on the committee i chair; member communications. I asked to be assigned to it; i see it as one of the areas we can address and have some of the quickest results. At our March meeting the committee identified a dozen areas we feel we have purview over (though we missed a couple). Now we will begin looking at each of them in-depth.

In preparation for this Tuesday’s (4-10-12) meeting at 1 pm in the board room at Lakeview i began an internet search. Google is fabulous and after typing in “effective communication” and hitting search, i quickly got back an amazing 102,000,000 results. Nope, didn’t read them all (he said with a smile), but i did begin reading through some of the more interesting ones.

The oddity is there often is a wide difference of opinion between what we see as effectively communicating versus a lot of communications. I think much of what has happened over the years at the RCSC is that communications become simply what we need to do on a month to month basis. Rather than taking on a life of its own, it simply exists out of sheer need.

I’m excited by the prospect of addressing these kinds of issues with the communications committee. Much of my life has been built around achieving outcomes; basing direction on how well we are doing on any given task. I found when things weren’t working as well as they could or should have, it was time for an honest evaluation, assessment and redirection.

I would invite any Sun City resident interested to sit in on this Tuesday’s meeting as a guest. We are on the cusp of formatting a new direction in a number of areas on how we communicate with members of the RCSC and if you want to be part of it, stop on by and join us. It will be an eye-opening experience for all of us.

It’s about time…

I’m fascinated by words that have entirely different meanings, even though they say the same thing. “It’s about time” is one of those phrases. Better than that, it helps describe why i’ve been missing in action of late. I just noted my last blog was posted the end of February; meaning i have been woefully inadequate in converting my thoughts on Sun City living to text. Sorry.

Seems my time is at more of a premium these days; which in turn means i’m less interested in giving away those quiet moments where i can read a good book, put down a lawn bowl or play around on the computer. Selfish? Maybe, but that is one of the joys of being retired: Doing what you want, when you want to do it.

And before anyone thinks i’m playing the martyr card here, serving on the Rec Centers of Sun City (RCSC) board isn’t all that consuming. Yes, there are days on the calendar each month we are committed to. Some weeks are worse than others, but it’s far from a job and way more enjoyable.

There’s another thing; the marketing committee is working on a website using a the WordPress platform and there may well be blogging options included with it. It has the potential to allow those of us who like to occasionally express ourselves with something other than a golf club the opportunity to share our thoughts and drive traffic with something more than a static site.

It’s exciting and just the tip of the iceberg relative to things coming down the road in Sun City. My first three months on the RCSC board have been wonderfully enlightening. Haven’t always agreed, but i have found both staff and other board members willing to listen and let ideas churn and percolate. That’s healthy.

Stay tuned, lots happening and i my opinion, all for the common good. For those mystified by the single phrase/double meaning reference early on, let me clarify; It’s about time i got off my big old fat butt and did some writing and the reason i hadn’t, was simply because it was about the lack of time i had available. Cool eh?

Sybil…then and now

If one is so inclined, they can do some digging and find a previous post (approximately 8 months back) where i introduced Sybil to the blogging world. She was all of eight pounds when we got her and while we struggled with a name for a bit, she quickly aided us by demonstrating a multiple personality disorder that left us little choice. Sybil fit the bill perfectly.

She turned 1-year-old on Sunday this past week and she has grown into quite a character. This magnificent standard tuxedo party poodle hasn’t completely abandoned puppiedom, but she grows better with each passing week. Those of you who have had the joy of puppies in your life, know what i mean. There’s nothing like a puppy who has the capacity to eat virtually anything they can get their mouth around. We took a large pineapple palm down out back as it was the source of more fiber than we cared to think about for her.

Most of those days are in the past (we hope). The reality is, one always need keep an eye out as she works her way towards her terrible twos. She is now close to 55 pounds, still likes to hop around like a kangaroo and still loves to torment her older sister Phoenix. Nixie takes it like a trooper as Sybil latches on to her ears and pulls for all she is worth. Hit and run, hit and run as the older pup (also a standard poodle) mostly ignores her sisters juvenile delinquencies.

I’ll keep it brief as i know way too many people who go on and on about how their dog is the best, the smartest, and the most loved animal on 4 feet. Truth be told, almost all of them are sweethearts and invariably provide us with hours of fun and tons of love each and every day of our lives. Having a dog is a good thing, and loving them is even better.

Just be careful if you see us out and about. Sybil thinks everyone is talking to her and she wants to watch what you are doing. And lord forbid if you come by the house, that crazy girl is convinced you only came by to see her. The oddity is she won’t try to kiss you to death, she will bug you till you acknowledge her and make her the center of your attention. But then what puppy doesn’t want to feel special?

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