Posts Tagged 'Enso Community'

Fantasy Island

Our latest trip to Healdsburg included another visit to Enso, the Zen inspired retirement community being built about two miles from the center of town.

It’s been about six months since we made a deposit on one of the 200 apartment style units that will house about 300 people with an average age of about 75. Six months ago, construction had been scheduled for completion in late summer of 2023. I had relaxed knowing that anything could happen in the intervening 18 months, a lifetime when you’re 83.

Disease, war, and famine are only a few of the unknowns. At the top of the list was my ambivalence about the whole idea of packing my bags, abandoning Ojai, and depositing myself in what might as well be a foreign country.

Right on schedule, with crews working six days a week, that 18 months has shrunk to a dozen…and I am getting nervous. What was a refundable deposit fantasy, is now becoming a real-life possibility, complete with the uncertainty about what Enso will be when it grows up. There are no current residents to ask about life at Enso. No one to ask so how’s the food? No one to ask so is the staff attentive? No one to ask so is there enough to do? No one to ask so just how Zen is this place anyway?

Our trip to Healdsburg was prompted by a beam signing event at the Enso sales office and a 30-minute bus ride through the construction site. A gaggle of more than 100 old people, some sporting canes, were wandering around the parking lot sounding like a bunch of kids being sent to summer camp.

Jackie was in her element, aggressively seeking out people she had met during the various Zoom meetings including the one on aging that she had sponsored. I was my usual semi-introverted self, hanging back in the shadows and wondering what I was doing here. I occasionally nodded at someone who nodded back, both of us unsure who we were nodding to. Some people stood next to me who, based on their facial expressions, were also wondering why they were here.

A steel I-beam laid across two horses. Sharpies were gobbled up and used to sign the beam which, supposedly, would be set in place at the top of one of the buildings now under construction. Jackie and I completed the assignment, took obligatory selfi-photos, and marveled at our achievement.

Two large buses stood in the lot looking like they would never get off the ground. We were among the first of about 50 to clamber aboard. Some needed help, but all made it to their seats, some with a satisfying grunt. The jovial driver told a couple bus jokes and we began our five-minute ride to the construction site.

I was astonished by what I saw. Until now, my understanding of the project was limited to a scale model that sat on a wooden surface the size of a ping-pong table in the Enso sales office. Using a controller, our sales rep Leslie could turn on a tiny light in any apartment. It was eerily lifelike. Had we tried really hard we probably could have entered the apartment, sat on the  sofa and had a glass of Sutter Home Rose, Jackie’s favorite wine. The whole project could have been lifted off the table by two people.

Instead, what stood before me now were multi-storied buildings whose structures were defined by thousands of I-beams, crossbeams, and all manner of supporting materials.  The panels that would someday cover the beams were not yet visible; I could see through the structures without being impeded by paneling. It was like looking through the standing skeleton of a prehistoric T-Rex at the LA County Museum.

The size of the structures was overwhelming. The ping-pong table had lulled me into complacency. I had expected that the real thing would be more Lilliputian like. Something cute and comfortable. Something soft and welcoming. I felt glum. My bubble had burst. I was now in a deepening funk.

As we rode through the site, Jackie and I tried to spot our apartment. That one. No, that one. Maybe that one. That one for sure. Shit. I gave up.

The tour ended without anyone having a stroke. A major accomplishment for 100 old people confined in a small space without eating for 30 minutes. We had seen what we came for. Some people were apprehensive. Ruling out the possibility that it was caused by full bladders, others seemed giddy with what they had seen. What did they know, anyway?

Back at the sales office people were hanging around the ping-pong table version of the project. Some were interested in the possibility of trading their current pick for something else. This parlor game was played often, sometimes resulting in a series of changes or switching positions on the waiting list. Like grass, it’s always greener in someone else’s pasture.

Jackie and two newly minted Enso friends had arranged a buy-your-own dinner at two Healdsburg restaurants for those braving the beam signing and bus tour. About 50 had responded positively to the suggestion. I worked on name tags and fantasized about what the wearers might look like.

At 5pm, Jackie deposited me and half the name tags at Campo Fina, a cute eatery in mid-town. I sat anxiously at the end of a long table and tried to look like I belonged there. People arrived and I dealt out the tags, made small talk and smiled a lot. They should have made me a partner in the restaurant.

Having finished similar work at Bravas Bar de Tapas (also cute), Jackie arrived, looked around and patted me on the head for the good job I had done. She was pleased that no one was injured and had to this point avoided food poisoning.

We sat among strangers. All were pleasant, and relatively free of sarcasm. After briefly sharing reactions to the bus tour, conversation flowed freely. It was like meeting people you might never see again. Short of our favorite sexual position, we could have discussed anything.

I could live among those people. Too bad it might be in a place bigger than a ping-pong table.


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