Secret to a great spring break

Kamau talks romance with retirees
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Story highlights

  • Kamau Bell reflects on his travels to Florida, where he filmed his latest episode of CNN's "United Shades of America"
  • Bell spent time with spring breakers -- as well as senior retirees, who could tell youngsters a thing of two about having fun

Editor's note: W. Kamau Bell is a sociopolitical comedian, featured on "Kamau Right Now!" on KALW in San Francisco and CNN's "United Shades of America," airing Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)[Note: This commentary was published to accompany the season finale of "United Shades of America," which has been preempted due to news coverage of the Orlando nightclub mass shooting.]

After filming with the KKK, cops, off-the-grid guys wielding semiautomatic weapons and feeling like I was going to die of frostbite while the producers got enough b-roll of me walking through the streets of Barrow, Alaska, for the final episode of "United Shades of America" I'm just going to regular old Florida.
    W. Kamau Bell
    I say, "regular old Florida" mostly because Florida is a complicated state. Usually, the news out of Florida makes me feel like being black in Florida can be a terminal condition.
    Not only that, but like my home state of California, Florida could be at least three states -- all of which feature a significant population of retirees.
    No state income tax, no snow, lots of golf courses, and ready-made gated communities make Florida an irresistible place for seniors -- the ones who have the income level -- to retire.
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    There's northern Florida, which could be Alabama. Look at a map. It basically looks like Florida took a bite out of Alabama. Which Florida might do, because after all, Florida is where a guy who was high out of his mind actually took a bite out of someone. Then there's southern Florida, which is often nationally defined by Miami and, therefore, Cuba. (And now that could be even more increasingly true. Thanks, President Obama ... Seriously, thanks!)
    And then there is the middle part of Florida: where the modern idea of spring break was born (Thanks, MTV... I guess).
    So this week in the state of Middle Florida we split the difference between spring break and senior citizens. I spent half the episode with a bunch of dudes in Daytona Beach and the other half with a bunch of retirees who live at Lake Ashton, an exclusive gated community. And I can tell you that those retirees are living the rest of their lives as if it is spring break ... ust with way less of that "Wooooooooo!" you hear at the beach over jello shots.
    Now seemingly these two things -- retirement communities and spring breakers -- have little in common. But as I am, at age 43, about halfway between both, I decided to dive right in when I had the chance, especially because I never went to spring break (would have been weird seeing as I was a college dropout). And also I'm not sure I'm going to be able to afford retirement, especially with the fact I have two kids. And the dream of Bernie Sanders giving them (and everybody else) free college tuition is becoming less and less likely, so...
    Within minutes of arriving in Daytona Beach and watching the coeds having their good (and many times alcohol-fueled) times, I couldn't help but wonder how many people wake up the next day unsure about or horrified by the previous night's events. And to be totally honest, as the father of two daughters, I was mostly worried about all the young women I saw who were talking about getting drunk and partying into the night.
    Now, don't get me wrong. I understand their desire to party, but let's be real. These situations involving alcohol (and drugs) and college students get ugly fast, especially for young women. They deserve to have their fun, and they also deserve to go home unharmed. As much as the producers of the show wanted me to focus on the good times, I couldn't help but think about — and occasionally bring up on camera -- the potential for bad times.
    And in the wake of the conviction of ex-Stanford University student and star athlete, Brock Turner, of three counts of sexual assault, and then in the wake of the disgusting, yet not unfathomable, leniency shown to him by Judge Aaron Persky, who used his legal discretion to gave him only a six-month sentence when the minimum sentence is usually two years ... I now feel like I should have focused on the darker side of spring break even more.
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    In my spring break experience, the three guys I hung out with didn't seem all that interested in hooking up. Well at least, they didn't have the creepy, laser-eyed focus some of the other guys did. They seemed far more interested in hanging out with each other and reveling in the fact that this was the last hurrah before real, grown-up life started.
    They were aware these were soon to be the good old days, so they were working overtime to make memories. Although by drinking a concoction they call a "beerdo" — a spoonful of instant coffee chased by beer mixed with vodka -- I'm pretty sure they won't be remembering all of those memories very clearly.
    At worst, spring break in Daytona Beach feels feral -- like everybody is trying to re-create scenes from the movie "The Hangover." And at best it still feels like "The Hangover" -- just the version that airs on cable TV with commercials taking place of the R-rated fun.
    And if there is a place where I might have expected things to feel feral, it is a retirement community. Before I spent time there, I would have guessed that the people who live there (many of whom who have outlived the actuarial tables) might be in a hurry to "get it in." (Look it up on Urban Dictionary if you don't know.)
    Instead, there was an immense calm wafting off of the people I met. They weren't working as hard as the kids to have fun. They were just doing it. Now admittedly, these people are the ones who have pretty much won the game of life. They have good health and enough money to spend to buy a house in Lake Ashton.
    Meanwhile, many Americans at their age not only cannot afford to retire, but in some cases are also getting yelled at to take extra shifts at their job, because their barely postpubescent manager has to go out of town for his spring break in Daytona Beach.
    Even though I expected that I would be super excited to relive the youth I never had by hanging with the spring breakers, I was way more comfortable with the retirees (and experiencing the third act I may never be able to afford to have). What's not to like? They get up when they want. They go to bed when they want. They have a hired staff of people to plan all their good times.
    United Shades of America Kamau Bell Florida social security orig_00000301
    And if you get too drunk to get in your car, don't worry. You can just drive a golf cart home, because it's a gated community. Not that I recommend golf carting while under the influence ... I just really want to drive everywhere in a golf cart.
    In the show, I also learned that driving a golf cart is pretty much the only part of golf that I'm any good at -- and I'm way more excited about getting old than I used to be.
    But if I'm going find my own personal Bay Area-esque Lake Ashton, then I'm going to need this show to get to season two, three, four... five...six.
    So thanks for watching ... and please keep it up!