My sister is moving to Florida!
Like right now!!!
And through this creepy app called Glympse that she keeps sending me links from, I can literally track her every mile of the way… 🙂
In all seriousness, though, I’ve kind of been living a little vicariously through her the last couple of days because it brings back all sorts of cool memories from when I made the pilgrimage myself from mighty frigid Michigan down to never frosty Florida some 12 years and 14 days ago. I know that on one hand it’s kind of terrifying to be trekking across the country with all of your worldly possessions packed around you in your car…
…or in their case, sitting in a semi-trailer somewhere between Michigan and Florida…
…but it’s also kind of exciting to pull into a completely new place where anything and everything is new to you and especially compared to our old hometown, you’ve got this absolutely ginormous region to explore! Beaches, theme parks, shopping malls, Toys ‘R Uses that aren’t a 2-hour drive away, jobs that pay more than $12/hour, people who are ethnicities other than white – all new and all just waiting for you to go out and explore them!
Thankfully, they’ve at least got a couple of things going for them that I didn’t when I moved. First and foremost, her husband actually already has the job that he’s moving down for, and they’ve arranged to stay with us and with some friends of his until they can get on their feet, so no $37/night Howard Johnson specials for them! And to leech off of their situation just a little myself, they’re actually moving to Orlando, so I’m kind of looking forward to a bit of my own expanded exploration as I’m sure we’ll be around their neck of the woods a bit more often and up until now the farthest we typically ever get into Orlando is either Disney World or occasionally The Florida Mall.
Granted, I’m sure it’s also a little more trying of an adventure in that they’re traveling with two kids whereas I was only traveling with a small bucket of goldfish that all promptly died within 72 hours of reaching my destination, but they were pretty big goldfish! Life on the road isn’t fit for everyone…
Enjoy your remaining 673 miles, S’sr Rabbit – here’s hoping that the rest of Tennessee is slightly less stinky for you than it was for me. 😉
As if we haven’t celebrated enough anniversaries this week, today also happens to mark the 10th anniversary of when I became a Florida resident!
Yes, it was 10 years ago today – give or take a few hours – that I pulled off onto Dale Mabry Hwy here in Tampa, my little black Sunfire loaded down with the majority of my worldly possessions, after driving 1,438 miles over a two-day span with the Northern Michigan town where I spent the first 23 years of my life in the rear-view mirror. For my first three weeks in town, I lived out of a Howard Johnson in South Tampa for $160/week … which was exactly as lavish as you would expect from a $23/night motel room!
But I didn’t care – I was in Florida. And eventually I found myself a job, and an apartment, and slowly I started to build a little life for myself down here, seemingly on the other end of the country from pretty much everyone I’d ever known…
Being so far away from family has always been hard, but generally they’ve always been pretty understanding of why I left. I’d been out of high school for 5 years, I’d gone as far as I could in the company that I worked for, my social life existed exclusively online … I just needed more than what Gaylord had to offer me, and they got that.
It’s still a little weird to think that I essentially picked the Tampa Bay area at random. I thought that I wanted to move here so that I’d be closer to the water for diving, though in hindsight I’ve yet to don a regulator since I left Michigan! Originally I was going to move to St. Petersburg, but started to look around Tampa more after a couple of apartments that I looked at didn’t live up to their promotional photos online. I was even considering Orlando at one point because I wanted to study oceanography and UCF had a program while USF didn’t.
There were other cities where I’d considered in between, before I had the guts to go all in and just go to Florida, too. Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo … even some little town in Maine at one point, simply because I had a friend who was stationed there in the Navy … good god, am I glad that that one never quite worked out! I like lobster, but not enough to tolerate that kind of cold…
The truth is that none of those places worked out for one reason or another, and even though I was bitter about each one at the time, it was kind of all the better because deep down I’d always wanted to move to Florida … those were merely intended to be stepping stones, even though in hindsight I’m sure I’d have gotten stuck in any one of them and probably would’ve never made it to where I am today.
I love living in Florida, just like I love living in Tampa. It’s a big city, but not so big that I’m afraid to walk around downtown. Right now we’re just about equal driving distances to the Gulf beaches and to Disney World, so you can’t beat that! I love having choices of places to go – something we didn’t have up north – whether we’re talking about things to do on a weekend or even just which Walmart to go grocery shopping at. Plus, we have enough places to eat that the nice place doesn’t have to mean Chili’s or Olive Garden.
Obviously I love the weather, especially going into the next couple of months where it starts getting a little cooler … but not nearly that cold.
Contrary to many of my neighbors up north, I actually like the diversity that comes from living in a bigger city – i.e. unlike my hometown, Tampa has more than one gay person and more than one black person, and not everybody speaks English, either! I love seeing palm trees everywhere, including in my own front yard. And I think it’s neat that often times we get to watch cruise ships head out to sea when we take Cleo to the dog park down by the water.
It’s funny because Sara and I have talked randomly about whether we’d ever want to move someplace else, be it closer to family either in Michigan or New York, or even to somewhere entirely different, and thankfully she’s kind of on the same page as me on this one in that Tampa is our home and we like it here just fine. 😉
I’ve lived almost 1/3 of my life now here in Florida, to the point where I can’t really picture living anywhere else. Sure, we might like to move up to a bigger house at some point, but we’d still stay here … in fact, we’ve kind of already got the neighborhood picked out once the book sales start to pick up!
When I first moved down here until I’m not really sure when they stopped, I used to have nightmares where I’d suddenly be not living in Florida anymore – I’d be back at my old job stocking shelves at the warehouse, and eventually I’d think that my rent is due soon, and then someone would have to remind me that that was over, now, and it didn’t work out and that’s why I was back home again. It had been such a struggle for me to get here that the threat of losing it was very scary because I figured that all it would take was one slip up and without anyone around to bail me out, I’d have no choice but to go back to Michigan…
Needless to say, I don’t really have those nightmares anymore, but it’s no question that moving to Florida has probably been one of the most significant events in my adult life. It’s incredibly cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true – sometimes you just have to pack up and follow your dreams and see where the road takes you. There’s a part of me that wishes I’d have had the guts to do it sooner and I couldn’t tell you how many years I stared at that map of Florida that I had taped to my door before I finally took that leap, but at least I did it and that’s really all that matters.
It’s kind of a bummer that I can’t really get any work done for Just Laugh right now because not only is my main computer buried in the trunk of my car, but the monitor is still sitting up in Michigan. I also learned the hard way that my trunk wasn’t exactly packed very well as I attempted to retrieve my printer and ended up spilling a few dozen DVDs across the parking lot. I still haven’t gotten the printer, but at least I’ll know what I’m up against when I try again later…
In other news, my shoulders and neck have been aching for the past few days, which I was originally attributing to the long drive down here, but I’m coming to realize that this stiff as a board “bed” is actually the culprit. It tends to come and go, finally leaving just in time for me to go to sleep and usher the pain back into my world once again, to the point where I might actually consider sleeping on the floor tonight! Nonetheless, I’m going to meet with the leasing office of the #1 apartment complex on my list tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll be out of this place in a week anyways – if not, I might need to pick up another bottle of aspirin…
More Random Noticings About the Tampa Bay Area (and Florida in General…):
- The heat (at least right now) isn’t really so bad, as long as you don’t have your A/C on full blast all the time. I’ve found that just rolling the window down in the car is good enough and I actually woke up too cold this morning because I left the A/C on…
- There are several stadiums of all varieties in the area, but the one that really had me scratching my head was the New York Yankee’s Legends Field. You see, this confused me because the New York Yankees are from New York, yet this is anything but New York. Further research explained that Legends Field actually has the same dimensions as Yankee Stadiumin New York, primarily because this is where their spring training takes place. Apparently they can’t stand the cold, either – who’d’ve thought?!
- Silver, 4-cylinder cars, such as the Honda Civic, are very popular down here, just as was The Fast and the Furiousapparently. When are the children of today going to learn that four-bangers just aren’t muscle cars, no matter how big of a muffler you throw on them. It’s kind of like tricking out a Neon – it sounds horrible and frankly, just looks silly.
- There are presumably a lot of old people down here. I say presumably because although I’ve yet to encounter any of them in large groups, there’s a minimum of six to eighthandicapped spaces in front of every Wal-Mart, Publix, and Kash-n-Karry here. I had to pick-up some items at a Wal-Mart Supercenter the other day and not only did I end up parking in a secondary lot like a half a mile from the store, but I passed no less than a dozen handicapped spaces in a row on my way in – they were all full.
- Nobody really gives a damn what the speed limit is…the signs are still there, but pretty much for asthetic qualities only. Nonetheless, everyone’s still quite polite about the whole situation – if they want to pass you, they merely ride your ass until you pull into one of the farther right lanes instead of going around you and flipping you off in the process.
- I’m hearing that there’s a flood warning out right now, although I’ve yet to bear witness to more than fifteen minutes of rain in the last four days. Perhaps it’s veryhard rain???And lastly…
- Young or old, it seems that all of us enjoy mocking those who make announcements over the PA systems of supermarkets and superstores, but seriously, when we’re all interrupted with the message that “The time is now 9:00 PM and the customer service desk is now closed…”, who can resist?
I made it, and wow – what a difference! It was raining and dreary when I left yesterday, maybe fifty degrees if you could find a bit of direct sunlight, but it’s something like seventy right now…at nearly midnight…I think I can get used to this!
About the Packing:
It didn’t take me long at all to realize that rental trucks, even at $1,500 per trip, aren’t nearly the ripoff that I had originally thought! I did cram an awful lot of stuff into my car (and I’m really surprised that my shocks made it the entire trip!), but taking everything out of the nice and neat boxes that they were in and shuffling to make more room was just a mistake. Plus, carrying it all up a flight of stairs in about four dozen trips wasn’t exactly a blast, either…
About the Driving:
The traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be – traveling mid-week probably helped a bit. I did run into a bit of congestion around Cincinnati and again in Atlanta, but everything else was pretty smooth sailing. Of course, it’ll probably take my neck a few days to heal up from the excessive car time – 12 hrs. one day and 9 hrs. the next certainly didn’t help matters any, but now I’ll know to keep the aspirin a little more handy in the future!
My Fish Now Hate Me…:
Four of them died already – maybe within an hour of placing them in the hotel’s water, which kinda sucks! I’m sure the stress of living in a plastic bag for two days certainly didn’t help, either, so if the others survive, I’ll be quite surprised. Nonetheless, I can replace the whole lot and then some for thirty bucks at PetSmart and I’ll probably be over the loss by then, so oh well.
About the Shitty Hotel Room I Stayed in Last Night:
For less than thirty bucks, I know that I shouldn’t really expect much, but clocks, maybe?! Apparently the place has a huge problem with theft and ends up replacing about 2/3 of them every year as it is, but it’s tough to keep a schedule (or even checkout on time) when you don’t know what time it is. Their water also had a really odd tint to it and took a few minutes to stop running after I turned it off – needless to say, I won’t be staying there again any time soon!
And While We’re on the Subject, What’s with that Stench in Tennessee, Anyways?!:
I mean, seriously, I thought it was my fish there for a while, but when I rolled down the window, it was even worse! Are there a lot of factories or something that can’t be seen from the freeway? I really don’t see how anyone could stand it for any longer than it takes to get through the state…
So my initial reaction for this new and exciting venture? Very stoked – surprisingly ready to start the job search on Monday! I’d really like to see everything go perfectly and be moving back out of the hotel and into a new place by the end of the week, but that pretty much relies on getting hired either Monday or Tuesday…it could happen, though. Cross-a da fingers!
And to close out the evening:
Top Things I Like About the Area so Far…
- Mickey Mouse is within an hour’s drive now! Granted, I can’t afford to go visit him at the moment, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
- The city actually has a skyline– another new one to me. Gaylord’s skyline pretty much consists of a gigantic Glockenspiel atop the local grocery store, but I like this one better!
- It’s warm at night, yet still comfortable. I’m still wearing what I’d normally be wearing up north, except that I’m not freezing! ‘Nuff said.
- Strip clubs – you just gotta love ’em! I passed like a half a dozen of ’em on the street to my hotel alone. Any idea how many strip clubs Gaylord has??? None.
- Boulevarded Streets! I’m a guy, I don’t like asking for directions, and I tend to get lost a lot, so being able to turn around in the middle of the road is a big convenience for me…
- They seem to actually have traffic under control for a change. Even though I haven’t seen the busy hour yet, the infrastructure seems to be designed well for the size of the area. Of course, my hometown feared growth with a passion, keeping the roads smaller in hopes of keeping the numbers down, sometimes it felt like! Even with 200x the amount of people, it feels safer driving here!
- And they have an all 80’s radio station – how cool is that?! Back up north, it was one of the station’s gigs to play The Retro Zoneduring the lunch hour, but this is obviously so much better!That’s all I’ve got tonight – sleepy-time now because there’ll be a whole lotta cruisin’ going on tomorrow…
Also, I’ve had the constant ringing of my cell phone bouncing around the inside of my skull for the past three days and it’s really starting to get to me. Mind you, my cell phone is both turned off and in the other room at the time, but the ringing just keeps chirping over and over and over again…
This has actually happened to me once before a couple of years ago, to the point where I ended up leaving the ringer off completely until I could find a new tone that didn’t drive me insane. I think it has something to do with stress and the lack of phone calls that I actually do get on my cell – all of a sudden I’ll get a dozen calls in a short period and the ring works its way into my brain, after which I’m pretty well mush until I find something better.
Cell phones are evil.
Whew! What a weekend…
Ever have so much freakin’ stuff to do that it seems like you just can’t get a single lick of it done? Well that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately and I’m guessing it’s not going to subside until sometime Friday evening. I attempted to start packing up some more stuff last night, but I’ve just always been the kind of person to do everything at the last minute and I’m always afraid that I’ll put away something that I’ll end up needing fifteen minutes later. I did fill a couple boxes with some framed photos and my meek collection of pub glasses, but I can already tell that the most of it is going to have to wait until Wednesday when I can see first hand what kind of car space I’m actually dealing with here. Besides, with all of the big stuff that I’m taking down with me anyways, I’ve got a feeling that there will be quite a bit of shuffling throughout the loading process regardless, so I’m just better off doing other things right now!
I took Lori and Jordan down to Grand Rapids Saturday for their concert – boy was it loud! I didn’t get as much stuff done as I had been hoping to during the three-hour wait, but looking back at the surrounding environment, I guess I actually did pretty good. It was nice and quiet for about an hour or so, but then the evening crowd shuffled in (not unlike the Billy Joel song) and things just got out of hand. Kids were wrestling each other and dueling with the pool cues – it’s amazing what college can do for your level of maturity! Oh well, that’s exactly why I don’t hang out at those kinds of places anyways, but Lori and Jordan had a good time and that’s what I was going for…
Random Notes as Moving Day Approaches:
- Upon cleaning out my liquor cabinet, I’ve discovered that either I don’t drink nearly as much as I should or that I had truly horrible tastes in alcohol several years ago. I also found an extremely old bottle of Popov vodka standing next to a much more recent fifth of Skyy and wondered how in the hell we tolerated that cheap shit back in high school.
- I’m afraid that the death of my fish is inevitable. Although I have a fairly logical plan to transport them with me, I’ve been known to lose fish on the way home from the store, so 1500 miles might, in fact, be pushing my luck.
- The Simpsons 3rd season is currently at #2 on my list of best DVDs ever, second only to Sports Night. Did you know that in the season premiere, “Stark Raving Dad,” Michael Jackson actually sought out the cameo appearance himself, then later threw down the rules that they couldn’t actually feature him animated as himself or even list his name in the credits? Nonetheless, Michael is a huge fan and later decided to help Bart earn a #1 single – for double bonus points, what was the song???It’s raining like crazy here right now, but in two days none of that’s going to matter anymore… 😉
right at this moment I’m totally cool.
Clear as a crystal, sharp as a knife,
I feel like I’m in the prime of my life…
So it looks like the remainder of my time here is going to be divided between saying goodbye to people and writing and frankly, I’d much rather be doing the later. In the best case scenario, I’d love to leave here with nothing but some new columns and Leaving Miami on my slate. It’s pretty much a given that there’s not much I can do in the way of packing up shop until a day or two before the big day, which means that in theory I should have about eighteen quality working days ahead of me…stay tuned to find out if I actually use them to the best of their potential…
I’ve been writing all weekend and although I still have a long ways to go, I’m really getting somewhere this time.
After three years and thousands of dollars down the toilet, I can now boast that I completely own my own automobile.
And roughly thirty-three days from today, I’ll be stuck in traffic somewhere between Michigan and Florida. I couldn’t be happier, or at least not without the presence of a woman!
Ooh! Ooh! A job listing for the Tampa Tribune, and with a position that I could actually handle, no less! Resume goes out first thing in the morning. (…anyone have experience with regular mail vs. applying online?)
Anywho, wish me luck, cross your fingers, and hands off ’cause I called it first! That means you, Michael…
Well, today I did something that I totally hadn’t planned on doing anytime soon – I applied for a new job down in Florida. My original plan was to live out the summer up here in scenic Northern Michigan, which didn’t seem like all that bad of an idea, but after I read the job description…and saw what kind of money they wanted to pay, I couldn’t hardly not throw in my two cents. It even sounds like a job that I might actually enjoy doing – imagine that!
In other news, I don’t know how civilization ever made it from day to day before the ever-popular shower poof was invented, but mine broke on me the other day and to put it in laymen’s terms, I ain’t lookin’ too pretty anymore! The wash cloth just doesn’t cut it, so I think a special trip to Wal-Mart is going to be necessary tomorrow to ensure that this situation is alleviated as soon as possible. Betcha you feel informed now, don’t you?!