Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Ami, Your Ami

Where have I been the last few weeks?

We took the job I was offered from Miami. It sounds weird. Wasn't Miami 'stripper Mexico,' as I termed it a few weeks ago? It's true. And in many ways, that term is definitely true as well. So here's what happened.

I got the offer from Miami extremely quickly. They called me just 2 days after I returned from the trip and said 'we like you, we want you to work here.' They were that straightforward. In the meanwhile, I'd been contacted by a very large company that had a job opportunity in Houston. They were flying the boss to Dallas specifically to interview me. I hemmed and hawed with Miami to stall a little and I bought us a little more time.

Having run out of time, I made it to Labor Day and was kind of forced to accept the job or else lose it. We knew we couldn't stay at my Dallas job. It's a long story but things were going south quickly and it was basically 'get demoted and get a salary cut or take a promotion but move to Miami.' It was a very difficult choice. Texas was our home and we had something good there. But most of that was based on my job, and that was going to change for the worse if we stayed. Jan especially had a cool head and felt  like Miami was the answer. It took me longer to get there, but I did get there.

And when I got there, all of the sudden, everything was going to be OK. I quit my job and then wound up that same evening going to my interview with the Houston guy. He interviewed me for 2.5 hours. I wrote to him a few days later and told him I had another offer (didn't mention I'd actually already accepted it). He told me I was still a 'major' candidate and he would decide in the next week.

So all the plans we made, we had to make 2 of. We had to go with a more expensive pod storage thing because we needed a plan B to divert the pods to the other job if needed, which I was told would now be in Dallas if they wound up going with me.

In the end, they apparently didn't go with me because they still haven't called me and I've like moved to Miami and stuff. But it felt sort of good to be prepared with an escape hatch should we need to bail out of Miami at the last minute. I truthfully didn't know which path would be better; I just knew it would all work out.

So. The trip.

It started with Jan killing a tree.

OK, didn't actually kill it, but she did throw a bag of clothes off our 3rd floor balcony and  seriously maim it. She tried to make me promise never to mention this. I can't remember where we wound up on that.

Anyway, the trip. 

We got everything packed up very quickly and loaded up 3 storage pod things with the help of my elder's quorum on Tuesday of whatever week that was. Sept 18th or so. On Wednesday I had my last day of work and then came back to finish up the last minute stuff. We finished everything on Thursday morning and headed out right at noon. We've been in a hotel of one kind or another ever since that Tuesday night!

The first day, poor Mads got carsick, so we took care of that. We made it to Shreveport, LA for dinner, and then I revealed our surprise hotel: the world famous, extremely haunted Myrtles Plantation just a hundred miles away in St. Francisville, LA!! What a great idea for a place to stay for a tired family with a newborn! 

So no, I didn't think it through. By the time we got there at like 9 pm, we were both terrified that the girls would get possessed or something awful would happen. It didn't help that we were staying in the "Caretaker's Cottage," which is basically a shack where slave owners did gosh knows what like 200 years ago. Charming!

It wasn't. It was very run down and was officially the worst deal I've ever had for a hotel room ever in terms of price. Quality-wise, it was very poor. Add to that being scared and exhausted and you have one poorly thought out trip event. Things weren't off to a great start.

I probably 'broke' the Myrtles Plantation because I blessed the room before we went to bed, so now the ghosts have all probably left and gone to the Arby's down the street. We all survived and then had an interesting historical tour of the place the next day.

 Yes, that's water.

We continued on that next day and were very surprised to find that most of Louisiana was quite beautiful. Tons of small rolling hills, really nicely groomed grass everywhere. It was a refreshing change from flat, and let's face it, ugly, Texas.

Later that day we got to New Orleans.

It was in very bad shape. We exited and made our way to the French Quarter. The buildings were extremely close together and it was all smelly and not very clean. Sounds like another great place to stop with the kids!

This is the main park thing in the French Quarter. I want to say it's called Lincoln Park possibly, but that doesn't sound right. Anyway, it was a bit more touristy and safer than the other areas. It had a gated park and this big main church building which was apparently a real church flanked by museums or something. 

There were many artists there selling their own handmade paintings and other artwork. I thought that much of it was actually very good. Good thing I took no pictures of absolutely any of it!

To eat, we stopped at the famous "Cafe Du Monde" which serves a neat kind of french donut which is just like a funnel cake kind of thing. It was pretty toasty there that day and it's only outdoor seating so we didn't stay long. But it was memorable. 

Driving out of New Orleans was odd. Including Miami, which is saying a lot, I've never seen a more disastrous and ruined city. At least Miami has some very nice pockets here and there and a beautiful skyline. New Orleans looks like the hurricane receded about 2 days ago. It seriously should have been burned to the ground and plowed over. For such a beautiful state, it was definitely an eyesore.

Cool cemeteries, though!

After New Orleans came a major unexpected trip element: Mississippi. We had NO idea that you cross through Mississippi on your way to Florida. No clue. I thought it was Texas, Louisiana, maybe like 5 inches of Alabama, and then Florida. But no, there's quite a bit of Mississippi to go through.

We were headed through it when we saw a turn off for the 'scenic' route along the coast. We went for it, since MS was kind of boring. Not ugly or anything, just nothing but tall trees lining both sides of the freeway forever, so not much to look at. 

We headed down to the coast, which was only about 20 minutes away. It was strange. It had only been about 3 weeks since hurricane Isaac and you can tell the MS coast got hit hard. There were some odd homes along the coast. Pretty nice, but just...odd. Something off about them. There were also many homes up on stilts. In Sanity. We couldn't figure out why someone in their right mind would want to own a home that apparently is only safe when it's 15 feet off the ground. I didn't get a picture of them but this is what they look like (via Google)

The entire coast was very very sparsely populated. We went through Biloxi, MS, and it was a ghost town. There were a few casinos and resort towns but otherwise it was just no one there. The gulf coast waters looked muddy and choppy. There were many plants and trees that were bending strongly inland,  like they'd been pelted with 100 mph wind for 4 days or so. Most everything looked like this:

By the evening, we were able to make it to Mobile, Alabama. It had a very sparse skyline but some cool buildings. After spending the previous night at the stupid Myrtles, we stayed in a nice, normal Courtyard Marriott place which was situated on a really pretty hilly area right over the bay. There's apparently a big bay that goes to Mobile. We stayed on the other side of it. This is the sparse skyline:

I guess it was kind of neat because you drive in this very long tunnel right when you get downtown. And for the record, Alabama people were uniformly wonderful. Extremely nice and friendly everywhere we went. Except at McDonalds. They can go to hell.

We woke up the next day and were starved. We made it to McDonalds at like 10:31 am and tried to order breakfast. They told us breakfast was over and they were serving lunch then. It was even a Saturday. And who on the planet takes lunch at 10:30 am? It's possibly the stupidest business rule on the entire planet. I was furious. 

I started driving down the highway, and was still fuming. Just then I got a brilliant idea. I told Jan, "this might blow your mind...but I think we can go back in time and get breakfast at McDonalds." You see, the Florida state line was like 15 miles away, and it was about 11 am. Pensacola, FL was just over the border. If I stepped on the gas, we could conceivably CROSS THE STATE LINE AND GO INTO THE EASTERN TIME ZONE AND BE THERE FOR BREAKFAST BEFORE 10:30 AM. It's possibly the most brilliant plan I've ever had in my life. Unfortunately, the Eastern time zone doesn't start till like half-way through the state. And you add an hour, not subtract it. But other than that, pure brilliance.

After that, we went through Florida. Jan threw an apple out the window when we saw a sign that there would be a fruit and vegetable inspection at some point, but that never happened. Florida's panhandle was just lots of trees and the occasional bay that you would cross over. It was OK.

That night we made it to Gainesville, just in time for a Gators game. I don't know who they are but I think it's football, possibly University of Florida? There is apparently a large stadium in town and the entire state drives to Gainesville to watch the game. We stayed at another Marriott that night and they made a big deal out of us not having a reservation. The room cost double, too! I had no idea why; I just assumed things were more expensive in Florida. It was only after seeing every man, woman, and child with a Gators shirt and Gators magnets and flags all over their cars that I put it together: namely, that the Gators were a thing, possibly sports-related, and local people seemed to like it. That's still pretty much all I know.

The next morning I was taking bags out to the car and I noticed a guy that was about 60 years old or so rearranging the magnets on his car. He was pretty concerned about which little alligator should go where.

The final day of the trip, we made it to Miami. I was heartbroken that the job wasn't in Orlando because  the suburbs of Orlando were absolutely awesome. Beautiful big hills, great quality homes and stores, and every here and there, large hillsides covered in orange groves. I felt like I could have lived there pretty much forever.

After that, I took a wrong turn to avoid a toll road and we wound up going through some city and hitting every red light. Jan got us back to the main freeway eventually but the dumb detour cost us about 2 hours. And at this point we were all pretty tired. We stopped for lunch in Palm Beach, though, and felt it was beautiful and the weather was great. Palm trees, of course, everywhere, and balmy heat tempered with a cool breeze. We felt like "we can do this."

We got down to Miami and pulled in to Weston, which would be where we would eventually settle. It was raining and we were tired so we didn't do much but we did have dinner at a nice diner that I would like to return to. Kind of a 60's style sit-down place. Not like retro or hippie or anything. Kind of felt like a lounge.

The next morning, we swung by the Miami temple site, which was very close by:

And then I drove us down town. Jan was overwhelmed. She took one look at the dramatic skyline and said, "Oh. Oh no. What have we done?" It was a lot to take in. Pictures don't at all do it justice. Here are some from the internet:

I drove everyone to Miami Beach and to Key Biscayne and showed off the sites. We played on the beach at Key Biscayne a little bit and I made Jan go into the cuban bakery I'd encountered a few weeks before and order something. She came back with a thing that was basically rice in a cup of milk. It was pretty good, though. Arroz con something or other.

We wound up with a terrific apartment in a terrific apartment community in a terrific city. My commute is 25 minutes to a train station and then 40 minutes on the train, give or take. It's an adjustment, and a big one, but it's doable. I'm getting used to tuning out for 80 minutes a day and just relaxing a little bit. It's far preferable to driving downtown, which I feel is like Los Angeles-scary and very stressful, not to mention very time consuming. It can be 90 minutes to go 27 miles. Easily.

So we're here and things are going well. The job is very good. Very good people and a wonderfully kind boss. I like it. We all have hope for the future again, and we're happy. I don't know how long this experience will last; certainly Texas ended a lot sooner than we expected. But however long it is, we'll make the most of it. Adios, Texas, hola, Flo-ree-da (as the locals say)!

Above: Not a brochure. It's the view from our front door, taken by my phone. Below: some local color in Coral Gables, close to where I work.

Miami has crazy beautiful clouds almost every day; they are plentiful and extremely low to the ground, and very 3-d. I liked these, shown in a pretty sunrise.

Below: part of my commute in the morning.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Sorry I'm quite late in reading this, but I read it now and feel for you with the long drive and entering a new city. But it really does work out (which you already know) and if you stay open to new adventures (which it sounds like you both are doing) you'll make some great family memories.