Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Florida weekend

It was so strange to fly into Tampa, get into my parent's car and then head in the opposite direction of my Aunt Sherry's house, or what used to be her house. Since I was a kid, we made trips to Florida at least once a year to visit my aunt. My parent's would whine the whole way home about how they didn't want to go back to Michigan, to the cold, to the dull, gray skies. They'd dream about how someday, one day, they would pack up and leave like my aunt had. Someday they could wear Hawaiian shirts every day. Someday they could throw out every shovel, sweater and winter coat they owned. Someday is now. And since my aunt relocated to Dallas a few months ago for her job, my parents are now my primary Florida relatives. I spent a long weekend with them there starting Thursday night. My mom and brother have been there for a while now, and my dad makes frequent trips from Michigan while he handles business with our house and his store. They've been renting a beach house, which is more technically a beach shack. It's a small place just five minutes from the gulf in an area that I can only describe as Key Westy. Next store is a three-story beach mansion with a widow's walk on top. Behind them is a less impressive shack with a dog, a cat, and a potbelly pig who sunbathe on the lawn. Old, leather-skinned men walk around shirtless and barefoot with fishing poles in hand. The music from two beach bars, not a quarter mile away, can be heard at night. Staying there is really an authentic Florida experience. Every morning we walked on the beach before opening the store. And on Friday, I sat with my parents as they signed the mile-high stack of closing papers on their new house, a three-bedroom ranch a little farther north in the city of Gulfport. I kind of laughed as the woman at the title office read off the date of their last mortgage payment -- 2037. I'll be 53. Add 30 more years (31 for my dad) to calculate my parent's age. But there's a built-in pool, a garage my brother says has "potential" and the promise of warm and sunny days for years to come. I know they'll be happy.

Monday, April 16, 2007


More than any other type of crime, school shootings really bother me in that sinking, cold way. Single murders shock me, rapes disgust me, and serial killers make me paranoid. But the thought of a mass killing at a school, whether it's filled with teenagers or college students, does all of the above. It gives me the chills. It makes my stomach lurch. Maybe because you're supposed to feel safe at school. Your mind is so occupied with tests and homework and activities that you forget about the real world. Maybe because not too long ago, I was sitting in one of those large lecture halls and I can only imagine the horror of someone opening fire on the stunned crowd, the chaos that must ensue. Maybe because even though it's happened before, you still don't think it could happen to you. And then it does. It's hard to believe. Thirty-two dead, most likely many of whom were students. Students who probably rolled out of bed this morning groaning about their early morning class, maybe scrambling to get their notes together and grabbing a coffee on their way to sit through another lecture, just like they have every other Monday this semester.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Do I know you?

This is a small town. A small town where almost everyone went to high school together, worked together or knows so and so through their sister's boyfriend's cousin. It's that kind of place. And moving into this community with no ties whatsoever to Long Island, let alone New York, made it tough to find friends - at first. Somehow, though, I've managed to make a mark here. And now, it's rare to leave a bar without having run into someone familiar. It's nice in a way, a feeling of belonging. But the more it happens, the more it loses its appeal. I've lost my outsider veil, something that caused a lot of lonliness, but also made everything new and exciting. Nights out here are starting to resemble holiday vacations at home, where before stepping into the local bar, you always wonder what friends will already be inside, what enemies you'll run into in the bathroom, and what girl he'll be kissing.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Life update

It's been a while, and I really have no excuse for not updating. I've had busy days, but also completely dull days, where the only thing stopping me from posting is the thought of walking the eight feet from my couch to my computer. I made it today, so here goes:

I went to my first Yankees game on Thursday with Pete from work and his friends. The stadium itself is pretty amazing, and not in the way of Comerica Park, PNC Park, or some other corporate namesake. No children's rides, fancy concession booths or waterfalls; just extremely small seats, the occasional garbage floating in from the surrounding Bronx and a whole lot of history. We ate dinner at a little Spanish restaurant, where I ordered some really good plantains. Then we bundled up and froze in the snowy stands until the end of the seventh inning, when we finally left for the warmth of our cars. It might technically be spring, but it sure doesn't feel like it. I can't wait to visit my family in Florida in a couple weeks.

I got into an accident two weekends ago. Nothing serious, at least not in terms of injuries. I was in a line of cars waiting to merge onto a busy street near my apartment where you have to sit at a stop sign until the traffic clears. The SUV in front of me went (or appeared to), so I glanced behind me, saw a clearing, and stepped on the gas without looking ahead. Seconds later, I crashed into the back of the SUV, whose driver apparently stopped after the sign for some reason I really can't figure out. Luckily, he wasn't mean (I dread the day I piss off a stereotypical New Yorker on the road), and the damage to his car was minimal – a couple scratches at most. Unluckily, the damage to my car was more extensive. What looks like minor fixes to my
untrained eye – a broken headlight cover and a slightly bent hood – turned out to be an estimated $2,500 shop fee. Ridiculous. A quick check on Kelly Bluebook confirmed that my car isn't even worth that much. Yet, a new car definitely doesn't fit into my budget at the moment. I refused service at the regular shop, and through one of those friend-of-a-friend connections, I got a quote for $1,350. There goes my tax return. But at least my car will be back in shape soon.

I spent Easter Sunday by myself. In fact, I only stepped out of my apartment once to take some trash to the dumpster. I actually didn't mind. A few different coworkers invited me to spend some time with their families, but I declined. It's always a little awkward to take part in a family tradition with strangers. And, although a little boring, it was kind of nice to spend the day by myself. The spring-cleaning bug bit me, and I went through my closet throwing out shoes, papers, and random stuff I held onto for no reason. And I finished a book I've been working on for a while. My goal to read 50 this year hasn't been off to a great start. So maybe that's what I needed to get back on track.