Friday, September 05, 2008

Florida was my sandbox

No pun intended. The question of how someone gets from Michigan to the West Coast is a good one. The answer, at least for me, is in stages. Florida is a straight shot down from Detroit. Literally the only thing you have to do is get on I-75 and go south and a day and a half later (if you stop for the night) you'll be in south Florida. I had been to Florida many times before because my grandparents owned a trailer down there that they stayed in during the winter, in the Florida Keys. The trips to Florida started when I was a kid and went on from there, visiting them during various holidays taking place in the winter months. When I moved to Florida most of my immediate family was living down there, with my parental unit making the shitty choice to sell our house while I was in college and move there to 'help out' with the Grandparents. Right... So when I dropped out of college I theoretically had two choices: the first was to stay in Detroit, the Detroit area, by myself, work, and live, or move down to Florida where my family moved anyways, with the open potential of sponging off of them. The full, real, story was more complex than that, and less heroic sounding, but we'll let this version of it sit for now. Anyways.

Dropping out of college and moving to Florida was at the time one of the most radical actions that I could have imagined doing at the time in terms of what to do with my life. So by doing that I was already at the end of my line for that particular moment in my life. But of course in time you get acclimatized to what you're surrounded by and you start to look for other frontiers to explore. After adventures in Florida, including many good political stuff on the local and national level, the local being in Gainesville Florida, I started looking at where I could travel in a decent amount of time by car, and started going places. First was New Orleans. Then Austin, Texas. Then back to New York City for the first time after leaving my first college there. I took a day trip to Boston and Cambridge. In the process went to DC for a second time for a Progressive conference and then tourism. Finally went to Miami Beach and then Vienna, Austria, where I stayed for a week letting it sink into my bones. During this time I traveled all over Florida, all over. Saint Augustine was fairly close, close enough for a comfortable day trip; Saint Petersburg and Tampa were a slightly longer day trip away, and were the closest major cities to me, and so I spent an increasing amount of time there, particularly in St. Pete, which is a kick as beach town. Orlando too, although Orlando was not as cool or interesting as people may think. I tended not to spend as much time there because it was just as long a drive as Tampa but with less of a pay off. Being in Central Florida, which is sort of part of the Bible Belt of Florida, Orlando has quite a different vibe than the beach bum, international tourist, feeling of the Tampa/St. Petersburg. Also, there's no water there. St. Petersburg is fairly dripping with gay culture as well, which is a plus even though I didn't directly partake of it. All of these experiences prepared me to take a next step.

Having already moved to Florida it was less of a decision to move to some other really cool place in the rest of the country. I have to admit, though, that I was more nervous catching my first flight to Seattle to check out Evergreen in Olympia than I was going to Austria where I didn't speak the language and worked from phrase books and memory of conjugation from way, way, back in school. The reason was that unlike Austria, Washington Oregon Seattle Port Townsend and finally Olympia were going to be permanently surrounding me. There would be no coming back. But if you told me that I would actually be living on the West Coast, in the Pacific Northwest, three years earlier, when I had just moved to Florida, I would of thought you were kidding. Of course it would be a nice idea a nice dream, something to think about and sigh over, but actually doing that? You'd have to be fucking nuts. Yet the safety and the relative making it work in Florida in terms of not going bat shit crazy or being killed reassured me that making another, more radical, move would be a possibility that could work.

The real question is how I got from living and growing up in semi-rural Michigan to getting into a position where I could move to Florida. I moved from rural town to the central metropolis of Detroit before making the move. How that happened will have to be the subject of another blog post.

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