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Welcome to Florida.

  I’m sitting here dead tired at midnight because it is impossible to sleep. The limited proximity of the hotel room means I have to take the full blast of dad’s snoring, which is much, much worse than usual tonight. Despite the day from hell, I will be getting no sleep tonight unless I go sleep in my brand new Ford Explorer, fully laoded.

  Brand new Ford Explorer, fully loaded? When the hell did that happen?

  Well, friends, hear my tale.

  The drive was long but fine. In a quick summary, CA was an easy drive, AZ was long and boring and we slept in Tuscon, New Mexico had hullacious winds which were really hard to drive through (with the thing on the top of my car we had so much head wind drag we got 200 mpg, that’s 150 less than normal!) Texas was long and monotonous, to the point that we didn’t see a single other car for an hour and a half. This was the point we noticed we lost a comrade, the fish we had for 2 months finally passed away so I buried him in a planter in a Subway in some small town. We slept in San Antonio, drove to Houston where we got destroyed with rain in a severe lightning storm, made it through to Louisiana where the roads are complete crap (bumpy, unfinished, and crap) when we get to Baton Rouge, and we take the 10 East, and all of a sudden I’m driving and I try to speed up to pass a guy as we get on the road from getting gas, when lo and behold the engine RPM’s shoot up, the check engine light comes on, and the drive light is blinking. I immediately pull over and stop, and after looking in the hood we got back in, it started, and we took it to an exit. After calling places and looking for a garage and such (in the middle of BFE Louisiana, 20 miles out of Baton Rouge) we decide to take it slow and keep going (the book says those are either symbols of transmission problems or not tightening the gas cap enough) So we keep going, and the car seems ok. It had been doing it’s cute little squeal thing more loud than normal so we either thought it was because of heat expansion of a belt or something, and despite my caution we kept going. Mississippi had 5 different cops pulling over 5 different people, earning them the most severe police award, especially since we only went through 60 miles of that state.

  So we get to Mobile Alabama, and we start looking for a Hotel as is our way (at 12) and surprise, after trying 2 of nine due to some frusturation problems we continue on til past Mobile. Well, because of the hurricaine, there isn’t any hotel rooms past Mobile. So after trying for more than an hour with tempers flying (humidity + windshield = hard to see and car not know where to go in middle of crowded road) we find an old hotel in down town which is being renovated, it’s 150+ a night and has no amenities whatsoever (5 broken soda machines) so we stay on floor 22 and expect an easy day today since it’s only 241 miles.

  Thursday.

  So we pack turtle up and go. We get to Pensacola, oh the horror, damage everywhere, not so bad though. There’s a big bridge across a bay, maybe 3 miles out and 30 feet high off the water. We are reduced to 1 lane right before it, and so at dead stop we start across the bridge. And as we clear the trees, we see the black clouds.

  Let me tell you what it feels like to be on a steel bridge, halfway out in a dead stop across a bay with grated metal under you and a flood causing thunder and lightning storm around you.

  A lot better than it feels to be in the same conditions except that the roof rack straps break the door seal and it pours inside the car all over your computer and TV and monitor.

  So an hour later we’re moving, and I’m pissed and frusturated and there’s no gas or power anywhere and want to go, so I kick it up to 85 and go. And we do. Until we hit the road work.

  We’re dead stopped on a up-hill, and once they allow us to go, I hit the gas. And immediately repeat yesterday’s incident. So I pull over and reset the thing, hoping it all goes away. It doesn’t.

  That’s when I lost my transmission.

  Civic has been good to me, I treat him well, but he had enough. The heat of the run, the boost up the hill, after this I couldn’t get him past first. With 30 miles left to go, after 2400 miles, he wouldn’t go anymore.

  Or would he.

  I popped him into first, and going as carefully as I could not to push it hard enough to shift (which I accidentally did 3 times and had to pull over and restart) we gained speed on the downhills and coasted up the hills and with hellfire in my eyes I decided to push it to the end.

  And we made it.

  We pull into my complex, battered and torn, figuring we should unload my car before sending it to the transmission place. My contract started yesterday, so everything should be set. We go into the office, and we had called this morning and told them we’d be there today. Yay, everything should be good, right?

  Well, as it is, the girl handling my contract got married this week so she took 2 weeks off. And didn’t tell anyone we were coming. So they didn’t have an apartment ready. Aside from the fact that I wanted a 1st floor spot away from the pool (20 cheaper a month) they gave me a 3rd floor place on the pool as a last minute find. They said I could either stay and move in a month at the low rate to the room I want, or just settle. I was in the mood to settle, so she gave me a key and sent us off, with a fleeting warning that the guy was supposed to move out by today, so we may run into him on the way out. SO we find the apartment.

  I open the door and the dog greets me.

  And then I see the full apartment living room, 60% packed.

  And then I see the open bedroom, completely unpacked.

  And then I enter my room, completely unpacked.

  And then I see the dog pee on the floor, and the fully set up fish tank.

  This is a problem.

  So I go down with dad (who at this point was ready to kill) to the office and tell them that clearly he wasn’t moving out, they say that’s crap, he said he’s be out within an hour, I say fine (Dad meanwhile is saying things like “you owe me 20 bucks if you think he can’t get out” but don’t blame him, this was justifyingly frusturating) why don’t you come take a look, so he and a maintenance guy come up and are floored and offended and apologetic, they say they have no other space but can give me the other room in the apt which is actually empty. So we open that and aside from needing to be cleaned, it’ll work for now. We think.

  We needed to drop off stuff so they said we could do that and they sent a maintenance guy up to work. He started cleaning the bathroom, we moved things in. Over the course of the next hour, I found 3 used condom wrappers, beer bottle caps, a brown stain on the wall, and Dad and I each got injured bringing 10 loads of heavy stuff up 3 stories in 95 degree weather with 85% humidity to an apt which is legally unsanitary and breach of contract which I’m paying 20 too much for. Dad sliced his hand open and I re-injured by back, badly, numb leg and all.

  So we leave it and go to the car fix it place recommended by the people at my comlex. Even though it’s shifting a little now that it’s cooled down, it clearly needs a new transmission and we need a rental car.

  Oh, it’s 5 and we didn’t eat or drink all day, and no where we went had water.

  So they cant fix it but refer us to a place that can, and while we’re here, it starts pouring again. Knowing we can’t leave the non-waterproof roof carrier on anymore since we have some space in the car from unloading, with the turtle on the hood I as fast as possible rip the roof rack off and get it in the car. Pissed of as hell and sopping, I sit in the place for a half hour while dad talks to the guys. So we go to Enterprise rent a car right next to my complex and ask for a car, and they don’t since the hurricaine but someone at one down the road has a mid size, so we say we’ll take it and start driving over there with the broken car and heavy traffic.

  We get there, they don’t have the car anymore.

  Oh, just to add it in, Jenn is frusturated/mad because everytime we try to talk all day (15+ times) it ends with “Oh, shit, gotta go bye bye bye” as I encounter some disaster or rain or dropping something or bla. I don’t blame her at all, but I couldn’t balance that all with what was going on.

  At enterprise, everyone is very amused with the turtle, and for our trouble they gave me a free upgrade to a Ford Explorer, all tricked out, and would waive the gas. Since transmissions take a week minimum, I am rolling my explorer with the 6 disk changer and seating for 9 around this town.

Sweet.

  I’d like to take a minute to say that all through Tallahassee, no matter how bad I spin it, not a single person here hasn’t been nice. Even the apartment people who arguable screwed me up the bum were apologetic and did everything they could, people were nice and friendly to the turtle coming in everywhere, and they have helped a lot.

  So we take both cars back to the complex and park mine and load everything from mine into the explorer, and we go back upstairs to drop off the bedding and not only did they not finish cleaning and painting the other people in the apartment (apparantly the 2 ppl still there are a guy and his wife in neighboring rooms) haven’t been seen, even though they know maintenance is supposed to look at 5 and it’s 6. We go in my room and open the cartop, and all my linens are soaked, so we find a way to lay them out to dry that won’t interfere with the maintenance crew who has to paint the room tomorrow, and I helped them by moving the bed away from the wall and exposing the unvacuumed beer bottle cap ridden floor under the bed. That’s when we go out in the kitchen to look for the dryer for my linens.

  And we smell the dog poo.

  We never found it, and didn’t look, we said screw it and locked my door. Now, in this apartment, I’m slightly concerned. There’s about 8 bowls of dog food, a full fish tank (with sharks in it, dad thought it was fair if turtle who has only been in his small crappy tank and is now delayed another day ate some of their fish, but I digress) and a note from a third roommate amidst the alcohol bottles and high heels that the other roommate (my room) was leaving, clearly several days before. I don’t think these people have been here for a while, which makes me worried about what we will find tomorrow when I really need to move in.

  This has been a pretty bad day, clearly. We got in the car, found a hotel which is rare with the hurricaine, set turtle up, got dinner at about 8, came here, turned on the TV, Dad fell asleep while I worked, and now at 1 in the morning his snoring is keeping me wide awake. It’s been a rough day.

  Mom and Dad seem mad, Dad wants to make them give me free rent but they’re trying hard and not to blame in whole, tomorrow I want to negotiate my contract, I don’t want to pay 20 more a month (I didn’t want poolside since they get DJ’s sometime and I like quiet, and I wanted 1st floor since I’m lazy) but at the same time I don’t want to have to move on August 11 when the school contract year ends and all the rooms become available. I want this room in a clean apartment at the price we negotiated now. They screwed up, but are trying to fix it, if the roommate isn’t out tomorrow his stuff will be (I may take his 36 inch TV as commission) and I have to get myself together to go to work on Monday. I’m pissed, exhausted, sore, tired, sad, and a little queasy all at once. I hope your summer is going better so far, welcome to Tallahassee, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

  Friday.

  We call at about 1 and ask if the apartment is ready. They say absolutely. So we go over. Not even close. They actually haven’t even started the cleaning, the other guy got his stuff out but from my initial analysis, it needs to be painted, scrubbed, floors steamed, and all sorts of maintenance. So, at the beginning of a new day, we go to the office and start our incessant whining. Now, they say “It’ll be ready by 4 if I have to go up and paint myself.” Ok, fine, he makes all sorts of promises, we haven’t paid a cent, and we take off.

  To the transmission place. We had gone to the place and dropped it off, so we go back there and he tells us the situation. See, with several very rare versions of the Honda civic and CR-V (1997 HX and 1996 HL, that’s 2 out of 12 versions total) the transmission has no gears, it’s a variable diameter solenoid on a belt. Well, for a long time I’ve complained of a belt rub after long drives when it idles, that’s the first sign. Apparantly, the long drive toasted the control circuit. This happens to all models of the transmission at about 45000 miles, apparantly, and all the times we took it to the shops no one thought to look. Oh, and Honda realized it was a dumb idea so they stopped making them. And no one fixes them. The best we can do is get a used (not refurbished, used, like pulled out a wreck) put in.

  For $5000.

  Dad pays for it, which is really about the time I lost it. For all the planning and considering I did to make this trip cost effective, this brings the total, between hotels, gas, maintenance, roof rack and carrier, rental car, transmission, and shipping the stuff not in the car, we’re at about $10,000.

  This is where the doubts come in. I’m here, stressed, tired, in pain from injuries, and that’s before we left. My decisions aren’t so good anymore. I’m not thinking clearly. The more people I meet, the more I come to my same conclusions on humankind and it makes me very pessimistic. I just am scattered, things that used to make sense to me do not appear to anymore, I find it’s hard to concentrate and when people ask me for help with things I know really well. I couldn’t fix an internet problem.

  Before I get more into my mental problems, let’s continue with the day.

  The good news is, we went to FSU to get my parking permit today. Here’s the light in the tunnel. I go in, and they’re so nice to me. They show me my HUGE office and have a sign up welcoming me and with gifts and stuff. We were only there for about 10 minutes, but it’s truly the light of the tunnel.

  So we went around and bought some things, we went to Wal Mart and got a vacuum, pots, pans, some bathroom stuff, cleaning supplies, and other apartment amenities. We went back to the hotel, sat for a while, and decide at 5 (they said they’d be done at 4) to go to the apartment.

  The crew of 4 were still working, about half done.

  Well, as it is, I’m exhausted. I look at my options. Dad leaves in the morning, so the hotel is gone. I’m supposed to sleep in the room tonight, but who knows if it’ll get done, no matter what the guy promises. I can’t even just turn around and quit, the cost of getting stuff home is too much now that this weekend has bankrupted my dad, and I need the loan and tuition waiver to survive here (also that FSU itself has been the only good thing since I’ve been here) so I have to stick it out. I have no car permanantly, and the one I have costs $80 to fill up. I asked for a downgrade, as soon as they have one I get it.

  So we go to the apartment at 7 and set some thigns up in the room, we cant’ touch the walls since they’re still wet, but finally the Baron gets to have a home to sleep in. So, Dad goes home and I go to sleep.

  Saturday.

  Dad and I go get me an office chair, as permitted by the warranty on the old one. So then I took him to the airport, so long so long, and now I’m here on my own. I then try for 2.5 hours to get goldfish for the Baron, get hopelessly lost, meet some angry employees, discover it’s absolutely impossible to make a left turn in this city, and discover the true meaning of “ghetto.”

  Apartment? Oh, they steam cleaned, my front door key doesn’t work, I have no mailbox yet, not as bad as it’s been.

  The rest of the day is spent with me putting up posters and watching TV. Despite my 80 channels (9 of which are religious, by my count) all I can find on TV is stories about homeless people keeping their babies on the street or people abusing animals or movies like secret window.

  Sunday.

  Mental state aside, there was only one incident today. It could have been a huge one and still might, but it’s now 10 at night and I have seen no effects of it. At 10 this morning, someone keys into my room. I assume it’s an uninformed maintenance worker, but it’s actually a similar age dude. I’m basically asleep. He says “what are you doing here, are you going to be the new tenant?” and I say “Yea, my lease startes on the 13th” and he says “Hmm, ok, I moved out but my lease is still active until the 5th of August. I’ll go take it up with the management.” Ok, so now there’s someone out there with a key to the front door (mine doesn’t work, remember) and a key to my room that I don’t know and has legal right to the place as well.

  So this is the end of the tale as I care to tell it. The time from the beginning of last quarter to now has really been a period of distress for me. I started to realize some bigger issues I never really properly thought about (politics, religion, life in general) and I started to realize how many people come to me for help and only for help. Dan Crook said “When I got rid of my pickup for my Neon, I think I’ll lose a lot of friends.” Yea, I feel that. I started to be very sarcastic about humanity and people, and as much as I want to hide that and just start making friends again, I have to learn to embrace it. I’m tired of being a pushover, I’m tired of always being willing to make the personal sacrafice so the job which I volunteered for gets done, when it’s not important to me at all except for maintaining a relationship. All my self confidence has melted into self doubting, and for the first time ever I’m really down here by myself, no Jason like UCSD and no one like Jenn here like I’m used to. I deteriorated my family relationships and barely saw any of my friends at the end of last year. I have a huge list of personal projects wo work out and I didn’t get them all done, I’m so high stress all the time now as a combination of planning too much and drinking too much caffeine. The point is, the me people knew over the last 3 months was not the me you may have known before then, and I don’t know if it’s temporary, permanant, or a step to something else. Folks, I’ll see you on the flip side.

Florida 1 01
So you walk in the door, and this is just to the left of the front door. If you see, the couch is torn up and all the furniture is going to be replaced. I also don’t have the TV stand I should get.

Florida 1 02
Moving the view to the right, if you look carefully you can see the beginnings of the candle wax (what I originally thought was dried vomit) on the floor. More on that later.

Florida 1 03
A view moving to the right, you can see the 2 rooms at the end of the hallway, one of which was mine originally. That’s my chair from my room, they give you a desk chair, but I got my own so I need to figure out what to do with it.

Florida 1 04
The kitchen. You can see the counter/kitchen table, and all the appliances. The washer/dryer is behind that door, and as you can see all the appliances are pretty new.

Florida 1 05
So, finally, all the way to the right, just to the right of the front door, you can see the door to my room, as well as my trash can and vacuum. More on this in a minute.

Florida 1 06
Detail of the damaged couch, this is the closest side to the door, it’s worse in the back.

Florida 1 07
The view out the living room window of the pool. This is a $20 a month view. Note the nice leasing center, and the volleyball area.

Florida 1 08
The patio, still needs work, those table and stools were the last guy’s, I’m going to fix them up and keep em.

Florida 1 09
The wax vomit stain. 1 of 2. Maybe the cat ate the candle and vomited. I hope they make it go away, it makes me upset.

Florida 1 10
The hallway, hopefully, I’ll never have to go down there, it’s a scary world of dirty rooms, broken windows, and moldy soap.

Florida 1 11
Washer and dryer. Couldn’t get more boring.

Florida 1 12
Finally, interesting again. This is the walkway into my room. Look to the left, there’s my bathroom. See my posters and map and dry erase poster and dresser and turtle and bed? Yea, those are mine.

Florida 1 13
Bathroom 1. I make doodie there.

Florida 1 14
Bathroom 2. I wash doodie off my hands there.

Florida 1 15
Walking in, this is the back left corner of the room which has my desk. I think there’s detail of it later, so stay tuned. The big empty on the wall is for my escalator poster, when I get it.

Florida 1 16
Bed area, think of tubs there as a nightstand. If this were cribs, I’d say “this is where the magic happens.”

Florida 1 17
At the foot of my bed, the dresser and turtle and window. No more condom wrappers in it!

Florida 1 18
Further around, this is looking at the entry wall. The superstructure with the TV will eventually go here, with some other stuff.

Florida 1 19
Closet and shelves, not exciting. Austin Powers 2 was on!

Florida 1 20
Detail of desk and chair and computer.

Florida 1 21
The Baron’s view out my window. He likes to look out the window.

Florida 1 22
This is the picture of my office through Dad’s digital camera. ALL FOR ME!!!

Florida 1 23
My welcome sign, they knew I was coming, unlike certain other apartment complexes. . .

Florida 1 24
FINALLY, turtles are easier to get here. This is a mall cart with about 150 baby red eared sliders. The loophole is bigger here, and they’re 10 each. Think, each will get to 11 inches. So many babies will meet their end at the grubby hands of a 5 year old. If I had the means, I’d buy 48 of them.

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