Monday, April 07, 2014

One Final Look, In Retrospect...

Let me be clear, our time in Miami was not an endless parade of things we hated; we didn't just sit around complaining all the time.  Much good came from our time there.  We met people and went places we otherwise would not have.  We made some lifelong (I hope) friends and visited places I never thought I would ever see.  While Miami may have not been the best culture fit for us, it still yielded some amazing experiences for which I will be forever thankful:
KB did an amazing job choosing an apartment for us:  a 2B/2B penthouse on the 36th floor with almost 270° views of North Miami Beach, South Beach, Port Miami, Brickell and further views of Coral Gables and beyond.  The apartment and views were quite spectacular. If I couldn't work and had to stay home everyday, this made it worth it.

(Click image to enlarge and see panorama of our balcony view)

One of my hopes was that one day, KB and I would go to Disney World together.  And while living in Florida, we went 4 times.  We toured all 4 parks, several times each.  We also visited Downtown Disney and Harry Potter World at Universal Studios.
We visited St. Augustine, the oldest city in America.  I always wanted to go there but knew it wasn't a destination enough on its own.  So I figured I probably wouldn't see it.  But we grabbed the chance to walk the streets and tour Castillo de San Marcos.
We spent a great weekend in Key West and stood at the southernmost point in the US.  And even more special to me was the day trip out to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson, a place every Lincoln Assassination-phile dreams of going, but logistically decides is simply impossible.

Visits to South Beach brought us fun experiences like people-watching on Lincoln Road, lunches at The Carlyle, and walking past the Versace Mansion.

We enjoyed local food at some great places like Perricone's, The Filling Station, Pubbelly, Pride & Joy, and Yardbird.

We fired automatic weapons at Lock & Load Miami, and found out that we actually weren't bad shots!

We visited the Adrienne Arsht Center to see Pilobolus and the Broadway tour of Once.

We made great friendships that I hope will last a lifetime; friends who I truly believe understand why we had to leave and why Miami just was not for us.

And for me personally, I was able to do some things that I either didn't have time to do before or just never thought possible, like scanning in all my photos, obtaining my PHR, speaking to my lifetime hero

And there are definitely things I will miss, like:
  • The Wynwood Arts District, arguably our favorite place in the city for obvious reasons, 
  • Our favorite neighborhood hangout, Elwoods, where they make their own condiments and where we came in 2nd place during a trivia contest,
  • Bayfront Park, which was directly across from where we lived.  A great place to have lunch and just watch the cruise ships,
  • And sitting on our balcony at night, drinking Red's Apple Ale and watching the lights of South Beach. 
The decision to leave Miami was not made lightly.  But we knew that Chicago was the place we belonged, at least for now in our lives.  But we had to try Miami, or risk forever wondering, "what if?"  Looking back now I think, "what if we would have missed all this?" How can I ever think that my life in Miami wasn't worth it?  Especially when through it all, I had the man of my dreams right there beside me. 

The fun thing is that someday down the road, we'll be sitting around with friends and say, "well there was that year we lived in Miami...".  And these will be the things we remember.

Friday, April 04, 2014

I'm A Lucky Man

As I mentioned, I had a hard time finding a job in Miami.

At the start of my job search, I decided to keep a spreadsheet in order to keep track of the companies and positions for which I applied, when I applied, and when I conducted a follow-up.  In total, I sent out resumes or applied for 133 jobs using various online search methods, personal and professional contacts, and even 5 recruiters from 5 different agencies.  And with all this help, those 133 resumes yielded just two phone interviews and 0 (that's ZERO) face-to-face interviews.  Again, that's ZERO.  The two phone interviews I had went very well, and ended with the interviewers telling me they would bring me in for next steps.  But that didn't happen in either case. 

After revising and recreating my resume several times, I decided to obtain my PHR in the hopes that having that certification would give me some kind of boost.  It didn't.  Finally out of desperation and just on a whim, I went online and found a job in Chicago that I would not only be perfect for, but believed I would enjoy as well.  So I sent in my resume.  Five days later, I got a phone call.  A week after that, I flew to Chicago for an interview.  Two weeks later, I was offered the job.  After sending out 133 resumes in Miami, I got an amazing job in Chicago after sending out just 1 resume.

But as I have said before: post hoc, ergo propter hoc.  I found a job in my favorite city that excites me and will challenge me for a long time.  This would not have happened had any one of the 133 places in Miami attempted to at least meet me.

For anyone who has been unemployed for months or even years at a time, it's a soul crushing experience.  Along with the financial problems, there are frequent and lingering instances of self-doubt and a lack of confidence that grows exponentially.  But I had an ace-in-the-hole;  I had KB with me through it all.  He constantly reassured me that we were okay on every level.  It didn't stop us from taking some great weekend trips and traveling around the state of Florida.  My ego would have disintegrated without him.

Looking back on the past year of my life, I realize I am such a lucky man on so many levels.  

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

No Habla

In the city of Miami, 78% of residents count English as a second language with half that percentage saying they don't speak English well, if at all.  Add on top of that the percentages that speak Portuguese and Haitian-Creole, and English falls further down the ladder.  The Non-Hispanic White population is about 16%.  As a businessperson, it is impossible to get anything done unless you speak Spanish and/or one of the other two languages fluently.  There's simply no need for residents to learn English because of the vast number of people who either cannot or choose to not speak it.

I ran into this problem almost immediately when I began my job search in Miami back in June 2013.  I underestimated the need for me to be bilingual, if not multilingual.  It's imperative to know Spanish in order to live and work in Miami-Dade County.  It would also be helpful to know Portuguese and Haitian-Creole as well.  So many companies and industries here do business with Cuba and South America.  I am not fluent in Spanish.  I guess I am just the bearish version of Demi Lovato.

To be honest, I don't even know if my finding a job in Miami would have changed anything about how we felt about living there.  Latin culture dominates the city and causes Americans to feel alienated, perhaps unlike anywhere else in the country.  Race isn't the issue in Miami - but rather culture.  And if you are from a non-Spanish speaking culture, life in Miami is inherently frustrating.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Adios, Miami!

I am very happy to say that after giving Miami a try, I have moved back to Chicago and will be starting my new job tomorrow.  This will be the first in a series of posts involving our time in Miami.  I think that after some reflection, I can now be more honest with my thoughts and views.  It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't all great, either.

To provide some background, KB received a job offer in Miami last Spring that seemed too good to pass up.  It meant renting out our place in Chicago, quitting our current jobs, buying a car, leaving our friends, and trying a new life in a new state in a new city - a city in which neither of us had any real experience.  It was a gamble to be sure.  But to prevent us from wondering "what if?" for the rest of our lives, we gave it a shot.  And I am so proud of us for doing so.

There is a joke that Miami is the "Capital of South America", and I will tell you now that it's not really a joke.  The South American influence is so abundant, you get the overwhelming feeling that you are living in another country.  The glitz of South Beach will blind you to how the city operates on a day-to-day basis.  It didn't take long for Miami to lose what little charm it may hold.

In Chicago or even DC for that matter, when meeting a recent transplant who shared that they just moved to the city, it was natural to respond with "hey, welcome to Chicago!" or "oh cool, what neighborhood did you settle in?" or even "what's been your favorite part so far?". When we met people in Miami and told them we were new to the city, their responses every time would be a negatively leading, "how do you like it?" which was said with the chin pulled in and an eyebrow raised.

Well, for us anyway, we didn't like it, and I will give reasons following in the next few days.  Suffice is to say that we went to Miami with all the best intentions.  And we are mature enough to look at Miami and say, "it's not us, it's you", and close the door behind us.

I've been in Chicago (quietly) for just over three weeks, and KB will follow along in another three.  On March 3rd, we loaded 99% of our belongings into a moving van, which I then drove the 1,421 miles from Miami to Chicago.  Leaving a sad, waving KB behind on the sidewalk as I drove away was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done (and I've been through some tough scrapes!). When I finally arrived in Chicago, I texted the pic to the left to him.  He said it was one of the prettiest sights he'd ever seen.

Tomorrow I start my new job.  I'm scared and excited.  But will no doubt be going through my day, trying to remember every detail to share with KB later.  Six weeks of living apart is the ultimate price we are paying for this, but the eventual reunion in the city we love will be amazing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fictional Characters Whose Names You Don't Know

I read all this on mental_floss and thought it would be fun trivia to know.  So I am sharing with you to impress your friends and family.  Here are the names of several fictional characters Enjoy! 
All right, lets start with the most logical place, breakfast. The Pillsbury Doughboy's name is Poppin Fresh, first name Poppin, last name Fresh. Everyone knows that, right?  But you probably should also know that he has a wife, Poppy fresh, and two kids; Popper and Bun Bun Fresh (one of my favorites). His cat and dog are named Biscuit and Flap Jack.

That guy smirking at you from the oatmeal cannister is not William Penn; the good people at Quaker Oats refer to him as Larry. In 2012, Larry got a mini-makeover. His hair was trimmed, he lost a little weight, and Quaker says he acquired "more radiant skin from his daily oatmeal mask".

Before he was a distinguished captain of the S.S. Guppy, the good Captain Crunch was Horatio Magellan Crunch.

Thanks to a marketing campaign in 2009, Mrs. Butterworth was finally given a first name; please call her Joy in all future correspondence.

In 1916, 14-year-old Antonio Gentille entered Planter's Peanuts contest to create a mascot. His winning entry was a version of the dapper Mr. Peanut we all know and love today. And he also suggested the name, Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.

Those fortunate enough to be on a first name basis with Mr. Clean call him Veritably. That's right, Veritably Clean. The name comes from a "Give Mr. Clean a First Name" promotion in 1962.

The Michelin Man's real name, Bibendum, means "drinking to be done" in Latin, and people used to refer to him as the Road Drunkard. The name comes from a bizarre, early advertisement, that showed the Michelin Man holding a questionable cocktail of nails and broken glass, with the tagline, "Michelin Tires: Drink up obstacles!"

Mr. Whipple, the poor grocer who so desperately wanted his customers to leave the Charmin alone, did have a first name: George.

So, did you know that the friendly little bird over on Twitter goes by the name Larry? Larry Bird.  Yeesh. 

Before he was simply Geoffrey, the Toys R Us mascot was known as Dr. G. Raffe. Boo.

The next time you land on the 'go directly to jail' spot on Monopoly, direct your disgruntlement at Officer Edgar Mallory, the cop who inhabits that space.  And while you're hanging out in jail, feel free to chat up Jake the Jailbird, who's been serving time since 1933.  And when you get that unexpected ten dollar windfall for coming in second place in a beauty pageant, you need to thank Rich Uncle Pennybags. Rich Uncle Pennybags used to have a wife whose name was Marge, but you know how repeated bankruptcies can affect a marriage.  Don't worry, I'm sure she got Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues.

Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie, was named for creator Ruth Handler's daughter, so that must have been great for Barbara's body image. And here's the rub: Barbie's long time love and fellow fashionisto is named Ken Carson, and is ALSO named after Handler's offspring. That's right, the real Barbie and Ken are siblings!  Eeww.

The perpetual patient in the game Operation is an unfortunate fellow named Cavity Sam.

According to Toy Story 3 director Lee Unrick, Woody from Toy Story has a last name, Pride.

Minch Yoda, at least according to George Lucas' earliest notes.  I'm sure he took some good-natured ribbing back in his Jedi training days.

For most of us, the evil queen from Snow White has always been known as "the scary lady from the Disney World ride." Her occupation was her name, which was scary enough.  Simply mention Evil Queen and everyone thinks of this woman, or perhaps Leona Helmsley.  But early promotions for Walt Disney's first feature length animation film referred to the world's worst stepmother as Queen Grimhilda.  I don't know - if I was a king looking for a new queen and came across a woman named Grimhilda, I would get a serious case of foreshadowing.  Marrying a woman who has the word "grim" in her name couldn't possibly lead to the happiest of marriages.

In a Peanuts comic strip, Peppermint Patty's real name is Patricia Reichardt.  And Linus' annoying teacher, who sounded suspiciously like a muted trumpet, Miss Othmar, who later got married and became Mrs. Hagameir.

Now, over to Archie comics. Of course, Jughead's parents didn't name him Jughead. They named him a much better name, Forsythe P. Jones III.

And on the subject of comics, Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons is really named Jeff Albertson.  Creator Matt Groening wanted to call him Louis Lane. This seques nicely into...

Big bird's friend Snuffaluppagus has a first name, Alouicious. Alouicious Snuffaluppagus.  Speaking of Sesame Street, in a 2004 episode Cookie Monster admitted that before he got hooked on cookies, his name was Sid. You know Guy Smiley, from Sesame Street? Yeah, his real name was Bernie Liederkrantz. 

Dana Carvey's judgemental, lips-pursing, holier-than-thou church lady, has a name: Enid Strict.

If you go by the 1995 Casper movie, Casper's family name is McFadden.

Although Shaggy probably fits him better, the frightened ghost hunter's real name is Norville Rogers.  Scooby has a more proper name as well, Scoobert Doo.  The rest of the gang is made up of Frederick Jones, Jr., Daphne Blake, and Velma Dinkley.

And from Gilligan's Island, the full names we don't know are Jonas Grumby, better known as Skipper, Roy Hinkley is the Professor's real name, Mary Ann's last name is Summers, and Gilligan's full name is William "Willie" Gilligan.  Along with Ginger Grant, Thurston Howell III, and Lovie Howell, you can now invite them all to dinner and use proper place cards.

Other television names:
Angus MacGyver
Salvatore Assante, aka Turtle from Entourage
Wilson W. Wilson Jr. from Home Improvement
Aristotle Nostradamus Shannon, aka Bull from Night Court 

And just one more thing, Columbo. On his police badge, Lt. Columbo's name was Frank, but many sources will tell you that his name is Philip. However, that's not true. It's a copyright trap that first appeared in the book The Trivia Encyclopedia. When Trivial Pursuit later included a question with the incorrect answer, the author of The Trivia Encyclopedia knew that they had used information from his book, and so he sued. But then the court ruled in favor of Trivial Pursuit, saying that facts, even false ones, cannot be copyrighted...

which is good news for me.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

PhD in Organization

I have a special talent that everyone needs, but not many people possess.  I am an organizer - not of people, but of things.  I love putting items where they ought to/should be.  I get some kind of endorphin rush when I have organized a space, files, storage, etc.  I wouldn't necessarily call myself a "neat freak", but I do live by the mantra that everything has its place.  A few examples:
  • Every photo I own is scanned and stored on a drive, organized by year, then month, then event.
  • I've kept a personal calendar since 1982, all of which are scanned onto a drive.
  • The clothes in my closet hang in ROYGBIV order.
  • My bed is made every day.
  • I have a metal muck box (Kevin calls it my "cube of importance") in which all my important papers are kept.
I believe that disorganization is the physical manifestation of one's mental and emotional states, a reflection of where one is in life.

I know this is a skill for which some people pay handsomely.  I should start farming myself out to friends who lack this skill.  I know one friend in particular who could REALLY use help.  I wonder what professional organizers get paid?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Holiday Bonuses

So, I've been holding on to this one for a few months to see if my mind would change.  But not so, as I am still annoyed.  Again.

Back in December, I received the following in an email from the management in our condo building:
Dear Residents: During these beautiful holidays, and a time for caring and sharing, it is also a time for (building) employee appreciation. For your convenience, the BOD has placed a donation box at the front desk to show gratitude to employees of the (building) community. We must thank our employees for assisting in maintaining and beautifying your home and ours. We wish you a wonderful holiday and the happiest of new years.

Thank you, BOD and Management.
First of all, I find this extremely presumptuous. Secondly, it just feels wrong. But more importantly, it is the responsibility of the building management to dole out holiday bonuses to ITS employees. These folks work in a hospitality industry. It's their job, literally, to provide excellent customer service. This email would be the equivalent to me sending an email to the staff of my company letting them know I am putting a bowl on my desk for their "monetary thank yous", you know, since I helped them out all year. In other words, doing my job.

I liken this to be the business/professional side of tip jars that are placed in coffee shops and small stores.  And we know how I feel about that.

The staff is nice enough here and the place is clean for the most part, except for the pool deck which had a Michelob bottle cap sitting in the same location for two months. Of course neither liquor nor glass are to be at the pool in the first place, according to the building rules. Which I follow. Perhaps I should put out my OWN donation box for following all the rules and being an ideal tenant.

This is the first time we've lived in a concierge building, so I am wondering if this is usual. In Chicago, we didn't have a concierge, but we did have a cleaning service that cleaned the common areas once a week. There was never a request on their behalf from the building management for holiday donations. 

So can you see why I think this is out of line?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Actresses Who Annoy Me

I am super excited that Cate Blanchett won the Best Actress Oscar on Sunday night.  I've loved her since I first saw her in Elizabeth in 1998.  She's always good and she seems like a fun and nice person as well - someone with whom I would like to be friends.  On the flip, there are a few actresses in the biz who, for various reasons, just annoy the hell outta me. In no particular order, they are:
  1. Maggie Gyllenhaal
  2. Julianne Moore
  3. Zooey Deschanel
  4. Kristen Stewart
  5. Julia Roberts
I've written about Maggie on my blog already.  And despite that post being more than 5 years old, my opinion has remained the same.  So moving on.  These are just my perceptions.

Julianne is just awkward.  She's got the worst posture I've ever seen on an actress, her laugh always seems fake, and her mouth always looks like she needs a glass of water.  She looks dry.  And she seems to pick roles that portray her as an offbeat underdog for whom we are supposed to root and sympathize.  Her characters are usually whiny and helpless and I can't help but think she's like that in real life.  And c'mon, her acting on "30 Rock" was atrocious.

Zooey - oh God, Zooey - where do I start?  The girl has two expressions:  1) blank stare and 2) blank stare with wider eyes.  That's it.  When you've seen those two expressions, you've just witnessed Zooey's entire emotional range.  She doesn't even try.  And I can say the same for her singing, if we can call it that.  It sounds like she's still laying in bed with a mic on her pillow and she just staring at the ceiling, getting through it.  And the Siri commercial where she's looking at the rain and asks her phone if it's going to rain today?  Wake up and brush your bangs!  "Siri, are there any signs of active brainwaves?"

Kristen.  Kristen.  Kristen.  She's on the same plane as Zooey but on the opposite end.  While Zooey seems to live more on the positive side of life (rainbows, fluffy clouds, unicorns, what?), Kristen always looks like the guy in front of her just farted.  Her big go-to pose of vulnerability is acting like she's cold or shivering while she tucks her hair behind her ear.  I feel like if I met her, I would catch myself whispering to her because she always looks like either she's suffering a hangover or we just intruded on her nap - regardless of the time of day.  And her poetry sucks.

Joooolia.  Beyond all those teeth, that fake laugh (I mean did you see her overreact in the Oscar audience on Sunday night?), and her holier-than-thou attitude lurks a condescending she-devil (I know people who have worked with her).  She seems like a mean girl who would gather her friends around her at a party to deliberately let you know that she is leaving you out.  Her acting is never above so-so.  She only won an Oscar because the other 4 actresses that year (all amazing!) decided to tell the Academy to screw itself.  Or something.  There's really no other explanation.

This list will continue to grow over time.  I'll probably write an update in another 5 years or so.  But who do I actually like, you ask, other than Cate?

Meryl, of course.  Duh.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Miami, On The Whole, Is Inefficient

We moved to Miami from Chicago in June 2013.  It's been an adventure, for sure.  There's so much to talk about I could probably start a whole new blog just devoted to life in the "The Sexiest Place On The Planet", as Miami likes to call itself.  For today though, I will focus on just one topic:  it takes forever to get anything done here.

Everyone who knows me well knows that I am not a super-hyped up, "Type A", go-go-get' em kinda guy; I am almost never in a hurry.  BUT - I do appreciate and expect efficiency.  Don't take three steps when one will do.  For example:
Hotwire Communications (our building provider, not to be confused with installed TV and internet in our new apartment.  Since we never had DISH (never EVER get dish), I tried to ask the installing technician for a tutorial on how to use the remote.  He did not speak English.  After the technician left, I tried to make the TV work using the remote; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  So the next day, Tuesday, I called Hotwire and told them I had a faulty remote and needed a replacement.  I was scheduled for service the following day.

The next day, Wednesday, a technician (not the same one) called me and said he was rescheduling the appointment for Thursday because he "didn't want to drive downtown".  I told him all I needed was a new remote.  He showed up on Thursday, 3 hours late, and tested my remote.  He definitively informed me that there was something wrong with the remote as it was not working correctly.  The look I gave him was nothing compared to the one that followed a minute later, when he said he didn't have an extra remote with him and would need to come back next week.  "But I told you on the phone that it was the remote.  Why didn't you bring one with you?"  Suddenly, the technician no longer understood English.

I heard nothing from Hotwire on the following Monday.  On Tuesday (one week and one day after the initial installation), I noticed a Hotwire van in front of our building.  I went to the building management office and asked for assistance tracking the Hotwire technician down.  It was a different technician (again) and I told him I needed a new remote.  He pulled one out of his tool belt and gave it to me, without knowing in which unit I lived or even asking my name.  I never did hear back from the 2nd technician who must assume that I just gave up.
I know I know - first world problem.  Poor baby didn't have a remote for a week.  It's not that at all.  It was the incompetence of customer service and 3 different technicians.  I had enough to deal with unpacking 200+ boxes while job hunting in a new, strange city.  This was a completely avoidable situation if Hotwire had just been efficient.

And this is just one example (there are many more) of how things just move at a slower, more "island time" pace in Miami.  It really took some getting used to for me.  I'm not really sure I have yet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Facebook Abandonment

Lately I've noticed that my friends are dropping off of Facebook.  I don't pay attention to the actual number of friends I have on the site; I'll just realize one day that I haven't communicated with so-and-so in weeks or months, so I go searching for them on Facebook only to discover they are no longer on the site.

This happened to me 3 times just last week.  I reached out to all three through stored email addresses.  One responded that he had recently moved and just wanted to take a break from it.  Another, I found out through a friend, is now settled into a relationship and mostly just communicates through texting.  The third has yet to respond.

Just like with its predecessors (Friendster, MySpace), Facebook is starting to plateau if not decline.  Adults and teens are leaving the site for different reasons.  Some adults cite the security issues, lack of transparency, the bad (and possibly criminal) IPO, and the fact that Facebook takes for granted its users and what they have to share.

Twitter is fast becoming the site of choice among America's teens preferring messenger apps just as their parent's are getting the hang of Facebook.  Teens are leaving the site because they don't want to be on the same social site as their parents.

Facebook will eventually die out, despite what Mark Zuckerberg tells his investors.  What we know for certain is that from now on, there will always need to be some sort of social media for the public to use.  Millennials are uncomfortable communicating any other way, thinking face-to-face communication is almost too personal.

So there will always be something.  The trick will be knowing what it is and how to use it before it loses its popularity.