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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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Was away down in "sunny" Florida the other week- software training, hooray! This time, I'm going to be a little different, and mine my paper journal from the trip for ramble material. Yes, I'm lazy. And?

Flying down was an experience. I think it's the first time I've flown by myself since… well, the first time I flew (which was, coincidentally enough, to Florida!). That didn't really bother me too much on the way down, it just added to the slight feeling of unreality that dogged me during the trip (see more of this below). The plane was quite small (about 60 seats), and we boarded by walking out on the tarmac and climbing up the stairs! It felt so retro…

It wasn't my first time to Florida… as a matter of fact, it was my third time in Jacksonville, not that it makes it any more familiar to me. I was mostly in a suburban area, which had a similar feeling to suburbs in the DC area. According to my instructor, J'ville has similar demographics in that most residents didn't grow up there. That might be a factor in the similarity.

Not that it really looked like the DC area. I had forgotten how flat it was down there. It made the sky look huge, especially when I was in a relatively treeless area- I could see these huge cumulonimbus clouds from a good ways away, from top to bottom, with sheets of rain twisting down. That, more than the Spanish moss, the palm trees, the lizards, etc. was what reminded me I was far from home. It kept me humming Kate Bush's "The Big Sky" for the first couple of days I was down there.

There was a retaining pond behind the training room, and it had a huge population of turtles in it- big ones, small ones, some as big as your head… The majority were (I think) Florida Cooters and Red-Eared Sliders, but there were a couple of huge Florida Softshells, and one medium-sized Florida Snapping Turtle (which had an unsettling resemblance to a Japanese movie monster). They all came swimming over when people came to pondside, and greedily devoured all the pretzels and such we threw them- except for the snapper, which just blinked at us coldly, no doubt hoping someone would fall in. My instructor said that there had been nutria living there for awhile (they adopted one as the company mascot), and even a three-foot alligator. Wow, talk about running into that on your smoke break…

I don't watch TV at home (I know, I know, most of you know that already…), so the hotel cable exerted the attraction of forbidden fruit. I was disturbed by the farrago of reality shows on…whole channels devoted to them. I think I have to side with BadKitty that it's in general A Bad Thing, if not A True Sign Of The Apocalypse. Although I enjoyed a couple- Junkyard Wars and Conquest come to mind- most have a sad tendency to substitute voyeurism for storytelling, and a truly disturbing focus on the worst parts of human nature.

The training itself was useful, but the whole experience was kind of weird and destabilizing. It's the first business trip I've taken in a long time… the first time I've flown alone in over 15 years. Usually, when I'm a way from home it's either with the Vortex or with other friends… this was the largest chunk of on-my-own time that I've had in as long as I can remember. Kind of lonely for someone as non-outgoing as me, but a worthwhile experience nonetheless. I was oddly restless, but at least I didn't go completely stir-crazy and start ordering cases of grapefruit, bottles of bourbon, and hourly deliveries of ice.

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I still remember the words I wrote the first time I went to Florida as a teenager: "Flat. Very flat. Green, too."

I do watch TV at home, though not a whole lot, and I tend to have the same reaction when I'm stuck in a hotel room on a trip. I'll turn on the TV at some point, and several hours later find myself wondering why the hell I spent all that time channel-surfing. I don't think of Junkyard Wars or Conquest as reality shows, though. Any show where the focus is on actually accomplishing something instead of on whiny "participants" is something else. Anyway, Conquest is educational! :-)

If you're going to be stuck alone on a business trip (especially if they're paying for food), I recommend San Francisco. Not that they ever give you a choice, of course.

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