2006.03.15 Is Miami full of vice?

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

“Miami!!”

“Miami???”

“Miami!!!??”

I’ve been shouting that sporadically ever since Thursday night when my son Ben announced he accepted an offer from a landscape architecture firm in Miami, Florida.

OK, it’s more of a wail, a long lament, than a yell. And I’ve quieted it down to a whisper of a lament, an only-inside-my-head cry of pain, whenever I think about him being far away from home in that hurricane-ridden, high crime cesspool of high heat and humidity.

But what the heck do I know? I’ve never been south of St. Augustine and that was during the month of April. I have no basis for having a low opinion of Miami, except news reports heard every now and then. I suppose if other parents expressed alarm at the prospect of their child moving to New York City, I would wonder what their problem was. I know New York and I feel safe there. So, maybe it’s the same with Miami. It’s easy to fear what we don’t know. Maybe Miami is just fine in the crime department and I have no cause for worry.

But then we had a short conversation by email about Ben’s boat.

Me: What about your boat?

Ben: I would like to have my boat, but I don’t know where I can keep it.

David: Is your boat ocean worthy? Shark proof?

Ben: It would work on the bay and in the Everglades.

The Everglades?

Now I’m going around the house saying, “Everglades?!!??” Oh, God, I know Miami is near the Everglades, but why would he want to go near them? Aren’t the Everglades a cesspool of heat and humidity, mosquitos and alligators and other nefarious worrisome creatures?

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that the Everglades would not faze Ben. Back when he and his friend Jacob Bach were in high school, they made a video in which they imitated the Australian guy from The Crocodile Hunter, that wacky TV show. Ben and Jacob’s spoof featured our cat Raccoon as a stand-in for a crocodile.

Ben’s job search has had us on alert ever since he put his résumé online before Christmas and started hearing from firms around the country. He ruled out places in California, Montana, Texas, Ohio, but carried on a conversation with a large  engineering firm that included a small landscape architecture department in Ft. Myers, Florida. 

Then there was a firm in Ft. Lauderdale and another in Orlando that flew him down for an interview. Ben liked the Orlando firm a lot until he flew to Ft. Myers and he liked that one even more. The director of the department, Ed, is an MSU alumnus, and seemed to have taken a liking to Ben. We began thinking of Ed as an old family friend.

But when an Atlanta firm that Ben interviewed with at a job fair on campus called him for an on-site interview, I was secretly thrilled. Enough of Florida, that hurricane mecca! Atlanta, it is! Ben figured he impressed the Atlanta people with his karaoke rendition of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.” It was never clear where and under what conditions that encounter took place, but we kind of liked a firm that judged its candidates on such unique characteristics.

After all the business with Ed, Ben decided he liked the Atlanta firm best of all and would take the job if offered. However, they wouldn’t be deciding until early March and Ed wanted an answer much sooner. Ben bargained for more time and then one of his professors added another element to the job search: a small firm in Miami run by a friend of his where there would soon be an opening. The professor recommended him for the job and Ben decided to check it out.

“Miami?” I recall saying. I voiced the question, but it didn’t reach the decibel level of my later laments. Just a “Hmm, that’s a curious notion.”

I suppose I should have seen it coming. Ben seemed to like every firm he visited better than the last one. If I had realized the pattern sooner, would I have thwarted his efforts to visit Miami? Well, of course not. This is Ben’s adventure, not mine.

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking, “Darn, he could have gone to Atlanta. He could have taken a nice job with the Atlanta firm and been just down the road on I-75.” Rozee hoped Ben would take that job so he could give her a ride home on his way past Berea, just two miles off the interstate.

I tried to remain impartial; I didn’t want to influence his decision. I just wanted him to pick Atlanta. The Atlanta firm had offered him the job just before he left for spring break near Miami last week and he had to decide while he was on vacation.

Since he was in the area, he visited the Miami firm again to be sure he was making the right decision. Ben was just as impressed with his chance to work directly with the owners of the company, gaining valuable hands-on experience on a diverse range of projects. He liked the casual atmosphere of the office where most of the staff is from one Spanish speaking country or another, allowing him the chance to keep up with his Spanish speaking skills. The benefit package included a paid week off between Christmas and New Year’s, in addition to a two-week vacation. He was sure; Miami it was.

Miami!!??!!

Until now, it never occurred to me what my mom thought when I told her I would be moving to Morenci. But I suppose if I had tilted my head in the direction of New York City, I could have heard her reaction.

“Morenci!!??!!”

– March 15, 2006 
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    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
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