Posted by: bkivey | 20 October 2010

“Take Me Down to Panama City . . . “

About a month ago a recruiter from a large national agency called and asked if I’d be interested in a job with a major aerospace company. The job he described was a Don Corleone position: an offer I couldn’t refuse, professionally or financially. The only drawback was that the job was at Tyndall AFB, Florida. As I live in Beaverton, OR, commuting was not possible. If I wanted the job, I’d have to move.

I’ve lived in the Northwest for 14 years, and of all the places I’ve lived and visited I like this part of the world the best. The scenery is spectacular and varied, if you live in the western valleys of Washington or Oregon the climate is mild, and everything I like to do is less than half a day’s drive away from where I live. Camping, fishing, shooting, climbing, exploring the mountains or the desert, it’s all here and readily accessible. With the exception of the rainforests on the Washington peninsula it doesn’t rain any more than anywhere else, although in the winter it’s cloudy a lot and the sun gets up late and goes to bed early. Although I’m American by birth and Southern by the grace of God, I’ve found a home here.

And on Thursday the 21st, I’ll be leaving it.

This won’t be my first time at the Florida rodeo: I lived in St. Petersburg for ten years. Sure, the winter will be nice, but come late March and early April I’ll be missing the Northwest and it’s moderate climate. And the weather isn’t the half of it. I’ll be moving from an MSA of 2.2 million people to one of 160,000. I’ll have to acquire a car, because while Panama City has a sort-of transit system, it’s a far cry from the one I’ve become accustomed to, and it doesn’t serve the area I’ll be working in.

In many ways I already miss the Northwest and the particular circumstances I live in. I’ve condemned the town I live in as the worst place I’ve lived because it’s most notable feature is the urban sprawl. This is a town that has spent years trying to define it’s downtown core even as a large percentage of residents can’t agree on where ‘downtown’ is. I suspect that Panama City has a definable downtown so in that respect I’ll be money ahead.

Growing up in a military family I learned two things early on: how to adapt to change and that it’s not a good idea to talk about where you used to live unless specifically asked. On my previous sojourn in Florida I found people who moved to the state from Yankeeland and then went on about how much better things were where they came from quite tiresome. I live where I live.

I do have a good idea of what to expect in Florida. On the good side the winters are warmer, real estate is cheaper, and the cost of living is lower. On the not-so-good-side are tropical weather systems, the constant battle against bugs, the eight month summers, and the Florida dress code. While the Northwest is known for Gore-Tex and casual wear, people do pay some attention to how they look. Outside of Miami, folks in Florida consider cutoffs and tank tops acceptable wear in nearly any situation. My usual casual wear of slacks and collared shirts makes me look overdressed in most parts of Florida.

I view this as a temporary move in the sense that I expect to return to the Northwest. In the meantime I’ll make the usual adjustments of learning a new geography and a new local culture, finding new sports teams to root for (probably the Tampa Bay teams), and generally making a life. Maybe I’ll take up golf.

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