The Misplaced Hoosier

New to Florida by way of Indiana

Day 15: In Which I Find a New Office

The nice thing about my job is that I can do it anywhere, including my home. The problem with that is we home school our kids, so doing my job at home is not always. . . productive.

So, years ago, we agreed I would always have an office somewhere. For the last six years, I had a quiet little desk in a quiet little building for a quiet little price. Sometimes, it was so quiet, I had to go to a coffee shop for a little noise and activity.

When we moved to Orlando, I knew I would need to rebuild my entire network, and I would need to find a new place to work. The odds of finding the same setup as before would be virtually impossible (anyone know where I can rent a desk inside a web hosting company for $150 a month?).

So I decide to look for a co-working space.

Turns out, you can’t swing a dead cat in Orlando without hitting a co-working space.

Not that we’re spoiled for co-working spaces, but apparently, swinging a dead cat is frowned upon here.

After a quick Google search revealed six possibilities, I check out two spaces during my first week in town:

  • Colab is a small, plucky upstart right at the heart of downtown. At 37 N. Orange Ave., it’s on the first block of Orlando’s center. So if you want to be in the middle of it all, this is it. Rent is $99 for 10 days a month or $200 for 20 days, 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. I don’t need 24/7 access, but I like to work until 6 sometimes to miss most of rush hour traffic. That’s a problem.
  • Effin Amazing is less of a co-working space, and more of desks available inside a marketing analytics firm.It’s even about six blocks east of the Orlando City SC professional soccer team. Owner Dan McGaw loans out desks to creative types for as much or as little as they need, and he only asks for donations. It’s quite the bargain if you only need a desk a few times a month, and Dan’s  effin’ cool. The office is right next to an MMA training gym where Dan is both a member and service provider. I nearly stake my claim here, but I decide to do a little more checking first.
The front area at Canvs. The plaques on the wall are their sponsor partners.
The front area at Canvs. The plaques on the wall are their sponsor partners.

A week later, I  check out Canvs, at 101 S. Garland (take exit 82B off I-4 and go north). It’s about 2 blocks from Colab and another co-working space, Catalyst, on S. Orange.

Total price is $250 per month, and I get a community desk, which means some usurper’s going to be sitting in my favorite spot tomorrow.

Parking is $1/hour across the street, unless I sign up for a parking pass for $80/month. I could get one of the private lots two blocks away for $75 a month, but for $5 more, I can walk to the office in 30 seconds.

(I may be cheap, but I ain’t walk-two-tenths-of-a-mile-in-100-degrees cheap!)

The community tables at Canvs. That's my computer on the right.
The community tables at Canvs. That’s my computer on the right.

I’ve met three very interesting people, and am building my network. As it turns out, I even have two degrees of separation between Canvs’ executive director, Donna Mackenzie: her mother-in-law was my wife’s piano teacher in Syracuse, Indiana.

So far, I’ve met a digital media consultant and a Python programmer, and I’ve already been looking around for coffee shops and meeting places.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll look for additional networking opportunities and meeting with marketing agencies in the area to discuss contracting and content marketing opportunities.


Day 11: Snakes. Why Did It Have to be Snakes?

I’ve never been a big fan of snakes. I hate them. I hate snakes so much, I wish they were all eaten by sharks. And then the sharks were all eaten by bigger sharks, which were then fired into the sun on big rockets.

And don’t give me that “snakes eat vermin” bullshit. Snakes only exist to creep people out. It’s not like we’d get overrun with vermin anyway. Look at the New York City sewers. People flush all kinds of alligators down there, but the city is still overrun with rats.

If they really wanted to solve the New York rat problem, they would have started flinging snakes down in the sewers by the bagful. But they haven’t, so really, how useful can snakes be?

Boom, snake logic.

I was not exactly thrilled when we chose Florida as the next stop in our life adventure. Why not some place like Hawaii, which doesn’t have snakes? Or Ireland, whose snakes were all driven out by St. Patrick?

Or the Arctic Circle? There are no snakes on the Arctic Circle, but was that even an option on the table? Och no, laddie, t’weren’t even mentioned.

(Sorry, my Irish and Scottish dialects all look the same.)

So you can imagine how freaked out I was when I saw an article on the Orlando Sentinel app (“today’s weather: it’s hot!“) that said a man was bitten by a poisonous snake in Winter Park.

I was back in Indiana for a few days, giving talks at Anderson University and Purdue University, when I spotted the article. I very nearly didn’t go back to Florida.

Winter Park is about as built up and paved over an area as you can find in Orlando. It’s sort of like Broad Ripple. A few trees here and there, but other than that, there’s no nature whatsoever.

So the fact that they found a poisonous snake in the area, and a man managed to get bitten by it freaked me out.

This is on top of the news that another man in Apopka, about 18 miles to the west, had lost his King Cobra.


Not only that, but it escaped on September 3rd, and it’s been 26 days, and they still haven’t found it.

King Cobra
This is a King Cobra. Not THE King Cobra, mind you, since that one hasn’t been seen since September 3. Sleep well.

(I don’t know if King Cobra is actually capitalized, but if that thing is out there, I don’t want him to think I dissed him by spelling his name with non-capital letters.)

“Oh, but don’t worry,” assured the authorities. “The chances of that snake biting someone are extremely remote.”

So is playing the lottery, but someone always wins.

And then — and then! — the man got bitten by a poisonous snake in Winter Park.

It wasn’t the King Cobra, the Sentinel said. They captured this particular snake.

Oh good, as long as they captured that one. That’s just one tiny snake in a whole writhing ball of poison and venom roiling around my new city, but as long as you caught it, I’m sure everything will be just peachy.

A couple days later, another article clarified that the Winter Park snake was actually another collected snake, a Gaboon viper, and not a wild snake at all. The man who owned it, just like the King Cobra, had all the proper permits and forms. He was feeding it when it bit him.

“See, you have nothing to worry about,” someone told me. “It wasn’t a wild snake in the first place.”

Oh good, that makes me feel so much better!

Maybe that wasn’t a wild snake, but there’s still a freaking King Cobra out there. And what’s worse, there are a lot of people in Orlando who think collecting poisonous snakes is a fun hobby.

I collect typewriters, but if one of those escapes, the worst thing that will happen is it’ll write a book at you! Typewriters aren’t creepy and/or deadly, snakes are. And so are their collectors.

Someone needs to protect us from snake collectors. Maybe Sea World will have a few ideas.

Photo credit: Michael Allen Smith (Creative Commons, Flickr)

Day 7: In Which I Search for a New Office

Monday I decide to start building my new routine. I feel more comfortable — actually, I think everyone does — when I have a predictable schedule: get up, go to the office, play 6 hours of Scarab of Ra, have lunch, go home.

(I don’t actually play Scarab of Ra for 6 hours.)

My company being what it is, I can’t actually afford a private office, with a door and fax machine and everything. Of course, my company being what it is, I don’t actually need one. As long as I have my laptop and wifi, I can work anywhere.

However, I don’t want to spend 8 or 9 hours a day in a coffee shop either. My business partner, Paul, and I tried that for a few months one year, spending our rent money on coffee house squatting. I constantly smelled like freshly ground coffee.

On the other hand, I met a lot of nice people who have since become good friends. I haven’t completely ruled this strategy out.

After some initial research, I decide to check out Colab, a co-working space in downtown Orlando. It’s on North Orange Avenue, which I suspect is sort of like finding Peachtree Street in Atlanta.

The Colab Lounge. There are also work stations and desks. Photo by Colab USA
The Colab Lounge. There are also work stations and desks. Photo by Colab USA

I park a block away for $5/day; monthly parking is $75. Not bad. I don’t know if there’s free parking nearby, but I don’t want to spend time trying to find it. In Indianapolis, when I crashed Doug Karr’s office, I would park about a mile away and walk in.

In 90 degree weather in the middle of summer. I flash back to that time, as it’s 90 degrees out and I’m wearing jeans. Who the hell wears jeans in summer?

I do, if I want to make a good impression on the kids at school!

I head up to the 9th floor of Colab’s building — they occupy several floors in this building! — and find the co-working space. Dante greets me, signs me in, and says I can grab any desk. I can even test drive the dedicated desk since no one is actually renting it at the time. It puts my back to the room, but when am I ever going to get to sit at the dedicated desk again?! (At $300 a month, not any time soon.)

Just in case my new co-workers glance over my shoulder, I avoid Facebook and Scarab of Ra, and get straight to work. It’s a light crowd today. There are only four of us. The other three people leave, as they are switching over the wifi system.

I chat with Don, an electrical engineer, before he leaves. He went to Rose Hulman in the early 90s, and remembers Carmel, Indiana, but had never heard of Fishers. Of course, that’s before we exploded with growth. The town was around 2,000 people when he was in Indiana, now it’s nearly 80,000 people, and it became a city in 2014.

Barnie's Coffee Kitchen, Orlando. Photo by
Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen, Orlando. Photo by
I stick it out for a while, since I’m just editing client posts. I eventually break down and head to Barnie’s coffee shop a block north. Their iced Turkish latte is delicious, and I manage to restrain myself and only finish it in 10 minutes.

I grab a burger at a nearby restaurant, but am not impressed. My friend Dick Davis, owner of the Great Burger Quest blog, might not think too highly of this place. I’ll give it another try later, in case they were off today.

Back to Colab, and the Internet is working again. I manage to get more work done, especially with no one else there. In fact, for a while I was the only one in the room. I felt like running with scissors.

Later, a couple guys show up and start chatting, which is distracting. In my old office, everyone kept themselves to themselves, so hearing conversations at work is a bit distracting. But that’s the joy and hassle of co-working spaces. I pop in my earbuds and keep working.

At 5:30, I leave, dreading the I-4 traffic. Everyone has warned me about how terrible it is. I discover that it’s horrible if you’re heading north from downtown, but heading south to Kissimmee is not that bad. We hit about a mile of bumper-to-bumper, but it lightens up as people peel off to take SR 600.

I breeze back to Kissimmee, and get home about 45 minutes after I left downtown. I’ll have to try that again tomorrow and see if I have similar luck.

It was a productive day in terms of getting work done, but not a lot of networking, other than Don and Dante. Still, baby steps, baby steps.

I have one more day in Orlando before I fly to — of all places — Indiana, to give talks at Anderson University, Purdue University, and to the East Central Indiana SBDC. After that, it’s back to Orlando and more networking and exploring.

Day 5: Exploring Orlando

After keeping ourselves around the vacation home for a few days, right off the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway — you ever want to Hulk smash your GPS, listen to her fumble with that mouthful 7 times on one trip — Emma, Ben, and I decide to do a little exploring on Saturday.

I map out a few places I know they would like to visit: Sam Flax Art Supplies, Sam Ash Music, Best Buy (I wanted to get a new Internet modem), and a comic book store.

My in-laws show up on the same day. They’re looking for a vacation rental in the area, so we said they could come down, especially if they could bring a few items we couldn’t get in our cars. They left two days after we did, and showed up today.

After helping them unload, Emma, Ben, and I pile into my car, and head up I-4 to Downtown Orlando.

One thing I don’t get about Orlando is how it can function with only one major interstate highway. Indianapolis is spoiled for interstates, with half the people in the area — Indy has less than 1 million in the metro area, Orlando has 2.1 million. And yet, Indy has four interstate highways running through it, plus another one running all the way around.

That’s why Indianapolis is known as the Crossroads of America, while Orlando is known as the Throbbing Vein in My Forehead of America.

And just like the vein in my own forehead, whenever I-4 gets clogged up, I’m about to have a goddamn stroke!

The traffic itself has been fairly light, which is a surprise. It’s the middle of September, so kids are back in school, and everything is nice and easy. But I imagine it will get worse around fall break time, so we’re preparing for that.

As we head north on I-4, we see the result of an accident in the southbound lanes, and traffic is backed up for a mile. The backup is represented on Waze as a deep arterial red. I think Waze represents traffic jams in ever-darkening shades of red to match the user’s blood pressure.

I missed the exit to the comic book store, so we decide to skip it and head over to Sam Flax. Emma and Ben are serious about their art, so they drool and wish over everything they can see, explaining the different markers Disney artists use versus Marvel artists, and why certain kinds of notebooks are better than others.

And they do it all with a tone that most teenagers reserve for parents who confuse Taylor Swift with Miley Cyrus. I need to pay attention to art if I want to avoid that tone.

From there, it’s off to Best Buy to purchase an Internet modem to replace the one we’re using. No one else is able to get online, so I decide to try a new modem. (I plugged the new one in when we got home, and it doesn’t even connect. I reconnected the old one, and it worked fine, but I’m still the only one who can get online.)

Next, it’s Sam Ash and a chance for Ben to look at guitars and Emma to look at drum sets. I spend 20 minutes walking from child to child, listening to them tell me about the guys who do the things with the stuff, and I nod like I know what they’re talking about.

I don’t know what they’re talking about.

Everyone is after me to start playing guitar, except for Ben, who thinks it doesn’t fit my image. The kid’s 12, and he’s telling me about image.

“Dude, I wrote an entire book about image. Don’t tell me what my image is.” He snickers sheepishly.

I already decide against the Flying V, because whatever my image is, it’s not that. Nor are any of the other heavy metal guitars. If I do decide to start playing, I’m going to follow the musical route of every other 40-something fat dad: the Blues.

Bookmark ItFinally, we look for a little bookstore in nearby Winter Park, Bookmark It. It turns out the bookstore is in a small stall inside a bigger restaurant conglomeration. If you’ve ever visited City Market in Indianapolis, you can imagine what this is like.

It’s a warehouse converted to several 16 x 16 food stalls, sort of like those antique malls in small towns, and there’s a kitchen in the back where the restaurants can share the prep area. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures.)

Bookmark It is in the back left corner, and is filled with all kinds of books on healthy eating and local living. It’s cute, but I don’t know that I’ll ever do an author reading here. There’s enough room for 5 people, and I’m feeling more optimistic about my crowds than that. Still, it’s a place worth visiting again.

Waze still shows the I-4 accident as arterial red, and the line has gotten longer. We take the toll road home, and I’m thankful we bought the SunPass on Thursday. Saves us all kinds of time, and we make it home in time for me to take a nap.

That night, we go to dinner at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney Disney Springs. While it’s more Irish-tourist than authentic Irish — sort of like if someone opened up an American restaurant and everyone dressed like cowboys and sang country music — it’s still damn good food.

I get the ham schnitzel, and think of my old business partner, Paul, who makes some of the best wiener schnitzel in Indiana. Unlike Paul, Raglan Road puts baked beans and a fried egg on it. It’s like breakfast.

All in all, a very productive, interesting day. We’re starting to learn where some of the cool stuff is, and figuring our way around. A few more weeks, and I’ll have a little system down.

Day 3: In Which We Arrive in Orlando

After spending the night in Bowling Green, KY, and the next night in Macon, GA, we roll into Orlando. We’ve spent the last three days not riding in a convoy, and I can’t recommend this enough.

It relieves soooo much stress on the drivers. No one is driving too slow or too fast. No one is stopping too much or not enough. We agree to try to be in an area at the same time, but if we’re not, no big deal.

We nearly miss Toni and Maddie in Valdosta, and actually only get 2 minutes together before they’re off again.

I stop with Emma and Ben and pick up a Florida Toll SunPass. You stick it on the windshield of your car, and a little transponder chip inside tracks your car as you pass through tollways, deducting an amount from your account. I can’t recommend this enough either. The Florida Tollway is the fastest way to get from I-75 to Orlando, and this will save you several minutes. Of course, we use up the minutes saved by activating it by phone, but it’s still worth it.

Maddie and Erik disagree on the size of snake she saw
The snake was thiiiiiis big
We arrive at our vacation home about an hour after Toni and Maddie did. The three of us unload my car, and we sit for a few minutes to relax. It doesn’t matter that we’ve been sitting in a car all day, there’s something refreshing about flopping down on a couch and stretching our legs.

Maddie informs us that less than an hour after she arrived, she spotted a snake in the lawn. The same place Emma, Ben, and I had walked to unload the car. She and Toni swear up and down that it was a tiny snake, but I doubt it. There’s no such thing as a tiny snake in the same way there’s no such thing as “a little garlic.”

The Boathouse in Downtown Disney
The Boathouse in Downtown Disney. Their Gibson’s Burger is incredible.
After a while, we head over to Downtown Disney — now renamed Disney Springs — and get a “welcome home” dinner at The Boathouse, a restaurant owned by Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago. Since Toni has been to Gibson’s several times, we’re sure to make this a favorite place.

Thursday night is still column night, so when we get back, I have to write my column. I ran a reprint a couple weeks ago, so I can’t run another one. I write a brand new one, and throw in the phrase “you’ve got another think coming.” I wonder how many people are going to tell me it’s wrong (it’s not; Dick Wolfsie taught me that one and educated me about eggcorns).

In a few days, we’re going to start exploring the city, and find out where all the important places are — independent coffee shops, book stores, comic book stores, music stores.

Day 1: In Which We Leave Indiana

It was maybe one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I had to pack up and move away from a state where I have spent eleven-twelfths of my life.

Our old house in Fishers
Our old house in Fishers. We lived here for 6 years and 4 days.
We decided to move from Indianapolis to Orlando for a number of reasons, and although I was happy to go, I was equally sad to leave the state I’ve called home for as long as I can remember.

We settled on Orlando, Florida for a few reasons: one, with a mixed-race family, going to “The South” is not an option. Two, while most of big-city Florida would accept a mixed-race family, Orlando has Disney World.

As much as I hate leaving Indiana, I love Disney World! I’m a big kid when it comes to tromping around my favorite theme park. When my wife finally got me to agree to move, I would only accept moving to Orlando because “it’s the most magical goddamn place on earth!”

Seriously. Tampa, Jacksonville, Naples, and all the rest were all out of the question. “Orlando, or I’m not going,” I said.

So we purged most of our belongings, packed up the rest, sold the house, loaded up two PODS, and headed south.

I’ve talked about this so much with people that I’m tired of telling it again. If you want to know, ask me. Buy me coffee and ask me.

I built the workbench and shelves myself. Next time, I'm building something modular and on wheels.
I built the workbench and shelves myself. Next time, I’m building something modular and on wheels.
The last few months have been filled with “last times.” The last time I’ll be in Syracuse, Indiana (where we lived for 12 years). The last time I’ll be in Bloomington, because we’ll only get back to Indy a couple times a year, and won’t have time to buzz down for a day. The last time I’ll see this place or that person, at least for a while.

It was the little things that caught in my throat. The last Indiana Fever game. The last Shakespeare on the Canal. The last Indianapolis Fringe festival. (That one hurt.)

And it’s all totally stupid. It’s not like I won’t ever be back. It’s not like I can’t arrange to do these things again.

It’s just that, for the moment, I want to feel a little sorry for myself.

When you love the place you’ve lived in for 44 years, you get to feel sorry for yourself when you leave. It’s a rule somewhere.

My two youngest kids and I drove in my car on Tuesday night. As we approached the Ohio River, I shut off the radio, and tried to talk for several seconds. The words didn’t get past the giant lump very easily. Luckily, my throat has been sore for a few days, so the rasp in my voice was easily explained.

“Once we cross the river, we will no longer be Indiana residents,” I say. “We’ll come back again, but we won’t live here any more.”

The three of us hold hands as we drive. Like we’re entering a portal and we don’t want to be separated. But there’s no flash or Dr. Who sounds — just like that, we don’t live in Indiana.

We’ll always be from Indiana. That won’t change. But it will always be in the past. We “used to” live in Indiana. Just like I “used to” be a teenager. I “used to” play soccer.

But this is what good fathers and husbands do. When your family needs something, you provide. When they need protection, you step up. And when they need to go somewhere else, you follow.

We’re in Georgia tonight. Six hours away from our new home. We’ve made it a fun drive. My wife and I are in separate cars, and we decided not to convoy down. We stop when either of us feels like it or takes the route we want to take. I always make a couple stops in Nashville and Louisville for some of my favorite coffee.

Any time I pass through Nashville, I always stop at Crema Coffee on Hermitage.
Any time I pass through Nashville, I always stop at Crema Coffee on Hermitage.
We call when it’s time for dinner or a hotel, but other than that, we’re each taking our own way, making our own trip. It makes for a much less stressful trip.

Tonight, we went to Senoia, Georgia, where they filmed several episodes of the Walking Dead. I’ve never watched the show, but the rest of the family loves it. I hate scary movies.

They have a blast looking around, remembering different scenes from different episodes. We eat at Zac Brown’s Southern Grounds restaurant. The food is amazing. Definitely worth a detour if you can swing it.

Tomorrow is the last six hours of the trip. We’re renting a vacation home for two months while we scout out a permanent home. Then the PODS will be delivered, we’ll unpack and move in, and we’ll be “from Orlando.”

That is, I’ll live in Orlando. But I’ll always be the misplaced Hoosier. From Indiana.

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