In 24 hours from the time this posts, I’ll at cruising altitude on my way to California, to spend the Fourth of July holiday weekend in Los Angeles with my buddies Johal and Nate.
It’ll be my first time on an airplane since early December, when I moved to Augusta in the midst of all the balmy, tropical weather we had throughout winter.
The fact that it’s been seven months since my last flight is in strong contrast to my jetsetting lifestyle in 2013, during which time I took roughly 32 flights, including three 14-hour jaunts across the Pacific Ocean.
But for all 32 of those where I actually boarded the plane – heading to Rockhampton, Sydney, Launceston, Townsville, Denver, New York, San Francisco and Austin, to name a few – there was one flight I never got on.
You see, I never really talked about it in any great detail here, because it never unfolded but I had some pretty cool plans lined up before I was offered the job in central Maine.
When I first left Australia, last August, to move to the U.S., I’d been promised accommodation with friends in Denver for as long as it took me to find a job, either in the Mile High City or elsewhere in the country.
But “as long as it took” ended up becoming “three weeks” before I was, on my birthday, asked to find somewhere else to live. I don’t hear from them anymore, oddly enough. Unfortunately, I’d already bought a ticket back to Denver for two weeks after my green card interview.
So my plan – to settle in Denver temporarily until I found the best way to further my career or pay the bills – was basically shot to shit before I even got granted permanent residency. Instead of returning to Australia to finalize my immigration, safe in the knowledge that I’d have somewhere to call home for awhile when I got back Stateside, I was all of a sudden absolutely clueless. I have a bunch of friends that I could have temporarily leaned on, but I was a) now gun shy about living with married couples and b) not willing to push another friendship.
Of course, the absolute upside to this unfortunate situation was that I could literally settle absolutely anywhere I wanted. ANYWHERE. In the U.S. Wherever I wanted. Dream come true, right?
So I canvassed some of my friends to see whether anyone had any leads for people looking for a roommate. If that fell over, I would just pick a city and hit Craigslist to see whether I could find anything that seemed un-sketchy enough to want to roll the dice on.
Amazingly, Eric, a college roommate of my good friend Molly put me in touch with a bunch of guys in his fantasy football league, and pimped me hard in the professional and personal stakes, trying to find me something – anything – to make some scratch and have a roof over my head.
Within a day of returning to Australia, I’d started emailing back and forth with a guy who worked with Eric’s fiancee and happened to have a spare room in his apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans.
We introduced ourselves via email and it began to sound like we’d be a pretty good fit. The rent was affordable – my first place in Augusta wasn’t much more expensive than this would’ve been – and I figured that I could easily find a job to make me enough money to pay that rent for a few months until I figured something else out.
So once that was all but locked in, I started to trawl job boards and Craigslist for any sort of work I could try to lay groundwork for before I returned to the U.S. And wouldn’t you know it? On my first day of looking, I stumbled across an unpaid position with an online newspaper as a beat writer for the local NBA team, the New Orleans Pelicans. There was no money in it, but the ad promised the occasional media pass to home games, and use of the paper’s NBA TV online streaming account, which were both great perks. And ultimately, it meant instantly building a portfolio of written work in the U.S., and some experience at the top of my resume.
Let’s be real, too: There would be nothing wrong with living in the Big Easy. It’s a massive tourist city, and a massive drinking city, so I figured there’d be no shortage of hospitality jobs for me to pick up to keep my rent checks from bouncing.
I emailed the poster of the Craigslist ad, explaining that I was a sportswriter with four and a half years’ experience, I love the NBA and was moving to New Orleans in the second week of December, so here’s me throwing my hat in the ring. He replied promptly and said he’d love to have me write a sample game report sometime between now and then, and I volunteered my services for the following Thursday.
I didn’t realize it when I volunteered, but I’d actually signed myself up to watch three hours of basketball at the same time as the first day of the opening cricket Test of the summer against England, in Brisbane. I actually got offered a ticket to the game, but I’d agreed to write basketball and had to turn it down. Idiot.
But I got it done, on my aunt’s couch watching through her Apple TV, and the results were pretty good, I thought. Kerem, the guy in charge, had some good constructive feedback for me, and welcomed me to the team. All I had to do was, y’know, get there.
To commit totally, I had to do one last thing – book a ticket from Denver to New Orleans. I hemmed and hawed over dates and times before settling on a direct flight that’d get me there on a Saturday afternoon. Gulp. I clicked the purchase button and there it was – my ongoing plan was in place. I could rest somewhat easy, knowing I had some direction, no matter how small.
So I spent the next few weeks telling all and sundry that I was setting up shop in NOLA for awhile, until such time as I found career work elsewhere. I got a lot of the standard “dude, watch out, New Orleans is dangerous” advice, but everyone was pretty excited for me about the prospect of living in the Big Easy and writing NBA basketball.
But then…Maine came calling.
I’d started to lay the foundations of employment with the KJ back in September, when I responded to the call for a web editor, but things fizzled. I reapplied when the ad was reposted in November, and since I had a green card in hand I was obviously a much more realistic prospect. We set up an interview for the day after Thanksgiving – eight days before I was due to fly to New Orleans – and then an in-person visit to Augusta the following Monday and Tuesday, when the phone call went well.
For those of you counting at home (read: none of you,) that leaves three days between the end of the visit and my scheduled departure to Louisiana. Gulp.
And to make matters even more nerve-wracking, as I was at South Station in Boston waiting for my bus to Maine, my soon-to-be-roommate emailed me, asking when I’d be arriving Saturday. SHIT. I felt terrible saying that I might actually be pulling out, pending the success of the visit, but I told him I’d know by Wednesday.
That wasn’t ENTIRELY true, as much as I wanted it to be. Tuesday evening stretched into Wednesday without news, and I was absolutely panicking up until Thursday afternoon when my now-boss got in touch to offer me the position. I accepted without even listening to the terms (TOTALLY not a desperate move,) then freaked out because I was due to fly in under 36 hours but somehow had to regroup, find some money and book my passage to the north-east.
That all but brings me to now, because five days later I arrived in Augusta, and the rest is history (which you can conveniently read about right here on this very blog.)
And while I’m much happier and more secure having full-time, paid, career employment here in Maine, it’s kinda fun to think about what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been offered the job and I’d ended up moving to New Orleans.
Chances are high that I’d have had approximately 700 more friends visit, I probably wouldn’t be in as good physical shape as I am now (due to all the drinking I presume I’d be doing,) and honestly I probably would’ve quit searching for journalism work two weeks in. I’d have rocked out for Mardi Gras on Frenchmen Street instead of Water Street in Hallowell (still good, but…you know.)
But I’d also have been sweating bullets from about March onwards, I probably wouldn’t have bought a car or got a license due to the presence of public transit in New Orleans. I obviously wouldn’t have had the experience of learning to adapt to winter climes, writing columns, eating lobster twice a week on average or making some of the good friends I’ve made up here.
Life’s funny like that.