Florida – September 2008

Day 20 – Jax – poker night with the guys

Saturday 11th October

Amazingly, we actually took no photos today. I guess the array of parallax lines and other camera viewfinder information that I still see in my field of view must be some sort of withdrawal symptom or something.

Since we arrived from Palm Coast yesterday fully laden with a van full of bags, purchases, kids, etc., we never had a chance to buy any supermarket shopping so the fridge and cupboards were bare this morning. This left us with only one course of action open to us – Waffle House (as if we needed an excuse).

Thus far, we’ve survived here in Florida on the cash that we brought with us (mostly from the lottery win from a few months ago) but this had all but dried up now and we’re now starting to experience a bit of a cash-flow problem in that we’re down to our last one hundred dollars. We’ve used the credit card just a couple of times, which is a good thing, but this at least tells us that we can always use the credit-card if need be. It’s still nice to have cash in hand, though, so I’ve been keen to replenish the supply.

After breakfast, we made the Publix that’s conveniently right next door to the Waffle House here on Jax Beach our next stop. I tried the ATM outside and it wouldn’t let me withdraw any cash. This starting to get me a bit anxious as I’d tried a couple of times down in Orlando to use my ATM card but also unsuccessfully. At the time, I put this down to the ATMs that I tried simply not being connected to the right network for my card to work. We ended up having to take out the credit card for the Publix shopping.

Determined not to let this cash-flow problem simmer too long, we drove up and down 3rd Street looking for actual bank branches, where I was sure we’d have better luck finding an ATM with the correct logos on it. My ATM card has the Cirrus logo and the first bank we found had this log posted on the ATM itself so I was confident this would be our salvation. Alas, no! Again I was confronted with a ‘We’re unable to assist you with your transaction’ message. Hmmm. OK, let’s try the next bank farther up the street. Alas, no again! Same story. OK, this is now a much bigger concern all of a sudden. Could we survive another two week with no access to cash? At this point, I’m considering options such as wiring money into someone’s bank account here but that could take several business days. Because of the time of the day, we had around half an hour or so to get home, unload the car and get on the phone to my bank to sort the problem out before they closed for the day.

I spent the better half of the next hour on the phone with my branch, the premier banking department and then the fraud department trying to get to the bottom of why my ATM card wasn’t working anywhere here. The long and the short of it was that I only ha d a £250 daily withdrawal limit on this particular card. When we were down in Orlando, I had tried to withdraw $600 at an ATM. This converted to more than the daily limit and this together with the fact that it was a failed withdrawal attempt that suddenly showed up on the system from half way around the world had triggered a hold on my card by the fraud detection mechanisms my bank employs. From that moment on, my card was effectively blocked. The fraud detection department seemed to know more about when and where my card was used (or was attempted to be used) that I did. Fortunately, they were able to remove the hold on my card. I also arranged for an in increase in the daily withdrawal limit – just in case.

We’d earlier arranged to take Dillon with us to a local park today so we collected him from the 9th floor and set off. The South Beach Park is an outdoor playground that was not long ago erected with the support of the local community and is an absolutely fantastic playground. There are swings, a covered seating area, climbing frames and walkways, sandpits and all manner of fun things for the kids to run around on. We went there with Dillon and his ‘Aunt’ Jennifer (technically she’s his Grandmother but we’ll skim over that little detail) shortly after we arrived in Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago and the kids had a blast then too. We spent nearly two hours at the park and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves – again.

Having dropped Dillon off home and put the kids to bed for an afternoon nap, we though we’d avail ourselves of some of the fantastic features that this wonderful condo has to offer – namely the large Jacuzzi in the master bathroom. We both managed to get in, although I did have to let some water out first, and enjoyed a thoroughly relaxing soak. Unlike some Jacuzzi’s, this one doesn’t cool the water down by simply blowing cold bubbles into the water. It’s a really nice one and will be yet another feature of this tranquil place that I will be adding to the list of features that I’ll want for our home – when we eventually end up stationary and in one country for more than a few minutes that is. Almost falling asleep was Sandy’s queue to kick me out of the tub so I reluctantly stood up. Big mistake. I’d let enough water out such that the water level was just about perfect with the two of us mostly submerged. When I stood up, the water level dipped to just below the level of the jets and this sent streams of water in all directions. Oops! Sit down quickly! Must make a mental note to switch off the jets before standing up the next time around. I’d had a shower before getting into the tub and again afterwards and I flopped onto the bed in such a semi-comatose and relaxed state that I fell asleep for another half an hour. Bliss!

So, tonight was poker night with the guys. When we lived here, some of the guys in our street used to get together every few weeks at alternate houses for an evening of fun and frivolity around the poker table and Tom had graciously agreed to host just such an evening again for this evening. Sandy and Kristy had arranged for Sandy and the kids to spend the evening at her house so that Sandy would be able to drive me home in the event I might have come home drunk – or perhaps half naked and having thoughtfully emptied the contents of my stomach onto some unsuspecting home owner’s drive way in the dead of night (that’s another story altogether).

On the way over to Kristy’s, we stopped off at a nearby bank to tempt fete again the ATM and were this time rewarded with $400 for our efforts – fortunate since I otherwise might have had to barter with Disney purchases or something around the poker table this evening. I’ll see your Mickey and raise you a Goofey. Hmmmm … maybe not.

It was really good seeing the old guys again (and I use the word ‘old’ quite tentatively). Each time I see kids that we last saw some five years or so ago, I’m immediately amazed at how they’ve grown. In fact, I can scarcely believe that we have kids of our own even – much less than I’ve actually grown up even.

Kristy laid on some impromptu and oh so very delicious BBQ food for all present before we left for the evening and, aside from the fact that the trees and greenery in the neighbourhood had matured significantly, it was just like old times and as if we’d never left. We really like these people and feel fortunate to count them amongst our friends. The fact that we can disappear for five years and then step back into their front rooms as if nothing had happened speaks volumes.

So, Carlos, Marty, me and Anthony (who had driven all the way up from Orlando for the fun) drove over to Tom’s old house in Deerwood (he bought another house there and is trying to sell the old one) and spent a fun-filled night chatting about everything and nothing – although the economy dive and general financial turmoil all around us was the mainstay of the discussions throughout the night. Marty was the big winner of the evening. Although I didn’t actually loose my shirt physically (this time around at least), was was one of the big losers of the evening, having donated around $40 towards the help-Marty-through-the-winter fund.

We folded up the poker table sometime after mid-night but ended up chatting for another three quarters of an hour before saying our good-byes and heading back to Kristy & Carlos’ house. The kids were fast asleep so we spent another half an hour chatting before getting them off home to bed for the night. It was well past two thirty before we switched off the light and dozed off. It was the end to an as near a perfect holiday day as one could possibly get. Life is good.