About two weeks ago, the Jaybird packed his red Toyota and drove more than 1,000 miles from his hometown of Mexico, Mo., back to Bradenton.
"I'd forgotten what palm trees look like, Morris," he said. "I've already got a sunburn. My forehead's fried. It's great."
You may remember that Jay left the Sunshine State after the subprime mortgage crash. He went home, saw his mom through a health crisis and endured two Missouri winters.
"Ain't gonna be a third," he said. "The Jaybird needs sand, surf and sun, and Budweiser."
"You forgot hat and sunscreen," I said.
A lot of Jay's friends have left the mortgage business, and the ones who remain are more disciplined with their money these days. Jay's not sure the business is for him anymore.
"Stability, that's what I need, old-fashioned stability," he said, "and a hat rack at the front door with a wide-brimmed hat. Something that looks cool. Not like those goofy hats you wear."
"I like my hats."
"You would, Morris."
For now, he's providing both handy man and cleaning lady services for his roommate. Those are unpaid positions.
The job hunt hasn't really gotten started, but he's doing some deep, psychological work on himself.
"Who is the Jaybird?" he said. "What does he want to do?"
He's taken a part-time job delivering the Yellow Pages. Each week, he earns about what somebody would pay for a monthly gym membership. He's lost 5 pounds.
He spent two days delivering phone books in a high-priced neighborhood. Many of the homes were on sale for a fraction of what they would've cost three years ago.
"I'm going to get me one of those," he said, "after I start 1-800-JAY-BELL."
He's also delivered phone books in a mobile home community filled with snowbirds from Canada.
"You can deliver a bunch of phone books at a mobile home park," he said. "I'm thinking about filling my backpack and a suitcase, so I don't have to make as many trips to the car."
On his way South, Jay stopped in "Hotlanta" to visit an old friend who was barely hanging onto a job in the mortgage business.
"He said, 'You've already been through the fire,'" Jay said. "He's got a point."
In the past two years, he's sold paper products and used cars, he's painted houses and put in windows and doors. His white collar has turned blue.
"He said he kind of envied me, but he wasn't ready to join me," Jay said. "I don't blame him, but there are worse places to be. Did I mention the palm trees, Morris?"
Jay's back in "Bradenton-fun-in-the-sun-baby-Florida," but he remains my good friend in transition.
"With a sunburn," he said.
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or email@example.com.