Defending The Hipster

Hipsters are cool. There, I said it. I’m still on the fringe on this one, I think. I like the subculture. I think hipsters are some of the best poets and playwrights living today (whether they self-identify as hipsters or not). They’re like the Beats of my generation.

So it makes me sad and a little angry that the word “hipster” is so commonly used nowadays as an insult rather than a simple, descriptive categorization.

Hipster? Or human being?I saw an article the other day from Mashable, pointing out what they describe as the hipster-est hipster in history. Here’s the link:

http://mashable.com/2012/05/03/hipster-king/

It’s actually worth a read, ‘cause it’s sort of funny. And the picture is rather amusing. But the greater social issue here is that it’s a picture of a person just out enjoying himself, and the picture is put up on display with a slew of rapid-fire assumptions.

This is not a fair trial. Let me just defend this guy for a moment, and I’ll preface it with one of my favorite quotes ever, courtesy of Simon Pegg:

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

Now, I’ve seen people who dress up for the Renaissance Fair mock hipsters. I’ve seen a person make glib, insulting references to hipsters while wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. What’s the difference between these geeks and a hipster? Different style choices? Different musical tastes? Different interests? Surface-level shit.

The hipster in this photograph is there with his lady friend, minding his own business, being himself, freely enjoying things he enjoys. He’s listening to some music, and frankly, he’s being respectful to the rest of the café by wearing headphones instead of subjecting everyone else to his tunes. He likes vinyl records because there’s a sound quality that comes with this medium and presumably he enjoys it enough to put up with the inconvenience of it. His vinyl player is portable, which makes sense, because he’s outside his home, enjoying the lovely weather and some beer. Mashable assumes this is during normal business hours, but really, we don’t know. It could be 6:30 in the summertime, or hell, it could be a fucking weekend. (Anyway, even if it is during normal business hours: since when is day-drinking an uncommon and reprehensible thing?)

And here comes this blogging bully from Mashable assuming his coat is vintage, but that’s not necessarily true, it could be a cheap modern coat from anywhere. He makes a stretch and claims that his goatee qualifies as “micromanaged facial hair.” He even implies that the way the subject crosses his legs is a pretention, taken as a conscious decision to look more European. Point one: maybe he IS European? And point two: it’s not necessarily European; evidently the author has never been to the Eastern half of the United States of America.

The author even claims his lady friend is wearing a “retro” dress, but nothing about her screams “retro.” It all looks very modern and in tune with today’s mainstream fashion. Clearly, the author is reaching for anything to make the title of his post seem legitimate. And it’s cheeky and funny, but the underlying issue is that somehow, somewhere, hipsters became the favorite punch line of the uninformed.

Apparently, elsewhere on the web there is a debate about geeks and hipsters happening. I don’t know anything about it, but PBS has a really great video that sort of sums it all up:

So, without rambling too much more, let me just make a few points for all you hipster-haters out there:

Point one: if you hate them based on looks alone, you are only proving their point – or more specifically, the point of any counter-culture movement. If you hate them because of their clothes, then the hipsters win, and so do the Goths, and so do the rudeboys, the emo kids, the punks, the hippies, the skaters, the surfers, the greasers, the beats, and so on. Their looks are surface-deep.

Point two: if you hate them because you think they are assholes, you are wrong. If you claim to know this from personal experience, please partition your hatred only to the individuals you know. If you label an entire subculture assholes because you think the few assholes within that subculture are indicative of the entire group, you are not only mistaken in a general scientific sense, you are mistaken in this particular case. Hipsters are mostly cool. Every subculture has its assholes, and they are usually more outspoken than the cool ones. This is true with mainstream American culture, urban city culture, country culture, sports culture, Hollywood, and Congress.

In any case: prejudice makes you an asshole. Don’t be an asshole.

I would absolutely love to hear anybody’s well-thought-out treatise on why hipsters deserve to be the cultural punching bag we’ve turned them into. You can leave comments on this page, or you can take it to Facebook or Twitter. I’m all ears.

SEO Has Taken Over My Life And It’s Rad

I wanted an image to accurately portray the mood, so I did a Google Image search for “Barren Wasteland” and this is what I got.

Here I am, in the future! You’ve all aged about five months, but not a single second seems to have gone by for me…

Just kidding. I know this blog has been sorely neglected for five months, or at least it would seem that way. I don’t apologize for not blogging. If anyone needed an apology, chances are someone would have said within the last five months, “Hey, why haven’t you posted on your blog lately?” So the hell with apologies. The hell with excuses, too.

But interesting things have indeed been happening, and they have indeed been time-consuming. I suspect no one’s noticed that BilGaines.com has not been updated for five months because we had, you know, the Olympics and the whole election thing to distract us. I hadn’t even noticed myself until just now.

In brief: In February I was hired part-time as an SEO specialist for a very cool company called Intrapromote. This meant that in addition to commuting 50 miles each way from Oxnard to Santa Monica and back every single day to work at Edmunds.com as an account manager, I was also donating eight hours of time and energy to a second gig. That was nine hours in Santa Monica, three hours total on the road, and two hours of SEO after putting the baby to sleep. That was my typical workday. I don’t remember what I did on weekends during that period.

In May, I started full-time for Intrapromote, which meant that although I loved my Edmunds co-workers dearly, I left them behind to work at home and adopt new, seemingly robotic co-workers. They only seemed robotic, though, because I “met” them all over the internet. Mostly over Yammer, but some IM me and I do hear a few voices on the occasional phone call. I know our HR director from our mutual time spent in the Chicago theatre scene and I met the president in person when he flew out to L.A. to give some presentations to a Southern California-based client. We ate at the best pizza joint in Hollywood and he remembered the bartender from, like, four years ago. And the bartender remembered him, too, because they were both from Indiana and people from Indiana never forget each other.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of parenting, travelling, and exploring the area I actually live in, i.e. Ventura County. I’ve seen very few people I know, but I’ve seen a lot of them, and it’s been great.

Also, as it turns out, my new remote coworkers are amazingly hip and groovy and cool and all kinds of other positive adjectives. And my new job is super-sweet. I’m doing something that keeps me interested ALL DAY LONG (usually) and I get to work from home. This means more time with my daughter Alie and my wife Devon.

With this new job, I actually HAVE been blogging, just not on BilGaines.com. I blog regularly for Intrapromote and I do a good amount of ghost blogging for clients. It’s awesome. This makes me a professional blogger, technically, but I will never describe myself to another as “professional blogger,” because every time I see someone call themselves a “professional blogger,” I instantly lose respect for them. I don’t know why, it just happens.

So, why start up again with BilGaines.com?

Many reasons, but mainly:

  • You should always warm up. This self-re-introductory post is a warm-up.
  • Small changes have been made – not important enough to call attention to, but a fresh blog post gets better PageRank on Google, and I want the new changes to be seen by strangers.
  • This is a teaser. Consider yourself teased. I am (again) changing course regarding SharkBlog (major DEmotion this time) and will probably meander a bit until I find a proper focus for the site, but know this: I have a small series planned regarding Instagram optimization. I will have data that I pulled myself on my very own Excel spreadsheet, and I will have my very own hand-drawn infographics.
  • I aim to sell you something.

Stay tuned. I will go ahead and publish this article right now, on Sunday night, the WORST TIME TO PUBLISH A BLOG, because I frankly don’t care about this particular article. This is not the one I want everybody to read. (If you are reading it, thanks! You’re awesome.)

But it’s good to be blogging on my own little website once again. I can say “fuck” as much as I want to.

SHARKBLOG: Image SEO – A Control Group At Last

Over the weekend I bummed around the back side of the San Gabriel Mountains with my parents. I explored Devil’s Punchbowl, which you can read about here. I got up close and personal with some yucca plants, which you can read about here (presuming Wikipedia isn’t still blacked out to protest SOPA & PIPA).

By the way, if you were ever confused about the relationship between Joshua trees and the other yuccas you see in the high desert, it’s this: Yucca is the genus, not the species. So Joshua trees are yuccas. I FUCKING KNEW IT.

Anyway, I took my camera around with me this weekend and had a good old-fashioned photo exploration tour. I hadn’t done that in a while. So when I wasn’t hanging with my folks, adapting a stageplay into a screenplay, or enjoying the midday one-man karaoke show at the combo espresso shop/wine tasting cellar in downtown Wrightwood, I was busy editing photos.

And because the Facebook photo uploader blows, the majority of the good stuff is here at BilGaines.com instead of Facebook.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF MY EXISTENCE.

While uploading, I remembered that I’ve been totally ignoring the ALT attribute. My photo uploader has a convenient ALT attribute field I can fill in. I recall long ago reading why the ALT attribute matters for Image SEO purposes — something for search engine spiders to crawl, because they are blind — but at the time it seemed like a lot of bother, and anyway my main concern was just getting up and running.

But now I’m up and running, and Sharkblog is my ongoing SEO experiment. Things are at a point now where there’s plenty of Sharkblog imagery and plenty more non-Sharkblog imagery.

And Sharkblog is an experiment, right? And any good experiment needs a good control group. So, in the interest of not creating more work for myself, I hereby declare all non-Sharkblog images the control group, and I will continue to NOT add any ALT attributes. For Sharkblog’s images, moving forward, I will try to add some ALTs. That’s a minimal investment of time, and now that I have the ability to track incoming visitors by search engine type, I can see how many suckers were brought here by an image search.

This’ll be good. I’m pretty sure it will.

Here are photos from this weekend, and also from even further back in time.  Find them in the album called “Places & Things, Places & Things,” or peruse the other albums at your leisure.

The Emigration To California: Epilogue

The day after we landed, Trevor took off again.  You never saw a guy so jacked up on adrenaline and caffeine for the entire duration of a 2,000 mile road trip. That plane ride home must have been a sleepy one.   He had a layover in Salt Lake on his way back to Chicago.  I don’t think Utah will ever be the same for him.

Ten or so days after that, our stuff arrived from the shitty movers.  They had not been careful, and much of it was either damaged or destroyed.  They are shitty, shitty movers, and I hate them.

We’re still not fully unpacked, but at least we’re in California, in our little place by the beach.  Our daughter is now a California girl.  Born in Chicago, she’ll be a California girl with California parents from now on.  That’s how we wanted it.

So.  Life.  All of it.  Permanently changed.

To say that a little dust has been unsettled is like saying Mt. Saint Helens chucked up a little dirt.

But it’s falling into place, speck by speck.

So, here we have the end of Operation: Move to California as Soon as Possible.  It wasn’t easy, but it was fast.

What to do now that we’re here?  Primarily: raise Aliena to be the best possible human being we can raise her to be.  Secondarily: chip away at those writing projects.  Diligence, patience, and constant learning will be the keys in both endeavors.

Also, I have a surfboard I’ve been meaning to take out on the water.  Someday soon, I’ll get around to that.

Trip takeaway – beer list:

Recap:
Prologue
Trying To Leave Chicago
Chicago To Kansas City
Kansas City To Denver
Denver To The Middle Of Utah
The Middle Of Utah To Southern California

The Emigration To California: The Middle Of Utah To Southern California

On Saturday, I woke up feeling fresh, the way you do when you realize that the events you thought happened yesterday were all just some silly bad dream.

Trouble was, the events were all real, and Trevor and I were still in Richfield, Utah, without a working vehicle.  And it was still fucking Pioneer Day weekend.

Through a multitude of phone calls and inquiries we were able to set up an appointment with a mechanic who begrudgingly agreed to come into the shop to take care of our car.

Our guys at AutoZone confirmed that a rebuilt alternator could not be provided, since no one anywhere in the nation seems to have one.  I’d have to get a brand-new factory-direct alternator, which would cost at least three times as much.  They also confirmed that my shitty old battery was, in fact, shitty.  So there was yet another expense.

They were very nice about it, though, and they really did everything they could, so I took their word when they said the mechanic we were going to bring the car to was a shady douchebag.  I agreed to let them take the car to Mike’s Auto Clinic instead.  Mike was a buddy of theirs.  They also encouraged me not to do the polite thing and let the other mechanic know I was blowing him off; they said he had it coming.  Who was I to argue?

The last thing preventing us from leaving Richfield was the fact that we couldn’t get a rental car.  There is only one rental company in the whole city, and they were closed for Pioneer Day.  Also, they were apparently all out of cars to rent.  We walked there to confirm they were really closed, and sure enough, a handwritten sign on the door explained they’d be closed till Tuesday.  So I dumped my shitty motel coffee into their mailbox. They had it coming.

We then walked next door to the Ford dealership to see if we could rent something from them, and the Ford dealership was also closed. Again, just a handwritten note from them and some impotent rage for us.

In desperation, we walked into a neighboring Honda/Suzuki motorsports store.  I don’t really know what we were thinking – even if they could rent us a motorcycle, I don’t know how to ride one.  I guess we were just hoping that they had some connections in town or some leads as to where we might borrow a car for a week.

And there, in that shining moment of glory and cosmic harmony, the man we were talking to confided that he was, in fact, co-owner of all three business – the motorsports, the Ford dealership, and the rental company.  He ordered an employee to come into the rental office on his day off.  He even made sure that someone returned a car so they’d have one to rent us. I suddenly felt slightly bad for pouring my coffee into their mailbox.

Once again, I have to declare my amazement at the quality of customer service in Utah.  Those guys may enjoy their long weekends, but they’ll still help a human being in need.

And while I’m at it, I’ll take this opportunity to point out what a tremendous human being Mr. Trevor Watkin is.  Not only is he good at teaching music, he’ll buy you steak and beer when you’re having a rough day and he’ll be the first guy to slap down his credit card for a car rental company to hold when you rent a car for a week.  He’s a goddamn American hero, that’s what he is.

And so, after a long and painful stay in Richfield, dealing with very nice people and their somewhat indescribable Utah accent, we got in our rented Ford Focus and sped off.  And I mean sped.  We couldn’t get away fast enough.

Richfield is right at the intersection of the 70 and the 15.  The 15 signified the last long interstate freeway of the trip, and the energy picked up again just like on that first day out of Chicago.

Like a duo of proper Californians, we made a brief stop at the first In-N-Out we encountered (it’s in St. George, UT) and then kept flying, straight through Las Vegas without any hesitation.  No desire to pop a head in and pull the lever on some slot machines.  We didn’t stop.  We didn’t even slow down.

We hit the last state border around sunset.  California looked the same as ever on the 15.  You cross the border, the quality of the tar beneath you changes slightly.  The dirt beside the road looks slightly browner, but the bushes look slightly taller.  You feel more comfortable stepping on the gas pedal a little harder.  You get inside the state and it’s like there’s no activity more noble than driving.

Down the 15, through the mountains, past those little desert towns, out the Cajon pass, and you hit the 210, and then just a few speedy minutes to my parents’ door in Rancho Cucamonga.  A quick visit with them turned into a long-ish visit with them.  They had set the deadliest trap of all: pie.

And then another stop at Trevor’s parents’ place in the same town.

And then, one more hour west and we landed in Agoura Hills.  Devon’s parents’ place.  It was there we would stay until we could properly move into their beach condo in Oxnard.  We made it.

Boosh.

Sleep.

Next: “This is not my beautiful house…”
Previous: “Houston, we have a problem.”

The Emigration To California: Denver To The Middle Of Utah

 

Thursday was the day of bad burritos.  Friday was far, far worse.

It didn’t start that way.  It started with a beautifully scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains.

My iPod died on our way down.  Instead of open road songs streaming from my speakers, I got the little Macintosh frowny face and a URL for online support.  Still, I remarked, if that’s the worst thing that happens on this road trip, we’re in pretty good shape.

Then my car’s alternator died.

This happened in the middle of Utah, before we reached a town called Richfield.  Richfield is the biggest city in central Utah, and it’s not even big enough for foreign car dealerships.

The stretch along the 70 in Utah is a gorgeous tableau of red rocks, rocky crags, swooping canyonlands, and clear blue skies.  But the landscape goes from breathtakingly beautiful to annoying as hell in about as much time as it takes for the red light from the electrical systems warning icon on the dashboard to travel to your eyeballs.

Once we were aware something was wrong with the car, I didn’t care how pretty it was.  All I wanted was some assistance to help get us past all that natural beauty.

I learned from this experience that the car can still run after the alternator dies, but when that happens, the battery powers the car all on its own, and no battery can last too long doing all that.  Certainly no factory-installed battery.  My car is about three and a half years old, and no one was surprised to learn that the battery was pretty much incapable of holding a decent charge.  Everyone, however, was surprised to learn that a Toyota-built car like my Scion xD should lose its alternator after such a small amount of time.  Obviously, Scion thought that might happen, since my car was about six months past its warranty.  So much for the fucking reliability of a fucking Toyota, I thought.  Then I thought the word Fuck some more on a loop for a while.

We crawled into Richfield on a Friday afternoon.  That particular weekend, of all weekends, was a long one for the state of Utah.  Utah holds its own self-important holiday called Pioneer Day, and they celebrate it by taking the entire weekend off of work.  So, no mechanics.  No rental services.  No car dealership service departments.  So much for fucking Utah, I thought, and then I thought Fuck really loudly.

I couldn’t wait around five days for the weekend to wrap up and a mechanic to come back to work.  I had to start work in California the following Monday.  Even if we could order a new alternator, it wouldn’t get there till Tuesday at the earliest.  So we racked our brains all night to find a solution.  I looked up the KBB value of my car, subtracted the cost of an alternator, and seriously considered a straight trade for a used piece of junk from one of the domestic dealerships in town.  A 2001 Taurus is a really nice car, I thought, even with a hundred thousand miles.

Luckily, the AutoZone in town was open, and those men are just about the most customer-friendly bunch I’ve ever seen.  They made all sorts of phone calls on my behalf, pulled some favors, got a guy to take my car that weekend, and told us where we could get various services.  Human decency scored a victory that day.

It relied on availability of other people, though.  The plan we decided upon was to rent a car and travel on to California, leaving the Scion behind, and just come back again the next weekend to retrieve it.  We’d have to deal with these things in the morning, though, so the last thing to do that night was eat dinner and drink beer.  This was definitely a time when I felt like I needed a beer.

Only we were in Utah.

But the Mormon God took pity on us that day, and the steakhouse attached to the Motel 6 in Richfield does indeed serve beer.  Beer and steak.

You can surely destroy a massive boulder by chipping away at it with little rocks.

Zen.

Next: “I like to call it ‘Lost Wages.'”
Previous: “Every state has at least one winery.”

The Emigration To California: Kansas City To Denver

There is another side to Kansas City. The Kansas side.

KC seems to be to Missouri what Chicago is to Illinois, but the Kansas side is viewed as poorly as East Chicago, Indiana.  I’m not sure why that is, since our only experience with it was a fast food breakfast and a freeway out of town, and I can’t really make any judgment calls based on that.

What I will judge, however, is the fast food.  I judge harshly.

The middle of the country has Hardee’s instead of Carl’s Jr.  As I understand it, Hardee’s existed and then Carl’s Jr. bought them out, which accounts for the difference in menus and the gap in quality.  It was very early in the morning, and there was a rusted mid-20th-Century Impala in the parking lot.  That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, just a curiosity of the trip.

We drove through and I ordered a breakfast burrito.  That was terrible burrito number one.

Long story short: character or no character, bad fast food at breakfast is just about the worst thing ever for a long drive.

Kansas marks the switch from the real Midwest to the Plains.  Driving through Kansas is just like driving through Nebraska, but with hills.

Topeka is Google’s headquarters, though they haven’t been there long enough yet to influence the physical look of the town.  As we approached, I half-expected to see large LEGO blocks in bright colors peppering the city.  Instead, it looked like any other mid-sized mid-America city, with some multiple-story buildings that you couldn’t call skyscrapers and a handful of pointy church steeples. Quaint, though; I can definitely see the appeal of Topeka.

We didn’t stop there.  The timing wasn’t right.  I was still recovering from that ridiculous Hardee’s breakfast burrito, and Trevor was recovering from whatever the hell it was that he ate.  We sallied forth to our next destination: Longmont, CO, a suburb of Denver.

At the western end of Kansas, we stopped for lunch.  Our choice of eats?  Taco John’s.  Because every now and then, you have to try a restaurant that sounds like a really bad idea just to experience it.  It’s like the freak show at the circus.

It was here I encountered terrible burrito number two.  This one was made with fried chicken and tater tots.

From both burritos I expected some culinary Mexican influence, based on the fact that they were burritos.  Both times I was wrong.  Neither burrito contained any salsa.  Both burritos contained gravy.  Lesson learned, Kansas.  I’ll just get the steak next time.

By mid-afternoon, we were across the border into eastern Colorado, and our ascent began.  Up the inclined plane towards the Rocky Mountains we climbed, leaving Interstate 70 the first time that day just before Denver, just as the mountainous region really began.  We cruised north of the Mile-High City until we found the house of Trevor’s kin, and there we stayed the night.

Trevor taught a quick music lesson to his nephew that night.  A brand-new trombonist, now on his way.  Trevor is an amazing teacher, in case you didn’t know.  You watch the guy at work and you can tell that he loves it, and his love is infectious enough for not only the student, but anyone watching, too, to get excited and want to pick up the trombone themselves.

The evening was capped with a trip via open-top Franken-Jeep to a local microbrewery, one of Colorado’s finest gifts to the rest of the nation.  Oskar Blues was the joint, and their pale ale (Dale’s Ale) is among the finest I have ever had.  I dare say it even topped the outstanding pale ale from Boulevard Brewing Co. I had the night before in Kansas City.  As beer across the country goes, this was perhaps the best trip I’d ever been on.

Beer is best when you don’t feel like you need it.  And to this point, the road trip was smooth and, barring a couple of worthless burritos from the plains, a trouble-free journey.

But no good thing lasts forever.

 Next: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Previous: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

The Emigration To California: Chicago To Kansas City

Wednesday was a brand new day, in a Broadway musical kind of way.  The sun was shining, and we were up before the heat really settled on us.  We felt strangely rested, and we were on the road nice and early.

A stop at the donut shop and we were off.

A poop in the cat carrier and we were stopped.

Poop tossed into an empty parking lot in Uptown, and we were off again.

Lake Shore Drive, the only road that competes with Pacific Coast Highway for Prettiest Road In America, took us to the 55 South through downtown Chicago.  No traffic, the best way to experience it.  We waved so long to the quintessential images of that Midwestern metropolis – Millennium Park, the skyscrapers along Michigan Avenue, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, the Field Museum, the Addler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field, McCormick Place, adios.

The driving itself was largely uneventful. The first day of a road trip is always packed with energy and excitement, and the miles to that first stop destination just fall away like lemmings off a cliff.

I’d been on the 55 in the middle of Illinois before.  I once took a late-December gig as a PA for some commercial shoot in Peoria.  I drove a cargo van all the way there in the middle of the night.  It’s a very different drive in the dead of night in the dead of winter – the landscape is lit only by stars and the moon, and the smoothness of the snow-covered fields makes leafless trees stick out like forks in pudding.  It’s creepy.

On the other hand, in the middle of the day in the summertime, the trees fit the grassy knolls like Robert Pattinson’s hair on Robert Pattinson’s head.  It was all so very green, despite the heat wave.  So quintessentially Middle America.  That’s Illinois for you.  Once you exit the city of Chicago, you have a small circle of suburbs and then it’s just green fields all the way down.

We hit Interstate 72 at the state capitol and turned west.  Sorry, Springfield, we’d have to catch those Illinois history museums another time.

We crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri, and were greeted by a friendly stone image of Mark Twain.  This is not a joke, it was a real thing.

The stretch of Highway 36 we took to Kansas City was mainly farmland, very similar to the farm country in Illinois, but somehow different.  The way I think of it is this: imagine a small blond farmboy from the middle of America.  That’s Illinois.  Now imagine that boy has a little brother who looks an awful lot like him, also blond, but with a flattop haircut.  That’s Missouri.

We got to our hotel before sundown and had some time to meet up with some old friends.  We smuggled the cats inside and jacked that thermostat for all the A/C the Super 8 had to offer.

I don’t know what I expected from Kansas City, but I don’t think my expectations were high.  As it turns out, KC is rad.  Way rad.  Downtown is a very hip and mature area, with international as well as heartland-of-the-country cuisines all together in one place.  There are steel and brick buildings all over the place because that’s how they made them, not because they were cool.

There’s a laid back atmosphere, and a wholesome lack of pretentiousness even in a neighborhood called the Crossroads.  It’s charming without being annoying and without lacking modern technology to attract modern people.  The few friends I had in Chicago who had recently moved to Kansas City went there to advance their careers.  Their tech-based careers.

And those ribs are goddamn delicious.

The takeaway: if you’re looking for a fresh start and a new job, give Kansas City a look.  It’ll charm you.

Next: “Every state has at least one winery.”
Previous: “We gotta get outta this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do!”

The Emigration To California: Trying To Leave Chicago

The day our professional movers showed up was the same day Devon, her mother, and her sister took Aliena out to California by jet.  They went ahead while my best pal Trevor & I drove the car across the country.

It was a scheduled four-day trip, and we were scheduled to leave the day before the movers came.  However, as we watched our next door neighbors’ professional movers taking two days to move all their stuff instead of just one, we worried that our own professional moving service might also take a long time.  So Trevor & I changed our plans to wait until the movers were truly done with it all.  We hung back a day, planning now to leave Tuesday afternoon, after they had all our junk packed in their big truck.

I had to eat the cost of a hotels.com hotel, because hotels.com will not let you change the date on a reservation.  You have to just get another room another night, at that other night’s rates, so you could potentially pay more than double what you intended to if your plans change.  BEWARE OF THIS FACT WHEN USING HOTELS.COM.

But Tuesday afternoon arrived with no end in sight for the movers. Devon & her entourage had to leave for the airport, so it was definitely a good thing Trevor & I held back.

As Tuesday afternoon slowly turned into Tuesday evening, it became clear that Trevor & I were not going to leave at all on Tuesday.  We would have to leave Wednesday.  Which meant another change in hotel stays, which meant another eaten cost from hotels.com.  They are cheap, but those nights add up REAL fast.  There is no way around this.  Trust me, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with those assholes.  Wouldn’t budge.

Speaking of companies to avoid, New Planet Moving & Storage also totally blows. Idiot dispatchers sent only two guys to pack up and load an entire two bedroom apartment during the worst heat wave Chicago had seen in ten years.  To say that we were all rather sweaty would be an understatement.  If you could freeze-frame a shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark at about halfway through the face-melting process the Nazis suffer at the end of the movie, you’d have a pretty good picture of what we looked like.

Imagine going into a coffee shop and the guys behind the counter are dying of heat exhaustion to the point where they can barely function. So you have to go behind the counter and brew your own coffee, and they are making a mess and it’s all disorganized, and when your coffee is finally ready, they charge you for a large when you asked for a small, because all they had available were large cups.  And then you had to leave a tip in the tip jar or else you’d feel like an enormous douchebag.  Now multiply that by two thousand, and that was pretty much our experience with New Planet.  They suck.

The movers were on the road by 11:00 PM.  They had been there for twelve and a half hours.

Now, I love Chicago, so if there was one day of toil and shit that could make me happy to leave it behind, it was this.  Goodbye, apartment, I thought, it’s been a hot oneTomorrow I’ll say goodbye to the skyline, but tonight, it’s just goodbye to this cramped little century-old third-floor Lincoln Square apartment.  Goodbye.

 Next: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
Previous: “My empire is cumbling!”

The Emigration To California: Prologue


Several weeks have passed since the mini-apocalypse crashed what was otherwise a manageable life, and I remember it all, despite my efforts to forget, or at least remember it differently.

First of all, the greatest thing ever happened.  That was the start of my troubles.

My daughter, Aliena Evelyn Gaines, was born exactly on her due date.  As labors go, you couldn’t ask for an easier time.  Quick and complication-free.  Magnificent.

Details here are disgusting, so I’ll wrap up that topic by mentioning that for the last three months, she’s been a bright and shiny star, just the absolute cutest and most well-behaved baby the world has ever known.  This is not an exaggeration.

The very next thing that happened was the second greatest thing I could have asked for, and that was really when things turned horrible.  Literally ten days after she was born, I got hired by Edmunds.com and was given about three weeks to pack up and move from Chicago to Southern California.  When you say it nonchalantly, it doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do, but keep in mind a) I had a job still that I wanted to give two weeks’ notice for, so I had two weeks of still working to take time away from getting ready to do any prep work at all for a big move, and b) I had a brand new baby to figure out.

So.  Three weeks.  Two weeks at work, and an estimated four days on the road.  New baby, very little sleep.  Friends to bid farewell to.  Utility accounts to close.  A hoarders’ apartment’s worth of closets to sort out.  Biggest heat wave the eastern half of the US has seen in a decade.

Stressful?  Yes.

Exciting?  Also yes.

Obstacles?  Bring ‘em on, I thought, I’ll kick their ass.

I probably only thought this because of the sleep deprivation.  I had no idea what was coming.

Spoiler alert: I did kick their ass.  I moved my new little family out to Southern California.  We made it.  But it took a whole team of pro-Gaines vigilantes and technicians, and I owe the splendor of my new life to some people who may never fully realize how amazing they are for it.

Next: “We gotta get outta this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do!”