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the blizzog@jamiegaines.com You stay classy, Internet.

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Why Can’t Every Day Be 9/11?

Today my Facebook wall is covered with “I remember” and “Never forget” posts, small but meaningful tributes to those that lost their lives on 9/11 and to those that showed true heroism in our darkest hour. It is only right that we pause and reflect on the events of that day, honoring the lives of those we lost and remembering a time when we came together as a nation to confront the tragedy that had befallen all of us.

I also saw on TV where Obama and Romney are suspending their negative ads for the day. Thankfully both campaigns, both men, recognize that today is a day to celebrate what unites us rather than highlight what divides us. Today we’re offered a respite from the name-calling, the demonizing, the bitter, divisive finger-pointing. And all this got me to thinking.

Why can’t every day be 9/11?

Why can’t every day be a day that we pause to show some respect for our fellow Americans? All Americans. Not just those like us.

I didn’t see a Facebook post today that said, “I’ll never forget the Republicans we lost that day” or “I’ll always remember the brave atheist, gay first-responders who showed such valor.”

Why not? Because we were all in it together that day. Those weren’t conservatives, liberals, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, blacks, whites, gays, lesbians, and straights in those buildings and on those planes. They were Americans, and one day a year we seem to have no problem remembering that and forgetting the rest.

Why can’t every day be 9/11?

Why can’t we seem to remember that we weren’t just in it together that day, but that we’re in it together every day? Why can’t we focus on the things we have in common so that we can better resolve our differences? Why does it take the anniversary of 3,000 people being murdered to spare us 24 hours of our leaders calling each other crooks and liars?

Look, I’m no Pollyanna. I understand that we live in complicated times with complicated problems that require complicated choices. I understand that we’re not going to solve our problems by hugging it out. I understand that our differences and our beliefs inspire passion in each of us. I understand that channeling that passion into spirited debate is the only way we’ll move forward.

But spirited debate doesn’t mean shouting the other side down, belittling them, or calling them names. That’s how children settle their disputes, and we owe it to each other and the people who lost their lives that day to be better than that.

Spirited debate requires a respect for each other that I often fear we’ve lost. Whether it’s Facebook flame wars about Chick-Fil-A with friends of your friends’ friends, or the 24/7, vitriolic cockfights on cable news shows, I worry that we’ve become so consumed with hatred and “us vs. them” that we’ll never find our way back to the “us” that really matters. I worry we might be a lost cause.

At least until a day like today. A day when we all put our swords down, show respect for each other, respect for our nation, and remember that we’re all in this together. Why can’t every day be like that?

Why can’t every day be 9/11?

Steve Jobs: Enemy of Stuff That Sucks

I find myself incredibly sad and bitter about the passing of Steve Jobs today. Ashley told me the news while I was preparing Carson’s bedtime bottle tonight and I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

I never met Steve Jobs. I never corresponded with Steve Jobs. I’ve never been to any huge Apple event. I barely own any Apple products, save my beloved iPhone. I’m far from what you’d call an Apple fanboy, and yet ever since I heard the news I’ve felt like someone close to me has died. I’ve felt like crying all night.

It’s difficult to overstate the loss that the world has suffered today with the passing of Steve Jobs. You may not like Apple. You may not like any of their products. You may not like the cult-like following they developed over the years.

But you have to love Steve Jobs.

Why? Because Steve Jobs stood up to Stuff That Sucks and was a champion for Stuff That’s Awesome.

Look around you and you’ll find that there aren’t nearly enough people or companies doing either. Look closely and you’ll find a few people and companies that are doing it, but not nearly to the level that Steve Jobs was.

Most people do enough to get the job done. Most companies do enough to get the job done.

And that’s why most things these days are good enough but not awesome. It’s why your car is good enough to get you where you need to go but you’re not telling everyone you know to go buy a Camry because of how amazing it is. It’s why most restaurants are an okay place to go and fill your belly but you’re not dying to have your next meal at Applebee’s because it’s so outstanding. It’s why our government is the way it is. It’s why our schools and universities are the way they are.

They’re good enough. They’re not great. They’re products of people saying, “What can we do that’s marginally better than what’s out there now? What can we do to just keep things moving along?”

Steve Jobs asked, “What can we do to amaze people? What can we do to set this industry on its ear? What can we do to blow this whole thing up and put out something that not only doesn’t suck, but will blow people’s minds?”

People forget that only 5 years ago, in 2006, the cell phone industry was pure shit. Nokia, Samsung, and Motorola were churning out only slightly better renditions of the same shitty phones they had been producing for the past five years. Two main buttons. T9 typing. Shitty software. Shitty interfaces. It took tons of clicks to do anything worthwhile, and even then the functionality was lame, at best.

There was no excuse for it being 2006 and the state of mobile technology being that poor. But it was because the big players of the day didn’t embrace Stuff That’s Awesome. They were content to give you slight improvements on the same old shit, year after year, because there was nothing better out there.

Steve Jobs said, “Fuck that.”

He knew that things could be amazingly better than they were. He willed Apple to produce the iPhone, and boy did they deliver.

The iPhone was a revolution in every sense of the word. The hardware. The software. It was a whole new paradigm for what a cell phone could be.

Ashley got a new Samsung Galaxy SII a few weeks ago and it’s an incredible machine. Great graphics, big screen, cool Android interface. And you know what? It owes everything to the iPhone. If you think that Samsung would have produced something so cool in 2011 if the iPhone had never been invented then you’re kidding yourself.

Mobile technology is the next great frontier for computing and Steve Jobs single-handedly put it 10 to 15 years ahead of where it would have been simply by saying, “Fuck this. We can do better.” The rest of the industry had no choice but to step up their game, and we’ve all benefited as a result.

The iPad is a similar story. The tablet fad came and went in the early 2000s, but it took the iPad to look at the industry and turn it on it’s head. Now everyone is trying to put out a tablet that can compete with the iPad. And all because Steve Jobs looked at the state of things and decided that we could do better.

Technology has become so core to who we are now as a society that the loss of someone like Steve Jobs is a huge blow to all of us. Even if you ignore all of the work that Steve did with Apple, NeXT, and Pixar prior to the iPhone – which would be a huge disservice – and concentrate on the major advances he spurred in mobile technology in just 4 short years, just imagine what innovations he would have inspired had he lived another 30 or 40 years.

It really breaks my heart. It actually angers me. Here is a guy with such vision, such dedication, and such leadership; a guy who spawned a generation of developers, designers, innovators, fans, and friends; a guy who helped create the most important industry of the last 100 years out of his garage, and what does he get in return?

Cancer. Dead at 56. Thanks for playing.

It’s all just so unfair.

You can disagree and say that the iPhone and iPad aren’t the greatest things since sliced bread and haven’t helped lift society to greater heights. I get that there are more important things in the world than gadgets and that Jobs didn’t exactly bring us world peace by producing $500 mobile devices.

But you have to agree that Steve Jobs was a guy who was never happy with the status quo. We need more people like that in our world if we’re every going to get out of the messes we keep creating for ourselves. If all of us tried to stand up to Stuff that Sucks and champion Stuff That’s Awesome in our careers, our communities, our families, and our relationships – even for just a few moments a day – then the world would be a much better place.

RIP, Steve Jobs. May your contributions never be forgotten. May your convictions be an example to us all.

Dozen

A dozen eggs are tasty
But gone within a week

A dozen doughnuts sound nice
But really are too sweet.

A dozen roses dazzle
But beauty some day fades.

A dozen beers will bring me cheers
But bad headaches for days.

A dozen years with you, though?
Now that is more my speed.

Funny, sweet, my beautiful treat.
You’re everything I need.

A dozen months, a dozen times
With ups and downs, for sure.

What else could ever top it?
Lets do a dozen more!

So sorry, eggs and doughnuts.
Beer and roses, you don’t win.

My favorite dozen in the world
I’ve spent with my best friend.

My Ultimate Fantasy

Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy (Bad Boy Remix)” is one of the underrated gems of the 90s. It’s cropped up now and again on my iPod in the last few weeks, and I keep meaning to write it a little love letter, so here it is.

Note that my praise is not for the original version of “Fantasy” but specifically for the Bad Boy Remix, featuring the departed Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

(Please take a moment and pour some out for ODB. It’s cool. I’ll wait.)

This is one of the few songs where the remix is better than the original. Actually, Bad Boy did a few remixes during this time period that I consider better than the original, like Craig Mack’s “Flava in Your Ear.”

This version of “Fantasy” uses a genius sample of Tom Tom Club’s 1981 song “Genius of Love“, and the video features all of the things you’d want out of a classic 90′s video. Specifically..

  • Mariah in her prime.
  • ODB
  • ODB dressed up as a creepy clown
  • “I’m a little bit counnnntryyyyy, I’m a little bit rock ‘n’ rolllllll.” Need I say more?

What more could you ask for?

This video also rocks because Sean Combs actually restrained himself from putting himself in the video. Even though his voice features prominently in the audio, he had the good sense to stay invisible and let hot Mariah and the incomparable ODB do their thing.

It seems commonplace now, but this was one of the first songs – if not the first song – to seamlessly meld sultry, female R&B vocals with a hard-hitting male MC rap solo. Mariah and ODB paved the way for Christina/Redman, Beyonce/Jay-Z (in one of the best songs ever :) ), Rhianna/Eminem, and countless other R&B/rap duets for years to come.

If this song isn’t on your iPod now, it should be. You guys should go back like babies and pacifiers. Get it today.

Prelude

Nothing in life compares to the last few weeks before your first child is born.

It is a singular experience unlike any you will have in your whole life, and I’d never given it one thought until I started living it a week or so ago.

This experience, this in-between time, is truly unique. Big life changes like getting married or moving to a new place or taking a new job can certainly be momentous, but I don’t think they carry the same weight as knowing that you’ll soon be fully responsible for another human life. Other big changes, good or bad, like getting in a horrible accident or winning the lottery might be life-changing as well, but you don’t really get the time to sit and reflect on them before they happen like you do with a baby on the way.

And that’s what makes this time period so special. I know that everything in my life – everything that I feel, everything that I think about myself, everything that I perceive in the world around me – is about to be radically altered. But I just don’t know a.) when exactly it’s going to happen, and b.) just how radical the change will be.

All I do know is that every experience I have now is tinged with thoughts of how that experience will be different, very different, in a very short period of time.

Whether I’m walking down the hall at work, eating breakfast, driving around, or just getting out of bed in the morning, I’m keenly aware of a sense that something is changing in me. Only I can’t quite fully grasp it.

Intellectually, it’s not hard to connect the dots: we will have a newborn baby in our house in the next few weeks. She will require constant care and attention. She will require love and guidance for the rest of my days. My entire life is about to change. Everything I was before and everything I will be going forward, in some manner, will take a back seat to what I will be the moment she arrives: a father. I understand that… intellectually.

Emotionally, though, it’s a whole different ball game.

I used to be annoyed by people that said “You won’t understand until you have kids of your own.” I took it as a slight to my emotional intellect; that somehow I was unable to empathize with what it must be like to care for a child.

That all changed a week or so ago. That moment when you realize, “Oh shit! A few weeks from now, come hell or high water, there’s going to be a brand new living, breathing, person in my house that is dependent on my every decision to survive,” it changes you. It’s no longer an intellectual exercise. Shit is getting real. Real real.

And yet at the same time it can’t possibly be real until it actually happens. Until that moment when we’re back at the house and no one is around and she’s crying and Ashley and I are looking at each other like, “What do we do now?” I still won’t truly know what it feels like to be on my own with a living, breathing, new life.

And that’s the insane part about this time in my life: I know it’s going to be crazy different, but I also know I can’t really feel the full weight of how crazy the crazy will be until it happens. And that is it’s own crazy all by itself. Crazy, right?

It’s a surreal place to exist, and I’m making this post if for no other reason than to document this moment, this odd state of being that is like nothing I’ve experienced before, and like nothing I’ll experience again once she arrives.

Until then I’m stuck here in this strange no-man’s land, waiting it out. Stuck between my old life as I used to know it and a new life that will change me in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend.

And you know what? I couldn’t be more excited.

I have no illusions that this is going to be easy. I know there will be a ton of good times, but I know there will be a ton of hard times as well.

I also know that we’ll have the love and support of friends and family through all of those times, good or bad, to help guide us along the way.

It’s that love and support that sustains me now during this in-between time, and it’s that love and support that pumps me up for all that is yet to come.

Bring it on.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be…
- Robert Browning

In Which I Become a Tree-Hugger

I just found out today that my hometown is tearing down a bunch of the schools I attended as a kid and replacing them with brand new ones. This is a good thing… mostly.

My family donated a tree to my elementary school about 22 years ago as a thank you for the great experience we had there. As of right now it appears that tree isn’t part of the new plans for the school, and that bums me out. I just wrote the following email to the school’s current principal in hopes of saving the tree. We’ll see how it goes.

Hello, Mr Housh.

I am a 1993 graduate of Wayne High School and attended Valley Forge K-6 from 1980 to 1986. I’ve lived in North Carolina since 1993 but still maintain close ties with many of the friends I made in the Huber Heights school system.

Just today I discovered the wonderful news about all the new schools HHCS will be building over the next few years. I’m particularly excited to see the plans for Valley Forge on the HHCS website. They look amazing. After campaigning hard during my high school years alongside fellow students and teachers for various levies that never passed, I’m thrilled that the children of Huber Heights will soon have access to such state-of-the-art facilities.

I’m writing you because I have a personal interest in the sycamore tree that currently stands in front of Valley Forge, and I’m curious as to what will happen to it when the new construction begins. I’ve attached a picture of the tree in question.

My mother, father, sister and I donated and planted that tree in 1988 as a token of our appreciation to the Valley Forge faculty and staff for the great education my sister (Wayne ’95) and I received during our time there. Our Valley Forge experience was special to our whole family and we wanted to give the school a gift that represented the enduring impact it had on our lives.

When looking at the plans for the new school, it appears that the tree is potentially standing in what will become the front parking lot, and I’m concerned that it will not survive the construction process. It would be a terrible disappoint to me and my family if this were to happen.

I realize that you are likely not the person making decisions about the new construction. That said, I wanted to get in touch with you first because I know that you would understand how important community is to Valley Forge, why this tree means so much to my family, and why I hope it still means something to the school.

Would you help this message reach the right people within the school system so our concerns are heard? If there is any way to incorporate the tree into the new plans or somehow transplant it to a new location it would mean the world to us.

Thank you for your time and thank you for the work you and your staff do on behalf of our kids. It does not go unnoticed.

Kind Regards,
Jamie Gaines (’93)

Ladies Love Cool James

In the past 48 hours the following things have happened to me…

1.) The girl at the front desk at The Proximity hooked me up with a phat corner penthouse room for Ashley’s birthday without me even asking for anything special.

2.) Yesterday at the zoo the nice lady at the food court pizza counter gave me the biggest slice left in the pie even though she had to cut it out of the middle and there were like 7 other smaller slices she could have given me. Again, I didn’t ask for it. She just gave it to me.

3.) Later on at the zoo the Dippin’ Dots girl just gave me a free big tub of Cookies and Cream because I only had $3.00 cash on me and she didn’t want me to have to go to the other counter across the way so they could run my credit card. She just told me to take it and not worry about it.

4.) Finally, I went down to the hotel bar last night and ordered myself a Manhattan with some good-stuff whiskey that I knew would cost more than the regular kind. The cute female bartender only charged me for the regular kind, and when I protested she told me not to worry about it. After asking where I was from and why I was staying at the hotel, she then proceeded to tell me how sweet I was for treating my wife to a fun weekend for her birthday.

So at 34 maybe I’m not as thin as I used to be or as buff as I used to…. wait… I was never buff.

The point is that I’ve still got it. All I’m sayin’ is that if you ever need someone who can use his mack daddy charm to hold sway over a female hotel or zoo employee, just holla at your boy, mmmkay? I’ll get you that extra large slice of pepperoni before you can say “Dippin’ Dots”.

Now if I could just get Ashley a job at the zoo…..

Picking The Wrong Day To Die

Farrah Fawcett

What do John Ritter and Farrah Fawcett have in common? They are both famous people who not only tragically died before their time, but also had the misfortune of dying on days that people much more famous also died. Sucks for them.

John Ritter died the same day that Johnny Cash died, and by now we all know that Farrah has to share her posthumous news cycle with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Who do you think is going to get more coverage? Sorry, Farrah.

All four deaths are obviously terribly sad, but to me the deaths of Ritter and Fawcett seem a bit extra cruel because of when they happened. Let’s face it: people become celebrities because they want to be famous and talked about, and sadly there are few days in your life where you’re talked about as much as the one on which you die.

So even if you die unexpectedly of a heart attack, as Ritter did, or if you succumb to a long battle with cancer, as Farrah did, the one, small piece of comfort you might have as a famous person while you’re waiting your turn at the pearly gates is that, “Hey, at least they’re talking about me down there one last time.”

Well, they are unless you die a few hours before someone a million times more famous than you are. Judging by the three full pages of my Facebook account where every update is about MJ – not to mention the fact that MTV has apparently lost it’s mind and is playing…. wait for it…. actual Michael Jackson videos – I’m guessing we won’t be seeing as many “Charlie’s Angels” clips on CNN tonight as we might have been, and that’s too bad.

So here’s to you, Farrah. The mainstream media might be giving your short shrift over the next 24 hours, but hopefully you’ll take some small solace in knowing that the online powerhouse that is the blizzog is pouring a little out for you this evening. We loved you on “Charlie’s Angels” when we were a kid and hated to see things end for you the way they did.

We hope you’re in a better place tonight. And if you happen to run into MJ, ask him why he couldn’t have waited a few days. Thoughts and prayers to you both. RIP. :(

My Harris Teeter

Tonight after dinner AG and I stopped into Harris Teeter to pick up some carrots for Shorty, our guinea pig. I went in while Ashley waited in the car. Though this couldn’t sound more boring it turned out to be quite the event.

I was walking across the parking lot with another woman when we both heard the sound of a trumpet being played. We both stopped and turned around to find this little fat kid with a shopping cart in one hand and a trumpet in the other. He was taking the cart back to the little cart corral while playing quick warm-up scales at the same time.

He looked to be about 12 years old and my guess is that he’s getting ready for his first day of summer band tomorrow. As a big time former band nerd myself, I thought it was cool this little kid was so excited about his trumpeting that he was practicing every chance he could get. But at the same time, it was pretty funny too. After an awkward silence with the woman next to me, I said, “Well, you don’t see that every day,” and we both had a chuckle.

After scoring the carrots I came back to the car to find an animated AG waiting for me. As I got in the car she greeted me with a bemused look and said under her breath, “check out the guy in the van across from us without being obvious.”

Peering through my super stealth sunglasses, I saw a shorter Hispanic man in his 40s putting a case of Corona into the passenger seat of what looked like a utility van. After depositing the beer he shut the door and walked around to the driver’s side.

“I see him, ” I said. “What’s the big deal?”

“Just drive.”

So I took off and AG proceeds to tell me what happened after I left to go inside. Apparently this dude got to the van with his beer, set it by the back tire, staggered around for a minute, unzipped his pants, pulled his shirt up, walked to the back of the van – which was facing away from our car so AG couldn’t see – and opened the back van door.

Then she saw a trickle come from underneath the van that soon turned into a nice steady flow. This guy whipped it out and was pissing all over the Harris Teeter parking lot in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon.

“Do you believe that?”, she asked.

My reply? “Well, you don’t see that every day.”

We didn’t get our weekly Sunday grocery shopping trip done because of Father’s Day, so I’m doing that tomorrow night after work. I wasn’t really looking forward to it but now I’m kinda excited. There’s no telling what I’ll see.

The blizzog in Sarasota

I’m posting from the Southland Inn in beautiful Sarasota this morning while AG gets ready. On the agenda for today we have slots, blackjack, and otherwise hanging out with chain-smoking degenerate gamblers at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa. Good times.

We’re here for our friend Melanie’s wedding to longtime boyfriend Scott. They’re getting married on the beach in Anna Maria Island on Sunday and we’re really looking forward to it.

Last night’s journey down here from Greensboro was pretty uneventful save the normal AG “fly scares the ever-loving crap out of me” shenanigans. The flight from GSO to the ATL was pretty bumpy due to some storms and apparently the Xanax AG has to take to fly wasn’t up to the task, as she was pretty shaken up by the time we got there.

So what better way to prepare for the next flight from the ATL on to Sarasota than to hit the On the Border bar in the airport? We sidled up to the bar and ordered two margaritas. I think the bartender must’ve liked us, because the margs were a.) stout, and b.) enormous. Of course, it could also be that they were $9.50 apiece and they basically had to actually give you some alcohol for all that money.

At the bar we ended up sitting by a really nice older guy and his daughter who were flying back home to Sarasota after visiting family in Akron, Ohio. I told him I was from Dayton and he told me he was born in West Carrollton and had lived in Dayton most of his life. Small world. We had a good time with them and then got on the plane.

Turns out that giant airport margaritas are better than Xanax for settling AG down for a flight, especially when you follow that with some Sutter Home chardonnay on the flight itself. :) The flight seemed to go by in no time for AG. How do I know that? She told me about 30 times between the time we took off and the time we landed, that’s how. :)

I’d originally reserved a car for us with Hertz but when we got off the plane and to the line it was crazy long and only had one guy working there. This was like 11 PM. After waiting for 20 minutes and getting nowhere, I decided to punt and see what else I could hook up. There was no one in line at the Avis desk so I got the dude there to hook me up with our fresh Hyundai Accent and we were out.

The Southland Inn isn’t that far from the airport but we – and by “we” I mean Ashley – were starving, so we tooled around a bit for a place to eat. We ended up finding a Subway of all places. I didn’t know Subway stayed open until midnight.

So who eats at a Subway near the Sarasota airport at midnight on a Thursday? Hookers, it turns out. We were in line behind two ladies who, um… well let’s just say that they probably weren’t getting their first $5 foot long of the night if you know what I’m saying.

With grubbage in hand, we got to our room at the Southland, which is really nice. As we chowed down and browsed the local TV lineup, we discovered that peeps down here like The Golden Girls… A LOT. I think there’s a Golden Girls channel even. I guess Sarasota TV is just catering to its older demographic. Watching TV down here is like watching the commercials during the Price is Right 24/7.

Okay, I’ll shut up for now. This hasn’t been the most interesting post, but I’m trying to get back in the swing of a little blizzog posting. More later as our adventures continue.

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