Friday, October 1, 2021

"Capital Gaines" by Chip Gaines--Nonfiction Review

Today Obscurists, we’re fixing to read a book by one of the—Ok, I just realized how corny this sentence is now, and I’m going to abort. Today we’re talking about “Capital Gaines” by Chip Gaines.

Chip Gaines

What I love about this book:

This is the second book I’ve read written by Chip Gaines, the first being “The Magnolia Story,” which he wrote with his wife, Joanna. What surprises me—and continuously surprises me about these books and the Gaines family themselves is how much I genuinely enjoy them. Chip and Joanna’s main claim to fame is their show “Fixer Upper,” which typically isn’t the sort of show that should work for me. I loathe home repair or renovation—really anything that requires me to pick up a hammer or use a drill or saw. But I love their show which is all about exactly that.

What won me over about the show is that the two of them are incredibly charming people, and their dynamic together is sweet to watch. It’s really them as people that got me to love their show, and that’s what this book and the previous book are really about. While “The Magnolia Story” focused more on their early years as a family and business people who eventually got a show showcasing their talents flipping houses, “Capital Gaines” is more about Chip’s early story.

When he talks about his childhood and his baseball dreams, that story resonated with me because it wonderfully encapsulates that sometimes life just doesn’t go the way you thought. It doesn’t mean the pursuit was a waste of time—just an early, if painful, step that led to his next thing in life. It led him to become an entrepreneur where a lot of skills of perseverance and practice translated. There were some pitfalls—like his doomed trip to Mexico—but ultimately, he made it work with the woman who would become his wife, and they formed a family with an incredibly successful business. There’s no way you can argue that it all hasn’t turned out incredibly well.

What I don’t love about this book:

This book isn’t so different from “The Magnolia Story” that it couldn’t have all been combined into one longer book. The focus I get is more on Chip’s journey through life, but a big part of that life is Joanna, so it isn’t like she isn’t featured—a lot—which is good. Don’t get me wrong, I like her just as much as Chip. What I’m getting at is that when I moved on to this book after reading that first one, I felt like I was reading the same book. Part of this is unavoidable—reading a memoir written by the same person, of course, both sound the same because they’re written by the same person.

Chip puts himself into many physically perilous situations for little to no reason other than to see if he can pull something off or for a bet. Maybe it’s my inherent cautious nature, but often I find myself thinking—buddy, what are you doing? This goes for the show and the book, by the way. I’ve seen him eat a cockroach for fifty bucks. Champ, you’re a millionaire—and cockroaches’ exoskeletons can be home to fun things like Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus, which could present as strep throat or necrotizing fasciitis, aka FLESH EATING BACTERIA. One would think that after surviving bashing his face into the ground from an ATV accident would lead to a more sober, cautious appraisal on mortality and the chances of bodily harm, but I guess not.

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Parting thoughts:

There is something compelling about watching someone incredibly good at something be incredibly good at that thing. While it’s true that I personally am not particularly handy at any activity that requires me to use my anemic skills in that regard, I can appreciate results. Some of the things Chip and Joanna have pulled off are beyond impressive. Aesthetically they can create some beautiful homes, and there is an artistry to that which demands respect.

Coincidentally, I spent a lot of my time listening to this book while installing a self-adhering vinyl floor in a basement—and I hated every single moment of the exercise. I kept thinking to myself, I bet Chip could have done this in an afternoon while snapping yet another piece by accident. But even I have to admit after finally finishing the main room with it, that it did indeed look good. So I can understand why some people like this kind of work with their hands sort of life. Even if it would drive me insane.

This leads me to my concluding thought, and really just another thing that I loved about this book—I know I already did that section, but the balance must be observed. There is a section of this book where Chip talks about digging a hypothetical ditch with a stranger who is very different from himself. It’s my favorite part of the book because he imagines not agreeing with everything this stranger has to say or even completely understanding their worldview. Yet, they share a meal together and depart as friends. There is power in that because of the empathy it shows. I’ve said before in earlier posts that intelligence, while I value it greatly, isn’t the primary thing utilized to build the modern world. We are cohered into massive societies with numbers of people beyond what we can numerically understand because of a leap forward in empathy.

Hatred is incapable of building anything. It only tears down.

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