The Least August of All Augusts

Wizard World Chicago 2020!

The formerly real Wizard World Chicago 2020 guest list, still happening this weekend in a much brighter timeline.

August has never been my favorite month under ordinary circumstances. Comics creator Evan Dorkin recently and accurately captured the essence in describing every August as “31 hot Sundays in a row”. Perfect description.

August has no major holidays and no whimsical minor holidays apart from fake internet ones. (I once created my own party-a-day August calendar, but no one supported this ambitious and deeply time-wasting endeavor.) Nearly all our local schools reopen, which means more traffic clogging up my daily commute. Temperatures soar to unpleasant levels. TV networks continue airing dross until the fall season’s starter pistol is fired. Movie studios run out of highly excitedly anticipated blockbusters and fill out their slates with second-tier products that should’ve gone straight to home video. Augusts would be a total waste of calendar space if not for the events humankind created to pass the time until September at least does us the kindness of bringing our next federally sanctioned three-day weekend.

Leave it to 2020, which is less like a year and more like a nonstop acid-rain thunderstorm over a minefield cursed by a cackling witches’ coven, to lay waste to any and all potential August plans and make the worst month even worst-er.

Exhibit A: this very weekend was supposed to be Wizard World Chicago 2020. At the end of February the showrunners announced their initial guest list with the above image. As someone who’s been collecting autographs of Buffy/Angel cast members for years, I was tickled pink to see unattainable unicorns Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof (a married unicorn couple, at that) agreeing to come out to the Midwest from their California home. Anne’s excitement level went stratospheric at the possibility of meeting Kate Mulgrew, the only major starship captain from the first five Star Trek series she’s never met, who previously canceled on us at the last second for Wizard World Chicago 2016. We’ve met a few of those other folks up there (James Marsters, Robin Lord Taylor, the always awesome Phil Lamarr — and twice for him, even!) but it also might’ve been cool to meet Patrick Warburton, star of The Tick and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

And this was just the first wave of guest announcements. More would’ve been in store. Granted, half the guests would’ve canceled a month before showtime anyway, as has been de rigueur for Wizard World shows the past few years, but hypothetically that would’ve left the other half of a great guest list. We had high hopes it could’ve been our best con of 2020. Oh, the jazz-hands photo-ops we could’ve added to our grand jazz-hands gallery.

Alas, thanks to The Virus, WWC 2020 weekend has been vaporized. We can cherish the memories of conventions past and try not to whine about how our last comic-con was nine months ago. Or I can just whine anyway. It’s my three-day weekend and I’ll whine if I want to.

Academic Letter!

A souvenir from my high school scrapbooks. My school awarded felt letters even to non-athletes, though without a school jacket it didn’t mean much to me.

Last weekend was supposed to be my thirtieth high school reunion. Our school’s Class of 1990 was 760 students (before subtracting dropouts), of whom many hundreds were strangers to my bookish, introverted self. A few of those strangers were spearheading the effort for one last get-together before we all turn 50 and start dying off in greater numbers. There was a slight chance some of the folks I knew way back when (including my own sister-in-law) would have been there, maybe even one or two fellow members of my extremely narrow clique, Non-Upper-Class Above-Average-Smart Well-Behaved Class Clowns.

A save-the-date announcement had been posted in the relevant Facebook group a full year ahead of time. Several months later came The Virus to laugh at that tentative notion and potentially sabotage any and all gatherings of more than two people. Despite the infection rate and the death toll, neither of which is remotely near zero as of this writing, one (1) classmate with professional party-planning experience had taken it upon herself to search for a place that might safely host at least dozens of folks, or at least claim to. Late last spring she brought her proposal to the group — a night at a party-venue chain called Topgolf, which offers alcohol, food, golfing exercises, and maybe some happy fun non-golf activities. I wouldn’t know. They lost me at “golf”. They double-lost me at what would’ve been a $60 reunion admission fee. They triple-lost me at “during an as-yet-uncontrolled pandemic”.

Apparently I wasn’t alone. The would-be party planner announced the fee and the payment deadline well in advance. The deadline arrived and passed. A week after deadline, she reported not a single person had sent her a dime. Not a single person had even apologetically asked if they could send her some late dimes. She lashed out at those who criticized her — not for attempting to assemble a potentially deadly crowd, but for the price and place selected. As if we’d had hundreds of venues at our disposal. We objectively, totally didn’t. It’s nice that she tried, which is more than anyone else in our class can say.

It’s just as well. The last reunion I attended was in 1995, which I spent hanging out with one other guy and watching from afar while the cliques we never fit into had fun catching up on how awesomely college had gone for them. By then I’d already dropped out twice. I didn’t bring much reason for anyone to want to catch up with me. I opted out of all subsequent reunions, though my sister-in-law graciously shared some dancing videos from a later one.

But, y’know, it would’ve been nice at least to have been mildly tempted to show up for our thirtieth.

State Fair 2010 carved pumpkin!

A carved pumpkin from our experience at the 2010 Indiana State Fair, That predated MCC, which didn’t begin 2012, but someday I’ll have to add that gallery here.

I’ve already complained previously about the cancellation of this year’s Indiana State Fair. Pardon me while I renew my disappointment. This weekend would’ve been the State Fair’s grand finale, with one last round of artistic fatty foods and a musical performance either by some once-popular has-been or by some up-and-coming country singer. Neither of those ever go out of style in Indiana. Anne and I had planned to attend August 11th and take advantage of their annual $2-Tuesday food specials. With The Virus ruining everything (including a laughably mortifying attempt by officials to hold just the State Fair’s carnival-ride portion, which was likewise wisely aborted), we canceled our vacation day and worked instead.

I thought that would be the end of that chapter, but for the last two weeks all the Facebook Memories popping up in my feed have been reruns of our State Fair experiences. Over and over again, Facebook keeps showing me those past photos of Anne and me posing in front of green screens at the Glass Barn, of weird artifacts I found at their exhibit halls, or of me holding increasingly caloric contraptions made of meats and sugars. Facebook really, really, really wants me to know that once upon a time we left the house to experience sheer delights in our otherwise interminable Augusts.

I do try to look for silver linings among all these COVID-19 clouds. It was cool to have the free time over these past few months to plow through all 76 episodes of Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot (plus the original miniseries and Razor). Now I don’t have to worry about spoilers anymore and I can check out old debates among those who unlike me hated its controversial finale.

But then while I’m in front of the TV, I glance at the ever-expanding queues in my streaming-service subscriptions and remember how much we miss going out to the cinema, too. I’ve received marketing emails this week from AMC, Regal Cinemas, Fandango, Atom Tickets, and Gofobo all trying to lure me out into the open with promises of reopened theaters and opportunities to pay to rewatch old films I’ve already seen or bought, or alternatively catch a crappy new Russell Crowe flick and The Virus, in that order.

The shut-in lifestyle is not my favorite, but “death by leisure activity” is my least favorite deathstyle. And heck if I’m gonna have that cursed word “August” carved into my tombstone end-date.

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