How We Spent Our Thanksgiving 2020 Pandemic Weekend

Large serving plate of thick-sliced roasted turkey.

Turkey! Because not all traditions needed to be suspended this year.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 2020 is still running rampant and no one’s offered us free COVID-19 vaccines yet.

Despite the best attempts of many to pretend everything was fine and normal and safe, Anne and I refused to let our guard down and declined an offer to have a large dinner with far too many relatives. That doesn’t mean we spent all four days sulking and doom-scrolling in our PJs. Just a little of it.

1. Simply Thanksgiving.

Anne graciously cooked Thanksgiving lunch featuring a pair of Butterball boneless turkey roasts, a variety of side dishes, and three pies, because providing far too many pies was something her Mamaw used to do every holiday. We invited my mom, who lives as a shut-in and only leaves the house to fetch groceries, keep doctors’ appointments, and do her laundry at our place every other week. In our estimation she’s a low health-security risk, and even tested negative once a while back.

Baked sweet potatoes topped with vegan marshmallows, no noticeable difference.

Food was impeccable, albeit with one deviation: Anne tried baking sweet potatoes for the first time and didn’t realize she’d bought vanilla-flavored vegan marshmallows made from tapioca and soy. They browned well and didn’t taste bad, but they weren’t quite marshmallows and stuck ferociously to the casserole dish.

For pre-show entertainment we watched a few minutes of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, still the greatest spectacle in holiday lip-syncing despite the ghost-town streets echoing behind the presenters. We don’t normally watch much of it, but we had to see for ourselves.

After lunch for Mom, a big horror fan, I cued up Leigh Whannell’s Invisible Man, one of the best films I saw in theaters in 2020. I only saw four, but seven months later it remains very near the top spot. It held up strongly on a second showing, even knowing the surprises in store. One new shock this time: I realized to my shame I’ve been misspelling Elisabeth Moss’ name for years, including in three past MCC entries (now corrected).

For Anne’s side of the family, we had a half-hour Zoom chat that evening before Jeopardy! As I type this on Sunday evening they’ve just now crossed the three-hour mark on a follow-up confab. They’ve officially touched base and then some.

2. Bare-bones Black Friday.

My entire Black Friday shopping list was as follows:

1. Comics
2. Pants

End of Black Friday shopping experience.

Anne ordered #2 for me online, so technically I didn’t even have to wear pants while pants were being bought for me. I did have to wear pants for a quick jaunt to my local comic shop, which was holding a 30%-off sale on everything in the store. I picked up two hardcovers that were just released this past Wednesday, chatted with a most gracious clerk I hadn’t met before, and fled back home. Only two other customers showed up during my three minutes there. Everyone was masked, and the other two buyers were stand-offish. Health security risk: low.

Anne shopped online well beyond that but refuses to divulge details to me because Christmas secrecy remains a sacred tradition even in 2020.

3. Small Business Saturday.

Anne and I hopped in the car and ventured forth to throw money at select Indianapolis businesses, each of us wearing Christmas masks made by loving relatives and doing our best to avoid contamination, both giving and receiving.

Taylor's Bakery in Indianapolis.

Breakfast was at Taylor’s Bakery up on 62nd and Binford Boulevard. Family owned and feeding lovers of pastries and cakes continuously since 1913.

Taylor's display!

Sample display case.

Taylor's Bakery cheese danish alligator.

The shop is too small for dining tables, so we ate from bags in the car. My favorite was this cheese danish alligator.

caramel apple cinnamon roll!

Also highly commendable was this caramel apple cinnamon roll. I would’ve picked out more for later, but more customers stepped in behind us and threatened to become an uncomfortable crowd, so I cut myself short.

Taste of Indiana Hoosier merchandise shop.

Three minutes due east, A Taste of Indiana sells Hoosier souvenirs for tourists as well as foods made by local businesses — sauces, jellies, candies, and so on.

Our main reason for hitting A Taste of Indiana was to stock up on our favorite barbecue sauces from Master’s Hand BBQ. Used to be, we’d pick up bottles as we came across them at the Indiana State Fair, the Indiana Flower & Patio Show, and the Fantastic Food Fest (which had actually been suspended well before the pandemic arrived). As you can imagine, we’ve had zero such opportunities this year and therefore had to arrange this very special field trip from our side of town.

They also carried edibles from the South Bend Chocolate Factory, St. Elmo Steak House, and other culinary visionaries we’ve formerly visited in person. We confined our browsing to the front of the store while in the back, numerous masked employees formed an assembly line to create gift baskets ordered online from all around.

Saraga Inernational Grocery in Indianapolis.

Next stop: Saraga International Grocery, a west-side supermarket selling goods across multiple ethnicities and borders in various formats since 1992. Not long ago they expanded to another location up north.

Asian snack foods.

Targets acquired: stocking stuffers for a certain household member who loves Asian snacks.

Kids fruit drinks with famous trademarked character heads on top.

Targets not acquired: character knockoff drinks, a bit like Funko Pops minus the licensing approvals.

By and large, other customers steered clear of us, and vice versa. That was typical behavior even pre-pandemic, as the surrounding neighborhoods have seen better days, mostly in decades long ago. Two exceptions occurred when, as I opened the trunk to put in our bags, a pair of kindly Asian women approached and asked about the state of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We smiled as we affirmed our shared beliefs and exchanged verbal high-fives from hopefully enough feet away.

Karma Records in Indianapolis.

A few miles west of Saraga is Karma Records, purveyors of music and smoke-related paraphernalia in varying levels of permissibility since 1970.

Karma Records is the only true record shop within ten miles of our house. They used to be bigger and more varied back in the day, but relocated to much smaller strip-mall digs a good while back. Today 98% of their current stock is outside my favorite genres, so I have to wait 2-3 years between visits to give them time to accumulate a few things I want. In addition to grabbing a pair of 2020 releases, I was elated and annoyed to learn nobody had bothered to notify me the Violent Femmes released a new album in 2019. I hate being the last to know these things.

The only other humans present were the friendly clerk and a gentleman inserting vinyl LPs into plastic sleeves. Health security risk: low, doubled down on our part as we stayed away from the smokey things and smoking accessories.

Chicago Fish and Chicken in Indianapolis.

Our dinner was a giant takeout order from Chicago Fish and Chicken on Indy’s west side. Fried, fried, and more fried, all of it awesome.

4. Movie marathon.

A few times per year, our cable TV provider offers free samples of select premium channels outside our normal subscriptions. We subscribe to exactly none of them and take advantage of the gesture whenever we can. I spent much of Saturday and Sunday dividing my attention between multiple distractions, but on Thursday and Friday I made time for seven films (not counting Invisible Man), ranked from Best Provocateur to Biggest Strikeout:

  1. Contagion – Efficient, expedient, tense as all-get-out, and eerily prescient. Hopefully they’re wrong about riots and home invasions occurring when it comes time for society to decide who gets those sweet magical vaccines first.
  2. First Cow – Tiny indie film with the misfortune to hit the arthouse circuit March 6, 2020. Bad timing for an engrossing naturalistic historical dairy heist flick.
  3. Showbiz Kids – Alex Winter’s HBO documentary about child stars and the Hollywood system that chews them up and vomits them out, from Baby Peggy to a Disney Channel star who died not long after his interview for this.
  4. Bloodshot – Surprisingly entertaining B-movie. When your star is like a guitarist who only knows one chord, the trick is to surround him with a decent band. The visual effects at least reach a Doctor Who level of fun cutscene adequacy, evil scientist Guy Pearce learns from his Iron Man 3 mistakes, and props to The Black Guy from New Girl for strapping Act Three into a backpack and hefting it all across the finish line like Sam toting Frodo to Mount Doom.
  5. Zombieland: Double Tap – First one was better. This needed way more zombies and a lot less of the aimless free-love commune. Triple bonus points for the scenes during and after the end credits, in which prequel flashbacks deliver the amazing sight of a pre-murdered Bill Murray killing zombies and enduring a Garfield 3 press junket in which fawning journalists beg him to make hairball-hacking noises.
  6. Hell Fest – The scenes of young adults being murdered in pecking order by a silent psycho — sometimes stylishly, sometimes not — didn’t do much for me, but the sets and props all around the titular Halloween amusement park are so lovingly crafted and neon-lit that I wish this had been simply a two-hour Richard Linklater film of the same cast going through the same park rides but just soliloquizing and debating about fear, death, childhood Halloween memories, commoditization of same or whatever. No bloodletting, just Adventureland but at night.
  7. 21 Bridges – The late Chadwick Boseman gave his all to a formulaic cop thriller whose premise was irrelevant and whose crooked-cops “twist” was visible from streets ahead. I’ve had a thing in mind to write ever since his unexpected and unfair passing, but this didn’t help.

5. Family Game Night.

Saturday ended with our monthly mini-marathon of card games and board games. Among the goals accomplished, we finished off the last unused questions in a movie trivia game written under bizarre standards, with demands ranging in toughness from “What was Will Ferrell’s occupation in Anchorman?” (yes, really) to “What was the name of the goat that played Black Phillip in The Witch?” (If only we had read the right interviews.) A round of the London edition of Ticket to Ride reminded us how little we know of the city’s geography, which we’d know better if British films showed us more maps. And we brought out Pandemic for the first time since March and took enormous pride in defeating four viruses mere minutes apart.

Sorry Madagascar playing pieces.

We ended on Sorry Madagascar, which we’ve shared before. My winning team left to right: Ben Stiller, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Rock, and David Schwimmer, who was last to reach Home.

6. Sunday recovery time.

A typical Sunday for us: online church, naps, Zoom family chat, Skyrim, and catching up on my typing here, plus a break to fetch the Christmas decorations from the attic. Meanwhile, loved ones are already lining up at our inboxes with new event invitations, good intentions and poor decisions linked hand-in-hand.

In the meantime…let the Christmas season officially begin! And hopefully end with us still alive and joyous, in that order!

4 responses

    • (P.S. I, of course, share your expressed hopes for you both to make it to the end of the Christmas season alive and joyously!)

      (P.P.S. I gotta assume that if you care about the difference between an ‘s’ and a ‘z’ in Elisabeth Moss’ name then the absence of a comma between ‘sauces’ and ‘jellies’ in the caption for the 7th photograph in this particular Midlife Crisis Crossover! entry is something you’d want to be made aware of! I just gotta!)


      • I appreciate both your wishes for happiness and safety and perpetuated life, but on a deeper level I appreciate your forthrightness in catching the omitted punctuation. Few commenters show this level of commitment and caring candor, which I especially value now that I’m old and I have to concentrate more deeply while proofreading, which I hate to do. The missing comma has now been added to its necessary position, and the voice in my head that was responsible for this oversight has been sacked.

        (P.S.: Please also forgive the lateness of my reply. Distractions both internal and external have plagued me this week, one of them involving a cloud of bleach. Long story.)


        • You’re welcome, of course. And, naturally, I forgive you completely and without reservation of any kind for the ‘lateness’ of your reply! Think nothing of it. In fact, there’s no need to reply to THIS message at all. You can feel free to give me the last word on the subject if you’re so inclined!

          In any case, I look forward to reading a long story about a bleach cloud in a future Midlife Crisis Crossover! entry. Or, indeed, whatsoever the particular topic of any and all upcoming entries may be!


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