The Spring Birthday 2021 Trip, Part 8 of 8: Mondo Muncie Miscellany

peach crisp, Neely House.

A shared dessert of peach crisp at the Neely House in Muncie. Mmmm, sugar.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. Last year my birthday trip was among the billions of traditions ruined by the pandemic, all of which paled in significance to the millions of lives lost (and still counting). This year is a different story. Anne and I have each received our pairs of Pfizer shots and reached full efficacy as of April 24th. This past Friday and Saturday the two of us drove out of Indianapolis and found a few places to visit in our eminently imitable road-trip fashion…

…with which we were nearly done and largely satisfied by the time we left the grounds of Minnetrista. Before we left town, we needed food and more art. Muncie offers a cornucopia of both.

For brunch (I feel so fancy typing that) we hit up a relatively young establishment called the Neely House. Dating back to 1852, the house is named after one Thomas Neely (1811-1901), at various times a grocer, blacksmith, portrait photographer, and local board member who kept meticulous journals for the last 41 years of his life regarding his home improvements and his to-do list. Decades of decrepitude ensued after his death until the place was bought, extensively renovated, and opened in the fall of 2018 as a Victorian-minded restaurant. The menu focuses on New American cuisine and utilizes a wealth of fresh ingredients drawn from their very own gardens and orchard outside, recreated from Neely’s notes and vintage media references from the era.

I felt a tad underdressed for the occasion, but they didn’t turn us away and didn’t require reservations. It’s been our experience over the past fifteen months that in places where everyone wears masks, fashion formalities are among the many artifices on a downswing. Our meals, by contrast, were entirely onward and upward.

Neely House restaurant.

The House in question and its exterior props.

Crab and Bacon Strata at Neely House

For me, the Crab and Bacon Strata topped with Hollandaise and a poached egg, served with home fries.

lobster Benedict at Neely House.

For Anne, the lobster Benedict on a biscuit with prosciutto.

Neely House interior.

A glimpse of the interior decor. Note the COVID-era “one way only” arrow, a popular temporary feature in many a business.

vintage painting.

Sample artwork. I think this one’s called “Pawnee City Council, Day One”.

I hoped to do a bit of birthday shopping before we headed home. Sadly the cool indie record shop I found on our last visit closed in 2019. The comic shop I visited last time — one of that trip’s highlights, a bright and welcoming community space complete with furniture and a happy doggie — has since changed name, ownership, and location. If I hadn’t kept tabs on them through the comics press, I never would’ve known because precious little resemblance carried over.

Aw Yeah Comics in Muncie, Indiana.

The erstwhile Alter Ego Comics became Aw Yeah Comics, with sister stores in Illinois and New York. Now with 300% more Baby Yoda.

The week’s new comics are up front in the small foyer. All the other recent-comics shelves are in a narrow hallway that is basically the main body of the shop. And I mean narrow. A sign out front cautioned that a maximum of five customers were allowed inside at one time because COVID, but I’m not sure how they would’ve fit more than that in the Before Times without asking everyone to sign waivers suspending their personal space. A couple of cluttered side rooms contained more merchandise that I’ll confess I didn’t check out. I’ve been in smaller comic shops (Martinsville once had a shop smaller than our kitchen that carried only TCGs, X-Men, DC crossovers, and The Walking Dead) and I’m not claustrophobic, but tiny-house confines make me self-conscious about the space my bulk takes up and about what I’d have to do with all of it if, say, a third customer had walked in.

I had all the time in the world and yet did not feel comfortable indulging it. I grabbed a couple of random items (including the first issue of The Good Asian, a quality period drama that now has my full attention), paid, and paused to praise my favorite part of the shop: the clerk’s Colin Robinson mug. Fans of What We Do in the Shadows are rarely around when I need them. Bonus points awarded.

David Bowie Poster.

Second-best prop on hand: a David Bowie poster encouraging kids to read and to visit their local library. And maybe also their local comic shop.

Outside the shop was more space, more air, and best of all, superhero fire hydrants.

Wonder Woman fire hydrant!

Wonder Woman: the fire hydrant!

Spider-Man fire hydrant!

Spider-Man: the fire hydrant! But his paint could use a touch-up.

Cyclops fire hydrant!

This is not a Cyclops fire hydrants but is in fact Tye Sheridan himself recreating his performance note-for-note from the last two X-Men films.

More art surrounded us as we wandered around town and headed home at last. With several last glimpses of creativity and roadside flair, the birthday weekend was at its satisfying conclusion.

Orlando Pulse Nightclub tribute

Across the street from the shop is a mural on the side of the Mark III Tap Room. The work of We’re Trying Collective, it was their response and tribute in the wake of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub murders.

Sheet Metal Man!

Farther down the road is the Sheet Metal Man, an oversize mascot for a metal fabricating plant.

Paul Bunyan, roadside man!

Not far from him is a 25-foot Paul Bunyan, one of the classics of roadside Americana.

Giant rose!

Other large knickknacks include the big rose outside Paul’s Flower Shop, probably no relation to Mr. Bunyan.

McDonalds old-fashioned sign!

Also big and old: an old-school McDonald’s sign. Immediately after I snapped this, the sports car reversed and sped off, either daunted by the backed-up drive-thru or scared that we might rat them out to their snooty rich friends.

underwater electrical box!

An electrical box painted with underwater scenery. In reality, water and electricity are mortal enemies. In art, together they typify The Duality of Man.

Stay Weird Muncie! light box.


The End. Thanks for reading! Lord willing, see you next birthday.

Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 1: The Animal Refugees
Part 2: Muscatatuck Everlasting
Part 3: Had Myself a Ball in a Small Town
Part 4: Donut Turn Your Back on Family
Part 5: Maximum Bob Ross
Part 6: Tangents from the Joy of Painting
Part 7: Nature and Other Valuables

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