Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the eighth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This virtual cubicle was slapped together on April 28, 2012, as a place where I could entertain myself by making essay-shaped things out of whatever words and pictures I had at hand, as opposed to surfing social media and hoping all those wandering strangers might make for sufficiently provocative brain engagement. Often it’s been a fulfilling platform to share galleries, memories, Grandpa Simpson-style rambling jags, and peculiar opinions that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. At other times it’s been less satisfying, but I keep whiling away at one of my most time-consuming hobbies anyway. When my head is in the right space, I still enjoy the process in and of itself. Often I still enjoy the results. On rarer occasions, I’m also privileged and honored to enjoy any and every external response received from outside my own head.
Longtime MCC readers may recognize the above-pictured tree has graced this site before. I try not to post the exact same images or words to mark every single Christmastime, but other sites do it, so why injure myself trying to uphold a standard that doesn’t bug anyone except me. Besides, I think I deserve at least a tiny moment of coasting — I officially finished my Christmas shopping three days ago and have yet to receive a single pat on the head for it. So this quick “Merry Christmas” post is my own personal “TREAT YO’SELF” reward.
I mean the sentiment nonetheless, though: Merry Christmas to you ‘n’ yours from us here at Midlife Crisis Crossover, High-Spirited Holidays, Vivacious Vacation, Divine December, and/or congratulations on reaching the light at the end of the 2019 tunnel. May your day be merry and bright, your celebrations invigorating, your downtime rewarding, and your internet circles calm and peaceful and filled with joyous content besides premature Best of 2019 listicles.
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.
Last year we traveled through Ohio, northern upstate New York, and Pennsylvania as a grand tour of Presidential burial sites. To cover as much ground as possible we stayed in a different city every night. The sights were many and fascinating, but being on the move nonstop was increasingly grueling and left us drained by the end of the tour. This year’s approach will therefore be rather opposite and in its own way commemorative.
2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of our favorite annual tradition. It all began in 1999 with our very first Wizard World Chicago. As newcomers to the concept of road trips, it was a big accomplishment for us. Apropos of our history, in 2019 we’ll be honoring the occasion by combining two of our favorite shared pastimes: vacation and convention.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I wrote at length about a six-part miniseries that my wife and I watched on Crackle called The Final Tsars, in which I couldn’t be bothered to open an extra browser tab and verify the full name of the ruler at the heart of the story. The next morning, our first conversation after “Good morning” was a firm reminder that his official stage name was, in fact, “Czar Nicholas II”. MCC regrets the oversight and is sorry if any Russian historians were offended, but we don’t feel like editing the affected entry because it would undermine one of its underlying points and two of its jokes.
It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.
Sometimes on these annual entries I’ll use a photo from our recent road trip, but this year’s edition of that much-needed break from the rat race won’t be till the end of August. The wait is killing us, as is Father Time, which is another reason I went retro and dug into our personal archives for a younger photo of the two of us. This week some 150 million FaceApp users are out there having all their selfies converted to elderly “Have You Seen This Nursing Home Escapee?” mug shots and letting overseas marketers data-mine them into so much digital chattel, while I’m here swimming upstream toward youthful times. But, y’know, for love.
1. A Long-expected Party.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my annual comic book reviews included a promise of a future entry inspired by Die, the new Image Comics series by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans that I encapsulated like so:
What if you took the structure of Stephen King’s It, but instead of fighting a murderous super-clown, the kids and adults in their respective eras were reliving the ’80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon as a horror story, and the Big Bad was Tom Hanks from Mazes and Monsters turned into a truly mystical, manipulative interdimensional overlord?
Painted art by Stephanie Hans is like a high-end gallery showing on every page, while writer Kieron Gillen is engaging in ambitious, phenomenally detailed world-building, worrisome in its six-digit word count and rising. He’s exploring fantasy tropes and toying with them from within, but he’s also designed an entire RPG from the ground up to facilitate his vision, one that’s dredging up so many childhood memories for me — some I would dare label “definitive” in regard to my personal backstory — that I’ll need to devote a separate entry to this series in the near future. I have a lot of baggage to unpack here, and I blame Gillen for wheeling the baggage cart right up next to me.
I had the pleasure of meeting painter Stephanie Hans at this year’s C2E2, where I gave her the elevator-pitch version of this entry and she encouraged me to share it. I got a kick out of meeting Kieron Gillen at C2E2 2013, where we briefly chatted about his Britpop-magic fantasy Phonogram and he asked me which character I identified with most. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to it and was ashamed to have no answer, either prepared or improvised. I’m not used to pros at a con asking me a question beyond “Where are you from?”
(Having had time to think later, my answer came to me, obvious if twofold. As a young adult from 1989 to 2000 I imagined myself Seth Bingo, self-anointed tastemaker and DJ, bringing my boom-box and tapes/CDs to entertain at work after-hours — no requests allowed, sharing my collection with peers who just didn’t get me or my nightly playlist. For my life 2000-present I’ve been closer to Lloyd, engaging with music intellectually via long thinkpieces written only for the audiences in my head, but rarely physically and never socially, thus arguably denying its greatest powers. If only I could’ve written all that on an index card before approaching Gillen’s table. Or narrowed my answer down to just one of those two alienating dudes.)
The farther I’ve read into Die, the more I’ve found myself reflecting on my own experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, an integral part of my preteen years. It was a compelling confluence of entertainment and imagination. It was a big hit with the other kids who joined in. It also ushered in the end of my circle of childhood friends.
At times blogging can be like State Fair food science.