5 Months’ Growth, 3 Months’ Retreat

June 2020.

Adrift in an off-white limbo. Hair by slapdash fiat. Old Hawaiian shirt by, I dunno, probably Kohl’s or J.C. Penney.

June 25th marked five months since my last haircut. Some people wait that long on purpose. When your naturally curly hair is a curse, that’s not usually your Plan A. But sometimes your plans need a change in ranking.

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Forfending a Fearful Phase with a Fleeting Flashback to a Forgotten Fair Photo

Indiana State Fair 2017 Jazz Hands!

Photo by one of Anne’s old schoolmates.

Whenever you’re having the sort of week that might be more endurable if you could spend the rest of it under your bed and away from keyboards, it’s cool just to post a single photo and declare you’ve fulfilled your blogging responsibilities for the week, right? That’s a remarkably wide divergence from my modus operandi, but I’m trying it just to see what happens. It’s my site and I’ll shirk if I want to.

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Updates from the Interim Normal: Masks and Other Tasks

Mask Black!

Our niece made us masks! Very sweet of her.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, everything’s coming up COVID-19 worldwide:

…whenever we think we’ve settled down and the tension has eased as we’ve adapted to each change thrown at us, some knowledgeable authority or some know-nothing internet crank picks up a megaphone and bellows in our ears like William Dozier on ye olde Batman TV show, “THE WORST IS YET TO COME!”

The story is far from over — more so in other countries disproportionately hit by the Coronavirus disease. I’d rather not imagine what a “Chapter 2” for this post would look like. I have other things I’d much rather write about, but I’m skeptical as to whether anyone would take a break from refreshing their Coronavirus phone updates to glance at anything else. Frankly, I know the feeling.

We’ve been rolling with the changes. Anne is still working from our home library while I’m among the 3% of employees in my legally Essential company still driving to the office every day, handling critical in-person tasks so my coworkers can stay home. I’m weathering the indefinite suspension of the comic book direct market, which has given me an opportunity to dive into my gigantic backlog of unread books. To while away the hours between shifts we’ve doubled down on family game night, supported our local journalists and their greedy overlords, reminisced about restaurants, and discovered Zoom. We enjoyed a weekend of free HBO, found mixed results with a new streaming service, and, may the Lord have mercy upon us, withdrawn from Tiger King mania.

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Reaching Out Through the Zoom Lens

Zoom Jazz Hands!

As you’d expect, our most requested pose. Special thanks to my sister-in-law for the screen shot.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the duration of the interim normal, all other human bodies are to be treated as walking land mines, held at a remove, and if one approaches you, go hide and let them detonate in someone else’s face instead.

In these extreme circumstances we’ve sometimes found ourselves doing things far outside the old, complacent, pre-fatality routines. Letting our hair grow into shaggy 1970s grotesquerie. Taking early morning walks around our neighborhood. Calling elderly relatives before they call us first. Posting on Facebook.

Our latest deviation from the norm: hopping on a communication technology bandwagon.

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“McMillions” and McMemories

McDonald's pins!

Just a few of the souvenirs we still have from our years with the Golden Arches. All of these are from Anne’s old pin collection.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our family doesn’t subscribe to HBO, but from time to time our cable provider will offer free preview weekends that let us watch all we can within 72 hours that are meant to entice us to add it to our already overstuffed lineup. Instead we save up our HBO watch-lists, pace back and forth waiting for those rare weekends, then see how much we can speed through whenever we’re granted the opportunity. It’s a bit like composing lunches entirely from free samples handed out at the grocery, but in the proper frame of mind, satisfaction can be found in limited quantities.

At least, all that had been our usual approach. Among the more recent developments in the interim normal is both Hulu and our cable provider are now offering access to the HBO libraries for a nonspecific “limited time”, presumably with an end date their corporate overlords can shift back and forth as the winds change. Until then, we plan to see what we can work in while we’re busy catching up on other watch-list materials.

Naturally for us, priority #1 was a recent show that brought back memories of our old jobs.

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Pictionary Mysteries

Basketball Pirate!

Most likely guesses: basketball court, one of the Dippers, first aid kit, and…uhh, Rooster Cogburn?

It’s fun to dig through old possessions containing still older possessions — shoe boxes, plastic tubs, photo albums, and other stashes — and discover treasure troves of unrecorded history and lost secrets. Objects that would’ve evoked nostalgic memories if only you’d exhumed them sooner eventually turn meaningless when removed from their once-contemporary context and forgotten by their original buyers or creators.

Some families are more assiduous in their note-taking practices and and fully dedicated in passing on their stories to future generations. Other families have piles of letters and images filled with mementos of strangers they’ll never know, occasions no one can recall, anecdotes never to be retold, and feelings the descendants will never share.

Sometimes such surprises are sprung on you from the unlikeliest hiding places. This past Saturday night we found one inside an old board game.

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Communion in a Crunch

Home Communion!

All items readily available at your local grocer, appearing on no one’s hoarding list.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I keep rolling with the punches as the Coronavirus saga continues and we’re forced to adjusting our boundaries and personal thresholds in the face of what I call “the interim normal“. Among several changes I neglected to mention in Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 was that our church moved to online services effective March 15th. Once boasting a membership over 2000 at its peak, and located squarely within the very first Indiana town to confirm a positive COVID-19 diagnosis once those started happening here, our church knew they couldn’t procrastinate taking action. Thankfully the IT infrastructure needed for such an undertaking was already in place. They’ve been recording and sharing sermons online for years — an audio-only stream back in primitive times, now with value-added video today.

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The Interim Normal

workspace!

This is basically how I imagine a lot of CEO workspaces look at the moment.

For the past nineteen years my wife Anne and I have maintained firm boundaries between work and home. Home is our refuge from work, our earthly reward for jobs properly done, our container of collections and comfort, and our humble haven for our hearts. Work is an intrusion we’ve allowed inside only in extremely rare circumstances.

In this new era, our ongoing worldwide catastrophe, effective this week the line between work and home is one of many luxuries we’re no longer afforded.

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Disease Control: The Home Game

Pandemic!

Whoever chose the cities represented in this board game totally whiffed when they left out Seattle.

Four months ago our family added a new board game to our collection. Pandemic’s what-if scenario of infection spiraling out of control worldwide has been a plot device in occasional movies and TV shows. It seemed like an interesting concept for a fun game. Any supernatural foreshadowing inherent in this benign purchase was lost on us at the time.

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My Just Barely Black Friday 2019

Kohl's Pillows!

Wheeling down the aisles at Kohl’s with my tiny cart piled high.

The one Black Friday item that Anne and I wanted more than any other this year was cheap pillows. We’re that old now.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 27: Times to Make the Doughnuts

Revolution Doughnuts!

Our selections from Revolution Doughnuts, clockwise from top left: Blackberry Caramel, Orange Pistachio, Caramel Bacon Crumble, and the Crunchy Mister, a savory creation with ham, cheese and bechamel.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

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.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

The funniest thing about traveling to other lands is the little differences. They have some of the same stuff we have here in Indy, but it’s just a little different. In Europe the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called a “Royale with Cheese”. In New York City, ketchup on a hot dog is called an “atrocity”. Large-scale ground wars have been fought over whether soft drinks should be called “soda”, “pop”, or “Coke”.

We were glad to confirm Atlanta has its share of donut shops, though we were disappointed none of them were next door to our hotel. But instead of the quick, efficient “donuts”, they use the archaic, longform, time-wasting “doughnuts”. IT’s my understanding the British prefer “doughnuts” whenever they’re out of crumpets, so perhaps Atlanta is still trying to impress our erstwhile imperial overlords by taking their side. Regardless, we were happy to visit two skillful donut purveyors in town before we had to head home.

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With Wishes for a Happy and/or Restful Fourth of July

George Washington!

Like Superman, nobody thinks about the fact that Uncle Sam’s hair grows the same as anyone else’s.

Pictured above: a quiet moment from writer/director David Gordon Green’s 2000 feature-film debut George Washington. It’s a low-key contemplation of rural life, maturity, haunting regrets, and atonement through heroism (including a pivotal scene that echoes the tragedy of Uncle Ben), but the important thing at this moment is the film’s final scenes are set on the Fourth of July, which therefore means it’s a Beloved Holiday Classic. Pity they never seem to have copies on sale in every Walmart every June, but I don’t think they’re on speaking terms with Criterion.

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Words of Advice from a Two-Time College Dropout

Graduation Cupcakes!

High school graduation parties can be cool, but what if life seems all downhill from there?

Like anyone with a working Internet connection, from time to time I find myself completing online surveys about various companies or products, whether for fun, for freebies, or in hopes that the survey will include an essay question that you can use as a soapbox to unleash a thousand-word tirade about the last time their services ticked you off and ruined your day. “That’ll show ’em!” you think to yourself as your carefully crafted vitriol is forwarded to the survey company and assimilated into the results database containing hundreds of thousands of other surveys, someday to be skimmed by a distracted HR rep who might raise an eyebrow at your poison-pen screed, if you’re lucky.

Every such survey has the obligatory section whose questions are designed for demographic pigeonholing of your results. I don’t mind revealing my ever-advancing age, blissful marital status, or conspicuously dull bloodline. My least favorite question is always, “What is the highest level of education you have completed?” It sounds simple and uncomplicated, especially if you earned a degree. Sometimes I wonder if those who attended graduate school and/or who hold multiple degrees receive a little bonus from the survey company in return, to thank them for bolstering the results with certified demographic classiness.

Mine is the humble ignominy that requires me to check “Some college”. It’s always a multiple-choice question, never a write-in field, so you can’t fall back on the standard glib answers such as “school of hard knocks” or “school of life”, joke answers such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” or “Hogwarts”, or even obscure answers such as “School of Fish”, in hopes that someone in the survey company will agree how cool a song “3 Strange Days” was. Every time I spot the bland, undecorated phrase “Some college” on a survey, I wince for a second and have to shake off the reminder of a young adulthood that wandered astray.

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How the Cats Watched Us Suffer

Orange Tabby!

That darn cat.

The tabby cared not that the once-furnished domain was now barren. We could take away the bedding and the collections and the clothing piles, but we couldn’t take away the sunshine through the window. Unless we hung the curtains back up. Which was tempting, just to be spiteful.

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Birthday 47: Primo Pizza and Pointless Pondering

Thai and Creole!

The top half is Thai-inspired. The bottom half is Creole-esque. All of it is coated in smoked Gouda with no objection from me.

It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.

Fun useless trivia: I share my birthday with Dennis Hopper, Bill Paxton, Trent Reznor, Sugar Ray Leonard, Craig Ferguson, Howard Ashman, Bob Saget, Jordan Knight, and Dave Sim. Yet we never get together and combine parties. Sure, two of my birth-twins are no longer among the living, but still.

For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself.

In the meantime, today had its happy distractions, mostly in the form of food. Friends and family kept my mind off the aging process for most, if not all, of the day.

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Lucky 2007-2019

Lucky Birthday!

The dog of the hour.

…so, uh, spoilers for this heartbreaking entry in the title, obviously.

28 hours past the event itself, I’m two sentences into this and have already had to stop typing twice to compose myself.

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name Until They’re Gone and It’s Just You Left

Cheers Lady!

“You want to be where you can see troubles are all the same.” With or without alcohol, really.

Some introverts treasure those few places where we can feel like we belong. I mean in the physical world, not just online.

Comfortable spaces where we feel less weird and have reasons to hold up our end in a conversation instead of retreating from it. Areas where we can find common ground with folks who don’t think of us as strangers, who might even attempt eye contact despite how unnatural it can feel. Benign territories where the sight of a familiar face is a boost to our spirits, where mere recognition is validation, the baseline brownie points of existence. They admit they see me; they don’t slam the door in my face; ergo, I matter.

I’ve had a few of those places in my lifetime. That list doesn’t seem to be expanding much as I get older without becoming any more outgoing, which is a thing that happens for some folks as they age but hasn’t yet been the case with me.

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My Doggo, My Drug Buddy

Lucky!

Lucky in repose atop the only IKEA product in our entire house. Thankfully we were able to get his giant urine stain out of it.

When drugs get a foothold in your household, they don’t always belong to your first suspect. Sometimes there’s more than one.

Our home’s recent influx of new pharmaceuticals began shortly after Baby New Year 2019 arrived to kick out grizzled, bitter Grampaw Old Year 2018. We had such high hopes after the changing of the guard.

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Merry Christmas from MCC!

Elf Sweater!

Not an ugly sweater in my book. I mean, the fashion chapter in my book is just a footnote that says, “EDITORS NOTE: The author doesn’t get fashion,” but still.

This year most of my Christmas ties were given the season off while a new addition to my holiday wardrobe gets taken out for a couple of spins.

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas-Card Christmas

Christmas Cards!

Shout-out to the 15 keeping it old-school.

In the ancient days of the twentieth century, before the internet normalized access to instantaneous contact with other humans thousands of miles away, keeping in touch with distant family and friends took effort and/or money. Long-distance calls weren’t included free in our monthly phone bills and racked up astronomical charges if we stayed on the line more than a few minutes. Cross-country travel was affordable for upper classes but a luxury beyond the reach of my family. That left two choices on the table for us: making do with happy thoughts and prayers; or the United States Postal Service.

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