Christmas in November

November joy!

Yes, it’s early, but hey, free speech.

This afternoon of November 7th, the Lord has blessed Indianapolis with 72 degrees of bright warmth in defiance of humanity’s calendar. Anne and I enjoy a sunny walk through a day that could have been darker like others around it.

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First One to 50 Wins

Anne at 50!

Milady at her birthday dinner, with hints of the pandemic around the edges but in the moment not standing between our hearts.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, when ruminating on the origins of this very site:

This blog was set up three weeks before my 40th birthday as a means of charting the effects of the aging process and this fallen world’s degrading standards on my impressions of, reactions against, and general experiences with various works of art, commerce, wonder, majesty, and shamelessness. It’s my way of keeping the writing part of my brain alive and active, rather than let it atrophy and die…

Now that 40 is thousands of miles behind me and 50 is ever-so-slowly approaching on my horizon in the not-too-distant future, I may need to update my mission statement to reflect whatever emotions begin to overtake me as that half-century mark draws nearer.

For my wife Anne, what little sense of foreboding may or may not have bugged her is past. She’s nineteen months older than me and just reached 50, right on time.

St. Elmo!

Our celebration venue of choice, a onetime special guest star on Parks and Recreation.

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10 Timely Tips for Pandemic Fine Dining in Peace or Panic

Duck & Duck!

Oakleys Bistro in Indianapolis presents their “Duck & Duck”, two modest portions of sliced duck served with a rosemary duck confit arancini, charred broccoli spinach puree, pickled cherry relish, coriander crema, and leek puree.

Has pandemic fatigue got you down? Are you sick of subsisting on the two-year bulk-food supply you overstocked in your basement back in March? Could you use an hour-long break from staring at the same walls seven days a week? Have you become so annoyingly restless and loud that your family wishes you’d stop putting the “rant” in “quarantine”? Are you worried your favorite restaurant may collapse and die like Uncle Ben while you stand there like Peter Parker doing nothing about it? More importantly, can you afford to eat out right now? Most importantly, are you safe for other humans to be around?

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The MCC Mighty Mask Try-On Haul!

Marvel Heads Mask!

Me sporting a brand new Marvel Super-Heroes mask in a pandemic-era downtown parking garage as gray and uncaring as the year 2020 itself.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: it’s been over five months since I posted photos of my initial masking possibilities for navigating our broken pandemic world. At the time, masks weren’t yet mandated by state or city ordinances. They were simply among the best ideas for reducing your chances of catching The Virus, besides simply quarantining at home and bricking over all your doors and windows from the inside like a reverse “Cask of Amontillado”.

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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.

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Calculated and Recalculated Risks

Before and After!

Even with clippers, with fullest safety measures observed it took a good thirty minutes to deescalate my hair status from Tom Waits to Bob Mould.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: among the many and varied complications arisen from the nonstop tension that is life during the interim normal, I went 5½ months between haircuts. I had hoped to go a full six months to round off that total, but when it came time for our 16th anniversary dinner, I decided to impress my wife with a seemingly heroic act of basic grooming.

It worked. Anne knows how jittery I’ve been lately and knows that I didn’t enter into it lightly. She’d gotten her own post-winter haircut a few weeks earlier and managed to avoid major illness, thanks in large part to the multitude of precautions taken on both sides of the salon cape. To an extent I was just following her lead. Haircuts shouldn’t need life-or-death deliberation, and yet here we are.

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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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