Merry Christmas from MCC!

silver Christmas ornament selfie!

Another Christmas ornament selfie, an outtake from our Festival of Trees two-part gallery.

Hey, kids! It’s that beloved holiday tradition where we just post a couple of recent Christmas-themed photos with some short yet sincere seasons’ greetings, and we give readers a break from my usual self-indulgent verbosity. It’s the most wonderful time of the MCC year! Click, scroll, ooh, ahh, and keep on frolicking down the internet superhighway!

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How I Spent My Thanksgiving Holiday

Ten pies brought to Anne's family's Thanksgiving this year.

Pies nearly outnumbered people at Anne’s Thanksgiving this year.

It’s the holiday season! Yes, again! The past two weeks have been far from boring as Thanksgiving came and went, events kept sliding into our schedules, opportunities for both travel and sedentary diversions fought to take up our head space, and Christmas kept trying to assert its dominance too soon. Some of the busyness lent itself to pictures.

Some of the things I did:

* Thanksgiving at home! My side of the family has more or less forfeited turkey-time now that most of us live far from each other — states away, in some cases. In lieu of that, on Thanksgiving Day itself the last few years we’ve been inviting my mom over so she doesn’t have to spend the day alone. Anne makes a feast for the four of us that would feed a full-size gathering. I watch a movie with Mom, I spend a few seconds reminiscing in my head about how I used to spend Thanksgiving night studying the Black Friday ads in the newspaper, and then we dine on the leftovers for days. That’s baseline Thanksgiving of late. I finished the sweet potatoes Wednesday morning for breakfast, and thus were our leftover duration standards met.

Our Thanksgiving 2022 dinner with boneless Butterball turkey, sweet potatoes, rolls, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and so on.

Not pictured: the second of two boneless Butterball turkeys Anne made, our household’s event-dinner poultry of choice.

* Thanksgiving way from home! After Anne’s grandma passed away in 2018, her side’s turkey time went on hiatus as everyone suddenly began focusing on gatherings in their other circles that they’d been missing over the years, or they indulged other non-holiday activities while Mamaw was no longer around to guilt-trip them sweetly into coming over. This year two key relatives moved up to Indiana after a decades-long stay in Kentucky and offered to host a Thanksgiving comeback special. One catch: it was Friday at noon, which meant no one could spend the entire day shopping. As most folks rely more heavily on online shopping nowadays and are okay with driving local proprietors into the poorhouse, nobody complained about schedule conflict.

As seen in our lead photo, we had too much pie, a phrase that sounds like heresy, and yet there it is. I limited myself to sliver-sized slices from three different pies and pretended that was a mature choice. Even before the Friday shindig, we’d already had pumpkin and pecan pies at home…and a chocolate pudding pie the weekend before, as a pre-Thanksgiving teaser dessert, kind of like how some families let kids open one gift on Christmas Eve. All told, the pie collection featured were pistachio, squash, pumpkin, Oreo, different Oreo, chocolate non-Oreo, Tollhouse Cookie, custard, cherry, and my favorite, pecan chocolate chip. For anyone demanding a change of pace, there was a store-bought pumpkin roll, and the last faction to arrive brought a cake I never got to see.

A few of our preferred groceries have become scarce or nonexistent during the temporary recessional inflationary supply-chain crisis-esque inconvenience meltdown trifle catastrophe that’s been status quo for like two years straight, but at long as we can find pie, or pie can find us, we believe America will stand tall and brave any other challenges ahead. Hopefully.

Our relatives were pretty happy to see each other again. Right on time, my social awkwardness kicked in as all the most interesting and ebullient talkers decided the best place for mingling in varying groupings would be in the room where I wasn’t. Three of us guys who weren’t much on initiating chitchat (all of us being plus-ones to blood kin) were left in the living room with the TV off and no one volunteering to do anything about it. Instead we agreed to find separate directions in which to stare off into space, avoid eye contact, and fall back on the hoary excuse that we were “digesting”. I kept my phone pocketed for as long as I could, but eventually caved. I got in a good forty minutes’ silent, boring doomscrolling before anyone checked on me.

In a few ways I’d missed that. Sort of.

A big black and white doggie sitting by my feet, staring politely.

Their doggie kept me company through some of that. I didn’t get her name.

* Black Friday shopping anyway! On my old blog I used to have an annual tradition of keeping a “Black Friday War Journal”, a complete rundown of times, stops, and purchasing results written throughout the hours I’d spend on Black Friday out there in the predawn pandemonium and the maddened crowds, all written in the terse, paranoiac style of Frank Castle. I walked away from all that as Black Friday metamorphosed into a very different thing over time, but I do miss keeping those War Journals.

Despite our noon engagement, I got out for a few hours in the morning beforehand to grab a couple of minor sales. I saw no customer feeding frenzies, no fistfights, and no police springing into action to quell riots. At 8 a.m. Barnes & Noble was teeming with dozens of teens. At 9 a.m. Target was already sold out of a popular Nintendo Switch game in their ad (or they hadn’t bothered to order any — I checked two different Targets, mind you). By 10 a.m. Best Buy had almost no line at the registers. I was home by 11.

* Family Game Night! That was Saturday evening. I’ve posted in the past about some of our experiences with new board games. The ones that catch our attention are too expensive for us to make this a regular habit, although after seeing how many Likes my Instagram posts get whenever I share them, it’s really tempting to reinvent myself as a Board Game Guy. Our latest acquisition is Terraforming Mars, a 2016 release in which each player is a future corporation doing its part to turn Mars into Earth Junior, ostensibly in the name of solving a humanitarian crisis and advancing humankind’s frontiers and scientific achievements, but also you’re competing to see who can take the most credit. Corporations gonna corporate.

The setup and teaching phases took us far too long, but eventually we picked up speed as we got used to the rules, slowly realized which of the zillions of scores ‘n’ stats mattered most, and figured out how to sabotage other’s plans in the grand corporate tradition. My son won this initial skirmish, but I expect different results next time. Hopefully.

Terraforming Mars board game, which comes with literally a few hundred components, including over 200 cards.

Anne and I hope to start on season 3 of Apple+’s For All Mankind in the next few weeks or so. This game feels like an apropos prologue.

* Solo Game Nights! Or, “how I spend every night after 9:00 when I’m not sleepy and not writing, which is most of them lately.” Fallout 3 has been keeping me company. I’ll write more about it in the next annual “Old Guy with a PS3” entry, but for now let me say that, considering the number of years I spent playing nothing but Skyrim, luring me into a game whose mechanics and sandbox sprawl are virtually identical to Skyrim‘s was like handing a Jack Daniels gift-box to your alcoholic dad. Thankfully there aren’t nearly as many locations, and the Capital Wasteland is far smaller than Tamriel, so maybe I’ll “finish” it sometime early in 2023. The less I write here, the more time I have for covering ground there.

"Radiation Warning" sign in Fallout 3.

The fence around Fallout 3‘s crater where the White House used to be. Lately this image could also double as Twitter’s home page.

* Xfinity Watchathon! A few times per year, our old-fashioned cable TV provider will treat their customers to several free days of premium services they refuse to subscribe to normally. That’s when I catch up on my HBO stories. My last Watchathon was devoted entirely to season 3 of Barry, which remains amazing; this time in between all the other activities I just wrote about above, I managed to fit in ten episodes of Succession (I ended with season 3’s riotous shareholders’ meeting, and hope the next episode doesn’t begin with poor Frank still trapped at the podium vamping for time), the HBO Max original film See How They Run (a frivolous whodunit with some historical facts blended in, and I cheered when I recognized Lucian Msamati from the awesome Gangs of London as Agatha Christie’s husband), and, for Mom’s Thanksgiving afternoon entertainment as a lifelong fan of disaster films, Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, the worst 2022 film I’ve seen so far. Thanks, Comcast, mostly!

* A funeral. Anne’s great-uncle, her Mamaw’s youngest brother, passed away Thanksgiving Eve after three years of compounding illnesses and conditions. He was an Air Force veteran who went on to work for the FAA, he served on the local township school board for sixteen years, he spent over five decades in the Lions Club and assorted charity works, he used to take the family out for Christmas dinner every year at Gray Bros. Cafeteria in Mooresville, and he was always kind to me and my son whenever he saw us, same as he was to pretty much anyone who intersected with his path. His numerous accomplishments added up to the sort of obituary that makes you hope your own obit won’t end up a two-line slug that just says, “Mostly harmless.”

* Things that will get their own MCC entries in the week ahead! Stick with us as I’m on staycation all next week and should have plenty of time to write about:

  • The Menu, a wicked but sadly overlooked satire of wealthy foodies and the restaurateurs who take too much pride in serving them.
  • A field trip to see a collection of special Christmas trees in a local museum.
  • Our next convention! I spent Monday night prepping for this coming weekend’s big soiree, which will take us to a city in another state that we’ve already visited twice this year, whose convention center we walked around once but have never been inside before.

…and maybe even more, more, more, right here on MCC! If you don’t read about all these by next Wednesday, please tell Anne to go drag me out of Fallout 3 kicking and screaming.

“Democracy, Democracy”: An Election Day Carol

Election Day Voting Sticker 2022!

Any resemblance between my Daredevil T-shirt and the Doomsday Clock, or any significance of placing my free “I Voted!” sticker at five minutes till, are largely incidental.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I do the democracy thing twice a year (yes, even primaries) because I believe I ought to and because they keep letting me. I don’t recall why I didn’t post about it last year. Maybe society was to blame? Or maybe the reason was so dumb that I was counting on my aging brain to forget the reason why, just so I couldn’t blame myself for not writing about it I can’t recall, so maybe Past-Me’s plan worked. Politicians prefer long-term memory loss in their constituents anyway, so really this is just my brain getting into the spirit of the occasion.

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Doorway Into Adulting

Garage Door!

The latest addition to our family.

Y’know how sometimes you can buy a giant gift for a kid, but they’ll have more fun with the box it came in? And they aren’t terribly thrilled when you order them to be excited about the right thing? As you get older, you’ll find your own forms of excitement that sound silly to those who just don’t get it, while those who ride your same wavelength will make with the high-fives.

So, our latest accomplishment here on the lower rungs of the middle-class ladder: we bought a door.

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50 Years in the Making

Easter 2022!

If I could ever have a photo taken by someone taller than me, you could see my hair is still largely brown, unlike my annoying early-stage Santa beard.

So. This is 50, then. Time to ramble like an old!

(We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.)

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Merry Christmas from MCC!

Buddy the Elf Buddies!

A coworker and I showed up at the office at the same time in near-matching ugly sweaters. So now we’re Buddy buddies!

Hey, kids! It’s that beloved holiday tradition where we just post a couple of recent Christmas-themed photos with some short yet sincere seasons’ greetings, and we give readers a break from my usual self-indulgent verbosity. It’s the most wonderful time of the MCC year!

Christmas in Metropolis!

Looking for places to celebrate Christmas spirit while distancing from others amidst a pandemic? Try an outdoor mall at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night when it’s below freezing!

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 2021 tunnel despite the obstacles and heartbreaks. May your day be merrier and brighter, your celebrations invigorating, your downtime rewarding, and your internet circles calm and peaceful and filled with joyous content besides premature Best of 2021 listicles.

Introducing Our New Kindness+ Subscription Service

Kindness+!

Act now! Operators are standing by! But don’t expect them to actually pick up the phone. Leave a message or whatever.

The other day a friend of mine rhapsodized to acquaintances and followers about Christmas wishes and gave a gifting suggestion that might prove useful to some in this particularly tough holiday season: “Be kind to one another. We could all use more kindness, and best of all, it’s free!”

And I thought to myself: like, just give it away? In this economy?

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Not Put Asunder, 17 Years and Counting

Mitchell Corn Palace!

JAZZ-HANDS PHOTOS WILL RETURN IN 2021.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne. This year I can even tell people we survived a pandemic together.

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When Words Failed the Spelling Bee Contender

Charlie Brown in the spelling bee!

That time in February 1966 when Charlie Brown thought he’d win friends and respect through good spelling. Today’s internet would eat him alive.

A lot of other middle-aged guys have cherished memories of the good ol’ days when they were on sports teams and won games and fame and attention, followed decades later by the deep frustration with how their athletic-hero phase was temporary, the pinnacle of those wonder years left far behind.

Me? For a few proud minutes, I had spelling bees. Recent headlines, in particular the exciting news that the National Spelling Bee at long last had its first Black American winner this week, dredged up a few of my own recollections and regrets.

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49 Birthday Candles Traded for One Onion Volcano

Hibachi-style onion volcano.

Burn, onions, BURN! Entertain me with your flames before you’re all hacked apart, divided among our plates, then mostly dumped back onto mine because my wife and son hate onions!

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. One-day road trips and events, such as 2019’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 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). We spent the entire weekend amusing ourselves at home so, Lord willing, I might survive to see the next birthday. In that sense TakeOutCon 2020 achieved its stated goals but will not become one of our household traditions. If the pandemic somehow spawns a sequel and a TakeOutCon encore becomes necessary in some future year, I will blame you, humanity.

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