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The Chicago 2018 Birthday Weekend, Part 2 of 4: Gray Friday, Windy City

Buckingham Fountain!

I’m told Grant Park’s Buckingham Fountain is pretty when the waters are working and beautiful when lit up at night. We got neither.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for Anne’s birthday celebration this year, we headed up to Chicago for yet another weekend — this time mostly to attend the inaugural Ace Comic Con Midwest at Navy Pier, and partly to see if downtown Chicago contained any sights we hadn’t already seen and/or shared. In past years we’ve shared pics of the Lake Michigan shoreline, the Magnificent Mile, and scenic Navy Pier, among other locales you can find with MCC’s “Chicago” tag alternating in between their frequent conventions.

Sooner or later we expect to run out of reasons to keep exploring the Mile and the Loop again and again, but we did what we could with the hours allotted and the ugly autumn weather against us. Temperatures were in the 40s all day Friday and light rain turned the early afternoon into a bit of a bummer. We walked around for a few miles anyway to spend time with each other and to kill time before the con began at 4 p.m.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 17: The Great Western Staircase

vertigo looking down...

Imagine a workplace where this is an everyday sight. And somehow this happened on government’s watch.

Presented tonight for your viewing pleasure are glimpses of my favorite part of our 2018 vacation: an ornate, creepy section inside the New York State Capitol that looks like the intersection of Hogwarts and Moria.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 15: The Actual New York State Capital

Egg!

Albany’s most distinctive performance venue, The Egg. They Might Be Giants once wrote a song about it.

Contrary to the popular opinion of Americans who forgot everything they learned in school within minutes of graduating or dropping out, New York City is not the capital of New York state. Yes, NYC has a larger population, more square footage, taller buildings, better restaurants, more celebrities, more movies and songs and books and general works of art about it, more airports, more zoos, more Broadway, more Chinatown, more money, and more nationally recognized politicians than the state capital. Brag, brag, brag.

But Albany is older. Disregarding the indigenous occupants and the occasional stray European explorers who came and went without putting down roots, both future cities had Dutch furriers show up around the 1610s, set up permanent shop, and pave the way for the eventual white takeover. Strictly and callously speaking, Albany’s precursors had their settlement up and running eleven years ahead of Team New York. Once state capitals became a thing after the Revolutionary War, Albany’s population was booming, its businesses were healthy, and its location was slightly closer to central NY and less standoffish than NYC’s. In looking at a state map, Utica looks closer to a true center than Albany does, but they took longer to settle.

So Albany won. It has accomplishments to its name and local attractions to show off, but it receives none of the accolades or love letters that NYC does. It’s NYC’s overlooked older brother. If the Big Apple is Bill Murray, Albany is Brian Doyle-Murray. There’s no shame in being Brian Doyle-Murray.

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Crane and Panes, Their Lines Entwined

Indianapolis crane

Crewman tinkering with a sign on the Capital Center in downtown Indianapolis this morning.

Today while on my weekly walk to and from my local comic shop, I paused for thought in front of this scene while waiting on the WALK signal to reappear and let me get back to work. I looked up, saw the crane stretching its arm across the building, itself a series of crisscrosses and crosshatching all over. I wondered how many total points of perspective a comic book artist would require to reproduce such a scene on their art board, how many lines would intersect how many times, whether or not artists still use T-squares or protractors to create or replicate precise angles, whether or not they even use rulers, whether there are young upstarts in the world who will one day draw comics without having owned or even touched any of those items, whether it would be easier to draw on a PC or a Cintiq or one of those newfangled Super-Etch-a-Sketch monitor-shaped computers ending in “-pad”, whether the artist would be ambitious enough to draw everything themselves or if they would sketch in a few diamonds and then email the colorist and beg them to do all the heavy lifting for them, how many of today’s colorists have been stuck in worse situations inserting more complicated linework for lower pay than the penciler receives, if this division of labor is harder to keep peaceful than it used to be back in the day when colorists only had Day-Glo dots in their toolkit and virtually nothing else, whether or not any colorists alive actually miss the dot system, if 22nd-century kids will have the foggiest clue what Roy Lichtenstein was up to, how far into the future Pop Art will still be a thing, whether this would make Warhol happy or sad, whether we should add the Andy Warhol Museum to our 2018 road trip itinerary since it looks like we’ll be passing through Pittsburgh for our third time, whether or not I have enough energy tonight to delve more into our vacation planning, and which is more important: writing lots of paragraphs or going to bed early so sleep deprivation doesn’t further damage my aging systems.

Eventually the WALK light did its one job and interrupted my reverie. I shuffled away from the web of lines that had caught my attention for that brief yet eternal moment, returned to my job, and tried not to spend the rest of my day exactly like I just did above, rambling and rambling and rambling like one of those great old Dead Milkmen album tracks like “Stuart”.

These are the kinds of thoughts I dwell on when I’m trying to be patient when a stoplight is holding me back during a week when I’ve slept very, very poorly.

Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 29: Looks at Books in a Tower of Power

Barnes & Noble!

This photo looks stolen from a tourism brochure, but I promise it’s ours.

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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Tourists love shopping in faraway places and bringing home exotic clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and more. That’s what I hear, I mean. Our shopping habits are narrower in scope and are rarely a primary factor in planning our vacation to-do lists. But if a store that caters to our interests just so happens to have a convenient location by other prominent attractions, we’re amenable to dropping in for some light browsing. If said store has its own unusual architectural features, so much the better.

Hence our short stop at the largest Barnes & Noble we’ve ever seen.

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Indy Zoo Revue Finale: Habitats & Handicraft

Orangutanorama!

This one’s for the orangutans. Just the orangutans.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In June my wife and I took my mom for a walk around the premises of our own Indianapolis Zoo to check out the current residents and the architectural upgrades on a sunny but not-so-sweltering Saturday. In this very special miniseries, we’ll take a look at the beasts and critters who welcomed us and hundreds of other families along the way.

We conclude these galleries with a look at the scenes behind the animals — the spacious, sometimes lavish enclosures provided for the various residents at our zoo. When I was a kid, the old zoo on the east side was all about stacks of metal cages, concrete floors, and tightly crowded wildlife as depressing sideshow. My family has seen a number of zoos around the country over the past dozen years and appreciate those that defy the obsolete paradigm. If they can tuck in a few works of art around the edges for value-added visual flair, so much the better.

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