Our 2022 Road Trip #1: The Accidental Convention

Schwarzenegger and Anne!

Dey are Arnie und Anne, und dey are going to pump [*CLAP*] you up!

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We grew up in families that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 9: Arts in Columbus

ART downtown Columbus!

The Columbus College of Art & Design’s Art Sign will celebrate its 21st birthday this coming Thursday.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

The miniseries’ end is near! But first, the stuff we skipped and some stuff we didn’t get to yet. Mostly it’s about the birthday guy doing some self-indulgent geek sopping, chancing into a few flourishes of local art along the way, and a few loose ends that fit nowhere into the miniseries except here, the catchall chapter.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 8: The Columbus Cuisine Collection

Paella Barcelona!

Paella Barcelona: a party for the palate containing chicken, shrimp, chorizo, calamari, clams, mussels, and more, more, more.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

As with all our road trips, mention must inevitably be made of the culinary experiences. We don’t use the “foodie” label explicitly, whose baggage includes an implication of a lifestyle chic enough to afford and live on 21 fancy dishes a week. We tend to suppress our desires to try Something Different — fueled in part by our longtime Chopped viewership — until special occasions come up, such as this very two-day birthday outing. Columbus had no shortage of options waiting for us.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 7: All Around the CMA

Columbus Museum of Art!

Foreground: Jeff Koons, One Ball Total Equilbrium Tank (Spalding Dr. J Series), 1985. Background: Anselm Kiefer, Tutein’s Tomb, 1981-83.

[EDITORS’ NOTE: The following entry knowingly contains Art. Viewer discretion is advised.]

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

The Columbus Museum of Art had drawn me in with their big exhibit celebrating the pre-1960 works of hometown legend Roy Lichtenstein, but other rooms commanded our attention as well. A sampler of those works, many by Big Names, seems in order as a companion piece.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 6: Lichtenstein Pre-Pop

Washington Crossing the Delaware II

Washington Crossing the Delaware II, 1951.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

As a comics fan I think I’m supposed to loathe Roy Lichtenstein and his Pop Art appropriations of single panels from the hard labors of countless underpaid artists from years past. I generally get the anger of an artistic fandom predisposed to condemn any product that reeks of unaffectionate tracing and/or outright theft. (Hence some especially vehement online condemnations of self-styled “NFT artists”.) On the other hand, I’m also a lifelong lover of parody and satire, of deconstruction and deflating pretensions. On that level Pop Art has always fascinated me, from Warhol to Lichtenstein to Rauschenberg and beyond. Their often passively-aggressively snide answers to the question, “What is Art?” are fair game both for criticism and as criticism.

As it happens, my birthday weekend had a gift waiting for me: a special exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art called “Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making 1948-1960”. Lichtenstein was born in Manhattan but earned his degrees at Ohio State University in Columbus (with a three-year intermission for WWII homefront service) and consequently counts as a hometown hero. He moved on to teaching elsewhere while taking steps into the art world, leaving representational figures quickly behind as he entered a phase of dabbling in Cubism and Surrealism as means to interrogate, deconstruct, or merely spoof well-known images of his time, haughty American history, or random pictures that caught his eye in Life Magazine. His fame/infamy would be later claimed in the Pop Art movement; in contrast, the CMA’s exhibit collected works showing his earlier evolution…or, if you can’t stand his work, his villain origin.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 5: Schiller Park Intermezzo

Kedziora Suspension!

One of five statues (out of an original total of 23) from Jerzy Jotka Kedziora’s series “Suspension: Balancing Art, Nature and Culture”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

From the Center of Science and Industry we took a short hop south to German Village, a historic neighborhood with quite a few small businesses clustered within. We did some shopping (more about that in a later entry) and some eating (ditto, but different later entry), but in between stops we decided to exercise our middle-aged-couple privilege to call time-out on all the jaunting and go enjoy some peace and quiet at the nearest park. Its grounds had a few modestly nifty sights to catch, so it wasn’t just us starting at grass and trying to remember the Good Old Days.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 4: COSI All Around

COSI sign!

Obligatory Marvel cameo helps us segue from the first three chapters to the rest of our mostly non-Marvel weekend.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

The Marvel exhibit alone was worth the three-hour drive, but the Center of Science and Industry had more to it than that. Perhaps the average 50-year-old wouldn’t kick off their big birthday celebration at one of those large, fancy kids’ museums that are entertaining staples in many a big city, but that’s where our choices took us. As a compromise to seem slightly less weird, we did not visit all their exhibits, but we encountered enough extras to compile a bonus COSI gallery. Museums: they’re not just for kids anymore!

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

Amazing Spider-Man #252 cover!

I was 11 when Amazing Spider-Man #252 debuted his black costume and blew my mind. Art by Ron Frenz and Klaus Janson.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

Now we’re to my favorite part of the Marvel exhibit at Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry. The statues were fun and the MCU film props and costumes were quite a sight to behold up close, but original comics art is a rarity for me to see in person. Growing up, buying original art was something rich comics investors did for fun and showiness, nothing a poor kid like me could ever afford. In adulthood I’ve climbed up the ladder high enough that I now own a few modest pages, nothing fancy.

The Marvel exhibit features over six dozen pages drawn by the original artists across 80+ years of the medium’s history — not just reproductions, the real thing, largely loaned by private collectors identified below each frame for provenance and gratitude. Some were autographed by the artists; in a few of the older pieces, you can see where artists (and Stan “The Man” Lee) autographed them years after the fact. The following gallery, less than half the total works on display, is a selection of those that stuck out to me for various reasons and didn’t succumb to blurry photography. One of them even has color. (Painted, at that!) A few have behind-the-scenes Easter eggs, such as our lead photo — if you click on the cover to ASM #252 you can read Klaus Janson’s notes in the margins addressed to George Roussos, the colorist who handled all Marvel covers at the time. For me, the little details add to the thrill of comics art appreciation.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 2: Mighty Marvel Cinemania

Iron Man Mark I armor!

The Iron Man Mark I armor, the very first costume in the official Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

…so we old folks had fun roaming around a kiddie museum, Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, immersing ourselves in the all-ages roadshow exhibit “Marvel: Universe of Super-Heroes”. As you’d expect from a mainstream celebration of a massive multimedia corporation with an audience of hundreds of millions, many vitrines were devoted to keepsakes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Costumes and props worn and touched by the actors (and/or stunt doubles) were all around the hall, imbuing onlookers with that keen vibe of authentic Hollywood proximity. We’d previously seen MCU items on our Atlanta trip back in 2019, but I was gratified to notice very little overlap between the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum’s collection and this one.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 1: The Merry Marvel Museum Menagerie

Spidey and jazz hands!

I began collecting Amazing Spider-Man at age 6, around the first time Aunt May died. 44 years later, one of us has aged better.

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Whether through a lot of lucky cosmic dice rolls or by divine interference, I’ve just now lived to see 50. We’d had to keep Anne’s own 50th-birthday outing modest because the pandemic curtailed our options. It was her wish that we wouldn’t have to compromise the same way for mine. After weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio. We’ve driven through them several times on our way to other states, we’ve checked out their As-Seen-on-TV giant burgers, we’ve twice attended the most awesome indie comics show in the Midwest, and we’ve even been inside their capitol dome. We dug a little more deeply and learned they have still more to offer, especially in my fields of interest.

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