It was that time again! The first Tuesday in May was once again the pre-Election Day dry run when Americans in many districts have the chance to vote in primaries to decide which candidates will move forward in our aggravatingly binary political system. Primaries tend to lure a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the votes that actual Election Day does, but in some local races, our votes are no less important. Basically, 90% of the population cedes quite a few decisions to the 10% of us who feel compelled to show up and take advantage of their inertia. Advantage: us.
Parents and other former children lamented, waxed nostalgic, and raged at the news this week that Toys R Us, the last American large-scale brick-‘n’-mortar toy store chain, may be shuttering its remaining 800 stores over the next several weeks due to the long-term shenanigans of the evil corporate overlords who bought it in 2005 and basically ransacked it for cash for years. Soon that kaleidoscopically immersive childhood shopping experience, one of the few places a family could go and spend a day surrounded only by wall-to-wall playthings, will be downgraded from endangered to extinct.
I’m saddened by the loss, but not devastated. My life has been one long series of toy store collapses.
If you were in America today, you’re well aware of the Great and Powerful Solar Eclipse Experience of 2017, a very special occasion in which our nation stood united about anything for the first time this year. For an hour or two, businesses and conversations ground to a halt while everyone tried to find a great view of the moon blocking the sun. Many hoped it would look cool. Some merely liked the idea of catching a rare astronomic event. A few held their breath and waited for monsters or demons to be summoned and raise a ruckus.
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…
September 17, 1862: fourteen months before President Abraham Lincoln would deliver the momentous Gettysburg Address, a one-day clash between Union and Confederate troops near the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, would end with nearly 23,000 dead, wounded, or missing. The Battle of Antietam went down as the most horrendous battle of our Civil War, the deadliest single day on American soil in all of history.
155 years later, Antietam National Battlefield is now owned, operated, placed in context, and fully annotated by our National Parks Service. Shortly after we entered Maryland from the west, Anne and I showed up in our comfy rental car in search of local tourism, historical backdrops, and names and sights she recognized from her knowledge of the subject. Along the paths were a series of markers commemorating where various regiments and battalions made their stands and paid their prices for their beliefs. We had no idea that a month later, Civil War monuments would become a trending topic on social media. In that spirit, here some are.
Wednesday afternoon during my weekly brisk walk to and from the comic shop, along the way I passed a genuine protest march, something we don’t see every day in downtown Indianapolis. I counted at least several dozen people heading west on Market Street toward Monument Circle, chanting what sounded to my ears like:
“WHAT DO WE WANT?”
…because sometimes my hearing’s not great.
Once again another piece of my childhood is on the chopping block.
Once upon a time, Marsh Supermarkets was one of the largest grocery chains here in Indiana. They were my family’s weekly provider mostly because two of their locations were our closest options, and they seemed to have a better selection than the Kroger stores in our area. Or maybe Marsh was cleaner. Or had prettier newspaper ads. Come to think of it, neither Mom nor Grandma ever explained to me why we went there. We just did, and that was good enough for me. Come next month, they’ll be no more.