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”.
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.
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.
Whenever we look back on our 2020 vacation photos as we grow older, we will never, ever have to think long and hard to remember what year they were taken.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: if your city’s like ours, and I know ours is, you had some protests and riots damaging your complacency back in May. Odds are you’re still seeing some combination of activity, activism, and/or action. Things seem quieter here in our own hometown of Indianapolis, though it could simply feel that way because local media have lost interest in encore performances and have moved on in their never-ending search for new hot topics to captivate audiences burned out on the old ones. In the daytime, at least, things have demonstrably calmed down.
In a week that’s been marred by weird illness symptoms (no, not THAT one), severe illness elsewhere in our family (no, thankfully still not that one), news of one distant relative’s recent death (it, um…it was that one), complicated cases at work, the monotony of internet outrage, and daily-routine malaise…it’s heartening whenever I spot signs of the Old Normal popping up, like a stray flower sprouting in a scorched field.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as a direct result of the ongoing and measurably non-resolved Coronavirus epidemic, Diamond Comics Distributors effectively shut down the comic book industry at the tail end of March, a temporary but unprecedented cessation that has vexed comic book shops worldwide and deprived habitual comics collectors such as myself of their weekly fixes of printed, single-issue graphic storytelling. We understood the decrees and the crisis at hand, but we lamented seeing a large portion of the medium paused in unison.
America’s 2200 remaining retailers, many of whom were already surviving on razor-thin profit margins, were justifiably nervous about their long-term financial stability through this era, whenever they weren’t too busy grappling with pervasive COVID-19 anxiety. Or with literal COVID-19, for all we know. Those shop owners thinking ahead wondered aloud: what happens if our customers’ habits are suspended for too long? What if deprivation begins to feel to them more like liberation? What do we do if the audience that had already been shrinking for years gets even tinier? Especially if too many of them are unemployed and can’t afford comics anymore?
Fantastic questions, those. I’m still mulling over my parts in some of those equations.
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.
As dimwitted youngsters insist spring break simply must go on, as certain stubborn governors take turns doing their macho impression of the mayor from Jaws, and as other top-ranking officials demand we all agree to hurry up and pretend everything is basically fine ASAP…it’s painfully obvious Americans hate change, hate being told what to do, hate self-control and self-restraint, hate hate hate when someone tells us we have to be patient, and intensely, passionately despise when the solution to a problem is “do what other countries did”. Like an insufferable teen rebel, we think we know best and we want to do things our way because, like, freedom an’ fun an’ whatnot.
Thousands of people are hospitalized. More will need the same as Coronavirus/COVID-19 testing becomes less of a unicorn-level rarity. Sacrifices are being made on innumerable levels. Nevertheless, idiocy continues to run nearly as rampant as the virus itself because the ramifications aren’t being grasped, the horrors are being downplayed, and the fatalities aren’t occurring four inches away from those in denial. That senseless obliviousness can’t last. Sooner or later this catastrophe will get to someone or something they do care about.
It might be major upheaval. And it might be the small stuff.
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.
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.
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.
I knew something had gone wrong with the day when two coworkers approached and interrupted met at lunch. They usually know better, but they felt it was their duty to break the news to me that the legendary Stan Lee himself had at long last passed away at age 95. In many ways I’m glad they were the messengers, as opposed to finding out by stumbling into random, cryptic retweets from strangers.
(sung to the tune of the old “Meow Mix” commercial)
Vote vote vote vote!
Vote vote vote vote!
Vote vote vote vote!
Vote vote vote vote!
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.