Wandering The 2020 Christmas Shopping Wastelands

Mall Walking.

Deck the malls with melancholy, fa la la la la, la la la…la?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: it’s a very special pandemic Christmas! Wait, no, not “special”. I meant “panic-stricken”.

This year I was determined to do as much of my Christmas shopping in person as possible, which worked well for me last year. Comparing 2019 to 2020 is like comparing apples and cyanide pills, but here I am anyway, trying to buck the American trend of relying on Amazon for any and every human acquisition need like a newborn infant relies on its parents for basic feeding and sanitation. So far in 2020 I’ve ordered from Amazon four times, my lowest total since 2008. The fact that Amazon keeps that information on file so I could actually fact-check myself is kind of creepy and further justifies my decision to pursue other shopping venues regardless of the added cost.

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The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 6: Flora and Media

My wife standing atop a pile of dirt in Bloomington's WonderGarden

Anne imagines herself queen of the hill in WonderGarden. Deep into autumn, we found at least two things wrong with that name.

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 one-day 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.

Well, at least we did before 2020. Anne turned 50 this year, but for work-related reasons involving the Age of Coronavirus, I’m currently not allowed to leave the state of Indiana for the foreseeable future. Anne did some local travel research, a longtime hobby of hers (you have no idea how many of our future road trips she’s already mapped out), and came up with a few things she thought would be fun to do on a Saturday in autumn. Naturally we had to start with a long walk around someplace with millions of leaves changing colors. When you live in Indiana, it’s what you do. After picking up some sugar for breakfast, our first attraction of the day was McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis…

…and then it was on to Bloomington — home of IU, filming location for the 1979 Best Picture nominee Breaking Away, and hometown of such luminaries as David Lee Roth, Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot, animation voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, wrestler Mick Foley, sex scientist Alfred Kinsey, Jerry from ER, and the guys who wrote and directed both Hoosiers and Rudy. We didn’t exactly follow their footsteps, but we enjoyed finding our own path and picking up souvenirs along the way, where permitted.

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The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 5: The Art of B-Town

Let Love Bloom tree!

“Let Love Bloom” was one of many messages adorning tree sweaters around downtown as part of a charity project called “Wrapped in Love”.

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 one-day 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.

Well, at least we did before 2020. Anne turned 50 this year, but for work-related reasons involving the Age of Coronavirus, I’m currently not allowed to leave the state of Indiana for the foreseeable future. Anne did some local travel research, a longtime hobby of hers (you have no idea how many of our future road trips she’s already mapped out), and came up with a few things she thought would be fun to do on a Saturday in autumn. Naturally we had to start with a long walk around someplace with millions of leaves changing colors. When you live in Indiana, it’s what you do. After picking up some sugar for breakfast, our first attraction of the day was McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis…

…and then it was on to Bloomington, home of IU and other Hoosier-esque things. After lunch Anne and I walked around their downtown a bit in search of specific sites and along the way saw the sights we could see as we sauntered — art, architecture, and other random acts of Indiana.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #34: Threnody in Plywood

Downtown Comics!

That time Downtown Comics replaced all their smashed windows with white boards and invited artists to come redecorate.

Every vacation ends with a homecoming. Inevitably we have to return to reality, relinquish the perks of living outside the box for a week, resume our routines, and readjust to our not-so-exotic environments. Sometimes when we’ve run ourselves ragged to the point of exhaustion, it can be almost comforting to slip back into familiar robes and roles and ruts.

At the end of our 2020 experience, “home sweet home” didn’t have quite the same ring to it. More of a Chopin dirge than a ring.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #33: The Market Underground

Please Watch Your Step!

Do you dare enter…the CATACOMBS OF CREEPINESS? (If you do, watch your head.)

Once again we flout MCC’s “road trip” branding on this miniseries, as the final tourist attraction of our 2020 vacation was a five-minute walk from my workplace. It’s been on our local to-do list for years, but was tough to schedule because it’s held rarely, sells out quickly, and goes forgotten for months at a time till one of us randomly remembers it. This year we had the foresight and a perfect slot in our schedule for all the wrong reasons.

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First One to 50 Wins

Anne at 50!

Milady at her birthday dinner, with hints of the pandemic around the edges but in the moment not standing between our hearts.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, when ruminating on the origins of this very site:

This blog was set up three weeks before my 40th birthday as a means of charting the effects of the aging process and this fallen world’s degrading standards on my impressions of, reactions against, and general experiences with various works of art, commerce, wonder, majesty, and shamelessness. It’s my way of keeping the writing part of my brain alive and active, rather than let it atrophy and die…

Now that 40 is thousands of miles behind me and 50 is ever-so-slowly approaching on my horizon in the not-too-distant future, I may need to update my mission statement to reflect whatever emotions begin to overtake me as that half-century mark draws nearer.

For my wife Anne, what little sense of foreboding may or may not have bugged her is past. She’s nineteen months older than me and just reached 50, right on time.

St. Elmo!

Our celebration venue of choice, a onetime special guest star on Parks and Recreation.

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Downtown, Distanced

Social Distancing, Please!

Because we’re over three months into this catastrophe and some people still need practical advice.

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.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 3: Drifting Around Downtown

Washington pediment!

A limestone pediment featuring George Rogers Clark, George Washington, and Tecumseh, three people who have never been in our kitchen.

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 one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

One of our favorite simple pleasures of any visit to a new town is the stroll around their downtown, Main Street, town square, or whatever they call the heart of community commerce, whether it’s a presently vibrant neighborhood or a nostalgic patchwork of quaint artisans and hollowed foreclosures. Located at a remove from the Purdue campus on the other side of the Wabash River (which factored into a Jeopardy! clue the other night), downtown Lafayette showed signs that everyday life persists, just…maybe with a quieter ambiance on Homecoming weekend.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 2: The Works on the Walls

Biggie & Cobain!

Scene from an alternate timeline where Biggie Smalls and Kurt Cobain lived to cover “Ebony and Ivory”.

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 one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Once we escaped Purdue’s Homecoming weekend crowds, we headed east across the Wabash River to downtown Lafayette, where we simply wanted to walk around and take in the scenery. While most locals and students busied themselves with the main event across the river, downtown was deserted except for a small farmers’ market that was wrapping up their morning shift by the time we walked up.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 3: Welcome to Atlanta

Olympic Torch Tower!

The 123-foot-tall Olympic Torch Tower, is one of several reminders of that time Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics.

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. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Interstate traffic in the major cities we visit tends toward one of two prevalent modes: perpetual gridlock or expert death race. I prefer the latter, but I can deal with either. Atlanta on a late Sunday afternoon was the latter. The drive from Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park on I-24 East to I-75 South was swift and painless in a good way, measured by my criteria. Anne kept herself distracted from the derby around us by taking a few shots of downtown as we headed toward our hotel.

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