Calculated and Recalculated Risks

Before and After!

Even with clippers, with fullest safety measures observed it took a good thirty minutes to deescalate my hair status from Tom Waits to Bob Mould.

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.

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Not Put Asunder, 16 Years and Counting

Chicago 2012!

I already used up the one photo we’ve taken together so far in 2020, so please enjoy this previously unshared file photo from our April 2012 trip to Chicago and C2E2, a souvenir from a bygone era when we were allowed to travel out of state and be near other humans.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.

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The Horrors We Can Contain

Arkham Horror!

Sometimes systems that look like unmitigated chaos from the outside are easier to navigate once you’re fully on the inside. Or they can consume you whole.

If now is not the time for a tortured metaphor involving a convoluted board game set in a fictional universe created by a flagrant racist, I don’t know when is.

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Forfending a Fearful Phase with a Fleeting Flashback to a Forgotten Fair Photo

Indiana State Fair 2017 Jazz Hands!

Photo by one of Anne’s old schoolmates.

Whenever you’re having the sort of week that might be more endurable if you could spend the rest of it under your bed and away from keyboards, it’s cool just to post a single photo and declare you’ve fulfilled your blogging responsibilities for the week, right? That’s a remarkably wide divergence from my modus operandi, but I’m trying it just to see what happens. It’s my site and I’ll shirk if I want to.

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Reaching Out Through the Zoom Lens

Zoom Jazz Hands!

As you’d expect, our most requested pose. Special thanks to my sister-in-law for the screen shot.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the duration of the interim normal, all other human bodies are to be treated as walking land mines, held at a remove, and if one approaches you, go hide and let them detonate in someone else’s face instead.

In these extreme circumstances we’ve sometimes found ourselves doing things far outside the old, complacent, pre-fatality routines. Letting our hair grow into shaggy 1970s grotesquerie. Taking early morning walks around our neighborhood. Calling elderly relatives before they call us first. Posting on Facebook.

Our latest deviation from the norm: hopping on a communication technology bandwagon.

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Pictionary Mysteries

Basketball Pirate!

Most likely guesses: basketball court, one of the Dippers, first aid kit, and…uhh, Rooster Cogburn?

It’s fun to dig through old possessions containing still older possessions — shoe boxes, plastic tubs, photo albums, and other stashes — and discover treasure troves of unrecorded history and lost secrets. Objects that would’ve evoked nostalgic memories if only you’d exhumed them sooner eventually turn meaningless when removed from their once-contemporary context and forgotten by their original buyers or creators.

Some families are more assiduous in their note-taking practices and and fully dedicated in passing on their stories to future generations. Other families have piles of letters and images filled with mementos of strangers they’ll never know, occasions no one can recall, anecdotes never to be retold, and feelings the descendants will never share.

Sometimes such surprises are sprung on you from the unlikeliest hiding places. This past Saturday night we found one inside an old board game.

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My 2020 Reading Stacks #2: The Horror and Heroism of “Becoming Superman”

Becoming Superman!

A highly recommended read, from the introduction by onetime Babylon 5 writer Neil Gaiman to all those other pages not written by Gaiman.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year, each and every squarebound work of qualifying length that I’ve read gets a capsule review apiece. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will still pop up here and there, albeit in an outnumbered capacity…

And now, we rejoin reading time already in progress…though this time with a single memoir that hit me on numerous levels.

7. J. Michael Straczynski, Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood. The sub-subtitle on the cover of the celebrated writer’s 2019 autobiography pulls no punches and tells no lies: With Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths, and War Crimes. Those diverse, potentially lurid topics are by no means a complete list. He left more than a few surprises between the covers, where they await discovery as each is torn out of his family’s deep, dark closets and brought to light.

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The MCC 2020 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Film Revue

Hair Love!

This white guy and his retreating hairline kinda wish we had this young lady’s tonsorial problems.

Each year since 2009 my wife Anne and I have paid a visit to Keystone Art Cinema, the only fully dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis (for now), to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

We’ve already covered the Live-Action half. Next we present the Animated Short Film nominees, ranked from absolute keenest to mostly keen:

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“Knives Out”: Benoit Blanc and the Secrets of the Spoiled Socialites

Knives Out!

Three professionals want to know who killed Christopher Plummer and whether Kevin Spacey had an alibi.

Fans of writer/director Rian Johnson previously saw him dabble in the mystery genre with 2005’s Brick, a hard-boiled high school noir in which murder was afoot and everyone was guilty of something. After dabbling in preexisting universes with key episodes of Breaking Bad and that one time he turned Star Wars fandom into one big West Side Story gang war, Johnson returns to creating his own characters with Knives Out, a stellar whodunit that flips genre expectations, venerates a few old tropes, and, best of all, lets Daniel Craig have a rollicking vacation away from those glum Bond films and their even glummer press junkets.

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“The Farewell”: Grandma’s Not Run Over by the Pain, Dear

Farewell Family!

Family photos: hundreds of bucks. Honoring your family before they become “ancestors”: priceless.

“YouTube rapper” is among the myriad 21st-century phrases that strike fear and uncertainty in middle-aged fogies like me and makes us want to hastily close our browser windows and go seek refuge in MeTV reruns. I’d seen the stage name “Awkwafina” here and there in credits for such films as Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, neither of which I’ve seen yet, but I know zilch about her earlier works or online career. To be fair, most musicians whose entire resumes are less than a decade old are strangers to me. I figured I’d reach that age sooner or later in life, and knowing I’ve arrived there kind of sucks. I take heart that at least I’ve maintained a patient politeness with today’s bizarrely chosen entertainer names and I do try to suppress knee-jerk responses such as “In related news, I now wish to be known by my rapper name, Coo-Laid Mann.”

It’s been six years since the last time I had the chance to attend an advance movie screening (2013’s Broken City, for which I still want recompensated). Our city’s only verified art-house theater holds an occasional drawing for free screenings, which I keep losing. That changed this past week when I was a lucky winner invited to see Awkwafina star in the new A24 dramedy The Farewell, which I’d never heard of prior to the theater’s emails.

Thus my son and I found ourselves in a full house on a Monday night, snugly within an audience of whom the majority were over 65. This crowd was the most senior citizens I’ve seen in a theater in years. I’m pretty sure I knew more about Awkwafina than they did. Halfway through the movie the 80-something lady on my left fell asleep. At one point my son noticed someone behind us was listening to music on earbuds. On the bright side, no one in the rows ahead of us played on their phones during the movie.

Generational differences can be a funny thing.

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Not Put Asunder, 15 Years and Counting

Heart Walk 2010!

File photo of us from 2010, when we participated in the occasional miles-long charity walk.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.

Sometimes on these annual entries I’ll use a photo from our recent road trip, but this year’s edition of that much-needed break from the rat race won’t be till the end of August. The wait is killing us, as is Father Time, which is another reason I went retro and dug into our personal archives for a younger photo of the two of us. This week some 150 million FaceApp users are out there having all their selfies converted to elderly “Have You Seen This Nursing Home Escapee?” mug shots and letting overseas marketers data-mine them into so much digital chattel, while I’m here swimming upstream toward youthful times. But, y’know, for love.

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How the Cats Watched Us Suffer

Orange Tabby!

That darn cat.

The tabby cared not that the once-furnished domain was now barren. We could take away the bedding and the collections and the clothing piles, but we couldn’t take away the sunshine through the window. Unless we hung the curtains back up. Which was tempting, just to be spiteful.

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Lucky 2007-2019

Lucky Birthday!

The dog of the hour.

…so, uh, spoilers for this heartbreaking entry in the title, obviously.

28 hours past the event itself, I’m two sentences into this and have already had to stop typing twice to compose myself.

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My Doggo, My Drug Buddy

Lucky!

Lucky in repose atop the only IKEA product in our entire house. Thankfully we were able to get his giant urine stain out of it.

When drugs get a foothold in your household, they don’t always belong to your first suspect. Sometimes there’s more than one.

Our home’s recent influx of new pharmaceuticals began shortly after Baby New Year 2019 arrived to kick out grizzled, bitter Grampaw Old Year 2018. We had such high hopes after the changing of the guard.

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas-Card Christmas

Christmas Cards!

Shout-out to the 15 keeping it old-school.

In the ancient days of the twentieth century, before the internet normalized access to instantaneous contact with other humans thousands of miles away, keeping in touch with distant family and friends took effort and/or money. Long-distance calls weren’t included free in our monthly phone bills and racked up astronomical charges if we stayed on the line more than a few minutes. Cross-country travel was affordable for upper classes but a luxury beyond the reach of my family. That left two choices on the table for us: making do with happy thoughts and prayers; or the United States Postal Service.

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Thanksgiving Between the Christmas Cues

Thursday paper!

Another ancient tradition falling by the wayside in today’s culture: newspapers thrown on driveways.

Before our first glimpse of Thanksgiving turkey or family, my long holiday weekend kicked off after work Wednesday when I arrived home around 4 p.m. to find Thursday morning’s newspaper already delivered, articles and all. The largest physical edition every year, Thanksgiving Day papers are coveted for their Black Friday ads, more or less the official Christmas season launch. Shoppers can’t wait to get started on it — hence more and more stores reopening on Thanksgiving itself, hours ahead of the Black Friday starter pistols. It stands to reason our carrier couldn’t wait to get past it, to unload this newsprint behemoth as soon as possible.

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“Searching”: You Can’t Find Someone You Don’t Know

Searching!

Anyone who thinks it’s silly to watch a movie on a phone or PC should be delighted to see the tables get turned.

One of the odd dichotomies of living a robust online life is that we’re often better known to strangers in distant lands than we are to the offline, physically adjacent family and friends who have actual visual contact with us on a regular basis. There are parts of our lives with our loved ones that we would never discuss online, and yet there are things we share only with social media Friends and Followers. It’s rare for anyone we know to fall on both sides of the divide — sometimes because we’d rather not have to reconcile both worlds, but more often because members of one side have no interest in belonging to the other.

They like or love us on the one side, but either we don’t invite them to the other side, or they don’t feel a need to pursue us to the other. But if people only know one side of us and not the other, can they really say they know us?

The fascinating new film Searching takes a hard look at what happens when one side of a life implodes and the only way to save them is to take a leap across that deep divide.

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Not Put Asunder, 14 Years and Counting

Us and Rocky!

From our return to Philadelphia last week. We were one of three couples taking turns taking each other’s photos with Rocky Balboa.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate. We just got back from our 2018 road trip a few days ago and have yet to recover fully, but we refuse to let fatigue and battle damage hamper our personal festivities. As I’ve mentioned before, maybe it’s best not to brag too proudly, but fourteen years is no easy feat in a world of increasingly disposable relationships that’s maybe two or three steps away from inventing drive-thru divorces and frequent-philanderer reward programs.

Dinner this year was at a relatively new place down the street called Kaza Maza, quite possibly the first Moroccan/Mediterranean cuisine ever to grace our side of town. Other than some issues with the Coke Zero, we wouldn’t change a thing about the evening. ‘Twas a fine place to celebrate love and marriage and to forget about the part where we had to return to our day jobs this week.

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Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 23: 300 Miles from Steak to Cake

Iowa Machine Shed!

WELCOME TO SHED. YOU COME HAVE FOOD, NO, NOT TOOLS. THAT IS OTHER KIND OF SHED.

It all comes down to this: the last leg of our long, long trip. We began with friends; we concluded with family.

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Staking Claims at Mamaw’s House

Mamaw Stuff!

To the living go the leftovers.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on June 7th my wife’s grandmother passed away, six days before her 93rd birthday. From 2011 to 2017 my wife Anne and I would take her out twice per year to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for her two favorite outings, the Indiana Flower & Patio Show and the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show. Longtime MCC readers have been treated to the resulting photo galleries and occasional cute Mamaw photos — her in her wheelchair and me as her chauffeur. While the better relatives would come over and visit her from time to time, not all of them took her places. I was among the precious few who stepped up to the privilege of being her personal driver in that sense.

The ongoing postmortem process has moved at a glacial pace in the ten days since her passing. Over this weekend the family got to the part where they begin dividing up the stuff she couldn’t take with her. As far as we know, she didn’t have a will drawn up, nor did she have enough extravagant possessions to her name to merit bitter feuding in lieu of one. The house itself is ultimately spoken for, but for now an aunt and a cousin are acting as estate wranglers, for lack of an actual, legally opened estate. This means they’ve been allowing close relatives to take turns coming over and picking out whatever mementos they’d like, within reason.

Today was Anne’s turn. Behold a selection from her de facto inheritance.

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