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”.
Have you ever looked back on an occasion, really dug deeply into those tucked-away memories, only to have your rose-colored glasses slapped off when you’re suddenly reminded of a truly terrible part that you’d managed to forget?
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enjoyed a weekend of free HBO, found mixed results with a new streaming service, and, may the Lord have mercy upon us, withdrawn from Tiger King mania.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.
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.
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.
Atlanta is home to a few major companies with international reach and historical impact. Among them, CNN was closest to our hotel. The 1980 brainchild of local media mogul Ted Turner, best known to our generation as the guy who brought us Turner Classic Movies and who thought it would be cool to have It’s a Wonderful Life garishly colorized, CNN was the first 24-hour all-news channel, back in the days before every hobby, profession, concept, or word had its own dedicated 24/7 cable channel out there.
The building has been around since 1976, but it’s been the CNN Center since 1987, when CNN and its eldest offspring CNN Headline News relocated and made it their broadcasting home. CNN’s primary programming now shoots in NYC, LA, and DC, but HLN and other CNN offshoots still call ATL home. As it happens, the CNN Center offers tours to the public. We thought it sounded fun. Neither of us watches CNN regularly, though Anne dabbles in HLN’s true-crime programming. Sadly, our tour did not include a meet-and-greet with the narrator of Forensic Files.
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.
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.
Misleading Headline Disclaimer: this is really more of an “If We Were Having Coffee…” kind of entry, but I’m finicky about my entry titles, and sometimes I can’t let go of a useless, self-deprecating joke that’s been bouncing around my head for days.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the great Carrie Fisher died unexpectedly some thirty or forty years too soon, and MCC remembered that time we met her. As if 2016 weren’t already a frontrunner for Worst Year of the Millennium before these last-minute additions, the next day brought the equally shocking news that her mother Debbie Reynolds had also died. We can’t and won’t imagine how their family is faring and can only add our prayers for the caring and guidance of others around them through this unfathomable time.
Meanwhile here in less important spheres, the week has been sad and unusual and frustrating on a lower level. If we were having coffee, I’d be apologizing for keeping a minimum safe distance because I’ve been waging war on a nasty cold that’s been digging at me since Christmas Eve and finally took me down Wednesday, turning me into a hacking, sniffling, irritating noisemaker that my coworkers kept trying to shoo out the door. I’m now typing this at the end of a much-needed sick day and…well, at least I’m alive and typing, and I was on TV Monday night, so this is me trying to tone down my complaints.
Trump. Trump, trump.
Trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump Trump Trump trump trump trump trump trump trump-trump trump trump trump. Trump Trump trump trump trump trump trump (trump) trump trump trump trump Trump trump trump Trump Trump trump Trump. Trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump trump.
Once again it’s Election Day here in America, the taut finale to one of the worst seasons our political showrunners have written for us to date. When I began typing this shortly after a new episode of Chopped Junior ended, Twitter was having itself a series of roiling meltdowns as everyone insisted on paying too much attention to the early returns even though some states won’t be finished tabulating or even voting for the next several hours. That’s setting aside any pending conflict resolutions or triple-overtime recounts for those neck-and-neck battleground states where the Big Two are finding their supposedly easy leads in the Presidential race thwarted by votes siphoned away by third-party candidates and repelled away by their own morally compromised candidates and constituents.
Today I performed my civic duty as an Indiana voter and participated in our May 3rd primaries despite the options. My wife and I have differing political philosophies, but we were unanimous in our non-enthusiasm for any of the four remaining contenders going into our less-than-super Tuesday. Once upon a time, my wife could walk into any election headquarters, throw the straight-ticket lever, and be out the door before they could finish peeling her “I VOTED!” sticker off its backing paper. Not so much anymore.
Indiana’s voting laws are flexible enough that it doesn’t matter which party you normally identify with — for primaries you simply tell them which party’s ballot you want to use, then you’re off and running. No proof of allegiance, no mandatory party registration, no pop quiz, nothing. Despite that flexibility, Anne and I each deliberated much longer than usual in choosing between the Reality Star, the Clinton dynasty, the Televangelist, and Old Man Cloud-Yeller. And this is just the primaries. We have a lot of thinking to do between now and actual Election Day in November.
But of all the messages I’ve been sifting through on social media tonight in between The Flash live-tweets, one will stick with me longer than any other.
Plan A for me tonight was to write about either of the two new movies I’ve seen in theaters over the past week. I have a few Plan B’s stored up in case of mental short-circuit. Tonight, I just…can’t. Nothing I want to enjoy sharing is working.
Ever since I got home, I’ve found it impossible to concentrate on writing because I first had to spend a while catching up with online anguish over the San Bernardino shootings. And, bringing up the rear in all news roundups, the smaller shooting in Savannah, dwarfed and nearly invisible next to San Bernardino, like that time The Love Letter opened the same weekend as The Phantom Menace. That’s a horrible, boorish comparison, to say the least. But that’s where we seem to be headed, into a future in which so many are growing up to become disgruntled, corrupted, fundamentally broken, spiritually deformed gunslingers that the career track has become overcrowded and they’re now vying for public attention like some lethal breed of fame-starved pop idols. Soon they’ll have to start hiring black-market publicists to coordinate their outbursts with each other so none of them overlap and each shooter can have a chance to dominate the news cycle for a minimum number of hours before the next shooter steps up to the range.
If you haven’t already heard about the tragic murders of nine people Wednesday night at the 150-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleson, SC, pick an American news service (well, nearly any American news service that isn’t using this as tactless, opportunistic, political scapegoating leverage against their imagined arch-nemeses that have zero to do with any of this) and go read up on what we know so far.
Once you’re up to speed and properly disturbed, have some ideas for what else you can do in response, including but not limited to:
* Pray. Followed by more praying. And then still more prayer. For the families of the victims. For their community. For your community. For those whose duty will be the trial and prosecution of the perpetrator. For the perpetrator as a malignant lost soul. For all of us as a country and as a lifeform.
* If you’re racist, maybe try not being racist for a while and see how it feels. Not-racism carries some fabulous perks, such as that invigorating feeling that, in this way if nothing else, you’re not a warped relic from an era that’s bygone for reasons.
* As a reading exercise, consider the words of an actual relic of another era: an 1861 speech by Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States of America. Skip the first several verbose paragraphs until you see the word “negro” start popping up a lot. See how many sentences you manage to take in before you can’t go on. Now consider, 154 years later, we have 21st-century American-born citizens who buy into lines of thought anywhere within the same area code as what Stephens held to be true. See which hits you first: deep sorrow, righteous outrage, or the worst migraine you’ll ever feel.
* Skip the comedy generalizations of all Southerners. I’ve seen a few folks quick to jump on that too-easy bandwagon. Until just now, all this year’s worst nationwide headlines about race-related death came from Yankee states. My wife and I will be traveling in the southern U.S. soon and I fully expect to meet countless examples of American citizens not prone to acts of evil like this.
* Instead of boosting the public profile of the racist murderer of nine by railing about him by name, read tributes about the nine victims, about the faith that moved them, and about the good works they performed here during their time in this broken world. You can check out the Washington Post‘s version, which includes interviews with bereaved family and friends telling the rest of us about those dear folks the rest of us never had the chance to know personally, or there’s the Buzzfeed version, which has fewer exclusive interviews but supplements that with some social-media screen-grabs that are a little less tacky than their normal fare.
* Donate. Major news services are reporting that Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., is in the process of spearheading a relief fund for affected parties. As of this writing the official fundraiser site isn’t live yet, but I’m linking to it anyway in case that changes soon. If it doesn’t, if you’d rather not wait for it, or if you’d prefer a more direct approach, Emanuel AME’s home page has a PayPal button. The money goes directly to them, no government intermediaries. Point, click, donate, help, do something.