How I Spent My Thanksgiving Holiday

Ten pies brought to Anne's family's Thanksgiving this year.

Pies nearly outnumbered people at Anne’s Thanksgiving this year.

It’s the holiday season! Yes, again! The past two weeks have been far from boring as Thanksgiving came and went, events kept sliding into our schedules, opportunities for both travel and sedentary diversions fought to take up our head space, and Christmas kept trying to assert its dominance too soon. Some of the busyness lent itself to pictures.

Some of the things I did:

* Thanksgiving at home! My side of the family has more or less forfeited turkey-time now that most of us live far from each other — states away, in some cases. In lieu of that, on Thanksgiving Day itself the last few years we’ve been inviting my mom over so she doesn’t have to spend the day alone. Anne makes a feast for the four of us that would feed a full-size gathering. I watch a movie with Mom, I spend a few seconds reminiscing in my head about how I used to spend Thanksgiving night studying the Black Friday ads in the newspaper, and then we dine on the leftovers for days. That’s baseline Thanksgiving of late. I finished the sweet potatoes Wednesday morning for breakfast, and thus were our leftover duration standards met.

Our Thanksgiving 2022 dinner with boneless Butterball turkey, sweet potatoes, rolls, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and so on.

Not pictured: the second of two boneless Butterball turkeys Anne made, our household’s event-dinner poultry of choice.

* Thanksgiving way from home! After Anne’s grandma passed away in 2018, her side’s turkey time went on hiatus as everyone suddenly began focusing on gatherings in their other circles that they’d been missing over the years, or they indulged other non-holiday activities while Mamaw was no longer around to guilt-trip them sweetly into coming over. This year two key relatives moved up to Indiana after a decades-long stay in Kentucky and offered to host a Thanksgiving comeback special. One catch: it was Friday at noon, which meant no one could spend the entire day shopping. As most folks rely more heavily on online shopping nowadays and are okay with driving local proprietors into the poorhouse, nobody complained about schedule conflict.

As seen in our lead photo, we had too much pie, a phrase that sounds like heresy, and yet there it is. I limited myself to sliver-sized slices from three different pies and pretended that was a mature choice. Even before the Friday shindig, we’d already had pumpkin and pecan pies at home…and a chocolate pudding pie the weekend before, as a pre-Thanksgiving teaser dessert, kind of like how some families let kids open one gift on Christmas Eve. All told, the pie collection featured were pistachio, squash, pumpkin, Oreo, different Oreo, chocolate non-Oreo, Tollhouse Cookie, custard, cherry, and my favorite, pecan chocolate chip. For anyone demanding a change of pace, there was a store-bought pumpkin roll, and the last faction to arrive brought a cake I never got to see.

A few of our preferred groceries have become scarce or nonexistent during the temporary recessional inflationary supply-chain crisis-esque inconvenience meltdown trifle catastrophe that’s been status quo for like two years straight, but at long as we can find pie, or pie can find us, we believe America will stand tall and brave any other challenges ahead. Hopefully.

Our relatives were pretty happy to see each other again. Right on time, my social awkwardness kicked in as all the most interesting and ebullient talkers decided the best place for mingling in varying groupings would be in the room where I wasn’t. Three of us guys who weren’t much on initiating chitchat (all of us being plus-ones to blood kin) were left in the living room with the TV off and no one volunteering to do anything about it. Instead we agreed to find separate directions in which to stare off into space, avoid eye contact, and fall back on the hoary excuse that we were “digesting”. I kept my phone pocketed for as long as I could, but eventually caved. I got in a good forty minutes’ silent, boring doomscrolling before anyone checked on me.

In a few ways I’d missed that. Sort of.

A big black and white doggie sitting by my feet, staring politely.

Their doggie kept me company through some of that. I didn’t get her name.

* Black Friday shopping anyway! On my old blog I used to have an annual tradition of keeping a “Black Friday War Journal”, a complete rundown of times, stops, and purchasing results written throughout the hours I’d spend on Black Friday out there in the predawn pandemonium and the maddened crowds, all written in the terse, paranoiac style of Frank Castle. I walked away from all that as Black Friday metamorphosed into a very different thing over time, but I do miss keeping those War Journals.

Despite our noon engagement, I got out for a few hours in the morning beforehand to grab a couple of minor sales. I saw no customer feeding frenzies, no fistfights, and no police springing into action to quell riots. At 8 a.m. Barnes & Noble was teeming with dozens of teens. At 9 a.m. Target was already sold out of a popular Nintendo Switch game in their ad (or they hadn’t bothered to order any — I checked two different Targets, mind you). By 10 a.m. Best Buy had almost no line at the registers. I was home by 11.

* Family Game Night! That was Saturday evening. I’ve posted in the past about some of our experiences with new board games. The ones that catch our attention are too expensive for us to make this a regular habit, although after seeing how many Likes my Instagram posts get whenever I share them, it’s really tempting to reinvent myself as a Board Game Guy. Our latest acquisition is Terraforming Mars, a 2016 release in which each player is a future corporation doing its part to turn Mars into Earth Junior, ostensibly in the name of solving a humanitarian crisis and advancing humankind’s frontiers and scientific achievements, but also you’re competing to see who can take the most credit. Corporations gonna corporate.

The setup and teaching phases took us far too long, but eventually we picked up speed as we got used to the rules, slowly realized which of the zillions of scores ‘n’ stats mattered most, and figured out how to sabotage other’s plans in the grand corporate tradition. My son won this initial skirmish, but I expect different results next time. Hopefully.

Terraforming Mars board game, which comes with literally a few hundred components, including over 200 cards.

Anne and I hope to start on season 3 of Apple+’s For All Mankind in the next few weeks or so. This game feels like an apropos prologue.

* Solo Game Nights! Or, “how I spend every night after 9:00 when I’m not sleepy and not writing, which is most of them lately.” Fallout 3 has been keeping me company. I’ll write more about it in the next annual “Old Guy with a PS3” entry, but for now let me say that, considering the number of years I spent playing nothing but Skyrim, luring me into a game whose mechanics and sandbox sprawl are virtually identical to Skyrim‘s was like handing a Jack Daniels gift-box to your alcoholic dad. Thankfully there aren’t nearly as many locations, and the Capital Wasteland is far smaller than Tamriel, so maybe I’ll “finish” it sometime early in 2023. The less I write here, the more time I have for covering ground there.

"Radiation Warning" sign in Fallout 3.

The fence around Fallout 3‘s crater where the White House used to be. Lately this image could also double as Twitter’s home page.

* Xfinity Watchathon! A few times per year, our old-fashioned cable TV provider will treat their customers to several free days of premium services they refuse to subscribe to normally. That’s when I catch up on my HBO stories. My last Watchathon was devoted entirely to season 3 of Barry, which remains amazing; this time in between all the other activities I just wrote about above, I managed to fit in ten episodes of Succession (I ended with season 3’s riotous shareholders’ meeting, and hope the next episode doesn’t begin with poor Frank still trapped at the podium vamping for time), the HBO Max original film See How They Run (a frivolous whodunit with some historical facts blended in, and I cheered when I recognized Lucian Msamati from the awesome Gangs of London as Agatha Christie’s husband), and, for Mom’s Thanksgiving afternoon entertainment as a lifelong fan of disaster films, Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, the worst 2022 film I’ve seen so far. Thanks, Comcast, mostly!

* A funeral. Anne’s great-uncle, her Mamaw’s youngest brother, passed away Thanksgiving Eve after three years of compounding illnesses and conditions. He was an Air Force veteran who went on to work for the FAA, he served on the local township school board for sixteen years, he spent over five decades in the Lions Club and assorted charity works, he used to take the family out for Christmas dinner every year at Gray Bros. Cafeteria in Mooresville, and he was always kind to me and my son whenever he saw us, same as he was to pretty much anyone who intersected with his path. His numerous accomplishments added up to the sort of obituary that makes you hope your own obit won’t end up a two-line slug that just says, “Mostly harmless.”

* Things that will get their own MCC entries in the week ahead! Stick with us as I’m on staycation all next week and should have plenty of time to write about:

  • The Menu, a wicked but sadly overlooked satire of wealthy foodies and the restaurateurs who take too much pride in serving them.
  • A field trip to see a collection of special Christmas trees in a local museum.
  • Our next convention! I spent Monday night prepping for this coming weekend’s big soiree, which will take us to a city in another state that we’ve already visited twice this year, whose convention center we walked around once but have never been inside before.

…and maybe even more, more, more, right here on MCC! If you don’t read about all these by next Wednesday, please tell Anne to go drag me out of Fallout 3 kicking and screaming.

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 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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The Last New Comics Day?

New Comics 03-25-2020!

New releases on my pull list for the week of March 25, 2020, a date I can hopefully forget someday.

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.

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The Delaware Problem

Pixar Collection!

Once upon a time Pixar was so bulletproof that I aspired to a complete collection as each new film was released. You’ll note there are now intentional gaps as well as one pretender that speaks to why there are gaps.

Collections. Series. Runs. Seasons. Sets. Discographies. Filmographies. When geeks love a thing, they’re often overwhelmed with the desire to consume or possess all of that very thing. It’s not enough to say you’ve done some or many or several or a lot of a particular thing. Whatever you did, watched, read, listened to, or owned, what matters most is you managed all of it.

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Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Photos #6: The Droids We Weren’t Looking For

purple light-up astromech!

Purple light-up astromech guts.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

April 11-15, 2019, was the ninth American edition of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration, recurring major convention celebrating their works, creations, actors, fans, and merchandise, not always in that order. After jaunts around the U.S. coast and overseas, this year’s was in Chicago, gracing the Midwest with its products for the first time since 2005. My wife Anne and I attended Thursday through Saturday and fled Sunday morning…

It was a Star Wars Celebration. Of course there was a veritable droid army on the premises. Far more than we’d expected, once we stumbled upon their barely advertised hiding place. Granted, there were a couple patrolling the exhibit hall…

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The Culling of a Comics Collection, Chapter 1

Comics Culling...

Indiana as a state has an abysmal track record when it comes to encouraging recycling efforts, but options do exist if you know where to look.

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about Marie Kondo, the lady with the Netflix show who, if I understand all of last year’s internet squabbling correctly, recommends everyone throw away all their possessions except their Top 10, keep only one pet and release the rest into the wilderness, stuff half their food in the garbage disposal, raffle off any jewelry that weren’t featured in magazine articles, or something like that. For the record, I haven’t watched a single episode, so I’ve not been hypnotized and chanting, “I must give away all my possessions and join the KondoMinimizers,” or whatever.

No, I’ve been planning the act in the above photo for a few months now — consciously, at least. Subconsciously, maybe a lot longer.

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Old Guy with a PS3, Year 3: The Never-Ending “Borderlands 2”

Face McShooty!

In Borderlands 2, some missions are harder and more meaningful than others. The showdown with Face McShooty is not one of them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover two years ago:

As a kid, I frequented video arcades regularly. As a parent, my son and I spent a good decade playing games together on his various systems. When he graduated and moved away to college, he took all his systems with him, leaving me with only my old Nintendo that won’t play cartridges unless you keep the Game Genie firmly inserted, and an Atari Plug-‘n’-Play Controller I got for Christmas a few years ago that interested me for about two weeks. On Black Friday 2014, I decided I wanted back in the 21st century gaming mode and picked up a used PS3.

Naturally I started off a generation behind the rest of the civilized world, but I didn’t care. After fifteen months without, holding a controller felt abnormal and rusty for the first few weeks. Once I got used to it again and figured out how to disable the “Digital Clear Motion Plus” feature on my TV, I could shake the dust off my trigger fingers, choose the games I wanted to play, sprint or meander through them at whatever pace I saw fit, and try some different universes beyond Final Fantasy and our other longtime mainstays. The following is a rundown of my first year’s worth of solo PS3 adventures…

…which brings us to our third annual round-up of how I spent my retro-gaming time this year. In previous entries I would list all the games I played that year in the order I played them and with my trophy percentages included, whether impressive or embarrassing.

This year, it’s a short list, he understated:

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Requiem for Another Indiana Comic Shop Closed

Android's Dungeon!

Whenever a comic shop closes its doors, Marvel kills off another Angel.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in July 2014 I expressed hopes and well wishes for the Android’s Dungeon, a new comic book shop that had opened in Avon, Indiana, in a heavily commercial area in otherwise comics-less Hendricks County. The owners were a nice young couple; the selection was diverse; the perks were kind. All signs pointed to potential success.

On August 31st, last Wednesday, the Android’s Dungeon observed one last New Comics Day before closing its doors for good.

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Board Games and Breaking Away

Star Wars Monopoly!

On a board far, far away…

My son has been staying with us this week, getting away from his isolated college apartment for a bit to enjoy better cooking and some human contact. Twice this week we plowed into our stash of board games and had ourselves some old-fashioned family quality time. While we were immersing ourselves in other, tinier worlds and their simpler structures of governance, obviously we couldn’t know this would end up an atrocious week for American civilization beyond our cozy, secluded walls.

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