Restaurants In Memoriam: A Pre-Virus Retrospective

Mediterranean Grill!

Loukoumadis (fried dough), our final dessert at the Mediterranean Grill in Avon, Indiana. Taken in April 2017 on their final weekend in business. If only we’d shared more meals from there…

Midlife Crisis Crossover isn’t an official foodie blog, but restaurants are among the many and varied subjects we touch upon as we refuse to focus on a singular topic. Whether they’ve enlivened our annual road trips, featured in our wedding anniversary celebrations, given us something to do on Super Bowl Sunday instead of watching ads or sports, or simply welcomed us in for one-time tryouts, restaurants are a treasured aspect of our travel experiences, in other states as well as around our own hometown of Indianapolis. As you can imagine, my wife Anne and I are missing a lot of them right now rather intensely.

We’ve shared photos and warm feelings from dozens of eateries over the past eight years. Not all of them lived to see 2020, which in some cases may not be such a bad thing. Regardless, in this moment of wistful nostalgia, here’s a fond look back at some of the places that are no longer with us, who shut their doors after we visited them and didn’t even call us to say goodbye, because that’s not how it works.

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Rene Auberjonois, 1940-2019

Shimerman Auberjonois!

Us with the late actor, plus his dear friend and fellow Star Trek vet Armin Shimerman.

Sunday was not a kind day for our favorites in the entertainment world. Mere hours after the passing of Caroll Spinney, the kind soul behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, we were further saddened to hear about the passing of actor Rene Auberjonois from lung cancer at age 79. Many a youth cackled at his small but lively role in Disney’s The Little Mermaid as the French chef who tries to turn Sebastian the crab into an appetizer, but he’s been around since I was a kid. His repartee with Robert Guillaume on ye olde sitcom Benson (among other fine costars including Star Trek: Voyager‘s Ethan Phillips) taught me the comedy value in sparring opposites and well-timed barbs. It probably also taught me that haughty, no-nonsense stuffed shirts had much to learn about being kinder to coworkers, so there’s that value.

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Caroll Spinney, 1933-2019

Caroll Spinney!

That time my wife met the super awesome kindhearted puppeteer himself.

Sunday morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of the unexpected passing of Caroll Spinney, that dear absolute giant from the original cast of TV’s Sesame Street who brought to life two of that avenue’s great yet opposite creations: the childlike Big Bird, patron saint of friendly innocents; and the ornery Oscar the Grouch, a benign symbol of our selfish dark sides. He threw himself into both roles with gusto and aplomb for decades, and left his imprint on millions of kiddos.

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Tom Spurgeon, 1968-2019

Tom Spurgeon!

Our least worst photo of the esteemed gentleman, moderating a panel at CXC 2017.

Thursday morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of the unexpected passing of Tom Spurgeon, the longtime comics journalist, dedicated mind behind the Comics Reporter news site, and co-founder and executive director of Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an uniquely high-caliber arts festival that Anne and I attended both in 2015 and in 2017. I never had the pleasure of chatting with him in person and kick myself now for being too sheepish to try. Spurgeon was only 50, a year older than Anne and far, far, far too young.

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Aron Eisenberg 1969-2019

Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg!

Us doing Ferengi jazz hands with Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg (far right) at Starbase Indy 2014.

I didn’t hear the news till earlier today of the September 21st passing of actor Aron Eisenberg. We didn’t realize he wasn’t that much older than us. Age 50 is far, far, far, far too young. Really, all ages are far too young, but you know what I mean. I’m not sure my thoughts run more deeply than “This really, really sucks,” but we do have a few mementos for our remembrances.

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Peter Mayhew 1944-2019

Peter Mayhew!

A fond souvenir from our personal archives.

Fans grieved hard enough years ago when Chewbacca died in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, crushed by a moon. Hearing today of the death of Peter Mayhew, the man who brought George Lucas’ original Wookiee to life, was far more sorrowing. Everybody loves Chewbacca. Not even The Star Wars Holiday Special could damage him or our appreciation for the heart and muscle and loyalty he brought to the other, much shorter heroes of that faraway galaxy.

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13 Dead Presidents Pocketed: Our 2018 Road Trip Prologue

John Adams!

The earliest President whose burial site we’ve seen so far: #2, John Adams, d. 7/4/1826, age 90. Beneath the United First Parish Church in Quincy, MA. From our 2013 road trip.

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.

Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating. We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America.

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The MCC Halloween Archive! (Updated)

David S. Pumpkins!

Straight outta C2E2 2017, he’s still David S. Pumpkins. Any questions?

As a Halloween extra for Midlife Crisis Crossover readers who’ve joined us in recent times, or for anyone who loves a good rerun, we offer any or all of the following links to previous themed celebrations of the Halloween season, all eminently worth reviewing and/or sharing with your closest 50,000 followers. Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

* “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Trick-or-Treaters” — In which I give American kids unsolicited advice on how to do their job properly and earn their free junk food with a clear conscience.

* “Pumpkin Flavored Everything” — Among the precious pieces of fiction ever attempted in MCC’s 1600+ entries to date, this 1000-word tale about family, obsession, and the Great Pumpkin remains the most-Liked.

* “Back When I Wore Halloween Costumes” — Memories of my personal cosplay history, from trick-or-treating as a kid to dressing up in the workplace and other scenarios. Someday I need to plunge into our 35mm collection and dredge up a few of the more embarrassing ones.

* “The Mantis (With Apologies to Poe)” — This obligatory spoof of “The Raven” is based on the absolutely true story of the time a most peculiar animal sat upon our door for several days. And sat. And stared. And sat and sat and SAT.

* “Halloween Stats 2016: Rattling Sabers at Absent Neighbors” — I’ve kept track of our trick-or-treater traffic every year since 2007, when we became first-time homeowners and escaped our old apartment that trick-or-treaters refused to approach. It helps me determine the next year’s inventory, and sometimes I think counting things is fun. Expect a follow-up Tuesday night, though hopefully more than two dozen kids show up for us this time.

Nightmare Pumpkin!

That time I helped paint a Nightmare Before Christmas pumpkin but got denied a prize. Hmph.

Road Trip Origins Year 2, Part 2 of 3: Trainwreck at the Trainwreck


American history! Frontier architecture! Bison tongue appetizer!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a flashback to our second annual road trip, attending St. Louis’ second and final Gateway Sci-Fi Con in the year 2000. Actors from Mystery Science Theater 3000 were met, autographs were treasured, panels were enjoyed, and dozens of internet peers showed up to put faces with names. But we didn’t limit ourselves to the convention hotel’s property. None of us were from St. Louis; some of us were eager to explore and see what else the city had to offer.

Saturday night, seven of us piled into two cars and drove out to LaClede’s Landing, a district on the banks of the Mississippi River and down the street from the world-famous Gateway Arch. LaClede’s Landing is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with warehouses and facades dating back to the mid-19th century that were renovated circa 1975-1976. Not so renovated: the solid cobblestone streets we navigated at 2 MPH, feeling bump after bump after bump after bump after bump after bump as we crawled the blocks looking for sustenance and wishing someone would make the bumping stop.

Fate brought us to a saloon called Trainwreck on the Landing. Other Trainwrecks have existed in the 314 since the 1890s, but we knew nothing about any of them. We figured why not and gave it a whirl.

Hated it. We hated it so much, I wrote a skit about it four days later.

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How the Emperor Stole Christmas

How the Emperor Stole Christmas!

“At last we will reveal ourselves for Christmas. At last we will have presents.”

[DIRECTOR’S NOTE: The following Christmas poem, written by Star Wars fans for Star Wars fans, works best if read in the deep, laconic manner of Boris Karloff, James Earl Jones, Keith David, or Epic Voice Guy. As this piece hews more closely to the original book than to the Chuck Jones animated adaptation, we leave it to the individual reader to invent and insert musical numbers at their own discretion.]

Every Jedi down on Coruscant liked Christmas a lot
But the Emperor, who lived just this side of Coruscant, did NOT!
The Emperor hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why. He’ll kill you without reason.
It could be that electricity in his eyes was too bright.
It could be, perhaps, that his robe was too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all
Was that his heart was two sizes too small.
But whatever the reason, his robe or his eyes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating Jedis.

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Our Meager Kenny Baker Story

Kenny Baker!

[Star Wars fans were saddened to learn today of the passing of Kenny Baker at age 81. His long list of credits include Labyrinth, Time Bandits, and even Amadeus, but every piece ever written about him will focus on his longtime career as the soul of R2-D2. We previously told the story of the one time Anne and I met him, in 2002 at Star Wars Celebration II here in Indianapolis. If memory serves, he was the first Star Wars actor we ever met. The following is a modified reprise for the occasion.]

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Our 2011 Road Trip, Part 1: The Road to New York


Witness our first photos of Manhattan taken during — and stitched together after — our 2010 road trip, from the ferry on our way from the New Jersey shore to Liberty Island. A separate road-trip series for another time.

[Welcome to the first installment of a very special miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our family’s 2011 vacation to fabulous New York City, by which we largely mean Manhattan because we ended up skipping our to-do lists for all the other boroughs. Additional stops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania may not be proper consolation for anyone who was hoping to hear our thoughts on Coney Island or the Bronx Zoo. We’re revisiting this now because we’re planning on revisiting NYC in July 2016, hopefully with a better eye toward the areas beyond the rivers.

Some hindsight editing and modern-day commentary will be included along the way as value-added bonus features for readers old and new alike. All photos were taken either with my first Canon PowerShot or with my ancient Kodak EasyShare that became my wife Anne’s hand-me-down device for the next few years. Very little about these entries will approach 1080p quality, but we’ll do what we can with the materials at hand. Despite the Great Hard Drive Crash of July 2015, my wife saved backups of all of our digital vacation photos to Shutterfly, and you have no idea how excited I am to report that, on this very night, I’ve figured out how to download decently sized file copies for free instead of resorting to frustratingly inadequate screen shots. Science marches on.


Right this way for Chapter One in a very special MCC series! (CAUTION: It’s just a prologue.)

Introducing the MCC Rerun Smiley!

PeeGee 2016!

You can click him now and be teleported somewhere inside MCC’s timeline, or you can read this entry first and then take the plunge. YOU make the call!

If you’re like my wife, sometimes you’ll flip through your TV channels, find everything new is boring, and instead go paging through the lesser networks and stations for amusing episodes of defunct series that were once beloved by ancient civilizations. In recent months she and/or I have found ourselves inexplicably, temporarily mesmerized at times by the likes of Doctor Who, Supernatural, Grace Under Fire, The Facts of Life, Amen, 227 (we found an episode guest-starring Pee-Wee Herman!), Columbo, Adam West’s OG Batman, and more. When you’re not in the mood to choose your own specific entertainment, sometimes it’s relaxing to turn to your TV, yell “HIT ME!” and see what happens.

And now, you can do the same with Midlife Crisis Crossover!

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Kings Island King!

Author file photo, taken at an uncertain theme park circa 2006-2008, the years I used the Kodak EasyShare you see dangling from my lanyard. I ultimately decided not to buy the crown.

Welcome to Midlife Crisis Crossover’s 1200th entry! In the grand tradition of 20th century comic books and sitcoms that ran five seasons too long, every 100 entries we mark the occasion as a sort of accomplishment and sometimes celebrate it. Not all those 1200 moments have been winners, but they’re integral components in the comprehensive mosaic of the last few years inside my head — the distractions, the fancies, the traumas, the endless parade of lists.

Before I launched MCC on April 28, 2012, I’d already been writing here and there online for years. My early efforts at self-expression and public entertainment comprise a couple thousand Usenet posts (a few longform pieces in the bunch, mostly irretrievable and irrelevant now), several thousand message-board posts (much easier to sort through, a few of them previously transferred and preserved here), and a LiveJournal I kept for a few years but can barely stand to skim now. In 2006 the longtime message board that Anne and I call home received a software upgrade that added blogging functionality for any member who wanted their own little playground contained within the site itself. Between April 2006 and March 2012 I penned 110 intermittent entries before I decided to stake my own separate claim here among the WordPress territories. That virtually invisible blog was good practice in a number of ways, most of them involving some balance of creativity and humility in the face of a mostly empty studio, so to speak.

As part of this MCC celebration that I just realized could technically double as a “Throwback Thursday” nod, we present the following flashback to an essay originally published May 16, 2006. This oddity, which I’ve lightly edited for a broader audience, represents my very first “meta” post about the odd act of blogging. It was written within and for the confines of the internet equivalent of a shed with a single skylight, but I’m a little surprised how much of my nascent impressions still ring a bell today. Please enjoy, and thanks for being here.

Right this way for a very special Throwback Thursday!

From the MCC Archives: Star Wars! Star Wars! Star Wars!

Walmart Vaders!

That name again: Star Wars! Official merchandise and irrelevant products of marketing synergy are now available in literally every Walmart department! Star Wars: It’s Not Just for Toy Aisles anymore!

From time to time, the Star Wars saga crosses our minds here at Midlife Crisis Crossover. Occasionally it’s a serious thinkpiece; usually it’s poking fun; either way, it’s coming from a longtime affectionate immersion in that phenomenal universe. In honor of the upcoming release of The Force Awakens, the seventh chapter in the live-action film canon as rendered by director JJ Abrams and a cast of whippersnappers and old folks alike, we present the following suggested reading list of essays and gags from MCC’s past. These entries may be undiscovered experiences for new followers, pleasant reruns for our longtime associates, or the perfect drugs for anyone who’s fiending for any form of consumable entertainment with the words “Star Wars” in or on it.

For a virtually complete revue of every major Star Wars entry we’ve ever posted, you can follow MCC’s “Star Wars” tag and, among other omissions, take a tour of every convention and event we’ve ever attended that drew a large turnout of Star Wars cosplayers, including our experiences at Star Wars Celebrations II and III. And don’t forget we were just talking about it a few days ago, though that entry’s far too new for the “archives” label and is therefore disqualified from inclusion. Maybe if we do this again for Episode VIII.

Enjoy, rest assured this list contains no real spoilers for The Force Awakens, and MTFBWY!

Right this way for your recommended Star Wars reading list!

Star Wars Celebration 2005 Memories, Part 3 of 3: Costumes!

Jedi M&Ms!

Jedi M&Ms: they melt on Mustafar, not in your hand.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a flashback to our four-day weekend at 2005’s Star Wars Celebration III in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Part 1 was nearly three thousand words’ worth of anecdotes, bullet points, actors, friends, Star Wars creators, popes, and the worst line we’ve ever endured in our entire lives. Part 2 was a basic photo gallery of stuff ‘n’ things that were pretty exciting to us at the time. Now it’s all standard convention decor, but we were younger and easily impressed.

And now we reach the grand finale to this very special all-35mm MCC miniseries in a predictable fashion with predictable fashions. It’s vintage cosplay time! Here’s what the Star Wars fans of yesteryear were wearing before cosplayers divided sharply into two camps: those spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on painstakingly self-tailored tributes; and dudes in store-bought Halloween costumes. Enjoy!

Right this way for Star Wars cosplay, 2005 style!

Star Wars Celebration 2005 Memories, Part 2 of 3: Stuff We Saw

X-Wing Fighter!

Life-size X-Wing Fighter! Working engine and hyperspace drive sold separately.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a flashback to our four-day weekend at 2005’s Star Wars Celebration III in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Part 1 was nearly three thousand words’ worth of anecdotes, bullet points, actors, friends, Star Wars creators, popes, and the worst line we’ve ever endured in our entire lives. Part 3 is the inevitable cosplayer roundup.

Tonight’s episode: more scans of 35mm ten-year-old photos, now with more Star Wars stuff than ever in them — a combination of official Lucasfilm props on display behind lock and key, loving fan-made objects, and Star Wars playthings writ large. If Part 1 is a long nonfiction book, Part 2 is the glossy photo section in the middle of the book apart from the rest of the content. More things, fewer words. Enjoy!

Right this way for a short, easy-to-scroll-through photo gallery of Star Wars things!

Star Wars Celebration 2005 Memories, Part 1 of 3: Who We Met

Ralph Brown!

He was burnout concert promoter Del Preston in Wayne’s World 2, a victim in Alien³, and the big-bad Dr. Fennhoff in Marvel’s Agent Carter, but to Star Wars fans with advanced memories, Ralph Brown is best known as panicky pilot Ric Olie from The Phantom Menace.

So far my Labor Day weekend on the internet has been all about (a) toy fans reveling in the Star Wars “Force Friday” merchandise onslaught, and (b) longtime cohorts kicking around Dragon*Con in Atlanta seeing lots of SW-related costumes, actors, and at least one novelist. I’m happy for everyone enjoying themselves for those various reasons, but skimming through all this STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS has put me in a nostalgic frame of mind about a relevant occasion from our own past that I meant to dredge up four months ago for May the Fourth but delayed due to distractions.

Ten years ago last April, my wife Anne and I attended all four days of Star Wars Celebration III (“CIII” to our friends), the second and final major SW convention to grace the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. As with the 2002 shindig (previously relived on MCC here, here, and here), our weekend was filled with costumes, props, things containing Star Wars logos, performers, crowds, terrible line management, and out-of-town internet friends given a great excuse to visit.

Sadly, my own write-up of the experience was atomized shortly after its initial posting due to a freak accident involving dumb stupid idiotic software that made it too easy for a trusting message-board administrator to delete dozens of threads with a single misunderstanding keystroke. Anne’s own version of events survived the purge and remains online as a minute-by-minute account more thrilling to those of us who were there, probably less so to outsiders. This, then, is the recap of her recap.

Right this way for Star Wars! Star Wars! STAR WARS!

Our Road Trips, 1999-2015: the Complete Checklist, So Far


Teaser image from our 2015 road trip, Day 5. Coming soon!

[Hey, all! The following special presentation is the all-new Page added tonight to MCC that merges and replaces the previous individual “Our Road Trip” checklists that were taking up too much real estate in the desktop header and the mobile menu. This handy Big Picture checklist summarizes all the trips we’ve taken to date for full historical context, with links to everything that’s been exclusively posted here since 2012, a few years’ worth that have been reprinted here on special occasions, and capsule summaries of other trips and vacations we previously shared on other sites in years past that, sooner or later, Lord willing, will all be re-chronicled on MCC someday as part of the continuing story of one geek couple and their annual quests to find new things to see and do.

Or if you totally hate domestic travel, skip down to the 2013-2014 checklists and pretend this is a different new entry called “A Salute to MCC Post Titles”. I’d understand if you did, really. I do like titling stuff.]

Right this way for lists within lists, which I also really like!

Gen Con 2008 Memories: Super-Heroes, Costumes, and Old Friends


A souvenir of that one time we knew someone who’d survived a reality TV show and pulled off the rare miracle of giving us a reason to want to watch reality TV. Photo by the Defuser.

[Today kicked off Gen Con Indy, where enthusiastic hordes of gamers and related geek types have returned to game, and game, and game and game and game. North America’s largest tabletop convention has called Indianapolis home since 2003. In 2008, my wife Anne and I attended for our first time for a special reason.

Despite our recent computer disaster, we’ve recovered many of our photos from four different sources to varying degrees of quality. As my own way of marking the occasion and unearthing unshared items from our personal archives, presented above is a photo of the two of us with someone we knew at the show. More about her in a moment.

The following writeup was previously posted a week later for about ten or fifteen friends. I’ve subjected it to minimal Special Edition-ing to scrub a few in-jokes and satisfy my own fussiness. I also wrote a brief article about the experience for a short-lived wannabe news site, but that’s lost forever and someday I will have my revenge upon those responsible for pulling the plug without giving me a heads-up first. Not that I’m bitter.]

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