Our Retroactive “Nomadland” Vacation Memories

Frances McDormand and friend in "Nomadland"/

“We’ll keep pushin’ till it’s understood / And these Badlands start treating us good…”

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. One of my few accomplishments in 2020 was at long last filling a gap in my list by catching the elusive 1996 nominee Secrets and Lies, which had been out of print for ages but of course is just now scheduled for a Criterion physical release at the end of this very month. Regardless, having crossed that off, I can now say I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt, Secrets and Lies enthusiastically included.

The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge. In a standard Oscar season, the Best Picture nominees would be re-released to theaters for a limited time, I’d run out and see each one, and that would be that, a bit costly but easy-peasy. Since March 2020 I’ve walked into theaters exactly twice (which each left me frustrated and disappointed) and haven’t been eager to test those revolutionary new air filtration systems or the other patrons’ pandemic manners. Using my four-step listicled viewing method helped calm my fears and, I think, helped not to get myself or my family killed, so it wasn’t all for naught. I’m not sure how many more times I feel like tempting fate. Getting fully vaccinated would allay all remaining concerns, but as my schedule happens to be working out, I won’t reach peak immunization (i.e., 14 days after my second Pfizer shot) until literally the day before the Oscars.

By the end of 2020 I’d seen Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7 of my own accord. Two weeks prior to the nomination announcement on March 15th I caught a third nominee in advance, certain that it was a lock for a nomination based on its universal critical acclaim — Nomadland, the one with Two-Time Academy Award Winner Frances McDormand, from the director of Marvel’s eventually forthcoming Eternals. The Powers That Be were kind enough to release it on Hulu as well as in theaters. I appreciated the humane gesture, and was surprised to see several scenes were filmed in locations familiar to me and to longtime MCC readers who’ve followed along on our road trip experiences.

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Okay, Fine, NOW I Get Baby Yoda

life-size Baby Yoda statue.

Not mine, a coworker’s. But if he retires before I do and forgets to take it with him…

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I subscribed to Disney+ a year behind the rest of the world and are doing our best to catch up on the content that matters most. So far that means Pixar’s Soul and the Star Wars universe. On a more inessential note I also watched Cars 3, which was better than the second one, which wasn’t too high a bar to jump.

But our primary objective has been Star Wars because for the past year everyone around us has been “Mandalorian” this and “Baby Yoda” that and of course they had to take turns asking us every ten minutes, “Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet? Do you have Disney+ yet?”

YES, WE HAVE DISNEY+ NOW. Um, finally. Sorry for shouting.

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Merry Christmas from MCC!

Christmas String Quartet!

Even though our workplace is 90% work-from-home, building management hired a string quartet to usher in a morning of Christmas cheer.

It’s that time again! Another Christmas, another quick new photo gallery of our seasonal surroundings. Somehow we never quite run out of sights, not even in this, the Worst Year Ever.

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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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