Enjoy Every Sandwich

Bacon Quiche!

The most bacon-forward quiche we’ve ever ordered. The salad and fruit cup bring a lightening balance and make the whole meal seem more responsible.

Some folks patronize blogs for the words. Some are just here for the pictures. Words and pictures are often meant to interlink hand-in-hand, but authorial intent is not truly in charge of the reader’s experience. Consumers can exercise their freedom to ignore one half of the storytelling in favor of the other. Comics have sold for years using a similar dichotomy.

Sometimes my connections between words and pictures are tenuous, but they’re no less real or visible to me. In this very entry, for example, food aficionados can appreciate glimpses of one August morning at a lovely little eatery in Zionsville called Rosie’s Place, the last time we hit up a local establishment that wowed us enough to remember to take photos. Previous Zionsville visits have been a treat every time, no matter which of their establishments we’ve visited.

While that photo gallery is in progress around me, readers who don’t mind my characteristic verbosity can see me fumbling for the right words in a moment of grief and rage.

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When Words Failed the Spelling Bee Contender

Charlie Brown in the spelling bee!

That time in February 1966 when Charlie Brown thought he’d win friends and respect through good spelling. Today’s internet would eat him alive.

A lot of other middle-aged guys have cherished memories of the good ol’ days when they were on sports teams and won games and fame and attention, followed decades later by the deep frustration with how their athletic-hero phase was temporary, the pinnacle of those wonder years left far behind.

Me? For a few proud minutes, I had spelling bees. Recent headlines, in particular the exciting news that the National Spelling Bee at long last had its first Black American winner this week, dredged up a few of my own recollections and regrets.

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Should We Have Taken a “One Year Later” Time Jump to Today?

covers from DC Comics "One Year Later", 2006!

I had four of these six issues. In hindsight I wish I’d gone out of my way for the covers by Adam Hughes and Jock. Alas, that time has passed.

Once upon a time in 2006, The Powers That Be at DC Comics continued their tradition of biannual publishing stunts with “One Year Later”, in which all ongoing series leapt forward in time twelve full months, dropped their heroes into weird new scenarios with no initial explanations, then kept the stories moving forward from there while occasionally braking for flashbacks to all the important events that messed up the status quo during the year they skipped. As superheroic special events go, it was kindasorta fun for about ten minutes till the next publishing stunt came along.

Meanwhile this past weekend, my social media feeds have been filled with friends, family, strangers and other users reminiscing of the Before Times way back when — whether wistfully or ruefully — all recalling “one year ago today” and “this time last year” and other non-milestones before the world was upended by horrid little microorganisms that exploited our weaknesses, and not just the physiological ones.

If you had the option to skip the past twelve months in real life so you wouldn’t have to have lived it one minute at a time, one failure at a time, one agony at a time, one calamity at a time…how confused would you be if your timeline ended “this time last year” and then you returned to your story today, and your supporting cast had to catch you up on everything you missed?

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Stranded 40 Feet from Home

My car, stuck at the foot of our stupid driveway.

Cold day. Cold irony.

This week the teeming cloud hordes of Old Man Winter barreled across the American skies and bludgeoned entire states and regions into total pandemonium. Blizzards dumped heavy swaths all around as if half the United States were now honorary Minnesotas. Schools and other community activities that had opened their doors to welcome COVID-19 and its carriers reneged and locked their doors. Power grids failed. Water pipes seized up. Numerous utility companies faced wrathful accountability for their shortsightedness, for skimping on precautionary upgrades, and for being smug greed-heads. Homes became inhospitable and even dangerous, forcing families to seek shelter, charity, and survival elsewhere. The turmoil dragged on for hours and days even after the snowfall ceasefire. Millions of internet users distracted themselves by logging onto their devices by candlelight, their batteries down to 15% or less, and channeling their unchecked rage into scathing verbal attacks on the Zodiac Killer. This week was like 2020 all over again, much like all the 2021 weeks that preceded it, but, like, somehow in its own way even 2020-ier.

Me? I got my car stuck at the end of our driveway.

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Delighting in Delicacies, Not Pounds of Pasta

Agnello & Caprino!

Dinner for Anne at Catellos: the Agnello and Caprino — rack of lamb atop pappardelle in a red wine sauce with shallots and herbs on a bed of goat cream sauce.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last fall we shared our tips for supporting local restaurants in person during the never-ending pandemic without a churlish kill-or-be-killed approach. We still don’t dine out too often because COVID-19, but when we do, that listicle’s ten bullet points remain firmly at the forefront of my planning anxieties.

That entry was written during another Devour Indy occasion, a twice-yearly citywide event here in Indianapolis when local restaurateurs — nationwide chains need not apply — offer specially priced prix fixe menus to entice new customers to come sample a few of their wares. My wife Anne and I are fans of the event, but we usually skip the sale items and check out what’s on the main menu. It lets us try places we’ve never been, and it helps them recoup the considerable costs of participation. A few weeks ago, it was that time again.

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Evergreen Wisdom from a Feathery Yogurt Head

"If two million people do a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."

Old friends Milo, Opus, and Portnoy from back in the day.

“If two million people do a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”

I dived into all the old collections of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County comic strip as a teen. Some of its jokes have aged well. Some, not so much. Some political references would fly miles over my head uncaught. Not until decades later did I learn who Jeane Kirkpatrick was or what Bill the Cat might’ve seen in her.

30+ years later, I’ve never forgotten that simple quote from P. Opus, the world’s largest-nosed penguin. Even before 2020, I thought about it a lot. The voices in my head have found no reason to retire it yet.

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2020 Makes 20 Years

Chocolate Cupcake!

What better way to celebrate a special occasion in 2020 than a cupcake topped with the emoji that best describes 2020.

2020 took casualties on every level, literally as well as metaphorically. Lives have been lost. Survivors have had their lives changed for the worse by lingering coronavirus side effects. Jobs have been suspended or eliminated. Businesses have closed. Families have suffered. Special events were canceled….or worse, continued on schedule but infected and killed their attendees. Plans great and small were waylaid. Happy times were postponed for safety’s sake and downgraded to a form of delayed gratification to be fulfilled in what will hopefully not be an even worse year to come.

Milestones on the calendar came and went — some without fanfare, others with drastically reduced celebrations. My own example at hand: 2020 marked my twentieth anniversary at my day job.

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How Many Talented and/or Famous People Have You Unfairly Outlived?

Chadwick Boseman.

The late Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, posthumously released today on Netflix.

The year 2020 is an incorporeal super-villain mastermind and everyone’s list of grievances against it is longer than a protest march and bitterer than black coffee tinged with chicory and herbicide. I’ve tried to work through several of my own fears and anxieties here throughout the course of the year, but one nagging thought has escaped articulation for months. It’s the sort of riddle that drives a thinker nuts if they dwell on it too long. Every faith and/or philosophy has a response to it, but not necessarily an answer. “All is within God’s Plan.” “Everything will make more sense in the end.” “The universe works in mysterious ways.” “Perhaps we’ll never know.” “Everything is meaningless and we’re all doomed so why worry about it.” Or put it out of mind and distill it into Kurt Vonnegut’s black-humored humanist shrug of “So it goes.”

Faith notwithstanding, it bugs me anyway. I’m 48 and counting. I am who and what I am. I have my uses, but I’m just me. Why did Chadwick Boseman only get to make it to 43?

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Christmas Anyway

me wearing a Christmas Mask.

All-new Christmas mask courtesy of my sister-in-law and niece. Christmas tie from my personal collection. Christmas cheer from divine intervention, maybe.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: pandemic! Pandemic! PANDEMIC!

Also, it’s the holiday season! We found a way to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend safely and are among the 197 Hoosiers who didn’t test positive for COVID-19 two weeks later. Lord willing, we might just make it to Christmas Day. Maybe even beyond! It’s good to have goals and hopes.

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Christmas in November

November joy!

Yes, it’s early, but hey, free speech.

This afternoon of November 7th, the Lord has blessed Indianapolis with 72 degrees of bright warmth in defiance of humanity’s calendar. Anne and I enjoy a sunny walk through a day that could have been darker like others around it.

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