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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The Least August of All Augusts

Wizard World Chicago 2020!

The formerly real Wizard World Chicago 2020 guest list, still happening this weekend in a much brighter timeline.

August has never been my favorite month under ordinary circumstances. Comics creator Evan Dorkin recently and accurately captured the essence in describing every August as “31 hot Sundays in a row”. Perfect description.

August has no major holidays and no whimsical minor holidays apart from fake internet ones. (I once created my own party-a-day August calendar, but no one supported this ambitious and deeply time-wasting endeavor.) Nearly all our local schools reopen, which means more traffic clogging up my daily commute. Temperatures soar to unpleasant levels. TV networks continue airing dross until the fall season’s starter pistol is fired. Movie studios run out of highly excitedly anticipated blockbusters and fill out their slates with second-tier products that should’ve gone straight to home video. Augusts would be a total waste of calendar space if not for the events humankind created to pass the time until September at least does us the kindness of bringing our next federally sanctioned three-day weekend.

Leave it to 2020, which is less like a year and more like a nonstop acid-rain thunderstorm over a minefield cursed by a cackling witches’ coven, to lay waste to any and all potential August plans and make the worst month even worst-er.

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5 Months’ Growth, 3 Months’ Retreat

June 2020.

Adrift in an off-white limbo. Hair by slapdash fiat. Old Hawaiian shirt by, I dunno, probably Kohl’s or J.C. Penney.

June 25th marked five months since my last haircut. Some people wait that long on purpose. When your naturally curly hair is a curse, that’s not usually your Plan A. But sometimes your plans need a change in ranking.

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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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