In the ancient days of the twentieth century, before the internet normalized access to instantaneous contact with other humans thousands of miles away, keeping in touch with distant family and friends took effort and/or money. Long-distance calls weren’t included free in our monthly phone bills and racked up astronomical charges if we stayed on the line more than a few minutes. Cross-country travel was affordable for upper classes but a luxury beyond the reach of my family. That left two choices on the table for us: making do with happy thoughts and prayers; or the United States Postal Service.
Before our first glimpse of Thanksgiving turkey or family, my long holiday weekend kicked off after work Wednesday when I arrived home around 4 p.m. to find Thursday morning’s newspaper already delivered, articles and all. The largest physical edition every year, Thanksgiving Day papers are coveted for their Black Friday ads, more or less the official Christmas season launch. Shoppers can’t wait to get started on it — hence more and more stores reopening on Thanksgiving itself, hours ahead of the Black Friday starter pistols. It stands to reason our carrier couldn’t wait to get past it, to unload this newsprint behemoth as soon as possible.
When you make a longtime hobby out of turning words and pictures into hopefully entertaining compositions, more for the sake of self-satisfaction and human interaction than for lofty aspirations to widespread fame and/or corruptive fortune, it’s always a pleasant surprise when something you did — no matter how tiny or inconsequential it seemed at the time — somehow catches the eye of just the right person and creates an unusual opportunity you’ve never had before, never saw coming, have trouble explaining to others, but draw a bit of pride from anyway.
I’ve had a few such occasions pop up in my life. Another one of those odd little things recently happened for me. I think I now have enough to assemble my own checklist. It’s not long or dignified enough to call a bibliography, but if there were an Internet Peanut Gallery Database — like IMDb, but for nobodies like me — then my IPGDb page would presently look something like this:
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Anne and I attended the 2016 Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, whereupon…
…We also had the pleasure of meeting director Jon Schnepps and producer Holly Payne, the minds behind the recent documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”, the astonishing true story of that time Nicolas Cage, director Tim Burton, and writer Kevin Smith tried and failed to make a, uh, truly unique Superman film together. I’ve been wanting to see this for months even though I’m afraid to see it for myself.
We chatted for a minute at their table. I can’t remember a single thing about the conversation except that they were good people not that different from us. The last time I saw him in person was later that same weekend as we were wandering around the town’s “Super-Con” — the Superman Celebration’s equivalent of an exhibit hall for toy shops and comics dealers. During our lap around the building, we passed by Schnepp — no guards, no entourage, no disguise — standing at one table, rifling through their back-issue box like any ordinary average Joe who hadn’t made an actual film, accumulated Cartoon Network credits to their name, or once filmed themselves being wrestled to the ground by an unchecked, filthy rich studio exec.
After I watched writer/director/producer Schnepp’s candid, illuminating documentary about a massive failure of a Hollywood production, I eventually remarked…
We rarely get complete stories as to why a given high-profile film turns out awful, let alone a tell-all about one that collapsed under its own bloated before it could harm the innocent public. Copious interviews with would-be director Tim Burton, several attempted screenwriters including but not limited to a candid and incredulous Kevin Smith, producer Jon Peters checking in from some bizarre mental plane far removed from our own, fans, pundits, and other crew members who put in hundreds of hours of labor before someone realized they were collaborating on a fiasco and had to be stopped. It’s a shame Nicolas Cage himself couldn’t chime in with his thoughts because I suspect they would’ve made Peters seem rational by comparison.
Cage’s absence notwithstanding, I had to respect the force of will it must have taken to coax such revealing cautionary tales out of the participants themselves. I never took the time to watch Schnepp’s signature work on the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse (my loss, I’m guessing), but from the strong showing in that documentary alone I’d assumed we would see more great things from him in the future.
Then came the events of the past week.
Our 2018 road trip is behind us at last. After seven days and 2,056 miles together on the open road, Anne and I arrived safe at home Friday night, several hours later than expected and ready to retreat into overnight catatonia. Five out of six previous evenings ended much the same way — with a number of new achievements to our credit, new memories to add to our mental slideshows, new regrets to tally up, new aches and pains to nurse, and new letdowns from the unchecked items on our lengthy to-do list. In some ways that’s a typical vacation for the two of us, but what stings most are a few omissions that weren’t our fault.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on June 7th my wife’s grandmother passed away, six days before her 93rd birthday. From 2011 to 2017 my wife Anne and I would take her out twice per year to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for her two favorite outings, the Indiana Flower & Patio Show and the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show. Longtime MCC readers have been treated to the resulting photo galleries and occasional cute Mamaw photos — her in her wheelchair and me as her chauffeur. While the better relatives would come over and visit her from time to time, not all of them took her places. I was among the precious few who stepped up to the privilege of being her personal driver in that sense.
The ongoing postmortem process has moved at a glacial pace in the ten days since her passing. Over this weekend the family got to the part where they begin dividing up the stuff she couldn’t take with her. As far as we know, she didn’t have a will drawn up, nor did she have enough extravagant possessions to her name to merit bitter feuding in lieu of one. The house itself is ultimately spoken for, but for now an aunt and a cousin are acting as estate wranglers, for lack of an actual, legally opened estate. This means they’ve been allowing close relatives to take turns coming over and picking out whatever mementos they’d like, within reason.
Today was Anne’s turn. Behold a selection from her de facto inheritance.