49 Birthday Candles Traded for One Onion Volcano

Hibachi-style onion volcano.

Burn, onions, BURN! Entertain me with your flames before you’re all hacked apart, divided among our plates, then mostly dumped back onto mine because my wife and son hate onions!

For the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events, such as 2019’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last year my birthday trip was among the billions of traditions ruined by the pandemic, all of which paled in significance to the millions of lives lost (and still counting). We spent the entire weekend amusing ourselves at home so, Lord willing, I might survive to see the next birthday. In that sense TakeOutCon 2020 achieved its stated goals but will not become one of our household traditions. If the pandemic somehow spawns a sequel and a TakeOutCon encore becomes necessary in some future year, I will blame you, humanity.

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The Post-Vax Celebration Breakfast and Field Test

truffled egg tartine!

You can either read all the paragraphs I went to the trouble of writing or simply brake here for a photo of truffled egg tartine — sous vide poached egg with roasted asparagus, truffle oil, tiny bottarga dollops, Fontina cheese, preserved lemon and microgreens.

Are you as tired of reading about the pandemic as I am of mentioning it in nearly every single post here? Wouldn’t it be great if I could move on? And if we as a planet could move on? It hasn’t happened yet, but we can dream of that future while we wallow in the mortal dystopia of Pandemica, because emotional multitasking is among our coronavirus-era coping mechanisms.

As with many an arduous journey, the path to the After Times will be a series of baby steps. And someone has to go forth and be those stepping babies.

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Tiptoeing Back into the House of the Lord

Purple lights at worship service.

Our view of a perfectly wasted opportunity for someone to improv a Christian pop song called “Purple Reign”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: pandemic pandemic bo-bandemic, banana-rama-fo-fandemic, fee fi mo mandemic: pandemic! It’s sucked beyond all calculable orders of magnitude, has put people we know in the hospital or the grave, and currently rated a negative-ten-million percent on the Tomatometer.

Then amid Worst Year Ever, a ray of hope: the vaccines arrived. Then amid our ray of hope, penetrating lasers of inky darkness: a media and populace that simultaneously embrace vaccines and distrust them at the same time. And I’m not talking about the deniers shrieking at us from their log-cabin schoolhouses with tinfoil roofs, boasting how they’re more interested in preserving their reckless impunity than achieving herd immunity. No, I’m talking about the ostensible “good guys”:

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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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Precautionary Shoegazing: Our 2020 in Pandemic Floor Decals

Donut Shop social distancing floor decal.

Can’t remember which donut shop in Avon has this decal. We visited three of them in 2020.

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

Among the 6,000 things we hated doing differently for our own safety in 2020, one of the easiest yet weirdest was going into businesses to buy whatever, approaching the register, and having to take standing lessons from social-distancing floor decals. Because in a world where those infected with the coronavirus could unknowingly kill innocent bystanders with their breath like a clumsy ninja Godzilla, some folks were poor judges of distance and/or medical hygiene. As always, in a pandemic or otherwise, some people need practical advice.

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Wandering The 2020 Christmas Shopping Wastelands

Mall Walking.

Deck the malls with melancholy, fa la la la la, la la la…la?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: it’s a very special pandemic Christmas! Wait, no, not “special”. I meant “panic-stricken”.

This year I was determined to do as much of my Christmas shopping in person as possible, which worked well for me last year. Comparing 2019 to 2020 is like comparing apples and cyanide pills, but here I am anyway, trying to buck the American trend of relying on Amazon for any and every human acquisition need like a newborn infant relies on its parents for basic feeding and sanitation. So far in 2020 I’ve ordered from Amazon four times, my lowest total since 2008. The fact that Amazon keeps that information on file so I could actually fact-check myself is kind of creepy and further justifies my decision to pursue other shopping venues regardless of the added cost.

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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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10 Timely Tips for Pandemic Fine Dining in Peace or Panic

Duck & Duck!

Oakleys Bistro in Indianapolis presents their “Duck & Duck”, two modest portions of sliced duck served with a rosemary duck confit arancini, charred broccoli spinach puree, pickled cherry relish, coriander crema, and leek puree.

Has pandemic fatigue got you down? Are you sick of subsisting on the two-year bulk-food supply you overstocked in your basement back in March? Could you use an hour-long break from staring at the same walls seven days a week? Have you become so annoyingly restless and loud that your family wishes you’d stop putting the “rant” in “quarantine”? Are you worried your favorite restaurant may collapse and die like Uncle Ben while you stand there like Peter Parker doing nothing about it? More importantly, can you afford to eat out right now? Most importantly, are you safe for other humans to be around?

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Disease Control: The Home Game

Pandemic!

Whoever chose the cities represented in this board game totally whiffed when they left out Seattle.

Four months ago our family added a new board game to our collection. Pandemic’s what-if scenario of infection spiraling out of control worldwide has been a plot device in occasional movies and TV shows. It seemed like an interesting concept for a fun game. Any supernatural foreshadowing inherent in this benign purchase was lost on us at the time.

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