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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Emerging From Tombs

My wife after getting her second Pfizer vaccine.

Anne proudly remembering to grab herself a validation sticker after failing to on the first go-around.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: pandemic. Pandemic! PANDEMIC! How much longer, we all wonder? When will we as a planet — or at least as a country, or really just statewide would be nice — reach that quixotic goal of “herd immunity”? When can we go back to wandering within 2-3 feet of each other and resume absentmindedly taking everyday life for granted again? For us, Easter weekend represented another stepping stone toward that goal.

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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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A Sunday Brunch Between Hope and Impatience

Pandemic Dining.

The lovely lady and stalwart companion peruses the menu in a dining room section we nearly have all to ourselves.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: over the past several months my wife Anne and I have made infrequent outings to local restaurants using the guidelines I set forth in my previous listicle about how we do pandemic dining without getting killed or killing others. The TL;DR version:

  • Masks, masks, masks, masks for for all the reasons
  • Multinational chains will survive without us, so aim for locals
  • Just the two of us, no guests from other households
  • Places that take reservations generally plan better, so make them
  • Eat pricey for maximum desertion
  • Eat during slow hours when no one else is eating
  • Don’t overstay the welcome

Last Sunday morning we stepped out of the house again. In a way, we had cause for celebration. That phrase hasn’t come up for us often during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Our 2003 Road Trip: The Lost Photos

Yosemite Sam statue at Six Flags America.

Hanging out at Six Flags America with Yosemite Sam and avoiding the fashion police in my backwards cap, fanny pack, and souvenir T-shirt from our 2000 road trip to a sci-fi convention in St. Louis.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen 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.

Sure, a lot of couples prefer to spend their downtime at the nearest beach, book passage on a cruise, or max out their credit cards on a Paris dream trip. We have our own agenda. Finding creative ways to spend quality time together. Searching for tourism options that wouldn’t occur to our peers. Digging for gems in unusual places — sometimes geek-related, sometimes peculiar, sometimes normal yet above average. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

We’ve shared stories and photos from all our annual excursions here on MCC. The experiences that predated this site were recaptured in hindsight from the photos, memories, and previous online write-ups at our disposal. In a few cases our archival searches were disappointing, as we could’ve sworn we took more photos than what we found. Once I’d finished reposting every single vacation, I assumed that was that and moved on. Then a few months ago, Anne happened to be combing our library for something and stumbled across a pair of forgotten, small, old-fashioned photo albums that had been buried behind or beneath other albums and scrapbooks in some overshadowed nook. Within those mini-albums we rediscovered a secret stash of unused pics from our 2003 road trip to Washington, DC. Suddenly my completed online project had a gaping hole in it.

Mind you, they’re not the best photos ever. They were taken by amateurs on cheap cameras using 35mm film before we switched exclusively to digital photos in 2009. No one was filling our inboxes with requests to revisit our road trips. But in my mind, now that I can see these did exist after all, the omission of these unintentional outtakes leaves the original MCC miniseries incomplete. And the older we get, the more excited we get at the thought of restoring missing memories, grit and blurs and all.

Presented here, then, are bonus images from that time my best friend and I drove my son out to DC, learned a bit of American history, found a lot of places shut down for post-9/11 renovations, walked too many miles, and came to hate Subway sandwiches because it was the only cheap restaurant we could find near our hotel.

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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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Sunday Morning with Two Valentine’s Day Early Birds

Yellow rose in a restaurant vase.

A yellow rose in full bloom. A dining room with empty tables. Yet another illustration of The Duality of Man™.

It’s that time again! It’s Valentine’s Day and the internet reactions are more divided than ever. One camp hates the occasion consistently annually and never wants to hear about it again, which is fair. Another camp is bitter because current events and has exercised their freedom of choice to be captivated only by endless sources of bitterness. Meanwhile, Anne and I escaped the house for a short while to enjoy each other’s company before the rest of the world emerges to glut up all the establishments.

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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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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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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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