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Another Smile in Chicago

Anne at Geno's!

The lovely Anne — wife, travel companion, convention partner.

Dateline: Friday night around 7-ish in downtown Chicago. Twice per year my wife Anne and I travel three hours northwest from our Indianapolis home to visit their two big comics/entertainment conventions, meet comics creators, have our photos taken with actors from some our favorite movies and TV shows, and enjoy a weekend getaway from the workaday world.

Sometimes we need moments away from the convention scene and the thousands of like-minded bodies crammed into those cavernous yet ultimately finite spaces. After a successful first day at C2E2 and checking in at our hotel, we grabbed dinner a few blocks away from Geno’s East Pizzeria, one of many renowned establishments in the Windy City and one we’ve visited in the past. It’s always busy and it’s weird at first to find yourself in a place where customers are permitted and encouraged to write on any and every available surface (you’ll note one such culprit caught in the act behind Anne), but you get used to it after a few minutes.

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Give Our Regards to the Indiana Flower & Patio Show

Tulips!

Shout-out to the wandering stranger who just had to stop and ogle the wooden reindeer at that exact moment.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Twice per year my wife Anne and I escort her grandmother to one of two special events at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Each November we visit the Indiana Christmas Gift and Hobby Show. Each March the highlight of her month is the Indiana Flower & Patio Show, which features numerous displays of colorful flora, booths where gardeners and homeowners can peruse and pick out their new seeds, plants, implements, and accoutrements for tending and cultivating their yards in the forthcoming spring and summer. Assorted horticulturists and lawn care companies show off bouquets, sample gardens, and ostentatious flowers you’ll wish you owned.

[After the 2016 show] Mamaw…expressed some concern about how many more times we’ll get to share this outing. She’s 91 years old, isn’t beautifying the plots outside her house as much as she used to, and is finding the sensory overload more exhausting than ever. As long as she’s still interested in attending her annual Super Bowl, we’re happy to keep seeing her there.

Now she’s 92. Despite our hopes for a miracle or a superpower origin or even a monkey’s paw, she isn’t getting any younger. After her medical event last November we wondered for months if she would feel up for any more public outings. Neither Anne nor I wanted Mamaw to miss out on her favorite place in the springtime…but as of right now, our annual tradition is officially not happening.

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We’d Rather Be Conventioning

DeLorean!

My wife Anne enjoying a ride in a DeLorean (under 88 mph) at Wizard World Chicago 2011. If only Doc Brown could chauffeur us away today.

You know that feeling when the end of a long winter is coming, but it feels like the doldrums are the only state of mind you know because they’ve pervaded your everyday world so deeply that you forget what life was like without them? Or is it just us? Did everyone else have a positively thrilling winter and we’re the only ones yearning to ditch it all for just a few days out of town? Or at least a few minutes away from early post-winter potholes?

Longtime MCC readers know Anne and I love to travel together. We look forward to our annual road trips to different parts of the United States every year. In recent years we’ve added a slate of in-state birthday outings for more quality time together. Then there’s our favorite penchant for frequenting the Midwest comic/entertainment convention scene. Even before February had ticked off its twenty-eight days with Oscar season and not much else in its favor, the two of us were already putting our heads together and planning our 2018 getaways from our present homebody status. We have a loose framework for our 2018 road trip, early into its mapping stages and too soon to share spoilers. We have no idea how to spend this year’s birthdays because it’s far too soon for such talk. Conventions, on the other hand, are already nigh.

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Faces in a Crowd of Caring

Gleaners Food bank!

Our team of volunteers busy and bustling and bagging away.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, each year from 2014 to 2016:

[My employers] gave several hundred of us the opportunity to spend half a workday (on the clock!) participating in scheduled acts of service at various charities throughout Indianapolis — charitable synergy courtesy of United Way. I signed up and went forth to serve at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, one of the most prominent resources in local hunger relief efforts. Despite their long-standing presence and far-reaching efforts, Gleaners has yet to run out of work. Like any major city, Indianapolis has its share of poverty-stricken residents, food deserts, regrettable layoffs, and hard times during recessions. Officially, the Food Bank doesn’t hand out food directly to the needy; it’s the distributor that provides foods to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, domestic abuse hideaways, and the like. The Food Bank, in turn, receives its supplies via donations from the big-box stores (Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, Walmart), from government suppliers, and from food drives held by other corporations and organizations. It’s a complex delivery system with many important components, and help is always welcome.

…and so it went again in this outtake from September 2017, when dozens of my coworkers and I flocked to Gleaners once more for another round of assistance with their various anti-hunger processes. This year I was on a team tasked with filling up bags of groceries that would be handed out to local schoolchildren in need — canned, boxed, and pouch-shaped items of varying degrees of nourishment, all to ensure they’d have something to eat besides their school lunches.

I didn’t write up the experience this time for MCC because honestly, after four years, what else is there to say? Other than copying-and-pasting the same description, which I just did there? The work is sadly still necessary, and many of us were happy to pitch in. We weren’t there to show off or stand out or selfie our way to victory. We were just faces in a crowd ready and willing to do our little part. I lost track of how many bags we put together in all — somewhere in triple digits? — but we kept busy, kept the assembly line going steady, and kept up hopes that we made a difference to someone out there.

security camera!

A reflection of our volunteer group off the overhead camera shield, milling about in our service.

Six Sweet Shots: Our 2017 in Sugary Outtakes

BJ's Brewhouse!

April 1st: BJ’s Brewhouse presents the Baked Beignet. Fried dough tossed in cinnamon and sugar, topped with whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream, strawberries, and strawberry puree.

I had something else planned for this space tonight, but it’s been the kind of week that’s left me wanting to drown some sorrows instead. I could flail about recent stresses on either a personal or national level, potentially spewing a 3000-word tirade that only my wife would read. Or I could take the safer clipfest route and meditate on some of the carefully crafted calories that brightened our days throughout the past year, none of which ever made it into any MCC entries till now.

Perhaps “meditate on them” is a bit too lofty. Ogle them. Savor the memories. Wallow in these past comforts. Take some solace that staring at these photos is less unhealthy than having all six dishes in front of me right now and feasting upon them all at once in one sweet smorgasbord.

For now, for tonight, this shall do.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 6: By Neptune’s Trident!

Neptune + turtle!

Beware the power of my trusty trident and my TERROR TURTLE!

In designing and composing our travelogues, we pride ourselves on capturing the narrative that we lived through. Sometimes we find ourselves in a state of zealous motion, pausing only for fleeting glimpses of our surroundings. Other times, a notable sight will stop us in our tracks and invite closer examination, sometimes indulging in variations on a theme like the following mini-gallery. Such was the case when we approached Virginia Beach, where a certain King of the Sea towers over the boardwalk and commands the attention of anyone with an eye for detail who isn’t in a hurry to go get sunburned.

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