The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 4: Obligatory Food Photos

Greek Souvlaki burger!

A Greek Souvlaki burger (lamb and beef) topped with feta, tapenade, sundried tomatoes, garlic, herbs ‘n’ spices, arugula, tzatziki, and tomato. On the side are Asian Bonito fries with sesame oil, fish flakes, black pepper, scallions, and mushroom mayo. (*whew*)

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Well, at least we did before 2020. Anne turned 50 this year, but for work-related reasons involving the Age of Coronavirus, I’m currently not allowed to leave the state of Indiana for the foreseeable future. Anne did some local travel research, a longtime hobby of hers (you have no idea how many of our future road trips she’s already mapped out), and came up with a few things she thought would be fun to do on a Saturday in autumn. Naturally we had to start with a long walk around someplace with millions of leaves changing colors. When you live in Indiana, it’s what you do. After picking up some sugar for breakfast, our first attraction of the day was McCormick’s Creek State Park, southwest of Indianapolis…

…which we promptly vacated when the crowds began to triple in size, when we decided we’d gotten our money’s worth from the park admission fee, and as lunchtime drew near. As it happened, Anne’s short to-do list divided into two neat halves, each of which lay upon State Road 46 an hour south of Indianapolis. The loci were twenty minutes apart, so easily navigable that I could memorize the directions in advance even at my age, which works especially well now that state law as of July 2020 forbids me from using Google Maps on my phone while we’re in transit. Anne is all too happy to allow for anything that forces me to drive more safely. If it means other drivers likewise must keep their phones sheathed so they can concentrate on driving more quickly and without collisions, then for those two ideals I can support it.

Anyway: on to food. It was a birthday outing. Of course we ate.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #32: Farm Fresh Feast

Cheese Board!

A fancy cheese board straight from the cows’ udders. Plus or minus some intermediaries.

We’ve not far now until the end of the miniseries. One last mealtime wraps up the Hoosier culinary side of things.

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First One to 50 Wins

Anne at 50!

Milady at her birthday dinner, with hints of the pandemic around the edges but in the moment not standing between our hearts.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, when ruminating on the origins of this very site:

This blog was set up three weeks before my 40th birthday as a means of charting the effects of the aging process and this fallen world’s degrading standards on my impressions of, reactions against, and general experiences with various works of art, commerce, wonder, majesty, and shamelessness. It’s my way of keeping the writing part of my brain alive and active, rather than let it atrophy and die…

Now that 40 is thousands of miles behind me and 50 is ever-so-slowly approaching on my horizon in the not-too-distant future, I may need to update my mission statement to reflect whatever emotions begin to overtake me as that half-century mark draws nearer.

For my wife Anne, what little sense of foreboding may or may not have bugged her is past. She’s nineteen months older than me and just reached 50, right on time.

St. Elmo!

Our celebration venue of choice, a onetime special guest star on Parks and Recreation.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #29: The Week in Breakfast

Knead the Dough haul!

Can YOU name your favorite flavors seen here? Good, because I forgot to write them down.

Restaurant photos are naturally a frequent part of our travel experiences. However, one practical benefit of using your own home as your road-trip command base is you don’t have to eat out for every meal every day. A few times on this vacation, we settled for ordinary home-cooked breakfasts that let us unwind for a few extra minutes before takeoff to faraway towns. On three vacation mornings this year we incorporated early pit stops into our itinerary because sometimes we do need a change of pace from our groceries. This was especially true during the Age of Coronavirus, which may have been an ideal setting for the sedentary homebody in me but has been nonstop frustrating for the lover of new experiences.

Or at least relatively new. Donuts don’t exactly qualify as rare exotica. But this trilogy of breakfast mini-galleries isn’t all about donuts.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #20: On the Banks of the Wabash

Lincoln Memorial Bridge!

The Lincoln Memorial Bridge spans the Wabash River from Indiana to Illinois.

As a consequence of my unusual workplace situation, I’m basically not allowed to leave the state of Indiana until and unless killer nanobots hunt The Virus to extinction or my employers exile me to work-from-home, which would pose problems to multiple parties. 2020 is the first year we haven’t crossed the state line since at least 1998. It may have been longer, but we’ve been to Kings Island in Ohio so many times that I’ve lost track of which years were which.

The closest we’ve come to exiting Indiana since New Year’s was the city of Vincennes. Standing between us and Illinois was the Wabash River, known locally as the star of our state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”. You’d think our state song would be “Back Home Again in Indiana”, which Jim Nabors used to sing before the start of every Indy 500, and which they actually taught us to sing in grade school. “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” was a big hit on the pop charts in 1897, long before there was pop, charts, hits, or catchy electric guitar hooks, and is sung today in the occasional State Fair hootenanny and nowhere else. I just now listened to it for what I’m reasonably sure was the first time in my entire 48 years, and I suspect I’ll forget it by morning. Not on purpose, mind you. But I know how my brain works.

Our view of the Wabash itself, by contrast, should prove eminently more memorable. Vincennes likewise had its share of nifty imagery about town, from fixtures to food.

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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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2020 Road Trip Photos #11: My, My, Mitchell Mealtime

Anne and tenderloin!

Of all the vacation pics we shared with friends and family at the time, this was the favorite — Anne and an entire batter-fried animal on a bun.

Remember the good ol’ days when the most lethal forces you had to worry about at any given family restaurant were calories, fat, carbs, grease, and sugar? And not uncontrolled international pandemics whose rampaging microbes could destroy your organs from within like an exotic assassin’s poison made from extinct jungle predators? One nifty little cafe in the town of Mitchell sure does.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #5: A Moment of Truth in Little Mexico

Los Mariscos Tropicales!

Los Mariscos Tropicales: shrimp, scallops, and crab served in a hollowed pineapple and topped with cheese, salsa, and rice. Anne ate well that day and has so far lived to tell the tale.

It’s a pleasant feeling to enjoy a wonderful meal with a loved one away from the world and its problems. It’s the exact opposite when you’re also silently praying this isn’t your last meal and hoping the daily special isn’t a proverbial bullet with your name on it.

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Not Put Asunder, 16 Years and Counting

Chicago 2012!

I already used up the one photo we’ve taken together so far in 2020, so please enjoy this previously unshared file photo from our April 2012 trip to Chicago and C2E2, a souvenir from a bygone era when we were allowed to travel out of state and be near other humans.

It’s that time again! Another year of shockingly blissful marriage to the amazing Anne, another anniversary dinner to celebrate.

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Our Ten Terrific Tricks for a Stay-at-Home Comic Con

Quarantine Jazz Hands!

With your host, Dr. Bane-ton Forrester!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 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 last year’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand. It was a nice tradition while it lasted.

For my 48th birthday we had hoped this weekend would see us returning to Motor City Comic Con up near Detroit. Our first trip to Motor City in 2017 was a fantastic experience, and this year’s guest list had a few larger-than-life personalities we would’ve loved to meet. Then, much as has happened to You, The Viewers at Home, our best-laid plans gang agley. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses closed or severely restricted their services, workplaces were scuttled, my employers enacted strict rules about out-of-state travel, and any and all events involving two or more people were canceled. All one-man events, such as the worst YouTube channels ever, were allowed to continue on schedule. I haven’t had a birthday party in years, but the state of the world has derailed our road-trip tradition for my big day. Whether we can resume our practice on Anne’s birthday in October will hinge on a number of variables, none of them within my personal control, though I’d totally be on top of that for her sake if I had Dr. Manhattan’s powers.

Anne and I were determined to line up an enjoyable weekend for ourselves anyway. Between the two of us we made the most of these past two days with the resources safely available. We found a way to recreate ten (10) commonalities we’ve encountered at various entertainment conventions over the past several years. Welcome to what I nicknamed “TakeoutCon 2020”, which included the following comic-con-esque features:

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“McMillions” and McMemories

McDonald's pins!

Just a few of the souvenirs we still have from our years with the Golden Arches. All of these are from Anne’s old pin collection.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our family doesn’t subscribe to HBO, but from time to time our cable provider will offer free preview weekends that let us watch all we can within 72 hours that are meant to entice us to add it to our already overstuffed lineup. Instead we save up our HBO watch-lists, pace back and forth waiting for those rare weekends, then see how much we can speed through whenever we’re granted the opportunity. It’s a bit like composing lunches entirely from free samples handed out at the grocery, but in the proper frame of mind, satisfaction can be found in limited quantities.

At least, all that had been our usual approach. Among the more recent developments in the interim normal is both Hulu and our cable provider are now offering access to the HBO libraries for a nonspecific “limited time”, presumably with an end date their corporate overlords can shift back and forth as the winds change. Until then, we plan to see what we can work in while we’re busy catching up on other watch-list materials.

Naturally for us, priority #1 was a recent show that brought back memories of our old jobs.

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Restaurants In Memoriam: A Pre-Virus Retrospective

Mediterranean Grill!

Loukoumadis (fried dough), our final dessert at the Mediterranean Grill in Avon, Indiana. Taken in April 2017 on their final weekend in business. If only we’d shared more meals from there…

Midlife Crisis Crossover isn’t an official foodie blog, but restaurants are among the many and varied subjects we touch upon as we refuse to focus on a singular topic. Whether they’ve enlivened our annual road trips, featured in our wedding anniversary celebrations, given us something to do on Super Bowl Sunday instead of watching ads or sports, or simply welcomed us in for one-time tryouts, restaurants are a treasured aspect of our travel experiences, in other states as well as around our own hometown of Indianapolis. As you can imagine, my wife Anne and I are missing a lot of them right now rather intensely.

We’ve shared photos and warm feelings from dozens of eateries over the past eight years. Not all of them lived to see 2020, which in some cases may not be such a bad thing. Regardless, in this moment of wistful nostalgia, here’s a fond look back at some of the places that are no longer with us, who shut their doors after we visited them and didn’t even call us to say goodbye, because that’s not how it works.

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Lafayette Vignettes, Part 6 of 6: The Birthday Menu

Quintessential Quiche!

The Quintessential Quiche at Eggshell Bistro in Carmel — topped with fresh herbs and filled with applewood bacon, caramelized leeks, roasted tomato, and Comté cheese on a multigrain crust. At least I think that’s the correct dish. It’s been a few months.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a one-day road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas of Indiana we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Once upon a time in 2019 Anne decide she wanted to celebrate her birthday with a jaunt around the city of Lafayette, an hour northwest of our Indiana home. She cobbled together a short to-do list of things she wanted to see, not lengthy but enough for a leisurely afternoon — a bit of Indiana history, a bit of downtown tourism, and a bit of healthy walking…

Although Prophetstown State Park was the last stop on our one-day road trip before heading home, obviously it wouldn’t have been a satisfying birthday celebration without memorable foods of her choosing. Back in October 2019, restaurants were a readily available luxury where hungry patrons could enter, sit, relax, dine together, hang out, depart at their leisure, and, if they were of sufficiently upright character, make sure to tip the gainfully employed waitstaff. It was, in its own way, a golden age.

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Valentines the Day After

Artisan Bakery!

These scrumptious baked goods are actually the end of our story, but when you invoke the word “Valentine”, no one wants to put off the sugar till later.

This year our Valentine’s Day was a wash. Anne and I both had to work, which was time well spent in the sense that more work means less debt. The evening was equally unromantic. While I tended to a recurring family responsibility, Anne spent those same hours errand-running. Sacrificing that time frame meant far fewer interruptions in the rest of our weekend.

United at last at the end of the day, we exchanged gifts and red-tinged, heart-covered cards with jokes on them. Then we hurried up and fell asleep because we’re older now and we had a date to look forward to in the morning.

As some families celebrate Christmas not on the day of, so went Cupid’s cutesy custom for us.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 29: The Last Outpost

giant guitar!

You know you’re in road-tripping territory when you start seeing giant-sized objects straight out of 1950s Batman comics.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

After Kennesaw Mountain effectively rebuffed us, all that stood between us and home were eight hours, 500 miles, two more meals and whatever other biological imperatives got in our way. With no further sightseeing intended, we knew our Sunday drive would be long and mostly boring. Lunchtime proved to more of one than the other.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 27: Times to Make the Doughnuts

Revolution Doughnuts!

Our selections from Revolution Doughnuts, clockwise from top left: Blackberry Caramel, Orange Pistachio, Caramel Bacon Crumble, and the Crunchy Mister, a savory creation with ham, cheese and bechamel.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

The funniest thing about traveling to other lands is the little differences. They have some of the same stuff we have here in Indy, but it’s just a little different. In Europe the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called a “Royale with Cheese”. In New York City, ketchup on a hot dog is called an “atrocity”. Large-scale ground wars have been fought over whether soft drinks should be called “soda”, “pop”, or “Coke”.

We were glad to confirm Atlanta has its share of donut shops, though we were disappointed none of them were next door to our hotel. But instead of the quick, efficient “donuts”, they use the archaic, longform, time-wasting “doughnuts”. IT’s my understanding the British prefer “doughnuts” whenever they’re out of crumpets, so perhaps Atlanta is still trying to impress our erstwhile imperial overlords by taking their side. Regardless, we were happy to visit two skillful donut purveyors in town before we had to head home.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 25: Dining with Dragons

Yami Yami line!

Food courts: America’s unsung heroes in times when we need convenience most..

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover 2½ months ago:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

After fifteen entries dedicated to our Dragon Con experience, there’s one aspect we’ve left unmentioned till now. In the numerous conventions Anne and I have attended over the years, one of our biggest struggles has been finding palatable food sources on location. Regardless of our excitement levels, we learned from Wizard World Chicago 1999 that we can’t simply eat a modest breakfast, then walk miles and miles for the next twelve hours while fasting. There must be lunch.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 22: International Southern Hospitality

spring rolls!

Pork and shrimp spring rolls primped up a bit at Hsu’s in downtown Atlanta.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Those of you who’ve been following this miniseries from the beginning may be a tad disgruntled by the complete lack of food pics from our vacation. We covered a few mealtimes, but we’ve been setting aside much of the culinary side…until now.

Some dishes were simpler than others. All were served with utmost congeniality. Only one took a little longer than we would’ve preferred. But the most important trait of all is not a single one of them barred us from entering due to dress codes. It’s cool being accommodated rather than shunned.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 4: Piquant Platters at Pittypat’s Porch

fried chicken!

If this is the South, there must be fried chicken, and it must be the greatest.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Whenever we have a great restaurant experience out of town but fail to save room for dessert, we always tell ourselves we really should make time for an encore before we leave for home. Atlanta may be the first city in which we ever went out of our way to make good on that usually hollow promise.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 1: Southern Accents

Bojangles chicken sandwich!

Bojangles tosses its hat into the great internet chicken sandwich war of 2019 with their new Cajun Filet Biscuit, a spicy patty topped with pimento cheese.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, there was a prologue:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

We’ve already shared the fun true story of our very first Dragon Con in twelve excessive parts, seven of which were devoted to Best Parade Ever. We have a few outtakes tucked away for later use, but for now we’re ready to move on, a week after everyone else already did.

Before we went to Dragon Con, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

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