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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A Donut Run on the Way Back from Turkey Run

Donuts!

Clockwise from top left: chocolate/Reese’s Pieces; chocolate/Cinnamon Toast Crunch; caramel/sea salt; and caramel/peanut.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For years my wife’s family has held their annual reunions at Turkey Run State Park, a ninety-minute drive from our suburban HQ and well outside the range of my phone carrier’s coverage. For the space of one Sunday afternoon it’s an opportunity to unplug from the internet and all its problems, experience fresh air, enjoy good weather live and in person (Lord willing), catch up with loved ones that we’ve been too preoccupied to visit, exchange pleasantries with distant relatives whose names we’ll never remember, test which family members will still commit to a long drive for any of these purposes, and remember how to mingle in large, awkward groups without access to Words with Friends as our consolation playmate.

This year’s shindig went far better than last year’s, which was canceled altogether due to dangerous storms. After we said our farewells to the family, Anne and I decided to make a quick stop on the way home even though we were still stuffed from the reunion pitch-in. Such is our dedication to finding new pastry purveyors whenever we’re out of town and remember to check around.

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Indiana State Fair 2019 Encore: 2 Fair 2 Food

deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich!

My rich, creamy Dulcinea.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context…

We trudged back to the working world on Wednesday morning disappointed that we’d missed so many of the “Taste of the Fair” new dishes and annoyed that my primary objective, the deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, was nowhere to be found. We chatted a bit and mulled over the possibility of a return engagement. Two unexpected developments sealed the deal:

1. Anne did some online digging, found the official Facebook page for the vendor allegedly carrying the deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, and asked them point-blank where the heck they were at the fairgrounds. Where all the State Fair’s materials and resources had failed us, an exemplary moment of customer service on the vendor’s part got us the exact answer.

2. On Friday my employer announced a deal to get discount State Fair tickets, for cheaper than our first set of tickets.

Emboldened and empowered, Saturday we drove once more out to the east side and enjoyed a 4-hour whirlwind do-over. We split a deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich between us. We tracked down a few other “Taste of the Fair” offerings that hadn’t made the cut on Tuesday. We photographed a few more exhibits we’d overlooked or skipped the first time around. And we ended up with enough material for three bonus chapters in this very special, unexpectedly extended miniseries.

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Indiana State Fair 2019 Photos, Part 1 of 6: Our Year in Food

Relleno de Papa!

Frying! It’s what’s for dinner!

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food. Each year a new lineup of “Taste of the Fair” offerings showcases new ideas from assorted food vendors in hopes of luring in foodies and/or impressing attendees who want to do more every year than simply eating the same tenderloin again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Not Put Asunder, 15 Years and Counting

Heart Walk 2010!

File photo of us from 2010, when we participated in the occasional miles-long charity walk.

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

Sometimes on these annual entries I’ll use a photo from our recent road trip, but this year’s edition of that much-needed break from the rat race won’t be till the end of August. The wait is killing us, as is Father Time, which is another reason I went retro and dug into our personal archives for a younger photo of the two of us. This week some 150 million FaceApp users are out there having all their selfies converted to elderly “Have You Seen This Nursing Home Escapee?” mug shots and letting overseas marketers data-mine them into so much digital chattel, while I’m here swimming upstream toward youthful times. But, y’know, for love.

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Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago: A Birthday Intermission

Diet Root Beer!

A restaurant proudly serving its own house brand of diet root beer? My kind of place.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours walking and walking and stopping and gazing and contemplating and walking and walking and walking. Halfway through those hours we had to pause the art patronage and go feed ourselves.

Plan A for lunch had been Terzo Piano, a fine-dining restaurant conveniently within the Art Institute itself. The cuisine sounded fascinating and the prices were well within what we’d budgeted. But we hit a snag. After I made online reservations through OpenTable, the confirmation notice came back with fine print I’d overlooked on their site and hadn’t thought to seek out: Terzo Piano enforces a “smart casual” dress code. Neither of us had heard that phrase before.

I wager it’s common parlance among the upper class. Some quick, increasingly distressing Googling confirmed my “business casual” comfort level is a few rungs below “smart casual” and isn’t haughty enough to qualify. At the same time, “smart casual” doesn’t have to mean tuxedos or prom dresses. Several sites provided long lists of clothing articles within the “smart casual” scope. Neither of us owned any of them. I got the general impression it’s ambiguous velvet-rope code for anything worn by fashion bloggers, doctorate holders, chic magazine designers, and other citizens in loftier American castes than ours. The snazzy couture of trendsetters who can afford to shop at Magnificent Mile clothiers, sleek tastemakers who don’t feel right leaving the house until their mirror confirms they’re fit to be extras on The CW, or wannabe social media influencers who run up five-digit credit-card debt to emulate all of the above.

If we wanted into their restaurant, we’d have to spend more on new wardrobes than on lunch itself.

This is not who we are, as dozens of our past jazz-hands convention photo-ops have testified. “Business casual” comes easily to me. “Yacht owner in repose” is not among my character skins.

I canceled the reservation and found us a Plan B. If nothing else, our pre-rejection gave us an excuse to see more of downtown Chicago. Yet again.

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Shrimp ‘n’ Grits and a Biscuit Burger Brunch

Shrimp & Grits!

Anne’s breakfast got more Facebook Likes and therefore gets to go first. Cajun-spiced sautéed shrimp atop grits with white cheddar and whatever “sauce Américaine” is.

Every so often when we’re not overindulging in weekend events or buried in adult chores, my wife Anne and I like to spend a Saturday morning driving to some other part of Indianapolis or central Indiana and finding breakfast at someplace that serves dishes more varied than scrambled eggs or McMuffins. We do this often enough that I could mine them for smaller MCC entries, but the thought never occurs to me. That changes right now, at least for tonight.

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Birthday 47: Primo Pizza and Pointless Pondering

Thai and Creole!

The top half is Thai-inspired. The bottom half is Creole-esque. All of it is coated in smoked Gouda with no objection from me.

It’s that time again! This week I turned 47 without entering true Midlife Crisis mode yet, and managed not to whine about it. Much. Not out loud, anyway. The more I stare at our recent convention photos, the more gray hairs I see taunting me and trying to convince me I am, in fact, an old adult and not a mature teenager.

Fun useless trivia: I share my birthday with Dennis Hopper, Bill Paxton, Trent Reznor, Sugar Ray Leonard, Craig Ferguson, Howard Ashman, Bob Saget, Jordan Knight, and Dave Sim. Yet we never get together and combine parties. Sure, two of my birth-twins are no longer among the living, but still.

For the past several years my wife and I have made a tradition of going somewhere new for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events such as last year’s Garfield Quest give me the gift of new experiences and distracts me from the physical decay at hand. As it happens, we’ll spending my birthday weekend helping a relative move, which means we’ve had to postpone my official birthday outing till next weekend. I’m grown-up enough to handle delayed gratification, and am at peace with the notion of serving others this weekend instead of indulging myself.

In the meantime, today had its happy distractions, mostly in the form of food. Friends and family kept my mind off the aging process for most, if not all, of the day.

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Yet Another Convention Epilogue Starring Chicago

Chicago Nighttime!

The early-evening view from our hotel room during Star Wars Celebration. That’s the north face of Two Prudential Plaza, with Michigan Avenue lit up and trailing back and to the left. Rather like Coruscant minus flying cars.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I attended our second Chicago entertainment convention of 2019, a scant three weeks after the last one. Before and after each day’s festivities we found a few opportunities to see more of the Windy City that we hadn’t checked out on our last several trips. Convention centers may capture our attention for most of our Chicago trips, but if we can sneak in better food and light art for extra credit, so much the better.

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One Friday Morning at Chicago’s Nutella Cafe

Nutella waffle!

Nutella waffle with strawberries and fresh hazelnuts. Oh, yeah.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I attended our second Chicago entertainment convention of 2019, a scant three weeks after the last one. Before and after each day’s festivities we found a few opportunities to see more of the Windy City that we hadn’t checked out on our last several trips. One restaurant in particular proved exactly the breakfast wonderland we needed.

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