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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Another C2E2 Epilogue Starring Chicago

Do-Rite Donuts!

Sunday morning breakfast at Do-Rite Donuts and Chicken. Clockwise from top left: cream cheese Danish, blueberry, cinnamon crumble, red velvet coconut, old-fashioned chocolate, and maple bacon glaze.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Anne and I attended the tenth annual C2E2 entertainment convention a few miles from downtown Chicago. When time permitted before and after the show, once again we wandered the Windy City and took photos, preferably of places and things we didn’t already see on our last several Chicago comic cons. Y’all know me — any excuse for a travel photo gallery.

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