Of course there’s a chapter for the good foods we found. The gallery is a quickie that could’ve been squeezed into one of the other chapters, but then that chapter would’ve been too long, you wouldn’t have clicked on it, and you’d have missed more cute pics of my wife who’s perfectly happy being 52 now.
Speaking as someone who’s been in customer service for 34years and counting: when everything goes well, the symbiosis between a service team and their customer — whether a singular exchange or a recurring relationship — makes for a heartening occasion that both sides can appreciate. They pull off the quid pro quo between creator/provider and receiver/consumer, and everybody wins.
When things go wrong between the two parties, the results can be anywhere from mild disappointment to small-scale war. The customer gets full of themselves, or the employees show up in a foul mood, or there’s a miscommunication between the sides that could be resolved with some calm negotiation, yet isn’t. No one wins, everyone’s miserable, and it’s another round of cringing when they look back on That One Time years later.
The Menu falls in the latter column as an extreme worst-case scenario. An evening gone wrong becomes no mere comedy of errors, but an all-out class-war ambush where no one is innocent.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year when there isn’t a pandemic fully raging, my wife Anne and I love attending entertainment and comic conventions throughout the Midwest and occasionally a bit beyond. We’re fascinated by the spectacle of each and every in-person nexus of geek cultures that presents a confluence of comics, artists, cosplayers, hobby artifacts, rare collectibles, IP-inspired handicrafts, talented performers and celebrity guests with fandom connections of varying levels of dedication and/or awesomeness.
This past weekend’s inaugural GalaxyCon Columbus (the one in Ohio) set out more than enough bait within reasonable road-trip range that the two of us were lured out of the house once more after previous 2022 outings to Star Trek: Mission Chicago, Indiana Comic Con, and Fan Expo Chicago. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
We’ve already shared all our stories from the Convention Center grounds apart from a few photo outtakes, but we’d be remiss to neglect the fun times we had in and around the neighborhood. Our third stop in town this year was at least as stimulating as the first two. Longtime MCC readers will recall when we used to find ourselves at Chicago cons a few times every year, up until the pandemic ruined everything for a while. This year Columbus has gone above and beyond in catching our straying eyes and luring us eastward instead of northward.
By the time we reached Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, we’d seen Lake Champlain from a mountaintop, from the roadside, and from a small pier jutting into the middle of it. At lunchtime on Day Four, we were okay with seeing it yet again, but tried slowing down long enough to traipse around it and bask for a while.
Vermont! At last! Naturally our first stop was a pop culture reference from our childhoods.
Not all the food we had on this trip need to be raised on their own commemorative pedestals, but Syracuse, NY, earned bonus points for providing us with not one, but two of the best meals of the week. That’s worth a single-entry shout-out.
Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. We grew up in families that couldn’t afford annual out-of-state vacations. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
Last time in Atlanta we allowed a full-length vacation for the opportunity to explore its major institutions, roadside attractions, and grade-A restaurants. The encore presentation was scheduled on a much more compressed timeline for the sake of saving money and conserving our vacation days. That meant seeing less of the city outside our Dragon Con experience, but we caught new glimpses here and there.
Chapters 6 and 8 are short, easy ones to scroll through by design. This one’s meant to celebrate The Second-Best Meal We Had on This Trip. Longtime MCC readers who followed our last two Dragon Con trips — or, for that matter, anyone who’s been to D*C themselves — knows full well no one tops Aviva by Kameel. Anne suggests I should call this micro-mini-gallery The Best Meal We Had on This Trip at a Place We’d Never Been to Before, but that’s just too awkward, even by my standards.
My secondary objective was to highlight the nice place we found in Tennessee. Hence the title. However, I made the mistake of fact-checking a few minutes ago and discovered it’s part of a small chain, not the local independent stalwart we’d assumed it was. And the chain isn’t even based in Tennessee. Clearly this entry was never meant to be a winner, but I maintain it is meant at least to exist. On we go, then.
When I was a kid, Louisville was the first city I ever visited outside Indiana that wasn’t an amusement park. My family and I ate lunch and wandered around aimlessly. When we ducked inside a hotel to use the restrooms, I took it upon myself to borrow a Yellow Pages from one of their phone booths and look up the nearest comic shop. It was called the Great Escape (and survives to this day! Nice!), but it was miles east of downtown and shared a dual storefront with a record shop. Fun times for me, not so much for the non-comics collectors in the car who begrudgingly let me have the one perk in that otherwise forgettable outing.
Now that I’m an adult, Louisville is an easy two-hour drive from home. We could drop in virtually anytime if motive struck. It was the site of the worst convention we’ve ever attended, a far better convention that is sadly no longer welcome back in town, and the last convention we attended before the pandemic. We’ve driven through it on a few of our annual road trips. And yet we’d never actually spent a night in Louisville.
Louisville is on the way to Atlanta. We figured why not give it a try.