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Chicago Photo Tribute #13: A Wizard World Chicago Epilogue of Edibles

Animal Tots!

Best food of our weekend: Park Tavern’s Animal Tots — tater tots topped with pulled pork, cheese curds, mustard, fried eggs, and gravy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife Anne and I attended our ninth Wizard World Chicago up in Rosemont, IL, where the fans are fun, the festivities are fantastic, and the food is frightful. With rare exceptions, convention center food is never a highlight on any of our con experiences. The Chicagoland area itself has no shortage of top-notch restaurants, but virtually none of them are next door to the con. Unless you’re willing to settle or to pack a few days’ worth of picnic food to take along, you’ll have to search your surroundings and possibly venture a bit from your hotel if you want any sustenance beyond lukewarm pizza, bags of chips, or the McDonald’s a half-mile down the way or the Dunkin Donuts another half-mile past that.

This year we scared up three meals worth savoring — two of which validated our convention center parking without making us regret the food itself, and one a bit further down that served as a delicious capper to our weekend.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 8: Coming Up on Crab Country

Crab Cake Sandwich!

It’s not a proper road trip without an impromptu stop at an authentic small-town diner that refuses to serve small portions.

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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

After spending a few hours driving and walking around the grounds of Antietam, we were overdue for lunch. First we turned to Google Maps for nearby recommendations, which led to a merry chase up and down the nearby town of Sharpsburg for a barbecue joint that apparently didn’t exist, or perhaps was in someone’s basement, or possibly was floating in the clouds above us. I can’t say I was shocked, as Google Maps has let us down before — multiple times on our 2015 trip to New Orleans, in fact. Eventually we gave up and headed northeast toward Baltimore, hopefully to or near one of its higher-rated suggestions in the next town of Keedysville.

This time the restaurant existed, but showed up several blocks earlier than my phone told us to expect. Thus fate brought us to Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd, exactly the kind of diner you want to find when you’re starving and you’re dozens of miles away from the nearest corporate franchise.

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Indiana State Fair 2017 Photos #2: Our Year in Food

Deep Fried BBQ Bacon!

Deep Fried BBQ Bacon: because not all State Fair cuisine needs to be complex.

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 that other people love, and farm animals competing for cash prizes and herd bragging rights. 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.

…and so we were, for as long as we had room to fit in more food. My biggest regret is that we aren’t athletic enough to have needed eight thousand calories a day and therefore couldn’t try all of this year’s new “Taste of the Fair” dishes offered by various vendors around the fairgrounds. Heck, we weren’t even done trying all of 2016’s new dishes.

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Diners, Drive-Bys & Droids: Our FandomFest 2017 Outtakes

Droid Heads!

At left: astromech droid guts. At right: droid head made from 3-D printer parts. Droid head tech has leapt forward parsecs since George Lucas’ day.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last Saturday my wife Anne and I took a two-hour jaunt from Indianapolis to Louisville, KY, to check out FandomFest, the twelfth iteration to what some local fans consider the twelfth circle of Hell. I’d otherwise rather not rehash the prologue, Part One, or Part Two, so for anyone who didn’t read those entries or peruse the cosplay gallery, the TL;DR version is much of the weekend could’ve gone a lot better, but it wasn’t an irredeemable waste.

Not everything we encountered Saturday seemed to fit neatly into the MCC FandomFest Trilogy. Before we return to our regular scheduled programming — by which I mean our 2017 road trip series and three backlogged movie entries, among the occasional digressions of my wandering attention — here’s a look back at three mini-galleries that didn’t involve talented cosplayers or the skeletal remains of Macy’s, Inc.

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Our 2017 Road Trip #3: Mountain State Mealtime

Gouda Riddance!

Behold a burrito called Gouda Riddance — turkey, Gouda cheese, basil pesto, lettuce, and roma tomatoes. Not exactly Mexican fare…

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. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

One fun part of traveling with my wife is hunting for local restaurants that aren’t nationwide chains. We’re not five-star gourmands by any means, but if we step foot inside a Subway, I reserve the right to terminate the vacation and drive us directly home that instant. To their credit, West Virginia in general and Morgantown in particular offered a pair of smaller companies with few locations and big ideas on better, affordable cuisine.

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Not Put Asunder, 13 Years and Counting

Aquarium Us!

Ho ho ho, the flimsy Photoshop dolphins think it’s hilarious that we’re miming being trapped in a giant glass tank. THAT’S NOT MIME. WE ARE DROWNING. PLEASE SAVE US, YOU HEARTLESS FLOATING HOT DOGS WITH MUDFLAPS.

Above is a teaser image from our 2017 road trip, courtesy of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where my lovely wife Anne and I had the pleasure of spending a few days and not getting murdered despite what you hear on TV.

We’ve known each other for nearly thirty years next month. We’ve been married for thirteen years as of this very Monday. Vacation photos and jazz hands are just two of the many cornerstones of our relationship — not the most important ones, mind you, and certainly not the hardest ones to achieve. But when your never-ending process of maintaining and streamlining the critical factors is kept on track, it frees up your mental space to indulge in the happier shared whims. If the process yields fun tangible souvenirs like this one, so much the better and the merrier.

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