Wandering The 2020 Christmas Shopping Wastelands

Mall Walking.

Deck the malls with melancholy, fa la la la la, la la la…la?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: it’s a very special pandemic Christmas! Wait, no, not “special”. I meant “panic-stricken”.

This year I was determined to do as much of my Christmas shopping in person as possible, which worked well for me last year. Comparing 2019 to 2020 is like comparing apples and cyanide pills, but here I am anyway, trying to buck the American trend of relying on Amazon for any and every human acquisition need like a newborn infant relies on its parents for basic feeding and sanitation. So far in 2020 I’ve ordered from Amazon four times, my lowest total since 2008. The fact that Amazon keeps that information on file so I could actually fact-check myself is kind of creepy and further justifies my decision to pursue other shopping venues regardless of the added cost.

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How We Spent Our Thanksgiving 2020 Pandemic Weekend

Large serving plate of thick-sliced roasted turkey.

Turkey! Because not all traditions needed to be suspended this year.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: 2020 is still running rampant and no one’s offered us free COVID-19 vaccines yet.

Despite the best attempts of many to pretend everything was fine and normal and safe, Anne and I refused to let our guard down and declined an offer to have a large dinner with far too many relatives. That doesn’t mean we spent all four days sulking and doom-scrolling in our PJs. Just a little of it.

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The October 2020 Birthday Trip, Part 6: Flora and Media

My wife standing atop a pile of dirt in Bloomington's WonderGarden

Anne imagines herself queen of the hill in WonderGarden. Deep into autumn, we found at least two things wrong with that name.

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…

…and then it was on to Bloomington — home of IU, filming location for the 1979 Best Picture nominee Breaking Away, and hometown of such luminaries as David Lee Roth, Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot, animation voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, wrestler Mick Foley, sex scientist Alfred Kinsey, Jerry from ER, and the guys who wrote and directed both Hoosiers and Rudy. We didn’t exactly follow their footsteps, but we enjoyed finding our own path and picking up souvenirs along the way, where permitted.

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2020 Road Trip Photos #28: Kokomo-a-Go-Go

Barack Obama alley art!

Flashback to calmer times. Alley art by Jules Muck, a.k.a. Muckrock.

I like art. I like very specific kinds of shopping. I like taking walks around non-bland areas. Downtown Kokomo held opportunities for all that and then some.

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My Just Barely Black Friday 2019

Kohl's Pillows!

Wheeling down the aisles at Kohl’s with my tiny cart piled high.

The one Black Friday item that Anne and I wanted more than any other this year was cheap pillows. We’re that old now.

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Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 19: The Hobbyist’s Shopping Interlude

wacky skull shop!

I was too buys getting my directions wrong to catch the name of this shop. I trust they sell cool stuff.

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.

Anne and I don’t shop a lot on vacation. As long as she can get her smashed pennies and some other relevant souvenirs for herself and a few key relatives, she’s generally not interested in high fashion, heavy knickknacks, home decor, or…well, whatever else the upper class buy when they’re off jet-setting and whatnot. Frankly, we wouldn’t know. Depending on where we are, sometimes I’ll look for shops that feed my core hobbies. I don’t like to take us too far out of our way for my art fixes, but if viable candidates just so happen to fall along a paths between Major Attraction A and Historical Point of Interest B, Anne is okay with me indulging as long as I keep us safe and we don’t have to forfeit sites she really wanted to see.

On our way back from Stone Mountain to the heart of Atlanta, Anne graciously allowed me to make a few stops along the way, and took photos of the scenery around us while I faked my way through unfamiliar turf. By and large, Google Maps did right by us on this leg of our journey and I only made two wrong turns, neither of them irreversible. And there was only one moment she officially deemed “scary”.

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Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Photos #8: Adventures in Official Merchandising

Galaxy's Edge Falcon!

Lucasfilm’s answer to “Hi, we’re in…Delaware.”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

April 11-15, 2019, was the ninth American edition of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration, recurring major convention celebrating their works, creations, actors, fans, and merchandise, not always in that order. After jaunts around the U.S. coast and overseas, this year’s was in Chicago, gracing the Midwest with its products for the first time since 2005. My wife Anne and I attended Thursday through Saturday and fled Sunday morning…

The exhibit hall was littered with dozens of vendors plying wares old and new, but if you treated the Celebration website and program as your concierges, their strongest recommendations to you were two particular stops most directly tied to Lucasfilm itself, each demanding either that weekend’s disposable income or a promise of your future vacationing dollars. Both had everyone’s attention. Both had long lines. Neither was guaranteed to satisfy everyone.

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Our First Jolly Jaunt Through Jungle Jim’s

cereal mascots!

The Trix Rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun, and Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios bee welcome you to Jungle Jim’s!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last weekend my wife Anne and I drove a quick two hours from Indianapolis to attend our first HorrorHound Cincinnati convention. For us that wasn’t an all-day event, which left us time to wander a bit of Cincinnati. In addition to multiple Kings Island trips over the decades, we’d previously seen parts of the city on our past two trips to Cincinnati Comic Expo, which culminated in a six-part MCC miniseries that included some local attractions. HHC was in a different part of town and inspired us to see what else they’ve put on their map.

Recommendations from friends led us to one of the best groceries every. Jungle Jim’s International Market has been a fixture in the area since the 1970s — 200,000 square feet of foods, drinks, and stuffs from other nations across six continents. For all we know maybe Antarctica is also covered and we simply didn’t look hard enough. In addition to carrying hundreds of thousands of products, the store features a parade of wacky statues, cartoon characters, tongue-in-cheek signage, and odd specializations you’ll be hard pressed to find in your own neighborhood. Its wares are so renowned that folks like us drive from all over the Midwest to check them out and stock up on rare supplies, dabble in culinary experiments, or just let the surroundings overwhelm them altogether.

The following photo gallery represents a portion of what we encountered our first trip, which almost certainly won’t be our last. Enjoy the swell, sweeping, swirling tour!

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 33: “Homicide” Hometown

Fells Point!

Our first sighting of Fells Point back on Day Three, after the water taxi finally picked us up from Fort McHenry.

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 our stops at the African American History Museum and the Star-Spangled Banner Museum, we were effectively done with Baltimore museums for the year. Day Five continued to the southeast, past our hotel, and away from the the Inner Harbor’s major tourist magnets. We walked east on Fleet Street and, the very next block after Eden Street, passed the end of shininess and treaded into the blue-collar grit of the neighborhood they call Fell’s Point.

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Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 21: Visionary Mementos

Zoltar!

Hi, I’m Zoltar! You might remember me from such films as Big and…well, sadly, that’s it. A shame no studio would greenlight Big 2: The Embiggening starring Ted McGinley.

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…

Sure, the American Visionary Art Museum had art like we’d never seen before from a variety of self-taught, non-professional, iconoclastic, inimitable artists from all walks of life working in every conceivable medium plus a few no one thought to conceive till they came along. Sure, it was three buildings and a garden full of whimsy and wonder and imagination and intimidating bewilderment. Sure, one-third of it was free and the rest was worth the admission price.

But my absolute favorite part? The gift shop.

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