Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Obama has more free time than you, the Year in Tacky Bullshit, Flirty Dancing is a strange delight, and some surprising Project Runway shade.
I decided this morning, apropos of very little, that I’d like to be a travel agent. The decision came, as most of my important decisions do, whilst scrolling aimlessly through my Instagram feed trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the lives of people I know/thirst-follow and how they afford literally anything they do. I’m trying to train myself to waste less social media time on Twitter and more on Instagram because for some reason I believe the latter is more psychologically healthy. Yes, I am aware that the most healthy choice would be to not waste time on social media at all but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, okay? I’m not going for sainthood. I’m aware that many things in my life would go better if I left my phone in a room other than my bedroom, sprang from my sheets like a Disney princess waking from a nap, ran down to the gym and did jazzercise whilst listening to an audiobook about a area of science I don’t know anything about (all of them). But then I’d be, like, too healthy. Ugh. Well-adjusted? In this economy? Can’t risk it.
No, no, I think it’s better for all of us if I keep my derangement at a low-boil. You know, like a bolognese in a Dutch oven. That’s how I’d describe my sanity-level. Anyway, I spend a lot of time on Instagram and much of that time is taken up by solving mysteries. For instance, for the last two weeks I’ve followed the exploits of two separate groups of friends who are in Thailand at the same time but were not together, even though they knew each other. This was incomprehensible to me. Well, all of it was incomprehensible to me. Who has this much PTO? Who has this much money? Are they working remote while they’re there? Why aren’t they traveling together? Is one group chasing the other group? Is this an Amazing Race situation? Why didn’t anyone invite me? Is it because I ask too many questions?
Finally, a few days ago one member posted an Instagram story of the two groups together. “SUCCESS!” I screamed aloud in my bed in America, deeply happy that photo of four men in front of a temple in Asia had provided me the kind of closure that not even years of therapy could. You know the say, when God opens an app, he closes a plot line. Something like that.
That mystery solved, I moved on to the Instagram of another friend who is in Brazil. He looked like he was having a great time and I was having a great time, too, going to Glassdoor and looking up what his salary might be and using that to try to extrapolate a budget that would allow him to live in the city where he lives, dress as well as he dresses, and still afford to go on Brazilian trips. It’s good to have a hobby. In one of his photos, he tagged the account of what I soon learned was his travel agent and it’s in that tag that my entire life changed. I’ve never used a travel agent before but as I paged through the travel agent’s Instagram I realized that I could meld two of my primary interests into one: being nosey about other people’s vacations and solving logistical mysteries! Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of going to the beach with me knows that I love a well-made contact sheet, itinerary, and spreadsheet, I want buy-in but not opinions, and EVERYBODY HAS TO HAVE FUN, IT’S MANDATORY. While this is a questionable friend quality, it is—in my admittedly limited experience—an ideal travel agent quality.
I know that I have a lot of professional stuff coming up this year, but what if I pivot completely to being an eccentric global excursions professional with big 1980s energy? Big tortoiseshell glasses, tiny clipboard, pashmina, megaphone, clogs. The whole nine! Scooting people around the Parthenon at a breakneck speed because we have to take a gondola to an event I’ve called Mezze Madness. This is my true calling. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans have nothing on me!
One of my actual, non-hyperbolic goals is to learn how to travel better, which I think is a combo of good research, good planning, mindfulness, some of those little packing cubes, and, idk, talking to strangers more? I’m unsure. Are there books on this sort of thing? If you have a book on how to become a better traveller, please let me know. Until I figure that out, I will content myself with sharing my gifts of organization, programming, cheap flight scouring, and generally being too much with the world. As soon as I find a cute pair of tortoiseshell glasses.
When the folks at Ballantine Books asked me what kind of merch I’d envision for Here for It, I immediately blurted out “CHURCH FANS! CHURCH FANS! Like with a photo of Dr. King or Barack Obama on the front and an ad for a funeral home on the back!” Amazingly, they actually took my deranged suggestion and made it a reality, albeit one that actually promotes my book and not, like, March Funeral Home on North Avenue. Publishing is wild!
You, yes you, can get your hands on one of these fans! All you have to do is preorder the book and then enter to win at this link. You can preorder from anywhere. If you already preordered, you’re still eligible to enter. Let’s have church!
These aren't even all the books he read this year and all the movies he saw. These are just his favorites. Obama saw some movies (*cough* Cats) and was like "This is... uh... fine." And that was that! How? This man is one of the most in-demand speakers in the world, he has to constantly rebuff people who want him to save democracy, and he still had time to watch Large Adam Driver punch a wall in Marriage Story? How, I said! Maybe my tinfoil hat is a little too tight, but I am firmly of the belief that Barack Obama is Dr. Manhattan. That's the only explanation.
Greetings from the year 2021, where Michael Bloomberg has somehow managed to billions his way into the White House and, true to his promise, pivoted the East Room into an open office concept in which he also works! There was a lot of public grumbling when he first announced it on the second-to-last day of 2019, releasing it like a hot ember popping off a slowly dying trash fire, so I'm sending a message back from the future to let you know how it went. And that message is: great!
To quote the great Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest: what a dump. Sure, 2019 included plenty of bright spots, like Beyoncé's Homecoming being released on Netflix or the rise of Florence Pugh. And there were very bad things, some of which resulted in justice being served and some of which didn't. But, as the year shuffles haggardly to the door, the predominant spirit of 2019 seems to be just tacky. A tacky trash fire year that should be ashamed of itself. I look at these year-in-reviews that are coming out and I'm like "Damn, we lived like this?" Yuck. No thanks. In some ways, the tackiness of 2019 is almost impressive. From January to December, people in pop culture, politics, and public life pulled out their most gauche stunts, often to hilarious results. This may not be a year to remember but it is, perhaps, a year to mock. Let's get to it.
The first episode pairs teacher Octavius with hair stylist Megan and fashion stylist Marymarie. All three separately express anxiety about dancing and about the prospects for romance, but when they finally meet—each time encountering each other in a public park and then breaking into dance, which must be jarring for passersby—the sparks are undeniable. It has the theatrical artifice of a first dance at a wedding (wait, why wasn't this show called First Dance?!), but somehow seems more genuine and thrilling than the sometimes-stilted first married dance of a couple who spent every Tuesday for the last two months leaving work early to learn their steps and who actually know each other and have the joint wedding savings account to prove it. It certainly doesn't hurt that the show's daters, for all their anxiety, sell the hell out of their dance numbers, even when said dance numbers involve going up and down stairs, navigating pedestrians, and splashing in fountains. All of the aforementioned would have been dealbreakers for me. You want me to go on a date, and remember choreography, and successfully descend stairs? Guess I'll die alone.
Oh, God. Oh, God! Oh, Goddddddd! There is a moment near the end of the fourth episode of Project Runway that is so cringe-inducing, so weirdly shocking, and so awkward that I am still beset by paroxysms of secondhand embarrassment so strong that I can hardly catch my breath. Oh Godddd! I will never recover from this thing that did not happen to me and affects me in no way, shape, or form. I can't even talk about it right now. I need a palate cleanser. And a mild sedative. Let's change the subject.
Let’s Hang Out!
Omg I got to see a full run of Safe Space, my new play running in Baltimore January 31-Feb 23, today and it is so good—very funny, and a little spooky, and weird, and occasionally quite beautiful. I want you all to see it! All of you! Tickets are now on sale!
Also! I’ve started rolling out Book Tour dates on my website! I’ll post the full list in this newsletter next week after confirming a couple more, but if you want a sneak peek, have at it!
Random Thing on the Internet
I watched Dolemite Is My Name and Criminal: UK this weekend (both on Netflix) and highly enjoyed both, though they are very different. I still feel like I’m catching up on 2019 TV and movies and will probably feel that way for a long time. Perhaps travel agent life will give me more time for entertainment!