Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #145
|R. Eric Thomas||Oct 13, 2019|
David and I went on our first date five years ago tomorrow. We went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was a Tuesday. I remember the day of the week most specifically because I was rushing from a show at Philadelphia Theatre Company where I was working. The shows on Tuesday started at 6:30 pm and I could leave as soon as we got the audience sorted. It amazing the little factual details that you carry with you from previous jobs, like the performance schedule of a theater, or the coding numbers for a foreclosure complaint, or the items that come on a Jumbo Combo at the Hard Rock Cafe. (I’ve had many jobs.) How much of my 20s and 30s was spent drilling FAQs into my brain only to end up this: an adult who cannot remember his work email password to save his life?
Anyway, it was a Tuesday and I was stressed because it was the first performance of Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit and it started at 6:30 and dinner was at 7 and I was all clear to go when two pairs of late patrons came tumbling in and caused a scene about having to wait in the lobby until the late-seating cue. If you’ve ever shown up late to a theater you know it’s a whole thing. Or maybe you don’t know, which is how we so often had patrons get super shirty about having to watch the first 5 minutes of a play on the monitors instead of being let in with their sixteen bags and their dinner leftovers and their still-wrapped cough drops and their many questions to a dark theater full of people being lulled into the magic of a shared universe. I cannot, off the top of my head, recall what happens at the beginning of Detroit but these people were on fire to see it with their own eyes in their own seats smack dab in the middle of the theater and I, and the House Manager, were their mortal enemies and dream-crushers in this pursuit.
Anyway, I was stressed. Because David had come to see me perform a one-man show in August and afterward I’d complimented his shirt and then waited until he left to invite him to dinner over Facebook Messenger. Very smooth. And I wasn’t sure what he’d agreed to was a date, despite the fact that Facebook Messenger in 2014 is the pinnacle of romance. And I’d gotten a new credit card for the date because I was, say it with me now, a financial disaster but also very interested in putting on airs. Five years ago I was like one of those Instagram Influencers who lives in a shoebox with 16 roommates and piles all of their fancy stuff into the one corner in which they take pictures so that everyone just assumes their whole life is glamour.
Anyway, it was nearing 7 and I didn’t know if I had a date or not and the House Manager was getting ready to take one couple into Door One and I was seething about taking the other couple into Door Four and my best friend Kristen, who I worked with, told me “Just go! I’ll take care of them!” with all the benevolent, selfless energy of your favorite character in every romcom. The one who’s like “Why are you sitting on the tarmac of the airport when you really should be racing to the top of the Empire State Building? Get out of here! I’ll send you a postcard from Paris!” Kristen was the Audience Service Manager and I was, I believe, the Venue Services Manager. I remember how much a beer cost at the concessions stand (because I programmed the Square myself) but I do not quite remember my job title! A professional success. Please forgive me, Carol! (Carol was my and Kristen’s direct supervisor and one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. How to describe Carol? Okay, go with me here. You know Sigourney Weaver’s character in Working Girl? Imagine if they made a spinoff about the character and that character had a sister who had Sigourney Weaver’s razor sharp business acumen, and style, and curly hair, and height, but had an opposite temperament: kind and witty and always willing to mentor and would never claim Melanie Griffith’s idea as her own. That’s, in part, what working with Carol is like.)
Anyway, I went. And it’s impossible to recall, in retrospect, whether I carried with me the same blind, romcom hope that this would be something special, or whether I knew already through some magic of a shared universe that this would be different. I find it hard to reach that person who I was back then, to sort out what was real in the moment and what has sprung up around us in the intervening years. I know that it was a Tuesday and I was stressed and I didn’t know if it was a date (he didn’t know either; this has all been a hilarious mixup); I know that we talked for hours; I know that I invited him to the Opening Night party of Detroit, which I’d planned with a truly deranged level of commitment to theme and Carol and Kristen’s selfless help; and I now know that he was already in bed but he got dressed and walked over to meet me.
Anyway, that was five years ago. And it’s funny to think back wistfully on that time because I remember it as such a good time in my life and I miss it and sitting at a desk 18 inches from Kristen and three feet from Carol. And even as I miss it, I also know that during that time I was stressed enough about money to get a new credit card to go on a date (with a 24.3% interest rate. Lock me up!) and that I didn’t really know what was to become of my artistic ambitions and I’d been on a lot of bad dates and very few good ones. And I don’t know that if I told that person what was to come, if the future would have seemed as good as it can sometimes seem now. “In five years, you’ll have married this man and it will be legal in all 50 states and you’ll have paid off this credit card, after spending much more money on it, and on a Saturday morning you and your husband will mosey into a bank branch at a Giant store (shoutout to Giant! I won’t rest until you sponsor this newsletter.) to try, again, to unravel some massive financial fraud that happened to your joint account in April and it, amazingly, will not have destroyed you. And you’ll be coming from a breakfast at Single Carrot Theatre where you’ll talk about the play of yours that they’re producing and the breakfast pastries will have been delicious. You’ll have a different job where you won’t know important things like showtimes and runtimes but you will spend a lot of time googling ‘Impeachment process’ and ‘Remind me who H.R. Haldeman was?’ and you’ll miss Kristen and Carol deeply and you’ll wonder a lot about how to make adult friends. And maybe this seems like a mixed bag, but it will seem halcyon at some point, just like your life seems halcyon to me now even as you root through your own mixed bag.”
It’s heartening that what has shaken out was the sweetness. And that time was what it had to be. Or, at least, it was what it was, whether it had to be it or not. And anyway we found each other.
Just when I thought I was out of the political thirst business, Jacob Frey, the symmetrical mayor of Minneapolis pulls me back in. And, reader, it brings me great pleasure and great trepidation to announce that this Midwest morsel is one hot dish.
That said, I have been burned by beautiful biscuits too many times before and so I reserve the right to take it all back pending a review of every college costume party Frey has ever attended. Please deliver the files to my office by EOB, Mayor Frey. Personally. Maybe whilst wearing a lil sailor suit.
What I cannot get over with Matt Gaetz's statement is that these are prepared talking points. True, they're not written down, but if you believe this is just an off-the-cuff quip I have a bridge to sell you in Ukraine. Gaetz, or someone in Gaetz's office, actually sat down and thought, "Hm, we're supposed to be pretending that investigating the president for impeachable offenses that we are all witnessing him commit in real time is a fool's errand. How to best convey that with the best words available to our greatest public speakers? Ah yes, kangaroo court, a phrase that is near and dear to the hearts of everyday Americans. And I'll really capture the attention of the press with some clever current events references tying Adam Schiff to known and agreed upon magistrate in any kangaroo court, the Captain."
You are looking at actual video footage of the ghost of Rudy Giuliani's legacy sitting next to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are currently raving in federal custody, waving at the camera like a deceased spouse in a movie detective's tragic backstory. Not only have they stopped trying to hide the collusion, they've resorted to TikToking it.
I don't think we're fully prepared as a society for how deeply stupid the movie version of these events is going to be. Like a KidzBop version of All the President's Men. A quickly cobbled together Lifetime movie with terrible wigs that are still somehow better than the real life wigs. An atrocity.
The president's commitment to treating statistics like opinion is truly stunning. As is the fact that the president of the actual United States is going around telling people they suck like a bully on Glee. I would say this debases the office of the president but the ghost of Lyndon Johnson just walked into the room and pulled out his schlong for no reason, so the jury is still out, I guess.
Friday was National Coming Out day and to commemorate it, Ballantine Books released a special excerpt from my book! It’s about the first, of many, times I came out, Student Activities, and The Sixth Sense. It’s a disaster but it has gotten better!
Let’s hang out!
Thursday, Oct. 17 - Speaking at the Rose O’Neill House at Washington College
Monday, Oct. 21 - Hosting The Moth StorySlam at CityWinery DC
Monday, Nov. 4 - Hosting The Moth StorySlam at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Saturday, Nov. 16 - Hosting Freedom: An Evening of LGBTQ Storytelling, a benefit for FreeState Justice (come to this! I planned it! It’s going to be amazing!) at Baltimore Center Stage
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