Free: Eric Reads the Week, #49

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

This week: Halloweentown at the White House, we're all princesses now, Patti Labelle is the best thing in Washington, and a new piece in the Sunday New York Times!

But first!

I'm obsessed with loyalty points. You know that thing where they ask you to punch in your phone number at every single store so they can track your every move in exchange for giving you 1 "point" for every dollar that you can eventually redeem after you've collected roughly 1.7 billion of them? I love them.

I don't really have brand loyalty except for to Prego. And Mucinex, I guess. I know the storebrand is just as good but I just don't want it. I want the name brand mucus monster or whatever. But most of the time, I'm going to buy the thing that's the most affordable. That's why I love loyalty points because it feels like you're getting something for free. I will run through a supermarket, racking up loyalty points and doubling coupons like I'm George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven.

I guess it says something about me that I imagine going to the supermarket as akin to taking a casino for millions.

My biggest fear is dying before I get the chance to use all my loyalty points. I sat bolt upright in bed the other day and told David, "We have to make sure my American Airlines miles haven't expired." I want every single free thing the world will give me. Put me in the 0.1%, coach, I'm ready!

For instance, our grocery store gives us points that we can use to take money off of our gas at Shell stations. But the points expire after 30 days, so you can spend $300 at the grocery store and get 30 cents off per gallon, but you have to do it quick. Run, screaming, through the streets. Put an alarm on your car.

Shell stations also give you 5 cents off on Thursdays, so I will plan my entire week around spending as much money as the budget will allow at the grocery store before Thursday and then rolling into the Shell station and letting them pay me to gas up my car. It's a hybrid so it only requires like an ounce of gas and I end up feeling like Rihanna in the "Bitch Better Have My Money" video. Or every video, actually.

I am literally nickel and diming my way to wealth. Or something. I don't know what wealth is (and if the government has its way, I never will). Sometimes I think that traveling miles out of my way to save a quarter on toothpaste is a waste of time. But time is a construct and so is money and capitalism is a game and I want to win!

A few weeks ago we had some friends over to the house. They were all gays in long-term relationships, two pairs of husbands and one guy who is engaged (his husband-to-be was on rounds or rotations or something having to do with doctors moving in a circle). At one point, we spend legit 10 minutes talking about the price of eggs and the best supermarkets in the area. Please don't tell your favorite homophobes; they'll be scandalized. It's wild here.

I have, for years, known exactly how much I am willing to pay for eggs. If it's one cent over, I throw the whole carton directly at the wall and leave. This feels important. In Baltimore, groceries are about 10-15% more expensive than they were in Philadelphia, which is an outrage. Nothing in Baltimore should be expensive. It's because all the grocery stores are national chains and they think they can get away with pretending that every neighborhood is Adams Morgan or somesuch. No offense, but if I wanted to live in D.C., I'd live in D.C. I live here because I have to, thank you very much.

Even crabs are expensive here, which is nonsense. Crabs should be free. People try to charge you $30 for a crab cake and I just want to scream. Everybody has crabs in Baltimore. I've got two bushels sitting in my tub right now. They just come out of the faucet here.

(Side note: I feel the same way about eating steamed crabs as I do about fajitas. It's too much work and if you do it, you're a sucker. No offense. I'm just saying, none of my food requires that I break into a bone piggy bank with a hammer in order to get the meat. You shouldn't be doing this, baby. This stresses me out.)

Anyway, everything is expensive here because they are trying it. So, I've had many experiences where I've stormed out of groceries stores and angrily announced to David "THERE WILL BE NO EGGS BENEDICTS THIS WEEK."

One of the couples at our wild and crazy bacchanal confessed that they don't really know how much groceries cost. "We just go to the closest store," one guy said. "If it's Mom's, we go there. If we're closer to Giant, we go there." I screamed. Mom's is an organic grocery store where they charge you to touch the food for ripeness. It is SO expensive. The only reason I go to Mom's is so that I can charge my car in their parking lot for free. I don't even buy anything at Mom's, i just walk around, make a huge show of not being able to find what I want (Tastykakes, probably) and then leave like "At least I tried." I do this like three times a week because I don't want to have to buy gas if it's not a Thursday.

In retrospect, it seems I'm spending a lot of time powering my car in various ways. It's a wonder I have time to do anything with my life, honestly.

I'm just saying, those idiots in Washington may raise my taxes, and reduce the support my husband gets for continuing his education, and de-incentivize buying a home, but they can't make me spend more than $1.97 for a dozen eggs. And that's freedom!

This week's columns were all, basically, about Washington and various liberties taken by the White House decorator, Patti's background singers, and Bob Ross at ABC. But first, ya boy is on the front page off the New York Times Sunday Review talking about cake!

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Masterpiece Cakeshop sounds to me like the name of a lavish PBS dramatization of “The Great British Bake Off” in period costume. It’s not, unfortunately. In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a same-sex couple, visited a Colorado bakery to order a wedding cake. The bakery owner, Jack Phillips, turned them down, citing a religious objection. The couple sued, claiming the bakery violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination law.

Ostensibly, this is a free-speech case. The baker has a right, as an individual, to express his disapproval of the choice of two men to make a life together. Does he have the right to convert that disapproval into refusing service? When granted the right to marry, are we also granted the right to a wedding and a host of other cultural expressions? [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]

The Theme for the White House Christmas Decorations Is Fear!

People say to us, "Eye of Sauron, how did you come up with such a festive theme?" Well, we'll let you in on a secret: it's actually many themes. We had so many good ideas, we couldn't pick. Isn't that a (blood-curdling) scream?!

Here's a few of the inspirations we hope this display will call to mind as you race toward the exit:
The Crate & Barrel in the North Westeros mall.

Back to the Future II set in Halloweentown.

Helena Bonham Carter's birthday party.

Artisanal poltergeist. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Patti Labelle Flipping Out During "This Christmas" Is All That's Getting Me Through

There has never been a more impressive performance in history. Never has someone managed to express a slow-boiling rage so festively! Patti Labelle being failed by every single person in Washington and still giving the performance of her life is 100% me this year. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

"I'm Shocked, (Fill in the Blank), My Problematic Fave, Is Problematic"

Wow. I just read the news ________ (today/tomorrow/next week/last year) and I have to say that I am _________ (shocked/appalled/honestly not that surprised). Who would have thought that ______________ (Insert name of your problematic fave) would turn out to be problematic. I have enjoyed his work on _______ (morning television/public radio/award-winning movies/whatever) for years, so this is a terrible blow.

That said, in retrospect, screw him. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

"The View" Audience Loses It Over News of Michael Flynn's Guilty Plea

Our children will watch this video aghast and then turn to us, mouths agape, looking for an explanation. And we'll just be sitting on the couch, uninsured and poor, cackling. We'll lean down, grab our children by the shoulders, and say "Honey, I don't know. The past was wild!" [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Democracy Was Nice But We're Doing Royal Fairy Tales Now

This couldn't come at a better time. Democracy was a fun little 250 year experiment but it seems clear we peaked at Barack Obama and the musical Hamilton. Everything since has been pretty much straight downhill. The old America can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because it's dead. So, it's pretty good news that we're now British subjects by marriage, specifically one marriage. That's how it works right? Everyone is a princess now. I'm a princess, you're a princess. We're all princesses. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

30 Things Your Grandkids Won't Believe You Lived Through in 2017


Random thing from the internet...

I'm obsessed with the article on Jezebel that demands that we move Christmas to January. Nothing has ever made more sense to me.

Anyway, I gotta go scowl at the eggs in the supermarket,