Ghosts: Eric Reads the Week, #35

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

Four years ago this week, the blog Humans of New York posted this photo with the following caption:

"Julia Child would have been 101 last week. I celebrate her birthday every year. This year I cooked some smoky eggplant soup, and ate it in Central Park."
"Were you alone?"
"Of course. I love to be alone. I'm fabulous."

I'm was and remain completely obsessed with this. The whole thing. All of it. I reposted it on Facebook four years ago today with the comment, "This is me in 35 years." On one hand, that is absolutely accurate. I mean, the is an older black man who is equally obsessed with self-actualization and soup. Me 100%. On the other hand, if this is me, apparently in the intervening years, I have learned how to wear espadrilles without falling over, ride a bike without falling over, and wear horizontal stripes without feeling like a zaftig Hamburglar. Time changes everything.

I was seriously stunned by how much this photo and this man, whom my new friend Doug Peck identified as Steven Cole, spoke to me. I saw it and I felt like the ghost of Eric Future peered back through the screen. This isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the first time the image peering back wasn't terrifying.

Over a decade ago, I lived down the street from a Walgreens, which I would visit 1-3 times a day because I really like sundry items. It was a very convenient convenience store. I sometimes wonder who and what the cashiers though I was based on the fact that I bought basically all of my supplies from their store. Judging from the amount of Chef Boyardee and Mucinex, I presume they thought I was someone with bad sinus issues and worse taste. Frequently, as I was hemming over which flavor of Ben & Jerry's went best with with Spaghetti-Os, I would see an older light-skinned black man. He always wore a hat, he wavered when he walked and he was always very drunk. He would usually try to make conversation with me. It never made sense. But, looking into his eyes I sometimes wondered if I was getting a glimpse of the ghost of Eric Future. Where was this man's family? Why was he always in Walgreen's? What had happened in his life to bring him to this point?

I think that last question was the most distressing to me. I was, at that point, in my mid-20s, a little less lost than I once was but definitely more lost than I would've liked, unsure of how anyone became anything. Unsure of what would become of me. It seemed like you either knew from birth exactly how your life would turn out or you stumbled, wildly, through struggle and tragedy. I was really into stark dichotomies back then.

Obviously, neither is true. It's odd to say, but seeing this photo of Mr. Cole and recognizing a version of myself was the first time I'd understood that nothing is set; that the ghosts are just possibilities. I haven't thought about that sad man in Walgreen's in a long time. I haven't thought about either sad man in Walgreen's in a long time, actually. But I think about Mr. Cole a lot.

I aspire to so much in this photo, particularly his unabashed love of being alone. I think of myself as a social person, but when I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go. Nothing makes me happier than an Irish goodbye. I think I'm an ambivert, which means that I get energy from social interactions but also I am my own best friend. I'm definitely going to be that old man who insists that all our kids and grandkids come over to the house, where David and I will regale them with stories and ply them with snacks, but then suddenly I'll stand up and announce "Alright, y'all need to get out of my house. I'm tired. Bye!"

I'm a little rude in the future. Possibly. Or possibly there's another ghost version of me waiting to become, in this future where all the ghosts are in the past and I've learned how to confidently wear horizontal stripes.

This week's columns are about past selves and future possibilities, but more than anything they're about love and feuds, from JLo and ARod's couple's workout to McConnell and Trump's lover's spat. But first, of course, Taylor Swift:

Famous Snakes Respond to Taylor's New Single

(NB: I think this is the funniest thing I've written in a long time. It's 100% on-brand which means it is also super weird and you will probably be like "What... is... this...?")

Embracing the derisive "snake" moniker that Kimye fans gave her during the height of her feud with the famous couple, Taylor has made serpentine imagery central to her promotional campaign. You can even pre-order snake jewelry from Taylor's official site. It's quite an about-face for the "Mean" singer and internet reaction has been plentiful. Missing in the conversation, however, is the sibilant voice of the snake community itself. Obviously, snakes do not have appendages and therefore are unable to tweet. But, it's absurd to think that the county's most prominent snakes wish to remain silent on such a serious celebrity story. One of pop's hugest stars just announced to the world, "I'm a snake now;" but, to paraphrase another iconic musical hit, what does the snake say? We phoned some of the serpentine community's most famous members to get their takes. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

I Am So Here for Taylor Swift Stealing Focus from the Eclipse

The sun is done. The sun is over. Block it out. Cancel it. The sun has been getting all of this attention and I'm over it. I don't even want to hear the words "Solar Eclipse" again for the rest of the month. I won't even say the words. I just call it a Sun Thing. And thank Xenu that TayTay is giving us something to talk about other than this Sun Thing. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Louise Linton's Instagram Clapback Has Taken On A Life of Its Own

Okay, here's the Conflict of Interest tea. So, Louise Linton accompanied her husband, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on an official government trip to Kentucky. Mnuchin is sort of low on the hierarchy of Batman villains in the Trump administration but as a former Goldman Sachs executive now overseeing, like, all of our money he's one to keep an eye on. Also, he produced Wonder Woman but I'm still working on how to feel about that in therapy. I'll get back to you.

Anyway, Louise Linton, Mnuchin's wife of two months, posted an Instagram of the two of them disembarking from a military jet that was in official government drag. She wrote four actual words and then sprinkled a bunch of hashtags in there for good measure, including the names of the designers of all her clothes. This is normal influencer stuff but it does get a little sticky when aligned so closely with the actual government of the United States. The government is not telling you to buy a Hermes scarf, but they wouldn't be mad if you did. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Why Is Jeff Goldblum So Small on the New Thor: Ragnarok Poster?

Let's get the good out of the way first, shall we? This poster is chock full of images and most of them are great. You've got Chris Hemsworth's Thor, rocking newly chopped locks like he's in the latter-day Michael Bolton part of his hair journey. You've got Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie giving you smolder and squint for days. You have another iconic lewk from Cate Blanchett who is literally slaying all of your villainess faves. You have eternal bae Idris Elba giving you "post-apocalyptic How Stella Got Her Groove Back" lewks. There's a lot to love. What's not to love? Where's normcore nerd hunk Jeff Goldblum, for Odin's sake?! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Everything About This McConnell-Trump Feud Is Outrageous

I don't want it but now that it's here, I'm obsessed with it. I want a functioning democracy, and a season of American Horror Story where Angela Bassett and Sarah Paulsen defeat the killer in the first scene and then spend the next 12 episodes drinking tea, cackling, and prank calling Kathy Bates. (Kathy Bates, of course, is obsessed with prank calls.) That's what we all want. Instead we the Senate Majority Leader and the President leaking pages from their Burn Books. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

JLo and ARod Work Out Together Because They're Impossibly Perfect

Is there anything worse than couples who happily work out together? (I mean, yes, there are worse things. Many in fact. But let me just have this.) I suppose if one likes working out and/or doing things with other people this probably seems like a lot of fun. Personally, the only thing I understand about this is the part where JLo dances to Biggie instead of doing anything terrible like a crunch or a pushup or something. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Random Thing from the Internet...

This isn't technically random but it is totally crazy. As you're aware, David and I are moving to Baltimore in two week. The Philadelphia Inquirer thought this was noteworthy enough to ring me up, do a funny interview and send a photographer out to photograph me. It was a lot of fun and also totally unexpected. If you want to read me saying funny things about my time in Philadelphia and see a photograph in which I am, in real life, a disgusting sweat monster, but miraculously appear to be a normal human being, click here to read the article, Exit interview: The creator of 'Auntie Maxine' meme says goodbye to Philly.

I'm tired. BYE!