Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
First of all, last week's email was number 227 and, shockingly, I didn't even think to make a reference to the superb sitcom of the same name. I only just now realized this as I went to title this edition and saw that I'd truly blocked the blessing of calling issue number #227, which was about the on-going shenanigans of the JLo and Ben Affleck "un-Marrrrryyyy-d" or deconstructing last week's spiraling rocket news in the voice of Pearl, the neighbor who sat in the window. Can you believe this?! Like, what are we even doing here if not finding a reason to talk about 227? My deepest apologies to Marla Gibbs, Regina King, Jackée, and Olivia from Sesame Street. I have never been more shocked at my own behavior and I am putting myself on the Sick and Shut-in List with the prayer request that I get my life together.
Speaking of the shut-in list: despite the fact that this week the CDC updated their mask guidance to "it's whatever", I spent a good chunk of yesterday outside, hundreds of feet from anyone, wearing a mask. I'll explain, but first--y'all mind if I spiral?
Look, I'm just not here for the suddenness of this CDC declaration. The organization announcing that fully vaccinated people could go maskless, in the words of Shakira, "whenever, wherever" felt like it came out of nowhere and certainly surprised a lot of businesses, community leaders, and humor newsletter writers. (Not to tell tales out of school, but if a person runs, say, a church with people of various health statuses and age groups, returning to "normal" takes a little bit more than just posting a sign on the door that reads "To quote Shania Twain, 'let's go girls!'") My objection is not about health, per se--I'm not an epidemiologist; I'm an idiot who has a lot of opinions about the casting of Knives Out 2. (KATHRYN HAHN!) It's about logistics! As my husband and my therapist have heard ad nauseam, I do not like being surprised! I need to know what we're doing, when, why, and I need to know how I'll be getting there and getting back. I like to act like I'm "go with the flow" but the truth is I'm really "What's the flow? Hmm. No."
Surprise: I like communication (he writes in his two hundred and twenty-eighth weekly newsletter). One of the things that's nice about pivoting much of my work to film and television is that people in that business are all about advance notice. All scheduling has that five-paragraph essay vibe--tell em what you're going to tell em, tell em, and tell em what you told em. There's no sudden edicts--instead someone's assistant will reach out to me with a bunch of times to meet, I pick a time, they confirm that time, then two days before the meeting they confirm again, and the day before the meeting they recirculate the meeting information just so everyone has it.
Now, furby it from me to advocate for more emails (I currently have roughly 525,600 things I need to respond to). But I just hate the feeling of having missed the memo. Put another way: there's definitely some negatives to the coming cicada infestation, but you have to hand it to them--the last thing they want to do is surprise you. The cicadas are like "Hey, are you free to meet in 17 years?" And we're like "Actually, that's kind of inconvenient." And the cicadas are like "Okayyy, well, the doodle poll said everyone else was free then so... maybe you can join remote?" They don't have a lot of flexibility but at least they communicate well. And loudly. (Cicadas are never on mute, et cetera.)
But this mask thing? I just don't know. I dined outdoors at a restaurant for the first time last week and I felt like I was on Rumspringa. I'm still processing my wild night of chewing in public with two other vaccinated friends far away from anybody else. Meanwhile, yesterday I went, masked, to an indoor Dutch Market in search of a breakfast sandwich and none of the employees were wearing masks and they had a full salad bar open. The sneeze guard on that thing was so high the only thing it was blocking was my thoughts, all of which were this GIF:
Anyway, it was then either a strange irony or a natural conclusion that I ended up later that day standing in our yard alone, atop a huge pile of wood chips, wearing a mask. The long and short of it is we got these wood chips to help shape our yard and keep weeds at bay--a concept that means nothing to me; I just do what David suggests. The first time I worked on the wood chips, every time I disturbed them they sent up a cloud of white dust that I assumed was just, uh, wood... pollen...? I don't know. Unfortunately, after being completely incapacitated for a few days and doing my weekly google search of "am i dying and if so why?" I discovered that the wood chip dust was actually mold and every community gardening message board was like "Moldy! You in danger girl!"
So, the pile still needs to come down but I need to stay alive long enough to see Knives Out 2. A relatable dilemma. In the before times, I think I'd be at a loss and/or would have spent too much money on some kind of hazmat suit because my final form is Julianne Moore in Safe.
But now all I had to do was grab one of the 525,600 masks from the hook by the door and get to shoveling.
Well, the truth is all I had to do was grab a mask, my back brace, my tennis elbow band, and my carpal tunnel gloves and get to shoveling. Call me Mark Wahlberg in The Happening because this garden is trying to kill me. Since we moved in, we have been doing a number of projects that some might call landscaping but which I call "terraforming Mars". That work has really ramped up since spring began and we've spent 6-8 hours every Saturday and Sunday since late March digging and hauling and planting and whatever. David, let it be known, has done more of this work than I have. Literally, as I sit on the porch and type this I'm watching David haul giant stones off of a cart into a carefully planned formation in the pond he dug like a reverse Force Majeure.
As someone who has not "done nature" before, I am unsure whether the physical toll of all of this digging, moving, bending, snapping, popping and locking is normal or just a result of trying to do the first couple of verses of the Book of Genesis without God powers. Alls I know is that our work kicked into gear right around my birthday, so I have spent the entirety of my 40s casually remarking "everything hurts and I'm broken" and complaining that the CDC is moving too fast. I'm spiraling!
Me watering the plants just now:
Here's what I thought gardening was going to be:
(I'm so obsessed with Oprah's garden, I wrote about it at length in 2017.)
And here's what gardening actually feels like:
(I'm also obsessed with Working Girl, as I wrote about last year.)
So, if you need me, I'll be enjoying nature--by which I mean, standing alone in the grass, slipping a Tylenol under my mask. Drop on by! (But obviously give me at least 17 years notice. I mean, really.)
Speaking of giving advance notice--thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, next May I'll have a new play opening here in Baltimore at Everyman Theatre. You can read about it here!
Random Thing on the Internet
Congratulations to this person for, well, everything.
What's the flow? Hmm. No,