Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: MICHELLE OBAMA'S BOOTS!, Jafar is hot now so deal with it, and Twitter's Jack is making strange choices.
"So, what's the plan for Christmas?" my mother asked at Thanksgiving. This was both the question on everyone's mind and also a surprising opening volley as we all assumed that she dictated the plan for Christmas and was just waiting for the right moment to tell us. The uncertainty that the question introduced was thrilling; literally anything was possible; chaos was at hand! We don't do a lot of family drama, at holidays or other times, and, as you may be aware, I subsist entirely on dramatic scenes and the attention of strangers, so up to that point in Thanksgiving dinner I had been limply eating my food, slowly fading away like Marty McFly's siblings. My mother decided that we should have a conversation about Christmas dinner and suddenly I was revived! Would we all argue about it?! Would someone storm off in a huff?! Would I gesture wildly with a turkey leg for emphasis. Probably!
Of course, before we could devolve into a black (well, black and white), well-adjusted staging of August: Osage County I declared "We'll host it!" Yes, I love drama but my heart will always belong to showing love for my family and friends through arduous social gatherings and happenings in which I do the most. Christmas is the best time to do the most. Christmas is like the Christmas of Doing the Most. It was obviously my calling to assume the mantel of put-upon dinner host, flour-flecked and harried, a little bit bossy, sometimes passive-aggressive, yet maniacally cheerful. A real treat; my greatest role. Instant EGOT. I cast a wild-eyed look at David, knowing that we had not discussed hosting at all. I saw in his eyes what I already expected: he knew damn well that I was chomping at the bit to host this thing like a mid-sized, economically depressed city jockeying for the Amazon campus or the Olympics. I am Atlanta and I will raze every property in city limits if it means someone will let me make the stuffing.
My mother and youngest brother told me that I didn't have to if it was too much trouble but I replied, "Honey, call me Phil Collins, cuz I've been waiting for this moment for all my life. Oh lord!" And then I performed a drum solo with the turkey leg I'd been holding in my hand, waiting for the right gestural moment.
That was a month ago. I think it's fair to say that I am now completely in the Christmas dinner weeds. "In the weeds" is a restaurant term that describes the moment when all of your tables want something and you have entirely too much to do and will probably fall apart in a moment. What's amazing about being in the weeds is that the only way through it is through it; you have to keep working, wildly, methodically, faster than you want, until you're suddenly out. And the feeling of being out of the weeds is like no other. Zipping around dropping a check, returning a burger, making the fastest cappuccino you've ever made, greeting a new table, and delivering change, you feel like a superstar, or perhaps just a star--sailing through the galaxy, burning fast and coming in hot. But then when it's over, it's over. Suddenly no one needs anything or what's needed is somehow manageable, and you survived.
That was the best case scenario. That didn't always happen, of course. Early in my restaurant career, I was working a full section at the comedy club that gave me my first service job. Everyone would sit at once for the second and third show of the night, so you had to get everyone's food and beverage order at the same time and then put them in for the service bartender to bang through and then negotiate the very small aisles to drop off drinks, check on food, do all the stuff. One time, I had a tray full of drinks for probably seven tables. I had another tray full of drinks waiting on the bar for me in the back. I was in Weed City. As I slid through the cocktail tables on my way to my section, I felt one of the tall beer glasses wobble. One of the things you learn how to do as a server is to subtly and magically adjust your center of gravity when trays get unbalanced. You basically will your physical form to have a different relationship with the universe as a trade off for not spilling a drink. I was not there yet. The beer tipped in slow motion and then fell, knocking over another drink, which knocked over another drink, and so on, until they were all waterfalling off of the tray and on to me. I didn't know what to do and so I just slowly lowered myself to the ground like Maya Rudolph in that one scene in Bridesmaids and waited for the liquid to overtake me. There was no Eric anymore; only weeds. And a lot of spilled booze. This was a marsh.
The Christmas situation is not like that. I think. I am in control. But I have also gleefully bit off more than I can chew, actually and psychologically. I've made a menu and then gone through the various emotional trials of feeling like I'm betraying my family, my history, my ancestors, and Jesus Christ himself by not serving staples like turkey or kale. We're having a fall salad with radicchio, sweet potatoes, and pomegranates because I am THAT GAY. We're doing crab cakes and ham instead of the turkey because I can't have leftover turkey in my house for a week. We're leaving town to visit other relatives the day after Christmas and can't abide any leftovers. I asked on Twitter if I needed to serve cranberry sauce since I didn't have turkey and many people, including Helen Rosner, the New Yorker's food critic, said no. But I still feel like this will be A THING. I do love drama but also I'm going to buy a can just in case. I'm not trying to get hit in the head with a turkey leg.
I wrote a very organized market list yesterday, divided by section of the grocery store, and made quick, mean work out of the shopping. I know most grocery store layouts by heart. It's one of my spiritual gifts. On my errands, I forgot the dry cleaning, however, and I feel deeply sad about that failure. Why? Because in Weed City every emotion is a large one. At one point in the market trip, I was wandering the aisles looking for cranberries, which were nowhere to be found. I'd added the challenge of going to a market I was unfamiliar with because it was near the dry cleaner (Agh! My insufficiency!) I grew so frustrated looking for the cranberries that I declared out loud, to no one but a bin of lemons, "I just won't make my pie this year; it will be hard but everyone will get over it." I shed a single tear and then got myself together, like Annette Benning trying to sell the house in American Beauty. If I had to go to a bog myself, by God, there would be cranberry pie. You can say a lot of things about the unnecessary complications of my hospitality, about the house I own in Weed City, or about my misplaced priorities, but what you won't say--punctuating the air with the leg of a bird--is that I didn't do Too Much for No Reason At All. It's the holidays! A special time of year for loved ones to look around at a full table and a brightly-lit home, and about seven different main courses, and say to each other "Who asked for this?"
This week! Everyone absolutely did the Most. Some successfully, and some less so. Disney did the most by giving us a hot Jafar in Aladdin! ARod continued his streak as the best Instagram Boyfriend, Jack from Twitter got a rapper to put a spell on him. But first! THE BOOTS OF LIFE!
Blessings and salutations solely to Michelle Obama dressed like the concept of light itself! Michelle Obama literally not letting anyone dim her shine! Michelle Obama revealing herself to be the fifth element! Michelle Obama as the star on top of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree! Michelle Obama doing Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast cosplay! Michelle Obama dressed literally by god herself! Michelle Obama, Beyoncé’s Beyoncé at her most Beyoncish! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Aladdin is wearing a shirt! What's up with business casual Aladdin and why do you hate me so? This is nipple erasure and I won't stand for it. Original Aladdin was the diamond in the rough; he was the original scam artist, convincing people he was a fabulous prince when really he was broke and about to be thrown out of his room at 11 Howard like Anna Delvey. But, most importantly, Aladdin was hot AF. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Twitter's Jack sent "a rapper his beard shavings to make him an amulet that would protect him from evildoers." I mean, does it get more medieval than that? The rapper in question was noted spiritualist and Bussy soap entrepreneur (a soap for bleaching your butt!) Azealia Banks. And how do we know this? She told the world when it happened. On Twitter, of course. Move over Meryl Streep in Into the Woods, there's a new rapping witch in town. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Alex Rodriguez's tireless dedication to documenting every moment of JLo's life on his personal cell phone is, by far, the best thing about 2018 and perhaps all of human life. The knowledge that she is one of the most photographed people in the world combined with the resolve to nevertheless take his own photos of her is a level of commitment to beautiful redundancy that is deeply admirable. As we go into 2019, the best wish that I can give to each person on Earth is that we all find something that we care about as much as ARod loves Instagramming JLo. [SEE THE GALLERY]
Let's Hang Out
I'm returning to the Moth in Philadelphia!!! January 7, World Cafe Live. Let's hang out!
The Moth DC, January 21, City Winery DC
Random Thing from the Internet
People seriously go wild for this cranberry pie.
Who asked for this?!