Here For It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #118

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

This week: Chris Evans is starting a blog?, Pete Buttigieg's husband saves the internet, and Project Runway truly shocks.

On our last day in Mexico City, we were supposed to venture two hours away, put on some jaunty straw hats like villains in an Indiana Jones movie, and hike up the Pyramid of the Sun. I was very excited about this for many reasons. For one, it's a pyramid! No shade to the Rocky Steps, but we're really not making attractions like that in the U.S. Also, it's obviously a great place to take new profile pictures, and this is important to me because I've decided to pivot to influencer. Who am influencing? I don't know, impressionable youths, Russian bots, people who watch infomercials. Who cares? On one hand, I don't really understand tourist attractions, or, rather, the mad zeal with which you're supposed to pursue seeing and doing everything in the place you're visiting. On the other hand, by that logic, why see or do anything anywhere? Why get out of bed? Why have eyes?! Just enjoy at the dang pyramid and wear some sunscreen. Gawsh! (Am I influencing right?)

We'd decided to try something different with our vacationing this time by sending our Type-A natures on a leisurely carriage ride for a few days and letting things happen as they happened. It was incredibly freeing. We got up when we wanted, we had a list of places we thought it might be nice to see but weren't wedded to, we ate when we were hungry. You know, like humans. Astounding. And so, when David woke up on our last morning super tired and I woke up dizzy and with a persistent cough, we decided that our lives would probably not be ruined if we waited another year to see the pyramid. (We are going back next year for sure. Let's all take a party bus!)

(If this were a movie, my dizziness and cough would surely be a sign that I was going to perish tragically towards the end--and believe me, as a Certified Hypochondriac this is what I immediately thought. But the truth is, it's probably just sinus/post-nasal drip issues brought on by high altitudes, pollution, my dumb body, and the fact that my 38-year-old ass decided to stay out til 4 a.m. drinking Mezcal on a school night. Gawsh!)

So instead of a physically taxing multi-hour experience both of us were surely not emotionally prepared for, we opted to take a ride on a gondola barge in a canal. We still wore the Indiana Jones villain hats, though.

This gondola barge situation is a real scream. These canals have literally hundreds of barges, all rammed into each other at a very long dock. (Apparently there are multiple docks, but I read on a blog that the only one that was reputable was Embarcadero Nuevas Navitas, so that's where we went. As we rode in an Uber, boys hawking other docks peddled furiously on bikes next to our car, shouting like paparazzi into our windows. It's amazing how far my fanbase reaches.) Anyway, at the dock, you give someone 500 pesos, he leads you on to the scrum of barges, hopping from one to the next until you reach the outermost one, and off you go. While the theme of the barge selected is random, we thought ours was particularly apropos.

This thing has it all: unicorns, a rich auntie name, gender reveal seats. Worth every peso! Oh! Also, as you ride along the canal, other barges with mariachi bands or souvenir vendors row up to you and try to sell you things! The only thing I love more than being sold to is being sold to at sea! These barges hold up to 20 people, seated, so some of the others we saw had full parties, with little kitchen barges towed behind catering meals for the passengers. This was, truly, the most amazing thing I've ever experienced. Regular luxury is being able to say "I had lunch on a boat I chartered." Galaxy brain luxury is saying "I had lunch on a boat I chartered, prepared fresh from the small boat kitchen that follows my larger boat around like a baby duckling." I spent the entire hour-long ride pointing at things and screaming in delight.

I considered this trip to Mexico my first and a half time out of the country. I got my passport when I was in high school to go on the exchange trip to France but then (and this is totally true) I decided I had too much social anxiety to try to make friends with an exchange student so I opted out. My parents took me on a cruise to Nova Scotia when I was college, but we really only set foot on foreign land for a couple of hours, during which time they went on an Underground Railroad tour and my brother Stephen and I tried to see an Al Pacino movie only to realize that because Nova Scotia is half an hour ahead, we were totes late. What a thoroughly American experience.

I have to say, I loved, LOVED being in a place where my American identity was not central to anything. I spend a lot of my time in playwriting and some non-fiction writing trying to centralize my own experience of otherness in an American narrative, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover how much I appreciated not being central in Mexico. I think the difference is, I wasn't marginalized in Mexico in a way that I am here; I just wasn't from there, I didn't speak the language, I didn't know the culture. So, the fault, if there was one, was not in who I am but rather just what I was able to do. To wit, I saw more visible queer life in Mexico City than I've seen almost anywhere except Provincetown or New York; I was surrounded by people of color of all economic backgrounds; I saw parts of myself that are othered in my daily life incorporated into life down there. It was really exciting.

I liked that, save for the barges, the experiences we had weren't geared toward tourists. I liked that some servers and bartenders spoke English but most did not and made no apology for that. We were in their space and so I dutifully stared at them trying to project comprehension as they rattled off the specials. I was a mess about the language. As you know, I took French in high school and it kept coming back to me in very unhelpful bits and snatches. I feel like I know a little bit of Spanish but it turns out when the chips are down, I do not speak in a broken Spanglish. Instead, I just stare pleadingly at the speaker and then smile like a maniac. This is, I found, less than helpful. I realized this the minute we got off the plane. David was getting our luggage and I went over to a exchange some dollars for pesos. The exchange agent (??) asked for my passport in Spanish and then proceeded to give a very long, seemingly important monologue while handing me forms to fill out and sign and pointing at different places on a conversion chart. I was like, "Oh, bitch, I'm in trouble. Literally what is happening and where am I? Please help me, Jesus." Long story short, I am pretty sure I now own a Mexican time share and have registered to vote in their next general election. Also, I did not get a very competitive exchange rate on the $50 I paid but I guess that's what I get for going up to someone holding a cardboard sign that reads "Money for You, Americans!" sitting in a Chevy Impala. Next time, I'll know Spanish, I'll cardio train for the pyramid, and I'll bring the party bus!

This week, Captain America has a never venture and Project Runway does florals for spring. But first!

Chasten Buttigieg's Relentlessly Cheery Twitter Is the Best Thing to Come Out of the 2020 Election

I absolutely refuse to make any endorsements of any presidential candidates at this early stage, but I will say unequivocally that whoever wins should appoint Chasten Buttigieg as first spouse. That's how this works, right? I'm not a constitutional scholar but I'm pretty sure that's correct. Another constitutional question: if Mayor Pete becomes president do we have to call him President Mayor Pete? President "President Pete"? Amanda Peet? Please respond ASAPete. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Chris Evans Enters Retired Dad Mode, Starts Political Blog

Apparently, whatever he wants also includes wading into the world of political blogging. The actor told The Hollywood Reporter that he's hard at work on starting a site called A Starting Point that aims to "create informed, responsible and empathetic citizens." I have a lot of questions about this. One, political blogging? Wow. Why are you so obsessed with me? [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Project Runway Season 17, Episode 3 Recap: Noticing a Pattern

One of my favorite reality TV tropes is the contestant who is disappointed by how hard the show is and how much they miss their family. I feel like this is who I would be, to be honest. I am disappointed by how hard most stuff is, so if you wanted me to live in a fancy dorm with a bunch of people who activate my imposter syndrome, and to prove my skill and creativity in a new way every couple of days, I'm pretty sure I'd take to the fainting couch with a quickness. At the same time, you have to wonder what these contestants were expecting; it's like, "Hon, the show is called Survivor. This isn't exactly Club Med." [READ THE FULL RECAP]

Let's Hang Out

Hosting The Moth StorySlam: Philadelphia at World Cafe Live, tomorrow
Hosting The Moth StorySlam: DC at the Miracle Theater, April 4

Random Thing on the Internet

I am very very excited about the forthcoming memoir from VerySmartBrothas founder Damon Young. It's called What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, which is an incredible title I truly wish I was creative enough and black enough to have thought of. I've been listening to and reading as many interviews and profiles of him as I can because I love his perspective, I love the conversations he's having about navigating identity and an online persona couched in humor (something I think about a lot), and I can't wait to read his book. I particularly enjoyed this New York Times profile on him.

What a thoroughly American experience,