Here For It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #126
Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: the last word from Mueller, a Niecy Nash interview, and Project Runway gets to the final four.
Honey, my clown self took my clown ass back to clown school for my twenty year reunion last night. Was I anticipating shenanigans, high drama, secrets revealed, buried gossip, and someone throwing their martini at a near-40-year-old former lacrosse player? Absolutely. If we've learned anything from reality TV, it's that this is what happens at reunions. More than anticipating these antics, I was demanding them. Here are the facts you need to know: I loved my school so much, it’s a small independent school on 100 acres of woods in suburban Baltimore, it's the most liberal and progressive private school in the area, and there were 92 people in my graduating class. Judging from previous reunions, which I hadn't attended but collected tea about like Mrs. Snapple herself, we'd be lucky if 25% of the class showed up. A lot of the people I was closest with either had expressed disinterest, were stuck in Australia, or had dramatically changed to the point that we are now mortal enemies. So, this wasn’t primed to be the sort of Romy and Michelle experience where a hotel ballroom is filled with actual strangers, your old nemesis whom you come to love, someone from Chemistry class whose name you don’t remember, and a bunch of long-suffering spouses. Plus, with Facebook, you basically know everyone’s deal already. So the question of the purpose of a reunion is an open one, but my objectives were clear: eat free food, drink free drinks, start some drama, throw a table.
Let’s get the important information out of the way up too: The cocktail hour buffet was incredible! Truly delicious! Parmesan bacon twists! Lamb empanadas! I was already delighted. The open bar had top shelf liquor and a good sauvignon blanc. Wonderful. The tables were too heavy to throw, so that was a shame, but I had my drama locked and loaded. The night before, at a different cocktail party (this school does a whole weekend of reunion shenanigans! It’s a marathon!) a classmate told me that one of our former classmates was now a lawyer for the DOJ who had defended the Trump administration's child separation policy in front of Congress. I don’t want to say too much because I’m trying to keep myself uncancelled, unjailed, and well moisturized, but there’s also video on C-SPAN that I googled when I got home, so it’s not like I’m Martha Mitchell drunk dialing the Post. Anyway, to find out that one of my best friends from high school and the guy I split the cost of the prom limo with was now an actual villain of almost cartoonish extremeness was too much. It makes me so mad on a basic level that I can't even think about it for too long or I else I think I might explode.
We figured he wouldn’t come to the reunion, so it was up to me to start every conversation by leaning over my drink and stage whispering “[Redacted] [Redacted] is a lawyer for ICE! Villainy! We shared a limo to prom! His prom date is now a reporter for the New York Times covering the White House. So, this is very much a Magneto/Prof. X type of situation. I am Jean Grey. ALSO! You remember that story about the NYT reporter who wore her wedding dress to cover Trump in Japan? That was her! It was more of a group date thing. I was actually the one who asked her on his behalf. They were definitely not together. Amazing, isn't it, how I'm not really a part of this story and yet I've inserted myself in it at multiple points? Anyway, that's the tea from 20 years ago. But you didn't hear it from me: Mrs. M. Mitchell, anonymous source."
This was definitely drama but it was drama that just made me sad. Drama I didn't know what to do with. Drama that directly attacked the way I see the world and the things I try to connect to with my work, i.e., humanity and hope. And so I stopped bringing it up to every single person I saw and tried to find a different objective. I wasn't really sure why I was at the reunion, actually, other than because it felt like something I should do and maybe I'd regret not doing. I don't think I had anything to prove or disprove. I've spent the last two decades mulling over every weird, embarrassing thing I did in high school and although I am weird and embarrassing professionally now I feel extremely divorced from the person I was then in a way that I should maybe talk about with my therapist except he's on vacation for two weeks so I guess I'll just put all those weird, embarrassing things from twenty years ago to bed and spend the next two decades thinking about the weird, embarrassing things I did at the reunion instead.
People seemed generally aware of what I was doing with my life (and once a woman who wasn't in my class came up to me and said her wife follows me on Twitter and was reading my live tweets about the event, so hello to her wife. I am sorry for the typos and general clownery!) At one point, a former classmate and I were catching up and he was convinced that I went to Harvard. He kept saying it! Why?! I responded that I was waitlisted at Harvard in 1999, but I haven't gotten in yet and suddenly I'm standing in the middle of a building that used to be a playground, waving a bacon twist in the air, rehashing where I did and did not get accepted into college. This did not seem like the objective. In short, I didn't know who I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do. My life story. And then, when I went from the cocktail hour to the dinner in the cafeteria and approached the name tag table, things escalated to a surreal level.
I don't want to alarm you but that is not me. That's another kid named Eric from our class. The name tag with his full name also had his face on it. So, two times this face, zero times my face. (Also, an interesting note for future biographers: I did not start using my first initial until the day of my high school graduation! An affectation!) I appreciate the hard work of everyone at the alumni office and I have enjoyed collaborating with them to do speeches and presentations on campus in the past. But, I must say in total seriousness that someone is definitely going to jail for this.
The other Eric didn't even come to the reunion! So, I'm just walking around, casting sidelong glances at my old secret crush across the room, resisting the urge to gossip about ICE and how furious I am about the whole world, with some TGIF-looking white boy's face on my chest. Peculiar!
Just as the bar was doing last call, a woman named I'd dated in 6th grade for about two weeks came running in from the side entrance to the cafeteria like she'd just left shop class. She'd been at another event that evening but wanted to see everyone. She said some hurried "hellos," tried and failed to get a drink from the bar, and then bee-lined it toward the group I was standing with. In quick succession she hugged me, took a gulp of my wine, told me alcohol cures everything, turned to David and told him she’d beaten him because I was her boyfriend first, and then leaned down to my wrist and tapped my Fitbit until it confessed how many steps I’d taken that day. It was the strangest, most dramatic entrance I've ever experience and I will be puzzling about it for the rest of my life.
Was this the drama I was looking for? I mean, actually, yes. Maybe when having a catered seance for your past self, everything should be surreal, and slightly sad, and most of all, strange on the level of melodrama and farce. Maybe nothing should makes sense and everything should taste good. It was nice to see people, there were mini-donuts for dessert, and I didn't have to have an angry conversation with a member of the Trump administration. And I got my steps in. See you in 5 to 10 years!
This week, a Niecy Nash interview, and Project Runway gets to the final four, but first!
Robert Mueller Says He Didn't Not Find Evidence of Presidential Crimes
Okay, so I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is Robert Mueller held a press conference today giving what he characterized as his only statement on the results of the Special Counsel investigation and he did not make wild accusations about Trump and hand out indictments like free samples at Costco. We all knew this wasn't going to happen but a lifetime of watching dramatic final moments on syndicated episodes of Matlock has trained us to expect stunning reversals delivered with measured folksy charm. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Niecy Nash Has the Range
Nash has been steadily working in a variety of roles, large and small, for over two decades, but audiences first discovered her as a punchline-delivering powerhouse, a role she took to but doesn't want to be limited by. "I've done multi-cam, single-cam, comedy, drama, hosting, news reporting," she says matter-of-factly. "I was a dancing star. Now we can add 'director.'" She's finally in full bloom: "You get the real thing now. It's got some seasoning on it. It's been through the fire and came out fine. I'm in it now." [READ THE FULL INTERVIEW]
Project Runway Recap: May We Have the Room?
Sebastian's room has bright yellow walls, yellow columns, and purple paper flowers. He's concerned because it's not giving him a Greek palace feel. He also feels like his outfit and his room are not speaking the same aesthetic language. He makes a big show of giving up on the contest altogether. An off-camera producer asks him if he's serious and he says yes. Instead, he goes to sit on a sofa and drinks a bottle of water, which is a good practice for everyone. Should you have a meltdown at work and burn every professional bridge you've made because there's a line at the copier or should you sit down and hydrate? It's a real mystery. [READ THE FULL RECAP]
Let's Hang Out
Washington, D.C.: June 17 at Miracle Theater - Hosting The Moth StorySlam
Random Thing from the Internet
Leah Chase, a black chef and activist from New Orleans, died today at 96. I was unfamiliar with her prior to today, I'm sad to say, but quickly learned that she opened the city's first white tablecloth restaurant open to black patrons, she fed Freedom Riders when they passed through the area, and she provided space for civil rights leaders to strategize. This New Yorker profile on her is a great place to start.
Uncancelled, unjailed, and well moisturized,