I often have trouble placing people when I see them outside of the context in which I normally see them. I’ll run into a friend or acquaintance at the market or the airport and I’ll stare for a little too long thinking “How do I know that person? Did we date?” (This is always the question couplet, which gives you an idea of how much of a treat I was to date. Every day: Do I know you? Are we involved in some way? Do you have half the rent?) I usually figure it out in time to save face, mostly, though I’m sure the look of total confusion that sits on my actual face like a cheap plastic Halloween mask is something of a giveaway. If this has happened between us, I Rupaulogize. Truly. In my defense, I come by it honest. My mother tells this story of one time she was out at the Giant and she drove by a woman standing in the bus shelter waiting for the bus. “That woman looks so familiar,” she remembers thinking as she pulled into the parking lot. She was nearly into the store when it dawned on her: it was her mother. Obviously, she swung back and gave her a ride home, but the point is that I heard this story the first time when I was a kid and I thought “Yes, every action you have related makes sense to me. Everyone should have a name tag. Even you, kind woman who is sitting across from me at this Friendly’s telling me stories.”
When we first moved to Baltimore, I expected it to happen a lot more, seeing as how this is a town full of people I went to high school with or church with but haven’t seen in years. Instead the reverse happened: I’d be out at the Giant (this post brought to you by our friends at Giant Foods) and I’d see a black woman in her 50s or 60s and I’d stare, convinced that she was a former Sunday School teacher or a cousin. They never were; they were always people who had a familiar skin tone or face structure, who held themselves in a way that reminded me of people who used to love me. It happened again at the Giant this morning as I bought stuff for short ribs and pancakes (not the same meal, but I wouldn’t put it past me.) The cashier Charlene looked just like a woman Linda who used to go to my church and also like an alternate universe version of my cousin Brenda and while she rung me up I tried to think of a non-weird way to say “Hey, are we related and if so can I use your store discount?”
I’ve been told I have one of those faces that looks like somebody. Or I used to hear it; not so much anymore. Strangers in Philly would always stop me and swear we’d met (this is before I wrote the column or was in any way Googleable. I was just some random poorly dressed paralegal.) I’d suggest maybe I waited on them at Hard Rock Cafe or perhaps they frequented the same piano bar I would also go to, but that was never the case. Eventually, one of us would give up (in these instances, the whole thing has always dragged on too long and everybody knows it and the person who disengages first is a true hero.) I’d say “I have one of those faces that looks like someone’s cousin,” which seemed clever then but now that I tell you it feels like an off-putting thing a Nicholas Cage villain would say.
There is, however, someone who used to live in Baltimore who, apparently, looks just like me. I know this because on four different occasions I’ve sat down at a bar and been mistaken for him. This I do not mind because apparently he was a well-liked sommelier so I usually discover people have mistaken me for him when they slide me a glass of wine that I have to try and refuse to take payment. The first couple times I thought, Wow, I am more famous than I thought. Actually, every time this happens I think that. But I am always quickly brought back to Earth when people ask me when I moved back and I say “Two years ago” and they look confused about that answer because apparently “I” just left and then I’m like “Oh! We’re reaching that place where it’s dragging on too long. You think I’m the sommelier, don’t you?” And they get sheepish and refuse to charge me for the drink. This is not a bad way to live life.
I do not know his name. I guess I should ask but I feel like I’d become in some way complicit. These free glasses of wine have to be an accident and I feel like if I walk around knowing who my doppelgänger is I’ll somehow be Secreting these things into happening. I know this doesn’t make sense. What am I supposed to do, walk into bars yelling “I am not Rufus Bloom-Warhaus!” (This is what I assume his name is.) That would be weird. Also, this wine is just sitting there waiting to be given away and Rufus is off having some new life, leaving his old friends hanging. Maybe Rufus is in Philly, checking in on my old friends, getting comped a burger at Hard Rock and being asked to sing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” at a piano bar. I have to say, I like free wine but I think he’s getting a better deal. Now I must destroy him.
Two other things:
Last night I saw Fairview at Woolly Mammoth Theater in DC and there was this well-dressed usher who, oddly, did not make way for me or offer to help me when I was going to my seat. Turns out, he wasn’t an usher; he was a Secret Service agent securing Row D, a fact I discovered when a great murmuring rose up and I turned to see Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg taking her seat two rows behind me. She looked healthy and fantastic. We all gave her a standing ovation. If you’ve seen Fairview, you may be interested to know that the Secret Service made her leave before the thing happens. I hope this a vague enough non-spoiler. I really want to talk about this, so if you know what I’m talking about, get at me.
Another thing, there’s a security guard at my doctor’s office (which is on the second floor of my building) whom I frequently see because I am a hypochondriac and also because she and I often work out at the same time. Anyway, we often say hello. I ran into her the other morning on my way to therapy and she said “Good morning, Mr. Principal!” It was 90 degrees and I was wearing a baseball tee and jean shorts. It was 10:30 in the morning. I don’t understand what this means. Does she think I am a principal? Is the sommelier a principal, too? I don’t know if I can handle being mistaken for such an overachiever.
When I look back at my life laid out on a sandy beach of time and I see places where there is only one set of footprints, then I will know it was Elizabeth Warren's effortless Twitter roasting of trolls that carried me.
Look, I didn't want to bother you with this whole Jacob Wohl-Elizabeth Warren business because, well, it is Jacob Wohl business and Jacob Wohl is a troll who is also somehow a child and also an accused felon so there's a lot to parse there. He's a nothingburger stuffed with iceberg lettuce. And also cantaloupe for some reason. And you're like, "Who ordered this?" But the waiter is gone. In fact, the whole restaurant is empty. And you've been sitting there for years.
Spooky season started off with a bang after a baby mouse dropped out of the ceiling in the White House press room and landed in reporter Peter Alexander's lap. Members of the press were sent scrambling after the rodent to see if it would give them a quote about its time inside the Trump administration.
It is rumored that the mouse will be a contestant on next season's Dancing with the Stars, but before that ELLE.com has managed to secure an exclusive interview by luring it in with a tiny pat of peanut butter and half a saltine.
The live-tweeter-in-chief is awake and recapping favorable Fox News statements about himself and future potential conflagrations like he's unsuccessfully angling for a gig at Television Without Pity. Everybody else in the country is sitting at their desks sending GIFs to their work spouses and trying to figure out if there's birthday cake in the break room and meanwhile the president is plopped in front of a TV giving out-of-context updates on Twitter. My job is to write about pop culture and I don't even live-tweet television this much while at work. What does the president think about Kendall Roy's rap, that's what I want to know?
Apparently, the dastardly, too-close-to-home backstabbing on Succession doesn't rank for Trump because he's too busy ::checks weathered piece of parchment:: broadcasting foreboding predictions of a civil war. Even the "this is fine" dog was like "Ruh-Roh!"
Let’s hang out!
Monday, Oct. 7 - Hosting The Moth at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Thursday, Oct. 17 - Speaking at the Rose O’Neill House at Washington College
Random thing on the internet
This video of Sarah Paulson taking a lie detector test confirms what I have long suspected: she and I should be best friends.
Good morning, Mr. Principal!