Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS!!!!!!!
Hiya! Just a quickie this week because I was off work for much of the week working on a project in upstate New York. The minute I got back, we took off for family business in California, where I remain now. Though it’s been wonderful to get some work done on a project I’m equally excited and intimidated by and it’s always wonderful to see family, even under sad circumstances, this week has been a real bear. I will say, however, that the friend I stayed with in upstate New York and the family we’re staying with in Hollywood have extraordinarily lovely homes and impeccable senses of hospitality. So, what I’m saying is, if you’re going to psychologically unravel from mere thought of your to-do list, do it in a gorgeous Nancy Meyers kitchen. That’s my advice to you!
Last night, as family is wont to do, we went out to dinner en masse. Joining us were two family friends and their 11-year-old granddaughter, none of whom I’d met before. (We’re with David’s family.) As you are aware, I am very intimidated by preteens and I fully expected this preteen to roll her eyes at me and then respond “OK Boomer” to literally everything I said for the entire evening. While I am not a Boomer, I had convinced myself that I deserved this somehow. I have Boomer energy. To wit, as we set up the house for a reception today, The Beverly Hillbillies and a Three Stooges movie played in the background. I keep stopping to laugh out loud, point at the television, and shout “Now that is classic comedy. Nobody’s doing it like that anymore!”
(Which, I knew, is patently untrue and proceeded to contradict myself by rattling off all the sitcoms that are utilizing the same comedic forms today. Did anyone ask for a comedy lecture on a Sunday morning? No. They asked me to Windex the deck chairs. But that’s what you get from R. Eric Thomas. No charge!)
The 11-year-old’s mere presence was a shock to us as the person who made the reservation had assumed that by “we’re bringing our granddaughter” the family friends had meant a baby. We arrived first and asked the hostess to bring a high chair, which she did. Minutes later an actual young person strolled into the restaurant on her own two feet and spoke full sentences to us before nestling into the booth and going back to reading her novel. “So,” I said, “I guess you don’t need the high chair?” She gave me a noncommittal look. “Is this going to become a comedy lecture?” she asked.
Actually, she was really delightful and I really enjoyed talking to her about her novel, RWBY, which is, apparently based on a manga series on a website called “Crunchy Roll.” I nodded dutifully as she relayed this information, willing my face to not give away the fact that I had literally never heard of anything she was talking about. “OK Boomer,” I muttered to myself.
I’m going to digress for a second here to acknowledge that this is the second week in a row that I’ve talked about a lighthearted interaction with a child. I feel like this newsletter is like one of those long-running sitcoms that tries to goose the ratings by randomly adding a neighbor kid or a grandchild, a la Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch or Olivia on Phylicia Rashad’s show. While I am not above stunts to keep the public entertained, I assure you this is just a coincidence and I will go back to awkward interactions with adults very soon.
Anyway, we chatted amiably throughout the meal and I discovered that she may not have thought I was “funny” per se, she did think I was “tolerable”, which is all I’m going for in most of my interpersonal relations.
At one point, she asked, apropos of the game on the restaurant TV, “What’s your college football team?” I didn’t realize she was asking me what team I root for consistently (lol, what?) and could only assume she was asking me what the name of the team at my college was. So I answered “Columbia University Lions” which is not anyone’s answer to this question. If I’d realized she was asking “Who are you rooting for every week?” I would have given my real answer, which is “Amy Adams.”
She tried a different tactic. “What sports did you play?” Me she asked this of. Me. This is why we need better education on LGBT history in schools. I was like, “Well, I’ll tell you what sports I thought about playing: crew but the practice was too early, soccer but I didn’t really understand the rules, cross country but I had childhood asthma!” This did not seem to be a satisfying answer for her so I followed up by telling her “I was consistently cast in both the Fall Musical and the Winter Drama all four years. I lettered in Theater. And that letter was an exclamation point.”
Like Mrs. Peacock in Clue, she was indefatigable in her attempts to make conversation. “What instrument did you play?” she asked. I began to feel like my entire life’s purpose was a disappoint to her. I lied and told her the recorder. Why I didn’t choose a better lie, I don’t know. I could have said piano or french horn or djembe. It’s not like she was going to test me! “Funny you say that, I actually have a baby grand in the parking lot; care to grace us with a concerto?”
Finally she asked “What video games did you play.” MY KRYPTONITE! I told her about how we weren’t allowed to play most video games but we were allowed to get anything they sold at a place called The Baptist Bookstore in Baltimore. I skipped over telling her about one game in which the entire objective was sinless living and converting people. (I’m completely serious. I loved this game.) and instead told her about the 8-bit game based on the book of Exodus in which you played Moses and you had to fight the plagues and part the Red Sea. I was obsessed with this game. The girl seemed less enthused. A child in 2019 doesn’t want to hear about my weird evangelical 8-bit games from 30 years ago? This is shocking to me.
“I also played Duck Hunt,” I offered. She sighed. “Do you play any modern games?” she asked. “No,” I said, “most of my video games are from the 1800s.” I remain unsure about whether she knew I was joking. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure myself. Another successful interaction with a small human!
"What day is it," asked Pooh.
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"Yes, I'm aware," sighed Pooh. "But is there something special happening today? Perhaps related to shopping and/or gift-giving and/or living one's best life?"
"Oh!" squeaked Piglet. "Yes! It's Oprah's Favorite Things day!"
"My favorite day," said Pooh.
That's definitely how the story goes, by the way. That was A. A. Milne's first draft and then his editor was like "This is too good. This will make people too happy. Pull it back a little." Truly a loss for humanity.
Let’s Hang Out!
Saturday, Nov. 16 - Hosting Freedom: An Evening of LGBTQ Storytelling, a benefit for FreeState Justice (come to this! I planned it! It’s going to be amazing!) at Baltimore Center Stage
Monday, Nov. 18 - Hosting The Moth at City Winery, Washington DC
Saturday, Nov. 23 - A staged reading of my play Crying on Television at the DC Queer Theater Festival. Tickets and info here.
Wednesday, Nov. 27 - Hosting The Moth Grand Slam at Lincoln Theater, Washington DC
The fine folks at GoodReads are doing another giveaway of an advance copy of my book Here for It! What do you have to do? Just click on THIS LINK and then click on the Enter Giveaway button. (I think that’s all; there may be a robot test. Unsure. I can’t enter because what if I win? Or worse, what if I lose?!)
Random Thing on the Internet
My favorite thing about the holidays is being asked to bring something simple to dinner and instead making this not-quite-simple but amazingly delicious Cranberry-Lime Pie.
“Funny” per se,