Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #151

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

This week: Cats is trying to destroy me, Elon Musk is trying to destroy us all, and Trump continues to destroy himself.

One of my favorite Baltimore independent bookstores just opened a second location a block from my house and I am in trouble. To quote my boy Bart Simpson: aye carumba! (Okay, I’m totally fronting about me and Bart being homeboys; we were definitely not allowed to watch The Simpsons growing up and my parents do not need me out here besmirching their tight reins with suggestions to the contrary. As a result, of course, I have very little Simpsons knowledge and have probably only watched two or three full episodes in my life. There’s a whole comedic and referential base layer to the culture that I know nothing about. For some reason some gag about the Mayor of Albuquerque from The Simpsons lodged itself into my head and I reference it far too much, but that’s about it. I don’t even know if it’s a popular gag! Do you know what I’m talking about?: The R. Eric Thomas story. But don’t cry for me,  because I filled in that Simpsons-shaped hole with musical theater cast recordings I borrowed from the library and the copy of Dick Tracy on VHS that I checked out so often they eventually let me buy it. I was a very persuasive child with inscrutable cultural reference points.)

Anyway, Greedy Reads, the bookshop, just opened a second location and I can be there in 90-seconds flat without breaking a sweat and I am delighted to preemptively declare my bankruptcy. We are already officially out of bookshelf space and have piles of books everywhere, plus now I occasionally get advance copies of books and I can’t say no to them because a) I love books, b) I love free things, c) my dream is to have a Beauty and the Beast library despite the fact that we do not live in a magical castle that was cursed by a witch. Yet.

The problem isn’t really the proximity of the bookstore, of course—I was always going to buy the books (please don’t tell my financial advisor!). The problem is now I have yet another beloved indie bookstore, which is also not really a problem, but rather a sign that you’re living right. I feel like I go around collecting favorite indie bookstores and library branches, which is great for traveling (Hi Parnassus Books in Nashville! Howdy Blue Bicycle in Charleston! Shantay you stay, East End Bookshop in Provincetown!) but it’s harder at home. I have like four favorite local bookstores (Bird in Hand, Ivy, Red Emma’s) and at least as many favorite library branches (Catonsville, Central, Towson, Hampden). When I want to get a book, I spend far too long deciding which one to bop into, weighing things like the parking situation, what kind of baked goods they also sell, and the mood of the store or library is (we need a bookstore version of the word umami; mood or vibe is not enough. Bookstores have a whole personality.) I work myself up into a tizzy worthy of Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail, my third favorite Meg Ryan character (Meg in Sleepless is #1, of course, and Meg in Joe Versus the Volcano is perfect at #2).

(Look at that great Instagrammable wall!)

Greedy Reads is across the street from the community garden where David has a plot, which means that 90% of the things in our apartment will come from one corner. Our lives have been taken over by stacks of books, sprouting seeds, those little beads that expand when you put them in water (are these nematodes? Unclear.), colorful radishs, and succulents in unusual pots. Yesterday, David and I walked over to the garden together, he proudly showed off the fennel, the garlic shoots, and the radish leaves and then I bid him adieu to cross the street and collect my own harvest at Greedy Reads. For Thanksgiving, I’m preparing a cornucopia that’s just filled with copies of Trick Mirror and Becoming. ART!

Actually, a book cornucopia is a pretty cool idea and I invite you to steal it. When David and I got married, our theme was, unsurprisingly, “We like books,” so the centerpiece of every table was book that we chose based on the personalities and interests of the people we placed there. We put so much thought into this. At the time he was working as an associate pastor and I was program director at a community center so our entire lives were community-building and bridging gaps. And books. We were so intentional with our seating chart, imagining a constellations of new relationships connecting around the room as strangers who knew and loved us realized that they were alike in some way. It’s like one of those murder mysteries where everyone discovers they’re being blackmailed by the same person, but happy. A happy mystery? Unclear. In any case, the clue was the book centerpiece. Sort of.

It kind of worked but what was even more delightful was at the end of the evening seeing people toting books home and gleefully scouring tables that had left their books behind. There are parts of our wedding that I would want to relive over and over again on loop forever and one of them is the sight of dear friends zipping around a nearly-empty church collecting beloved books (and a bunch of beer we didn’t go through) like they were on Supermarket Sweep.

This is also how I feel every time I walk into a bookstore. I completely forget (or purposefully ignore) that I will be spending cash money to get the books. That doesn’t matter! What matters is that I am inside the book cornucopia! This is heaven. And heaven has moved in next door.

IN THIS WEEK’S NEWSLETTER: the best hats on The Crown, Trump’s quixotic press conference, Elon Musk’s destructible truck. But first!

The Second Cats Trailer Has Broken Me

Ugh, fine, okay, let's pretend that this is a real movie that I will pay my hard-earned Bitcoins to watch in one of those theaters where they serve you a Applebee's-level dinner at Outback Steakhouse prices. If I had to pinpoint the source of my distress about the latest trailer, I think it comes down to the fact that it fully commits to revealing the mythology of the Cats world. The trailer tells you what the movie is actually about and that's not a good idea.


Elon Musk Introduces, Immediately Tries To Destroy $40,000 Cybertruck

Tesla's Elon Musk continued his reign of terror against reality last night by introducing something called a Cybertruck. It definitely sounds like the villain in a straight-to-DVD Transformers knockoff, but apparently it's just a regular, futuristic pickup truck designed to look like a computer mouse as sketched by Pablo Picasso sometime in 1912. An easy misunderstanding.


The Crown Season 3 Really Delivers On The Hat Front

This hat appeared onscreen during Prince Charles' investiture in Wales, and I jumped out of my chair and screamed like Joaquin Phoenix in Signs. This look is Elizabeth Debicki in Guardians of the Galaxy playing Judge Dredd. This is a Pinterest tribute to Rick Moranis in Spaceballs. This is one of those old-school football helmetsbut—and I cannot stress this enough—fashun. None of this is shade, mind you. This hat dares you not to take it seriously. Sea foam green and dotted with pearls, this was made by King Triton's personal designer. Is it a cloche? Eh, it's close. It's a creation all its own. Honestly, I need that for my everyday life. Can you hear in it? Nope, but Charles' speech was in Welsh so the Queen didn't understand it anyway.


Trump Uses The Marie Kondo Defense: 'I Want Nothing'

Trump seized on the quote and did what any rational, even-tempered, innocent person would do in this scenario: he took notes on his own quoted statement in an a Sharpie the size of George Kent's water bottle and then went outside, fired up a helicopter, and then shouted a statement at reporters. This is, by the way, the psychic opposite of whispering in a well, if you're building a spectrum of quixotic public declarations.


Let’s Hang Out!

Wednesday, Nov. 27 - Hosting The Moth Grand Slam at Lincoln Theater, Washington DC

Random Thing on the Internet

I wrote a short story for a new collection from Audible Originals! The collection is called The Other Animals and each short story is written from the perspective of an animal and read by the author. My story is called “Death and Company” and it’s about a turkey vulture who is working on self-actualization. Here’s the link if you want to check it out!

I am the Mayor of Albuquerque,