Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #162
Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Nancy Pelosi has a rip-roaring State of the Union, Project Runway goes black tie optional, and I won the Iowa Caucus.
Last night David and I went to the Small Foods Party, an annual Baltimore competition involving, as you might surmise, very tiny versions of regular-sized food. Most competitors form teams and choose a theme for their presentation, so, for instance, one team was a tiny hospital, they all dressed as doctors, nurses, and, hilariously, a budget conscious hospital administrator. They served a huge spread that included a full hospital food meal about the size of a forever stamp (Salisbury steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, and a homemade roll that could fit on an eraser head), plus Jell-o, pudding (with tiny homemade graham crackers!), and juice. It was all edible and all very good.
Another team built a rotating sushi bar and made the tiniest sushi rolls I have ever seen. It gave me flashback to my days working at POD in Philadelphia but whereas the 70s Spaceship aesthetic of POD seemed to tower over me and all the diners, at the mini-sushi bar I was the giant. WHO’S THE KING OF RESTAURANT EXCESS NOW, STEPHEN STARR?
Normally, if I go to a cocktail party and they have stingy apps I get huffy, but this was a novel delight! I had an eclair the size of a raisin that I am still marveling at. I drank cardamom tea out of a hand-fired mug that would fit right at home on a shelf in Redwall. I came away so full, which is odd because I do not believe I chewed a single thing all night. This is a perfect situation for me, someone who has a lot of anxiety about making the wrong choice at a restaurant and frequently orders two entrees just to be safe. You can check out some more pictures from the event on my Instagram Stories. It was amazing.
My friend Barbara invited me to be a celebrity judge at the Small Foods Party and while I am full of myself, I concede that I am not a celebrity. But perhaps in a world where croissants are the size of grains of rice, everything adjusts for scale. I learned from Barbara, who is also involved in Fluid Movement, the local water ballet I fell in love with this summer, there is a whole network of food novelty food competitions here, like the deviled eggs contest, a meatballs competition, and the mac and cheese cook-off. I never thought I’d say it; I hope I don’t sound ridiculous, but it’s possible that Baltimore is Heaven. Barbara also gave me the (teeny tiny) tea that once someone had cheated during the audience voting part of the mac and cheese cook-off and so the heads of all of the food competitions had to come together like a meeting of mob bosses to address the matter. This meeting is the only play I want to write from now one. Obviously it’s a dinner at some shady Little Italy hole-in-the-wall. The Small Foods family brings doll-size cutlery and orders a thimble of angel hair pasta; the egg contingent plays Deviled Advocate during discussions; the Meatball Mafiosos come with two rotund bodyguards. I’m obsessed with this.
Afterward, David and I—two type-A people who never met a competition or a mob syndicate we didn’t want to join—sat at our dining room table/kitchen table/work station/mail catch-all and plotted our plan for next year. We came up with a couple of themes (which I will not share with you because I like reveals!). And then we started thinking about local friends we could invite to join. We realized that we know a great many people who would be enthusiastic about this kind of thing and that each of them had a special skill that would come in handy: a culinary wizard, an artist, a logistics person, someone with great dexterity, a costumer. In short, we started Ocean’s 11-ing.
For a long time I wondered what was wrong with me that I didn’t have a core group of friends who were all basically the same like characters on sitcoms or in the group chats that everyone on Gay Twitter seems to have. It seemed a fault of my adulthood (that was probably due to my personality, though I will never admit that in public, not even under other. Find me in contempt of court; I don’t care.) But now I’m thinking that as great as finding your Living Single crew is, perhaps the next level of adult socialization is Ocean’s 11-ing: bringing together a disparate group of people with unique individual talents united by a shared goal. It’s great if that goal is winning a competition; it’s even better if that goal is robbing a casino. Adulthood is a rich tapestry.
I think this also works in regular life, as well. I thought what I wanted was a bunch of friends who want to scream about Broadway shows and restaurant menu prices with me, but perhaps what I really want is a team of associates who all bring something different to the table. It’s like a potluck but with people. Except unlike so many potlucks, this one actually has an even distribution of food and not, like, 30 desserts, one entree, a box of spoons and no knives or forks. So, that’s what I’m doing now in my social life. I’m Ocean’s 11-ing, everyone! Let’s rob this casino called life!
Substack has a new feature that will let everyone comment on posts! I’m very excited about that as I like talking but I don’t think the Open Threads were working as well as I’d hoped. Feel free to comment on anything you want! It’ll be like a conversation at a book tour stop where every question is “more of a comment than a question.” I love that so much. (OMG we’re going to hang out in real life so soon!).
What Do the SOTU and Natalie Imbruglia Have in Common?
In a pre-recycling bin action heard round the internet, Pelosi—who had been snubbed when offering Trump a handshake prior to his speech—rose at the end of the State of the Union and tore a text copy of the president's remarks in half. Nancy Pelosi saw Little Women and came away thinking "Amy March made some points!" In a gesture so theatrical I can't believe it's not being performed by Patti LuPone at Royal Albert Hall in front of a French children's chorus dressed as mimes who keep making Brechtian interjections, Pelosi gripped the computer-printed pages, stared at them menacingly, and then obliterated them.
I Am Pleased To Announce That I, Too, Won Iowa
Yes, the rumors that I started are true. I won Iowa, proving all the haters and naysayers and people who claimed that I am "not running for president" and "not even physically in the state" so wrong. How did I do it? Well, I'll tell you, whether you want to hear it or not. Last night, the raucous caucus descended into fractious fracas as precinct officials encountered difficulty reporting results and the tally was delayed indefinitely. Fortunately, with zero percent of precincts reporting, Pete Buttigieg took to a stage and told his supporters that he was claiming victory. A serve!
Project Runway Recap: Backwards And In Heels
"Victoria is definitely a solo designer," Alan quips. "She doesn’t work well with other people. She barely works well with herself." Truer words were never spoken. "What do you want me to do?" Alan asks her. She replies, "You relax. Don't worry." You have to admire how little interest Victoria has in the specifics of most challenges. Victoria eventually assigns Alan “the most important part of the dress." Which is... the garter belt. And then proceeds to cut the fabric herself, and then take it back from him and cut it again. We love an uncollaborative queen.
Let’s Hang Out!
I’m so so sooooo psyched about going on tour for Here For It! Because I am very extra, not only will I be in conversation, telling stories, signing books, and generally carrying on at each stop, but at the first five stops I’m also going to bring the whole evening to a stop so I can do a giveaway. Why? I want to be Oprah so badly, that’s why. My good friend Melissa Koenig made these incredible, huge speckled mugs for Here For It and I’ll be giving away one of each, filled with goodies, to someone at the readings in Brooklyn, DC, Baltimore, Philly, and LA. Check out her work at the link above and come out to a reading to grab a prize!
Here For It book tour events, part one!
February 18 - Reading and Signing at Books Are Magic, Brooklyn (in conversation with Michelle Collins!) / Free
February 19 - Reading and Signing at Atlas Performing Arts Center with East City Bookshop, Washington, DC (in conversation with Elahe Izadi!) / TICKETED EVENT (a great V-Day gift!)
February 20 - Reading and Signing at Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore / Free
February 27 - Reading and Signing at Free Library of Philadelphia / Free
Random Thing on The Internet
Just trust me on this one: it’s a video from last night’s Independent Spirit Awards that builds a joke so brilliantly, I’m livid that I didn’t write it myself.
I like reveals!