Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #180

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

This week: Elmo is our antifa overlord, throw every crusty old monument in the ocean, and an interview with Judy Greer.

R. Eric Thomas enters a press briefing room surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers, PR people, advisors, hangers-on, sock puppets, the Broadway chorus of Ragtime, and two members of the Chuck E. Cheese band (Helen Henny and Jasper T. Jowls). He carries a huge stack of manilla folders, all of them empty. He slams the folders on the podium, approaches the microphone, gingerly removes one (1) piece of confetti from his mouth and begins to speak.

Eric: Hello. Can I help you? What do you want?

Reporter: Would you care to address the damaging allegations that you recently purchased a home?

Eric: No, I would not.

Jasper T. Jowls applauds facetiously.

Reporter: Many are saying that you now own a home in the country, care to comment?

Eric: What country?

A sock puppet screams with laughter. There is hubbub and murmuring.

Helen Henny: Hubbub hubbub hubbub!

Lea Michele playing Tateh’s Daughter in the Original Cast of Ragtime: Peas and carrots, peas and carrots.

Reporter: Mr. Thomas, can you—

Eric: Please, Mr. Thomas is my father. You can call me Dr. Teeth.

Reporter: …Dr. Teeth… in your first book, Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America, you included an essay titled “Molly, Urine Danger Girl” in which you wrote “I decided early on that you would never catch me in some cul-de-sac with minimum light pollution. I’d rather take my chances on Skid Row with a person-eating plant than try to navigate the foreboding open space of a suburb. This is especially true if there are woods involved. It’s too quiet, it’s too dark, There are too many crevices and corners and crags and scritches and crackles and shrieks.” What is your response to that?

Eric consults with his team.

Eric: My response to that is “Do you know how long it took me to come up with that many different kinds of vaguely alliterative onomatopoeia? I’m not a poet! Words are hard for me!”

Reporter: But were you aware that your realtor, the delightfully named and extremely talented Effy Lamp, posted on Facebook a photo of you standing in front of a house with a big yard that empties out into a wooded area.

Eric: I haven’t seen it.

Reporter shows the photo.

Eric: Hm. I should have ironed my shirt.

Reporter: And were you aware that Jarrod then edited that photo to include himself, Chris Newcomer (triple threat), and a cartoon dog.

Eric: Yes, that I have seen. I have also made it into t-shirts.

Reporter: So, this is you? And those were the words you wrote in the book?

Eric: What kind of words?

Reporter: …The impressive variety of onomatopoeia words.

Eric: You know, it’s interesting that you would take the words that I wrote and the things that I do and ask me to both remember them and be responsible for them. It’s scandalous, actually. Also, I find it fascinating that you did not mention that Here for It, or How You Save Your Soul in America is part of Barnes and Noble’s Pride month collection and the e-book is on sale for $2.99 until June 28.

Lawyer: That’s a 77% discount off of the list price and makes a great gift!

Reporter: But, Eric, you wrote about how afraid you were of exurban spaces. Aren’t you scared?

Eric’s lip trembles dramatically. Members of the Chuck E. Cheese band looking nervously at each other.

Eric: Of course I’m scared!

There is a great flurry of panicked activity in the phalanx of associates. An advisor flips through manilla folders furiously.

Eric: The woods are full of foxes! Foxes that scream! What am I supposed to do with this knowledge inside my head? And outside my door? I don’t know. Lately, the constant hums of helicopters has taken the place of the eerie quiet of a mid-pandemic city and I found it an abstract and cold comfort, because there were always helicopters circling the neighborhood I grew up in, a neighborhood not far from where I live now. So I knew the sound, I understood the sound, and all that it entails. And I’m not trying to escape the sound. I don’t know what to do with quiet? Listen to my own thoughts? You’re hearing my own thoughts right now and does it seem like a pleasure cruise to you?

Helen Henny: It’s a nightmare.

Eric: Okay, that’s a little more extreme than I was looking for. The facts are these: we had a budget conversation months ago during which we decided that we had no interest in owning a home. I don’t get it. I don’t get “equity.” I don’t want to learn how to re-caulk a tub. The temptation to go overboard with wordplay is too great. And then, while being nosey about a home that two friends of ours bought, we stumbled upon this little house on half an acre of land, and suddenly the first conversation David and I ever had came back like a friendly ghost and reminded us of the dream, the intention, we set out to live a life of convening and community making, of generation, of connection. We saw an opportunity to make something that we haven’t been able, fully, to make in our apartment—a space for growth, both plant growth and personal growth, a space where I could write, a place where we could welcome our friends and loved ones. And, yes, buying a home for the first time in the middle of a pandemic is deranged behavior. But when I set foot on the lawn for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was separated from the cities that I love or the life that we envision. I felt, for the first time in quarantine, connected to something bigger and grander and more inclusive of all the things for which I hunger. The grass was so soft and I thought, well, I guess I expected it to resist me. Like I didn’t belong there. And the thought occurred to me that perhaps I could belong there and everywhere.

Jasper T. Jowls approaches with a blanket and places it over Eric’s shoulders, leading him away. Eric steps away from the mic and then throws the blanket off and returns.

Eric: I sat on our front porch yesterday and I thought about 40 acres and a mule, the dangled promise of land and opportunity extended in front of formerly enslaved Black people, though never delivered upon. And I started to get a sense of how much land 40 acres might be, something I’ve never considered before. It’s immense. The promise is immense. Is the promise—has it ever been—greater than the threat in this nation for Black people? I don’t know. I don’t know that I get “equity” still, and I don’t know that I fully believe that having your name written on a deed somewhere on the land and title website protects you from someone walking on to your property and accusing you of not belonging there. And I am afraid, yes, not of horror movie villains coming out of the woods, but of the regular American villains that we fight today and every day. Do I think, always, about being killed in my own home by a neighbor or a police officer? Yes. But I realized midway through this process that there wasn’t anywhere in this country, city or suburb or deserted stretch of field, where that fear abates. So I’m not trying to buy my way to safety; I’m just trying to stand on a spot in the grass and feel the sun like I belong on this Earth. To let myself sink into the ground and to let gravity pull my shoulders away from my ears so that when I go about my life, in cities and suburbs and deserted stretches of land, I’m better and more powerful. We’re trying to string up lights on a fence and welcome the people that we love, people of color, queer people, people of all faiths, to stand in the sun with us and to take up more space and to feel peace and to go out into the world enlarged.

In my play Safe Space, there’s a character named Charlotte (originated by the extraordinary Tina Canady). Charlotte is the ghost of a formerly enslaved person and she conspires to leave the house she’s been trapped in for hundreds of years. She demands a piece of paper before she goes, knowing that it isn’t the thing that freed her, that she has freed herself. But, she says, “if I’m going to walk this world, I’m going to do it whole.” So that, perhaps. That. Thirty-nine-and-a-half more acres to go.

This week, tear down the Confederacy, again; and an interview with Judy Greer. But first! Elmo, Fox News’s enemy du jour.

All Of America Must Bow Before Elmo, Our Chaotic Antifa Overlord

I wasn't aware that times were so bleak; I've just been sitting here in a public park enjoying the cool shade of a Confederate monument and warily eyeing the red-lined neighborhood across the four-lane highway, but apparently we are in a crisis. So says the host of Fox News's Tucker Carlson Tonight, who, like Elmo, is a monster who has much to learn about the world. On Tuesday night's broadcast of his eponymous show, the host's discovery was that Elmo, Sesame Street's inquisitive child Muppet, has been compromised. Repeat: Elmo has fallen. ELMO HAS FALLEN.


Trump In Tulsa: On The American Amusement Park For Black Trauma

It is possible that an event requiring as much advanced preparation and forethought as the president's first mid-pandemic public rally in the middle of nationwide protests decrying violence against Black people could accidentally end up in Tulsa on Juneteenth. But if you believe that, I have a bridge to the Confederate States of America to sell you. Trump's callousness, his calling card, is intentional. More importantly, it is indicative of the larger framework in which he, poor dead Jefferson Davis, and thousands of others thrive. Trump descends on Tulsa, ensconced on the plinth of white supremacy, a tourist in the American amusement park to Black trauma.


Judy Greer Finally Takes The Lead

Search "Judy Greer Should've Been the Lead" and you'll find scores of articles on her unique appeal, her underdog status, and even merch with the slogan. The internet wants more Judy Greer, and for good reason. Enter Good Boy, Hulu and Blumhouse's latest entry in their Into the Dark movie series. The film stars Judy Greer as a woman who gets more than she bargains for after adopting an emotional support dog. Imagine Little Shop of Horrorsmeets Cujo, but with the finally central presence of the inimitable Judy Greer. The star talks to about her new role and her own dog, who is nicer than the titular pet in Good Boy, though decidedly not supportive.


This Pride Month, I’m very honored to doing a number of programs for libraries and companies in connection with Here for It. I’ll detail them below and I’ll hope you’ll attend if you can. But the thing that is always top of mind for me, and has been heavy on my heart this week, is that Pride for some but not all is not Pride at all. We celebrate the bonds of community and the power of interconnectivity. But our legislators continue to fail our trans* siblings and Black trans* women remain at an exponentially higher risk of being harmed or killed. Our Pride means nothing unless we are a united front, members of the LGBTQ+ communities and allies. We must be vocal and unwavering in our support and advocacy. I’ve been supporting Baltimore Safe Haven, a trans*-led organization that provides resources, support, and advocacy for members of the Baltimore trans* community. They also organized the Black Trans* Lives Matter march in Baltimore that you can see photographed on the cover of Time magazine this week. I’ve also been supporting FreeState Justice, an organization on which I also serve a board member, which provides free legal services for members of the Maryland LGBTQ+ communities and legislative advocacy in our state capitol. I’d encourage you to look into them or to similar organizations that uplift the lives and work of trans* people where you live.

Let’s Hang Out

Tuesday 6/16 at 8pm EST - Out Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s present Big Ideas Night—PrideREGISTER HERE (Free, on Zoom)

Random Thing on the Internet

Joe’s Pub has started releasing videos of some of their live shows and I had the extreme pleasure of watching one of my all-time favorites, The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret, tear the place up. Check out the collection on YouTube.

Jasper T. Jowls applauds facetiously,