Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Water you laughing at?
It is a truth universally that a couple in possession of their wits and at peace with each other and the world, must be in want of a trip to IKEA that will upend all of that. Or, put more simply, we all go a little medvetslös sometimes.
I have to say, I enjoy IKEA. I love following directional arrows; I love sitting in a hundred different small living rooms imagining who lives there (I usually settle on “a textbook copy editor who secretly writes a conspiracy blog and a horse doctor (unmarried)” Every time. What can I say? Horse doctors love nice track lighting and the Billy bookcase. Facts.) I love IKEA; I absolutely love filling up my phone camera with pictures of little white tags with one cryptic Swedish word, an aisle number, and a row number like a clue in a cat and mouse game left for Mikael Bloomkvist by Lisbeth Salander. I honestly never have any recollection what I’m on my way to find by the time I descend the staircase to the madness emporium that is the lower level of IKEA. I’m just lucky enough to get through the blinding funhouse that is the Lighting section and—my eyes burning, my field of vision swimming—I’ll follow any little numbers to any random abandoned Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse aisle, and pull out whatever box I’m instructed to pull out and pray to everything Swedish and holy (the great meatball in the sky) that I have all the Allen wrenches I need to put it together.
Look, I don’t want to speak ill of our Scandinavian design daddies, but that Lighting section is pure chaos and possibly the nexus of all evil in the universe. That’s my least controversial opinion! You go from the ordered clutter of Couch Land and Chair County, to three-dimensional vision board that is the Cabinet and Closet Country—an anticipatory expanse of overly complicated possibility. You make your way through RUGS; you get slightly confused about why all this super chic bedroom furniture is so tiny before realizing you’re in the kid section. You float through the stately elegance that is the Kingdom of Sideboards, an item that you never really think about but which, in the moment, seems crucial, essential, life-giving. You do all of this, happily and with only a minimum of bickering, only to be plunged into the hellscape of Lighting where the only god is the tangled wire, where bulb and chandelier vie for dominance as if the whole concept of scale doesn’t exist, where moody corners full of shadows give way to the shocking glow of a Klieg light shaped like the Death Star. Nothing makes sense in the Lighting section, as if the exposure has been turned up so high that it erases all narrative cohesion. “Illuminate your shelf with these magical crystals! Here’s a lamp! IS THIS ART? You have never seen a lightbulb that looks like any of these in your entire life and you never will again!”
I have never been a worse place than the Lighting section of IKEA. So, of course, that’s where we voluntarily went yesterday. I was really torn. We need lights! But also I do not need chaos! Also, I really don’t see myself being in society ever again. But we’ve got this house and it needs lights. We’ve never been to the house at night (please do not speak to me about it being haunted; I am aware that is it haunted. That’s why I needed to introduce the benign chaos of Swedish lighting systems. It’s all part of the plan.) My second least controversial opinion is that nothing non-essential should be open and the government should have provided universal base income, small business support, and wider spread testing so we could actually go on with our lives instead of floating from one semi-dangerous situation to another for months like mask-wearing ghosts in an adventure video game. But that’s not what happened. So, to IKEA we went, to be exorcised and possessed in equal measure by LED bulbs and paper pendant globes of various shapes that will tear 7 months after you bought them.
We’re all flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to figuring out what’s safe and sane for us vis-a-vis going out in public, shopping, etc. I’m currently a step above “I need nothing; I’ll collect rain water to drink like Ben Affleck taught me to on Voyage of the Mimi and I’ll subsist on snacks sent to me by HBO Max’s shockingly active PR department.” I mask up and get my baked goods from Crust By Mack every week; I go to the market, like, once every ten days, and, being a new homeowner, apparently I go to Lowe’s once every 15 minutes. All of these places require masks, have high ceilings, encourage social distancing, and don’t judge me for being a squirrelly weird person. This is a fine reality. I assumed IKEA was on par with your standard Lowe’s in terms of people acting mostly within reason. Oh, what a fool I was yesterday. A young, beautiful fool!
Everyone was wearing masks, which is good, but social distancing is sometimes hard in the space that seems to encourage congestion at random points (usually around a folding table or a fake plant that you know you do not need but buy anyway, just in case. Just in case what? There’s a contortionist table emergency?!) Also, IKEA is a literally a rat maze built to rend the concept of reality and to determine which one of you is the one who dawdles and which one of you is the one who speed walks through like you’re trying to out-run Jason Voorhees. The good news? I’m both! I come from a long, proud line of people who have too much nervous energy that really comes into its own around home goods. The crest for one side of my family should just be a picture of someone powering through an anxiety attack by waxing a floor. So IKEA trips for me becoming rambling one-person monologues where I touch literally everything and spiral whilst judging everyone else around me who is touching everything and spiraling. (As the past few paragraphs attest.)
Anyway, we made it through, our hands slicked with sanitizer and my eyes blinded by random lamps and aching from giving side-eye to people wearing their masks pulled underneath their noses. After all that, they didn’t have the light we were looking for but I did get to conclude the trip alone at the far end of a random warehouse aisle, huffing and puffing through my mask as I struggled to pick up a 70 pound table that we did not need but which I was nervous that we’d regret not getting if we left the store without it. Mission: accomplished.
This week! Remember 20 scandals ago when the president drank a glass of water last weekend?
Also! Even though I’m not leaving the house this year, I am taking some PTO throughout the summer to work on myself (read: look at wall decor at IKEA), so there will be fewer columns. I’ll still be sending out this newsletter, though, because that’s therapy, right?
In Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, in front of a half-empty stadium, Donald Trump drank a glass of water and deeply owned everyone. They said it couldn’t be done in four years and he did it in three and a half, folks. Despite the fact that he claims to not have time to read Twitter, Trump responded to a trend of ableist online derision about the way he drinks water not by critiquing it for its scattershot pettiness, but by accepting it on its merits.
Let’s Hang Out!
Two extremely well-produced video podcast interviews this week, one short (3 minutes!) and one longer (60 minutes! But not the show 60 Minutes! Better!) Also, the longer one, Fck the Canon, was recorded I think in December or January so we get to see how far my home video framing skills have come during the pandemic!
Random Thing on the Internet
One, today is the last day that the e-book of Here for It is on sale for $2.99. GET IT!
Two, I am a HUGE Hamilton fan; I have so many thoughts about it and I am so glad that we’re going to talking about it again when it airs on Disney+. This Tonight Show a capella rendition of “Helpless” is a delight.
But also I do not need chaos!