Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Greetings from my new home in Michelle Obama’s podcast studio!
Me: You know what I hate?
Me: Oh. Well, yes, I do hate that. That’s true. But I was actually referring to something else. You know what else I hate?!
Me: Hm. Also not what I was going for but now that you mention it, I do hate Skittles. Noah fence to anybody who likes Skittles. I have notoriously controversial (but correct) opinions about candy (Bella, I can hear you screaming “SNICKERS!”). Nevertheless, I don’t want to literally yuck anyone’s literal yum. Like Skittles if you want! Put Skittles on a pineapple pizza if that’s your jam! Make Skittles into an actual jam. It’s all gravy. (Skittles gravy? Sure; if you like it, I love that for you.) Anyway, I will tell you what I also hate because I feel like this guessing game isn’t going the way I thought it would. You know how in a movie or a TV show sometimes there’s a regular person who, through a series of escalating events, ends up having to cover up a murder by burying a body? (When I write it out like that it seems both very specific and extreme, but we all know this is something that happens on film all the time.) A regular suburbanite or a mild-mannered office worker or a cadre of law school students eager to please their professor Viola Davis finds themselves with a body on their hands and they’re like “Oh no! Our lives will never be the same! But what should we do? Off to The Woods, I suppose, to put this body into a shallow grave that will obviously be discovered by a hiker in one to three episodes, thereby complicating things for us!” I hate this trope!
Quite often before going to The Woods they go to a Hardware Store and buy a Shovel and a Suitcase. (Who are these people who are both murder-adjacent and woodland-adjacent? Where are we right now, babe, geographically and also morally?) It’s always night when this happens and frequently it is raining but nevertheless this murderer is able to find an open Hardware Store that also sells Body Suitcases. Then they pack the whole kit and caboodle up and go deep Into the Woods where they begin quickly and easily digging a hole and THIS is where I draw the line.
When Hollywood returns (and Hollywood will return because we have all made an unbreakable bargain with the movie Tenet and it will not rest until each human on Earth, and some pets, have seen this movie in a theater on a big screen even if it takes decades)… When Hollywood returns, they need to address this SCANDALOUS lie that regular people just be digging holes. Over the last six weeks of homeownership I have dug a hole probably four days out of every week—we’re completely redoing the backyard, I put in a slate path, bushes, a pond is next, etc.—and every time I take my non-incriminating shovel bought during the Daytime at a Lowe’s and plunge it into the unforgiving clay soil I am filled with rage at every movie scene where a person wearing heels or khakis just casually breaks ground and half an hour later has a grave-size hole. IN WHAT WORLD?!
Look, I know I have been writing a lot in my newsletter about digging holes and my neighbor’s Peloton (shade is still down; no cat sightings. Perhaps they read this newsletter???). I am sorry there’s not more variety! But I’m not exactly having experiences at the moment. Call me the cast of the movie Holes based on the book Holes because right now it’s all just, you guessed it: ditches. Other experiences are still a big no for me. I went to a farmer’s market for the first time in a year yesterday and got completely overwhelmed by the people and activity and the ambient sense of danger. I picked up a peach and immediately started spiraling and sweating like I was at a rave.
(At least, I assume this is what happens at raves. I have never been to one. I thought I was at a rave once, the first time I went clubbing in New York. I was maybe 19 and I think the club was called Exit. I was in college and the friend who invited me told me that the club held 50,000 people which is an assertion that I accepted without any follow up questions like “What?” or “How?” I’ve since done a little digging around and found that the official capacity for it was 3,490 so… close. My friend told me that we were going to an “all-night” club, which is hilarious to me in retrospect. Like, last call in New York is 4 am. Every club is an all-night club. Anyway, I think it was a nice time, but it was very overwhelming to me and apparently I was not sufficiently prepared for the all-night portion of an all-night club, so I just laid down on a little banquette and went to sleep, completely sober. I have wondered for 20 years who let a 19 year-old in Exit and why 49,999 people let him sleep there. Everything is wrong with this story. I blame the authorities. I blame the mayor of New York. Someone please arrest Rudolph Giuliani.)
Suffice it all to say, if I was taking naps in public at the moment, I’d definitely tell you about it. But instead I’m digging holes and getting mad at TV shows that do not show their characters sweating their entire body weight or getting completely filthy or encountering dirt so hard that they think “perhaps this is not dirt at all but rather a 50s bomb shelter filled with gold. What luck!”
I am not predisposed—physically or spiritually—to dig holes. But I have to admit I do sort of like the satisfaction of manual labor when in service of eccentric gay hobbies like Providing a Nurturing Environment for A Hibiscus Bloom The Size of Your Head. David is so much better at landscaping than I. When we first bought the house, he took a week off of work to do some intensive work on some raised beds and to build an area for lavender fields using a method called “lazy beds” where the ground is pushed up into little rows of hills and there’s trenches dug around the rows for drainage. He learned this in Japan while working on a farm. I think a good explanation of our pasts and our dynamic is the fact that during this same period, I was working in a Japanese restaurant in University City, Philadelphia, that had an interior design modeled after 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was the bar manager for some reason and taught myself the basics of sake by Googling “what is sake?” One of my lowest professional moments occurred during this period when I was reprimanded for playing the Facebook game Farmville too much at work. So, that’s where David and I diverge, skills-wise!
Anyway, I write all this put Hollywood on notice. I came into this moment a digging novice, but like someone who has spent an afternoon googling “what is digging?” I am now an expert. One does not simply dig a six-foot hole in the middle of the night! And with straight edges and walls?! Your honor, I object! Even though I have dug approximately 50,000 holes in the last six weeks, every time I am about to begin a new dig I think to myself “this is actually impossible; no one has ever dug a hole before and no one ever will.” So, you’re telling me this milquetoast millennial in a crime movie encountered an overgrown patch of desolate forest land and thought “The good Lord gave me two hands and a shovel and I reckon that’s all I need to get this here job done!” No. Absolutely not. AND THEN! In these movies, the people dig a whole for an indeterminate amount of time, somehow climb into and out of it, dump the suitcase in, cover it back up again, and then get in their cars, shower, and go to work or whatever the next day, trying to act normal?! If you wanted me to dig Crime Coverup hole by myself, you’d have to give me at least a weekend and afterwards I’d be in so much pain that they’d have to put me in a full body cast in traction, which is another thing that seems to happen all the time in movies. I put in two (2) hydrangea bushes and as a result my carpal tunnel has made my hands basically unusable for a week. I typed this with my nose. It’s too much! I’m going to go take a nap at the club.
Hi! Just a quick note to let you know that my address has changed! After careful consideration, I have decided to continue my quarantine at Michelle Obama's podcast studio. Please forward all my mail to 1 Michelle Obama's Podcast Studio Way, Basement, The Better Timeline, USA. I very much look forward to receiving your holiday cards, the 9,000 New Yorkers I swore I was going to read in quar, absentee ballots for the next 15 elections, and the second government stimulus check which will probably just be a Post-It note from the desk of Mitch McConnell that reads "You owe me reverse reparations!"
Harper Collins has put together an awesome new webpage dedicated to my new book, Reclaiming Her Time: The Power of Maxine Waters, co-written with Helena Andrews-Dyer. It includes an interactive timeline based on the expanded timeline we created in the book and much more! Check it out!
Let’s Hang Out!
OMG the wildest thing happened this week. The Brain Candy bookclub, hosted by Susie Meister and Sarah Rice, is talking about Here for It this month, which I’m very grateful for! They were meeting on Zoom and one of their members DM’d me on Instagram and sent me the link in case I wanted to pop in. So I did, completely unannounced, which is deranged behavior. Just showing up in a 50-person Zoom call with my ring light and a lot of enthusiasm. Everyone was so nice and it was a great time and I quickly excused myself so they could go back to having book club conversation. I love book club invites, especially when they are a random surprise to everyone in the book club. Send me a link; I’ll be there!
I also had an AMAZING conversation on the Mike Drop Moment podcast about storytelling, narrative, and Taylor Swift writing an album to appease a ghost. It’s incredible.
Lastly, I had a really good working Zoom conversation with my friend Annalisa from Baltimore Center Stage and I wanted to let her friend Jenna know that she says hi and so do I.
Random Thing on the Internet
Where are we right now, babe, geographically and also morally?