Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: an in-depth interview with Chasten Buttigieg and another dispatch from Lovecraft Country.
So, the long and short of it is that I just wanted to save $75 and eat a burger. The American Dream! But like the actual American Dream (getting a reality show empire and a line of home goods), it wasn’t so simple.
Yesterday, as I detailed on my IG Stories, I needed to power-wash my house (unclear what this is; I thought houses were self-cleaning like cats) and I needed to get my oil changed (also unclear on what this is. Gas and oil? Perhaps my car should cut down on processed foods.) Anyway, I had chores to do so of course I decided that what I should do instead is go to Lowe’s and get a new drill. Did we need a new drill? Sort of. Did we need it right that moment? Well, David was replacing some outlets so a drill would have been helpful and I was putting together an IKEA dresser with roughly 9,000 screws and my carpal tunnel was like “Nope, baby, it’s Labor Day and your hands are on strike” so a drill would have sped up the proceedings. A new drill. We have an old drill. It works, but the battery died and I have to order new ones online and a true fact about me is that I do not have a lot of patience. Call me Paula Cole cuz I don’t wanna wait.
As I left for Lowe’s, David suggested I pick up a grill we had been looking at. When I write the movie version of this, there will be a lot of farcical business around confusing the words grill and drill, but in boring reality we understood each other clearly. I hesitated, my fingers itching to check the budget before making a larger purchase. Then David reminded me “It’s on sale.” Say no more, king! I’ll buy two.
Okay, so there are grills everywhere at Lowe’s—outside, inside, on the roof?—and it is unclear to whom I talk to about purchasing one. Everything else, you just pull from the shelf—like the drill I tossed in my cart after perseverating and briefly considering a BOGO deal for a drill and a grinder before realizing I do not know what a grinder does (grind?). But, I felt like there was some secret grill code that I’d be violating if I asked a random employee for help. I imagined them sneering at me and kicking me out of Lowe’s for being a Non-Butch Nerd (an accurate description, but I would like to stay inside the Lowe’s please.) I finally worked up the courage to stop one young woman and ask her for help only to realize that she was just a person walking around in a red shirt, not an employee in the red uniform vest. I try to never do this to people because it used to happen to me all the time at Gap and Banana Republic. It got to the point where I would actually just help people because it was easier than explaining that the reason I was standing in the Gap wearing head-to-toe Gap was not because I worked there but because it was the only place I shopped, as might be clear from the fact that we were standing in a Gap at that moment. I apologized to the young woman and sprinted away. I found another person, triple-checked his jaunty red vest was the uniform and asked him.
What followed was a super long process that you don’t need to hear about. Suffice it to say, the guy—I’ll call him Odell, which is close to his name but not his name—asked me if I was a Lowe’s Rewards member and my SAVINGS ALARM went off, even though it is not actually a savings program (yes, I have written to corporate about this) and so I gave David’s number, which is what the Rewards program is under. Then it took FOREVER to explain to them that I did not want our grill shipped to David’s job. Poor Odell had to call another employee over to help him hack the system like Sandra Bullock in The Net so that they could change the address. It took, literally, 20 minutes. While they were cracking the matrix, behind them I saw the young woman in the red shirt from earlier walk back behind the Customer Service counter, clock back in, and put on a red vest! A reveal!!!! At the end of it, he handed me a receipt for the grill, plus the $75 delivery fee, and told me it would arrive by September 16.
Okay, so I had been at Lowe’s for roughly 19 hours by this point and I’d kind of gotten my hopes set on a burger for dinner. I walked out to the car with my drill and a couple other things I don’t really need nor understand (stump remover! for the stumps!). I walked past a bank of grills sitting outside the store and realized that if I just folded down the side trays on the grill, I could fit it in my car. So, I walked back into Lowe’s approached the red shirt/red vest woman at Customer Service and literally said “Hi, I’m so annoying.” People like honesty. I asked her to cancel delivery so I could just lug the grill myself and make one damn American hamburger. She refunded the $75 (Yes, I will accept this Nobel Prize in Economics) and then called for someone to come unlock the grill. Guess who came ambling up: Odell, who did not look excited to see me.
We get outside, he unlocks a grill, I pull my car up, and I discover that the side trays do not fold down. Odell sighs and pulls out a tape measurer. The grill is 57 inches across and the hatchback on my car is 34 inches. He looks at me like “You really tried it.” Me, myself, I am spiraling. I tell Odell I’ll figure it out; he can go. He sighs “No, it’s my job to help.” Which is kind and such but what are you planning on doing, Odell, changing the laws of physics? He fishes in vest pocket and pulls out a piece of gum. “Let me have some gum and maybe I’ll feel better,” he says. I am putting Odell through it!
Finally, an idea occurs to me: the side trays are attached with screws; I had a power drill in the car. I turn to Odell and say the butchest thing I have ever said: “I’m just going to take this grill apart in the parking lot.” Then I ask his permission and apologize profusely. He ambles back inside and I got to work. Truth be told, it was pretty easy. I was anxious about getting stares as I deconstructed a grill in the loading zone at Lowe’s wearing a tank top, Birkenstocks, and cute cerulean Bonobos shorts with a 5” inseam but with a drill in my hand, $75 back in my account, and burgers in my future, I was unstoppable.
You Haven't Met The Real Chasten Buttigieg Yet
idway through our phone conversation, Chasten Buttigieg pauses to duck out of view. A stranger has come to his door to get a glimpse of him, his Twitter-famous dogs, or his husband Pete, a former presidential candidate. Does this happen often? "It's a tourist destination," Buttigieg quips wearily.
I haven't read the terms and conditions of Hinge, the dating app where Chasten and Pete met, but I'm fairly certain they don't say anything about rocketing to national fame and having your home descended upon by looky-loos like it's a stop on a Civil War walking tour. But that's, essentially, what happened: Chasten and Pete went on a first date that ended with literal fireworks; they married; Pete ran for president, and soon thereafter, Chasten's perpetually cheery and approachable online and IRL presence made him a campaign bright spot. It also exposed him to a level of scrutiny and criticism of his politics, his relationship, and his place in the queer community that, again, is probably not one of Hinge's selling points.
Buttigieg speaks with ELLE.com about growing into politics, the shifting dynamics of his marriage, and responding to his critics.
A Scaredy-Cat Recap Of Lovecraft Country Episode 3: 'Holy Ghost'
Journalistic integrity compels me to confess that I did have nightmares after last week's episode, in which Scandal's Fitzgerald Grant chanted the spell Ursula used to steal Ariel's voice in The Little Mermaid and then got turned into stone. But all that is worked out; I've talked to my therapist and am typing this from a hot tub full of Holy Water. Besides, the show is not really about things that go bump in the night—it's about real-life systems of oppression and the people that perpetuate them. You know, regular old terrifying reality. So, I was fully at ease settling down to watch this week's episode. Actually, I thought, this will be a respite after a day of unpacking boxes in a house I just moved into in a white neighborhood surrounded by scary woods. Let's see, what does Misha Green have in store for me...? What's that? The episode is about Leti buying a house in a white neighborhood on Chicago's North Side? Child, let me put on the kettle; neither haint nor human is sleeping tonight. This show is cutting too close to real life. If next week's episode is about Aunt Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) stressing about meeting an article deadline for her online news, beauty, fashion, and culture website, I'm filing a complaint.
Let’s Hang Out
FreeState Justice, the legal services organization of which I am board president, is having our annual gala event, the Jazz Brunch, next Saturday. It’s virtual, so anyone can join in on our cooking and cocktail class and our live concert, and hear more about the great work the organization does to support the rights of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders through legal representation, advocacy, and policy.
Random Thing on the Internet
I have no idea why but I keep thinking of the line “We named the dog Indiana” from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At nine years old it was the funniest damn thing I had ever heard in my LIFE.
Reclaiming Her Time: The Work of Maxine Waters by Helena Andrews-Dyer and R. Eric Thomas, on sale October 20, 2020!
Here for It, or How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas, on sale now!
(getting a reality show empire and a line of home goods),