Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Angela Bassett at 60 is my new fitness goal; remembering the Queen of Soul (and shade); Omarosa keeps releasing hit singles.
On a ferry ride last week, David and I stood in line behind a gay couple that were thisclose to being boyfriend twins. Do you know that phrase? When two guys (quite often white but definitely not exclusively) who are dating are nearly identical. It happens. There's probably some complex psycho-social-sexual reason for it sometimes, but just as often it's probably just random. I very strategically don't have an opinion on it. You're not going to catch me out here getting cancelled by the gays. No ma'am. My official position is if you're a good-looking dude and your boyfriend is also a good-looking dude who looks like you, the real winner is me, the looky-loo who gets to see both of you. So, thank you for your service.
Anyway, these two guys were standing in front of us. One had a beard and one didn't; so they were fraternal twins. They didn't really look like any celebrity you would know but I'm bad at describing people so just picture Jonathan Rhys Meyers, with and without a beard. You get the gist. They were coming back from a week away, as were we, and judging from the brands of their bags they have very good jobs and probably Master degrees. They had new-looking backpacks, and a high end roller bag (four wheels! toot toot!), and this very strange triangular bag contraption with straps that seemed to hold a truly inconvenient amount of stuff. I was judging that last one. Initially I thought that it was a tent that also doubled as a means of transporting camp gear. I was doubly judging that because I don't like to rough it so I definitely don't need a couple of near-models rubbing their outdoorsy-ness in my face. The only thing that convinced me that it wasn't camp gear was their last carry-on: a tiny stroller and in it, a very small black boy.
This little kid was such a delight. They kept trying to get him to stay in the stroller, calling it his Special Ride and his Magic Scooter and he was like "Naw, sis. You can't fool me. I was born recently but I wasn't born yesterday." (He wasn't saying these things because he was very young but I was providing voiceover for him, Look Who's Talking, Too-style.) He was definitely under a year old but he was pretty good on his feet and he wanted to walk all over creation. I was captivated by his little tentative steps, his tuft of black hair, his tiny sweatshorts, and his squeaky babble. I had to check myself because initially when I saw that two white men had a black baby I was like, "Oh, I don't know about this. Who's going to do his hair?" And then I was like, "Eric, who's going to do your kid's hair, you nosy, bald, looky-loo?" And it's true, I am bald and I don't know a thing about doing hair and never have. So, I guess me and these dudes can all watch the same YouTube video or call my brothers or something.
At one point, the bearded one hoisted the kid up in his arms and the kid wrapped his arms around his dad's neck. The bearded one got into a conversation with the clean-shaven one and the kid saw his opportunity. Keeping one arm slung around the bearded dad, he grabbed the other dad by the neck and pulled them together until they kissed. The kid clapped his hands with glee and laughed. Mission accomplished. Then I clapped my hands with glee and laughed and people were like, "What are you laughing about?" And I was like, "please just mind your business; everyone here is so nosy. Sheesh."
I've been thinking about that for a week. How happy the baby was to see his dads kiss. How complete this new family seemed to me: a stranger standing about 12 feet away. I loved being reminded that we're all born with the ability to love and to delight in other people. We're taught prejudice and judgement by circumstance and some of what comes that family's way the dads won't be able to predict or combat, but maybe, hopefully, there's more good than bad, more beauty than sorrow, more hope than fear.
Oh, here's me being a sentimental weirdo about strangers again. I'm like that witch in a fairy tale that stands in the doorway of the castle and ominously says "May no harm ever befall you, beloveds." and everyone is like, "Is she coming in or out? Is she mad? What's the story here?" I just find strangers very inspirational sometimes, probably because I'm so nosy. I just want to know about everyone's journey and, if I approve, I want to send them all the goodness in the world. Is that so wrong? For instance, we went wine-tasting last week and a young interracial straight couple was sitting at the table beside us. They couldn't have been older than 25; they looked taken aback by literally everything that was happening around them, precious lambs. I kept shooting them approving looks because apparently I think it is my job to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice with my side-eye.
After the tasting was over, they approached our group and asked if someone could take a photo of them. I leapt out of my chair, knocking over my wine glass, and shouted "I WILL! I WANT NOTHING MORE! MAY NO HARM EVERY BEFALL YOU, BELOVEDS!" They were startled, I was startled; it was a whole thing. Actually, they asked if I would take a Boomerang of them and I had no idea how that kind of thing worked but I'll be damned if I was going to let that stop me. It's like when you apply for a job and you're like, "I invented Excel." And then on the first day they're like, "Okay, Excel something, please." And you're like, "Weird, I definitely thought this would never come up and yet here we are."
I eventually figured out their Boomerang and resisted the desire to art direct the shot ("Bigger smiles please! Clink your glasses more enthusiastically! You're married and also the future of America! Where are you registered? I'll send a gift. Is the sun in your face? The sun is prejudiced! Cancel the sun. We'll do it with clouds. Just visualize sunshine. Visualize it, you're standing in the lea of a picturesque ridge in an unpretentious winery, one that pampers fruit like its own babies. Can you see it? Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it everything you dreamed?")
In this week's newsletter: Omarosa was apparently rolling through the White House with a full camera crew and no one noticed; I will always love Aretha; and it's the golden age of NeoCons getting owned by their relatives. But first! ANGELA BASSETT!
"Happy Birthday to all my Leo brothers and sisters. Let’s eat cake!" the photo caption read and I, for one, am glad to finally have validation that this is what happens when you eat cake. Also, I will promptly be going back in time and being born between July 23 and August 22 because clearly in Leo Season it is eternally springtime. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Aretha was President Obama's first choice to sing has his historic first inauguration. Much was made of her elaborate, scene-stealing hat. But what would you wear to the inauguration of the first black president? A beanie? Aretha Franklin understood ceremony and drama better than most. This is the woman who sang "Precious Lord" at Dr. King's funeral, the woman whose 1967 "Respect" became a civil rights and feminist anthem, the woman who had it written into her contract that she would not perform for segregated audiences. Try to find a hat elaborate enough to contain that legacy. [READ THE FULL ARTICLE]
Mononymous scammer and fame addict Omarosa returned to the headlines last week promoting the release of a book of lukewarm, leftover White House dish served in someone else's Tupperware. History's first former assistant to the President to also lose Big Brother and The Apprentice called the book Unhinged, which is both a great title and an ice cold self-own. (Do no buy it or I swear...) All in all, it's a fairly typical hot mess and none of it really matters because now Omarosa is making television rounds playing tapes of secretly recorded West Wing conversations. Only a truly dedicated scamtrix would make the public pre-order a book and then drop an album where the real dirt can be found. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
I wrote a guest-post for ShowTickets.com pairing some of Broadway's main characters with a cocktail you can get nearby that matches their show or personality. It was a fun trifle and you should read it because how often do I get to make musical theater puns? Never enough! Never, never, never enough! For me! For me! FOR ME!
From the "Are y'all sure you want to be talking about this in front of company?" file: this week, three conservatives got served a heaping plate of humble pie by someone who shares a shocking amount of their DNA. It's apparently open season on abhorrent politicos, White House ghouls, and one boat-dwelling white supremacist being called out by family members who have suddenly emerged from a coma. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
We'll probably never really know if the Trumps' marriage is actually healthy unless they go on a tour together and film a music video in the Louvre. (LOL, can you imagine? The Mona Lisa would never.) Despite the fact they seem, from all public appearances, most tweets, and some strategically lettered jackets, to be characters from a House of Cards fan-fiction Tumblr, it turns out in at least one aspect they're just like us non-nefarious normals: they cannot agree on what furniture to put in their house and it's a whole dramatic thing. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Random thing on the internet...
I read so many good things online this week! What a delight. I feel like so much of what I read is garbage but this week my brain was much happier. I was particularly enthralled by this New York Times Magazine piece about the intricacies, difficulties, and details of the beekeeping industry. Also from the Times, Wesley Morris wrote--bar none--the best tribute to Aretha Franklin out there. Wesley is also the co-host of the Still Processing Podcast, which I love, and I am trying very hard to be his friend without being a weirdo about it. I guess I'll just stand about 12 feet away and shoot approving looks.
May no harm every befall you, beloveds!