Our World: Eric Reads the Week, #79

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

This week: the Trump administration can't eat, something about Whiskey Dick Energy, and Bill Pullman: American hero.

I went crazy at Target. Which is to say I did exactly what you're supposed to do at Target: I went for, like, three things and left with two carts full of bric-a-brac and an auto loan. I didn't even seen anything I wanted at Target. What are all these things? I ventured down to the Target in an area of Baltimore dubbed Canton Crossing yesterday. It's a shopping center that sprung up in a neighborhood that, years ago, was home to dock workers and the second season of The Wire. It now boasts rowhomes dotted with roof decks like $65,000 cherries on top of brick sundaes and more "luxury lofts" than you can throw a concierge at. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about these sorts of areas. On one hand, she loves finery and convenience. On the other, it feels all very prescribed and a little too perfect. Isn't that the other side of the coin of convenience? We want the things we want to be close at hand but to have that we must create something unnatural. But is it really unnatural if it's the result of society's development? Honey, I'm having an existential crisis in the Tide aisle at Target! (When did Tide become the only detergent anyone sells? We used Era in my house growing up and I miss that smell. GIVE ME THE CHEMICALS I WANT FOR MY NOSE NOSTALGIA, PLEASE.)

Anyway, I just went to pick up some items for the beach. We're going away for the week with some squirrel friends from Philadelphia and although we already have everything we need (a couple of pairs of swimming trunks size extra smedium, one caftan, a bunch of books I won't read, three New Yorkers, 65 videos from past Tony Awards ceremonies, and an expansion pack of Cards Against Humanities) I figured I'd take a tour of the wares to see if there was anything I was missing.

Here is a small sampling of things I decided we couldn't live without: two beach chairs, 6 cases of La Croix, a 12-pack of Irish Spring soap, night cream for my face because she is aging but she is doing it like RuPaul, a pair of shoes from the DSW across from the Target, a new iPhone from the Apple store across from the DSW (everything on my old phone was Sepia-tone like an old-timey photograph!), a Jimmy Johns sub no bread sub lettuce because she is on occasionally glancing at her weight, and a baseball cap. Somehow I found myself in the Pride section of Target perusing their rainbow-adorned clothing. I bought Jarrod a shirt with a dog that looks like his dog wearing aviators that reflect a rainbow flag. Essential. I saw another shirt that I sort of wanted that had a rainbow flag on it with the word EQUALITY overlayed. I skipped that one because as much as I like Equality, I prefer my Pride gear to read "CONSTANT VIGILANCE." Please Slack me if you find that shirt, thanks so much.

I'm very excited to go away, to not check the news, to throw my new phone into the ocean, and, one hopes, to recharge. I took to that constructed semi-suburban consumerist paradise built on an old dock with a vengeance because I've found you have to be as intentional about your desire to rebuild yourself as you are with anything else in your life. Vacation will not come to you.

This is my lewk book for vacation attire. Please let me know if you have any questions:

For everyday lounging:

For undercover work (I usually stumble upon a mystery that must be solved by my powers of observation!):

For a night on the town:

For a formal dinner party:

I will now take questions.

Yes, hi, thanks for taking my question. How much of your personality is just The Birdcage?
Great question! 46%.

Hi! More a comment than a question--
No thanks!

Are you bringing sunscreen?
Yes! Black don't crack but it does crinkle! I'm not trying to live that wrapping paper life. Also, the sun is trying to kill all of us! The universe is hostile to our presence! How wild! Constant vigilance, honey!

Should we hang out on Poodle Beach together?
Absolutely! I'll be the one lounging in a new chair pretending to read an award-winning book.

So, that's that. I've gotta go so I can finish packing the literal shreds of fabric I'm calling clothing and get in a last chance workout. You know how on Biggest Loser they always workout one last time before the weigh-in. That's me. Every workout I do is a last chance workout. What am I working out for? Mostly my own amusement. You have to do what you can to make yourself happy.

I like to think of vacation as a tiny, personal act of protest. I'm not Marius waving the banner in Les Mis; I'm renting a house on AirBnB but I think taking time to check in with yourself and to be in community and to read a damn book goes against so much of what we are told we have to do to survive. The systems of the world undoubtedly shape our existences; it's important to resist and to dismantle those people and forces that seek to destroy us. But I think it's equally as important to put work into creating the world we want to be in. The other side of the coin of resistance is generation. We want to reunite migrant families but we also want to make sure that the nation they seek to become a part of is one in which they'll thrive. To steal a line from David's sermon this morning, that means creating community across difference. It means yes, protesting and resisting, but it also means building, protecting, and living out loud. It's easy for me to forget that. It's easy for me to think that all of life is pushing back. It's not. Some of life, perhaps the best part of life, is standing still or walking forward in a path of your own choosing, and saying "This is where I thrive; this is the place where we will manifest all that we need to be full and happy and free."


After next week the name of this newsletter is changing! Newsletters 81 and on will no longer be called Eric Reads the Week, but rather Here For It. As in, "I'm here for it! I'm excited! Let's do this!" The content won't change! Just the name. So, look out for that in your inbox.

The reason is simple: ELLE.com is starting a newsletter version of my columns and that will be called Eric Reads the News, so we didn't want to create confusion. Should you subscribe to both? Yes! But honey, do what you want. Here's how they'll be different:

Here For It (this newsletter): Comes out on Sundays, has a little essay up top and includes all of my writing from the week. Good for catching up and also exclusive #content about my Target purchases and funny things David does.

Eric Reads the News (new ELLE.com newsletter): Comes out Friday afternoon. Good for that point in the day when you've decided you don't want to work anymore. Has a rundown of jokes about the news, stuff that didn't make it into a column, a Snack of the Week section, and a couple other little quick bites.

Okay. That's that!

Aw, Starving Trump Administration Must Eat at Home. Sad!

The Sarah Huckabee Sanders Red Hen incident follows a similar pattern of Trump administration members trying to leave their sinister work at the office and being confronted at restaurants like Scrooge bumping into Jacob Marley's ghost at the Old Country Buffet. Kirstjen Nielsen had the audacity to go to a Mexican restaurant last week; even the avocados were like "Get out of here." And then, of course, there's the plight of Stephen Miller, who is a vengeful collection of Andrew Jackson's night terrors that somehow gained sentience and took the human form of Old Sheldon. Miller was yelled at at another Mexican restaurant. The protestor yelled "Fascist," which is accurate though they could also have easily yelled "Irony is dead." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Okay, But Have You Heard About Whiskey Dick Energy?

There's a lot of debate about who has and doesn't have "Big Dick Energy." (Does John Legend? Does Chrissy Teigen? Do they both?) And that's all well and good, but the discussion ignores the larger taxonomy of Dick Energies.

Fortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio (Dick Energy Flux) and Brad Pitt (Dick Energy Emeritus) are here to remind us of the wide world of DEs and all the various subsets. Today Leo posted the first photo from his new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and it is a textbook example of Whiskey Dick Energy. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

The 10 Best Films to Watch This Fall

Welcome to the season of Cynthia Erivo! [READ THE FULL LIST]

From the vault...

Let Us Honor Our Greatest President: Thomas J. Whitmore

Bill Pullman is our most inspiring white president. He is deeply human, which is helpful when fighting aliens and also in general. The documentary Independence Day begins with talking heads on the news complaining about his less than 40% approval rating, which seems astoundingly low for someone who fought in the Gulf War and doesn't tweet out hate speech on a daily basis, but the '90s were a simpler time, I guess. Despite what the film describes, frankly, as well-intentioned incompetence, he is surrounded by intelligent, powerful women including his communications director, Constance Spano, his wife, Laura Roslin, and his daughter, Egg from Arrested Development. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]


New play alert!

I've been developing a play called Safe Space with Cohesion Theatre Company in Baltimore for most of this year. It's a farce set in the present about an antebellum ghost, radical black feminism, do-gooders, and the movie Clue. I've snapped!

We're doing staged readings of it with minimal blocking (that means moving around, for the non-theater folks) and lights and a conversation to follow on Saturday July 21 and Sunday July 22. I'd love to see you there! I'm very excited about it and eager to see how it grows.

Click here to get tickets. Performances will be in “The Fallout Shelter” at United Evangelical Church (923 S. East Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224.

Random thing on the internet...

The Mr. Rogers documentary is so so so good. It will revive whatever sparks of hope and openness are left in you. Find it in a theater and go see it right away.

Contant vigilance, honey!