Recs: Here for It, #318

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

Or, should I say, bon jor no (sp?)!

I am writing to you from Italy! Well, no, that's technically not true. Whenever you read this, I'll be in Italy but I am actually writing to you from a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean! So, instead of bon jor no (sp?) I suppose the proper greeting would be glub glub!

I cannot believe there is wifi out here but, then again, I can't believe that electricity exists. So, honestly, every day is a miracle.

It's pretty fun following along on the little interactive map they play on the airplane seat screen but, I've found, the two times I've flown over the Atlantic and we've left what humans call "land" and entered an area I like to call "None of my business", I get a little uncomfy. I'm fine with flying through a metal tube over the great unknown depths, but I don't want to see it! Whatever is happening vis-a-vis this plane is between the pilot, Poseidon, and physics. I have had two glasses of sauvignon blanc so obviously I am not going to be of any use here. Leave me be!

We've just passed Nova Scotia and so we are truly out over the Land of King Triton. I think the thing that gets me about these maps on the planes is that they show you the topography of the ocean floor. Like it's not just blue, it's blue with 3-D cliffs and chasms and stuff. A little scale model of the Titanic. Babe, when I make a list of things that are none of my concern, the Deep is number one. Number two is when members of the Republican party get mad at each other and start skirmishing like alley cats. Number three is my body mass index. And number four is my star chart. I'm not against it, I just don't have the mental energy to be walking around remembering what time I was born. I was there but things were kind of hazy, doll! 6:15-ish, final answer!

Oh! I must tell you: We've reached the point in the flight when all the flight attendants wander through the aisles murmuring "trash" at our faces, which is my favorite bit of theater.

I've never been to Italy but judging from the passengers on this plane, it's filled with American kooks! People have been on one back here in steerage, honey. They ran out of the butter chicken meal just before they got to the man behind me and when he heard this he started howling about how it wasn't fair. Howling! Like a junkyard dog! Sir, our current location is Davey Jones's Locker, second floor--have some decorum!

We're going to Italy with two friends and we had a couple of planning Zooms about the trip. Our friends said, "What do you want to do while we're in Rome and Florence?" And I replied "I want to see the David cuz I hear the statue is larger than you think it is and I like to have my expectations exceeded; I want to see the Sixteen Chapel and go 'hm, not bad!'; and I want to eat a lot of pasta. End of list." I do not want to go tromping all around the Italian countryside like I'm in Call My By Your Name, beloved. Not this trip. I am tired. I've had to climb out of the depths of the ocean to shame mankind. I am a simple person with simple wants and those wants are carbs covered in various sauces that, were we in South Philly, we could call gravy.

My friends Hunter and Tyler (both of whom have wonderful Bookstagram accounts) went to Italy last year and so I asked them for recommendations even though my main objective was, again, eating pasta and not getting sick on vacation, which is my custom. They told me that they spent most of their trip eating gelato, which is why we're friends. But Hunter added that he'd asked for recs from Alexander Chee and Alexander had sent back a long, detailed email, which Hunter forwarded to me.

Let me tell you, if you're getting recs for a place–any place really--I strongly suggest getting those recs from one of the best novelist/essayists alive. With a tone that effortlessly approximates a warm breeze, Alexander's email not only gives tips and tricks for great eating, drinking, and sight-seeing, but it also gives a light cultural history of Florence and Rome, providing context and depth; it captures a sense of place and time that is both nostalgic and ever-present; this email doesn't quite make you feel like an outsider but rather something better--a visitor who is open to wonder.

I am not overselling this. But I am also not going to copy and paste it here on the off-chance that I am overselling it.

Either way, I have a new standard for how I give people recommendations now. I feel like I'm not very good at that at present. If you give me a desired vibe, I can probably get you there. But if you're like "What's a fun thing I should do?", I'm lost. I'm floating over the Atlantic, moaning about butter chicken. Truly, people will be like "are there good places to go dancing in Philly?" and I'll be like "Oh, well, this place was good when I was 24 but who knows now because I stopped going to clubs when they stopped playing 'Single Ladies'. But, I will tell you a tip about this place and it's that one time I lost my green contact in the gutter outside of that bar and I had to decide whether I was going to keep wearing colored contacts or seek mental help. Well, you can see how that story ended. Let me know if it's fun!"

So, like a plane skimming the surface of the bottomless ocean, I have nowhere to go but up! Arrive-a-derchi!

Let's hang out!

Upcoming events

The Folks at Home is running through May 16th at Indianapolis Repertory Theatre! Get more info and see some gorgeous production photos!

On March 18th, Theatre Exile is producing a reading of a new play that I made out of an old play of mine. Essentially, I took the premise and the characters and started again. Anyway, this play is called Monuments in Exile, or Do They Celebrate Juneteenth in Space?. More info (on the site it will still be called Nightbird because I just decided to change the title and I am letting the theater know via this newsletter).

On April 2nd, I'm hosting The Moth StorySlam in Philadelphia. The theme is Green. Tickets here.

On April 13th I'll be at the San Antonio Book Festival!

On May 2nd, my play An Army of Lovers begins performances at Azuka Theater. Tickets reservations are free (pay-what-you-wish after the performance). Some performances will sell out, so grab your tickets early here.

Davey Jones's Locker, second floor,