Tea: Here for It, #326

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

I love when I get to introduce two friends I like very much in hopes that they'll like each other, too! This rarely goes badly but even when it does, wow what a show!

One such intro went really well this week. (No drama! Crowd boos!)

On Tuesday, I hosted The Moth Ball, the annual gala for The Moth, in New York City. This was my second time hosting The Moth Ball and my third time attending and it's always a fantastic night. Every year there's a different theme and people really pull out the stops with their lewks. I described it on stage as The Met Gala for people with NPR tote bags.

Last year, the theme was In Bloom and I wore a floral suit; the first time I went, in 2018, there was an Alice in Wonderland theme and I went for a Mad Hatter vibe in this wild patchwork tux and a little fascinator that I glued playing cards to hours before the gala. Yes, that's right, I am ready for Project Runway.

Me in 2018, serving for "jam tomorrow, jam yesterday but never ever jam today" realness

My friend Aman, who produces The Moth StorySlams in Philly, came with me and we met up with my friend Bella, who was there as a guest. You may remember Aman as my wonderful friend with whom I went to see Katy Perry in Las Vegas. And you may remember Bella as my fun, inventive friend who took me on an after-hours tour of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. They're both so good at "yes, and"-ing a social situation; they're great conversationalists, up for an adventure, and fantastic planners who aren't afraid to pivot. I adore them and they got along really well!

But, the thing is, when you have two Activity Friends in one place, you get into all kinds of Activities.

After the Ball, we decided to go for a night cap. On Google Maps, I found a cocktail bar called Nancy that was near my hotel and looked chic and quiet. But when we got out of the Uber, we could hear music blasting from Nancy all the way down the block. I have, alas, reached "say, bartender, could you turn the volume down" years old and I am flirting with "why is it so dark in here? Are you trying to keep the menu a secret? FROM WHOM?" year old. So, Nancy was a no-ncy.

Walking down the block, we'd passed a staircase the led to a dark alley under a building. The staircase had a metal gate with what looked like a handmade poster attached to it.


I noticed it but didn't pay it much mind. But Aman and Bella were immediately intrigued. "That's a speakeasy," they declared.

"No," I said, "that's a haunted day care."

But they were already charging down the steps into the darkness. Lord, we were doing an activity.

This is not a place for citizens. This is where The Penguin from Batman hangs out.

Now I had a problem. I could follow them or I could stand on the sidewalk shouting my protestations. I was inclined to do the latter because even though I haven't seen the movie It (too scary!) I am fairly certain that this is how It happens.

Plus, if I stayed above ground I could fulfill my life's dream of being a helpful witness on Law & Order. I am obsessed with those people who get interviewed by the detectives but absolutely refuse to stop what they're doing for even one minute to do so. They're always directing traffic or stacking boxes while looking at a photo of a suspect going "Oh, yeah, I saw him. Came into the bar at 10:15 and stayed until 12:31 am exactly. Had red hair and scruff that looked about a week old. Freckle on his right hand and a birthmark shaped like Sweden behind his earlobe. Talked to three people, exchanged a briefcase with a man in a bowler hat with a curly mustache, then texted two friends a thumbs up emoji and the words 'Gave the money to the assassin.' Yeah, I saw him. Why? He do something?" (Continues to direct traffic.)

I LOVE those people. If Law & Order is to be believed (which it is because TV is all true) New York is full of extremely observant characters who are task-oriented, great at delivering exposition, and are doing absolutely nothing to stop crimes committed near them. Eric Adams, come get your people!

Anyway, I went down the murder staircase, dashing my Law & Order hopes. And of course, my Activity Friends were correct. It led now to a haunted doll factory but rather a "speakeasy". I put the quotes because what does that even mean anymore? It's a bar doing a bit, like when you come back from study abroad with a Madonna accent. A public establishment being extra, like when everyone was wearing vests and fedoras in the early 2000s because H&M told us we had to.

Speak easily, if you will.

The bouncer made a big X with his body across the door frame (weird) and told us they were cash only tonight. Whenever a business tells me they're cash only I'm like "oh, grow up!" I only mean like brick and mortar businesses, though. Not farmer's markets or lemonade stands or something. That said, the kids who are always selling lemonade on my block absolutely take Square. I walk by and they shout to me "You can pay using this QR code!" And I'm like "You're 6; how do you know how to do this?" And they're like, "oh, grow up."

Inside! No haunted dolls!

The speakeasy served drinks in tea cups, which is apparently something that they used to do in old speakeasies to throw off the cops. I love the idea of two old timey detectives coming in to a too dark parlor and going "Hmm, Sergeant O'Reilly thought people were drinking giggle water in here but just looks like a cotillion. Our apologies. Say, did anyone see this suspect last night?" And the entire room puts down their tea cups, starts stacking boxes, and begins to deliver exposition.

In the papers!

We're rolling out my new nationally syndicated advice column and I got to talk to people about it! It will be weekly through June and then seven days a week starting July 1st.

Philly’s R. Eric Thomas is taking over the ‘Ask Amy’ advice column
Thomas will take over the column, which runs in 150 newspapers serving an estimated 22 million readers, on July 1, when it will become known as “Asking Eric.”
A Baltimore native takes on a classic national advice column with one goal in mind
Baltimore’s R. Eric Thomas hopes to have “a conversation, rather than an edict” with his new syndicated advice column, “Asking Eric.”
Send questions for the column to eric@askingeric.com or P.O. Box 22474, Philadelphia, PA 19110.

I also recorded an episode of the podcast The New Maturity and I really loved the conversation!

Eric Adams, come get your people!,