Whale: Here for It, #225

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

This week: RuPaul is serving Senate realness; where's the Leeloo Dallas x Anthony Fauci collab?; paging Noah Baumbach; and I have a fun dystopian adventure at a football stadium

The first thing I saw when I pulled into the parking lot of my local vaccine emporium was a car with a bumper sticker that read "What a time to be gay and alive" which felt very specific but could not have been more applicable given the circumstances. "This is a sign," I screamed as I struggled to turn down the radio and grab my phone to take a photo whilst also trying to maintain a speed at which the cars behind me (also alive, possibly queer, tbd) would not honk at me. There was a lot going on. I really want to show you the absolutely deranged, blurry, Big Foot sighting pics I took but alas the person's other bumper stickers and license plate are visible and I think we all know that I do not possess the technical skill to blur them out so just use your imagination.

Actually, you don't have to use your imagination (who has the energy?) because I found the bumper stickers online at Archie Bongiovanni's website.

It looked like this! But the letters were white. No offense.

As I swerved into a parking space, I decided that not only would I get the life-saving elixir that would allow me to return to my one true love (the Golden Corral buffet) but I would also make a friend! I was determined to find the owner of the bumper sticker car despite the fact that I got vaccinated at a stadium (the place where Beyoncé concerts happen) and I had no clues to go on except that they, like me, were gay and alive (and drove a hatchback; we're basically twins!). I grabbed my vaccine waiting line tote (I used the day-at-the-beach philosophy of packing and brought six forms of identification, two earbuds, a book, a Kindle, three pairs of latex gloves, and a snack. [No, I did not think through how I was going to eat said snack; the plan had a flaw!]). I threw on three masks (like, if double-masking is more effective it just stands to reason that triple masking is a deluxe safety precaution. I'm not a scientist. I'm just a hypochondriac who would mummify himself if it would help the situation). And I marched into M&T Bank Stadium (literally where?) to find my fellow gay living person and ask them if they wanted to go to a buffet in like 6 weeks. (Spoiler alert: I did not. If this is you, OBVIOUSLY let's be friend.)

It should surprise no one to learn that I had never been to Baltimore's football stadium before. So, this was all very exciting to me even though it was a bit foreboding. Nothing says "something has gone awry in my life" like walking into a football stadium, to be honest. There's a HUGE banner on the front of the stadium that says "Mass Vaccination Site" which has big dystopian vibes. Obviously, I took a lot of blurry photos of it. There's also a smaller ground level sign that reads something like "Today we're offering: PFIZER", which they change based on what they have available. I'm obsessed with that sign. It's like the specials board at an Italian restaurant. I imagined there was a vaccine sommelier inside making very specific recommendations. "Ah, I see that your vaccine waiting line tote has one orange and a weird little Ziploc bag full of peanuts. Very nice. May I suggest the Pfizer to compliment your snacks?" And I just nod like a sycophant and say grandiosely "THAT SOUNDS WONDERFUL. I'LL HAVE THAT. I DON'T EVEN CARE WHAT MARKET PRICE IS!" (I love when things are Market Price at restaurants because, even though I understand why it's done, I always feel like someone in the back is like "Haha! Got another one. Trying to impress his friends and now he has to take out a second mortgage to pay for swordfish! He should have asked 'WHICH MARKET?' [The market in Market Price is the mall in Barbra Streisand's basement. Little known fact!])

The line moved rather quickly, which was great but also I literally had nothing else to do except be gay and alive, plus I had roughly 19 things to read so I was set. It's that thing when your errand tote bag has a graduate syllabus.

There's this one part where you get an iPad and have to check yourself in, even if you've checked in in advance which I always do in medical situations because there is nothing I love more than finishing my homework in class like a total dweeb. I'd read about the iPad thing on one of the 6,000 Facebook groups I'm in for Vaccine and Vampire Hunters and some people had pointed out that they don't wipe them down in between, so come prepared. I pulled out one of my pairs of latex gloves like I was Meredith Grey about to do an emergency trach in the middle of a supermarket, grabbed the iPad, whipped out a stylus I had also brought for this express purpose, and proudly clicked "I'm already checked in!"

I handed the iPad back and marched toward the escalators, deftly ripping my gloves off and dropping them in a trashcan without breaking my stride like I was Tom Cruise in a Mission: Impossible movie brusquely removing his very expensive face disguise mask while pursuing a villain across a town square in Brussels. I was on task! It also didn't hurt that there was a person a few meters ahead of me (using the metric systems since we're in Brussels) who was wearing a lovely patterned jacket and a pair of yoga pants that had an equally lovely, but different pattern. "This outfit screams gay and alive!" I thought. "What's up, bestie?"

Then I got distracted by the appearance of a hot dog stand--we were in the main concourse of the stadium, so this was not unusual, but there were so many vaccination accoutrements I'd forgotten! I paused for a second and thought "I could go for a hot dog, I guess." I looked at the menu. Hot dogs, nachos, beer. I never want a beer at a stadium because I am a) cheap, b) not a beer drinker but what am I going to do, ask for an Old Fashioned with freshly picked cherries? Fine, I'd have a beer, too. Of course, the hot dog stand had been closed for over a year and the logistics of trying to drink a beer through a mask in a Mass Vaccination Site are complicated, but I'm easily distracted by the option of food. "One Market Price Frankfurter, please!"

The stadium bartender.

The vaccinations were on the Club Level, which definitely made me feel like I was pulling a scam. Lord knows I didn't buy this expensive-ass vaccine ticket. I have a friend, Damar, who used to pride herself in being able to talk her way into the most expensive sections of Beyoncé concerts. The first couple times I went to Bey concerts in Philly, I'd run into Damar in my regular cheap place and then she'd disappear and next thing I'd know she'd be on stage or something. Then once I sprung for more expensive seats and, wouldn't you know it, after the first song who was standing right next to me? Damar!

Well, you'll never guess who was sitting there waiting to give me my vaccine? Damar! Just kidding, it was a pair of total strangers. I'd worn strategically shoulder-accessible clothing, so the whole thing took, literally 30 seconds. I don't even think they said more than "hello", which I don't blame them for obviously--they had a whole stadium's worth of people to get through! But it was clear to me that they had not read my newsletter about my long history of talkative encounters with phlebotomists. I told them I'd email it to them.

Of all the interesting sights inside this "football stadium", I think the thing I'll never forget is the image of a doctor standing in what used to be a the Club Level bar, wearing a mask, lab coat, blue latex gloves, and safety glasses, holding a vial of vaccine up to the light and mixing it over a beer tap. One, let's hear it for a resourceful use of a space. Two, uh, I think that's the Old Fashioned I ordered. Do you mind just handing it over the barrier, thanks so much!

After you get your shot, you got sit in the reverse DMV and wait to make sure you stay gay and alive. There was this other doctor who looked just like Bill Nye the Science Guy standing next to one of the banks of chairs. I asked him "Do I just sit anywhere?" and he responded with such shock that it was like I'd asked him "Which way is the buffet, please?" He pointed me to a chair and I waited.

There were volunteers and nurses patrolling the area using mobile triage units to schedule the second shot. You kind of had to hold up your little Post-It note with your leave time on it to get their attention and then they'd roll the triage unit over and ask you when you next wanted to be gay and alive. It was like being at an auction on the Starship Enterprise. Again, I didn't have anywhere to be nor anything to do, so I wasn't being aggressive about getting their attention. I was happy to just hung out. Like, I think I'm lonely lol!

One of the volunteers tried to innovate the process to maximize efficiency but just ended up creating farce (a person after my own heart). While the nurse with the movable triage unit was working with on patient, the volunteer would zip around the waiting area collecting people's vaccination cards and their preferred dates and times and then bringing them back to the triage unit which, again I cannot stress enough, was on wheels. Of course, this meant that people's cards and preferred dates kept getting mixed up, which was hilarious to me. At one point, apparently the volunteer returned cards to a group of people including one couple and told the couple that she'd gotten the couple the same date and time. But then when she handed the wife back a card for a different person and the wife had to yell across the room, "I'm sorry, honey, but you gave me the wrong husband!" The best live theater I've seen in a year is a comedy of manners taking place on the Club Level of a football stadium in a dystopia. What a time to be gay and alive!

Whale, I'll Be

OH! Also! I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth but we have to talk to someone in the CDC office of graphic design about these vaccination cards because they are too big to fit into my wallet and I'm stressed about this. I'm a little Fauci Grouchie. Apparently there's also different designs based on different locations which is kicking my FOMO into high gear. I would like to order a custom vaccination card that looks like the Multipass from Fifth Element. To whom do I direct that request?

Also, perhaps you saw the news this week that the American Museum of Natural History in New York City was opening a vax site UNDER THE BIG WHALE!

I was not aware that WHALE-ADJACENT was an option and now I'm high-key pressed. I need to yeet this Pfizer out of my arm and try again.

(Also, humble brag, my dear friend Bella took me on a night-time after-closing tour of the museum in the Before Times and we got to stand under the whale and walk through a totally dark room full of dinosaur bones and dinosaur ghosts. So, I'm just going to tell everyone that's when I got the vax.)

I dress up for paleontology.

R U Serious?

No shade, but I've written a few columns about Senator Cory Booker and I think he seems like a really nice person but every time it was always kind of a stretch to pull the piece together because nice doesn't always translate into "ripe for comedy." Even the piece I wrote about him dating Rosario Dawson was sort of like "well, I hope everyone likes Rent references because that's what I have for you." One time I think I was supposed to write about Booker giving a speech during a Senate hearing and I ended up writing 1,000 words about then-Senator Kamala Harris' eyebrow. That's Hollywood, baby! Anyway, I am so mad that I am just now learning that Cory Booker and RuPaul Charles are cousins! Like, this is the information you lead with. You say "Hello, I am dating the star of Josie and the Pussycats and I have a family tree with mighty roots in the soil of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent. All this would lead you to believe that I have probably met Alan Cumming. Also, I'm a U.S. Senator and ran for president." Again, no shade to him. But let's not bury the lede! If my cousin was the host of Drag Race this newsletter would be called "Queen's Cousin Has a Thot." No shade to my actual cousins, who are great but do not have VH1 shows as far as I know. come to think of it, though, one of them actually looks like Cory Booker so lemme go hop on 23andMe real quick and see if I have to change the name of this newsletter.

Indiana Repertory Theater is producing my play Mrs. Harrison which will be filmed on stage and available for streaming May 6-30. I got to talk with the team and I'm incredibly excited about the work they're doing. This production makes Mrs. Harrison my most-produced play, which is quite exciting and bodes well for the off-chance that I might be able to see it in person again some day. Perhaps on the Club Level of M&T Bank Stadium!

Random Thing on the Internet

Tonight is the Oscars so here's Nell Carter performing the Oscar-nominated Genie songs from Aladdin, an event that absolutely gobsmacked Young Eric with its randomness and its enthusiasm. (The syncing is off which feels, weirdly, like an artistic choice.)

(literally where?),