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Spilled Milk: Brokeback Bethlehem



This post is the eleventh in a series of Spilled Milk columns by Emmy Award-winning writer and producer William Lucas Walker that chronicle his journey through parenthood. Spilled Milk, which originates in The Huffington Post, appears on these pages on Saturdays.

In early November 2005, our son James received his first formal invitation, to Sunday afternoon tea at our friend Richard’s house.

As he’d only been alive for five weeks, this presented our boy with unique social challenges. He didn’t know how to wear shoes, for instance. Was restricted to a diet of baby formula. And lacked the fine motor skills to RSVP with anything more legible than a brusque footprint.

Still, he was five weeks old, not stupid. While pretending to nap, James had in fact overheard us discussing in hushed tones how to handle this social conundrum. Normally, we’d have declined, at least until James had grown into a larger diaper. But Richard is British. Knowing this, and putting two and two together, James no doubt feared that refusing an Englishman’s invitation to tea had the potential to escalate into a serious international incident. Rather than risk his country being forcibly restored to British rule, James, an American patriot, overcame his misgivings and indicated to us via spit bubble that we should accept on his behalf.


Cute? Don’t be fooled. Never invite these two to tea.

Though we arrived two minutes early, I waited until precisely 3 p.m. to ring the doorbell. Because I know they value that sort of thing across the pond. Richard welcomed us with a broad, warm smile and posh public school tones: “Well, look who’s arrived at my front door. Good aaaaafternoo–”

His mellifluous greeting was cut off by a low moan. A keening almost. Looking down I realized it was coming not from James but our four-year-old daughter Elizabeth, her dainty mouth contorted into the sort of grotesque, frozen rictus you only see on Italian widows just before they howl and throw themselves into their husband’s freshly dug graves.

I knelt down. “Honey, what’s the matter?”

“It hurrrrrrts!”

She now had one hand clapped to her ear and was hopping up and down on Richard’s brick walkway in what I can only describe as a dance of the damned. I shouldn’t have been surprised that our daughter had chosen this worst of all possible moments to experience the first and last ear infection of her life. This sort of impeccable timing had announced itself in Elizabeth’s infancy when, as she was placed in her beaming grandfather’s arms for the first time, she instinctively realized it was the perfect moment to empty the contents of her stomach.

As I dug around in James’ diaper bag for some liquid Tylenol, Richard bent down and asked Elizabeth if she might be more comfortable lying down in a back bedroom. “Is there a TV?” she whimpered. Watching him whisper to our daughter as he tenderly led her down the hall, I was struck by his special brand of kindness, something I find unique to the childless. Those patient smiles and encouraging words I always imagine mask a silent, internal mantra: “Thank Christ I never reproduced.”

In the living room, Kelly balanced James with one hand while Googling earache remedies with the other. My girl did in fact calm a bit as we lay her down on the guest bed, but all it took was Richard switching on the TV for the crying to ratchet up. Richard thought it was the volume, until I assured him it was PBS. The Antiques Roadshow always has that effect on children.

In just under four seconds, 27,682 Internet sources had informed Kelly that a warm, damp washcloth on our kid’s ear might ease her pain. Remembering the advice of a homeless man I’d once passed while pushing Elizabeth in a stroller, I piggybacked on this idea, suggesting to Richard that he might soak the washcloth in bourbon in case she got thirsty. But Kelly nixed this idea, loudly, from the next room.

In lieu of alcohol, I had no choice but to suggest a more insidious narcotic — The Disney Channel. As it always did, my finger began to twitch uncontrollably as I reached for the remote, but somehow I managed to switch on The Suite Life of Zach & Cody. I felt terrible for Richard. This very nice friend had invited my family into his lovely home and how had we repaid him? By infecting it with the death of culture.

I’m pretty sure no sane adult has ever voluntarily subjected himself to children’s programming. Except of course those rare cases when emergency contraception is called for. I was reminded of this as Richard, unaware of what we were watching, walked in on a Disney moment so cloying it seemed to knock him backward as if he’d been the victim of a blunt force trauma. Tossing the washcloth over his shoulder, he kept walking, announcing that tea would be served in five minutes.

Tenderly placing the warm, damp cloth on my daughter’s ear, I had to admit she seemed better. Sometimes soulless dialogue, bad acting and apocalyptic role models really are the best medicine.

I joined Kelly in Richard’s cozy, immaculate, antique-filled living room. As my husband sat on what I felt sure was called a divan and fed our son his afternoon bottle, I bit into a tiny cucumber sandwich and relaxed into the sort of adult surroundings I rarely got to enjoy anymore. Admiring the carefully placed bric-a-brac and Richard’s impeccable collection of early twentieth-century photography, I allowed myself to be carried away by the first thought that crossed my mind — that a truly motivated toddler could destroy this place in about three minutes.

skitched-20130209-140921“There we are,” Richard said, entering with a tea set I felt certain had been in his family for generations. He gingerly set the tray on the tea table in front of us next to an assortment of sandwiches, scones and jellies he’d no doubt assembled from scratch. Soon fragrant steam filled the room as Richard expertly filled each of our cups and proceeded to make the appropriate fuss over James, asking how Elizabeth was adjusting to her new brother and if Kelly and I were getting enough sleep. We showed him the Halloween photo we’d taken the week before of James looking adorably heroic in his tiny Superman onesie. We thanked our friend for this rare afternoon out and told him how much it meant to us that he’d found such a unique and personal way to celebrate the arrival of our son.

A moment James seemed instinctively to understand called for a personal response. And that’s when he obliged our host by adorably cocking his head, widening his eyes, and spewing what I swear had to be a good quart of white upchuck all the way across the room. I recall watching in sheer, open-mouthed amazement at the raw physical power of it. As a perfect arc of Carnation Good Start began to make its way across Richard’s immaculately laid tea table, time seemed to stand still. Picture that hail of bullets in the The Matrix — only vomit — seeming to freeze in midair before resuming warp speed and landing with a loud splat next to a very large, sleeping dog. Then picture said dog bolting from the room, galloping into the back bedroom and landing on your daughter’s bad ear.

Her bloodcurdling scream is the last thing I recall of that afternoon.

Miraculously, by suppertime Elizabeth’s ear seemed all better, leading us to believe our daughter was either the next Meryl Streep or a witch.

James wasn’t so lucky. That night he was unable to hold down any food. The next morning an x-ray revealed something called incipient bronchitis. It wasn’t uncommon at that time of year in a child so young, our pediatrician told us. A nurse brought in a machine called a nebulizer and taught me how to give James breathing treatments at home. I was instructed to administer one every four hours and return each morning for a followup so the doctor could monitor our son’s progress. I did as I was told.

No one lets you know how quickly things can go south. In our case it was overnight.

Three days after the Great Tea Debacle, I found myself in the back of a speeding ambulance, watching a man I’d never met using every trick he knew to keep my eight-pound son’s drowning lungs going long enough to make it to the hospital.

We spent the next eleven days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Tarzana Regional Medical Center. I try not to revisit those days, but moments flash unbidden from from time to time. Here’s what I recall:

Placing my son in his car seat for his followup x-ray and noticing how gray he was. I told my daughter we were skipping the preschool drop-off and taking James straight to the doctor. “That’s just stupid,” she said.

Not being able to see James because of the rear-facing car seat, and the shuddering chill when Elizabeth said, “Daddy, James looks like he’s running out of batteries.”

Our pediatrician’s face going white as he moved a stethoscope across James’ back, and muttered to a nurse, “Call an ambulance. He’s got crackles. Crackles everywhere.” And me asking what that meant.

Calling Kelly and telling him to leave work immediately. I gave him the address of the hospital and told him what I knew. That “crackles everywhere” meant our son had something called RSV, a temperature of 92 degrees and life-threatening pneumonia in both lungs.

Trying to read my daughter a Care Bears book as a nurse administered an emergency breathing treatment to James, then calling out the door, “He’s turning blue! Get the doctor back!”

My daughter saying, “Daddy, what’s happening? What are they doing to James?” as a doctor and three nurses struggle to revive him. Trying to keep him from dying, I think but don’t say.

James coughs. “That’s good,” says the doctor. My son’s breathing. I’m not.

And suddenly he’s not either. The tiny room fills. Three doctors now and four nurses. I can’t even see my son. It takes over a minute before he starts breathing again.

A neighbor arrives to get my daughter out of there and take her to preschool.

Nurses pushing furniture and families against the walls of the waiting room so my son’s gurney can make it out the door and into an ambulance.

The weird lighting inside an ambulance, the flop sweat beading on the EMT worker’s face.

The random thought that if we’d taken my daughter to preshcool first, as planned, James would have stopped breathing in my car.

Kelly arriving at the hospital, unaware of all that had happened since I’d called him; collapsing in his arms, sobbing.

The feeling of utter powerlessness as a small army of strangers hooked one tiny boy to countless machines and drips and monitors. Dying a little every time they stuck another needle into him.

skitched-20130209-141038Being told James’ lungs were no longer able to breathe on their own. My husband and I giving the doctor permission to put him in a virtual coma so a breathing tube could do the work for him, and to keep him from tearing out all the wires and monitors off his body.

Five days of watching my son lie unconscious, not being able to look into his eyes.

Offering the only comfort I knew. Stroking him and singing “Sweet Baby James,” the one thing that always calmed him, and willing myself to believe he can hear me.

Being told, after James’ third day of round-the-clock intensive care, that somehow his right lung has collapsed.

Swapping shifts with Kelly so our son would see one of our faces when he woke up.

Trying to make things feel normal at home for Elizabeth when nothing was normal.

My only moment of pleasure each day — eating a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich in the cafeteria.

Priests from the church where Kelly and I had met arriving to offer us communion in the hospital.

Running into a TV star I’d once written for on a popular sitcom at the hospital elevator. The incongruity of it, and realizing that no amount of clever plotting or snappy dialogue could fix his mom. Or my son.

The numbing phone call from my doctor father, gently trying to tell me that Kelly and I needed to prepare ourselves that “this might not end well.”

Being there to see my son open his eyes for the first time after five days. Very weak, but looking me straight in the eye and reaching for my finger.


Five days later, moving out of pediatric intensive care into a room with windows. Singing to my son as he lay on my chest. And the physical sensation that despite our lack of a biological tie, we shared the same heart.

Thanking our team of nurses and a doctor named Carmen Botero, who made herself available 24 hours a day, and restored our son to us.

Watching James’ eyes dance again, in a face so bloated from steroids we couldn’t decide if he looked more like Mao Tse-tung or Roseanne Barr.

* * * * *
On Sunday, November 20, James came home again and, with flawless timing all his own, smiled for the very first time. In the weeks that followed, he thrived, confirming what he’d known from the moment he picked his first Halloween costume. He was Superbaby.

The same neighbors who’d helped look after Elizabeth while we were at the hospital now brought home-cooked dinners to our door every day. As we shared a meal with one of them, the phone rang. It was Wendy Barrie, one of the priests who’d served communion over the rail of James’ hospital bed as he lay unconscious.

“How’s our boy?” she said. Doing pretty great, we assured her.

“The reason I’m calling is that the entire vestry has taken a vote and it’s unanimous. We want James to play Baby Jesus in the Nativity pageant next month. If he’s up to it.”

“Wow, really? Baby Jesus?” Even I was starstruck. It’s kind of the ultimate brass ring for Christian-leaning infants.

“Actually, we’d love for the whole family to be involved. We thought Elizabeth could play an angel, and you guys could handle Joseph.”

“Which one of us?”

“Both of you.”

“Wait a minute. What? You want us both to be Joseph?”

“Why not? We’re a radically inclusive church.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “What are you planning on calling this thing? Brokeback Bethlehem?”

And that’s how at the 2005 Christmas pageant of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, for what I’m guessing was the first time in recorded history, Jesus had two daddies.

Which, come to think of it, as even the Holy Virgin might tell you, is kind of historically accurate.

* * * * *


* * * * *

William Lucas Walker is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer whose television credits include Frasier, Will & Grace and Roseanne. He co-created the critically-acclaimed Showtime comedy The Chris Isaak Show. Bill and his husband Kelly are the parents of Elizabeth and James, born in 2001 and 2005. The children were gratified by the legal marriage of their parents in 2008, an event that rescued them from a life of ruinous bastardry.

Spilled Milk chronicles Bill’s misadventures in Daddyland. The first recurring humor column by a gay parent to appear in a mainstream American publication, Spilled Milk has regularly landed on the front page of The Huffington Post.

Follow William Lucas Walker on Twitter: @WmLucasWalker, @SpilledMilkWLW or Facebook: “Spilled Milk” by William Lucas Walker.       

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‘Scared to Death’: Trump’s Prison Panic Admission Means He Knows He’s Doomed Says Legal Expert



Reacting to a report that Donald Trump has been quizzing his attorneys about what type of prison he likely will be sent to, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner stated that is not only an indication that he knows he’s going to be convicted but also an admission of guilt.

Speaking with MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart, the attorney was asked about a recent Rolling Stone report about Trump’s prison panic.

As Rolling Stone reported, Trump asked if he’s “be sent to a ‘club fed’ style prison — a place that’s relatively comfortable, as far these things go — or a ‘bad’ prison? Would he serve out a sentence in a plush home confinement? Would government officials try to strip him of his lifetime Secret Service protections? What would they make him wear, if his enemies actually did ever get him in a cell — an unprecedented set of consequences for a former leader of the free world.”

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to run for office?

According to the attorney, Trump is revealing himself by asking for so many details.

“What does this tell you about Trump’s mindset?” host Capehart asked.

“It tells me he is scared to death” Kirschner quickly answered. “It tells me he has overwhelming consciousness of guilt because he knows what he did wrong and he knows he is about to be held accountable for his crimes. So it is not surprising that he is obsessing.”

“If he was confident that he would be completely exonerated, would he have to obsess about what his future time in prison might look like?” he suggested. “I think the last refuge for Donald Trump can be seen in a recent post where he urged the Republicans to defund essentially the prosecutions against him. which, to this prosecutor, Jonathan, smells a lot like an attempt to obstruct justice.”

Watch below or at the link.


Image via Shutterstock

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‘Vulgar and Lewd’: Trump Judge Cites Extremist Group to Allow Drag Show Ban



A federal judge in Texas known for a ruling that attempted to ban a widely-used abortion drug is citing an extremist anti-LGBTQ group in his ruling allowing a ban on drag shows to stay in place.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a former attorney for an anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian legal organization, and a member of the Federalist Society, in his 26-page ruling dated Thursday cited the “About” page of Gays Against Groomers to claim, “it’s unclear how drag shows unmistakably communicate advocacy for LGBT rights.”

Judge Kacsmaryk, appointed by Donald Trump twice before finally assuming office in 2019, suggests the First Amendment does not provide for freedom of expression for drag shows, calls drag “sexualized conduct,” and says it is “more regulable” because “children are in the audience.”

READ MORE: ‘The Public Deserves to Know’: Abortion Pill Banning Judge Redacted Details About Millions of Dollars in His Stock Portfolio

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern adds, “Kacsmaryk’s conclusion that drag is probably NOT protected by the First Amendment conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression. It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people.”

Calling the judge “a proud Christian nationalist who flatly refuses to apply binding Supreme Court precedent when it conflicts with his extremist far-right beliefs,” Stern at Slate writes that Kacsmaryk ruled drag “may be outlawed to protect ‘the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.’ In short, he concluded that drag fails to convey a message, while explaining all the reasons why he’s offended by the message it conveys.”

Stern does not let Kacsmaryk off the hook there.

“From almost any other judge, the ruling in Spectrum WT v. Wendler would be a shocking rejection of basic free speech principles; from Kacsmaryk, it’s par for the course. This is, after all, the judge who sought to ban medication abortion nationwide, restricted minors’ access to birth control, seize control over border policy to exclude asylum-seekers, and flouted recent precedent protecting LGBTQ+ equality,” Stern says.

READ MORE: Far-Right Judge Under Fire for Failing to Disclose Interviews on Civil Rights – but LGBTQ Community Had Warned Senators

“He is also poised to bankrupt Planned Parenthood by compelling them to pay a $1.8 billion penalty on truly ludicrous grounds. And he is not the only Trump-appointed judge substituting his reactionary beliefs for legal analysis. We have reached a point where these lawless decisions are not only predictable but inevitable, and they show no sign of stopping: Their authors are still just settling into a decadeslong service in the federal judiciary.”

West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler penned the letter that sparked the lawsuit.

Titled, “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing,” Wendler wrote: “I believe every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, a person of dignity. Being created in God’s image is the basis of Natural Law. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, prisoners of the culture of their time as are we, declared the Creator’s origin as the foundational fiber in the fabric of our nation as they breathed life into it. Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not.”

Journalist Chris Geidner concludes, “It’s an extremely biased ruling by a judge who has established that he does not care about being overturned — even by the most conservative appeals court in the nation.”

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle



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Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’



U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). largely seen as pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s Republican-majority House of Representatives toward shutting down the federal government, is praising and promoting remarks made by a freshman GOP lawmaker that appear to suggest the use of violence. U.S. Rep. Eli Crane‘s comments, posted Friday (below), call for change “through force,” remarks echoing Congressman Gaetz’s recent comments which were denounced by an expert on authoritarianism as fascistic.

“The only way we’re going to see meaningful change in this town is through force,” wrote Congressman Crane, Republican of Arizona atop a three-minute video in which he frames what is now an almost guaranteed government shutdown as a “spending fight.” In his video he says, “the only way you’re gonna get any change in this town is through force.” Gaetz in August had said, “we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C.”

Congressman Crane is a former Navy SEAL. He has promoted the false “Big Lie” conspiracy theory that there was massive fraud in the election President Joe Biden won, and called “on the state legislature to decertify the 2020 election.” He is one of six House Republicans who voted against McCarthy’s speakership all 15 times in January.

READ MORE: White House Mocks GOP With ‘Worst Person You Know’ Meme After Matt Gaetz Blames McCarthy for Shutdown

“Congressman Eli Crane is a fountainhead of political courage,” said Rep. Gaetz Friday afternoon. “He holds the line.”

Crane recently came under fire for calling Black people “colored,” during debate on his legislation that would force the U.S. Armed Forces to not use any diversity requirements in its hiring practices.

READ MORE: ‘Corruption of the Highest Order’: Experts ‘Sickened’ at ‘Definitely Bought’ Clarence Thomas and His ‘Pay to Play’ Lifestyle

Just days before he won his House seat last year, The Washington Post reported Crane had urged an “audience to look up an antisemitic sermon at a recent campaign stop.”

“Crane said that he was motivated to run because of ‘radical ideologies that are destroying this country’ and that he was most concerned about ‘Cultural Marxism,’ which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an antisemitic baseless claim gaining traction on the American right.”

“He encouraged the audience to watch a speech by a right-wing pastor who blamed cultural change on a group of German Jewish philosophers and condemned Barack Obama for having a ‘homosexual agenda.'”

“If we don’t wake up,” Crane said, according to the Post, “if we don’t study what they’re doing, and if we don’t put people in influential positions that understand what this war is all about, what they’re trying to do and have and have the courage to call it out, we’re going to lose this country.”

In August, while standing next to Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Congressman Gaetz said, “Mr. President, I cannot stand these people that are destroying our country. They are opening our borders. They are weaponizing our federal law enforcement against patriotic Americans who love this nation as we should.”

“But we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C. And so to all my friends here in Iowa, when you see them come for this man, know that they are coming for our movement and they are coming for all of us.”

At the time, Raw Story reported, “historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat called Gaetz comments alarming.”

READ MORE: Pete Buttigieg Just Testified Before Congress. It Did Not Go Well for Republicans.

“What he is saying is that they are not going to have change through elections or through legislation or through reform. They are going to have change through violence,” she warned.

“And that’s how fascists talk,” Ben-Ghiat added. “So, even if Trump is out of the picture, these are people who have adopted methods very familiar to me as a historian of fascism, that violence and corruption and lying that’s what the party is today.”


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