This post is the sixth in a series ofÂ Spilled MilkÂ columns by Emmy Award-winning writer and producerÂ William Lucas WalkerÂ that chronicle his journey through parenthood.Â Spilled Milk,Â which originates inÂ The Huffington Post, appears on these pages every Saturday.
There’s a world
where I can go
and tell my secrets to
In my room
In my room…
The haunting Beach Boys classic springs to mind because that’s where I find myself as I’m writing this: in my childhood bedroom.
The same room, in fact, where I first heard that song. The aching harmonies of “In My Room” give voice to a longing shared by every American teenager: the need for a safe space, four walls to call your own.Â A place where you can shut out the world and be alone with your private thoughts. And dreams. And hormones. It helps to have a reliable lock.
Very little has changed up here over the years. Coming back is like sneaking into the past and inhaling my childhood. Same built-in desks, same bumpy ceiling tiles, same odd little troll dolls standing guard, their frozen smiles and eerie, unblinking stares making them dead ringers for the Olsen twins onÂ Full House. TheÂ Hardy Boys MysteriesÂ line the same shelf they always have, bookended by the purple foot I sculpted in Betty Fryga’s Tuesday afternoon art class. The foot no one understood.
My older brother and I first moved up here around the timeÂ BatmanÂ hit the airwaves. I was in fourth grade; he was in sixth. The birth of my youngest brother had forced our parents to make some new sleeping arrangements. As a consolation prize for giving up our downstairs rooms, they converted the unfinished attic into what they envisioned as a boy’s utopia for Jimmy and me, a sprawling Batcave of our own.
They wisely had the builders install separate sets of his-and-his furnishings: identical desks, bookshelves, closets and dressers, all built-in. Everything matched. Except my brother and me. While Jimmy jumped around in front of his mirror working out his latest Batman moves, I stood posing at mine, perfecting my flawless imitation of Mrs. Thurston Howell III onÂ Gilligan’s Island.
The utopia my parents hoped for never happened. Some fish are meant to swim alone. As even a pimply, first-day clerk at Petco can tell you,Â neverÂ put two bettas in the same bowl; they’re genetically programmed to kill each other. During the years Jimmy and I shared this space, those bumpy ceiling tiles saw it all: epic battles, final visits from the tooth fairy, dueling puberties and me, lying on the bed, daydream-believing I was Davy Jones inÂ The Monkees.
All these decades later, the only noticeable change in my room is the fact that, instead of two brothers, the beds are now occupied by two dads of the homosexual variety, and their kids. It’s spring break for our son and daughter, which, as usual, means Kelly and I have flown them cross-country from California to visit my parents in South Carolina.
To my children this is and always will be Mimi & Pop’s House. To me — regardless of my current address — it’s home, the place I feel safest. Returning is one of my great pleasures in life.
I love my parents for a million different reasons, but mostly, lately, I love them for not dying. I can’t help believing that staying put in this house has played a role in that. Meal by meal, task by task, dream by dream, each day they continue building a life together here, an architecture of shared intangibles. To my everlasting gratitude, they’ve resisted every urge to sell, downsize, retire to the Presbyterian Home or — that most deafening of death rattles — buy a condo.
I realize it’s selfish of me to be grateful for this. My folks are in their mid-80s; any of those options would make their day-to-day lives easier. But they’d hate it. And so would I. These walls contain the permanent record of my youth.
It’s empowering for kids to hear their parents recount tales of themselves at the same age; it levels the playing field, brings us closer. Through the backward lens of time, we cease being their parents, the powerful to their powerless. Hearing our stories transports them, for a few giddy minutes, from a world of Us versus Them, to nirvana: usÂ asÂ them.
I describe for my daughter Elizabeth how — at the very desk where she’s sketching mermaids — I slaved for days on my “Louisiana Money Crops” poster. Worth every perfectionist minute, I tell her, recalling how I created vast cotton fields with my mom’s makeup puffs. I was the only one in class to earn an A+ from our pruny 4th grade teacher, drawing rare praise for the clever way I chose to illustrate the money crops theme: by gluing bright, shiny nickels on top of the O’s of LOuisiana, MOney and CrOps. My daughter laughs as I revel in the glory of it all.
I have her take off her shoes and feel around with her toes until she finds a stiff, chunky spot in the carpet. That, I tell her, is where I spilled a bowl of Elmer’s glue mixed with sugar (Louisiana’s prime money crop) and I managed to conceal my crime for days by telling my parents I’d redecorated. By hauling our bunk beds to the middle of the room.
This story delights her. But fifth graders are now being armed by their teachers with dubious new weapons like “critical reasoning.” Which means Elizabeth has begun to…Â questionÂ some of my stories. Among these is the tale of how her Uncle Jimmy routinely forced me into sadistic re-enactments of what she’s been taught to call Cowboys and Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. My son, 6, listens in rapt, thrilled horror, but this time Elizabeth rolls her eyes as I recount how my brother hogtied me to the foot of my bed, gagged me with a washcloth and tried to scalp me with our dad’s new set of steak knives. I’m not even done before she’s grabbed my iPhone and started searching for Uncle Jimmy’s number. She dials, then puts him on speaker to refute my lies.
Of course he can’t and doesn’t even try. Instead, Uncle Jimmy gleefully leaps in, providing tons of detail — things done with binoculars, atrocities involving dental floss and toothpaste — I’ve spent a lifetime blocking out. I hang up and break for a cocktail.
Jimmy was a lot bigger than me, a fact he routinely used to his advantage. My son understands this sort of thing all too well; he’s nearly five years younger than his sister. Which might explain why his favorite story is the one of how I exacted my revenge. I recount how I bided my time until the day Uncle Jimmy returned from the doctor, having been diagnosed with a rare bone condition. I was stunned when they wheeled him in, imprisoned from his chest to his feet in a full body cast. It may have been the happiest day of my life.
In a Zen state of rapture, I floated to our room and began planning how to best seize the moment. It doesn’t take long when your prey can’t run. My son hangs on my every move as I re-enact my silent, leisurely stroll from the bed to the pencil sharpener, the very same pencil sharpener I used that fateful night. I pause to point out that what I did next was the most cruel act I ever committed as a child, something he is NEVER to replicate no matter how much he thinks his sister might have it coming. Like Jimmy did.Â “Okay, I won’t! I won’t! Tell me the story!”Â blurts James, the suspense nearly causing him to wet his pants. So I do, recounting how my immobilized tormenter, now saucer-eyed with panic, watched helplessly as I slowly selected a teacher-approved, yellow #2 pencil, ground its tip to a fine razor point, and stabbed him in the toe.
My parents were known locally for their determination to repopulate our town with penises. We were known simply as the Walker Boys — Jimmy, Bill, George and Andy. To outsiders we appeared harmless. On days like scalping day, or pencil-in-the-toe day, or the day George dumped a cup of warm urine on the rest of us, we could have given riding lessons to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. How our mother managed to survive without becoming a boozer, or drowning us all in a lake like that women a few counties over, mystifies me. A lot.
I have only one son, and I swear, watching him jolt to life each morning is like witnessing the birth of atomic fusion. When James was two, I had to pry him off the top of the refrigerator where he’d discovered six juice boxes and guzzled every last one. Seating my two-hundred pound self squarely on his flailing, sugar-shocked body, I dialed my mom. “You did thisÂ four times?” I shouted, as my Juicy-Juiced changeling pummeled me with an addict’s rage.Â “How the hell are you even still alive?”
She laughed a dismissive, bell-like laugh. It was no big deal, she said. Boys are fun, boys are cute, she loved raising boys. I knew by her answer that one of two things was true. She was either lying or a mutant.
About the time I moved into junior high and my body began to pubertize, a vision of my future began taking shape. It dawned on me that I was meant to be an Artist. I don’ t know why; maybe it was the purple foot. I didn’t know yet whatÂ kindÂ of artist. I hadn’t landed on specifics. Poet. Painter. Movie star. Bassoonist. Movie star-bassoonist. I didn’t really care. But fame was key.
I thought it might help if I studied a wide variety of artists to see what they all had in common. So I hit the books at our local college library, casting my net wide. I researched every great artist I could think of: Picasso, Horowitz, Marlon Brando, Jimi Hendrix, Shari Lewis. It took weeks before I isolated the single, crucial ingredient they all shared. My heart sank. It was the one thing I lacked in spades: a traumatic, tragedy-laced childhood.
My home life wasÂ wayÂ too vanilla, which I now knew was a disaster. I immediately set about rectifying the situation. I tried everything, determined to kick-start a little drama in our humdrum family life. Nothing worked. I would launch into violent weeping fits at the dinner table.Â “Pass the peas.”Â Announce that I had a terminal strain of acne.Â “Use Clearasil.”Â Fake a grand mal seizure, tumbling down the stairs and foaming at the mouth (frothed-up Colgate). The minty smell blew it.
After a few days, my mom had just about had it. “You want drama?” she finally snapped one afternoon. Opening her desk drawer she pulled out an envelope. “Write me a check and you can have four dramas. And a musical,” she said, waving season tickets to the Greenville Little Theatre.
She didn’t get it. I was a Walker Boy who wanted to be more: a Beach Boy. A Hardy Boy. Perhaps most of all, Davy Jones inÂ The Monkees.
But nothing was happening at 710 Calvert Avenue to traumatize me sufficiently. You know that aerial footage they show on CNN after a major tornado? Graphic helicopter footage of utter devastation, miles of suburbs flattened in seconds? And there, amid row after row of roofs ripped off like cat-food lids, tree after tree cradling Volvos and washer/dryers, stands that one house, untouched, twiddling its thumbs and whistling in the dark like nothing ever happened? That was our house.
It wasn’t as if ourÂ townÂ was drama-free. It was a cesspool. At school I’d eavesdrop as other kids whispered their parents’ screamed threats of divorce and castration, wondering why they got all the fun. I’d hear a classmate recount the terrifying afternoon she arrived to babysit a neighbor boy, just as his mom’s killer was escaping out the back window. And I’d think, “Why didn’t the Alberghettis ever askÂ meÂ to babysit?”
What I didn’t know — was completely clueless about — was that a full-scale natural disaster was brewing inside my own home at that very moment. A truth so unspeakable, a scandal so damnable, that had the scandal become public, our home would surely have been red-tagged and bulldozed immediately. And it wasn’t just happening in our house. It was happeningÂ in my room. To me.
As I write this, my son and six plastic Marvel action figures are taking a bath in the same tub I used as a boy. As we were filling it, James asked what action figures I used to play with in my bath. I tell him my first choice would probably have been a Barbie doll, only I didn’t have sisters and my parents wouldn’t buy me one (dammit). “I would have bought you a Barbie doll,” says James, in a voice so sweet it makes me want to hug the soap right off him. Instead, I tell him it didn’t matter, because I rarely even got to use my own bathroom once Uncle Jimmy turned 13.
“Why not?” asked James.
“Oh, he kind of hogged the tub,” I say. “He’d lock the door and barricade himself in here for hours.”
“Which action figures did he like to play with?” asks James.
“Only one,” I say, and quickly change the subject.
I’m not ready to tell my 6-year-old the whole truth. If I did, James — the straightest son of two gay men ever to walk the earth — would be in there now, sniffing around to see if he could find theÂ PlayboysÂ Uncle Jimmy swiped from our neighbor’s dad and stashed in the heating duct.
But this incongruous, comical, slightly disturbing image of James clutching his firstÂ PlayboyÂ does ring a distant bell. As I type these words, I realize I’m lying in the very spot where one fine spring afternoon long, long ago, flipping through that Bible of rock music,Â Tiger BeatÂ magazine, I had my first epiphany: I don’t want toÂ beÂ Davy Jones inÂ The Monkees; I want toÂ touchÂ Davy Jones inÂ The Monkees.
It was the first secret I remember telling this room.
In the movieÂ Tootsie, Jessica Lange, lying on her character’s childhood bed, tells Dustin Hoffman, “I made a million plans looking at this wallpaper.” We all make those plans — who we’ll marry when we grow up, what we’ll accomplish as President. I put mine on hold the day I realized I wanted to touch Davy Jones. And Tom Jones. And Joe Namath. And Bert Convy. And Wayne Adair, the youth minister who ran our teen Bible study.
I confided lots of secrets to lots of rooms after that. There were years of secrets, and deceptions, and lies as I struggled to conceal the natural disaster I imagined myself to be.
Until one boisterous, overcrowded winter night in New York City (where I’d moved, for the excitement). I found myself where I’d told myself I should be, trapped in Times Square, jammed in a mob of thousands, all gathered at the “Crossroads of the World” waiting for the New Year’s Eve ball to drop. As I stood there, jostled and freezing, watching five drunks fight over a taxi, I had my second epiphany:
I’m not really cut out for drama.
It seems that when I wasn’t looking, my parents inoculated me against it. In the quiet, undramatic home they continue to share, maybe without even knowing, our parents gave my brothers and me what I could finally see is the greatest thing a parent can give a child. Stability. A solid foundation: plain, boring, simple, strong.
When it was time to send me out into the world, somehow my parents sent my room with me.
I don’t know how they did it. They may not know themselves. But every day, Kelly and I hope we’re doing the same for our children.
The great gift of my life is that it didn’t turn out the way I planned. Or feared. Who could have planned what I have now? Who could have known I’d be back in this room two or three times a year, falling asleep to the same distant train whistle, lying next to a man I adore, as our children dream beside us?
I think my room knew. From the beginning.
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.
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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.”
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
‘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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
“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.”
Image via Shutterstock
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