Homo’s Odyssey

An unexpected breakdown on a family trip gave William Lucas Walker and his husband a chance to teach their kids what real family values are.

—-

Not too long ago, our little clan took a road trip from Los Angeles to Portland, Ore. Road trips are one of those mysterious things families feel compelled to do but no one knows why, like camping in the Mojave Desert or supporting the career of Miley Cyrus. I predict in the end it won’t be gay marriage that brings about the destruction of the American family. It will be the road trip.

After getting the kids settled into the back seat of our Honda Odyssey with their DVD players and movies, we hit the freeway. Once out of L.A., I was finally able to sit back, pop open my laptop, and begin jotting down a few ideas for this column. That’s when Kelly woke from his nap and grabbed the steering wheel from me, babbling some nonsense about “safety” and not using my computer while driving. So we switched seats.

Relocated to the passenger side, “safely,” I narrowed my list of possible topics to two: “Surviving Your Child’s K-Mart Taste” and “Parents I Hate.” Then suddenly — at 70 miles per hour — the transmission on our car blew out. And a column was born.

I’m an American, a proud gay American who was raised to believe that bad things don’t happen to Hondas. Yet ours has blown two transmissions in five years. As we decelerated, the plume of smoke belching from underneath our hood began to panic my unflappable daughter. I tried to calm her as Kelly looked for a place to get off the road. “Think of it as an adventure, honey! We’re inside a fire-breathing dragon who just lost a leg!” She began to cry.

Somehow we managed to limp across four lanes of traffic to the next exit and turn down a hill into the welcoming parking lot of a visitors center that overlooked a picturesque lake. A visitors center with bathrooms and vending machines and other kids to play with. A visitors center we soon noticed had a chain-link fence around it and a propped-up sign gloating, “Closed for Renovations.”

“Look, an abandoned castle!” I tried, failing.

We called AAA Roadside Assistance and waited. Turkeys cook faster. An hour and 40 minutes passed as my iPod faded from Gaga to gone and the sun sank deep into the lake. The battery on our cell phone now dead, our world turned pitch black and eerie quiet.

When our Triple-A savior finally arrived on the scene, I could have jumped for joy. Instead, I froze. The white knight who showed up for our rescue turned out to be a physical composite of every high school bully I ever suffered: a tattooed skinhead-type, complete with soul-deadening stare and missing front tooth.

I hesitantly approached the massive flatbed tow truck idling before me and handed up my membership card through the cab window. Barely looking up, he grunted, “You know we only tow free for seven miles. After that it’s 10 bucks a mile. You got about 15 miles to the next town.” I asked if he could fit a family of four in his cab. His shrug said he’d manage.

After finishing his paperwork in silence, he finally lumbered down from his cab and stopped, getting his first, long look at my family. He stared at Kelly, then at me, then at our kids, finally speaking in the slow, guttural tones of a wife beater:

“These kids y’all’s?”

We answered that yes, they were.

Traveling as a two-dad family can have its challenges. Twice a year we visit my parents in South Carolina, a state so welcoming that its constitution bans not only same-sex marriage and civil unions but birth control and bagels. On its face, California might seem an improvement, until you find yourself stranded in the dark off I-5 in one of those counties where Prop 8 passed with 98 percent of the vote.

This man, whom I had now cast as the bastard love child of Ned Beatty and his horny hillbilly in the sequel to Deliverance, stared at us for what seemed a heart-thumping forever. Then he moved off. He spent the next few minutes hauling out huge, heavy chains with giant metal hooks. In my mind I pictured him encircling them around Kelly and me after he’d shot us, to more easily sink us to the bottom of that all-too-convenient lake.

After attaching the giant hooks to our Odyssey — of course, to complete our family portrait and ensure our suspect status, we were two men driving a minivan — he moved to the side of his flatbed and began pulling mysterious levers that caused his vehicle to groan as it slowly tipped its flatbed to meet our homosexual automobile.

This was too much for our youngest, James, a boy so Bam-Bam butch that for years we’ve referred to him as God’s joke on the gay daddies. By now he truly was jacked up by the adventure of it all. Biologically drawn to the smell of metal and grease like a moth to a blowtorch, James pushed forward and started peppering our AAA guy with questions: “Is our car dead?” “Do you have a bathroom in your truck?” “Who knocked out your tooth? Was it Batman?”

At this point Kelly intervened: “James, stay back so he can do his work.” Mr. Triple-A stopped what he was doing and looked at us. “His name’s James? I got a boy named James.” He had six kids, he informed us, all named after famous people in the Bible. Of course you do, I thought. A home movie began unspooling in my mind, starring a toddler Moses and barefoot Bathsheba helping a preteen Goliath blow up frogs by sticking firecrackers up their butts.

Then he did something unexpected, something… perfect. This man whose menacing silence and sidelong glances had me rattled took off his work gloves and asked James to hold out his hands. He then began to gently pull the huge, oil-stained gloves over our son’s tiny fingers. Next he asked if James wanted to help him work the levers on the side of the flatbed so that he could haul our minivan up onto the truck. Mute with awe, James could only nod. As the chains grew taut and our car began to make its slow ascent up the ramp, James’ eyes widened to the size of the moon that had finally peeked through the clouds overhead.

Before long we were all crowded into the cab of the tow truck for the ride to the nearest town. I never would have thought it possible, but somehow the five of us fit. My family was safe. Jesse — he had a Biblical name, too — pulled out his phone and handed it to us so we could see pictures of his family. As the glow from the faces of his wife and kids lit up the inside of the truck, he looked at Kelly and me and said, “So… did you guys get married when y’all had that little window a few years back, before the Prop 8 thing?”

We said that we did. “That’s good,” he said. “My mom did, too,” he said. “She called up me and my brother and sister and told us, ‘Me and Maggie’s gonna have a wedding. You got a week and a half to figure out a way to get here.'”

From there on out, this man I was so sure I had pegged continued to upend my preconceived notions. When he learned we live in Hollywood, he told us that as a teenager he’d been bused in from the suburbs, commuting 20 hours a week to attend the Hollywood High magnet program in theater arts. Theater arts?

“Yep, it was great. For P.E. we took dance. Spent English readin’ Shakespeare. Instead of shop, we built sets for musicals. I loved it.”

He never charged us the $80 he should have for the extra mileage. Instead, he directed us to the one motel in that truck-stop town that had a swimming pool for the kids. Then he advised us which mechanic to see the next morning and which taco stands to avoid. And before lowering our big, gay minivan into the parking lot of the auto shop, he stopped to put his gloves on our daughter so she could work the levers this time, sending her into a spiral of rapture. After that he offered to drive us to our motel.

After we’d said our goodbyes and settled into our room, we made sure to sit the kids down and tell them how lucky our family had been that Jesse was the one sent to help us. Being kids, they got it: somehow the five of us fit.

After Kelly and the kids fell asleep, I got curious and Googled the name Jesse. Turns out it’s Hebrew for “God’s gift.”

This article originally ran at HuffingtonPost.com

Photo—William L. Walker

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Super Villain or Not, Parenting Paranoia Ensues
The Garbage Man Explains Happiness
How To Not Suck At Dating
Sponsored Content

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About William Lucas Walker

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. He 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 follows WLW's adventures in Daddyland. It is the first recurring humor column by an LGBT parent to appear in a mainstream national publication. Spilled Milk has been regularly promoted to Featured Blog status on HuffPo's front page, as well as in the Politics, Comedy, Parenting, Huff/Post50 and Gay Voices sections. New columns are published monthly.
Follow on Twitter: @WmLucasWalker, @SpilledMilkWLW or Facebook: "Spilled Milk" by William Lucas Walker.

Comments

  1. I absolutely love stories like this. :)

  2. Peter Houlihan says:

    That’s really sweet. I was a bit irked by how you were judging the guy at first but I guess it was all part of the story. Glad to hear it all turned out ok.

  3. It just goes to show how we all carry with us bias and fear, and the only way to move past it is to look for those windows. A beautiful story.

  4. Funny, Get the movie rights this has feel good written all over it.

  5. “…as it slowly tipped to meet our homosexual automobile…”

    So hilarious! You should write more…but in the passenger’s seat!

  6. There is something so brilliantly refreshing when one’s preconceived notions are obliterated into dust. What a great story — thank you for sharing — it made my whole day.

  7. Beautiful story. I just cried all over myself.

  8. This story should be made into a short film!

  9. I couldn’t get past the driving while using a laptop. Was that a joke? If not, why on earth would you endanger the lives of your partner and kids in such a way? That kinda killed the ‘feel good story’ mood for me

  10. Rick Nyrer says:

    Awesome! Linked from Facebook…

    “A home movie began unspooling in my mind, starring a toddler Moses and barefoot Bathsheba helping a preteen Goliath blow up frogs by sticking firecrackers up their butts.”

    Love it.

  11. What a fantastic story! I was engrossed till the very end. Thank you so much for sharing. It inspires me to not give up on people and definitely not judge books by covers.

  12. Once again it brought back to me that our acceptance is linked to our visibility……if he didn’t have a gay Mom he might not have had his eyes opened…and great tale, btw…..teared up of course!

  13. There are sometimes rays of hope. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made my day.

  14. Great Great Story.

    But I have to take you to task for one thing – my husband’s family is from South Carolina – most of them raised baptist but others are catholic. I come from Yankee central – Connecticut. When California’s Supreme Court announced in 2008 we could get married…the phone was ringing before we had decided if we were going to do it all.. and it wasn’t my family calling.. it was the family from Charleston – and as soon as we decided to get married.. they said.. we will “book our flights” that day.. when we hadn’t even set the date yet.. and all the ones that could afford to come ..came to our wedding.. and few that couldn’t afford it showed up too.. our wedding pictures are on everyone’s shelves in all their homes… my brother-in-law spoke at our rehearsal dinner – my family from Connecticut sat on their hands… I will never speak badly of South Carolina.. especially my family from Charleston .

    And by the way.. the delta terminal in Charleston has a breakfast place you can get a MEAN JALAPENO Breakfast BAGEL at….. :)

  15. I am NOT crying. The…uh… fan just blew some dust in my eye.

  16. William Lucas Walker says:

    The writer here. We usually have a welcoming response when we go to SC. But the state does have some of the most restrictive laws on gay people in the country. When Kelly and I first traveled there and my parents’ house was too crowded, my dad refused to let us stay in a motel. He asked one of my brother’s families to go instead, because he was afraid of what might happen in my small hometown to two men checking into a hotel together. That kind of thing. And I’ve always wondered what might happen if we got into an accident there and one of us was refused access to the rest of us because our marriage isn’t recognized there. It happened to friends of ours in Florida. One of the couple died with her wife and three kids 50 feet away, though a wall, and the hospital would not allow visitation. Unfortunately, It happens. Which leaves you with a feeling of always having to watch your back. But I’m glad you liked the story.

  17. Wow, preconceived notions about people are bad, huh? Oh, the irony!

  18. I can’t get passed that you were driving with your laptop on your lap with your kids in the car driving 70 miles an hour on the freeway. That is decidedly, not funny at all.

    • William Lucas Walker says:

      You honestly don’t think I was actually doing that. Or that any parent would do that. It was a joke.

  19. I loved the story….but this HAS to be fiction.

  20. Sophie Godley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this — a great great story about the very real fears we encounter when we travel as gay/lesbian families. And the sometimes wonderful surprises! With love from Massachusetts.

    Sophie

    ps — my son would have LOVED the opportunity to a)wear the gloves and b) work the truck!

  21. This story moved me. It moved me to go into my garage for a heart-to-heart with our slate gray Odyssey.

    “Odyssey, why didn’t you tell me?”

    “I was afraid you’d judge me. The way you drive around in me with your hetero family and all, I just assumed it was best you not know.”

    “But Odyssey, why would you think we’d treat you any differently?”

    “Well, my driver’s side mirror is held on by duct tape above the big dent in the door.”

    “You know that was just an accident when a concrete pillar jumped out from nowhere in a parking garage.”

    “I thought it was gay minivan bashing. So I stayed quiet.”

    “Oh, Odyssey. We don’t care how you roll. Only that you roll in relative comfort and safety. You don’t have to hide it from us. Just say it.”

    “I’m a homosexual automobile.”

    “We love you anyway. Sorry about the side mirror.”

    Thanks for helping me and our minivan clear the air.

  22. LOVELY story and very well told. And, if you are ever looking for a church in Hollywood that will love you and your family, go check out Christ Chapel of the Valley. Many of my wonderful glblt friends go there and they are truly God’s gifts and the worship is EXCELLENT. Pastor Jerrell.

  23. Chuck Muckle says:

    Whatever…

    I just can’t believe you were driving and trying to work a computer with two kids in the vehicle…

    • William Lucas Walker says:

      You are the third person who did not get that that was meant as a joke on parents who text and drive.Of course I don’t use a laptop while driving 70 mph on the freeway. I’ll have to make it more clear next time I do a rewrite.

      • The computing-while-driving bit may be misplaced in an otherwise-factual story, but I thought the intention was very clear.

        Awesome story.

      • You might also want to eliminate the glorification of Miley Cyrus, that little pole-dancing bong smoker who everyone knows is no role model for our kids, and the implied cooking advice that 1 hr., 40 minutes is long enough for most turkeys to cook. Think of all the Thanksgivings you’ll ruin.

        In defense of the 70mph laptop driving, the story already makes clear that it was your husband driving that fast by the time you were in the passenger seat and the transmission blew. I assumed all along that while you were driving and composing, you had the good sense to obey the speed limit.

        • William Lucas Walker says:

          I had hoped I wasn’t glorifying her, but satirizing her. But I think you knew that. And I cook VERY small turkeys!

          • I knew that, but the people who didn’t won’t know that I knew it, which makes it work.

            It sounds to me like you’re getting taken to the cleaners by someone charging turkey prices for cornish game hens. Ask for a photo of the bird’s parents next time.

    • I agree with Chuck…
      “babbling some nonsense about “safety”’????
      Are you kidding me?

  24. Great story. Got quite a few hearty laughs out of it. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Did this really happen? I choose to believe it did. What a sweet story about a constellation of important things like not judging books by covers, good Samaritans, and God bless us every one. Many thanks for posting. I’m an openly gay pastor in a progressive church, and I plan to use this as an Easter gift to the congregation.

    • William Lucas Walker says:

      Yes, the story happened exactly as described (except for the part about me being on the computer while driving, a joke that didn’t work for some). I’m pleased that you’d want to use it as part of your sermon. My husband and I met at church, you know. This particular article really seems to have hit a nerve with people. There’s been lots of response to it.

      • Thanks for sharing this. It’s making the rounds on social media again. I did not know you met at church. My husband & I also met at church – 17 years ago. His priest and my bishop introduced us. No, I’m not kidding. Catholics aren’t all bad!

  26. I live in the South (Tennessee to be exact), and can honestly say I’ve met local guys who were exactly like Jesse in both look and outlook. Guys, in other words, who smashed all my assumptions not only about how people who look a certain way think but how every Southerner, aside from myself and a handful of people I know, thinks. It’s as easy to assume that every Southerner is against same-sex marriage (to put it mildly) as it was just a few years ago to assume that most Californians would vote for it.

    And that’s what I liked best about this story. I was about to say, Mr. Walker, that you really strung me along, that I was genuinely expecting Jesse to be as bad as you feared. But you had subtle clues almost from the very beginning that this story would have a happy ending, and I realize I was, in spite of those clues, giving in to the temptation of easy assumptions. Thank you for reminding me of a lesson that even some of my own personal experiences haven’t gotten through my thick skull: sometimes we can rely on the kindness of strangers.

  27. What a great story…

  28. Mervyn Kaufman says:

    I loved this piece, living as I do in the lead-up time to my daughter’s marriage to her female partner, next fall. Living in New York, where gay marriage is (at least for now) legal and where people tend to be at least somewhat open-minded, their status has been widely accepted. But I’m often concerned when they travel, aware that there are pockets of hate in various parts of the country and people who view gays as freaks and Jews as people with horns. This story’s dual message—for me, at least—is, “Don’t be too quick to judge,” and, “Appearances can be deceiving.” I am delighted to note that this story has found a wide audience. It deserves to be read.

  29. WILLIAM LUCAS WALKER :

    I enjoyed your story very much. I must admit I got a bit choked near the end. There is human kindness everywhere, some of us are lucky to receive it but the real lucky ones are those that give it. If only more of us could look in a mirror and see what we should be rather then what we are.
    Thank you for the story.

    • William Lucas Walker says:

      Thanks so much, Henry. I’m really glad you liked it. It seems to have touched a nerve with lots of people here.

  30. wellokaythen says:

    See what the foul homosexual agenda has done? Now it’s turning grandmothers into lesbians! : – )

    Gay people are undermining the very fabric of American society by…by…driving minivans…and…um…raising kind, considerate children and….oh. Never mind.

    Great story about prejudice and jumping to conclusions. : -)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I’ve got a mess of stuff I want to write, but until I get the time, do yourself a favor and go read this. [...]

  2. [...] D’awwwwww story of a gay couple and their kids on a road trip. [...]

  3. [...] feel good story which highlights, from a different angle, the consequences of [...]

  4. [...] Thoughtful and funny post about two dads taking their kids on what turned out to be a very short roa…. (Thanks, Bron!) [...]

  5. [...] Homo’s Odyssey — The Good Men Project. Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized.Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment [...]

  6. [...] D’awwwwww story of a gay couple and their kids on a road trip. [...]

  7. [...] Homo’s Odyssey – An unexpected breakdown on a family trip gave William Lucas Walker and his husband an opportunity to teach their children what real family values look like. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*