Rock Hudson liked blonde boys

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Rock Hudson grew up when men were men.

And he liked men who were men.

Masculine men. Blonde, blue-eyed military men. Men with strong chests and big shoulders, big biceps and strong backs, thick legs and firm butts. Men who could drink themselves under the table, who liked steak and potatoes, and who looked incredible without ever having to set foot in the gym. Men who could hack down a tree with an axe. Men who pursued women, yet still liked men on the side. Men with power and ambition, and who knew how to get ahead. Men who held a cigarette between their index finger and thumb and smoked the masculine way. The straighter and more masculine the man, the more Rock Hudson wanted them to be gay.

When Roy Fitzgerald first became Rock Hudson, the stage name slected for him by an older gay Hollywood agent Henry Willson who knew good looks when he saw them, he was a fish out of water. He had fooled around with boys in the Navy, but it was all very hush-hush, and Hollywood was full of gay men. He realized he turned heads. Even with his ill-fitting clothing (he was 6 foot 5) and his body odor (he refused to wear deodorant, considering it effeminate), he approached Hollywood with a wonder. How had he gone from small-town America with a doting mother and an abusive stepfather to a world like this?

And after he became an international movie star and sex symbol, he had a big house on a hill and a fast car and the men were suddenly everywhere. But he realized rather quickly that being a movie star can be intimidating to others. Men were shocked that Rock Hudson actually wanted to be with him, and they got shy when things turned sexual.

Though he may not have started with one, Rock Hudson developed an ego. He expected people to take notice when he walked by, wanted their attention and applause. He settled down a few times with a few different blonde boys, men who were the right balance of physically perfect, driven, masculine, playful, and devoted to him. Men who were discreet in public, and affectionate in private.

He even married a woman once, Phyllis, just to see if he could. And he loved her, he did, but there were men out there, so many men.

Ego seems to come at a price, however, for when someone feels they are the most important person in the room, those someones tend to doom themselves to quite a bit of loneliness. No one can match the ego, and so no one can feel the void. And so there was the sex, and the alcohol, and the nicotine, and the cocaine, and the trips around the world. But the void just kept screaming.

A few years into making movies, Rock Hudson had to realize that there was always a next day. After months of being paid a million dollars to laugh with Elizabeth Taylor or to strong-arm Doris Day, there were the quiet months at home before the next movie came along. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were the sex symbol movie stars, and the character actors who supported them. And then a new era came along, when the character actors who weren’t sex symbols started getting the top billing. The public suddenly wanted to see Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, not Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

And the void got louder and still couldn’t be filled.

And like any human, Rock Hudson was complicated. He was giving and kind, young at heart, insatiable. He didn’t trust easily, and when he did he trusted well, yet broken trust could be impossible to regain. After a few years in the business, he could brilliantly convey emotion on the big screen, yet he couldn’t share his feelings even with his lovers and closest friends.

Rock Hudson lived his life in the closet, denying rumors of his attractions to men right up until the very end. In the last months of his life, as he lay weak and dying from AIDS, he wanted his story to be told. He hired a biographer, he encouraged his friends to be open with their hearts and stories, he came out publicly as homosexual, though he had denied the same claim for decades before it.

And at the end, at the age of 59, he was weak and small, though still 6 foot 5, and he went out of the world as quietly as he had entered.

In the end, like so many stars, he got what he wanted… he made sure the world would remember Rock Hudson, the identity created for himself.

But I would much rather remember Roy Fitzgerald.

Making Lemonade in Hollywood

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Let’s say you love making lemonade. I mean, you love it. The whole process. You love blending the ingredients to perfection, and you especially love the huge refreshing and surprised smile people get on their faces when they taste it, cold and delicious. You have tried out several combinations and mixtures, from huckleberry to honey lime to chocolate peanut butter, and the variety is exciting, but it is that homemade original recipe that you love so much.

People ask you how you came up with such a perfect recipe, they wonder why it tastes so good, and you come up with a story about how you got it from your grandmother, but the truth is you made it all by yourself, and you don’t want to share the recipe with anyone else, it’s special and it is just yours.

Soon friends start asking you to make your lemonade for special events, weddings and receptions, company barbecues and family picnics. At first you do it for free, then you charge them just a bit, just enough to cover the ingredients, but then you get busier and you start charging for your time as well. But you charge barely anything. Making lemonade on top of your day job keeps you very busy indeed. But you love it still.

And one day a friend sits you down and says, you know, you could do something with this lemonade thing. You are the best. Just quit your job and open a little store front, or sell it online. Create a YouTube channel about your lemonade, make an Instagram account, create a Facebook fan page, put up a Twitter account, come up with a campaign, people of all ages loving your lemonade. And you are surprised, because even though you make the best lemonade, you have no idea how to run a business, how to market it. You live in a small town. You can’t just make lemonade, can you? But the idea sticks in your mind for a while, and you think, why not give it a shot. But you don’t quit your job, you try to do it smart.

And so you start telling people about your lemonade. You put some money into creating a marketing campaign. You do daily posts on social media. You take pictures and publish them. You offer samples. You tell local companies about it, and put some ads up on the internet. And you stick with it for a few months, but orders don’t increase, and all that time and initiative you are putting into your lemonade promotion is yielding very small results. The people who loved it before still love it, but no one else is really trying it.

You talk to your friend again, and he tells you to keep at it, says the lemonade is the best. And you tell him that you agree, it’s damn good lemonade, but no one else is trying it out. Think bigger, he says. The talent is there, you just have to find it.

And so you save up a bit, and you take yourself to Hollywood, just to see. It’s beautiful there. The streets are lined with amazing buildings full of history and money and success, but also failure and pain and flops. Lemonade is everywhere in Hollywood, in every shape and color and on every corner. There are 50,000 people there making lemonade, and only a few thousand of them are doing well at it, and only a few hundred doing really well at it.

And you spend a few days drinking other people’s lemonade. It’s good, but not as good as yours. But this lemonade, it’s selling like crazy. People are raving about it. It is in shiny cups lined with sugar, in store fronts with air-conditioning and plush seats and soft lighting.

And after a few days of drinking other people’s lemonade, you wonder about your options you really want to keep making lemonade (and you really do), how can you be a success at it? You want to be one of the few thousand (not one of the few hundred), but there are a lot of lemonade stands out there. Do you need pretty packaging? A busy store front on a Hollywood intersection? A new label? Do you need to team with someone who is already making lemonade in order to make yours bigger?

Or do you just keep making lemonade and working the day job, hoping it will take off some day?

Or do you just keep making lemonade for the people in your small town who already like it, and be content with that?

Or do you stop making lemonade all together?

And so a few days later, you are back in your little kitchen and you are swishing your old familiar mixing spoon around and around your old familiar pitcher. Ice is clinking against the sides of the glass as the liquid beneath it swirls round and round. You see the sugar dissolving into the water, and the wedges of lemon bobbing up and down. It turns a careful beautiful bright yellow. And you know it will be delicious, not only because you have made it 1000 times before, but because you love to make it, you love this process, these careful calculations, the mix and stir and clink and swish and pour. You love the process even more than you love the taste of it on your tongue. And people come in and they drink and they say it is delicious.

And you hold a glass of cold lemonade in your hand, and you look out the window at the setting sun, already thinking about the batch of lemonade you will make tomorrow, and you wonder again about ambition, and potential, and doing what you love.

the Museum of Death

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A Siamese turtle! An actual Siamese turtle. About the size of my two open hands together, were they joined on the same wrist, the turtle swam  carefully in its large aquarium, positioned on a rock, both its heads above water. The large shell was conjoined, divided in the middle, so the two turtles each had their own heads, front legs, and front shells, but shared the back of the shell and the back legs. It was simultaneously adorable, mystifying, and absolutely frightening.

“How old is this turtle?” I asked the man behind the desk.

He looked up from his phone. “Turtles. Two of them. Twenty years old. The owner got them when they were babies, and they are healthy, so they could live another twenty. Heck, they will probably outlive me.”

I ended up in the Museum of Death on accident. I had been walking around, and literally wound up on its doorstep. Not one to question fate, I walked inside and bought a ticket.

The museum was crowded, with poorly organized displays and walls covered in photgraphs, newspaper clippings, and wordy biographies. The rooms twisted into each other like an old antique shop, with random collections of things shoved haphazardly into each space. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason except for the primary theme: Death. And I had to admit, a lot of the content was startling.

The first room seemed to almost romanticize and celebrate serial killers themselves. There were framed photographs of letters written by serial killers in jail, trading cards with their photos on them, and original artwork done by the killers during their life spans. Busy wordy posters told their life stories, including terrible details about their murders.

By far the most disturbing in this room were the photos of John Wayne Gacy, a gay serial killer who murdered dozens of men, in his clown uniform. Apparently, he used to host children’s birthday parties as a clown named Pogo. He drew himself as Pogo multiple times while in jail, and there the art hung, next to the massive shoes he wore during those days. On the opposite wall, stories about Jeffrey Dahmer, another gay serial killer. I’ve recently researched both men as I look into gay history, and their stories absolutely haunt me.

In the next room, it got worse. An entire room dedicated to the Manson Family murders, along with detailed stories and something I was completely unprepared for: the crime scene photos and the autopsy photos of Sharon Tate and the other victims. In another room, more photos of the like, including the Black Dahlia victim.

More autopsy pictures. Pictures of dead babies and beheaded soldiers. Crash crashes with corpses. Bodies found decomposing in the woods. It was all shocking, horrifying, sadistic, and stomach-turning. I wondered how I was even able to look at these pictures, and then remembered that I watch the Walking Dead and American Horror Story, shows that glorify horror and violence and murder. The difference here: these were real.

I left rooms discussing mass suicides and assassinations and suicides and mass graves and concentration camps. As I walked away, nodding at the Siamese turtle one more time, I contemplated death. Everything dies and decays. Stone cracks and splits, mountains erode, and humans live their lives and pass on to the next, returning to the earth they came from. Death doesn’t bother me. It’s tragic death that gets to me. It’s human cruelty and lives cut short. It’s lost potential and broken relationships.

When I slept, I didn’t have nightmares, I just felt sad. And then I remembered the Siamese turtle, a little creature that defied all odds and has lived decades, in an aquarium in the front of a museum that celebrates and glorifies death. And suddenly that irony brought a smile to my face.

Provo to Hollywood

It’s 9 am and I’m sitting in a crowded plane on the tarmac at the Provo, Utah airport, and everyone is white. Literally, everyone on the entire plane is white. I’m not sure why things like this startle me any longer. It’s Utah, I know, but there are billions on the planet.

I’m in the middle seat toward the back of the plane, squished in between two blonde girls. The one on my right is a little bit daft. She keeps looking at me and smiling and not looking away when I do. She’s wearing shorts that literally start just above her butt crack and end where her hips meet her legs. The one on my left is a brooding soul. She has a notebook open in her lap and she’s drawing pictures in her notebook of skeletal girls with speech bubbles coming out of their mouths, saying things like “what’s the point?” and “maybe tomorrow.”

I try propping up my laptop on my lap during the flight, and I can barely open it. The seats don’t recline and my knees hit the seat in front of me. I try typing, but I have to bring my elbows up to my shoulders and bent my wrists weird. I take out a paper and pen instead. I’m sleepy, but adventure beckons.

It’s 11 am and I’m in a new time zone, now in California, and I’m in the back of an Uber car. My driver is Azer and he’s from Armenia, and I realize to myself that I know literally nothing about that country. I couldn’t even pin it on a map. We make small talk, and he tells me of his wife and two adult daughters. He tells me how he used to own a kebab restaurant in Little Armenia, a section of town near Hollywood Boulevard, for 15 years until it got too expensive to maintain, but oh how he misses it.

I got off the plane with all the other white people just a bit ago, and got lost in a sea of bustling humanity in the airport. Every shade of skin, people of every shape and size. And I have a big smile on my face because this is exactly why I needed to be here, or at least somewhere. I needed to be anonymous, to go missing in a new place, to think and to read and to write and to experience.

I close my eyes briefly as Azer talks, feeling a mix of proud of myself for taking another adventure, and a little bit lame for doing it by myself. But I’m okay with being a little bit lame when it means I get to adventure on my terms.

It’s 1 pm and I’m sitting on the couch where I’ll be sleeping for the next four nights, talking to Mazie, my Airbnb host. She’s already among my very favorite people. 5’5, beautiful black skin, hair in multiple braids. She is dressed in a gorgeous yellow summer dress adorned with flowers, and she looks incredible. She has a cute brimmed hat on her head. She is bustling about the apartment setting things up for her week. She made me a welcome basket with towels, a throw blanket, and a fresh toothbrush. She tells me she is a scientist, and when I ask what kind, she tells me how she analyzes fluid samples in the hospital and gives the doctors the results, so that the doctors can pretend they knew what was going on all along. She says this with a laugh, and I’m laughing too. I don’t know her story, but this woman is a powerhouse.

It’s 3 pm and I’m sitting in a Starbucks on the quiet end of Hollywood Boulevard, if there is such a thing. I walked over the golden-edged stars adorned with the shining names of celebrities. There are many I know. I’ve been drowning myself in LGBT history research lately, and here mixed in with the other names are Ellen DeGeneres and Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift and dozens of others, and I’m thinking about how each of them had to pretend to be straight, publicly least, in order to get their careers going. Many of the stars are empty, waiting to have a name immortalized.

Outside the window, I see a Hispanic man holding a microphone and praying loudly, publicly calling those around him to repentance. “Dear Lord Jesus, though I be unworthy, I ask you to help me, Lord, help those around me to realize, Lord, that we, all of us, are sinners, that our time here is fleeting, Lord. Help me inspire them ot change their lives, Lord, and to find peace, Lord.” I look down and realize he is standing on the Hollywood star of Adam Sandler, and I literally laugh out loud at the deliciousness of that fact.

I make small talk with the man sharing the table with me. He’s jotting down complex notes, some sort of music set he has for an upcoming show, but I don’t ask questions. I think he’s flirting with me a bit. He asks me what my plans are while I’m in town, and I get a huge grin on my face as I reply.

“Nothing and everything. I have no concrete plans. I will see where my feet take me, and I will experience life.”

He nods respectfully, and soon packs up his things and leaves. And I open up my computer and write about my day as I sip my coffee and water, and watch the people passing by, the thousands of them, walking on the names of the famous. empty-hollywood-star-01.jpg

how to love your job

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Don’t hate your job. You spend far too much time there to hate it.

One of the major reasons people seek me out for therapy is due to their job related stress. They hate their jobs, they don’t feel appreciated, they haven’t had a raise in three years, their co-workers don’t like them, they are bored.

The first thing I need to do with clients is help them determine where it is they are unhappy at work with.

I ask the client to rate their satisfaction level with work in four different categories, using a standard grading scale from A+ down to F-, and I ask them to keep their answers focused to today, right now, not how the job could be or how it used to be.

“The first category is Achievement,” I tell them. “A good grade in this category means that you have a manageable work load. You feel challenged, but not often overwhelmed. You are being stimulated without being bored. And you go home at the end of the day having enjoyed what you do, feeling like you are making a contribution.

“The second category is Work Environment. A good grade here means you enjoy your coworkers, have a good relationship with your boss, and that you do well with the politics of the place. This also includes the space you work in, the facility and office, the lighting and location.

“The third category is Sustainability. A good grade here means this is something you can see yourself doing long-term. You recognize that you are growing and changing over time, and your needs at work will do the same. You can grow and adapt within the position, and feel like you are contributing.

“And the final category is Compensation. A good grade here means that you receive a fair and competitive compensation, given your education level and skill level within your position and company; you are making a fair wage given what others in the field are making, and given your responsibilities. In addition, you have a fair benefits package.

“Now in accordance with all of this, of course, is balance with life and relationships, but we are focusing specifically on the job itself. I know attorneys who make an awesome wage, but they work 80 hours per week and burn out quickly. I know people who have created their own catering businesses and love what they do, but they are struggling financially and get bored working at home. I know people who love their job at the fast food counter and do great at it and love their coworkers, but they aren’t paid fairly and have no benefits.

“So look at your job and think about what is missing. If you have an A for compensation, but an F for work environment, that probably isn’t a sustainable job. If you have an A in everything but sustainability, and you know this job is temnporary, you have to find a way to make it work, to grow where you are and plan for what’s next.”

So as you look at your current job, what are your ratings? What is it you are happy with, and what is it you need to look at and problem-solve to get the higher satisfaction ratings you crave? Sometimes that means bold changes, or difficult conversations, or more patience, or further schooling and training.

I know people who stay in the same jobs that they hate for, literally, years or decades.

Don’t hate your job. You spend far too much time there to hate it.

Becoming your Boyfriend

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Last Friday night, I went to a house party with a few friends, just a simple birthday get together with drinks and meatballs, cheese and chips. I made small talk with a few people, ate a few bites, played with the cute dog that lived there, and watched the people.

Every time I think I know every gay person in Salt Lake City, I attend a party like this where I know one out of every twenty that are there, or I go out to the club and see 300 people I’ve never met.

But as I watched these strangers come in, I realized that nearly everyone there was partnered. And then I realized that each set of boyfriends weirdly looked like each other. At first, I noticed this curiously, then I was amazed, then baffled, then maybe a little flummoxed. It was uncanny.

Josh and Ben both had on ball caps and had grown their beards out to several inches, and could easily pass as mountain men. They had tight t-shirts on, jeans, and boots. They were groomed and dressed the exact same…

Matt and Tyler were both in their early 30s and were affectionate with each other with back pats, hand holds, and across-the-room glances. They were both well-dressed, both slightly balding, and both about 20 pounds overweight.

Jerome and Adam seemed literally cut from the same cloth. They both had the same muscular build: strong chests and shoulders, thick arms, strong legs, and bubble butts. Both wore shirts that showcased their muscles and tight jeans. Both had trim mustaches on their top lips. Both had dark hair and dark eyes.

The trend continued, every couple looking different from every couple, but each boyfriend looking the same.

After the party, I went out to a local gay club with a few friends, and I noticed the same trend. Two beautiful Latin men dancing, with the same haircut and movement; two tall skinny “twinks”; two muscly men with parted hair and glasses.

I pointed this trend out to my friends and we began reviewing my close friends who are partnered, and realized the trend holds true, with only a few exceptions. Boyfriends seem to gain or lose weight together, to dress similarly, to have the same grooming habits.

At coffee with my friend Steven the next day, I pointed out a couple we know. “Look at them! They didn’t use to look the same, and now they are the exact same! They have the same jeans on, they both have their hair buzzed!”

“Come on, Chad, there are still differences,” he chided.

“What are they! I can’t see them!”

Steven smiled broadly. “Well, only one of them likes to knit.”

Some men seem to only date men that look like them. But for those who don’t, once you are partnered, just give it some time. You’re bound to become your boyfriend over time.

 

Daddy Issues: Rebels Without Cause

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In 1955, James Dean became a household name for his portrayal of Jim Stark in the movie Rebel Without a Cause. Dean, who had recently been critically acclaimed in East of Eden, made Rebel, then went on to film the movie Giant. Shortly after, he was violently killed in a car accident in Hollywood at the age of 24, just before Rebel was publicly released. The world was devastated, and never quite got over it. James grew up very close to his parents, but his mother died suddenly when he was 9, and James’ father shipped him off to live with a family member. A young bisexual man with a penchant for fast driving, he had no idea he would become one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons.

Meanwhile, 16 year old Natalie Wood played the character Judy. Natalie slept with the much older director, Nick Ray, to get the part. Wood had an entire childhood in movies and a difficult home life and she was trying to establish herself as an adult actress before she was even an adult. Natalie grew up with a mother who acted as Natalie’s stage manager, pushing her to abusive levels to succeed in Hollywood. Her father was a drunk, and she never knew she had a different birth father. Natalie tragically drowned at the age of 43, a young mother of 2.

Lastly, barely 15 himself, Sal Mineo played John Crawford, called Plato by his friends. Sal grew up Italian in New York to parents who were coffin makers. A bisexual teen with a preference for men, he got his big breakthrough in Rebel and acted in many films over the following years before being murdered by being stabbed in an alley during a mugging, at the age of 38.

I watched Rebel recently for the first time. Hollywood movies at the time seemed to focus on happy little Caucasian families, Dad works, Mom cleans, brother plays baseball, and sister wants a new dress. Rebel was different. It took three rather privileged spoiled and emotionally volatile teenagers, thrusting them into the spotlight, and giving teens all over America an understanding on the big screen that they hadn’t experienced before. No wonder the movie became iconic.

Jim’s dad just wouldn’t stand up for himself. Jim’s mother was emotionally abusive, constantly manipulating, complaining, and shaming, but his father would duck his head, avoid, and sacrifice his own interests to keep the peace in the home. Even when Jim begged his father to stand up for himself, he wouldn’t do it.

Judy’s dad was tough on her. He seemed to prefer her little brother, and he spent a lot of time ignoring Judy. When she kissed him to get his attention, he grew angry; when she kissed him again, he slapped her face with an open palm, driving her from the room in tears, as Judy’s mother watched in shock. He refused to talk to her about it later.

And Plato is the saddest of all. Emotionally disturbed and terribly lonely, Plato was being raised by his housekeeper; his father had left when Plato was a toddler, and Plato’s mother was frequently gone. His father payed child support, but Plato didn’t want it, he just wanted his dad.

The movie opens in the police department, where all three teens have been arrested: Jim was drunk and loitering, Judy was walking the streets at night, and Plato had killed some puppies out of curiosity.

Things go crazy from there, well, in a 1950s way. We are much more densensitized to stories like this in 2016. But for the 1950s, this movie was insane. Teenage violence and angst, family drama, internal pain, bullying, gun violence, and tragic deaths. And the theme of it all, coming out of this movie, was the idea that while these fathers and mothers created these children, they were stepping out of where they came from, and living life on their terms.

Finishing this film, I thought about fatherhood, about my father and my stepfather and the impact that each has had on me over the years, and I thought about being a father. I thought of these three actors, who each met their tragic end, and I thought about these three characters, and about their fathers, their origins, where they ended up. And then I looked at where I am, where I have ended up, and wondered what is in store for me and what is in store for my sons, and for theirs.

In some strange sense, we are all of us Rebels Without Cause. Although every human story is unique and different, each human has an origin, a set of parents that they derive from, a father and mother that they appreciate and resent and resemble and rebel against. And we, each of us, take our individual stories and we rebel. We create our own. And none of us plan to have a tragic end.

 

April Tools

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“Okay, wait, are you actually crying, or is this an elaborate April Fool’s joke?”

I didn’t blame my mom for having her suspicions. She can usually count on a call from me on April 1 telling her some story about how I had just been fired or how my car had been stolen. I could keep the joke going for a few minutes before the obligatory “April Fools!”, and she would roll her eyes and we would go on with our conversation. I would usually call up a sister or two as well, placing weird orders at the deli counter where one worked (“Are you sure you want one hundred chicken wings?” she would say to my bad Southern accent) or pretending to be another’s favorite radio station offering a terrible prize (“Neil Diamond and Britney Spears in concert? Well, wow…”). But this time my call was real.

I had had the kind of morning that could have been an elaborate April Fool’s prank by someone, but it was all too terribly real.

“Okay, slow down, tell me what happened.”

I turned my car around a bend in the Wyoming highway, finally out of the thick fog, and looked at my dashboard. 10 am, 40 degrees outside, and going an even 65 miles per hour. I sighed and told her the story.

“Okay, I got a call last night late that I was needed in a small Wyoming town this morning for a crisis call after an employee suicide. They wanted me here at 6 am, which meant I had to get up at 3 this morning and leave by 3:30. It’s a 2 hour drive, but it’s a company I haven’t been to before, so I wanted the cushion of time to get my bearings.

“The paperwork they sent me had the company name, but not an address. It said the company is several miles out of town, and that I would need directions to get there. I was told to arrive in town then call a man named Daniel on the phone and he would meet me and escort me out to the site. Sounds weird, but I’ve done it before. Lots of industries have work sites like this, like power plants and mining industries.

“The drive out there was uneventful. I ran the heater and listened to a biography on Nixon. I get to the town about 5:30. The whole town is blanketed by this thick winter fog, visibility is poor. It’s a tiny place, just a few stores and diners and a motel, but everything is closed except for this tiny gas station, which conveniently has a drive-thru liquor window on the side of it. No, I’m not kidding.

“So I pull over, call Daniel, and his number is disconnected. Okay, here’s where it gets a tiny bit complicated. Daniel works for a company who has an insurance company. The insurance company hired me, but through a third-party handler. So I don’t have any other contact information. I call the handler and the insurance company, but they are still closed. I use Google and find the company phone number, but the machine says they are still closed, and there is no address. I wait, then call, wait, then call. Pretty soon, an hour has passed and I’m still at the gas station.

“The insurance company calls me back and says they can’t get a hold of anyone. They give me an alternate number for Daniel. It’s disconnected. They encourage me to find a local police officer and ask for directions to the site. I find the police station, it is dark and closed, no phone number, and I’m not calling 911. Another hour passes.

“Finally I get a working number for Daniel. He answers but says ‘hey, Chad, we’ve been waiting to hear from you, but I can’t talk right now. I’m on the toilet.’ Yes! Yes, he actually said that to me! So I wait 15 more minutes to finish my business and Daniel calls me back and says something like ‘Well, we sure did need you this morning, but since you weren’t here, we made do without you.’ He talks about how the company is on some switchback road outside of town and up a mountain, and they have no cell service, but he wonders why I couldn’t find it.

“So it’s now 9 am and I’ve been up for hours, and I’m super frustrated, and I’m driving back down this dumb road out of town. The sun is up now and the fog is worse somehow. And out of nowhere this cop pulls behind me and flashes his lights. I’m driving in a fog, behind a semi, with a cop behind me, and I’m exhausted. We are on a busy road and there is no safe place to pull over, so I drive for a ways looking for a side road. The cop gets impatient and blares his siren, loud, right behind me. I look in the rearview and he is indicating angrily with a finger for me to pull over en-oh-double-you NOW.

“So I pull over, right there in the fog. The cop comes up to my window. ‘Why didn’t you pull over right away!’ I said I was waiting for somewhere safe. ‘I’m the officer and I decide when it’s safe and when it isn’t. You pull over when I say!’ He says I was speeding, takes my information, asks me a dozen questions about why I’m in Wyoming, then makes me wait ten minutes while he writes me a ticket. For speeding. At what he says was 92 miles per hour in a 65. And I tell him there is no way, and he says I can see him next month in court then in Evanston.

“And then I was driving away and I started crying because I’m a big baby and it has been a terrible day, even though I’ll still get paid for sitting in a stupid gas station parking lot for hours, and driving for more.”

“Oh, son, that’s a terrible morning,” my 72 year old mother says. “What a terrible April Fool’s Day. Oh, by the way, I’m pregnant.”