Philip feels in control of his life -- at least until his best friend, Jonathan, contracts AIDS, passes away, and leaves him feeling disconnected and uncertain about the future. Then the one steady influence in his life, his mother, becomes seriously ill. The doctor who makes the diagnosis of ovarian cancer is not hopeful. Once his mother commits to the treatment plan, there is nothing Philip can do but follow the blueprint they both hope will lead to her recovery.
In late April 1992, Philip accompanies his mother to Los Angeles for her monthly treatment. When he accidentally takes a wrong turn off the freeway, all hell breaks lose. Suddenly they find themselves in the center of the Rodney King riots. Gunshots ring out. Helicopters hover overhead. People loot and vandalize stores while others burn and overturn vehicles. Fires spring up all over the city.
In unfamiliar territory, Philip must guide his mother through this labyrinth of chaos to safety. With wit and insight coupled with a maternal concern for what's best for her son, Philip’s mother proves the old saying: a gay man’s best friend is truly his mother.
A truck driver leaned out of his cab, gave Philip the finger and blasted his horn. Philip switched lanes and let the driver pass.
“Goddamn it!” Philip said.
“What?” Mother snapped shut her purse. She’d been checking again.
“That horn scared me.” Philip wiped sweat from his forehead.
“Honey,” she said. “Most everything scares you. Remember that Marx Brother’s movie when Chico couldn’t find Harpo?”
“I was what ... six at the time.”
“You were terrified,” his mother said. Besides I read somewhere an early event can cause a lasting trauma.”
“Thank you, Mother, for that.”
She looked out the window at L.A. flying by.
The speed he was driving made the palm trees look like a picket fence.
“Oh, and Phil?”
“Watch your goddamn language. There’s a lady present.”
They passed several billboards: one promised fun filled rides at Disneyland and another for Universal Studios. “Let’s go to a movie tonight,” he said.
“How’s your love life, Phil?”
“We were talking about a movie, Mom.”
“No, you were talking about a movie. How did things work out with that nice young man we had dinner with? You know, Brian?”
“He’s okay but --”
“Not soul mate material,” she said.
“No. And he isn’t young. He’s my age, around forty. His name is Bradley not Brian and he’s got a companion. A partner.”
“You shouldn’t have gotten involved then,” she said, using what Philip immediately recognized as her “mother tone.”
“Yes, I agree. Now can we ... oh, look at that building over there.” He pointed to something off to his right. “Don’t remember seeing it before, do you?”
“Nice try, Phil. Okay if you don’t want to talk about it --"
“Right. I don’t. Now back to the movie suggestion. What do you think?”
“We’ll have to see,” she said. “I doubt I’ll be up to it. We have a TV in the room.”
“How about one of those multi-cinemas in Burbank?”
Mother snapped open her purse, pulled out the cross, and then she snapped it shut.
“We got this in Bahar Dar. Lake Tana, remember? Better than a St. Christopher medal any day,” she said.
“St. Christopher. Wasn’t he defrocked or something?”
“Something,” she said, then snapped open the purse, dropped in the cross and snapped it shut.
Philip had a feeling she knew the snapping and unsnapping unhinged him. He was thinking this when he reacted quickly and jerked the car over to the slow lane to let a tailgater pass.
“Honey,” she said. “Didn’t you take driving lessons?”
“Of course. Doesn’t everyone?”
“No,” she said. “I meant that refresher course after work. Didn’t you say—“
“Yes. I did. Five lessons, an hour a week.”
“Well, I don’t think they took, do you?”
Philip ignored her remark. There would always be another such comment around the bend, more faultfinding with how he managed his single day-to-day existence.
“These trips are so stressful, Phil. When will they end? When will I be better?”
“Mom, your last lab report was fine. Red blood cells normal and plenty of white ones to fight the cancer. Even your CA125 is down a bit.”
“Mmm.” Philip paused, not sure he’d stressed the positive enough. “You’ll get better and everything will be back to normal. You’ll see.”
“No more airports or driving?” she asked him.
“Good news I suppose but you’ve always had the tendency to hop down the bunny trail and spread sunshine.”
Philip smiled. “And you’ve got the Irish crape hanger down pat. Don’t worry.” He reached over and touched her hand. “We’ll get through this. Count on it. Besides what’s wrong with being optimistic? A positive attitude can work miracles.”
She turned her face to the window and seemed to speak to the traffic rushing by. “A miracle and a miracle worker, that’s what we need.”
She answered, “Nothing,” as he’d expected. Then, “I still don’t understand why we have to keep making these trips down here.”
He forced a smile. “Remember the doctor said people react differently to the drug. We have to be patient, that’s all.”
“I am a patient,” she said. “That’s what’s wrong with this picture.”
The wheels of the car flapped on the hot tar strips. Suddenly they both heard a thump then a dragging sound from underneath the rental car. Philip checked the rearview and pulled over to the shoulder and parked. “You okay?”
She put her hand up to her temple, rubbed it. “Yes, I’m not hurt, just a little shook up.”
“Uh-huh, but nothing that a short stay at Happy Acres wouldn’t fix. What the hell did we hit?”