Reconstructing Steve
Volume 1 Book 7 Part 4 of
Living In The Bonus
by Steve Schalchlin

[ Book 6 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] - [ Book 8 ]
[ Diary Index ]

 April 1998. El Lay.
Jimmy comes home.
We begin putting our lives back together.
During this time Jimmy and I aren't sure what our
relationship will evolve into. We just know
we need each other.

Saturday, April 3, 1998
Jimmy Comes Home.

Saturday. Rain. Cold. Jimmy was coming home today. He was due to arrive at 9pm, so at 7pm I got into the car and hit the rainswept streets. Streets in the El Lay Territory get slick when it rains. While other areas of the country easily absorb rain, here it's like they have to declare some kind of emergency -- even in the places where the houses aren't sliding down the soaked hillsides.

I went up the ramp onto the Ventura Freeway, got caught in some heavy congestion and just settled back for a long ride. Tried to slam some Creedence into the player, but it didn't work. My mind was too shattered, so I found some talk.

I have spent the last week or so in hiding here at the apartment. Playing the piano a lot. Singing. Getting ready for my instudio concert.

Also, David Robyn's been coming over and playing me his new songs -- some of which we are collaborating on. How great it is to disappear into the music.

Much of my life has been about disappearing into things -- especially music. At one time sometimes drugs and sex, but always music.

Is it just fear? What am I so afraid of? What have I always been so afraid of? Or better, Why? Why have I been afraid of things, people... Funny. I kinda thought all that went away when during my Near Death Experience. Guess I was wrong.

LAX was big and busy and wet. Rain let up a bit, though, and I found a radio talk show about the music biz. While that lead guy from Three Dog Night was talking, I lodged myself into a spot near the gate -- but got honked at and had to move.

So I took the big circle again and wondered what it was going to be like with Jimmy back in the house. I was determined to make sure he was home and dry and comfortable. You see, Jimmy's kind of a big guy. Not just in height, but in personality. When Jimmy's in the room HE'S IN THE ROOM.

One of the things that hurt us this past summer was when I was comfortably ensconced in the little NY bedroom alone reading books and having my own thoughts while he was staying uptown with Carl the Producer. But when he had to move in with me, I guess I wasn't very nice about it.

I don't know. I just -- felt like he was invading my space or something. Suddenly my little island of one had this huge presence that moved all my stuff and crowded my thoughts out of my own head. And I didn't take it well. I was visibly and vocally annoyed. And it hurt him.

And that was one of the little things that turned into big things that broke up apart. There was more, but that was the start of it for me. Problem is I didn't see it at the time. Didn't really see it from his point of view. How he had been living in a very primitive condition and how he was so happy to be sleeping in a real bed. So, instead of making room and being a nice guy, I felt invaded and it showed.

And we didn't really talk about it at the time. I didn't know how. I couldn't get perspective. So we hurt each other. And one thing led to another.. and we broke up.

And now here I was trying to wedge myself back into the slick, crowded lane so I could pick him up. But the difference this time is that I know he's been living in relatively unhappy circumstances (i.e. other peoples' rooms) and there was one thing I was determined to do this time: Be genuinely happy, warm, and inviting. To welcome him home to his cat and his kitchen and his own bed.

Finally, I got back to the terminal and there he was. Tall and silver-haired, obviously exhausted. Huge pile of suitcases and boxes. Gigantic smile beaming warmly from that face I know and love so well. I pulled over, stopping traffic, opened the trunk, piled all the stuff in, handed him the keys (he likes to drive; I don't), and off we drove back up the San Diego Freeway.

As the buildings and cars swept past us, tears filled my eyes again. In my head I heard the voices of my family and friends telling me that Jimmy and I had the best relationship they have ever seen -- shocked that we had parted ways. I remembered back to the Monday after The Big Scream. I had called Jimmy and, on the phone, broke down into a thousand pieces, crying my eyes out, apologizing to him through deep, bitter emotional tears, that I was sorry for being so damned selfish. So being so f***ing self-centered back then. Sorry for being so blind.

I knew it was right that he was home, but I just didn't know what would be next for us. The suitcases were heavy and getting them up the stairs was an effort, but finally, sitting alone together -- him in the chair he won of Jeopardy, me on the couch, Thurber the Cat eating loudly in the kitchen, he turned to me and said...

"...I feel like I just woke up from a long dream. I blinked and we had this hit show in New York. But it feels like nothing's changed."

And that's exactly how it felt. Did any of this really happen? Did it?

Sunday - Wednesday, April 4-7, 1998
Jim Gets Scary.

Jim's scaring me.

He's acting like me.

See, we went to the Zephyr Theatre (birthplace of TLS) to visit Gary and Linda. Before three minutes had passed, Jim had me booked in there for two days in May, the 5th and 6th. That's right. LIVING IN THE BONUS ROUND (the concert) is now coming to El Lay and Jimmy's producing, co-writing and directing!

Our time together has been very healing, I'm happy to report. Mostly we have just tried to live and not get all stressed out about anything. I apologize, reader, that I have not been completely forthcoming about the problems and disagreements Jimmy and I went through this past year. (Yes, I do have a private life outside this diary.) There are times when you'll have to simply read between the lines.

But I don't mind talking about what reconciliation means. The truth is that as of last November, we had all but decided to break up. He had fallen in love with New York and I found it too difficult on my health. But there was more, of course. I suppose at some point I'll try to give more details, but like anyone who is honestly trying to confront their own demons, I'm sure I don't have a clear perspective yet.

I do know this: Jimmy and I work together beautifully. We are able to be blunt about each others' work. He brings out the best in me when it comes to my writing and performing. And I believe I bring out the best in him in his writing.

So, in a way, we've kinda set aside the disagreements and just decided the best course at this point is to just be kind to each other. We've both been to hell and back in the past four years. I think we deserve to just take a mental break and live peacefully, at least for awhile.

Sometimes I think people try too hard to solve every problem right away -- as if resentments and miscommunications can be solved overnight. But I feel if you can just take some time to be kind and gentle -- acting out of the simple love that genuinely exists between people who know each other so well, it makes it easier when you begin to tackle the big things.

So, we're gonna do what any good show biz team would do: PUT ON A SHOW!!! (Besides, he feels it will be good for me to do a runthrough of what I'm going to present in San Francisco.)

ZEPHYR THEATRE. May 5 & 6. 8pm. $10. Reservation line: 818-760-7760.

Thursday-Monday, April 8-13, 1998
Nothing Just Happens.

I'll write more later today, but over the weekend I had a chance to entertain and out-of-town guest and get all our plans for the upcoming "tour" together. So this will be Leg Two of the Bonus Round 98 Tour. Who's gonna order us some tour jackets??

Nothing just happens when you need to plan concerts and tours. You have to be there doin it yourself. That's what I learned at National Academy of Songwriter.

So I have posters and fliers to design, press releases to make happen, mailing lists to secure, alliances to form, etc.

Even though in your mind I'm this major superstar (ahem), the rest of the world does not know this yet. The big events that I have to personally work on promoting are the two concerts here in the El Lay Territory and the five nights in San Francisco. (When the Mariam from Josie's -- in SF -- called me for photos and fliers and stuff for the concert, I realized I didn't have that stuff. I don't have a truly profession package with graphics and promo and stuff.

So this weekend, I spent hours and hours trying to design something. And Gabi in Olympia, Washington -- I sent the stuff to her so she started doing it too. It's a community effort!

I contacted Geocities to see if they would want to participate (maybe do a big deal about them giving me a Landmark status), and today I go pick up some new pictures, go to the doctor for blood tests to see if I'm a quart low, and I gotta do something about my big toe. It's erupted again. The nail just never grew back in after the Great Bell-Toe Incident last spring.

It just won't stop bleeding.

I also have to write out the lyrics for Bozeman, Montana because they're going to have sign language person there.

So you see, today is going to be very eventful. And after the doctor visit, I'll come here for our regular Monday night chat.

Tuesday, April 14, 1998
Nominations, Test Results and Secrets.

Right after I posted yesterday's diary page, the phone rang and it was NY producer Carl D. White on the line. "Hey, congratulations!" He said. "For what?" I responded. "Didn't you get my message?" He asked.

I looked over at the phone machine and sure enough, there was a big "1" flashing. "No," I answered, "I've been writing and working here." "Well," he said, "We were just nominated as OUTSTANDING OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL by the NY Outer Critics Circle."

I screamed out loud, sending Thurber the Cat across the room. (He's still recovering.) "THAT'S FANTASTIC!!" I yelled. That pretty much woke Jimmy up. "Hey, Man! Carl D. just said we got nominated for best musical!!"

Jimmy is not a morning person, so it took him a moment to wipe his eyes and realize what I had just said. But what a great morning phone call!

Dr. Peter called today and said my t-cells have risen incrementally again to 320. He also said the ratio was .27 and percentage 11%. That means the percentage is the same as last time. (It's up from 2%). I don't really know how to interpret some of this. You scholars can help me here. But overall, my health is holding steady and the drugs are still working. Not exactly zooming off the charts, but not dying either.

I was such a good boy today. I ordered new pictures, got the new fliers printed up, got us a PR guy for the Zephyr production (Tom Kidd who is refusing to take a fee), answered most of my email, made a hundred phone calls and watched "All My Children." Jimmy's not feeling so hot. Got a cold or something, so I let him stay in bed and rest.

i'm really touched and pleased to see some of the things you've been writing in your diary recently. but i've been disturbed ever since you mentioned that jimmy had decided to stay in NY and you couldn't. i began to really question whether you had really been honest in the diary all along - i couldn't understand how what appeared to be the end of a 12-year relationship, which both parties had described as "life partners", could be such a light and no-big-deal thing for you. i mean, either your relationship was never as close as you'd represented it as being, or you weren't capable of telling the difference (or maybe you felt as though it just wasn't a big deal, that 12 years of your life and what sounded like incredible hell and pain for both of you, going through it together, meant pretty much nothing once you were healthy again). it really rankled, and i quit reading your diary except to catch up once a month or so.

just a couple of days ago i saw the entry about jimmy coming back and the feelings you were going through, and i realized that it *was* a big deal, you just hadn't shared it with us. but for future reference i (at least, possibly others as well) would like to know if there's something else going on that you're not talking about. it affects the way you view things, and i'd certainly noticed a change in your perspective but had no way of knowing what to attribute it to. i began wondering if all the things you'd written about all along were not-as-they-seemed, and i didn't like the feeling that someone i'd thought of as sensitive and caring (etc. :-) was actually not nearly as cool a person as i'd originally thought.

now that i can see that things were going on in your relationship, and what kind of things, i can see that that's not it - there was a *reason* for the change i perceived in you and it isn't necessarily that you're a different person than i thought, only that i had incomplete information. i think you're doing the best possible thing for now - just being together and giving each other loving (and healing) kindness. that needs to come first, at this point (ie, i imagine it's too late for anything else to come first).

i hated thinking that someone who could write songs with such incredible intensity and from-the-heart honesty was possibly incapable of loving in the way necessary for a life-long relationship (which is what i consider a life-partnership to be). or that you could be the kind of person who accepted all the love and sacrifice jimmy seemed to have given when you were so incredibly sick and dying, only to brush off what sounded like a break-up once you got better as "no-big-deal". i truly began to wonder where the person who'd written "going it alone" was...

Rhonda, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your honesty here. I had no idea you were disappointed in me to the extent you indicated. I also had no idea what price(s) I would have to pay to keep this diary.

Yes, there was so much more going on than I was able to write about regarding Jimmy and me. But I just didn't know where to start. I didn't mean to hold back, but remember, Jimmy reads this too. It would have been wrong of me to only tell my side of the story, but I wasn't able to really understand his side.

Not in the middle of a conflict, anyway.

Plus, we had TLS happening at the time. I feared if I started some kind of soap opera it might hurt the show (but in hindsight it might have gotten us more publicity *sheesh*). We had investors and producers and actors -- up to 40 people sometimes depending upon us to hold ourselves together, be available to the press, be professionals...

Jimmy and I had this meeting last August. It was when we had moved up to 52nd street babysitting yet another apartment. We were practically at each others' throats and couldn't find common ground. So, we looked at each other and just said, "Look, we cannot get our differences resolved overnight. Let's just remember that there are people whose paychecks depend upon us. Let's just call off the disagreement and try to focus on the show."

That was a great idea. It relieved the pressure and we were able to honestly just do the job, setting aside our problems for the sake of everyone involved. How silly it would have been to let our life's work crumble because we were not getting along.

And when Jimmy called me after I got back here to say he wasn't coming home, that's when my own depression began to get severe. You can look back in Nov. - Dec. and see the depths of my despair. And please don't get the idea that it was all Jimmy. I share in the blame for making things between us difficult. And it didn't have anything to do with my suddenly getting healthy. Maybe as time goes by I can reveal more.

But right now, we're giving ourselves time to get back to normal. As I said in an earlier diary page, we just want to take time to be kind and healing to each other. I think we owe it to ourselves to give this one more shot. (It's looking really good, by the way). We owe it to ourselves to not give up. I'll try to keep you posted here, but this is a totally private thing that I don't even KNOW how to begin describing.

What I can tell you is that I try to be as candid with my emotions as I can be. If you have to read between the lines sometimes, well, I can only apologize for making you work harder. I'll tell you this: I thought Jimmy and I were totally over and now life is giving us a second chance.

I like life.

Wednesday, April 15, 1998
Sore Throats & Fantastic News.

Last night I thought I was in hell. It was like my throat was on fire. I ran into the bathroom because I knew I had some of that red squirt stuff somewhere... Ah, there it was!

It actually didn't help much but enough so that I could go to sleep. Then as I was lying there I suddenly remembered, "MAN, I gotta sing on Saturday!" So after I got up, I called Dr. Peter and said I thought I had strep or something. I described some of the symptoms -- like coughing up gunk -- and he prescribed floxon for me.

Jimmy was even worse. He'd been having this for several days, so I figured it was it the air or something.

About noon, I skipped All My Children and drove down to Bob's Pharmacy. I also needed my Glynase anyway for the diabetes. I felt like hell, but thankfully the San Diego freeway was clear and I got my pills quickly.

On the way back, I circled by Ghost's apartment. Remember my very sick friend, Ghost? I was picturing his apartment as I drove there. I remembered how it was little more than a pile of pill bottles and dirty clothes; him on the bed barely able to breathe, hooked up to three different kinds of tubes, etc.

Well, as I pulled into the parking lot today, there he was walking back from the trash bin looking as strong as a horse! I couldn't believe my eyes. I pulled into the parking space and followed him to his room. It was like seeing a completely different person. His eyes were so alive and his skin was not the ashen dead color it had been.

"GHOST!" I practically screamed. "You look fantastic!!"

He said, "We finally beat that pneumonia. I had it for over a year. Remember?"

Remember? I remember sitting by his bedside holding his hand with him begging me to give him a reason to keep on fighting and feeling totally inadequte to the job. He was so pitifully ill at that time, all hope seemed lost. He and I both feared his last days would be nothing but an endless agony of sickness and death. Of course I remembered.

And now, here he was standing before me like lazarus. "I still have to drag Puff around with me, but I'm only taking a few pills a day now." Puff is his oxygen tank. He named it after I named by IV pole Louie back in the dark ages.

I gave him a stack of fliers for the Zephyr concert on May 5 & 6 -- he had asked me for them because he loves being my number one promotions person.

I got home and filled a little tub with epsom salts and hot water for my big toe. I wasn't sitting there three minutes before the phone rang. It was Paul Serchia, editor of POSITIVE LIVING at AIDS Project Los Angeles. "Hey, there was a guy named 'ghost' in here earlier and he had some fliers about a show you're doing. I think we should do an article."

Ghost. He's amazing.

PRACTICE! Bob Cox came over again tonight -- he's been here every night -- to rehearse for the Saturday Studio Concert. I'm just hoping my throat infection will clear. But the songs sound fantastic. You know the trick to playing with a guitar is to NOT play so much.

I'm so used to doing everything on the piano, that if I played normally it would be just a big sonic mess. So, aside from him learning the songs, these rehearsals have been a lesson in subtraction for me.

It's kinda like life. You constantly have to subtract the messy parts and keep it nice and clean and simple.

Thursday, April 16, 1998
Laguna Sets The Date.

I was out buying a plane ticket to my little brother Scotty's graduation in Lubbock, Texas. He's getting his doctorate in law and I am so proud of him. (He's taken his share of lumps in life, I have to tell you.) The night before he graduates we're gonna go see his little daugter dance some ballet. Hasn't he taughter her that Baptists consider it against the Baaabul to dance??

I also went to the gym where I used to have a membership and found out my membership is still good, so I can continue my health push and I'm paying about half what others are paying. You can't imagine what a skinflint I can be.

When I got home, Jimmy was vigorously tapping away at the computer so I went into the bedroom and took off my shoes because my toe was beginning to hurt again. After a moment he strolled into the room with a sly smile on his face.

"I know something you don't know," he said. "I know when we're opening in Laguna." I yelled, "September?" He nodded and said, "September 17th." And they've asked him to direct. So, buy your tickets now. They plan to bring out most, if not all of the New York cast. This is gonna be a blast. They have a spectacular theatre and sound system.

I also got an email from a longtime reader. She was responding to the letter from "Rhonda" above.

I did want to comment on the note you posted from Rhonda. I must admit that I was a bit steamed about it - til I sat back and reminded myself that other people are allowed to have opinions too. :-) I just wanted you to know that in the last few months I have also noticed how your view of the world had colored somewhat - not that you started howling against fate, but there was a darker slant touch of your writing. I also wondered about your relationship - and worried about you both.

However - at no time did I ever feel disappointment or anger or anything like that. I figured that you would tell us what was going on, and if you didn't then it wasn't something we needed to know anyway. After all, this isn't a serial in some magazine, this is YOUR life. We, as your friends and readers, like to know how you are doing, but we certainly don't have any RIGHT to expect that you will tell us everything. We are so priviliged that you share with us what you do, and we should recognize that you have a right to your privacy. And, as your friend, it is my job to care about you, trust you, and accept what YOU want to share with me.

Don't ever ever ever feel pressured into speaking about things that you want to keep private. You know what is best for you. I for one am just so grateful that you have decided to share part of your life with us, and I would hate to lose that.

Well, frankly, I felt kinda honored that Rhonda thought enough of me to speak so candidly about her feelings. I'm just sorry she waited to write. It's cool, though. That's life though, isn't it? Sometimes, even in your closest friendships, don't things sometimes change for no apparent reason? It's just impossible to step into the mind of someone else no matter how close they are or once were. All we can do is continue on living our own lives and letting them live theirs, trusting that love will bring you back together.

Nothing bad about that at all.

Friday, April 17, 1998
Activists & Citizens.

First of all, one of my newest net readers, Lyndsay wrote an article for her college journal. The link, is to the magazine which has a very cool cover. Go there and click. I won't say who the article is about, but I promise it's someone we all know and love. :-)

Thanks, Lyndsay!

After running around a bit today, I got home and found this in my mailbox:

Your site, Steve Schalchlin's Survival Site,* has been considered for this month's Black Claw Award for Service to the Gay Community by the International Guild of Gay Webmasters. The IGGW Awards Committee has completed its evaluation and this month's results are in.

We are pleased to advise you that your site has been awarded a Black Claw Award for Service. Congratulations! Our Awards Committee is composed of web design professionals from around the world. We only consider five sites each month for this award, and you are now among a select few who may display this award on their site. You may be justifiably proud of this accomplishment.

Hey, anytime I can be of service to my fellow man. But of course, all I did was show up and be here. It's amazing how powerful that can be as Ken McPherson as told me.

Ken is a new friend in San Francisco with a teen talk show on a rock and roll station there -- LIVE 105 (KITS FM 105.3). It's the Bay Area's top modern rock station and a major CBS affiliate. The show is called Hibernia Beach LIVE. He describes his own activism as just being in the right place in the right time. That's how I feel. Oh, and he's invited me to appear on his show. So, on May 10 around midnight I'll be doing a call-in. The following week, I'll be appearing live.

This post was left on my Discussion Board and I had to put it here. It's from a reader named Jenni who is a student (and not gay).

Discrimination is an ugly thing. I had a small, very very small taste of what it must feel like to be gay. Awhile ago, I went into the record/magazine/book store near campus and purchased a magazine--"The Advocate." As I stood in front of the "Alternative Lifestyle" (*snort*) magazine section, I felt everyone stare... even heard some whispers. When I went to pay for the magazine, the clerk wouldn't even look at me. When he rang it up, he flipped the magazine over and put it in a bag quickly (I never get a bag...never even am asked if I want one). I didn't get a "Thank you" or a "Have a good night"...something I always get when I shop there. It was very uncomfortable...and when I left, it made me angry.
Part of the struggle is that many of the groups who are lined up against gay people in the cultural war begin with the premise that there is no discrimination. That it's all just a bunch of baloney cooked up by some radical gay activists who have some kind of agenda to destroy American and the world. They really do preach this. It's like those black and white videos during the civil rights marches where the "good white Christian folk" just couldn't figure out what all those damn "niggers" were so up in arms about.

Well, it's about being human, dammit. In a conversation with a conservative Christian recently, he began thinking that maybe the idea of gay marriage wasn't such a bad idea if it made gay people settle down into more stable homes and marriages -- and led to less promiscuity.

And I wondered, "Why isn't it enough that we are citizens and human beings in our own right?"

*sigh* God bless us all...

Saturday-Sunday, April 18-19, 1998
Stevie & Bobby Take Burbank.

First, in my ongoing crusade to avoid all public displays of humility:
Posted by Old Man at Talkin' Broadway on April 19, 1998 at 00:57:38:

Well, Mrs. Old Man and I just returned home after having seen Steve Schalchlin give us a wonderfully intimate, exhilarating and masterful performance for about two hours. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, Steve sat at a piano and sang his songs (most of which were heard in one form or another in "The Last Session") for about ten of us (rodneyra was there, too!) in a small studio in Burbank very close to the NBC, Walt Disney and Warner Bros. studios. It proved to us, that even with all the money and production that surrounds us - the glitz and the glitter - what matters is talent and passion. And Steve is a (thank god!) living and breathing (and singing) embodiment of both of those.

He told us about his battles with AIDS and with people whom he's encountered as a result of having it. He brought us laughter, and he brought us to tears (Mrs. Old Man was particularly moved by "Going It Alone"!). What a great guy he is and WHAT an entertainer! I envy all you folks who'll get to see him perform in San Francisco, but we'll have him in West Hollywood AND "The Last Session" in nearby Laguna! So there!

The best part is that Mrs. Old Man and I feel that we've made two new friends in both Steve and his incredibly talented partner Jim Brochu - what good people they both seem to be.

See how easy it is to fool the public?

This was the kind of day people come here to experience. The warm sun combined with the ocean breeze, blue skies and desert air to create crystal perfection. Bobby Cox even got here a half hour early, 4:30, with guitar. But I didn't feel like rehearsing again. Sound check wasn't until 6:45.

So, I declared to Jimmy and Bob that we were going to find some little restaurant or diner and just sit and have a "band meal." It's been 15 years since Bobby and I were in a band traveling the backroads of the good ol' USA. Sitting around diners and drinking ice tea and overcooked spaghetti -- what could be better than that?

So Bobby picked up his guitar case, Jimmy put on his TLS touring jacket and we drove down Burbank Blvd. into Burbank, back onto Riverside to Paty's diner, a local landmark. We were among the few except for a fat guy in a white tank t-shirt sitting on the patio with his arms raised.

We laughed a lot and -- Oh, I loved that they gave us our ice tea in caraffes. Jus' lack bein' in a fancy eatin' place!

Pre-concert butterflies, for me, are exhilarating. It's like all my senses are on overload, but a settled peace rules my body. The day runs in slow motion. I kept looking across the table at Bobby and suddenly it was 15 years ago and were we in a Casper, Wyoming club where I picked him up during a Randy Rhoades guitar solo and both of fell backwards into the drum set.

We pulled into Theta Sound Studios where Cyndi was setting up some refreshments. They had seats in the studio and in the contol booth. Bobby and I screwed around with the sound and the micophones but could not get optimal sound because of the live speakers in the room.

Randy Tobin, who owns and runs Theta Sound has just begun this program. Getting performers into the studio and holding little "coffeehouse" concerts. It's nice. No admission charge. Free coffee. Good music.

Eventually Bobby and I got the sound settled and before long, the listeners came in. I didn't advertise this performance to many of my El Lay friends because I'm testing everything still, this whole "Living In The Bonus Round" show. Most of those gathered were just fans of TLS or had heard about it one way or another. "Ghost" was the only recognizable face in the whole room.

This was a big test -- first time doing these songs with guitar as the main percussion instrument. Bobby loves that I am a frustrated guitarist because it means, for him, that I write in guitar chords and in good guitar keys. Comes from being in a band.

The most radical changes are in "Save Me A Seat" and "Preacher and the Nurse." In the former, we worked on the jazz arrangement I was playing around with it in New York. It has this insistent rhythm in the guitar that needs guitar and drives the song with a Chuck Mangione type intensity.

With "Preacher" I brought back the swing rhythm of the original composition. (In New York, arranger Michael Gaylord straightened out the rhythm and flatted the sevenths and made it more gospel sounding.) With Bobby doing a more gut-bucket kind of swamp thing, the whole song gets thrown right back into the hills of east Texas. More rootsy.

We did the same thing with "At Least I Know What's Killing Me," replacing Bob Stillman's more boogie woogie type piano (which I can't play) with a lighter rockabilly touch. Again, the guitar totally kicked ass.

(I'm doing this because there's more to these songs, musically, than I've been able to play. I write top down, meaning lyrics first with no attention to musical style; most bands and even composers start with the sound or a music track and write from the bottom up. I still feel like nobody's actually even heard these songs yet.)

I hadn't planned on singing "Friendly Fire" that night because it either needs a group singing or a large audience participating in the "military section," but once I got to that part of the show I just said, "Oh, screw it," and went right into it.

The audience seemed to have a great time but I was turned away from them to the side, so I really couldn't see their faces. Later, Bobby said, "Didn't you see the back row of girls crying their eyes out??" No.

Anyway, the time flew by so quickly, we were done and outta there, but I was happy that everyone lingered for my favorite part of the night, when I get to meet and shake hands with everyone. One fan even drove down from San Francisco to see this! I was so honored.

So that's it, old friend. Just a few good folks sitting in a little recording studio -- the very studio The Last Session was born in; where I recorded the original demos; where the workshop cast held their first rehearsals and where I still, to this day, prefer to do my recording.

The bad news is that the tape we made tonight is not really "sellable." Getting a live sound does not equate to a good recorded mix, but it's a great rehearsal tape for our Zephyr Theatre shows on May 5 & 6. Now I want Bob to come to SF with me and I don't even have a place to stay there yet myself!

On Sunday, Jimmy and I pretty much disconnected from the net and just took a day for us. We also began addressing a bunch of postcards announcing the Zephyr show. If anyone reading this wants one just as a collector's item, send me your address and I'll dash one off to you.

While writing, we took time to talk about the past, the present and the future and where things stand with us. I don't have any big conclusions here, but I can tell you that life in this house is peaceful, sweet, honest and loving. Can't get better than that...

Thursday, April 23, 1998
Cutting Edge.

The first phone call this morning was from Ronda telling us that TLS had been nominated for BEST MUSICAL by the NY Theatre League. They don't separate off-Broadway from Broadway, so there we are right up there with The Lion King and Ragtime. We can't possibly win that race, but it does mean that we were chosen over the majority of full Broadway musicals that came out this year. I think that's pretty amazing.

I like getting nominated for things. It will help to bring us much needed attention so more theatres and producers will want to produce TLS. Again, we're still largely unknown outside the innermost theatre circles so these awards bring us much needed exposure.

Today I drove down the San Diego Freeway to Redondo Beach to meet with David Robyn. I get such a charge out of collaborating with him. In many ways, we write very different music -- his is a more rootsy kind of rock -- but somehow we mesh. We have two new songs together that I think kick royal ass.

I was hoping to use his studio on Saturday but it's not ready yet. So, last night when Bob came over to rehearse, we decided to try a session in his roommate's home studio. This is the very place I was sitting and playing when Jimmy tapped me on the should, Thanksgiving 1995 and said, "I just saw the whole play in my head." ...and thus was born THE LAST SESSION.

I spoke to Dickie today. He was not accepted into the study of the new zinc finger inhibitor drug. I think he's bummed about it and I'm still scared for him. I know what it felt like before the protease inhibitor came to me. I felt so exposed to the virus; it felt so hopeless. And there he hangs...

He has a theory though about t-cells and wants to experiment. I've mentioned this theory to two microbiologists and so far, they both think it's very viable. But we can't find anyone who'll do the experiment even though it would be very easy. So, he's going to describe it more formally and I'll post it here so we can find some scientist who'll do the experiment.

That's right. Here at the Survival Site, we do cutting edge AIDS medicine.

Friday, April 24, 1998
The Songwriter & The Carrot.

Today was one of those days where I felt like a horse with a carrot in front of his nose. No matter how hard I tried to catch up, I couldn't get there. First of all, I had to get shots from Dr. Peter -- my usual testosterone/deca shots to help keep my lean body mass up. But when I got there, I noticed the levels and they didn't sound right. With Dr. Ellie I would get twice as much decadurabolin as testosterone, but Dr. Peter is giving me 400 mg. of testosterone and 200 mg. of deca. I questioned the nurse, but apparently, this has been my regular dosage for the past three months. Gotta check that out.

Then I raced back over the hill to Theta Sound because I am totally out of BONUS ROUND CDs. A couple of months ago, we ordered another thousand and we've been waiting and waiting. Well, suddenly -- six weeks later -- this CD guy, who she describes as living in a constant pot-induced fog, calls and says he's lost all the artwork.

So, here I am about to go on the road. I've got nothing to bring them! So, since Randy Tobin also has good computers and graphics output, I sat at one of his terminals and redesigned the packaging of the BONUS ROUND CD while Randy was in the other room doing a recording session.

(Good thing I know how to do computer graphics. I designed the original CD at a Kinko's on 57th Street in Manhattan with Ronda standing over me watching. When you're poor, you learn to do EVERYthing yourself.)

Anyway, he didn't have the same font I did the original CD with so the new ones will look slightly different. I guess this means the original CDs are now collectors items! Congratulations to all you who bought the originals! Now instead of being worth $15, they're worth $16!!

By the time I got home, I was beat. Didn't have enough energy to write this page.

Meanwhile, Jimmy has been breaking his back dumping paper and cleaning out the nooks and crannys of this apartment. We have 10 years of just JUNK piled into corners and boxes. This is a project we began together, but because I've been distracted with a hundred other things, he's been pretty much going it alone.

He keeps walking around like a zombie saying, "...papers...papers..."

But, later this evening, I did take some time to just lie back on the bed with a new X-Men comic to rest my mind when Ghost called. He had gone back into the hospital with pneumonia but was now home again with a list of new medications a mile long. It really disturbs him that he could have felt so good last weekend only to quickly crash like this.

We talked a long time; mostly about plans for the non-profit educational organization I've been planning. I haven't talked about it much here because I wanted to be clearer on the purpose. So, here's what I told Jerry:

I plan to make "" an educational entity that will be supported by the fees I get when I sing. After my appearances at Bucknell and Penn State, I realize that my program has become a viable educational tool that students really love -- and since I love singing for them, we're a perfect match!

In other words, if I play at a college with a lot of money, I can use that to support being able to play for small groups of 3 or 4. I never want to turn down any invitation to play. (Quentin Crisp says he never turns down invitations because it's "rude." Love that.)

But I also told Jerry the one thing I never want to see at is anything asking for donations or "support." There are too many great AIDS charities, like Being Alive, GMHC or APLA that need funding these days. The money for would come solely from my own appearances.

Also, I want to expand the educational areas on this site with updated health information, etc. But I have already learned what a huge job this is. I can barely keep up with the diary alone.

Jerry assured me he knew some attorneys who could help me set up the legal structure. So, that's cool. But creating a company is more than just filing papers. When David Bohnett created Geocities, he began with nothing more than an idea. After all, if you think about it, Geocities on a technical level is nothing more than a metal box. But inside those boxes someone imagined an online civilization with neighborhoods.

In the same way, each of us create the lives we live. We make choices and we dream. And the dreams change as we learn more. This site, for instance, was just a simple place where I was going to crawl into cyberspace and die. But as my life extended, it became unwieldy, so just for organization sake, it occurred to me to divide the diary into "books."

This simple act had a profound effect because it changed the way I perceive life itself. Now, instead of thinking of life as this long highway without end, I see it little segments of time in which I can accomplish great things. It gives me deadlines. Makes me able to look back and mark the growth.

But more importantly, I look forward to each new book, wondering what will come but fully knowing that it's totally up to me to generate the life that will come. I take personal responsibility for everything in my life, the good and the bad.

Best of all, though, I see it helping the people who read this site. I get so many letters saying, "I can't wait until Book 5 or Book 6 just to see what's going to happen..." and I stop and laugh because if this were a novel in progress, someone would have planned it all out in advance.

How easy it would have been to have said, "Well, here's where they write a musical, go to New York, get nominated for all these awards... etc." Easy stuff in fantasy. This diary could just as easily been a story about an aspiring songwriter who went to New York and failed in a single night. And that would have been a great story, too, y'know.

Even now, TLS remains a kind of secret between me and you and some insider theatre-goers. The big media has yet to discover us in any significant way. The big record companies and movie studios have no idea any of this is going on. We're still the little engine that could. You do know this, don't you? (If you don't believe me, walk down the street and say SCHALCHLIN -- pronounced SHACK-lin -- and see if anyone knows what the hell you're talking about. They won't.)

And yet, I don't feel like I've missed anything. I don't feel any less successful because PolyGram or Capitol haven't fallen at my feet. CHANCES are they never will.

But if CHANCE was all we had at our disposal, we'd never have gotten to New York in the first place. If I had left everything to simple chance, I'd be dead by now.

All of everything we have -- everything you have -- comes because you will it to happen. Because you simply refuse to allow anything less. As we come to the end of Book 7, it's time to pause and look back I suppose, but even more, doesn't it feel good to think, "Okay. The past is gone. Time to create New. Time to make life even more extraordinary than it was before."

Saturday, April 25, 1998
The French Do It Like This.

This morning my eyes were barely more than a blurry mess, but I dragged myself out of bed and saw that were were having the most beautiful bright sunny day imaginable. I love these kinds of days.

This morning the Gold Membership of National Academy of Songwriters was holding a special informational meeting featuring the Chief Executive of SACEM, the organization that collects royalties for songwriters in France. A little primer:

Songwriters earn money in several ways, but among them is payment when their songs are played on the radio, TV or in clubs. These are called PERFORMANCE ROYALTIES. In America, this function is performed by ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. SACEM does this in France. There are various ways of monitoring when your songs get played, including radio logs, producers logs or just sending someone out to listen.
I wanted to attend this morning because I know songwriters are notorious bad at attending anything informational and I wanted to support Randy Sharp who runs NAS. Plus, I really didn't know that much about SACEM. And since I have this feeling TLS is going to over really well in Europe...
Here's why I think this: I got an email from a man who runs the biggest music store/mail order service in Germany. He said the cast album is going over like gangbusters in his store. He said when he puts on cast albums in their store, people generally drift around and chat, etc. But when he puts the TLS cast album on, he says everyone just comes to a dead halt. No one talks. No one moves -- and then they all come up and want to know what it is.
The event was to take place at Musicians Institute, which has a fantastic facility right in the heart of Hollywood. I parked on a side street, grabbed a fistful of fliers for the Zephyr concert -- never miss an opportunity to promote yourself -- and quickly found Randy Sharp.

Randy is a jocularly serious guy who primarily writes country music but prefers to live out here. He frequently gets songs onto records and even had a top 10 hit out there a few weeks ago. Back when I produced an event called "Songwriters in the Round" at the Troubadour, Randy was a guest and he totally blew me away with his writing. (This is one guy I'd love see try his hand at theatre. He's absolutely phenomenal.)

The Chief Executive of SACEM, Jean-Loup Tournier is a handsome silver haired man with a great sense of humor and he began his remarks by stating the difference in philosophy the French have from American regarding royalty payments.

He said the idea of paying royalties to writers began back at the French Revolution and that SACEM was founded in 1850. In France, the value of the writer is held much higher than elsewhere. For instance, he said in America, royalties are split 50/50 between writer and publisher. In France, the split is 2/3 writer to 1/3 publisher.

He said they hire enough people to thoroughly monitor every place in France that plays music and an effort is made to make sure even the smallest writers get some royalties for their work. In the USA, he said money is collected but most of it goes into a general fund that pays the writers whose songs get the most plays on radio and TV.

The other big difference between most European countries and the USA is that writers get paid a percentage of sales on records and there is a per record floor. In the USA, writers get a flat fee that is scandalously low (about 6 cents per record -- at the turn of the century it was 2 cents) and most record companies even undercut that with morally reprehensible clauses that pay only 3/4 of the supposedly minimum rate!

Mr. Tournier said most European agencies were scandalized at how effective the rich record and restaurant lobbying organizations in Washington have been able to rip songwriters off. Even now there is legislation to destroy payments in restaurants and clubs -- cutting off possibly 2/3 of songwriter royalties.

But that's what happens when you work in a profession that can't strike. The money people win and songwriters lose. Mr. Tournier said our best chance at holding onto our rights was only the good graces and morality of the legislators.

I can't tell you how good that made me feel. *cough*

Later on, I met Bobby Cox at his apartment and we worked on recording "Preacher" and "Save Me A Seat." We had some technical difficulties at first, but finally got a pretty good tape. Not great, but a good one to work from and study.

His roommate, Mike, has some good equipment and while I was mixing, he was on AOL flirting with a girlfriend telling her how great it was to work with a real talent. (I just had to mention that, didn't I?)

When I got home, I had 150 emails and I was dead tired. So we put on some frozen pizza and watched a little TV. Then I paged through the emails, answered the ones that needed to be answered and stumbled off to bed.

Sunday-Monday, April 26-27, 1998
Pain & Punching Holes.

Well, we didn't win the Outer Critics Circle Award this Monday morning. The winner was a one man musical called HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH which is a fantastic rock musical that defies description. The best I can do is say it's about a transexual punk rocker who lost all but one inch of his "manhood" during a botched sex change operation and who now appears in a dress raging at the world. Next to HEDWIG we probably look like THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

That's showbiz and we were a little depressed about it, I suppose, but not as badly as Ronda. She went to DC to see Binky in THE FIX. Getting out of the taxi, she somehow slipped on the curb and broke her ankle. This morning when I went to see her, she was in a lot of pain.

Yesterday, Sunday, was spent mostly on the couch reducing piles of paper. I mentioned that Jimmy and I are in a huge state of reorganization. Well, he's been doing most of the work while I've been out running errands and putting out little fires. Today was my day to try to catch up. Yesterday I sat patiently for hours just punching holes, putting things into notebooks and throwing stuff away.

Oh, man, I found some great stuff, too! I found a sheet with the original outline for songs from THE LAST SESSION. There were titles on there I had long forgotten. Titles that were never made into songs. Also, I found an old fax to John Bettis that mentioned how excited I was that Stan Freeman would be allowing me the use of his apartment so I could work on "...the CONNECTED musical."

I'm still missing some stuff though. During the writing of the songs, I would take each new draft of each song and staple it on top of the rough draft that came before. Each song was a stack of paper -- and I've lost them. I just hope, as we continue our cleaning, that they turn up. I did find one, though. It was to "When You Care." And there were the original sheets that John Bettis wrote his lyrics on in his handwriting. Those were the most precious sheets of all to me, so at least I've got that.

Other stuff I did today was rearrange some plane tickets and pay some bills.

Tuesday, April 28, 1998
Buried Treasure.

"What's the matter?" Jimmy kept saying to me all day long.

"You know..." I'd answer and he'd nod. "It's your friend, isn't it?"

And I'd nod back. I felt like a zombie. I couldn't smile, couldn't laugh. Couldn't function. I'd find myself just staring into space at the loss. And I had no heart for answering emails either. So if you write me, it's still sitting in my INBOX, although I've read it.

Fortunately, we are still in the midst of deep cleaning, so I'd sit on the bed and Jimmy would bring me more piles of paper. And now we're really getting into the heart of the old stuff. History of The Last Session and History of Steve.

-- The very first outline of how the show could be structured with song titles like "The Daily Grind" and "Unsocial Insecurity" and "I'll Tell Them Tomorrow" (about when to tell someone you have AIDS). Most of these never got past the title stage. And two titles -- "Hills of Pills" & "My Own Doctor" whose concepts were combined to make "Friendly Fire."

-- Lists of things we needed for the first public reading, like stools, microphones and actors (!).

-- Old medical tests showing positive results for microsporidia (which nearly killed me) and a plummeting t-cell count. *I had almost forgotten that getting from the page to the stage was a race against time for me.*

-- An outline for a campy sci-fi rock and roll musical called BREEDER LOVE -- written in the pre-AIDS days -- about a planet where all the heterosexuals die of a disease, leaving the gays (who are at war, male and female, with each other) figuring out how to repopulate their planet.

-- An outline for our vampire movie/novel, THE BITE.

-- A old note from songwriter Harold Payne saying he was glad I would be playing at Acoustic Underground (1996). He said, "Cecille B. DeMille performing in his own creation."

-- A note from the late, great Nik Venet who said, "...I envy you and your artistic smile. Very few understand as much as tortured winners understand..." I love that phrase. "Tortured winners." I don't know if Nik had had his first bout with cancer by this time or not. But he was on fire at this point in his life and he states in one letter, "YOU are my next passion." His dream was to make an all-star benefit album featuring big names singing songs from TLS.

-- A little box of stuff Gabi Clayton sent me that had belonged to her late son, Bill. (It's now proudly displayed in the living room.)

There's even more but I'll save it for another diary page.

On Thursday I fly to Montana to sing and that will be a GREAT time to see some beautiful land and reconnect with people again. Nothing restores me like meeting new people. I'm really excited it. I've been to Wyoming and Colorado, but not Montana.

I just confirmed a new date. On December 1, 1998 I will be appearing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The times and places are not set yet since they just invited me and I just accepted, but I'm hoping to sing for some schools, as well as a big concert on World AIDS Day.

Wednesday, April 29, 1998
Lucille Ball, Trivia & Legal Pads.

One of the things I love about going out and singing is that I get to meet people. The faces in the music. Sometimes I can get a bit spacey on names, but given how many people I talk to through the diary, most people cut me some slack if that happens. Still, I think it's rude to not remember people, so I do make a determined effort to take someone's card or say their name or write it down on my legal pad. A STORY:
One time Jimmy and I took Lucille Ball and one other "celebrity" to see Stan Freeman's one man Oscar Levant show at the Coronet Theatre in El Lay.

Out in the little courtyard, just before they let us in, I watched people recognize Lucy, then gather their courage and approach Lucy for an autograph."

Lucy was always delighted and she would drown them in questions. "Who are you?" she ask. "Did you come with friends? "Do you have kids?" It was great. They loved her and she loved them.


Hint: Lucy kept asking us, "Which one IS she? Which one IS she?"

Hint two: She has a lateral lisp and when she tried to tell Stanley what she liked and didn't like about the show, Jimmy demanded, "Well, who are YOU to offer advice?"

Lucy genuinely liked people and when she met people she looked like a kid in a candy store. She reminded me how much more interesting WE are when we turn the spotlight on OTHERS. Everyone has at least one story to tell. You can't be an alive human -- a survivor -- and not have a story. Speaking of which...
Ronda's had her operation on her ankle and she is laid up in the hospital, but she is feeling fine and probably enjoying the time where she doesn't have to think. Char in Boston with the breast cancer is recovering at home after her operation. Ghost, I'm afraid, is back in the hospital. We spoke tonight and he, of course, is really broken hearted because two weeks ago, he was looking so good. I'd appreciate a prayer for all my friends assuming you do that sort of thing and if you don't then knock wood for them or somethin'. Thanks.
On the road I carry a yellow legal pad -- I love clean paper. Back when I was a singer in a rock and roll band I always had a legal pad and on the cover sheet, I'd draw a fancy logo: "SUMMER 1984" or something like that with cartoon-art words, swirling horizons, scribbles and phone numbers, etc.

I try to write at least one thing every day in the pad. Notes and phone numbers, poems, lyrics, stories, drawings of the people and buildings and paintings... a portrait of who I am for a week or two weeks or a month.

I found portions of the Alaska cruise notebook yesterday! I'm so happy because I thought it was lost forever. Here's one of the poems I thought was lost:


someone suddenly shouts and points
the people leap to their feet

He's there!
No, there!

An Eagle? An Orca? A Dolphin? A Whale?

No. Nothing.

the shaking smokers
quickly retreat to their seats and light up again

as if their lit cigarettes
were beacons

calling forth the Alaskan Wildlife

© 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.

I'm not so hard on smokers these days, but I wish Jimmy didn't smoke. But lately he's been making me cooked sugarless pudding; I don't say anything. It's been amazingly peaceful in this house, thank god. I think we're both still in a post-NY haze.

Plus, both of us, while we clean up and straighten and reorganize, have new stories or songs or plays or musicals swirling around in our heads. For instance, there are three solid ideas for musicals gestating in my own head. (..and he's already finished writing first drafts for two new plays.)

Because of this, I'm constantly at a memorial service in one musical, staging the opening nightmare number another, and rewriting a line in a song about a chatroom bashing.

Wow, where has the time gone? I have to pack tonight and get ready for a 7am departure to Bozeman through Salt Lake City, one of the whitest cities in the world.

I guess this wraps up Book 7. Quiet ending, huh? That's okay.

Quiet is nice. Maybe I'll call Book 8 "In Search of Quiet."

Nice being with you. Oh, before I go. I spoke to the Preacher and the Nurse today. They got four days off from taking care of grandma and went to Branson, Missouri.

Maybe I need to go to Branson, Missouri.



[ Book 6 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] - [ Book 8 ]
[ Diary Index ]

© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin