Dystopia No More
Volume 2 Book 2 Part 1 of
Living In The Bonus Round
the online AIDS diary of Steve Schalchlin

June 1999. Los Angeles, San Francisco.

[ Diary Index ]
Book 1 - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4  - Book 3

Tuesday-Friday, June 1-11, 1999.
Beginning of Book Two.
Well, Hello there. I'm writing you this Friday morning after a very vivid night. Beginning today, which is appropriate since we are starting a new book today, my doctor and I have made the decision to put me on a new medication. Yes, we are going OFF Crixivan, the protease inhibitor which saved my life three years ago, and we are switching to a "protease sparing regime" with a newer drug drug called Sustiva.

The reason we are doing this is because of Crixivan's side effects. Even though Crix has been effective against the AIDS virus it also is a nasty little drug that has caused me to become diabetic and it has stripped all the fat from certain parts of my body (like my face and legs) and is trying to redistribute them to my belly and upper back and it has given me sky-high cholesterol -- up to 2400 triglycerides.

Sustiva, on the other hand, is a newer drug. It's a "non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor" as opposed to the "nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors" or "nukes" as we all them, two of which I will continue taking.

It is marketed by DuPont but I met some of the people who worked on that drug when I was at Merck visiting Dr. Bruce Dorsey.

Sustiva is not soluble in water. It's soluble in fat, according to Dr. Peter. So the drug gathers in the brain in the fat cells surrounding the nerves and the side effects are "vivid dreams" and "dizziness."

But you only have to take the drug once a day and it doesn't matter if you've eaten or not. So, now I am once again free of the tyranny of the clock. I can reduce my pill schedule to pills twice a day and I don't have to worry about when to eat. I can eat all day long.

Yesterday, in Dr. Peter's office I had lost three pounds from the last visit (Sorry Carol Kaplan -- I know you tried to fatten me up). I asked him if very many people were switching to a protease sparing regime and he said, "Yes, with great results."

Last night, I had the most vivid technicolor, unbelievably detailed "Matrix"-like dream in my life. I cannot remember the details this morning but if I had had a movie camera and could put it on the screen, I would be a millionaire by now. It had everything, plot, characters, good guys, bad guys, a betrayal, a science fiction background... I kept waking up in the middle of it, groggy as hell, and then I'd go back to sleep and plunge right back into the middle of it again!

(Back in my wilder days I once went to sleep after taking a hit of acid and even that wasn't as wild as this! I swear someone is going to create a black market with this drug.) *sorry mom -- i know. too much information*

So, this morning I am groggy and dizzy but wanted to get this damn diary started before the picket lines started up outside the house.

My friend Steve is driving me to San Francisco and I will be staying with my other friend, activist Ken McPherson on whose radio show I will be a guest this Sunday. Hibernia Beach Live on Live 105. http://www.hiberniabeach.com

So, welcome to Book 2. In Sustiva-Color! One last thing. This was a letter Michael Alden, who was the lead producer of the LA production of THE LAST SESSION, wrote to the TLS fantlist. I thought you might enjoy reading it:

I found myself at my desk a number of times over the last few weeks, making feeble attempts at thank you letters and good bye notes. I didn't get very far. Closing night of THE LAST SESSION in Los Angeles marked my two-year anniversary with a show that also changed my life - it was hard to get all my feelings across in a note.

I was asked this recently if the rewards of theater, or this theater piece, out-weighed the cost, At once I knew how I wanted to say thank you and how I wanted to say good-bye.

It had to be here on the Net where it all started. Here where the faceless voices joined together to create stepping stones of possibilities

So to all of you - I thank you for all the possibilities that have been created by our partnership with THE LAST SESSION. I thank you for your determination. For your willingness to dare.

I personally thank you for buying Steve's cassette and allowing TLS-LA to live on longer than it might have otherwise. I thank you for joining together to replace my crew jacket when it was stolen and for giving me incredible birthday surprises (even if one of them was my mother).

I thank you for letting me know that my support makes a difference. For allowing me to share in your growth and in your new experiences and for helping me with my growth and new experiences. I thank you for your brave decisions to go out in the world with new ideas - even those that may not be easy to share.

I thank you for trusting me when it was my turn to lead the way and even when the path looked scary, you still held my hand. And even when I was scared, you still held my hand.

Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin looked in the mirror one day and realized there was a story that must be told. They willingly replaced that mirror with our eyes and trusted that we would see that vision clearly. Ronda and Kim Espy believed in that journey and made a home for all of us to be the mirror for Jim and for Steve and for all of those who might not see as clearly….yet.

I thank you for being incredible mirrors to THE LAST SESSION and to me.

On April 10th of this year, I got to stand in front of my peers and along with Kim and Ronda and Jimmy and Steve, accept the GLAAD Media Award for Best Theatrical Production. That award is given in honor of a production that presents a healthy representation of Human Beings. It was that award above all others that I truly wanted to win because it symbolizes every reason that I wanted to be a part of THE LAST SESSION and has inspired the answer to the question of cost and reward.

There is no cost too great when the reward is to see first hand the possibility of fairness, of unconditional love and of hope. THE LAST SESSION inspires possibility and it was you who created stepping stones.

That night, at GLAAD marked eleven years and one day after my lover, Kurt died of AIDS. On that night, it seemed that there were no possibilities. Then there was you.

Thank you. Bless you. Good-bye for now.

Aunt Michael

Friday, June 11, 1999.
Oh, God I cannot believe what I wrote earlier this morning. Never mind. I'm not going to delete it since it's already posted but anything I say while under the influence of Sustiva I am totally not responsible for.

My friend that was going to drive me to San Francisco was suddenly flown up there instead by Sony and that left me here stranded -- not his fault. So we were on the phone to Bobby (who worked the concession stand at the Tiffany) who found me some plane tickets. Southwest Airlines $92 yikes. Anyway...

I got an email from the pastor of Dolores Street Baptist Church:

Hi Steve:

I have heard so much about you from Matthew Simonds. We are so excited about your presence with us at Dolores Street Baptist Church on June 20th. I loved what you said about our church on your web site.

It is my understanding that you will have really the whole worship time to weave your story, music and message. We are used to creative worship experiences. I am sure whatever you do would be fine. We are a small venue--a storefront which seats about 50 people. We hope to have more than that here on the 20th! There is room to sit on balconies and stand for overflow.

After church, we'll have a reception with some finger food so people can greet you more informally.

Thanks a lot for doing this!

Doug Donley
Dolores Street Bpatist Church
938 Valencia Street (at Liberty)
San Francisco

Hey! It's my pleasure. I love to eat fingers (ba-dum). I had told my friend Matthew who arranged this that I am not a preacher and I will only be singing my songs and telling my story. Very simple. But I wanted to make sure that they understood. So the pastor's reponse is muchly appreciated.

I hadn't realized, when Ron Lanza at Josie's Juice Bar booked me that this would be during Pride in San Francisco. All he told me was that he wanted to hear my music in his club again. *sigh*

Last night, the Act Out Theatre Company in Denver opened their production of THE LAST SESSION. John wrote to the TLS list a whole description of the night. He described an emotional evening where everyone was in tears, including one of the critics who couldn't even get out of his seat at intermission!

I said to Jimmy last night that we now have a first in our lives. We have a show that is playing in two cities at the same time. I know that's probably not a big deal to big hit composers but to me it's a lot!

So anyway, I have to go run some errands and then Jimmy is going to get me to the plane. I hate leaving him. He said this morning that he already misses me. Now I miss him too. Not fair. Oh, well, that's life. I'll be back on the 21st, just in time to see WHEN PIGS FLY, which opens on the 26th. Aunt Michael is producing!

Saturday Morning, June 12, 1999.
Made It To SF.
Well, I did make it to San Francisco. I am sitting here this morning in the Steve Schalchlin/Maggie Heineman Guest Room at Ken McPherson's. It's the perfect artist's studio. I am in a room on the second floor overlooking a tiny street. On the other side of the street is a big warehouse that is painted with a big sea mural.

The tiny couch/bed is surrounded on three sides by a bay window type set-up. On both sides are wooden daybed-type seats which Ken built himself. The backs of the seats are wooden slats so last night it occurred to me that because these seats are so close to my bed, it kinda looks like I'm in a playpen.

In front of me is a TV hooked up to a satellite -- I'm watching the MTV Movie Awards as I type this -- and OH! Great news! I did not have the disturbing, mind-blowing dreams last night like I did with Sustiva on Day One! So this transition may go quickly. I was groggy when I woke up but it faded pretty quickly.

But let me tell you, yesterday I felt like the chains had been loosened from my neck. As 4 o'clock rolled around, I felt SO FREEEE! I didn't have to worry about what time it was! I didn't have to avoid eating! I was able to just have a snack. I didn't have to worry about fasting and eating before 10.

Now I only have to take pills twice a day. It's so luxurious. I'm the king of the pill world, ma!

More later....

Late Saturday Night, June 12, 1999.
The Crowd Out Front.
Ken McPherson and I were driving over a bridge into a suburb of San Francisco when he casually announced that there would probably be picketers at the gay prom we were about to chaperone.

I told him I've never confronted picketers before. "These are you first? Wow."

I suddenly felt like a very sheltered country boy.

We wound our way off the freeway and into a cement parking structure. In the bag on the floor were my evening pills, my now 10:00 pills. We were wearing tuxes except he was wearing white tennis shoes and no socks (which I more correctly identified as white hose) and I was wearing my blue shirt because the tux shirt he had rented was too small.

Is this too much information?

We exited our car, walked up a flight of stairs, across a little patio. Descending before us was a wide brick stairway down the side of the hill. At the bottom of this hill was a walkway. There were lines of people on both sides of the walkway.

On the outside to both the left and the right were men and women with picket signs, the most intriguing one being:

Ex-gays = Thousands
Ex-blacks = NONE

Nothing like a great non sequitor, I always say. That sign and one other were the largest and they were being held by two mid-teen boys wearing neat little suits and stained ties. There was one sign that said "Exodus International" on it.

There were two guys wearing sandwich boards painted in bright colors damning us all to hell. Oh, and they were also wearing rubber gloves and face masks.

The inside line of people consisted of supportive adults holding rainbow banners, some clergy in bright clergy uniforms. And back up on the hill, there were polieman whose main job was to keep the "Christians" behind the ropes.

Ken said the first year they had a gay prom, the protestors showed up and really were hateful to the children. The next year people showed up to drown out the hateful obscenities -- "...and they were obscenities," Ken said.

I found the whole scene frightening, but only for a moment.

We walked down to the building and started to go in but I just couldn't help myself. Ken either. I know what the expression in my face was as I watched them. It was sadness. I thought they all looked very sad.

I mean, here some kids coming to their prom. THEIR prom. And they have people shouting out at them that they'll burn in hell. Angry, hostile shouting.

I caught the eye of one lady. Or rather she saw me looking at her, giving her the sad face. She was carrying a sign that said Jesus Loves You. As she began coming over to me, another taller guy with a very sweet face joined us and Ken was also there.

The lady kinda pulled me over. She was very emphatic. My back was starting to hurt from standing too much so I leaned back against the tree and just listened.

Ken was engaged with the other guy -- I'll let him characterize their conversation.

I didn't want to argue with her. I merely told her that when I came over that hill, looking down on this, it was very frightening. I asked her, "Is that what you came here to do? Scare kids?"

She said no.

I asked her, "If Jesus were here right now, do you think he would be wearing a green and orange sandwich board threatening people with hell? Is this your testimony?"

She cried and said she didn't know what to do. All she knew was how much she loved me. I told her I believed her. I also said that I would like for her to think very strongly about participating in this sort of thing.

Later, in the "good guys" line, one of the men in a clergy robe said, "Suddenly they all got very quiet and I looked around and you were talking to them."

I went inside and looked around a bit but really was more interested in what was going on outside. Ken said they would be leaving soon so I got back out just as they were packing up.

There was another lady there with a pre-teen kid. He was holding onto her hip and crying his eyes out, reaching out to me with a brochure. "He's crying because no one would take his pamphlet."

I bent down and said, "Is that what you want? For me to take your pamphlet? Sweetie, if that'll do it, I'll be happy to take it."

And I did.

Reinforcements arrived quickly. The two tough teens with the stained ties took positions on the embankment, one of them quickly noting that my hands were shaking.

"It's cold," I said to him.

"I'm cold too but my hands aren't shaking like that."

Coming from 8 o'clock a guy with swoopy hair came over and immediately inquired if I was engaged in sodomy. (Not at the moment, I thought).

I said to him how rude is it to walk up to a perfect stranger and ask them if they have sex.

The mother with the kid that was no longer crying said, "My sister married two gay men in a row and they left their kids."

I responded, "Yes, if gay people were allowed to come out and live openly they wouldn't be forced into thinking that marrying a person of the opposite sex could turn them straight."

The kids at the prom were dressed like Hollywood stars. As they arrived, the gay-supportive crowd formed a line of applause and cheering which embarrassed most of them. The women were in glamorous gowns, the guys in black tie or rock and roll garb, two drag queens, etc. and it was so well chaperoned.

Ken and Renee Rotten, who I totally love and will be with on the radio program tomorrow night (which will be available as a cybercast in RealAudio -- YAY!!!) were the hosts.

It was all very tame. And the kids were in one world and I was totally in another so after awhile it was pretty boring until we could leave about 11pm.

But all night long, all I could think of was the little boy and the two brothers, the young one in tears because he wasn't able to give away a tract -- and the others, belligerent, stirring for a debate and a fight.

The last thing I said to the mother was, "Look, I know you're sincere. I believe you. All I'm telling you is that when I came over that hill and saw all of you, it was frightening. I have a friend who is a mother and her son killed himself because he was frightened after being gaybashed."

"We have to go," the one with the swoopy hair said. "We have to be somewhere."

And with that they all retreated into the cold San Francisco evening.

[In this story, Ken will refer to Bridges Across website. That is where I met him originally. It is a site that invites both gay-affirming and "non gay-affirming" persons, at the risk of defining them in the negative. This is in response to the report which appears lower on this diary page.]
Steve and I pulled into the parking lot of Centennial Hall around 7:30 PM.

Things have changed a lot over the past five years since I first learned about the Hayward Gay Prom on TV and the in newspapers. Back then, it was a huge controversy, and a big media story. Public meetings, outraged parents, city officials scrambling to explain whether public funds were in anyway being used to fund the prom.

And the protesters. That really burned me. As the kids arrived, all the local TV stations were filming them as the Phelpsian-style protesters shouted "You're going to Hell", "Perverts", with an occasional "Jesus loves you" thrown in as if to excuse/justify the rest of their tirade. It was practically like walking the gangplank as the kids entered the venue. It took enormous courage on the kids part. I took up the issue on my show for a number of weeks. The next year I was invited to MC the event and have done so ever since.

The next year, my first as MC, it was far less a controversy but still a novelty, so the TV cameras were there again. The protesters were back, their language even more vile (4 letter words) than the previous year. Many of the kids were reduced to tears as they came across the "gangplank" created by the protesters.

As the years went by even though the public controversy was pretty much over, the protesters (in diminishing age and numbers) continued to show up to yell at the kids as they arrived. The young protesters are by *far* the nastiest.

A "rule" was established by organizers the first year that confrontation with the protestors would be strongly discouraged. Security was provided by off-duty gay police officers so there was never any real chance of danger. But the sense of intimidation the kids felt was horrifying and really set an unsafe tone to an otherwise rather wholesome event.

The protestors had the right to be there, but they were really wrecking the mood for the kids (and they knew it). A year ago the theme of the Prom was "Hollywood/Movies/Stars". Someone came up with the brilliant idea to get a couple of hundred gay adult volunteers to stand in front of the protestors creating an inner corridor that acted as a screen between the protestors and the kids. When some new kids would arrive, the gay people would scream and cheer as though the kids arriving were movie stars and they were the adoring fans.

It worked like a charm. The kids couldn't even see the protestors and their epithets were drowned out by the cheers from the gay "fans".

These days, the "controversy" is gone. This year the only media in sight was a National Public Radio team doing some interviews. Local media ignores it completely.

I was curious to see if the would be any protestors this year, now that the local controversy had faded, and mentioned that to Steve. It never occurred to me that he wasn't aware this event might be protested. And it certainly never occurred to me that he had never seen anti-gay protestors in action. I wondered if we might see another appearance from Loud Steve. I wasn't *too* worried though, because I presumed that, according to precedent, we wouldn't be talking to the protestors in order to avoid confrontation. I was also kind of excited that I was going to witness first hand how Steve would react the first time he saw anti-gay protestors actually harassing young gay kids. It's moments like this when one's experience with the bridgerly arts are really put to the test. I've lost it several times under similar circumstances.

So Steve and I came out of the parking lot. The buildings are laid out so that the view below is obscured until you come over a rise... then it's right in front of you.

I was surprised. There were at least *twice* as many protestors as there had been last year. There was the core of young men (early 20s) who I recognized from previous years. They were the potty mouth guys. This year they were wearing breathing masks and rubber gloves (how original). But there were other protestors of different ages and demeanors compared to the previous years. I didn't get the same sense of meaness from a few of them that was so blatant from the others. The core guys had obviously requested reinforcements following their failure from the previous year.

But all the new people were doing was parroting a milder version of the slogans being shouted by the guys from previous years. As per precedent, everyone connected with the Prom was programmed to ignore the protestors.

But this year I observed something else different. A number of the protestors held signs saying "Jesus wants you to change" and You weren't born homosexual", and a large "Ex-gays=thousands, Ex- blacks=None." After my past year plus at BA this really pissed me off. I turned to the protestors and asked them "Are any of you ex- gay?" Silence. "Do any you have any ex-gay friends." Silence. "have any of you ever talked to an ex-gay person?" Silence.

Steve wasn't saying anything but had a look on his face that ranged from horror to intrigued fascination. We went inside so I could "check in" then I told Steve I wanted to go back outside to take pictures of the protestors. We went back outside and I began shooting a bunch of pictures. While I was shooting one of the protestors moved towards me and said "Jesus loves you." I responded with a very simple, "I know."

Uh-oh. I had broken the code of silence.

That was all it took for Steve to move directly over to the guy and began to engage him in conversation. I joined them and the guy began to speak to me also. Steve mentioned we had ex-gay friends and they seemed thrilled (I assume because they usually have to spend much of their time arguing that ex-gay people even exist.) Another lady began to talk with Steve as he mentioned.

Initially I was prepared to assume he was a crazy Phelps-type and just write him off. He was using lines right out of Gay 1A:

"What if your child was about to walk into traffic, of course you would stop him/her from doing so. It the same with us and gays. We don't want you to hurt yourselves."


"Yeah, but you ain't my parent and I ain't your kid."

(Sheesh, isn't someone on sideB giving them more challenging arguments than that?)

But the thing was, regardless of the (IMO) simplistic cliches he was using, it was clear to me he was sincere and able to dialog rather than just parrot slogans. Steve and I heard that before we arrived, he was responsible for trying to get the core guys to stop yelling profanities at the kids. He was completely out of place at this protest. He wanted to show his sideB support in some manner and this was the only opportunity that had been made available to him. But it was also clear after speaking with him for a while that he had now realized this was an entirely inappropriate way to get out the message.

I told him about BA and gave him the URL. He promised he would check us out.

I had to go back inside to perform some duties. When I was done, Steve and I went to get his meds in the car. As we went into the parking lot, the same little kid that Steve had encountered was hanging out the window of the car begging me to take his Exodus pamphlet. It was clear to me that if I were not to take the brochure, the kid would have considered it a personal failure on his part. IMO, an entirely inappropriate burden to place on one so young.

I noticed the guy I had been speaking with was in the passenger seat. Of course I took the pamphlet. But as I did I said to the kid,

"but you've got to do me a favor. Could you help your friend remember something?"


"Repeat it after me?"


"www dot"

"www dot"

"bridges dash across"

"bridges dash across"

"dot org"

"dot org"

We all laughed and they drove off.

I wonder if he's reading this... I don't even know his name.

Ken Sunday, June 13, 1999.
Radio Boy.
You can hear how dumb I was on Hibernia Beach Live by going to they website which is at http://www.hiberniabeach.com and clicking on "oddio." Which isn't to say I wasn't having fun but I had to take my new Sustiva pills at 10 and by the time midnight blew around, I was a bit dazed and confused.

Luckily, the kids didn't seem to care. Or maybe I'm always dazed and confused and there's no difference.

Ken has been taking good care of me here in San Francisco. I don't really have anything to do for a week until my gig on Sunday (except write, of course -- so I'm going to have to be really creative to think of ways to avoid doing THAT). I'm hoping to see a couple of movies and maybe catch a show.

In the meantime, I'm trapped in this place with Ken's two dogs. I'm not going to say they are disturbed but the main thing to remember with them is to not move and to not speak or you'll set off a round of barking at a volume that would deafen Helen Keller.

I do have songs to write. I just wish I had a piano at my disposal. I wonder if churches allow people to just walk in off the street and start playing?

Anyway, all is well here in SF. I'm just kidding about the dogs and Ken. I'm being treated like a king. I just miss Jimmy. It felt like I barely got home before it was time to leave again.

Hi Jimmy!

Tuesday June 14 - Monday June 21.
Dystopia No More.
I woke up this morning with this phrase "Dystopia No More" running through my head and even though I only have a vague notion of what it means, it qualified for the title of Book 2 here in Vol. 2.

Two nights ago I was rescued from oblivion by Karen Tiongson and Michael Sugar. They drove all the way up to San Francisco in order to drive me home. Ken McPherson quipped that he knew people who could get rides from city to city but the I was the only person he knew who could get rides nationally.

Last week, I didn't write much in the diary because I had nothing to say. How's that for a reason? Also, Ken showed me the Moscone Center, the new Metreon center and an ancient piano store here called Sherman Something.

Guess which place was paradise to me? You should have seen Ken getting all embarrassed as I commandeered a beatiful Yamaha in the corner and began pounding out "James Robison" and "Near You" at full volume.

After singing and playing for about 20 minutes, a lady sitting behind a desk listening invited me back the next day; an invitation I was happy to accept.

The weekend was great. How's this for a switch: I sang in the church and preached at the club.

Honestly, I don't know what came over me Sunday night. It was a nice normal Steve show where I appear at the piano (in this case a black upright Kawai), tell the audience I haven't a clue what I'm going to say to them, and then take off for lands unknown guided only by the songs from TLS.

At one point I had described the protestors at the gay prom. And right there in Josie's Cabaret & Juice Joint, walls covered with brightly colored photographs of the most recent Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence gathering -- a very controversial event -- I just started preaching, repeating to the crowd what I had said to the woman:

"You say you're here out of love -- that you LOVE gay people. I say to you if you REALLY loved us, you'd be fighting for our rights! You'd be fighting to make Safer Schools and fighting to allow us job protection and the right to marry!" Karen remembered that I said, "You might scare the shit out of them but you ain't gonna change 'em from gay to straight with your stupid protest." I could just feel my preacher voice richocheting around the room. LOL

The church, on the other hand, what a sweet group of people. Dolores Street Baptist Church (and I got this history from pastor Doug when we met earlier in the week) has been revolutionary from the beginning. In the 60s they harbored refugees during the Sanctuary Movement, they have outreach to the poor, an AIDS home, etc.

Doug told me of the hundreds of civic group that used their building, the fact that they welcomed gay people long before other churches, going against the Southern Baptist and American Baptist Associations -- preferring to stay true to their own consciences and beliefs about the Bible.

Then a few years ago, their precious church building was torched by skinheads who didn't consider it white enough or hetero enough.

Now they meet in a tiny storefront on Valencia St.

We had met Saturday night for a soundcheck. It was great to have Ken along because not only is he in broadcasting but he is a trained singer and actor who gave up those career goals to become an AIDS activist in 1985, helping to found the Mobilization Against AIDS, among other projects.

So Ken and Doug patched together a little sound system and I played through all the songs. It was great to reconnect with my friends Matthew and Darr, also. I got to meet Matthew's parents who came up to me after the Sunday service, with tears in her eyes. She said, "I just don't understand why people cannot just be loving and accepting."

I also met a seminary student who was visiting the church. Those who follow religious issues know that the Southern Baptist Convention has been completely taken over by fundamentalist conservatives, so all the liberal professors have slowly been squeezed out.

NOTE: I am not making a value judgment here. Just stating fact. I was raised conservative Christian but I personally disagree with literalist fundamentalism.
The student told me that new seminaries are springing up all over the country striking out for religious freedom of conscience. He said he would love for me to sing at his seminary.

Longtime readers know that I used to rail on against the ignorance I perceive in the Southern Baptist ranks, but in recent days I have repudiated the cultural war. [See http://www.soulforce.org and Bridges Across.]

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. My gigs at Josie's Juice Joint. Well, I sang most of the songs from TLS, which is what I promised I'd do. The audience response was loud and fantastic, complete with standing ovations and everything. In fact, at the end of the 6 o'clock show, I finally had to tell them that I had to go because the lobby was filling up for the 8 o'clock show.

Thankfully, that show was received really well, I sang two songs from PRODIGAL, and even got a nice note from "rodneyra" on Talkin' Broadway:

"I saw Shackman last night @ Josie's Cabaret and Joice Joint. He did his usual "tightly scripted" show which included several numbers from TLS. It was especially nice to hear two songs from his new show "Prodigal", A Simple Faith and James Robinson [sic]. A Simple Faith was really lovely. It was lovely to see Steve as his usually bouncy, full of energy self and it was good to see Karen, one of the Rentheads I've met via Steve. Too bad Jimmy wasn't around. I hope you all get to A Simple Faith soon. It's really great!"
Now I just have to get a bunch of superstars to record the songs from PRODIGAL as a promotion and we're on our way! Uh, oh yeah. I have to finish writing it, too. Details! Details!!

Anyway, after the show, Michael and Karen drove me home to Los Angeles. I took my late night pills and fell into the back seat, sleeping the whole way. By the time we got home, it was 5am. I got the paper off the front porch and went into the bedroom, waking Jimmy up (who was happy to see me). Then I hit the bed and totally crashed.

Well, first Thurber the Cat jumped over me and demanded attention. But then I went to sleep.


> They drove all the way up to San Francisco in order to drive me
> home. Ken McPherson quipped that he knew people who could get rides from
> city to city but the I was the only person he knew who could get rides
> nationally.

Steve screwed up my vastly superior line:

It's not too hard to get a ride home from friends when you get stranded at a show. Steve ("Shacky") Schalchlin is the only person I know who can get a ride home... nationally.

[the crowd roars with laughter]

Please do not hold this against Steve. He has no sense of humor. You'd think after all those years playing the Borscht Circuit (that's where he got his trademark nickname, "Shacky"), he would understand humor better.

I provided him with hour after hour of cutting edge humor during his visit last week. And all he did after each delightful quip was look at me with a quixotical expression that I am *sure* he was using to hide the intense jealousy he felt after being around me for 10 days.

It's so sad...

Ken McPherson

JUST FOR THE RECORD: I have never played the Borscht Circuit but I do sing for Jews. I've also been known to sing for Filipinos, Koreans, African Americans, Jamaicans, New Yorkers, Texans, high schools and colleges. And Baptists. What can I say? People need my abuse, I guess!
Tuesday June 22, 1999.
Neuropathy Only A Little.
You see what happened, don't you? Yesterday morning when I wrote that email and came up with -- what is wrong with me -- "dystopia no more????" -- I know what it was. It's the Sustiva talking. It totally 60s out my mind in the mornings and feels like a heavy towel is draped over my forehead.

Sounds like a cue for a medical update. I went to see Dr. Davies today. He is a nerve specialist of some kind and he was testing for neuropathy.

I went into his office and took off my boots and socks. He soon joined me. 30's-ish, handsome, good sense of humor. I liked him. He took a mallet and hit my knees, my elbow, my achilles heel, etc. He took a tuning fork and held it to my nails asking me when I stopped feeling it...

I told him that when I had tried taking ddC, the neuropathy was so bad I had to walk with crutches. It's a side effect of all the "nuke d" drugs but it varies in everyone. At its worst, it felt like my legs were on fire, every step painful and exhausting.

I told him that I was only on it for a short time and had made the decision to throw it out and die rather than live with that kind of pain. (Of course, I had d4T as an option so it wasn't THAT severe a decision. It just FELT like it.) But that the pain had withdrawn down to my toes but stayed there.

He praised that decision saying many people had tried to tough out the neuropathy on advice of their physicians (remember how new all this is), and had massive destruction of the nerves in their legs.

On the tuning fork test, my fingernails could feel the vibrations for a very long time, but on my toes, nothing. I could barely feel the tuning fork. Also I had little response when he hit my achilles. I told him my toes didn't always hurt but that sometimes they burned if I was on my feet too long.

He noted that the bottoms of my feet were purple as they hung over the edge of the table. "It's just blood collecting. The nerves around the blood vessels normally constrict when there's a lot of blood pressure on them -- like when you're standing up. But your nerves have been damaged so they don't constrict. It's not dangerous but some people freak out when they see it. It's just more evidence that your neuropathy is drug-related."

He pointed out that when I pushed on the foot pads, they quickly would go white again. He summarized:

"We aren't going to do anything. Just pay attention to your toes. If anything changes, not just the size of the area but the way it feels, let me know. But you're okay."

That was a relief. But the great news happened on my way out. I was passing Dr. Kraus' office when he called me in.

"You're last viral load count is below 50. Below detectable limits." (This is my baseline now and is a result of the Crixivan I took for the last three years. The day I took this test, that night I dropped Crixivan and began Sustiva in its stead.)

That's when I thought of my buddy Richard Goldman who I just saw in San Francisco. He asked me again while I was there, "So the Crixivan is working for you? It's not failing but you're changing drugs anyway?"

I explained to him that the side effects were beginning to really worry me. The diabetes, the sky-high cholesterol, my inability to gain weight because of the eating restrictions, etc.

Dr. Peter asked me how I was doing on the Sustiva. I told him, "I only had one severe night of vivid over-the-top dreams -- but I do get a 'druggy' sleep and a little bit of a hangover in the mornings."

He said, "In some people it takes up to three weeks for the dreams to diminish. The hangover will probably go away, too. You're doing fine."

Then I went in the other room and got one of my regular shots.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. My blood sugar has tested at 115 for a few days. However, yesterday afternoon it was 150. Which is just great but definitely over 120. So I'm still taking the diabetes pills (glucophage and glynase) and on the way home I went to Mani's Bakery where they have a sugarless kitchen.

I got two gingerbread men, a fruit tart and a chocolate cookie. Sugarless of course.

Anyway, Richard, maybe I'm crazy to trade in a winning combination. But life is made of choices. [One of the first principles they teach people with life-threatening illnesses, that your life is yours and you are in the driver's seat. Wanna know my theory of why? Because no matter what choice you're making, it means you're alive and at least trying.]

Well, that was my visit to the doctor. I'll have been on Sustiva two weeks this Thursday or Friday. Many people have written me telling me they are watching for the results. All I can say is I've adjusted to the drug very easily, I am not debilitated, although I might be a tad sillier. I think I'll make myself write in the mornings just to see what comes out.

Hmmmm... trailing off. But excited about Saturday -- the opening night of WHEN PIGS FLY. A MUST-see. And Sunday at the First Presbyterian in North Hollywood. God forgive and have mercy on us all.

Wednesday-Saturday June 23-26, 1999.
A Little Hitler Diversion.
This morning in the LA Times, there is a story that the original Hitler Papers, last seen 1945, are going on display. These were the laws that began the holocaust. Mel White, in his Soulforce emails demonstrates a parallel between these laws and the ones supported by the religious right. But I see differences of context. Here are excerpts from Mel's note:
"ANOTHER WARNING FROM HITLER'S THIRD REICH FOR GLBT PEOPLE Mel White, Soulforce, Inc. (www.soulforce.org)"
Okay, first of all, everytime someone involved in the gay debate uses the Nazis or Hitler, I turn off. It's overused and it trivializes both the Jews and the gays. However, since his report is very specifically about the papers themselves, I believe his findings are worth looking at.
Mel White:

"Paragraph 1: Ended the right of Jews to marry freely.
Sounds like a reason to work even harder to defeat the "Antigay Marriage" laws."

SteveS: The difference is that our rights to marry have not been ended; we have never had the right to marry. Well, that's not true. As the religious conservative said on TV, we have a right to marry the opposite sex! How silly of us to not have noticed that.

Did you know that Jimmy and I celebrated 14 years together a couple of weeks ago? Is that bringing down the institution of marriage? What's funny is that these anti-gay marriage laws are passing before we even HAVE a right to marry. How homphobic is that? How paranoid are these conservatives?? Is heterosexual Christian marriage so fragile that it cannot withstand the presence of gay people in the world?

Paragraph 2: Ended the right of Jews to have sexual intercourse freely.
Sounds like a reason to continue our efforts to rescind the "Sodomy" laws."

Paragraph 3. Ended the right of Jews to employee or be employed freely.
Sounds like a reason to support ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

"Paragraph 4. Ended the right of Jews to display/serve the nation's flag freely. Sounds like a reason to seek that promised executive order from President Clinton to end the ban on gays in the military at last."

Mels' point is that the laws which were stripped from the Jews, the ones that began the holocaust are imprecisely the laws gay people live under now. To sum up, the first four acts were:
Banning Marriage.
Banning Sex.
Banning job protection.
Banning service to the country.

The wrong leap for us to make is to think that anyone who would oppose these rights to us automatically is a Hitler. These laws were in existence way before we were born, not unlike laws granting slavery or laws restricting the rights of women to vote or own property. While there will always be hatemongers, I believe all people of conscience are stuggling with this issue and are seeking to find a fair and loving way to resolve these issues. It's more complicated than just calling someone a Hitler or accusing them of bigotry But Mel makes an excellent point here:

"While we're celebrating all our hard-earned victories (and we deserve the time to celebrate), we need to remember that Berlin in the 1930s was the most gay-friendly city in the world. How quickly life as cabaret became a nightmare of suffering and death.

"Too many of us believe our adversaries are fools who are only using us to raise funds and mobilize volunteers. In fact they are sincere believers, determined to end our rights."

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