Volume 2 Book 3 Part 2 of
Living In The Bonus Round
by Steve Schalchlin.

October 1999. Omaha, Los Angeles, Lynchburg, St. Louis.

[Diary Index ]
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ]

Monday-Sunday, October 11-17, 1999.
Amazing Omaha Nebraska.
Picture this:

Three swans gliding across a midtown lake at midnight.

Trees brilliantly arrayed in Halloween oranges and reds over a fairy tale patchwork landscape.

Cool, dry, clear air -- in short, nothing like El Lay. On our way back into town, as we flew over the San Bernadino mountains and looked down across the valley, Dickie and I both noticed the familiar brown hazy cloud that had settled over the millions of homes and cars and pod malls of Hollywoodland.

This time in Omaha, my job was to deliver AIDS education programs to local high school students to coincide with the re-opening of the Snap! Production of TLS, which I saw this past July.

I got a weird feeling, though when last week, an administrator from Omaha Public Schools Burke High called me with a warning. She said, "You canNOT say the words 'homosexual' or 'gay.' It is against school policy to mention such things."

Okay, I thought. This is going to be fun. I told her, "Well, look, I don't lie to kids. What if they ask me during the Q & A?"

She replied, "Well, you can acknowledge it but then change the subject real fast."

Why do people think kids are stupid? Geez. But I told her I'd comply. "I always follow the rules," I told her. "And anyway, I'm there to teach them about AIDS, not sexuality."

I was nursing a sore throat and a cough so I was more worried about being able to sing than implementing the gay agenda (which I understand always begins with a nice brunch featuring a nice Merlot).

The first gig was the Thomas Jefferson High drama class. The stage in the theatre was filled with debris from set construction so I played the piano which was set off to the side. There were about 30 kids and I skewed the program toward performance. About being honest, diving into the emotional places most people are afraid of, exposing your soul. They asked probing questions and seemed to really get it.

Next was the Ute Hallee Girls Village and Cooper Village for Boys. I was warned that these would be "troubled" teens. Funny, the Burke administration was afraid OF me and the Ute Hallee people were afraid FOR me. "I think the girls will be okay but the boys might give you trouble," they warned.

First up: The boys who sat absolutely still, riveted on every single word I sang.

When I opened up the floor to questions the first one, as usual, was "How'dja catch it?" These kids though were not going to allow me a bland "unsafe sex" for an answer. "What it with a guy or a girl?" followed by naive straight boy questions about gays like "Which one of you is the husband and which one is the wife?" (My answer was that we switch off on alternate Thursdays but that Jimmy is a big sissy).

"Do you hate the person that gave it to you?" "Do they let you smoke marijuana?" (My answer was that if you felt so terrible you needed your do doctor to prescribe pot you wouldn't enjoy it anyway.) Anyway, the boys were aggressive and verbal in interested in everything. Afterwards, they shook my hand, asked for autographs and said they loved it.

But the girls were ever MORE intense. When I asked for questions at least a dozen hands shot up around the room and they grilled me like I was a thief and they were the cops. I told Dickie later that I thought these "troubled" teens were just like ALL the kids I'd met in New York and El Lay. The only difference is they lock 'em up in Omaha. In El Lay they're allowed to roam the streets. I loved 'em.

Burke High was a totally different story. No offense to anyone reading this but they slouched disinterestedly in a semi-circle in the music room and couldn't have seemed less interested in what I was doing if I had been showing them tricks with rubber bands.

Where the Ute Hallee and Cooper Village kids were emotionally connected and even crying with me and hugging me after it was over, the Burke kids sat glassy-eyed and bored.

When I asked if they had questions, there was a long pause. Then one guy limply raised his hand and asked, "How'd you catch it?" I answered "unsafe sex" and that was met with more boredom and long pauses. Someone later suggested maybe their Ritalin was just kicking in but maybe the problem is that in a school system afraid to even utter the word "gay" the kids aren't being trained to ask questions, or they're scared to wonder about the world around them. Who knows. Or maybe it was just the Friday morning blahs.

Friday night, though, the production's opening night was exciting, the room packed to capacity. Just across the street from the Frankie Paine building where the show was being produced is a beautiful little park with gentle rolling hills. Dickie and went across to sit quietly in the crisp October night and talk about The Bonus Round nonprofit educational foundation we are setting up with help from David Catalan of Snap.

Below us three beautiful white swans slipped across the tiny man-made lake. To our right the downtown high rises were lit in an orangy glow and suddenly I realized I was having a perfect moment absolute peace. We both wished our respective loved ones were there with us enjoying the Nebraska fall but still, it was quiet and peaceful and just nippy enough to require a jacket but not so cold as to be uncomfortable.

And both of us were breathing the clean, unsmoggy air. And at that moment I realized why people live in a place like Omaha.

On Saturday morning we were even happier to see that the Omaha World Herald had published a gigantic picture and article of yours truly -- I called it "Blair Witch Steve" because it is an extreme close-up of my face with the cast doing "Friendly Fire" in the background.



For my Saturday Midnight Concert of The Quiet Session, James Tobey, one of the producers associated with Snap! Productions proudly announced they had found me a "real" piano. It would be at a restaurant called Vivace's in Old Town.

Well, that night we arrived about 11pm and the place was packed with people dining. The bar was filled to overflow with people drinking, chatting, picking each other up. In short, my expectations of a quiet room where everyone would stop and listen were shattered. They had not come there to hear me. Our group was still outside on the sidewalk.

Now, I've worked in restaurants and bars all my life. One thing I know is that when people pay good money to dine out in a nice restaurant the last thing in the world they need is for some jerk to turn on a PA system and loudly announce that they need to shut up and listen.

I looked at poor James who had been trying to keep me happy all week long -- not an easy task, by the way -- and we decided to just hold off and hope that the place might clear out a bit. Well, it kinda did. One by one the tables around the piano began to clear and our group which numbered 30 or more, quickly grabbed them until we had a good solid majority of the restaurant.

Finally, I began singing The Quiet Session which quickly became The Loud Session because the bar area was full of loud, screaming singles partying and laughing and carrying on. I just plowed ahead and did my thing. After the concert I took requests. They wanted to hear "all of Shades of Blue," "Going It Alone," and a few other tunes. We ended by singing the chorus of "When You Care" together.

I was thinking that it must have been weird for people who didn't know us to see this whole group of people singing along to these songs as if they were hit songs from the radio. "Hey, Clyde, you ever heard these songs before??"

Sunday morning, though, at the North Side Christian Church (where I was asked to sing The Quiet Session) THEY were quiet. I have to tell you that it was a strange experience for me because there were many people in the congregation crying. The reason I say it's weird is that this piece is not really finished yet. It's a string of songs which are only remotely connected. I don't even know what they mean yet. And still the pastor said, "I could barely hold back my tears. These songs are the best sermon I've heard in a long time."

After the morning service we gathered in a little room and we talked together about the upcoming Falwell dinner this next weekend, about what it feels like to be, as I put it, a "post-fundamentalist," about how strange it still feels for a "Baptist" like me to see a woman minister.

I told them, "I didn't realize until I started reading about the history of the early church that there were many women who led congregations back then until male priests made a power grab, even even murdering people they deemed heretical." The power of early Christianity was its teaching that in the eyes of God there was no male nor female, that slaves were equal to freemen, no rich nor poor. (No queer, no straight?)

After church James brought Dickie and me back down to the theatre and we said tearful goodbyes as the next group of audience members filed into the theatre. TLS will play one more weekend so if you're reading this and you're close go see Cory, Kathy, Laureen, Ryan and Tom. They're just great.

Monday-Tuesday, October 18-19, 1999.
Ultra Steve.
This morning the first thing I heard was the voice of Carol Channing. Jimmy knew her back in the 60s when he was selling orange drink at the back of the St. James (?) Theatre where "Hello Dolly" was playing. Davey Burns, who played Horace Vandergelder, was an uncle to Jimmy.

As Jimmy was talking to her, he put her on speakerphone so I could hear. What made me laugh out loud, though, is that Jimmy does a dead perfect imitation of Channing. And as they talked, he started picking up her vocal inflections, it was like they merged and soon they were both laughing and guffawing at each other.

Jimmy also got a note from someone at Amazon that said his book "Lucy In The Afternoon" is the most requested out of print book. So we're going to talk to Mitch about talking to someone about reprinting it -- maybe with a new chapter.

I got lost driving to the eye clinic. It's in downtown El Lay. So I used Yahoo to make me a map. But I missed one of the turn-offs and had to double back. No big deal. I got there in time. Filled out the forms. Took them to a window. Was told it was the wrong window so I went back to the first window who sent me to a different window. There, a woman took them from me, wrote something and then told me to take them back to the first window.

Which, of course, I did.

Let me describe an ultrasound on the eyes. The doctor -- in this case, Dr. Green -- puts a drop into your eyes to deaden them a bit. Then he pours some thick gooey stuff into the mix and holds a black magic wand near the eye.

"This is totally painless," he said. And he was right. The only discomfort was the actual process of having someone lean over you and look into your eyeballs, pushing them up and around with the little wand.

Every once in awhile I'd hear a "snap."

Leaning back, I could see he had swung a Polaroid camera over the little green dial on the sonic meter and was taking snapshots.

"Yes," he said to me after pouring cold water in my eyes to break up the gooey gunk, "I do see some evidence of a thickening of the muscle that moves the eye. And there's also some swelling around..." the whatever. I forgot what he said.

Dr. Peter then called me and told me the results of the thyroid test: Negative. The blood does not show excessive thryoid stuff. Damn. And just when I'd printed out a bunch of stuff on Graves' Disease!

Which brings us back to square one. Dickie says it's probably some kind of chronic infection in the eye that maybe can get shot down with bazooka antibiotics. Well, I like that idea better than battling Graves' Disease.

It's just the not knowing. Y'know?

Wednesday, October 20, 1999.
Or Maybe It Could Be...
When I got to Dr. Peter's today, the receptionist told me she had called the ultra-sound place and they said they never heard of me (despite the fact that I was there two days ago). And Dr. Reingold, the eye doctor, was in surgery all day and couldn't be reached.

Well, I sorta knew the results of the ultra-sound but still, Dr. Peter wanted to talk to Dr. Reingold. I weighed myself (no weight change) and then got my bi-monthly shots and vitals taken. Then Dr. Peter came in.

He knew I was about to ask him a zillion questions so he told me to get off the exam table. Then he took a pen and drew a picture of the thyroid and one of the pituitary gland.

"The pituitary sends a message to the thyroid to make T4. The liver metabolizes it into T3. If you have too much T3 then the pituitary sends a message to the thyriod to slow down.

"Your tests show normal T3 but look at this," he said showing me a chart.

I saw that the amount of stuff going from the pituitary to the thyroid was under normal so something was telling it to slow down the thyroid.

He said, "I just don't think it's the thyroid. I think it 's related to your high blood sugar which was out of control for such a long time."

About that time, the phone buzzed. It was Dr. Reingold. They talked doctor talk for a minute, Dr. Peter giving him a report on my symptoms (which only partically suggest thyroid) and the inconclusive test results.

Finally, he hung up and said, "Dr. Reingold is sure it's the thyroid." And he shrugged. I asked him if it could be some kind of infection in the eye. "No, absolutely not."

"Well," he said, "I'm going to do more extensive blood tests, check for thyroid antibodies, etc."

And then he looked me right in the eye and said, "Look, I know you're distressed over your eyes but listen to me, your symptoms are not serious and you are not in any danger of losing your eyes. Okay? If it's thyroid we can knock it right out. If it's blood sugar, we are already treating that. So relax. You're going to be okay."

This weekend I'm in Lynchburg Virginia having dinner with Jerry Falwell, Mel White and 400 others. Then on to St. Louis where I'll be doing a program with a former Miss America at Washington University. I've also been fitted with a plastic prism on my eyeglasses and totally looks weird but at least I can read now.

Thursday-Friday, October 21-22, 1999.
A Peace Activist Is Born.
Our job was to confront Jerry Falwell. To tell him our stories. To let him see our faces and to know us. But Mel White told us that our GOAL our OWN personal, spiritual renewal.

I have to confess that I entered this March to Lynchburg with fear and anger in my heart. Few faces on this planet could cause my stomach to revulse in disgust than Rev. Falwell's. Shall I be perfectly candid? I hated him.

And of course the first thing that appeared on television when I finally got to my room at the Days Inn in Lynchburg Virginia was Jerry and his Old Time Gospel Hour. Here was the face of the man I felt was responsible for death in the gay community. Here was a man I reviled.

Knowing that hate is the opposite of what King and Gandhi and Jesus preached -- the opposite of what I needed to feel if I was going to be an effective witness, when I got to Soul Force Central I felt completely and utterly unworthy.

Martin Luther King, when he faced the bitter hatred in the south -- faces of men who had physically murdered black men and women and who were now spitting on the freedom walkers, cursing them, blasting them with water cannons and putting them in jail -- told his followers that the greatest sin they could commit was to deny the possibility of redemption for his opponents.

King said there was no room for "violence of the heart, tongue or fist."

As the 200 Soul Force volunteers began arriving I found I could barely talk to them. So I found a room on the third floor of the First Christian Church in Lynchburg where there was a woman sitting there folding tracts. I sat and joined her, happy to have some kind of busy work to take my mind off my unkind thoughts.

Then I saw it. In the corner. A piano.

After we finished the stacks of paper I wondered over to the piano and just began playing. Alone in the room. I played all the new songs: "A Simple Faith", "James Robison", "Near You", "You Are A Stranger", "Lazarus." I played them over and over again.

It was an old upright that reminded me of my mother's piano. I played furiously, letting the loudness punch me in the chest, trying to feel my mom and dad's loving presence and reminding myself that I was entering into a highly controversial project that would set myself up for criticism from all sides.

Already the voices were loud. From the hardcore right came the words that Falwell was "getting in bed with fags who deserved to die." From the left se were told that we were "legitimizing a hatemonger by giving him a public forum." As if Jerry needs another public forum.

In fact as we drove up to the church, there were police on guard and whole slew of posters and signs: GOD HATES FAGS. AIDS IS THE CURE FOR FAGS. JERRY'S FAGS. All in loud day glow colors held by angry hateful people letting us know we were going to burn in hell and that we were beyond redemption.

I just figured if both sides hated us, we must be doing something right. But even more than that, I believed that I was doing the right thing. I wanted Rev. Falwell to see my face, to hear my voice and to know me. I needed to believe that, just as in TLS, as Buddy learns to get over his caricature of gay people by meeting Gideon, that Jerry would get over his seeming hatred of us by knowing us.

Mel White, whose long friendship with Jerry was challenged when Mel came out as gay, separated from his wife and coupled with his love, Gary, kept reassuring us. He said, "Look, when I worked for Jerry we were assaulted by gay radicals who sent hiv-tainted blood and urine to us in the mail, who assaulted our car. These are the only gay people Jerry has known! I'm telling you that I know Jerry. He is an honest and loving person. We must give him a chance."

But Mel said we must also not back down from presenting Jerry with his own hateful fundraising letters, with hours and hours of videotapes of Jerry's sermons. Our purpose was to confront in respect and love. Our purpose was to enrich our own souls by believing that Jerry was capable of redemption. We had no choice. To do anything less, Mel said quoting Dr. King, was violence. Violence that would destroy our own souls.

Then a miracle happened. Friday morning on Good Morning America Diane Sawyer confronted Jerry with words that were on his website at that very moment. Jerry, whose evangelical empire is so vast it's almost immeasurable, looked at the words and...


He apologized. To us. To the world. He repented of his sin against us.

Friday night, in the high arching sanctuary at First Christian Church, the night before our meeting with Rev. Jerry, I was still unsettled. The service was wonderfully informal. Gospel music was being sung. People were telling their stories. And then they said they were going to have a memorial service for those who died because of who they were.

Now I have to confess to the reader that I wasn't completely connecting yet. I wasn't sure my heart was pure enough. I did not want to be manipulated with music and sob stories. I was resisting. But I know why. It's because too often these faces and names are used to simply make political points. "These people died so now we need this legislation..." etc. In other words, manipulating emotions to make political points. I did not want to believe that this is what we were doing.

One by one people began carrying large photos on posters of the faces of the dead bringing these posters and placing them in our pews so they could sit among us.

Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither. I bowed my head and tried to find my center, still resisting.

And then I looked up. Coming down the aisle was a face I knew. A face I loved.

Bill Clayton. Dead at 16 from suicide after a gay bashing. Bill Clayton whose face I stumbled into on the internet three years ago. Whose face I returned to every day for a solid week before writing his mother. Bill Clayton whose story was first posted on my site. And just as I saw his face coming toward us the person carrying his poster turned and put Bill's face right into our pew.

And I completely fell apart. Reader, I didn't just cry. I wept bitter tears. For 10 minutes at least. Literally, rivers of tears as wide as my cheeks, free-flowing like from a wide-open faucet running down my face; my body wracking itself with huge heaving sobs. I thought about Bill's mom Gabi, Alec his father, Noel his brother.

Maybe it was God reminding me why I was there. Maybe it was Bill himself there in the room reminding me that I was doing the right thing, that *WE* was doing the right thing.

I bowed my head and for the first time in a long time, prayed. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to confront my fears, my hatred, my doubts and my revulsion. I thanked God for continuing to give me the opportunity to be here with the prospect of peacefully, prayerfully, lovingly facing a man I have loathed for a very long time.

I felt Bill telling me to be gentle. To be loving. To be real.

I could barely stand after the service, my legs were shaking so. My eyes were red and sore. I was depleted. But when we went back to the hotel room I slept with the beautiful, innocent face of Bill Clayton lingering in my mind long after the lights were put out.

Saturday, October 23, 1999.
Facing Jerry Falwell.
We entered the gym of Thomas Road Baptist Church School to a room full of round tables with people sitting around them in every other seat. We had just driven through the protestors on the street. I have to say the hate language posters were of a much higher quality printing than the usual crayon scrawl so I took that as a symbol of respect, like dressing up for church. Thanks, Fred!

We were all wearing Sunday morning clothes and Hawaiian leis made of ti leaves which we would give to our Thomas Road "partner" sitting at the table. We also brought little ceramic angels Christmas tree ornaments and, most importantly, booklets with all of our faces, names and stories.

I spied a bright eyed female college student at a table near the back. She hed a pretty smile and reminded me of Cheri Oteri on Saturday Night Live. I was so nervous about this excercise in humanity that I can't even remember what I said at first. But suddenly I remembered the lei and I asked her if I could give it to her.

"Oh yes!" she said. "I was wanting one!"

So I lifted the green lei and put it over her shoulders and gave her a little kiss on the cheek. Then we looked into each other's eyes and started talking. Intensely looking into each other's eyes as if waiting for the other to blink. I asked her to tell me about herself. Student. Majoring in Music Ministry. I told her I used to be a Gospel singer and went to a small Baptist College.

At some point she told me her oldest brother was gay.

"He was my best friend growing up," she said, her eyes finally floating down to stare at her hands. "He was the one who led me to the Lord when I was 11," she explained as if to make sure I understood what a good person he was. Unfortunately, her story was of a conservative Christian family torn apart and wounded by the presence/distance of a gay child.

"I love my brother but the Bible does say homosexuality is a sin," she assured me while looking deeply into my eyes again. I had to stifle a laugh. It was about the third time she had mentioned it. It strikes me funny when people feel the need to constantly remind you what a sinner you are.

I reached over to get a bottle of water from the bowl set up in the middle of table when I realized the tables didn't look like they were ready for a dinner and I was hungry. (It turns out some of the people on the other side of our divide felt it would be unbiblical to eat dinner with "sinners" -- meaning us. And rather than cause a fuss our side quietly said it was okay. Eating a meal wasn't the goal. Contact and communication; those were the goals. But still, I needed food.)

So I sat there with my stomach grumbling talking to this girl and suddenly, just like last night, I began weeping again. But this time quietly and sorrowfully. There was just so much pain in her eyes. She even reached over and apologized as if it was her fault. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry."

"No," I said. "I've been crying all weekend. It's just that you cannot imagine how often I hear this story." And I thought about the young man I know who almost shot himself because of his family's rejection. (He joined the Air Force instead.)

Jerry Falwell then got up and spoke. He openly apologized to us for language we found objectionable. He said he realized that "love the sinner, hate the sin" was a cliche and that he was guilty of seeming to hate the sinner. During the speech he reminded us many times that "homosexuality is a sin" which, of course, had me laughing inappropriately.

(I might be the only person in the world who laughs when I hear someone say this. Not because I don't think they're serious but it's almost like a compulsion. Does Jerry think even for a second we don't know he thinks it's a sin? If two minutes go by and he doesn't say it, does he think we think he's changed his mind? LOL.)

Mel White then spoke briefly but preferred to walk into the audience and let some of the Soul Force people tell their personal stories. The story that stabbed me in the heart most profoundly was from a woman who described herself as a conservative Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin.

She said her daughter had come out to her as a lesbian and that in one terrible moment she had told her daughter, "After you get fixed you can come home again."

After that the daughter refused to have anything to do with the mother. The mother said, "I should have picked up my purse and my keys and drove 550 miles to make her talk to me but I didn't."

A year later her daughter was found dead hanging in her own closet, a suicide.

The room kinda got very quiet at that because I think one of the most overlooked and critical issues Christian families face is "What am I supposed to do when my child tells me he or she is gay?"

I can tell you what some pareants do. Just go down to the Grayhound Bus station in Los Angeles or cruise up and down the streets where the hustlers -- good Christian kids who got thrown out of their homes -- hang out. Check the morgues for their dead bodies. Mel cited a statistic that more than half the gay kids who kill themselves come from Christian homes.

And that's when Jerry Falwell said something that totally blew a lot of my friends' minds:

"I was asked once what I would do if my son came to me and told me he was gay," he said. "I would tell him that I love him, that I believe it's a sin... but I would say, 'I love you. This is your family. This is your bedroom. It is now and forever your home and I will always be your father and your best friend.'"

I burst into tears again (of course). Conservative Christian people LISTEN to Jerry Falwell. They won't listen to me. But they will listen to Jerry. Some of them honestly believe that throwing the kid out of the house is the correct Christian response! Mel correctly said, "This one statement will save lives."

The girl I sat next to asked me how my parents treat Jimmy and me. I told them they love us, play card games with us, go to dinner with us and probably like him better than they like me." She laughed. I cried again. We prayed together for her brother and her family at my request.

We all watched a big press conference together but none of it was really registering with me. I had one goal: To get to know this person sitting with me and to let her see my true face. My true tear-stained face.

Then it was all over. Rev. Jerry came back into the room where he shook every person's hand. I shook his hand and had my picture taken with him. And then we left.

So what did we accomplish? Did we change anyone's mind about homosexuality? No. Did they? No. But I did learn something about myself. I learned that I loved those Baptists sitting there around those empty tables. But more specifically:

1. The world saw Jerry Falwell invite 200 openly gay people into his church.

2. We presented him with names and faces of gay kids who were victims of violence and we confronted him on language which we believed contributed to the atmosphere of hate. He apologized for his contribution to untruth and pledged to watch the things coming from his ministry from now on. (We'll help him with that, of course.) And we pledged to watch the hateful language that might come and does come from our side.

3. We told our stories and we allowed ourselves to be seen as the people we are. And we saw them for the people they are.

If they weren't Baptists, I'd compare this to a dance. Two strangers on a dance floor circling each other and staring into each other's eyes. This gathering in Lynchburg was a beginning, an introduction.

Don't get me wrong. It's wasn't easy. There were plenty of chances for us to get insulted and angry -- the missing dinner, the sudden appearance of a unbridgerly exgay on Jerry's podium, the disagreements we have over what EXACTLY constitutes hate language and the numerous reminders of how sinful we were, but both Mel's strong development of the Soul Force principles of non violent resistance kept us focused on not hitting back when we felt attacked. As a result, I feel we made a strong, serious impact.

Next year, I want Jerry to invite me to sing in his church. Afterwards I'll take him to McDonald's. Who knows? Maybe I can even straighten him out on Leviticus. :-)

Sunday-Monday, October 24-25, 1999.
Mr. and Miss America.
I unfortunately missed the last day in Virginia because I needed to be in St. Louis for a AIDS education program on Monday. So what was the problem? Well, there are only two flights out of Lynchburg per day and the late one would have put me into St. Louis in the middle of the night.

Anyway, the lovely Sarah the Social Worker from Columbus picked me up at the airport with her cute brother who is entirely too clean and organized to be a straight boy. But he was quite excited about the fact that I would be introducing him to Miss America 1988 Kate Shindle.

In fact, he was a little TOO excited to meet Miss America but hey, it got me a chauffeur for the evening. And speaking of chauffeurs, Sarah absolutely and totally refused to take me so I could go up into the St. Louis arch. Bitch.

But that was mitigated by hearing the story of how her brother had recently convinced her that it was built during the times of the old west for stagecoaches to drive through as a kind of "hello and welcome." Yes, all those Indians and their concrete.

Monday evening, Sarah and her brother (who's a private citizen so I won't say his name without permission -- he probably wants to forget we ever met) met me in my room as I was still dressing, having just woken up from a nap.

In the lobby we met Kate. Almost turned me straight, that girl. Wow is she beautiful. I thought the brother was going to faint dead at my feet.

We arrived at Washington University and went into the chapel on campus where we'd be having our big to-do and there was something there, sitting before me that absolutely proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God in heaven looking down on us and rewarding us for good behavior. Especially after the weekend with Rev. Jerry Falwell.

It was a freshly tuned, perfectly elegant 11 foot Baldwin grand piano.

Just waiting for me.

We rolled it into position and for a solid hour I sat there and played every single song I know. It was so heavy and brilliant and percussive. Man, I love music. It truly is the most healing thing in the world. And for those of you who aren't musicians, the sound coming at you as you play is unbelievable.

Then it seemed like a thousand kids filed into the chapel. The leaders of this Greek Week event were all dressed in green polo shirts; they were from the Intrafraternity Organization on campus so they were student leaders. But I felt like I was at a convention of models. These were gorgeous kids, male and female!

I started the program with a half hour, trying to squeeze in all the songs and stories I could. Kate followed me with a lecture on HIV along with anecdotes of her year as Miss American. Then, per Sarah's suggestion, we joined together and sang "When You Care" together.

Afterwards, we went out to IHOP and had a blast talking about school and music and Rev. Falwell and gays, etc. But suddenly in the middle of that my Sustiva suddenly hit me. It doesn't always do this.

Suddenly I felt like I had taken 10 drinks at once. The room started spinning ever so slightly. It's weird to sit there looking at people when you're stone drunk. It embarrassed me completely so they took me back to the hotel where I slept until 4am when it was time to get back to El Lay.

I was nervous about going home because I was expecting the new diagnosis from my doctor regarding my eyes. I knew it was time to plan a new course of friendly fire. Incoming disease! Take cover....!

Tuesday-Monday, October 26-31, 1999.
The Final Diagnosis.
It's Graves' Disease. Dr. Peter said the new test results showed a very high amount of T3 antibodies. Like off the chart. So at least we finally had a diagnosis. The bad news, though, was that even with these new drugs I'm taking -- three pills three times a day and one pill one time a day -- it's doubtful my eyes are going to improve.

Dr. Koop's site said they would hopefully stabilize. Maybe there would be some improvement. But probably not.

I went to see Dr. Reingold, the optometrist again who confirmed this news, I would need a permanent prism ground into my lenses to help me read; and I was almost starting to feel sorry for myself -- well actually I did feel sorry for myself for a few days -- until I saw them: a new pair of frames in his outer office.

I felt so queer. Here I was facing terrible news and all I could think of was how stunning I would look in those new glasses. Isn't this a Lucy episode? Well, I had to have new lenses anyway, right?

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.

The Last Session is getting a new production down in Miami at the Wilton Theatre and it will start March 2000. And they're going to use the L.A. set and as many of the L.A. cast as they can get! Hey, if we could get a tour booked that would be even more awesome. If there are any theaters reading this who want to book TLS next year, we might be able to put something together and keep the costs way down. So write me now!

Next Sunday is our big TLS-LA concert with members of the cast and many guest stars. Can't wait. And then next week I'm off for my three week tour of Pennsylvania with one day in Orlando and two days in NYC.

[Diary Index ]
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© 1999 by Steve Schalchlin. Please write me at steve@bonusround.com.
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