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February 2000. El Lay, Rochester, Alfred, NY.

February 9-12, 2000.
Burying Dickie's Ashes.
I got this email from Bev who knew we'd be burying Dickie's ashes today at 2:30:
Figuring I'd be home at 2:30, I had set my
computer pop up alarm to pop up at 2:30 saying "Dickie forever."  So when I got home, it was still on the screen, and when I went to close the window, the question it asked me was "Do you want to delete Dickie?"  What a question!  No, I did NOT want to delete Dickie.

It rained here all day.  Perfect day for a funeral.

Howdy God. Do you read email? If you don't mind, I'd like to make this new section of my diary -- "Does God Read Email? -- in the form of emails to you cuz it really helped me to write to you during Dickie's dying days. Yeah, yeah, I know Jesus said that when we pray it's better to go into a private closet and keep it to one's self but being gay I have an aversion to closets. I'm sure you understand.

Last time I remember praying really, really, hard was back when I was a kid. I prayed for you to make me into Superboy like in the comics. I remember promising to the point of maximum stress that I'd only use my powers for good and that I could REALLY fix a lot of messed up stuff down here.

It just KILLED me that you didn't make me into Superboy. (Or did you think I'd have become some kind of terror?)

Today, Jimmy and I drove over to Forest Lawn cemetary and accompanied Gail, Bob and a few others for the "inurnment," putting Dickie's ashes into the ground.

I finally got to have a good cry with Gail so as I write this the screen is fuzzy, my eyes are swollen and my head is throbbing in pain.

We were greeted by a solemn guy from the funeral home who led our three cars to the site of the grave which is right next to the road and across from a beautiful little chapel with a tall spire. Gail quipped that one could do a "drive-by flowering." Near the plot, there were four little grouped seats made of green cloth and shiny metal, and a bunch of flowers on a little mound covered in Astroturf.

We didn't really know what to do. So the Forest Lawn guy uncovered the grave and Gail put the box of ashes into a little concrete box square in the ground. Then Gail and I knelt next to the hole in the ground and I said, "Should we have a little service?"

(I had a feeling the Forest Lawn guy was a bit nervous that we didn't have clergy present. I couldn't tell.)

So Gail told me to speak. I barely got two words out before choking up. Honestly, God, what could I possibly say? I said something about how much he helped me when I was alone, how much he helped other people in groups and over the internet, how happy I was that he had found Gail, how much I appreciated Bob taking care of him and mowing his lawn when he was sick, and then I mentioned Dickie's love for his his ex-partner Frank who had also died of AIDS.

Frank's parents were standing there with us; a sweet white haired couple. Frank's mom said a few words about how much Dickie had meant to their son and how much they'd miss Dickie's presence at Thanksgiving and Christmas -- Dickie always used to spend the holidays with them. The dad proclaimed proudly that they always considered Dickie to be their son-in-law.

Bob, with whom Dickie had long ago made a pact to mutually care for each in case of sickness, talked directly to Dickie and spoke of his love for him.

Then I took some things and placed them one at a time in the grave. I brought a Bonus Round CD because Dickie truly lived life in the Bonus Round and I brought the sheet music to "Lazarus" because he felt it was the one song that spoke most clearly about what he/we had been facing.

I also placed a flier that Shawn Decker had sent me. It featured Dickie's Blue Avenger picture and was signed by Shawn.

Then Gail placed a picture of the two of them hugging -- "Dickie's favorite picture" -- along with a "Dickie Forever" button to represent the TLS list and Bonus Round readers and we all held hands and prayed together.

Soon two men came and began filling in the hole with dirt but not before letting us us throw in a flower and a handful of dirt.

What's really strange is that at this moment the wind suddenly began to blow really cold. Some dark clouds appeared over the Hollywood Hills, and the chairs flipped over. Was that you, God? Were you feeling it too with that cold wind? Were you reflecting the cold emptiness in our hearts as we said goodbye to our friend? Was this your poetry, Lord?

We stood rather awkwardly, watching them tamp down the grass. Then an urn filled with water was pressed into place and we filled that with flowers, posed for some photos and that was it. It was too cold to stay.

We went back to our cars and drove down the rolling green hills and for a moment I wondered if Dickie would come flying out of the grayness in *his* Superboy costume telling us that everything was going to be okay.

I have to say, though, Your Godliness, that I had a peaceful feeling of closure when I saw them finally push the dirt down and put the little divot of grass on the grave. Not even for a moment did I picture Dickie down in that grave. No, to me it was just a memorial, a placeholder.

Dickie is forever in my memory cells and on this website. He's in the lives of the people he touched. He's onstage with Shawn Decker, he's in every word of Jess' plays, he's in every note of my music, he's in Gail's heart and he's a permanent part of the history of TLS, just like Ghosty who we also lost this month.

And he was in the rolling storm clouds which overwhelmed our tiny group gathered feebly around the tiny spray of colorful flowers shooting out of the ground, marking the passing of a real life super hero and friend.


February 13, 2000.
The Being Alive Memorial.
[An email to the TLS list with responses by Gail.]
The memorial for Dick Remley, held at a private home in the Los Feliz area was wonderful. It was populated with people from his support groups who told wonderful stories about how he would sit with each one for hours and hours and how, when one of them would bring a new theory about HIV to a group, it was Dick who had the job of doing all the research to investigate the theories.
"...more than one couple came up to me and said' it's because of you and dick that we're together.  because of the two of you, he convinced us to follow our hearts and just go with it".
Gail wrote a BEAUTIFUL article about him for Being Alive newsletter which Wendy who works with high school kids read. I spoke a little but got totally choked up and began crying -- again.
you did fine, and why do you think i had wendy read the article?  i couldn't have gotten past the first two words.
Can I just say now that I am officially tired of bawling?
yes,  and so am i. everytime someone asked me today "how are you" my reply was "that's not an allowed question today". i would never have believed there were this many tears available to shed.
My stomach hurts from all this. Michael (sweet Michael Sugar) drove me and we talked about how we are ready to "move on." I think all of us are. Not that I want to forget, of course. But as Lori implied in her email, Dickie would want us to get over ourselves and get on with life. One of the Being Alive guys said Dickie was known for his great sense of humor and sense of survival.
my entire psyche hurts from this.  and i know this is most likely not going to be a popular opinion, but i was hoping this weekend would bring some kind of closure for me, and to a degree, it has.  we buried him, we mourned and celebrated him (those of us who could be here).... i don't know if i can handle "wait until march and we'll have yet *another* memorial."  if it happens, i'll be there of course, but.... *this* was the weekend i needed.

i personally think at this point it woud be better if each of us took that energy, that plane fare - whatever, and do something in his name, wherever you happen to be.  just my $.02, but dragging this on for yet another 3 or so weeks
isn't what i think he'd want nor what we need.  i *know* it's not what i need. i'm not done mourning,
but i'm done with circling the wagons.  he would *want* us to move on - not forget - and not stop fighting (speaking of which i think i have about six new jobs at BA - oy!) , but move on and get  past the grief. i know *i* need to.

After everyone told their stories, we all went out back where the skies were cloudy and the rain was falling in a cold mist. Then we each released a pink balloon. It was kind of cleansing to watch them all drift up into the sky and out of sight.
and I want to add a little to the burial itself,  particularly the finish.

jimmy and steve had begun walking away down the street, bob & I were picking up the ribbons from the flowers when *wh00sh* - all the chairs were knocked forward, lying on the grass.  steve's interpretation was a little different from mine & bob's.

since we had coordinated the whole thing, we just started to laugh and said "okay, either we *totally* fucked something up that he's *really* not happy about and he's letting us know, or this is his grand finale, telling us to go home now. but it made us
laugh, and that was a perfect ending to a rough day.

thanks dickie.

February 14-15, 2000.
Just An Announcement.
I made an executive decision yesterday on the TLS list. We HAD planned on having a TLS memorial for Dickie sometime in early March but it is now cancelled.

I'm doing this in response to Gail's plea that this whole mourning process is tearing her apart. She's ready to put the whole thing behind her and get on with life. I was feeling it, too. And so were many others.

We loved our Dickie and we have some really cool things in mind to extend his legacy of helping others -- AND we're going to create an online memorial page for him. So we're not letting him go quietly into that good night but we are letting him go just as we know he would want us to.

Today I felt like the weight of the world lifted on my shoulders and Gail felt it too. At some point in at a future production of TLS, we will carve out a little time to ourselves to have a little remembrance, but it's time to move on. Time to live again.

Tomorrow I go off to Alfred, NY and then Rochester. Details on the tour page. Until then I'll be offline.

February 16-19, 2000.
Singing at Alfred University.
I'm writing this from upstate New York where we have just had a gigantic snow storm. Here is a report from Jennifer George, a counselor at Alfred University where I just performed.
When I came back from the BACCHUS/GAMMA peer education conference in Orlando in November, I knew that I was bringing a show that I had seen there back to our campus.  I had two shows that I was seriously considering:  Shamu from Sea World, or Steve from The Last Session.  Shamu was my obvious first choice, but I did not think that logistics would work out to have something that large on our campus....and then I met Steve's ego!  Shamu is the size of a mouse compared to the ego that I spent the day with yesterday.  So, ya wanna hear about the day?

I drove to Rochester to pick King Steve up at 9:30 so that we could be back for our first class that was scheduled at 11:20.  I felt like I was pulling Punxsatawney Phil (the groundhog) out of the ground by bringing Steve from L.A. to the Western NY ice tundra.  So, I got there and he got in the car, ego and all.  We drove back to campus and he was acting all tired because of the time difference.  Tough luck, buddy!  We were going to get our money's worth!  So....off to the Beginning Dance class we go.  He did a few songs and answered some questions and it went great.  After that, it was lunch time....
Lunch.  We walk into our Ade Dining Commons and Steve spots the IMac cyber cafe just before we head up the steps.  He sits down at one and starts doing whatever he was doing and then I hear, "BIIIIIING!" the sound of the noise of a computer rebooting itself.  Yes, King Steve crashed the IMac.  So, he moves to the next one saying that he would just come and sit by me.  So, he sits down and starts doing whatever he was doing again and what do I hear?  "BIIIIIING!"  The sound of the computer rebooting itself.  Before all was said and done, Steve managed to crash not one, but two computers out of the five that were there.  It is really something watching an internet junkie trying to get his fix!!!  So, he accesses some of his music on the web and then up to lunch we go.

First off, the dining card was DENIED.  Can you imagine having your dining card being denied on a campus where you can just charge it to your office budget?  Especially with a guest there.  We get it all figured out and Steve found some chicken and potatoes and hunkered down for a nice long lunch.  I thought the man was never going to leave the dining hall!

Luckily, he did get our money's worth after a few trips back for chicken.  As we were sitting at lunch, Steve is talking and telling some really great stories and does not realize it, and of course I don't want to be rude, but as he is talking to me, random pieces of food come flying out of his mouth!  A piece of corn or something nearly killed a student sitting behind us.  So, we finally get Steve away from the feeding trough to go back and do two more classes before a break and then the evening performance.

Okay, Steve again. This is absolutely untrue. The student was not nearly killed. He was only slightly injured.
Second class.....Intermediate Acting.  We walk in a couple of minutes late (because of lunch) and there is a student doing a monologue with the professor taping it.  Everyone is totally quiet except for this student who is talking about Pat Buchanan and Nazis.  Steve laughs.  Then she says something about Baptists and what does Steve do?  He laughs again.  The only one in the room laughing, but hey.....
Now, come on. I laughed because whatever she was performing, it was quite witty in addition to being a fierce piece about bigotry. Just because dumb ol' Jennifer didn't get the jokes doesn't mean my laughter wasn't appropriate. Uh.. I think.
So, the student finishes and we sit down and Steve begins his chat with the prof and the students.  The prof totally adored Steve and it was obvious.  Instant Steve Schalchlin groupie.  After a while of talking and passing The Last Session script around, Steve sits down and starts playing some music.  He comes to "Going It Alone" and just before, he has one of the students read the letter from the play.  The student was thrilled.
I really liked this professor. He had a very kind face and he was really nodding when I began talking about our audition process and how we were looking for actors who were "truthful," not "presentational" in their auditions. When I got to "Going It Alone," I was trying to describe the moment between Gideon and Buddy. Just at that moment an adorably cute student had the script in his hands so I said, "Hey, read the letter from Jack to Gideon." He really was thrilled to do it.
Third Class.....Music Composition.  This class had four students and one professor who was very into Beethoven and Bach and some other boring dead guys.  Steve sits down at the piano and starts playing some different things and managed to put 25% of the class to sleep.  No kidding.  I look over and one students has his head dropped and is drooling.
Hey, I love Beethoven. He is not a boring dead guy. Where do they find these counselors, anyway? As for the kid falling asleep, it wasn't my fault. He was already falling asleep by the time I go there. I swear.
So, now we have a break.  We come back to my office and Steve crashes on my couch.  I walk out of the room for three seconds and come back and Steve is asleep.  I don't know why he was so tired....it's not like he presented to more classes than a professor presents to in a day or anything.  We get him all set up and snuggled in for his nap.  He does not rise until it is time for dinner.
It's true. I was dead tired and they had this wonderful couch, so I laid down and passed clean out. I'll tell you how tired I was. There was a computer in there connected to the internet and I slept instead!
Off to dinner we go.  He orders chicken something-or-other and is socked to find out that it is not served with rice.  He has the choice of macaroni and cheese or something else that was starchy, and he declined both.  The waitress just kept saying to him, "You don't want your starch?"  So, we get our food and it is 6:00 and Steve is too tired to eat and we needed to get to the auditorium for the sound check and lights.
Yeah, what was up with that waitress. First of all, the dish was Chicken Vindaloo which is an Indian dish that's always served over rice but all they had were fries. So I asked for two servings of vegetables instead. You'd have thought I had asked for poison. I finished one of the breasts and then looked over at Jennifer and said, "You know what? I'm too tired to eat."
As the student workers are trying to figure out the lighting, one students said to Steve, "Is that light too bright for you?" and Steve answers him back with, "No!  No light is too bright as long as it is aimed on me!"  El Bighead had arrived!!  So, the lighting gets set and he has his water and everything is ready to go.  I was behind stage getting ready to introduce him and Steve reaches in his suit pocket and pulls out a pin and shows it to me.  It says, "Dickie Forever."
It's true. We'd gone through the whole sound check and lighting check and I had rested a bit backstage. The two of us were standing in the wings ready to go on when I suddenly felt this "thing" in my pocket. When I pulled it out, it was my DICKIE FOREVER button. That's when I realized that this was my first concert since he died. It was tough getting through "Going It Alone," but I made it okay.
I know that I did not know Dickie, but I was part of the list when everything was happening and I really felt it in my own way, too.  He looked at the pin and looked up and rubbed the pin against his chest and said, "Dickie is with me!"  What a moment for me.....and what an even bigger moment for Steve who had done a fabulous job of holding it together all day.  So, I was a little nervous about "Save Me A Seat" but everything went fine.  The show was terrific and the students loved him and people are asking me when he was coming back to campus.

When I came in to work this morning one of the counselors said to me, "Thank you for bringing that angel to campus."  And I thought "Angel? You are not the one he called a bitch, lady!"  Granted it was the end of the day and Steve was a little cranky and I was teasing him a little and he did call me a bitch and I was honored!  I had made it to Steve's bitch list!

Bitch. :-)
I could go on and on and on about how wonderful it was to have Steve come to campus, but his ego is big enough as it is.  We are going to try to have him come back next year and maybe do something with the performing arts school?  I guess time will tell.  It was great spending the day with King Steve and felt more like a day with a friend.  Thanks so much, Steve.  I know I am not supposed to worship you because flaming you is more fun, so I will close now and just say thanks and leave it at that.

Soooooooo.......thanks so much for becoming part of the Alfred University community.

Jennifer L. George, CHES
Coordinator, Alcohol and Other Drug Education Program
Advisor, BACCHUS/AWARE/GAMMA Peer Educators
Alfred University

February 19, 2000.
An Unexpected Member of the Audience?
I wasn't expecting to report this first thing cuz it was an intensely private moment connected to Dickie but then two fans who attended my show last night sent reports to the TLS list and suddenly it all got kinda spooky. So here goes...

Yesterday at the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre in Rochester, NY I went to an early show of their current production, "A... My Name is Alice." At  intermission I went outside where the snow is packed several feet deep on the sides of the road. Looking up at the chilly, gray skies I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of great sadness.

Dickie and I had been planning for him to accompany me on all my trips acting as a road manager. So standing there in the frosty early evening, tears were pouring from my eyes and I just started talking to him, bitterly saddened that I'd never hug him or hold him again or talk to him again. I said to him out loud, "I miss you, Dickie. I need you with me. Why the F*** couldn't you have lived?"

The absolute emptiness was completely overwhelming and I thought for a moment I wouldn't be able to stop crying long enough to go back inside and watch the rest of the show. It was the deepest grief I have felt since the first weeks. (And here I thought I had gotten over it).

I thought to myself, "Okay, I know my diary readers are sick of hearing about Dickie this and Dickie that..." so I went upstairs and sent a note to Gail since I knew she would understand and I had decided I'd not put that moment in this diary. Then this morning, these two reports came in to the TLS list. And just to preface this, I don't normally go for spooky ghosty things but...

From Rhonda: I wish I was better with words or even knew exactly how to describe what happened tonight. But, I know AErin can help me with this one cause she saw/felt it too. So here it goes...
The stage that Steve performed on tonight (in Rochester at the Downstairs Cabaret Theater) was a very small, rounded stage surrounded by tables on different levels. There were four or five tables set up right at the edge of the stage, and those of course were the first to be filled.

When you walked in the door the usher helped you find a seat. This kept everyone close to the stage with a good view. Every table had a red table cloth and the coffee fixings, a little menu and the appropriate number of "Steve Programs".

That is, except for one small table to the far left, probably closest to Steve on the stage which had two chairs pulled out as if someone was sitting in them, two programs neatly arranged... I noticed it at first but didn't really think much of it.

About halfway through the first act, something from backstage caught my eye. I have no idea what it was but something must have moved even though there were no air currents and I don't think that anyone was back there.

Aerin said: ...i was there too and i also saw something move, just as she said way back in the corner, it looked like a curtain moving after someone walks through it....only there wasn't a curtain....it was creepy!!!

Rhonda again: But, instead of refocusing my sight on Steve right away, I followed a "trail" from backstage to Steve at the piano, right to the little empty table.

I knew Dickie was there. I don't usually get feelings like this, and I can't say that I even knew Dickie that well.

Steve hadn't sung "Save Me a Seat" too long before all of this and it was still fresh in my mind and I know that little table, just slightly different from the rest, was Dickie's and that he was there, watching Steve, laughing at his stories and holding his hand at just the right parts.

AErin: the other thing about the table i noticed was that everyone was sat at a front table except for me, rhonda, reen, her parents and renee and her
boyfriend (those of us with reserved seats) and one other couple....why
wouldn't they have been sat in that lonely front table?

as for the performance it was excellent i have never seen steve perform with
so much energy and passion, and since he always performs with an abundance of both, you can imagine what the night was like!!!!!

Rhonda: I have never heard Steve perform like he did tonight. It was amazing and more than I could have expected....there was definitely something extra there.

Steve again: After reading what Rhonda and AErin said, that the air "looked like a curtain after someone walks through it" gave me chills when I read it. And as for the little table, if Dickie was sitting there, then I have to believe that Jerry Gaither ("Ghost") was sitting with him in the other chair.

I guess Dickie heard me outside earlier asking him to be with me. I, of course, had NO idea that all this was going on. But I can tell you that I have rarely felt that much energy and passion during a concert. It was crackling through the room like lightning during a thunderstorm.

February 20-23, 2000.
Tracking The Quiet Session.
Just a quickie:

On Sunday in Rochester, as Act Two of my show, I was going to do The Quiet Session 2.0 -- which is:

Near You
Where Is God
James Robison
A Simple Faith

I asked the audience, as usual, not to applaud during the piece. Afterward, in talking about TQS with Chris, the Producer, he felt that given the more cabaret type setting of the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, not letting people applaud didn't "feel" right. He felt maybe people wanted to applaud and felt restrained.

I told him I felt the same way. Somehow, in a more formal concert setting, it feels right but in a theatre with drinks and tables, the formality didn't "play." Also Reen had been there the night before and I hadn't played The Sad Lady for her as I promised. So I knew I was going to have to put Sad Lady in somehow.

The thing about Sad Lady is it's not really a song you do at the end of a show. When You Care is an "end of the show" song. Sad Lady is a "moment" that one gets into and then out of. So, I reached a compromise.

Sunday night I told the audience that the piece I was going to play is normally done without applause but if the urge overtakes them and they MUST applaud any of the songs, to just do it. But that I would probably not stop and take a bow or acknowledge them, preferring to stay in the zone of the music in the song cycle.

ANYHOO.... Here was the running order of Sunday night:

Near You
The Sad Lady
Where Is God
James Robison
A Simple Faith

What happened was the audience allowed me to slide from Near You into Sad Lady and then into Lazarus. A curious thing began happening as I was singing Lazarus. Suddenly, Sad Lady made total sense. It became an evening of
storytelling. Quiet Session suddenly had focus and started to feel "real" and more complete.

At the end of Lazarus I could just FEEL how involved they were with what I was singing. It was so solid. So they let me go right into Where Is God -- in silence, but it was a charged silence. I don't know how else to describe it. Also, I found myself facing the audience a bit more than I usually do during TQS but it didn't feel like "performing." It felt very real. That combination of story/songs was gripping.

Anyway, Where Is God: I sang the "Sally Struthers" line a cappella and got a HUGE laugh. At the end of the song, it was like the place exploded. All this pent-up applause that didn't happen in the other songs just exploded from them and a couple of men kind of whooped. It was thrilling to feel it coming at me cuz I was feeling the same way about the song.

After the show as I stood in line and shook people's hand, they didn't talk about the TLS songs. They talked about the Quiet Session songs. That was very encouraging and it tells me I'm heading in the right direction with this new music.

So now TQS is six songs. I guess that makes it TQS 3.0.

who is happy to be home. tired. exhausted. but going into the studio tomorrow with barry fasman to cut a piano/vocal demo of Lazarus cuz Steve Pride from the gay radio program that recorded the spoken word version of the Lynchburg Diary wants to record "Burying Dickie's Ashes" -- a previous diary page -- using Lazarus.

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© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
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