Volume 2 Book 5 Part 7 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

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December  2000. El Lay.

December 12, 2000.
The Illustrated Check-up.
I realize that I've talked about my doctor visits but I've never actually SHOWN you a visit so today I took my camera.

Before going off to the doc's office, we say good-bye to Jim and the cats acting goofy. They always wish me a happy send-off and hope I get back okay. Notice in the background is the poster for the French language version of Jim's play first play, "Les Pieds Dans Les Plats." (He called it "Cookin' With Gus.")

DonnaThe first person I see when I arrive at Dr. Peter's is Donna at the front desk. She's a beautiful lady and always has a laugh and a smile. I wait in the reception room until they call my name.

TerriI've talked about Terri a lot (remember the sizzlin' Steve entry?) in this diary. She takes my vital signs: weight, blood pressure, pulse, etc. and gets my shots ready. (I get shots every two weeks). Then Terri goes out and I wait in the little room until Dr. Peter is ready to see me.

A view of south Los Angeles
This is the view of El Lay from Dr. Peter's window
The examination rooms are small and sometimes I feel kinda nervous just sitting there waiting for the doctor.  So I bring a book to read just in case he's busy. Today's is "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb. I got it even though it's on the Oprah Book Club. :-) I sit and read while occasionally glancing up at the exam table.

The examination roomCover of the book She's Come Undone

Dr. Peter KrausThen Dr. Peter Kraus appears. He has a big smile for me always. He has my file folder in hand and he starts paging through it trying to remember who I am -- just kidding. "So," he says in his Australian accent, "today we have you scheduled for a physical."

"Oh, boy!" I think, knowing I'll have lots of things to shoot pictures of, including x-rays and an anal probe. We run through the whole routine where he asks me if I've been traveling, if I have any symptoms popping up, how my ll feels... "Nope, nothing," I tell him, feeling like the good little patient.

"Okay," he says. "Let's do your chest x-ray first." I take my shirt off and walk down the hall until I run into -- I think his name is John or Michael but I can't remember cuz I don't see him that often. He stands me against a COLD metal plate and starts shooting x-rays through me. After developing, he hung them on the light boards.

Dr. Kraus looks at my x-raysMy X-rays. Click on this photo to see the larger ones.
Dr. Kraus looks at Steve's insides. All normal.
(Click on the x-ray for a larger image)
We got back to the room and he said, "Okay, disrobe completely and get up on the exam table on your elbows and your knees." Talk about feeling vulnerable! Yes! It was time for THE PROBE and he said, "No problems. Your prostate looks and feels just fine. It must get a lot of exercise." I didn't say nuthin.
After he finished, we sat up on the exam table smoking cigarettes and -- oh, wait. No, we didn't. Who had time? It was now time to to draw fluids. And apparently, it was time to test everything in my body cuz they lined up so many test tubes, I wondered if they were going to leave anything in my veins. First I went down the hall and gave a urine sample. Then it was time for blood.

Avert your eyes if you're squeamish.

Drawing blood from my armThe full vials of blood all laid out on the table
They do this to me every single month.
I'm glad I have good veins.
Now it was time for an electro-cardio thing or whatever. Terri stuck all these things to my skin and then hooked me to up a little machine.

Making faces while hooked up to the cardio machine
As you can see, I'm a serious, sober patient.

After my urine came back, I got some bad news. Apparently, the tests showed that my body was "throwing off protein -- too much protein in my pee. So Terri told me that I'd have to do a 24 hour pee test. "Tomorrow morning," she explained, "your first urine goes into the toilet. Then every urination after that goes into this container, including the first one Thursday morning."

Too much protein in my urine? What does that mean? I left with my little urine purse, picked up some sugarless desserts at Mani's and then drove home.

My routine pictorial exam had taken an unexpected twist. What could this mean? What causes the body to throw off proteins...? Was it just a fluke test or is this the start of something new? Stay tuned. We'll find out together.

December 13-15, 2000.
Singing At Hallenbeck's.
On Wednesday, I experienced an official Songwriter Nightmare. And of course, it happened not just in public but on TV. See, in preparation for our Thursday night gig for the Nashville Songwriters Association International's "Songwriter Line-up," Bob Cox and I were invited to sing for a local cable access show, The Bob Fuentes Show. Cathy Carlson from NSAI was co-hosting.

Bob, unfortunately, couldn't get off work so I had to go alone which is why I recorded that backing tracks last Saturday at Barry Fasman's. The tracks are on CD and the plan was I'd get interviewed and then I'd sing to the tracks. And that's exactly what we did.

All went well with "Going It Alone." So, then we went to song two, "James Robison." I wasn't completely comfortable standing there singing without my piano. In fact, I felt like a rank amateur (i.e. "where should I put my hands?" How should I stand?"). But I was making it. I tried to just not move much and to just sing the song.

Anyway, we get to the end of "James Robison" -- right to the very last line, "I discovered I didn't need..." when suddenly the CD starting repeating. The piano kept jumping back and forth on the same riff, then springing forward. I know I must have looked like someone just drew a gun on me.

But I didn't stop. I just finished the line and then stood there hoping the CD would also stop. LOL. Weirdly, the CD had worked on SEVERAL CD players. It wasn't like I hadn't been rehearsing my ass off, cuz I have been. ARRRGGGGH! So I asked the technician to play the end again just to see if it was a one-time fluke. Nope. It happened again.

I groaned and told them to just leave it. At least I got through the song. But I just felt like a junior high kid or something, standing there like an idiot. But hey, it's cable access. Some day that tape will be worth millions. LOL.

It was fun to dip my toes back into the world of on-the-street songwriters again this past week. When I worked in the music industry my job was to help educate and protect new songwriters like these, the ones with day jobs; the ones who come to this town with stars in their eyes.

Here in the Valley on Cahuenga Blvd. there is an acoustic songwriter stage in a big, old fashioned restaurant, performance space, recording studio, soup kitchen -- I don't know what else, but it has a GREAT atmosphere with kitschy country old fashioned stuff hanging on the walls and from the ceiling.

Hallenbeck's General Store
Hallenbeck's General Store facing the kitchen area

Hallenbeck's stage
The stage at Hallenbeck's

The night began with two groups of three songwriters singing "in the round." Then Bob and I were the "featured performers" for the night. I think we started about 10. And Jimmy, who was rehearsing a new play at the El Portal a few blocks over, got there just before we started.

Oh, goodness. How cute are we??

Bob and Steve

These shots are beneath me.

Three Faces of Bob Cox

Anyway, the concert went quickly. We sang a half hour and then they had an open mic to finish off the evening. "Songwriter Line-up" happens the second Thursday of the month, I believe. It was definitely great to sing with Bob again.

Quick results from the t-cell count test. We've gone up to just over 700 t-cells and the percentage is now 19%. This is a solid rise from the last tests and shows my immune system is over 2/3 restored. I am faithful 100% in compliance with my meds, despite all the travel, and the results are paying off.

Readers have told me that diabetics often throw protein off in their urine. Or it could be kidney disease. So who knows. I'm sure after my test results come back, they'll will have more new tests for me. They always do.

December 16-17, 2000.
Christmas Parties & Celebs.
      Jimmy went to an anniversary celebration of the old Carol Burnett Show, a guest of Stan Freeman who used to write special material for the show. Then at the El Portal, I helped them with their Christmas party, a free show for the volunteers and supporters of the El Portal Center For The Arts.

      Jim took this shot of Carol Burnett.

      Tim Conway and Jim

      I didn't go. I think that was the night I went to see "bare." Oh, speaking of "bare," there was a BIG article with huge pictures in the LA Times Calendar today. Jimmy said, "I feel like a proud father."

      Todd at the El PortalSaturday night at the El Portal we took our "adopted son" Todd to the El Portal for the big Christmas party. Todd's been in Nebraska for a year or two. When he's in L.A. he lives in a house with Kato Kaelin. Except Kato's gettin' the boot and the person moving in is someone whose name I can't divulge. All I can say is this person is one of the most sought-after human beings on the planet. It's all very mysterious. Todd always manages to stumble into the most, uh, unique situations.

      I helped Jimmy set up the stage for the event that night and then, when the people started filing in, I sat at the piano and played Christmas carols. Just before the show started, Jimmy leaned over to me and said, "Hey, why don't you open the show by singing 'Oh Holy Night.'"

      OH HOLY NIGHT??? I wanted to say, "Why not just ask me to do a soliloquy from Shakespeare?" But instead I said, "Okay." It was just weird to be singing a song I barely knew. After I finished, Jimmy got up and we sang our song "Christmastime" followed by Bob Caine singing a song from his and Barry Fasman's musical "Scrooge."

      Barry Fasman & Bob Caine

      Then came the wacky part. Here's my favorite picture of the whole evening:

      Joanne Worley looks like she's hypnotizing Jim Brochu

      Joanne Worley cracked everyone up with a "Texas" Christmas using members of the audience. I accompanied her on still another song and what is it with her that she never ages? She looks exactly the same now as she did 25 years ago on Laugh-In.

      JoAnne Worley being goofy

      After Joanne, the special guest of the night came to the piano. Albert Hague is a Tony Award winning composer but most people know him from two other things he did. He was the older music teacher in the movie and series "Fame." And he wrote the score for the classic cartoon "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." He told the story of meeting Dr. Suess -- that he prepared for the meeting by writing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and the job was cinched!

    Albert Hague, composer of The Grinch
      He brought singer Janice Lynde with him and she sang a couple of his songs, followed by the Actor's Alley troupe singing a Christmas medley, topping off a very nice evening. Or as Jim put it, a hamische Christmas -- a yiddishism signifying warmth and family.

      The only thing I forgot to do was take a picture of myself. Oh well. Jimmy has been handed a tough job, keeping the doors of the El Portal open. He inherited a dire economic situation there. But it's easy to see how much the people love him and love working for him. So our Christmas Wish this year is that more angels will come through the door and keep the theater going.

      Speaking of angels, I just got the funniest email from my mom describing their church's Christmas pageant:

        "We had our Christmas program at Church last night and thought we were going to have to call the riot squad.

        "The teenagers put on a really pretty perfectly obedient part of their  program. Then there was a manger scene. The toddlers and 1st graders were the Angels, Mary, Joseph, and three wise men.

        "Well......The little darlings came in so peaceful and serene and when they got to their places at the manger they begin to hit baby Jesus and some wanted to pick him up and others were fighting to keep Him in the manger. They pulled off the halos of the angels and were throwing the straw in the manger crib. Finally one Mother quietly went to the side and got them to hand her Jesus. The fight and scuffling continued until, to save the end of the program, they had the kids leave the manger scene..."

      This sounds like a scene from Spinal Tap. A Spinal Tap Christmas.

    December 18-22, 2000.
    Holy Hanukkah!
      I have not bought a single card, gift or twinkling light.

      It's not that I don't love Hanukkah and Christmas, you understand. It's just that I haven't hardly left the apartment since getting back from tour. I've been sitting up in the loft working on midi files, sequencing some songs. It's time-consuming and mind-numbing.

      But slowly I'm making progress. For instance, this morning I tossed out everything I've done so far and started over. That's progress, isn't it?

      We did get several Christmas presents. The first was from Shawn Decker. A video called "Rodeo Bloopers 8" which is chock full of people getting thrown from horses and bulls. And who doesn't love watching people get thrown and gored, one right after another, for over an hour.

      Jimmy and I watched it tonight, cringing all the way when suddenly I realized I knew exactly who would love this video: My brother "DOS." So it's going to become our pass-around Christmas present. We'll send it to DOS and the can send it onto whomever he thinks can't live without it. Thanks, Shawn!

      Jimmy and I were enjoying a pre-Christmas feast of hot dogs and beans last night and we decided for Christmas we're going to buy a chair. See how exciting the homosexual lifestyle is? We eat hot dogs, watch TV and for Christmas we buy a chair. And why are we buying a chair? Is it because we want to find a rare antique to go with our Louis XIV decor?


      It's because the old chair finally broke after ten years. That was the chair Jimmy won on Jeopardy, lo those many moons ago. He won a chair because he came in second, fact I love reminding him of.

      So if you're a friend of ours, do not expect any gifts and don't expect a card. The finances around the Ponderosa here have been so tight, that we just haven't done anything. Well, actually my mom and dad also sent us some presents. So those presents will be our Christmas. Thanks mom and dad.

      And no, I'm not being pitiful here. What with him down at the theatre so much directing new shows, and me up in the loft working on music, who's got time to shop and mail? Not only that but we can't put any lights up because there's a power crisis here in California cuz they privatized the power company in some weird way that left them without electricity and now the president of the power company is buying TV ads to complain about how they can't raise our rates cuz the govt won't let them.

      Maybe those Hanukkah candles will come in handy after all. Is it too late to turn Jewish? (And yes, those were kosher hot dogs. Maybe we're on to something!)

    December 23-31, 2000
    Rip Taylor & Uncle Stevie.
      Jonathan & ElizabethGo ahead. Ask me if I'm a proud uncle. Okay I am. Because of the ice in Dallas, my brother Corky and his family were "trapped" here in the sun-drenched Land Of El Lay over the Christmas break so my big Christmas present was seeing my niece and nephew, Lizzy and Jonathan. I took them down to the El Portal to meet Jimmy. Yes, meet him. They've never met their Uncle Jimmy and yes, it was love at first sight.

13 year old Jonathan (what a face!)
and Lizzy (who pounced on Erik Adams from Actors Alley)
saying, "Hey You're CUTE! Can I have my picture taken with you?"
      I've spent this whole "holiday" upstairs in my loft working on music. Period. So that's why I haven't posted a diary page. Until Corky's family came, I hadn't done anything worth describing. Oh, except for having a holiday meal with Rip Taylor who was in from Las Vegas. "Rippy" makes us laugh and he really loves Jimmy a lot cuz beneath all that hilarity is a man with a past I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. He says when he's with us he can "just be himself." I think that's nice.

      Meanwhile, the El Portal is still open. Jimmy took one of the plays which the Actors Alley had been developing and turned it into a full run in the 99-seat Circle Theatre. So he's been busy but we have had some wonderul together-time with him in the bedroom working and me upstairs cranking away at my workstation.

      Corky, Jonathan, Lizzy, Steve, Holli & Jim
      pose outside El Portal Center for the Arts

      I'm going on vacation for a couple of weeks and then we'll start a new diary book once all the excitement starts up again. I thank you, reader, for giving me the gift of life. My disease is still under control (although that "throwing off protein" thing will be a new challenge), and our home and lives are full of love and great people. For those of you who are facing terrible challenges, I hope you'll stay connected to those who love you and that you don't allow yourself to slip away into aloneness.

      May this new year be everything you want it to be and more.

      The last picture of the year is one Jimmy took of me after having fallen asleep answering email. See how I slave away for you? Happy Real New Millennium.

Steve falls asleep in mid-sentence


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© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.