THE GLASS CLOSET
Volume 2 Book 5 Part 1 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin
[ Part 1 ][ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ]
July 2000. New York, El
July 1-6, 2000.
A New York Adventure.
What if someone told you that for their birthday, THEIR birthday, they would like to take YOU to NYC. That's how we're starting off Book 5 here. Oh, welcome to Volume 2 Book 5 everyone. I'll be your waiter. My name is Steve.July 7-10, 2000.
The birthday, a 21st birthday, belonged to Lisa Bobeczko, a quiet and VERY shy girl from the TLS list. I asked her to write up the adventure. Here is her description. I fill the details below. A word of warning, if you hate reading about happy things, don't read this diary page. It's nothing but celebration.
A Tale Between Two Cities (Weehawken, New Jersey and Manhattan)
Steve and Jimmy came to NYC with me and my family on a postponed 21st birthday present trip from my parents to me. We flew first class to JFK Sunday morning and arrived in the late afternoon. After an hour van ride we were in Weehawken, NJ. We stayed with Igor, a flight attendant friend of my mom's and his partner, Richard. They recently moved to NJ and purchased a fabulous house on the Lincoln tunnel hill. It has from almost every window a
panoramic view of Manhattan.
Igor and Richard were invited to go on their friend's yacht to see the tall ships come in on the 4th. They declined because they were setting up for a party they were throwing that night. But, asked if my family and entourage, and Bob Stillman could instead and he generously agreed. We watched the "tall ship parade" from Spike and John's yacht at the dock.
Steve, Jimmy, and Bob were very entertaining with their mimics and antics. When the Coast Guard gave everyone permission to enter the Hudson River, John and Spike discussed safety issues and what time Bob needed to be back for his performance. We all agreed we had time to go out for a couple of hours.
So, we headed to our destination, Port Liberty which was close to the "Statue of Liberty." While cruising, along we saw the most spectacular views of Manhattan and New Jersey skylines, including Igor and Richard's house. It
was like looking at a postcard. We all had a WONDERFUL time, good food, drink and great company. We dropped Bob off at Chealsea pier, so he could get home for awhile before performing.
Then, we went back to Igor's and Richard's place and met their friends and enjoyed a delicious gourmet barbecue. We then viewed the fireworks from their balconies. We saw not one, but four sychronized displays. It was AWESOME!! Then Steve took over their piano and gave a short performance. We were privileged to hear one of his new songs in progress. It was a warm and beautiful experience, to be able to hear and see Steve perform, gazing out at the twinkling lights of Manhattan, especially when he was singing "Lazarus."
On Wednesday my dad and I went into Manhattan to Times Square. We were able to get tickets for "Jekyll and Hyde" at the TKTS booth for the matinee. The show was interesting and the scenery and lighting was superb. I thought, though that the plot and the singing were a bit weak; not quite what I expected from a Broadway show.
Then after the show we met everyone at Sardi's for dinner, which included Piper Laurie, who sat next to Jim at "Kiss Me Kate." After dinner our "group" of ten headed next door to see Bob in "Dirty Blonde." The show was excellent and Bob was incredible. We all went out afterwards and had a marvelous time just being together.
My dad hired a limo driver to take us to the JFK airport Thursday morning. The limo was spectacular and the driver took a route thru Brooklyn, so Jimmy told us stories and pointed out places of his youth. The flight home was great!! We got first class again. And the topper was, Igor traded into our trip and worked in first class.
The whole trip was a dream come true. Everything exceeded our expectations. It was a fantastic and memorable 21st birthday celebration.
I'm just too generous. It was Lisa Bobeczko's 21st birthday and she told her mother, a flight attendant for United Airlines that what she wanted was to go to New York and see Broadway shows with Steve Schalchlin. So, Ruth wrote me and invited Jimmy and me to fly first class to New York with them.
Yes, it was a horrible thing to be forced into doing, but I thought, There's nothing too good for my fans. I guess if I have to sacrifice, then I have to sacrifice. It's just the kind of selfless person that I am.
So it was Jimmy, Lisa, Ruth, little sister Kerry and daddy Michael staying with their friends, Richard and Igor, in a beautiful house just across from Manhattan in Jersey, five minutes to 42nd street by bus. A ringside seat for the 4th of July fireworks over Manhattan.
We began on Sunday night in Greenwich Village (which was teeming with sailors in white sailor outfits -- the fleet's in!), with dinner at Jeckyl & Hyde's (which has talking statues on the walls). We met Jimmy's old friend (Dickie East) and ended up at a showtune piano bar called Marie's Crisis where Ruth was the star of the party (as usual).
A COLUMBO MYSTERY?
The day on the boat started off early. We didn't know John and Spike. They were friends of our hosts, Richard and Igor. So we go down to the dock where John & Spikes' boat was supposed to be.
There, tied up in the water was an immaculate 1940's 32' wooden Richardson yacht but no people. The radio was blaring, there was a big pug dog running loose and there was a suitcase inside open with stuff in it. We asked, but no one on the other boats knew who owned this boat. (I just KNEW there was a dead body in the hold.)
Finally, Jimmy and the others went off for drinks leaving Lisa and me alone. I decided I was tired of standing. I looked over at the boat. Very comfy looking chairs on the stern. I thought, "I'm sitting down. If it ain't the right boat, someone will kick us off. The dog came over and immediately attacked me; well, actually he slobbered all over me as he was going after the turkey in my bag.
Finally, everyone showed up. We had the right boat. Bob Stillman also appeared and eventually we took off into the Hudson River chasing after the tall ships. I also had my video camera. The best moment: Jimmy sitting on the bow singing, "Don't Rain On My Parade" as the NYC skyline rolled past him.
We were standing on this third floor balcony up on the heights of Jersey. Right in front of us was a huge fireworks display, behind that was the skyline of Manhatten where we could see four more synchronized displays along the East River. To the right we could see the displays farther away at the Brooklyn Bridge and the Verazano.
The fact that they were in sync was epic grandeur in colorful motion. I just froze that image of the Empire State Building silhouetted by the humongous and brilliantly colored fireworks up and down the East River. A true New York experience.
BROADWAY SHOWS! MOVIE STARS!
The next day, Jimmy and I broke off from the pack and went visiting friends in Manhattan. (Lots of tears and laughs and hugs.) Then over to "Kiss Me Kate." We even had our friend Brian Stokes Mitchell (who won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical)'s house seats. (Important information: When Jimmy ordered them, they asked, "Do you want Stokes' center seats or aisle seats." Jimmy said, "Aisle seats." Cuz he's a big guy. Anyway...)
When we arrived at the box office, we had seats 102 and 103. Jimmy started grumbling (comically), "Who's the son of a bitch that got 101, my aisle seat?" Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.
Just before the curtain went up a lady using an umbrella like a cane sat down. Then we realized it was Piper Laurie the actress. Piper had seen The Last Session and she had worked with Aunt Michael years before. So we had a mini-scream fest there in the seats becoming reacquainted and then saw "Kiss Me Kate," which is absolutely brilliant down to the last detail. (Stokes is a true star).
By the end of intermission, Jimmy had persuaded Piper to join us for dinner at Sardi's with the Bobeczkos, Richard & Igor, Spike & John. But first we went backstage. We were all standing on the stage when we met so I have this GREAT video of Stokes hugging Jimmy and Piper with the whole theater in the background. What a Broadway Moment!
Then we had our dinner with Piper, of course (where Lisa told us the best thing about Jeckyl & Hyde were the sets). Then next door to see Dirty Blonde (a play which is sort of about Mae West) at the Helen Hayes with TLS' Bob Stilman in his Tony nominated role). Dirty Blonde was astonishing. A brilliantly written show as much about fans as celebrities and even a great song by Bob where he rhymes "dockside" and "peroxide." (JEALOUS STEVE. A unique rhyme is a "songwriter thang." We look for them like miners for gold.)
That night we barely got any sleep before catching our ride to the airport. (The limo cost less than a cab, by the way. But it was disconcerting when the driver turned on the disco lights as we drove down the streets at 6am.)
I watched "The World Is Not Enough" on the way home but mostly I just ate like a pig. Next to me on the right was Lisa; 21 year old Lisa who only said, "Let's go back and do this again. I don't want it to stop."
I remember this one moment on the plane going back. I looked to my left and there was Jimmy asleep like a baby. He works so hard and is so dedicated to the El Portal, he never gets a chance to just relax; literally "on call" 7 days a week. So, I want to thank Lisa and the Bobeczkos for making this possible, if for him only.
Lisa, welcome to adulthood. You got the best boost a person could have, by the way. The same one I had: great parents and even a great sister.
Oh, and Happy Birthday to us all. :-)
It felt like a family reunion. But getting there! Whoa boy. The whole of Santa Monica Blvd. is being torn apart from stem to stern and the big choirfest, for which I was a guest, was being held right in queertown at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Los Angeles. On a Saturday night no less.July 11-13, 2000.
So I parked in a grocery store lot across the street (complete with attendant and passes) and snuck out of the lot to the church. (Was that a sin?) When I ran into the MCC SF Choir, THAT'S when it felt like a family reunion. We were hugging and kissing and it felt SO GOOD to see them again, especially Darr.
Darr and his partner Matthew are two of my most beloved and cherished friends in the world and I had totally spaced that Darr would be here with the choir. I threw my arms around him and hugged him like crazy.
And to hear them sing!! Whoa! They were rehearsing this one number that starts kinda slowly and just builds and builds and builds. I was in tears by the time they ended the rehearsal. Then Bob Crocker, the gentle, massively talented and very handsome director told me that they hadn't had a chance to rehearse "When You Care" but would I sing two other songs by myself instead?
I asked Darr, "Which songs should I sing?" (Darr knows my catalogue at least as well as I do). Without hesitation he said, "William's Song" and "Friendly Fire." Now, I wouldn't have chosen those as the only two. Usually I think (which confronted with singing two songs), "Uptempo and ballad." Typical music biz thinking.
I said, "Okay. You got it."
I went to the lobby and found that they had put my name on their programs as a "special guest award-winning songwriter Steve Schalchlin." With my name in a curvy script set apart from the rest of the graphics. This I was not expecting and I felt deeply honored.
They started the program with a combined choir from the MCC's in LA, San Diego, The Valley and San Franciso. The incredibly angelic voices filled the room and immediately tears hit my eyes. I think the human voice is far and away the most beautiful instrument on earth. And there's something about a CHOIR sound -- especially a GOOD choir like this -- that literally fills my chest and makes me cry.
In other words, I'm just like my mom who cries at everything.
After a couple of songs, the MCC-LA sang. They were a small group but very moving. GREAT choices of songs. Then it was my turn. Someone went to the piano and lifted the lid. But it obstructed some views so I just lowered the lid back down and went right into the introduction of "William's Song" telling them it was based on real life people, Carolyn and her son William Wagner.
And once again, right at the point where she tells the recalcitrant school principal (who has blamed William for his own gaybashing), "That's gonna cost you money!" the whole place came apart; a thrilling standing ovation.
(Should I do a ballad? My mind starts asking me at this point. No, I'm going with Darr's instincts.) So I told them who I was, about The Last Session and launched into "Friendly Fire." Once again, they came unglued with applause/standing ovation after the martial section before I had even finished the song! What an audience!!
After I finished and sat down, the pastor, Rev. Nancy Wilson asked me for my card, which of course I didn't have any of. So I gave her a CD (which I *did* bring) and told her I'd love to sing for them sometime.
The next morning, Sunday morning, I decided to go back and just listen to MCC-SF special guesting for the morning worship. They were great, of course. But it was Rev. Nancy's sermon that got me this time. She was telling a story about "drag queen we loved" who, at the end of the story, dies of AIDS. I could see how much that little guy meant to her, how lovely a person he must have been and I lost it completely. I just started weeping right there in the second row.
And since I was wearing my eyepatch and do not have a kleenex I wasn't a pretty sight until this hunky guy sitting next to me gave me a handkerchief. And I was recovering when one of the ushers (who had seen me the night before andhad told me how she loved my songs) came up to me with a box of kleenexes, leaning in the aisle.
The attention totally embarrassed me. I mean, I'm in the second row for godsake! I could feel every eye drilling me in the back of my head as I try to negotiate wiping under my eyepatch which was by then soaking wet.
I'm really looking forward to Long Beach on Wednesday. We will be doing "When You Care." I can't wait. Have I mentioned how much I love this choir and how beautiful I think they are?
Long Beach, I hope you're prepared to rock.
No, Long Beach wasn't prepared to rock. In fact, No one from Long Beach even showed up. I guess they were all watching Survivor on TV.July 14, 2000.
My friend Sonia got to my place about 4 and we proceeded in her little car to drive across to Pasadena and then down the 605 to Long Beach. It was a brilliant move on her part because we did not hit one lick of traffic.
We found the First Congregational Church without any problems and were the first to arrive. And what a building! Built in 1914 we were later told, this perfectly polished wooden sanctuary complete with shiny wooden balcony and an organ complete with trumpets pointed at the audience had us in awe from the first moment.
Minutes after we arrived, the choir made it and they proceeded to set up their sound equipment and risers and Sonia and I went out for dinner at a Caribbean restaurant. We go so involved in chatting we hadn't realized it was only 15 minutes until showtime so we raced back over to the church.
Not a single soul was sitting in the sanctuary.
Finally four guys trickled in but they were friends of the choir and had driven in from San Diego. The only person from the church itself was the lady who let us in! That means in this beautiful, large church there were only six people in the audience: the four San Diego guys, Sonia and me.
I don't think I've ever experienced that before.
But you know what they did? Sang. The choir sang its heart out. When it was my turn I sang "Lazarus"and "At Least I Know What's Killing Me" and we all had a private party of fantastic music. Who needs an audience when we have each other??
At Dr. Peter's I showed him a weird growth that I had on my back. He said, "Oh, it's nothing. Just a skin tag. And here's another one. Want me to get rid of it now or next time?"
I said, "Next time. No. Do it now."
So he filled a needle with pain killer and started injecting the site. When I winced, he slapped me and said, "Oh, be quiet." He was right. It didn't hurt that much. Then he got an instrument of some sort and the next thing I heard was a sizzle as he cut and burned the skin tag off leaving the scent of burnt Steve in the room.
After removing the other one, I could see a little smoke in the room and he said, upon leaving he scrunched up his face and said, "That always smells."
"Hey," I said. "Could we not do blood tests this month?" I just wasn't feeling in the mood to be punctured and bled. He didn't even stop. "No," he answered as he closed the door.
Then beautiful Terry came in to draw blood and said, "Mmm. Something smells good!" She meant it! I asked her, "Were your ancestors cannibals?"
Why the X-Men? -- Plus Contest!
I started reading the X-Men comic when I was in high school which shows you what a geek I am. But anyway, in Buna, Texas there wasn't much in the way of activity. We had just moved there from West Monroe, Louisiana (where we had been for a year) and from Orange County, California where I grew up (after having been born in Little Rock, Arkansas).July 19-23 a.m., 2000.
Buna, Texas sits at an intersection of a small state highway and a country road that leads both ways deeply into southeastern Texas piney woods. The kind of Blair Witch woods you could wander into and never be found. I found my escape through Marvel Comics. I liked the fact that all the characters lived in New York City.
One time I even mailed Marvel some drawings I had done of some of the superheroes and I even won a "No Prize" once, which is what they would sometimes give to readers who wrote good letters to the editor. For me, Marvel Comics was It with a capital I.
But it was Marvel's X-Men that got to me. Teenage mutants who were misunderstood and hated by "normal" people but still fighting "evil" mutants to save a mankind that fears them. I, of course, thought X-Men was an allegory of being gay. Not only were they "different" but their differences gave them super powers -- talk about affirmation!
I had almost every single issue and I always dreamed of the day X-Men would be made into a movie. And now the day was here. I was so scared that they've screw it all up. Why? Because so far, Hollywood has failed to deliver a single "good" superhero movie, in my opinion -- the first Batman getting the closest.
Why? Well, first of all, real people look downright stupid in spandex superhero costumes. What looks colorful and powerful on the page comes off idiotic and embarrassing on a real person. Second of all, X-Men in particular is character driven. For me the least interesting moments of the comic were the big combat scenes. What I loved was how they related to each other, the soap opera aspects to state it crassly.
What I wanted was NOT a "comic book movie," but a human drama where I could just "live" in that world -- a school for gifted children where the "gifts" can shoot power blasters out of their eyes or manipulate the weather -- for a couple of hours and see these characters I grew up and came to love as they really are.
In other words, I wanted them to take the X-Men seriously. And to my GREAT relief, that's precisely what they did. The X-Men movie is almost everything I had hoped for. They wisely center on my favorite character, Wolverine, a tough, sarcastic loner who gets drawn into the X-Men's world so that we discover it one piece at a time through his eyes.
They got Wolverine exactly right in this film. He's mean, he breaks all the rules, he's seriously sarcastic, and his claws, something that would have been impossible to portray before this time in history KICK ASS!!! His attraction to Jean Gray and smartass comments to Scott, her boyfriend, also provide tension and humor.
They changed some of the characters' histories in order to make it all fit into 90 minutes, but the dark, serious world of hate and intolerance -- and Professor Xavier's determination to not hate, to even protect "homo sapiens" from themselves and evil mutants, effectively putting themselves between two angry, opposing worlds -- is effectively rendered.
Is it a great movie? No. Not really. It still has a "big bad guy taking over the world" plot which I loathe in any movie or comic -- and the special effects for the big showdown are not especially impressive -- but overall, those were my X-Men up there on the screen and I had a total blast.
One Positoid Vein up for X-Men.
I need a name for Volume 2 Book 5 and would love some suggestions from diary readers. So, send me your title suggestions via email or post your entry on the discussion board at bonusround.com -- and if I choose it, you'll get a free Bonus Round Session CD. And if you want more than that, I guess you'll just have to ask.
The Fresh Wound.
This morning I'm looking at the new coffee mug Bev brought me yesterday with my favorite picture of Dickie and me on it and I'm awash in tears. A TOTAL wreck. (And I'm supposed to sing tonight??).July 24, 2000.
Six months ago, January of this year I had just lost my buddy Ghost. Six months ago, I was writing the most pain-filled diary entries of my life because Dickie was breathing his last few breaths. He was lying in a bed in his big living room and he had actually woken up from his death coma asking for popsicles.
Six months ago I thought he was going to pull through. I remember feeding him popsicles and kissing his hands and kissing his feet and selfishly begging him to want to live even though I knew life meant struggle and agony for him.
Six months ago I remember looking into Gail's eyes and seeing her love for him and how exhausted she was, knowing she had fought by his side for months and months, enduring night after night of his suffering.
I thought he would make it. I thought this little coma he had been in was some kind of magical cocoon -- and that he was now emerging with new life and new energy surging through him. I was so wrong.
If I were to really, really come out the closet with my feelings I would tell you that I was consumed with guilt that I had failed him in some way. That I had not loved him enough or cared for him enough or touched him enough to get him through. That my music wasn't healing enough.
He was so tiny. His skin had turned brown-yellow from the liver disease. I was so very, very helpless. We were all so helpless.
Yesterday, as Bev sat here I replayed her the video that Jimmy had shot of the interment ceremony where Gail and I were crouched next to his tiny little grave. Tears were rolling off the end of my nose as we placed pictures, a CD, memories and a "Dickie Forever" button into the ground.
And I realize I have barely begun to mourn the loss of him who meant so more to me than I could possibly describe in words or pictures or music. And tonight, as Bob Cox and Marie Cain and I sing down in Hollywood, I will try my best to not think about him because if I do, I will not be able to get through it.
And fuck, the 25th, the REAL sixth month anniversary isn't even here yet. Am I angry? No. Not angry. Just in pain. When Bev gave me the mug with his shining smiling face on it, I pressed his face to my lips and said helplessly, "Come back. Please come back."
Richard Lee Remley (with helpless friend)
May 12, 1954 - January 25, 2000
A Lonely Concert in Hollywood.
Well, I guess I guess I've lost my allure in Hollywood. It was just a little tiny theatre. Surely I could sell at LEAST 40 tickets, couldn't I? I guess not. Maybe everyone thought I was going to sing the same ol' damn songs again. Or maybe I'm just old and yesterday's news. Maybe. Not complaining; just telling the truth.
It's too bad, too. Cuz Bobby Cox and I had worked out a fresh new program with new songs and arrangements -- and the sound system kicked ASS.
Actually I'd say there were about 15, not more than 20 people in the audience. Here we were within spitting distance of The Village Gay and Lesbian Center and we couldn't get arrested. Wait. Bad choice of words.
We were right near Santa Monica Blvd. where the hustlers ply their trade. Bev and I walked down before the show to this taco place to get some food and we displaced a very annoyed looking trans hooker who was sitting there on a metal stool pretending to be a customer.
(But it was getting close to show time and I needed to eat). The huge man behind the little screen grumbled at us to go to the front window to order. He seemed very angry that we wanted to eat.
After we got our tacos (which were quite good), we walked down to The Village to eat so the hustlers wouldn't sue us for restraint of trade.
Then we rushed back to the theatre in time to see a few customers file in for the show. In the audience were two old friends of two friends of mine from the internet, two hunky guys I never saw before, two mainstays of the Blue Sphere, three or four old family friends of Jimmy's and mine, Bev and the people she was staying with, a lezzie couple and the theatre crew.
And what did we do? WE ROCKED THE JOINT!! Man, it was a blast. Marie Cain opened the evening in HIGH form with a side-splitting set of hilarious songs that had me screaming with laughter. What could I have been thinking. Follow Marie Cain? Am I nuts??
Marie Cain delivers absolute joy along with her witty, hilarious songs.
Jimmy's favorite Marie songs were her feminist take-off on the Wizard of Oz, "If I Only Had A Dick" and her lament about being an Irish girl from Idaho ("Potatoes times two") called, "If I Weren't A Gentile." Even though she's going through a very unfair apartment eviction (after having lived there 22 years, Marie was radiant.
After intermission, Bobby started the funky guitar intro to "Somebody's Friend" and that became our opening number,
Bob Cox adding much needed sex appeal to Steve's show
followed by a guitar/piano version "Save Me A Seat." I announced I was a big fag who was also a recovering Baptist who would be singing songs about AIDS and God. Then we did "Where Is God?" followed by "Friendly Fire."
Then "Going It Alone" (with Bobby's sweet harmony), "At Least I Know What's Killing Me," "Lazarus," (get it? First killing, then Lazarus?) "Connected" (acoustic guitar only), "Gabi's Song," "William's Song," and "When You Care."
BEV'S COMMENTS:Steve with Bobby Cox was different and fun to see Steve have a chance to perform with accompaniment. "Connected" was done only with guitar and was a completely different sound (also gave his nibs a chance to gesticulate more, which we know he hates to do). Bobby joined in on singing "Going it Alone" and has a great voice. The rapport between them was perfect.
The only song I didn't like with guitar was "Save Me a Seat," which I've already bitched to Steve about. It becomes "a song" with guitar--a nice song, to be sure, but it's not the personal song that it is without. The difference was that it doesn't move me to tears with guitar. Perhaps the change in tempo is part of it. But...drop the guitar, Steve [grin] The rest were terrific with the added guitar. Next we'll bring in a drum...
The show was so much fun, I've decided to return for the August replay--if I can walk by then. Y'all come. First dozen people get a piece of lovely faux crystal water glasses (if I can eat enough jelly between now and then...)
I felt like it was a very balanced program but the sound was so good -- and Bobby's guitar sounded so GREAT -- I wanted to sing all night long. I guess I coulda done an encore but I figured let 'em wait till next month!
(Anthony Barnao, who spearheads the Blue Sphere, told me he felt badly that he didn't have more of his own people turn out but that once his company members start talking about what they saw tonight, tickets would be almost impossible to get for the next show.)
I mean, audience or not, we had a fanTAStic time tonight. I also have a new song, "The Closet" almost finished and will be debuting that in August. After the show, Bev accidentally stepped in a pothole in the street and hurt her foot. So after she got back to where she was staying she put her foot up in ice and announced on her diary page that she would write up a review complete with pictures tomorrow.July 25-26, 2000.
Sunday afternoon Jimmy, Bev, Barefoot Ron, Gail, Ronda and I went to Dickie's grave and laid flowers. It was the first time I've been there since the interment and my first time to see our plaque, "We will always be connected to each other." *sigh* I miss him.
Gail told me she'd been too busy at work to read the lists lately so I mentioned to her that he had been on my mind a lot lately. "Yeah, me too," she said. "Why is that?" And I reminded her that the 25th would be the six month anniversary of his death. "Of course," she replied. "Of course. I've been working so hard I hadn't even thought of it."
Tommy Part 2
TOMMY'S story, part 2*
Age 28 AIDS
A LIVE INTERNET CHAT BETWEEN
HANNAH* AND STEVE SCHALCHLIN.
[First read part 1 of Tommy's story]
This conversation occurred very late at night on AIM. The entire conversation is presented with very few changes.
Hannah: we've had another big turnaround.
Tommy told me that he wanted to die at the Hospice House, not at home. Told me that we were getting close and I needed to hurry and get him there. I drove the unit mad advocating to get him in. Long story. Insurance crap to contend with. Went straight to management... pleaded his case, blah blah blah.
called this morning to let him know we had a bed. he was real happy.
called again closer to the time the ambulance was coming to get him.
Steve: this is so heartbreaking i don't want him to die.
Hannah: oh god, I don't either.
Hannah: his mom got on the phone crying and asking me if this was it. this is a really hard situation.
Steve: but he'll be close to you.
Hannah: I cant promise anything. I don't know if this is *it*.
I explained to her that we just have to take it one day at a time... i hate saying that, but it's true.
she said she didn't think she could handle him leaving and I asked if she wanted me to be there when they came.
Steve: oh good. she wanted you there for the ambulance?
Hannah: she said she did. yes.. i think it meant a lot to Tommy. He's so very protective of her.
then she put Tommy on the phone and he was just so surprised that I would do that... (????)
so, I went. and he greeted me with a bucket of
Hannah: He was an absolute wreck.
Steve: oh that poor baby
Hannah: said he wasn't ready to die. it was awful.
I told him he didn't have to stay on a
schedule. we have no agenda, i told him.
Steve: great great
Hannah: he kept apologizing to me!!! Said over and over i'm just not ready, i'm just not ready.: i just kinda rocked him and said it was okay. that no one was mad at him or expecting anything of him... it was KILLING me.
Steve: oh i guess so.
Hannah: anyway, his sister was there and I met her and loved her immediately.. she kept thinking she screwed up because she told him that she wanted him to come back home when he was all ready to go to Hospice. and die.
Tommy's mom wanted to stay and talk to me at the house and the ambulance was ready to leave. the driver came back up to the house and said "Tommy would like someone to ride with him"
Hannah: his mom says, "tell him we'll meet him there". I think she was so emotionally distraught that she didn't realize what she was doing. I stepped in and instructed her to get in the ambulance. Told her I'd meet her at the Hospice House. I think I was a bit pushy.
Steve: LOL GREAT
Hannah: I followed them back. Stayed in the room with him all afternoon. His sister brings in this tiny bag that he had requested. he pulls out his baptism certificate newly framed. and the ROCK I gave him.
so I of course lost it. god, it doesn't take much. had a long talk with the chaplain this morning. it was really helpful.
Steve: i'm listening to all this. just letting you know.
Hannah: I know you are.
i'm pretty chatty, huh?
you knew I was gonna talk about this, didn't you?
Steve: what did you talk to the chaplain about?
Hannah: just how I can't stop thinking about him and I feel like I'm missing something big. I'm just struggling with how to actually help him.
Steve: i WANTED you to talk about this. in fact, i'm going to save this conversation in my files.
Hannah: I feel like I've come to a major roadblock.
It's so frustrating for me. I just want to be sure that I've done all I can and said all the right things. I know that so much of this has got to be up to him.
Steve: it always feels this way on THIS side of having a revelation
Hannah: so what do you mean by that?
Steve: as you said, all of it is up to him. what you do is create an atmosphere of love and freedom.
Hannah: Here's what I told Tommy. I said after watching this movie last night (What Dreams May Come) I feel like I have a better understanding of his images. and I told him what I made of the
movie.... the message.. it's all in our mind. Hell is what we imagine it to be. Heaven the same.
I told him that he's received forgiveness from everyone...friends, his father, his family. God know's I'VE tried to reassure him that he's such a good person with such a big heart.
I told him that I think the only thing left is to forgive HIMSELF. I told him I wish I could take away all the scary images. all the evil thoughts.
I told him that I wanted him to picture himself in heaven.. to describe it to me. He said he doesn't believe what it says in the bible about the pearly white gates.
Then he describes this beautiful landscape. down... a wide open field, one weeping willow. a pond. very lush, green. I asked all kinds of questions until I too could picture it. perfectly picture it.
THEN I grabbed the art therapist and gave her the description. And she sat and sketched it for us. Tommy corrected her when she was off a little.. and added a few things.
Hannah: and she's going to paint it for him this weekend and we'll make a ceremony of sorts to hang it for him. in the meantime, I'm going to take my Bill T. Jones tape to him tomorrow and watch it
with him. AND, I copied Jess Carey's play and plan to read that to him. i think it's such a positive and
and.. here's where YOU come in. his sister mentioned to me that Tommy had shared with her the tape I gave him with your songs. she wanted to know more about you so of course I told her the story. She said that she thought she understood her brother until she heard Friendly Fire and then realized that she hadn't been listening to him.
it finally made sense to her. she could understand where he was coming from and accept it. then Tommy chimes in.
he said that his sister had asked him if he wanted to pack "Hannah's tape" to bring in. he said there was no need. he had every song memorized.
isn't that GREAT?
I had no idea he listened to it so much, but he has. and it was very important to him that his family listen to it as well.
I told his mom that I would be sure to let her know when you might be coming here. She'll want to meet you.So will Tommy's sister.
Steve: you know, this is a play.: it's a beautiful story, the two of you there. him looking for absolution for imagined sins, you trying to learn his whole life story before it's gone forever.
death is hideous in its presumed inevitability so you have to just roll with it.
Hannah: He was so touched when I told him
I've written about him. He says my writing will be his legacy. I think he's still shocked that I talk about him so much.
Steve: oh yes. i want to tell him that having someone like him hear the songs is so different from just singing them for people who haven't lived through the experience.
if he's practically memorized them, then it means he "got" them. i mean REALLY got them.
Hannah: yes, I know you are right. I know he got them. I had asked him if he wanted to talk to you and he is interested. It was just a real hectic day and he was so nauseated and so sick.
Steve: i would be so nervous.
Steve: i said i'd be so nervous.
Hannah: nervous about what? talking to him?
Steve: it's not obvious? really? yeah, talking to him. he's the real thing. he's actually going thru it.
Hannah:oh you wouldn't be nervous if you could meet him. he's so calm and gentle and so appreciative of every little thing.
Steve: my heart will be breaking.
Hannah: yes. i can promise you that. there's one piece that I am kinda worried about now after telling him your story...
I just told it, but I think I may have screwed up here... he's said all along that he is not living. he's existing.
Steve: i understand. dickie and ghost both got to that point.
Hannah: he's completely emaciated. he has CMV and MAC
Steve: i've seen this place. cmv and mac are absolutely hideous
Hannah: he feels that he's getting so much pressure to LIVE. and he hangs on for his family because again, he worries so much about them.: and they have reached a place where they accept him. and where he's coming from.
then here I go, talking about how you are near death and you started writing music.
Steve: i remember just kinda hoping ghost could die. he "only existed" for two or three years.
Hannah: oh, i don't think I'm explaining this well.... I feel like Tommy was covering his face as I was saying this, because here I was, the one who accepted that he is ready... and I'm talking about being motivated and getting the will to live. and I started to justify it, felt so awkward. saying that Tommy is different.. there's so much more happening in his body... and I was just burying myself deeper... and all along I can see his family hanging on to this idea of the will to live... being "almost dead" and I regretted saying it.
i don't know if I'm making sense.
I don't know what I'm saying anymore.
Steve: "I was looking forward to the end but still I'd fight for each new day." [lyric from Lazarus]
Hannah: yes, but Steve, you started writing. you found a reason to live. You got BETTER. Tommy can't do that. He has drilled this in my head. He has pleaded for me to help his family understand that his body can't take anymore. he has nothing left to lose in his body mass. nothing.
Steve: i was never able to write or create when i was as sick as he is right now.
Hannah: he shows me his body and says how much more can this take??? he vomits every pill. oh god.
And I know that you want to give him hope. and I want to give him hope too. but i also want him to be able to go peacefully. and that's a little different. you just have to change what you are hoping for.. but you never lose hope.
I would betray him if I started to talk about the will to live. it's so difficult to talk about this with you. not that you make it difficult, I do.
Steve: i would want to tell him that i have been close to where he is, that i had every moral right to give up, but i just didn't. it was my first time to get sick. i didn't know i had the option.
Hannah: its' just different. But it's very important to Tommy that he NOT be viewed as giving up. I think I just can't talk about this anymore... I just need to go to bed I think.
Steve: yeah. take a break. get some sleep. you done good.
Hannah: I'm sorry
Steve: you done REAL good.
Hannah: good night. xo
Steve: good night angel.
A note from Hannah*
Tommy actually improved somewhat during his four day stay at Hospice House. Not so much physically, but emotionally he achieved a new level of awareness and understanding. We'd had some pretty amazing conversations in those four days.
Although his insurance had approved a 5 night stay, Tommy decided that he didn't need to be away to die. He decided that he was homesick. He decided that he belonged at home.
On day four, we discharged Tommy from the Hospice House to his home. When I started to make the arrangements for an ambulance, he told me that he wanted to go by car. His mother drove him home.
HANNAH* [Write Hannah]
July 26-Aug. 2, 2000.
RICKY MARTIN! & Facing The Opponent.First of all, the great news: You might recall a few months back I asked you if you could help one of my readers, a teenager named Dori who is undergoing chemotherapy (while also battling AIDS), get a chance to meet Ricky Martin during his swing through town.Aug. 2-14, 2000.
Well, guess what?
(You can see all the photos at http://www.angelfire.com/pq/shannon2/dori.html)
Yep, it happened. Thanks to Bonus Round reader Linda D., who lives in Seattle and is friends with Dori and her mother, Barb. Linda, at the last minute, wrote Ricky one last time just before he got to Seattle and the next thing you know, there were the backstage passes! Ricky spent a lot of time with Dori and it meant the WORLD to her.
I am now the world's biggest Ricky Martin fan. :-)
This past weekend I did something I never dreamed I would ever do. I went to the annual Exodus Conference in San Diego and no, I didn't decide to stop being gay. So, please exhale and let me try to tell you why I was there and what I did.
Exodus International is an umbrella organization. Christian groups have to register to become referral ministries. They are focused primarily on homosexuality. Uh, they're against it (just in case you haven't heard).
The reader might know that last year I was one of the Soul Force people who went to Lynchburg Virginia and broke water with Jerry Falwell after they withdrew dinner at the last moment). Exodus isn't aligned with Falwell but they both agree on the issue of homosexuality -- that it's a sin and that "gays" should stop and change.
The President of Exodus is on staff at Focus on the Family, James Dobson's right wing political/religious ministry. As an outgrowth of their conservative religious philosophy, they also (for the most part) lobby against equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the public AND private arena.
In other words, on the issue of being gay, these people are my opponents.
So, why did I go there? Actually, that was the question most people asked me when they heard that this was what I had intended to do. I didn't go there to protest. I didn't wear a provocative shirt. I didn't try to change anyone. I didn't preach. Much. Okay, a little.
One Exodus person I was speaking with is someone I've been friends with for several years over the net. This was our third face-to-face meeting. He is someone who is highly sympathetic to the problem of Safe Schools because he himself said he was the target of bigoted abuse. He doesn't, like many of them, deny that gay kid bashing exists.
But Exodus people are totally against the Safe Schools projects initiated by GLSEN because GLSEN is solidly gay-supportive. We exchanged some heated words over this because, to me, it meant they would sacrifice gay kids at any cost if it kept any gay-affirming messages from reaching their ears. "Okay," I said. "If you hate our plan so much, then tell me Exodus' plan for Safe Schools. If you care so much about ministering to gay kids, let's see your plan!"
Made me feel good to scream that out but it only put him on the defensive -- I could have found a better way to make that point. The Soul Force principles of Martin Luther King and Gandhi are HARD. They require that you try to protect your opponent; that your goal is to find a peaceful agreement so that you can both live with integrity.
We spent the afternoon in the Commons room outside the cafeteria. There was a beautiful Yamaha grand piano there so a bunch of us gathered around the piano and just sang, hoping perhaps beyond all hope that we could find some kind of common ground.
In the end, though, we realized that though we can speak respectfully to each other and even try to love each other as human beings, there's a reason why we call the divide a divide. For me, it's more than a divide. It's like we live on different planets in far off galaxies from each other.
It took me years to work through all the religious issues that threatened my happiness as an out gay man. Going back to that world -- even just for a visit -- feels like going into the devil's maw. I wish it were not this way, but it is.
HANNAH & TOMMY:
If you've been reading Hannah's stories, part three of Tommy's Story is now uploaded. Warning: High emotional content.
TAG Awards & Hiatus.
Just in case you haven't already figured out, the Bonus Round Diary is in a kind of summer hiatus while we wait for the dog days to pass us by. That's why I've only been posting intermittently when there's news to tell. It's been extraordinarily hot here in the Valley this year and our air conditioner is not working properly so in the afternoons the apartment turns into an ez-bake oven.
But last night, in Omaha Nebraska they held their annual Theatre Guild Awards and the SNAP!fest production of The Last Session swept the awards winning in every single category in which it was nominated and I'm SO PROUD of everyone at SNAP! Productions. Here is the list:
-Tom Neumann, Jim, The Last Session, Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role, MusicalI'm so proud of each and every one of the persons involved in SNAP!fest and I thank them for putting together such a fine and wonderful production. Okay. Back to my hiatus and the summer heat. (Oy.)
-Matt Fowler, Lighting Technician, The Last Session, Outstanding Youth Technical Achievement.
-Jeff Lively, The Last Session, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design
-Kathy Tyree-Lovelace, Tryshia, The Last Session, Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Musical
-Ryan McGuigan, Buddy, The Last Session, Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Musical
-Rod Carlson, The Last Session, Outstanding Achievement in Musical Direction
-"The Preacher and the Nurse," The Last Session, Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble
-Randy Stevens, The Last Session, Outstanding Acheivement in Direction, Musical
-Cory Sanchez, Gideon, The Last Session, Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Musical
-The Last Session, Outstanding Production, Musical
[ Part 1 ][ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ]
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© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
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