Volume 2 Book 6 Part 3 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

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February 2001. El Lay.

February 17-21, 2001.
Hemo To Hemoglobin.
This past weekend has been one of Steve lying in bed sleeping. I was so exhausted after these last two weeks on the road, I could barely do anything. so I didn't. I woke up, answered email, got drowsy, fell asleep, slept all day, slept all night, then got up and did the exact same thing three days in a row.

Then on Monday, I find out the Original Positoid Shawn Decker and his other half, Gwenn Barringer are in town to be on a syndicated talk show called "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." Two of the hosts are Dr. Drew Pinsky (who used to be on "Lovelines") and Christina Ferrare. The show found out about them from the current issue of "Cosmo" where Gwenn's featured in a story called "My Boyfriend Has AIDS" or something stupid like that.

So, feeling much better after my weekend of sleep, I joined them for breakfast at the Hyatt on Sunset where they were staying. So I took some artsy shots of Shawn out on the balcony overlooking downtown. (Click on the pic for a larger image.)

Then I followed their limo to Sony Studio down in Culver City for the taping. They were given a HUGE dressing room with a little ante-room next to it -- and a big showbiz make-up mirror. I also took a few more random shots of the two of them. (She should know he's gonna make faces).

Then Shawn ran into Dr. Sean from the TV show "Survivor:"

Soon we were shuffled out onto the stage. I sat in the front row watching all this and trying to capture it.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, Gwenn, Shawn, Christina Ferrare
At one point we thought we had an earthquake but it turned out to be a sonic boom from the space shuttle landing out in the desert.

Christina hears an earthquake.

So how did Shawn and Gwenn do on this show? THEY WERE BRILLIANT! Honestly, it was five minutes of seeing these two celebrity hosts being completely mesmorized by their story, their humor and poise. They were so charming -- and yet their story so compelling. Like when they asked her, "Do you feel you're going to be alone some day? How does that make you feel?" (Gwenn's answer was, basically, "None of us know how long we have.")

By the end of their segment, they had the audience in their hands, Christina was almost in tears and afterward one of the producers came all the way over from a separate building to thank them and shake their hands. Honestly, they were just sensational. Fast, funny, loving, bright, beautiful to look at -- it was GREAT television.

As soon as they have an airdate, I'll post it here.

Then I had to run off to my doctor's office for my appointment. And for some reason, the needles hurt like hell today. Terri put it in my vein to get her usual gallon and a half and it felt like someone hit me with a hammer. Then when I got a shot in my but, I literally shouted out. That's the first time in a long, long time I've had that kind of reaction (after five years of monthly shots and blood drawings). She said I shouted so loud, it scared her and she was still shaking after it was over.

Dr. Peter asked me if my eye was any better. I said, "No. And in fact, mornings are really hard because it's so swollen." He said he was not happy with my thyroid therapy so he thinks next time we're going to drink the radioactive iodine, kill it off and be done with it.

Then tonight Donna called me and said my hemoglobin count is too high and they were going to prescribe Hydrea (or whatever it's called). I asked her what it meant to have a high hemoglobin. She said hemoglobin is red  blood cells. I have too many?

Oh well. I'm not going to worry about it. I'll take my pills and go on. I had a great day hanging with my Positoid Pal. (If anyone wants to hear the demos from his new band, the SoSo's, they're here on the site at http://www.bonusround.com/mp3.)

February 22-28, 2001.
It's The Debate, Stupid.
I don't know if Ken McPherson loves to debate or if the two of us together are like matches and kindling but for four straight days, as I was visiting Ken -- who's been a legitimate AIDS/gay community activist for over 20 years -- in his apartment in San Francisco, at least 75% of that time was spent in heated debate. (And, of course, Ken would debate that 75% figure cuz that's what he does. He debates. The reader should understand that I'm not the debating type, of course. I'm meek and mild and almost never have an opinion on anything).

Ken McPherson poses in front of the church
where his grandparents were married.

What drives me crazy about Ken -- in a good way -- is his specificity. You're never allowed to generalize and if you do, then you end up trailing off with him for a half hour ironing out the details on the specifics of the generalization you just made before you're allowed to get back on track. In between debates, we also took advantage of the BEAUTIFUL weather and did some walking down to Moscone Center and the Sony Meteon, a big entertainment complex.

This statue has three hands on each wrist.
Just as we stopped to take a picture, these two kids who had passed by earlier came running up, "What are you doing?
What are you doing??"
I said, "I'm counting his hands."
So they started counting his hands with me.

Not that leaving the apartment stopped our constant flow of energy. People must have thought we were either two insane persons walking down the block or two people about to come to blows. Ken was in on (and helped organize) just about every seminal AIDS and gay rights demonstrations (including the one over the Boy Scouts) since the early 80s, plus he had a radio talk show there for ten years. So being with Ken is like a mini-educational seminar. I learn a lot.

This empty building has furniture attached to it.
I think it's, like, art or something.

I wouldn't want to be under this during an earthquake.

But before Ken went into activism he was a musical theatre major at UCLA who excelled as a singer and actor. So our debates and discussions weren't just about politics. We debated music and singing and whether "this" could be done like "that," Elton John, Eminem -- I supported Elton's actions but Ken felt Elton should have at least explained himself on the issue rather than allowing people to draw their own conclusions about what he meant by singing with Eminem), George Bush ("He hasn't really been tested yet"), Southern culture (he finds us southerners  kinda dumb; I tell him that's what we want him to think). See what I mean?

Even the lettuce in San Francisco is exotic.

In other words, I HAD A BLAST! It was like being in college in a dorm room studying the history of the modern gay rights movement, except the professor was actually there. Nothing was too small or too insignificant that it didn't get full attention.

Sections of a huge mural on a warehouse near Ken's.
Somehow at the end of the day, we managed to not kill each other. For one thing he would love to nurture me as a political activist (a role I eschew) and together we are working on writing music and theatre together -- his years away from performing theatre have not dented his skilled musicianship.

Folsom Street curb; Steve looks really serious or whatever.
We also sang together, saw a couple of movies (Hannibal, hated it; Monkeybone, loved it) and generally hung out. Best of all, Ken fed me really well and I had my own room in which to chill. However, I wasn't in San Francisco specifically to visit Ken.

The reason I was in San Francisco was to be a guest at a class at Stanford University led by Margaret Eaton from the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics.

Bev, looking gorgeous, drove me to Stanford.
This building is where we entered the campus.
They were discussing Merck Pharmaceuticals and the introduction of the drug Crixivan via lottery.

She  opened the class by reading from the entries (still here on this site) where the Crixivan arrived in the mail and began working. Since I was almost dead at that time this is where I'm realizing that I'm not going to die. It's pretty emotional and I heard Margaret choking back tears on some of the words. (Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking, "Was I always this maudlin? Am I STILL???").

This is about 1/3 of the class. Each of the students had a little name card in front of them as if they were panelists on a game show or news conference.
I told them about how the drug unexpectedly arrived via Federal Express after some kind of bookkeeping snafu. We also discussed how AIDS activists had forever changed the doctor/patient relationship. It was the first time EVER that patients on a massive scale took personal control of their own health and demoted doctors from the role of "God."
It took several years of loud, aggressive protesting to open up those doors. Ken told me when things changed: the Unity march in San Francisco, where thousands of AIDS Candlelight Marchers were suddenly joined en route in the streets by thousands of doctors attending an AIDS Conference.

Since then, pharmaceutical companies have opened their books and wallets to AIDS activists and they partner with them in the introduction and testing of new medications. This wouldn't have happened without the direct hard sacrifice of people like Ken McPherson (and many others). I was inspiring to sit there and hear it all first hand.

On Tuesday when it was time to go, I felt sad. But the good news is I'm going back on May 5th because I've been invited to a gathering of the American Association of Sex Educators and Therapists. Ken, can I stay with you the whole weekend again?

CURRENTLY READING: "The Battle For God" by Karen Armstrong about the history and evolution of fundamentalist theology in the three YWH religions: Christianity, Judaism and Muslism. It just feels appropriate given the current headlines about the Afghanistani religious extremists who have decided to destroy these huge Buddhas, some of which were carved into mountains millennia ago. Why do so many religionists feel massive destruction is the only way to worship God?


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© 2001 by Steve Schalchlin.
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