Volume 3 Book 5 Part 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(The Big Voice Chronicles)

James Brennan laughing at Jim Brochu as King Kong.

[ Book 3-4 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

[ 11 ] [ 12 ] [ 13 ]
May 24-31, 2003.
A Honeymoon at the Lake.
At the top of this diary, is a picture of Jimmy climbing up onto a little garden "lighthouse" pretending to be King Kong. We added some bi-planes to the picture to compete the effect.

But the funny story of that picture is that Jimmy was out there posing away and I had already snapped the photo, but he didn't see me. So, after a few seconds I turned and started taking pictures the other way, slowly walking away. Suddenly I hear, "Hey! Did the get the picture yet? I'm getting tired of holding this pose! My leg is KILLING me!" (He hadn't been looking my way).

I said, "I'm not even OVER there!" To which he turned beet red.

Meanwhile, Jim Brennan comes running out of the house, "WE'VE BEEN WATCHING THE TWO OF YOU from the window and laughing hysterically! Jimmy is over there posing and Steve is looking the other way, wandering off down the beach!"

Even though I hadn't remembered we had an anniversary until, as I said in the last entry, Jimmy mentioned it on stage, we still had a chance to do something special. Two patrons of the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre, Jerry Fisher and Joyce DeHaan, invited us out to their house which is on Lake Ontario. Happily, we were able to invite Jimmy's old friend, James Brennan, who is starring in the Geva Theatre's production of "1776."

When we visited them this past winter, the land, house and lake were frozen solid. This time I brought my camera. (I thought I took pictures the last time but I couldn't find them).

Across the street, Jerry and Joyce's main house overlooked Lake Ontario.
The room-high windows give a spectacular view of the lake.

This is half the view. From the dining room only,
looking directly north onto Lake Ontario.

The view of the lakeshore looking east from the fourth floor roof.

Jimmy poses with a hat Joyce brought from the East.
That's Jimmy Brennan on the right. He's a Broadway performer
and a brilliant actor AND dancer.
Jimmy was there when he and his wife met.

Joyce wearing the hat the way it SUPPOSED to be worn.
Jerry in his "cool" sunglasses.
Joyce & Jerry support Downstairs Cabaret Theatre
by serving on the Board. They are warm and friendly people.

This is the little guest house we stayed in together.
It was decorated in pure 60s orange shag carpets and paneling.
Jerry said, "This was our old house. It's a time capsule."
We loved it.

It's hard to believe we've been together 18 years. From the time we met on the ship to now seems like a wisp of a moment. I feel like I'm only now getting to even know him! But maybe that's what happens in a great relationship. He says the secret to our longevity is our ability to completely ignore each other.

But I think the true secret is that I let him have the remote.

The beautiful pink and blue sunset.

June 1-3, 2003.
Singing Spiritus.
I couldn't sleep last night because the plight of a friend of mine was laying very heavy on my mind. He has liver cancer. It is not treatable. The rest of the length of his life is entirely up to him. I met him in Henderson KY and we connected on a personal level immediately. And though he is profoundly ill, he gets up out of bed every week and walks over to his little church and cleans it.

When we chat with each other there is a quiet "knowingness" between us. No big drama. A quiet acceptance. A knowledge. I don't envy his place, of course. But I do envy that peace. I experienced it back when I was on a "sure" collision course with death and I find myself constantly trying to recapture it now that I've been living in this bonus round.

And there are times that I recapture it. It is the times I'm on stage singing my songs. Whether I'm on stage with Jimmy doing Big Voice or, like this past Sunday when I sang with/for Spiritus Christi Church here in Rochester, NY.

They meet in a concert hall at the Hochstein School of Music. Theny church altar and candles are all brought in and put on the stage. There's a big grand piano in front of risers that serve as a choir loft. The grand old brick building, I'm told, used to be a church. That explains the beautiful stained glass windows reaching up on the back wall filling the room with color and light.

(I did not bring my camera because this was a church service and I didn't feel it was appropriate, not that I haven't done it in the past, but there ya are.)

Aside from Bud the Stud, who wheedled, cajoled, invited, kicked and otherwise abusively railed to the powers that be at the church to let me sing there, the person that I totally fell in love with was the choir director, Kathy. She invited me to just join in with the choir between the times that I would sing for the mass.

And it was a mass. This was a Catholic Church (and I'm still a Baptist). However, it's a Catholic Church that broke away from "Rome" (just like broke away from, uh, Little Rock?). Anyone who thinks this is a small decision made lightly knows nothing about Catholicism. But, that's not what made them special in my eyes. What made them special to me was the fact that being in that room with those hundreds of people was like being in an ocean of pure, absolute love.

Not just for me. Pastor Jim Callan's gentle funny sermon was on unity. He openly joked about how he also holds mass every Tuesday at a Baptist Church. His entire homily (that's a sermon to us Baptists) focused on the need for people of faith to find their common love and humanity. He mentioned connections to churches from every faith in Rochester.

My job was to sing for the prelude, as people were settling down. Then after the homily, and once again at the end of the service. (Disclaimer for new readers: I am not a professed gospel singer. I am just a guy who sings songs that people like to hear, both in theatre and in church. I sing from the heart and that seems to be good enough for most folks. It better be or I'm really in trouble.)

I opened with the extended "Near You," (as opposed to the abbreviated version we use in TBV). I had the congregation and choir join me on the chorus, "God please keep me near you." It was really beautiful. After the sermon, I sang "When You Care." The choir, by then, had dispersed to listen to Father Jim, so we used it to bring them back onto the risers. They joined me, repeating the chorus.

I then joined them in singing a bunch of songs as communion was offered. I was amazed at how efficiently they managed to get the bread and wine/grape juice all out into the room and up into the balcony. We sang three or four songs together. I stood on one end and shared a book with an alto.

After communion, it was finally my turn to say a few words. I praised them for their courage, told them a little of my story and sang "A Simple Faith." And once again, though this is the softest of songs, the entire congregation leaped to its feet in applause. And once again, it embarrassed me. I never know quite what to do. I think of this kind fo applause as not so much for me, but for all of us.

And as beautiful as that applause felt -- as grateful as I was that they honored me so -- the image that kept going through my head was my friend in Henderson, Kentucky quietly sweeping the floors of his church, not waiting for the inevitable, but accepting it and living in that peaceful zone of knowingness.

Next week, the Methodists!

[ Book 3-4 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

© 1996-2003 by Steve Schalchlin.
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