Uncommon Ground
Volume 4 Book 3 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 1)

Jim Brochu, Piper Laurie.

[ Book 4-2 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

December 21, 2004 - January 19, 2005.
Foiled Plans & Coughing Fits.
I been sick.

And this time it caught me off-guard -- as if one could plan being sick. I've been sitting / lying on the couch / bed here at home for at least  a week. And I was in bed for almost a week before while we were on a trip.

Been a long time since I was sick.

I hate being sick.

On top of being sick -- or rather, because I've been sick. I've had some personal setbacks that were disappointing.

We went on a cruise and I was so excited because, like the one we did last year, there was a traveling group of four male singers doing "Forever Plaid." My plan was to get the video camera, teach them some of my new songs and then record them singing them in glorious harmony. Since I knew one of them personally, it would work out perfectly.

It even seemed more perfect when another of them came up to me and said that we had met before -- at the intermission of The Last Session in New York. So not only was he familiar with my work but he was a fan! It was all working out so perfectly.

The cruise was good, if a bit dull. I made it down to the lounge in the early morning hours as always and played all night long, working on the arrangements and even writing them out, which is hard for me. But the passengers this time around were a lot older and there didn't seem to be a party group to hang out with like the last time.

So, after the singers had done all their work toward the end of the cruise and had all agreed to meet me in to rehearse, I suddenly came down with this really sore throat. Well, it had been coming on for a few days, but it got worse and worse. The day arrived and I called them and told them I had to cancel.

I was SO disappointed.

I had worked for weeks to get this arrangment just so. The main thing I wanted to do on this trip was to get this one song in particular recorded. But it was not to be. I got sicker and sicker until I finally went to the ship's doctor who gave me some antibiotics.

I left the ship feeling awful. A couple of days later I saw my regular doctor, who then sent me to another facility to get a chest x-ray to make sure I didn't have pneumonia. And of course, this was during the rainiest day of the year. It was cold and the streets were flooded. I was running a temperature. Water was cascading down in sheets.

I made it to the x-ray place and quickly had my x-ray. Then drove home and fell back into bed, feeling awful. Got some new antibiotics which I hated because they changed the taste in my mouth. So not only was I feeling sick as a dog but all my food tasted like crap, especially soups and water and any liquids.

So, for the past two weeks, I've done nothing but lie here coughing and hacking. My fever went up to 104 but finally broke. That's when I realized I had the flu and it wasn't going to go away easily. Jimmy did his best to take care of me, but what can you do?

And it's one of those sicknesses where you can't be creative, you can't think. You just sit there with the remote praying that something will come on the tube that will alleviate the utter boredom. Day and day after day passed by. I sent little notes out to the TLS list and my discussion board to let everyone know how I was doing from time to time. But otherwise I just laid here and rotted.

As I write this on Wednesday, tomorrow is the day that has been scheduled for my eye surgery but I'm going to cancel that, too. I've lost too much weight and I don't want to be coughing during eye surgery.

As you can tell I'm a bit depressed about all this. I couldn't get my song recorded. I can't get my eye fixed. I still have remnants of the cough so we're going out a little bit each day just to relieve the tedium and get me a little exercise to build my body back up, but overall I feel a great disappointment. All my big plans dashed to the ground.

Oh, well. Life goes on.

January 21-23, 2005.
The Comeback Trail.
We have been going out to movies just to get me out of the house so I can start functioning physically, not that I'm in dire consequences or anything. But, like anyone who's been laid up for a few weeks, the muscles get weak and the body needs to recover. There is a remnant of cough but I think it's more from the irritation of coughing so much. My nurse mom prescribed throat lozenges. They work like a charm. Thanks, mom!

In our loft apartment, we only have one closet but we do have a little loft area overlooking the living room and you get to it via a very Hollywood spiral staircase. So for the past few days, I've been walking up and down the spiral staircase, all day long for little bits of time. Like for instance, we loved this History Channel broadcast called "The Presidents" where they're presented as if on baseball cards.

I would listen to that while going up and down the staircase.

See, what bothered me was that when we went out to the movies, when I got out of the car and started walking the rather lengthy walkway, the best I could do was "old man" steps. One step at a time at a very even pace, not too fast, not too slow.

By the time we got to the theatre, I was exhausted, which was perfect because I could go sit in a chair and watch a movie. Which made me feel good for the walk back to the car. A perfect start on the road to recovery.

I have noticed that I'm regaining my appetite. I can do the full big bowl of oatmeal again (followed a bit later by non-fat cottage cheese and an apple). I also have some 20-lb. handweights and have been using them a little at a time, doing shoulder rolls and other easy exercises.

People with HIV tend to lose muscle when they get sick. And muscle is what keeps us alive so I'm in a constant struggle to gain weight and put on muscle. Even when I got sick the time before this, it didn't linger. I was over it and didn't suffer any lingering effects.

Anyway, that's the report. Not very exciting. Just me doing what I have to do to keep myself alive. One really great thing did happen, though. I was sent an email with all the new GLAAD Media Award nominations. I read down to New York and, sure enough, we had been nominated. Outstanding off-off-Broadway Musical. I was so totally unprepared to read this. We only did six performances in the tiniest space imaginable.

So, that kind of news really made my day. I'm also back at the music keyboard working away. Again, I felt too weak and too sick to be thinking, much less sitting upright trying to play. But now I'm slowly getting back into it. I just want my life back.

Luckily, this ain't my first time at the rodeo. I know the drill. One step at a time. A little more each day. Remember to eat and to rest. Keep cat nearby for massive purr therapy.

January 24-27, 2005.
Quick Health Update.
Today I made the decision to put off the eye surgery. We had it scheduled for soon, but I just don't feel like it's a good idea, not that I'm not getting stronger. In fact, I'm sure it would be fine but there's something inside me that feels uncomfortable and I'm going to obey that voice. In fact, my plan is to wait six months. As irritating as the prism and double vision might be, I'm still very functional (just a bit clumsy, which I always was anyway so who can tell?

The cough is ALMOST gone. Just hanging around a little. My overall body strength is weak -- I can feel it in my voice when I speak (softly) -- but getting stronger as I continue physical therapy.

So generally, I'm almost back to normal. To test this, I did the laundry. Not all of it, but two big loads, carrying them downstairs, back and forth, up and down. It took a lot out of me, but it felt really great to just be active. I think I was starting to atrophy. Then I did the laundry again the next day. I started cleaning up around here, too. A little at a time. Just picking undone things and doing them.

I appreciate all the good wishes and emails.

January 28 - February 3, 2005.
All Is Well.
I'm happy to report that I'm totally back to normal, healthwise. Went to see my gorgeous doc and he said I'm all clear in the chest and lungs.

We also got to see Aunt Michael, who's out here fresh from London after closing "BatBoy" and making a big movie deal on it. We were really happy for him. And John Landis is a great choice! So, we had a brief meeting with him on producing Big Voice in New York and, hopefully, that will happen soon. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, because why? Because this is show biz!

People have been asking me for a few of the cruise pictures from this last trip. So here ya go. Some of my faves:

A church in Mazatlan.

My favorite group of tourists (from Japan). The guy is back is their guide.
And yes, the woman in the middle has green hair.

A scene from a resort in Acapulco where we spent the day.
Gloria Gaynor's old house!

Sunset in Acapulco.

I'll look for more pics and post them soon.

Meanwhile, back home, I finished a new song called "This Is My Voice" and did the entire demo on my little home studio in between rounds of lifting my hand weights and running up and down the stairs. Already I'm gaining weight again and feeling really good.

Not much else to report, just wanted you to know that I am fully recovered from my flu.

February 4 - 6, 2005.
UP the stairs.

DOWN the stairs.

UP the stairs.

DOWN the stairs.

This is Matt who works in Dr. Tony's office.
He listens to cool music. This time it was Neol Coward.

I'm in training again. UP the stairs. DOWN the stairs. Lift the weights. Rest. Do curls. Rest. Sit and work on music. Back to the weights. Back to the keyboard.

Dr. TonyMills. We brought him a hat from Mazatlan.
This is what I want all my doctors to look like.
He really makes me feel cared for.

Up the stairs.

Down the stairs.

Go have lunch with Piper Laurie.


Lunch with Piper Laurie who likes it better when we call her Rosie. In case you don't keep up with things, or are totally not gay, Piper Laurie is an actress. A great actress. A memorable actress even if you think you don't know her name or who she is.

Lovers of classic movies will remember her in the movie, "The Hustler." (A story about that later on). She was in Mel Gibson's first film, "Tim," where he plays a mentally challenged young (incredibly gorgeous) boy who is taken in by an older woman, her. And, most famously in pop culture as "Carrie's mom."

In the Hustler with Paul Newman, she was incredibly beautiful and sensuous -- scandalous, even! That became her Hollywood persona. What most people don't know is this sexy, seductive woman of the world was, in fact, a shy teenager who was probably the opposite of her screen and Hollywood persona. Sometimes it's really amazing to sit there and hear that husky voice of hers in person.

At one point we began talking about her mother whom she described as a "hidden" stage mother, manipulating quietly from behind the scenes. Just as we were talking about the "old days," into the restaurant came the actor Michael Constantine.

Jim asked her, "Do you know Michael?"

She said they were in The Hustler together. That she had been instrumental in making sure Michael was seen by the director. Jim said that Michael and he were in a sitcom called "Sirota's Court" together. Michael hadn't seen us and was being escorted to his table so Jim got up, chased him down and he came to the table almost in a sprint.

Michael Constantine, Piper Laurie
Michael Constantine and Piper Laurie reunited.

He said, "Do you know what this lady did for me? I was in New York trying to break into acting. I went to this audition and people were lined up along the walls, it was disgusting. I thought, "Nobody, not even actors, should have to endure this."

"I'm standing there when suddenly Rosie comes out of the audition room, sees me, turns around and says to the director, 'You need to see him. He's a great actor. He shouldn't be subjected to this.' And they brought me in and I got the part.'"

Michael Constantine, Piper Laurie, Jim Brochu
Michael Constantine, Piper Laurie, Jim Brochu.

This Monday I'm off to Stanford University to do a quick presentation for a class. Will write up the report later this week.

[ Book 4-2 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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