The Creation Machine
Volume 1 Book 8 Part 1 of
Living In The Bonus Round
by Steve Schalchlin

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[ Diary Index ]

May 1998. El Lay.

Thursday, April 30, 1998
Making It To Montana.

This trip began with me thinking we could just skip merrily to LAX in a half hour on a Thursday morning. So I woke early, but puttered around, packed and finished up some mail. When I woke Jimmy about 7: 15, he looked at me like I was an idiot and, sure enough, by the time we hit the San Diego Freeway, we were in what can only be described as a parking lot headed south.

Missed the plane by five minutes.

So, I sat around LAX for four hours waiting for the next plane. I just whipped out my trusty notebook and wrote while watching people walk by. Seems weird to be in your own town but can't go home. I changed planes in Salt Lake City.

I was greeted at the sunny and clear Bozeman, Montana airport by Ellen who runs the local Red Cross, one of the sponsoring parties. They even rented me a little Ford so I wouldn't feel stranded out there in the mountains and we rushed into town because my first "event" was a private "living room concert" with some teens who were part of an AIDS peer education group.

Each place I go, I request the chance to meet privately with local volunteers -- or local gay support groups -- it allows me to thank them individually and I get to hear them talk about their adventures.
We pulled into the "little bitty town" and up to the northeast corner up to a beautiful three story turn of the century house with a big porch and big windows. The Lehrkind Mansion, the home of a man who moved to Bozeman and built a brewery, only to go bust during the Great Depression -- is now a beautiful Bed and Breakfast run by two former park rangers, named Jon & Christopher, from Yellowstone National Forest (the entrance of which is barely an hour from Bozeman).

Jon and Christopher immediately helped me to my room -- and just in time because the youngsters were beginning to arrive for the concert. I checked out the living room and, sure enough, they had this HUGE old antique upright piano in the living room -- and it was perfectly in tune.

After the teens arrived, I began playing songs and telling them stories -- and they told me they do little one act plays and things. Suddenly, one of them raised his hand and asked, "Excuse me, I never actually met anyone with AIDS but -- well, I never actually met someone who was gay and, I hope you don't take this as an offense but you don't act like a stereotypical homosexual."

This was my first clue that this weekend was not going to be typical. In fact, during my visit, the fact that I had AIDS was nothing compared to the fact that I was gay. I'll tell you the story about the little old lady in the coffeehouse later on.

I replied, "Well, actually I'm a very stereotypical gay. It's just that they don't put my stereotype on TV. Mostly you get the 'Jerry Springer gay.' Also, the Religious Right goes into a panic if a gay person is portrayed as a normal person. Less opportunities for fund raising if they can't keep everyone hating us."

I found out later that this kid, all of 14 years old, when he was leaving his house with the other kids to come to the Lehrkind Mansion, was told by his mother, "You know there are homosexuals who run that place...!"

His response was, "Yeah? So what?"

I just have this feeling that young people are starting to get over all the bigoted crap from the older generation. I see it everytime I visit. I never set out to be a "sample homo" when I began singing -- and I don't make a big deal of it when I do make appearances, but because of my diary, everyone already knows and they are curious. Rejecting the ignorance of the past they want facts so they can make up their own minds, I guess.

After everyone went home, I stayed up a little but went up to my bedroom and immediately I heard something I've not heard in a very long time (because I live in the El Lay Territory).

Absolute quiet.

Total and complete and utter silence. I took out my notebook and began to write, but then I realized my ingrown toe was throbbing in massive pain, so I took my shoes and socks off and, sure enough, with all the walking around at the airports and around, my toe was HUGELY red and bleeding. Just about that time, Christopher (who looks like Jesus) walked in with some water for my bedstand. He took one look at my toe and said, "Just stay there."

Ten minutes later he was back with a soaking tub full of hot water and epsom salts. I put my foot into the tub (carefully) and, after the scalding subsided, relaxed and talked to Christopher, who told me how he and Jon had been park rangers at Yellowstone before they met three years ago. Then they made a commitment to each other and moved into this house which was in major disrepair. (Now it's emmaculately beautiful.)

After the water cooled, he took the tub downstairs, and I laid down in the silence of the Montana mountains in the old mansion on crisp clean sheets in the antique wooden bed -- and all the tension and stress that I had been feeling after two years of TLS and Jimmy & me breaking up and then him coming home and my other friend acting weird and Dickie being sick and my CDs being late and anxiety over bills and the future, began to fade.

As I drifted off to sleep I thought, "This is paradise."

Friday, May 1, 1998
"Some Gay Guy Singing..."

This morning, as I was coming into consciousness, I smelled food cooking. My stomach immediately growled and begged me to feed it, but I had to take my pills first and then wait an hour. It was torture. Something good was going on downstairs at this bed and breakfast and I wanted to know what it was. This was my first bed & breakfast, by the way. I didn't really know how they were supposed to work. But there was water by my bed, so I downed my Crixivan and picked up my notebook preparing to write a little, but I couldn't. So I took a bath in the antique bathtub and stumbled downstairs.

Around the table were some straight couples & and single guy who were talking amongst themselves, so I sat down and was joyfully introduced by Jon and Chris. The one couple was there in Bozeman because her mom had died and they were cleaning out her things. The other guy was an architect scoping out something in town.

At 9am on the dot, Christopher brought out the most beautiful breakfast I ever laid my eyes on. It was a roulade -- eggs and cheese spinach and bacon that had been cooked flat in a pan and the sliced into strips and laid on the plate in a little spiral on a bed of chopped fresh spinach. One taste and I was in heaven. (Breakfast is my favorite meal.)

We all had some very nice conversation and then Kevin, from the HIV/AIDS group came and we drove over to Montana State University to scope out the space for this evening's performance. Good thing we did.

The space was in the student "sub" and was like a hotel banquet room. In other words, a big box with overhead lighting and no stage. So we talked to the Student Tech guy, Jeremy, who brought in a light tree. Later on, after the seats were put up, we put them in an arc, and Kevin dragged in some potted plants from the lobby so there'd be some color. Then we found a stool for me to sit on while I played so the audience could see me.

You might think this stuff doesn't matter, but it does. The point is, as I kept telling them, is to not make the listener have to "work" to hear and see the show.

After the set-up we drove a little around town. He apolgized for the condition of the streets on campus. (Some were blocked off and there was water running.) He said they were fixing the steam pipes under the streets. I thought for a moment and asked, "Why do you have steam pipes under the streets?"

He said it was because the whole campus was heated by one great big steam engine in the center of the campus. And sure enough, we drove past a little square brick turn-of-the-century building with tall windows and a gigantic outsized smokestack. The whole front had been taken off and there in the center was a huge, HUGE brand new boiler that sat two stories tall.

Later that evening when we passed the same building, the lighting was so eerie around this monstrosity, I said, "It's so Stephen King. This little strange building with this huge steam machine." I could just picture it coming to life.

The concert tonight was good. Not a huge turn-out, but an enthusiastic audience. (Andy Hill, who teaches some of the athletes there overheard various people describing what they thought my show was gonna be: "Wanna go hear this gay guy sing?" & "Some gay guy is singing about AIDS."

Sounds like a night in hell to ME...

When I got back to the Lehrkind, there was Chris and Jon, with a tub of epsom salts ready for my foot. Oh, and I met Suede, the house cat. He's this beautiful tan colored cat that MUST be petted on the way in. He's very vocal about this. They said he "came with the house." So, of course, I consider Suede to the be the true owner of the Lehrkind Mansion.

Saturday, May 2, 1998
Glen Close Use To Own This.

I moved over to a smaller room to accommodate some new guests at the Mansion last night. I didn't mind since the other room was bigger than what they were being paid for. (They're really sweet.) But the bed was smaller and I was still trying to shake out the nerves that had been working me for the past month.

I tossed and turned all night long and when I woke up, I felt I hadn't slept for a week.

But the food was once again fantastic and the other guests and I had a long, nice conversation this morning. I drank some tea and finally, after they all left, just sat the big piano, leafed through some old music books and found my favorite Chopin Prelude, the one in e minor. I sat there and played it a few times -- and then graduated to the raindrop prelude in D flat, and then finally Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven.

Jon and Chris said they were enjoying the music. And so were the little birdies they had in the living room who were singing up a storm between pieces. They're little finches and have a woody woodpecker kind of melody. Actually they have two cages. One contains some finches owned by someone else, and above it is a little cage with Einstein.

Einstein is the only one who isn't afraid of people. When you put your finger in the lower cage, they all flock to the other side and hide. But Einstein, when you put your finger in his cage, immediately flies to your finger and begins making little pecks on your finger. Because he's so tiny, the pecks just tickle.

So, it became a ritual each morning. I'd go to Einstein and he'd sit on my finger and we'd discuss the topics of the day.

This evening I was to play at the Leaf and Bean Coffeehouse founded by Glen Close (as everyone individually told me). It had been newly remodeled but everyone said they liked it better the old way, the way Glen had it. Still it had a nice space and they had rented a keyboard and sound system.

Andy Hill drove me down into the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park today. We drove to Paradise Valley and up into the majestic snow-peaked mountains. He's been going through some rough emotional stuff, too, so we didn't really have to say much. We stopped at a mountain stream and just threw some rocks let the bone-chilling water cleanse our souls and clear our minds.

There was this older, Helen Hayes-looking lady who came in to see the show. She sat on one of the couches on the far right and though she seemed to enjoy the music, she didn't really register much of anything, one way or the other, on her face.

After the concert, she came up to me and smiled meekly, shaking my hand and saying it was "...nice."

(I found out later from Ellen that she had come there very specifically to test something. It seems she was going to see a friend who lived in another town -- and she knew this friend had a gay son. But she was afraid she might catch a disease by being in the same room with him. So she had come to the concert that night, after reading about it in the paper -- "I just wanted to see what it was like to be in a room with one.")

Last I heard, she did not catch any diseases. (And just so I'm clear, I thought was brave that she had the guts to confront her fear this way. Just because it was a fear that might seem ridiculous to you or me, does not mean it was not real to her. Congratulations, lady. It's a big world out there, ain't it?)

(There was also a gay couple staying in the mansion tonight. Both of them live with AIDS and told me it was very difficult negotiating financial assistance for the expensive drugs. One told me that some paperwork got fouled up and he was unable to take the meds for a full month. He said his viral load is now registering and he is afraid because the one instruction they give you is NEVER MISS A DOSE or the virus could mutate. So, this screw-up could doom him completely. Anyone who thinks AIDS is no big deal anymore should realize that we hang on by the grace of God and the availability of the next bottle of pills.)

Sunday-Monday, May 3-4, 1998
You Can't Learn Any Sooner.

Andy Hill and I decided that since I was playing at 4pm, another trip into the mountains would take too long, so we went to the Museum of the Rockies. There's not much there, to tell you the truth, but they have a laser dome star thing -- mind is a blank this morning -- and they were doing a special show on Mars.

The young guy who worked the controls had us laughing our butts off because he began by telling us how, if we fall asleep, we shouldn't snore or he'd take it personally. The reason we laughed is that Andy and I sat right next to his booth and ten minutes into the show (which featured Patrick Stewart narrating) I fell right to sleep and snored.

We were just in one of those moods. Poor Andy is this very cute guy and he can't seem to get a girl. Says it's because he falls in love too easily. Some hetero woman is going to have to inform me about that one.

We arrived at LIQUID 360, the coffeehouse early and there was a kid behind the counter who was obviously a student. He said he was a film student who liked the sci fi films of some Russian filmmaker. We discussed the layout of the club and then I told him if he really wanted to make his mark in this world, he should do a film about me. (I tell this to everyone with a camera).

He smiled at me like I was some kind of older gentleman who needed to be taken care of.

Today the room was packed with women. Beautiful college girls. (I keep telling all the hetero boys to follow me around if they want to meet "chicks" but they never listen). And the show was, once again, very emotional and very sweet. A couple came up and told me about someone they knew who had died of AIDS -- and we hugged.

After that, I went back to the Mansion and enjoyed a quiet evening reading and toe soaking.

Monday morning, Ellen came back over to say goodbye -- and this is when she told me about the old lady who just "see what it would be like to be in the same room as a gay person." I reflected on how deeply interested the teens and the adult guests in the house were about gay stuff. One guest asked me if I ever got tired of being "out there" -- where everyone asks me that stuff.

I responded that I had a 5th grade teacher named Mrs. Long. She had a policy that no question was too naive and that we were to ask her anything at anytime. Her motto:

I'm amazed that since this solo singing adventure started -- even though I don't discuss gay issues AT ALL where I play and sing, it's the single subject MOST heteros WANT to talk about. Remember the letter from the school superintendent on Long Island? How the kids got back to their classes and HAD to talk about this gay guy who seemed so normal? Again, it's not a subject I push but most definitely, when I play for straight audiences in the heartland, it's the elephant in the room -- and I'm very proud that I can be a "credit to my race," as they used to say...

I felt like I was leaving family to leave Montana. The beauty of its mountains and the quality of the human beings I encountered made a huge, positive impression on me.

Finally, Chris and Jon asked me to sing "When You Care" for them on their piano one last time before I hit the trail. I promised to come back with Jimmy for a vacation some time. Then I gave Einstein one last goodbye -- and he chirrupped appropriately while dancing on my finger. Then I said goodbye to Suede, drove to the airport and, on the plane, began writing notes about my adventures in a furious hand.

The time flew by and though I'll miss my friends in Montana, it felt good to be home again.

Tuesday-Thursday, May 5-7, 1998
The Kitchen Concerts.

Well, as we suspected, we put these two Zephyr concerts into play without providing enough lead time to get adequate press coverage. So, we only had modest audiences at each show since nobody knew we were doing them. A slight panic at day one happened because I thought the Zephyr had a sound system and they don't. But, as usual, my best pal David Robyn, drove up from Redondo Beach and let us borrow his.

The set on the stage there was an old kitchen. Just like from my childhood. So, Bobby Cox and I dressed in our country shirts and jeans and sat in the kitchen and played together. Actually, on the set there were two doors. One was to a closet and one was a screen door.

So, I made my entrance from the closet announcing, "I'm coming out of the closet now!" Then I sat at the keyboard and sang a newly modified version of "Faces in the Music," a number cut from THE LAST SESSION early on. It's a patter song that provides autobiographical background and is perfect for my solo gigs. Tells everyone who I am without me having to go into a long speech about Baptists and road gigs and cruise ships and piano bars.

On the first night, I used cheat sheets and looked profoundly lost. Jimmy, who was directing this extravaganza, scolded me and said, "Tomorrow night you do it from memory! It's cheating the audience?!"

I did a section of "Connected" just like in the show and then stopped, saying I'd finish it later. Then I played "Save Me A Seat." Just as I finished and was ready to intro "Preacher and the Nurse," a loud knocking came from behind. I kept going. The knocking continued. "WHAT????" I screamed. It was Bobby complaining about how he lives below and could I keep it down.

Then he started "Preacer and the Nurse" -- guitar alone, and I did the whole first verse without piano, bringing it in only slightly until we got to the chorus. It was GREAT! Like a whole new song. And I pretty much proceeded from there to just run the songs from the show, interjecting "The Sad Lady" right after "Going It Alone."

After "Friendly Fire," I stood up from the piano and leaned back against the kitchen counter while Bobby played "Connected." Did the whole song off-mike with just guitar and it was beautiful. He has a beautiful technique. One person who saw the show remarked to me by email how handsome Bobby is and that it was a good thing I could sing -- otherwise they'd have just watched him the whole time.

After the show on Thursday, we spoke to a couple of press people about the show and its history. Rick Stein came down from the Laguna Playhouse -- and Tynan from Geocities. But the main goal was accomplished -- to just give me a chance to run the show a few times before San Francisco. I'm excited and nervous about that gig. Never did a five night stint before and I'm petrified nobody'll show up for it. *eeek*

Anyway, this weekend I go see my littlest brother graduate from law school. We were born so far apart I missed most of his childhood and when I saw he was getting a doctorate in law, I just had to be there. So, I'll be offline for the weekend and back on Monday.

NOW: Was the show I did any good? Well, a contributor to Talkin' Broadway -- who has lambasted me in the past for being self-promoting, let down his guard and accepted an invitation to see my perform. He then, magnanimously, posted his review which I now repost for you.

...OVATION! As most of you know, I, Sparkleneelysparkle, am not easily impressed, diss nearly everything, and maintain carefully my God-given role as One Tough Cookie. To say I had doubts about attending Steve Schalchlin's one-man concert last night would be a droll understatement, even if the tickets were comped. Despite his endless flair for self-promotion I had never gone out and bought the CD of THE LAST SESSION to see whether he might, just might, be talented enough to warrant such flack and hype.

Imagine my surprise, then, when from the moment he arrived on stage I was mesmerized by his songs, his singing, his presence, and that rarest commodity, his charm. Had the show lasted several more hours I would have sat there happily. Primarily, Steve performed songs from LAST SESSION and since I'd never heard any of them, it was doubly meaningful to hear these radiantly tuneful melodies and insightfully sharp lyrics for the first time performed by the very person who'd written them based on his own life experiences and deep, clear feelings.

It was one of my favorite concerts I have ever attended, and I must add that while I will go out and buy the LAST SESSION CD in order to have a playable reminder of the wonderful evening, what I'd really rather have is a tape of Steve doing the songs himself. Yes, he's just that good. Should you ever get lucky enough to have a chance to catch him performing live, don't miss it.

Thanks, sparkle. I needed that.

Friday-Sunday, May 8-10, 1998
Hooding, Starrs & Flatlines.

Just got back from Lubbock, Texas. Best story first:

We're at the Lubbock Civic Auditorium sitting at the front of the balcony. Below us was a packed auditorium with all the doctoral graduates in black grouped in the center. His Royal Prosecutor Kenneth Starr had just finished a boring, coma-inducing speech and now the graduates were filing -- one row at a time -- to the side of the room where where would then ascend the stairs to the stage for the "hooding."

The rows were filing out and two rows before my brother's row was to get up, I decided to go down and get close to the stage to take a picture. But I also decided that I would try to talk Scott into letting me do the hooding for him. (And no, I'm not an attorney.)

Anyway, I come in from the back and as luck would have it, walked right into Scotty just as his line was filing over to the wall. So, I just joined in him line and said, "Let me hood you"


"I want to hood you."

He hush-whispered, "Are you crazy? You can't hood me. You're not an attorney!"

"Who's gonna check my credentials? Besides, when did you ever give a damn about rules?" (Scott is kinda like me. We usually act first and ask questions later.)

"But they've been warning us all week. No!"

By this time, they had congregated at the wall and I would have been too conspicuous standing in line, so I went to the front row and crouched down with the camera. All the time I was giving him face and hand signals to let me do the hooding. But it was not to be. He stepped to the stage and I took the shot.

I turned to leave and walking back up the aisle when suddenly the whole crowd began laughing wildly and then applauding. I turned back around only to see that the guy behind Scott was now over where Kenneth Starr was sitting in a chair with the legal staff.

I found out later that this guy had passed the "hood" person standing on stage and had given Mr. Starr his hood so that he could be hooded by Kenneth.

Well, having missed that I was now on the other side of the auditorium where the guy was coming offstage. So, I stopped him and asked, "What did you do up there?"

He said, "I just made 50 bucks!"

Here's the punchline: It was my brother Scott who had dared him to do it. After the ceremony we looked around for him so he could get his 50 bucks, but by then he was gone. When I got back home, I told Jim this story and he said about Scott, "So he can instigate something, but he won't do it himself..."


  • Flatness. It's the flattest place on the planet. The only thing you can actually see in Lubbock Texas is the car in front of you.
  • Chicken Fried Steak. I tried to get a decent chicken fried steak at three different places and none of them were any good. They were either too small or too flat.
  • The Sonic. It was like being back in college. The Sonic is a drive-in fast food place we used to hang out at when I was in college. I had the chicken fried steak sandwich (which had too much mayonnaise) & the cheese covered tater tots.
  • We're at the post-hooding ceremony beer bust when Scott's friend, Buddy, says, "There are only two seasons in Lubbock: Damn hot and damn cold." (Buddy and Deb were these fabulous creatures that give heterosexuality a good name.)
  • Hair. The Texas girls seem to have the same hair styles as they did when I lived there 20 years ago. Modified Farrah Fawcett.
  • King. At the beer bust, four manly Texas guys and I were standing on the patio in the tree-less backyard holding beers, saying nothing. I leaned over to one and said, "This feels just like 'King of the Hill.'" Later, one of the bigger ones came up to me and said, "Yew sedd the funniest thang ah've heard all nat. That it was lack 'King of the Hill.'"
  • Buddy Holly. We went to the Buddy Holly statue and I climbed up and had my picture taken. Found out later that wasn't his grave.
  • Bert. Bert was the best. Drove his motorbike all the way from Jacksonville, Texas (8 hours) to see Scott graduate. Bert used to be Scotty's boss at the State Mental Hospital in Rusk, Texas eons ago. Picture a little bull with no hair and a long bushy mustache & beard. We delighted in "Scott Schalchlin Stories." Most of them were about how he constantly attacked the corporate bosses and stayed constantly in trouble.
  • Saturday was great. My diary reader/fan, Mark, drove three hours from Dalhart Texas just to meet me. So, we all commandeered a rehearsal room at Texas Tech and I regaled them with a mini-concert.

    That, of course, was my favorite part of the weekend. Well, aside from feeling a great deal of pride that my brother received his doctorate in law. He's gonna be one of the good guys. I gah-ron-tee.

    Monday-Tuesday, May 11-12, 1998
    I left My Nerves in San Francisco.

    I'm nervous and excited all at once about singing in San Francisco. Unlike New York, they haven't heard nor seen THE LAST SESSION, so I hope I can properly represent what we're about. I have this fear it's going to be five nights of me singing for myself in a big empty room.

    Spent most of Monday and Tuesday preparing to depart, catching up on old emails, etc. Also got most everyone at Bridges-Across all mad at me because I said that I thought the idea that all gay people (except for the celibate ones) will burn in hell was psychopathic.

    Oh, well. I guess I would worry if a week went by where I *DIDN'T* piss someone off.

    Jimmy and I took an afternoon to see "Deep Impact." Worst movie I've seen all year. Cheap special effects. Bad TV miniseries writing.

    I've booked Cincinnati for next February, by the way. That will be great fun.

    I won't be back here at the diary nor will I be online until next Monday. Maybe then the stormclouds will be past and I can be accepted back into the community of mankind. Be sweet, as my mom alway says.

    Wednesday, May 13, 1998
    Steve Schalchlin Day in SF???


    I was, as you read yesterday, nervous as hell about appearing in San Francisco. For one thing, they are very picky here. They don't go for a lot of BS and what with the hype and all that I lay all over the place, I figgered they'd yawn and not show up.

    But, much to my surprise, the room was packed last night, Wed. May 13. A new fan, Hank Wilson -- who basically created the first AIDS Candlelight March, had seen me at the Continuum a couple of months ago, and he was spreading the word. (He also was on the front page of the SF Chronicle Wednesday posing in front of the first AIDS Candlelight March poster.)

    The earlier soundcheck was to be at 5pm. I was dropped off at Josie's by Jay Martin, an internet friend, after lunch with him and Dr. Buddy Truluck (preacher and rabid anti-fundie) and Ken McPherson the talk radio host.

    I wasn't in Josie's two minutes when Buddy Johnston from "This Way Out," a public radio program jammed a microphone in my face and said excited, "I've told NY and LA all about you and they are thrilled that we're doing an interview. QUICK! In 60 seconds tell me why someone should come hear you sing!!"

    I froze in my tracks.

    I said, "Buddy, NY and LA are not excited about me. You're just yanking my chain."

    "NO!! You're wrong! You got 50 seconds!"

    I totally blanked. I don't know why the hell people listen to my songs. They're more likely to run screaming from the room if they have any class at all.

    Well, I don't know what I said, but it was not very articulate. I can guarantee you that.

    He said, "Don't worry. We'll sit down for a long interview soon." then I gave him a Bonus Round CD and out the door he flew.

    From the stage of Josie's, which has very good lighting, I could not see on person in the room. I couldn't tell if I had a crowd or four bare walls, but once I got into it, I could see that it was full of people. At first, I was a bit thrown -- strange piano, new room, untested audience, etc.

    But once I got going, people began to respond back to things I'd say -- especially people with AIDS who understood the dynamics of my message and experiences. I think I got a bit more comfortable as the night went on, but mostly I felt like a deer caught in headlights. When I felt lost, I just plowed ahead and sang another song.

    After the show, people crowded around and wanted to talk to me. This is always my favorite part of the night. They have stories or they want to tell me they "felt" what I was feeling. Very beautiful.

    Then a well-dressed man came up to me and handed me a HUGE framed certificate. He said he was from the Mayor's office and right there on the certificate it said, "STEVE SCHALCHLIN DAY."

    The scripted hand praised my efforts at AIDS awareness and mentioned this website and it also mentioned Shawn Decker and the Daniel Murphy Project. When I saw that I SCREAMED and said, "SHAWN'S NAME IS HERE!" Turns out this guy had met Shawn in DC. That's how he knew me and since he's on the city's AIDS task force, it was he who recommended this certificate. He had even seen TLS in New York.

    So, Shawn! You're making me famous!!! (will someone email shawn and tell him about this?)

    It was a glorious time. I was scared and nervous, but I think i went over well and hopefully, tonight, I'll be a little less anxious.

    Well, that's the report from Day One in San Francisco!

    Thursday, May 14, 1998


    Well, tonight the sound guy, David, brought a reverb unit from his home to help smooth the vocal sound out a bit, thank god. It was rough going last night on the vocal front because of how dead the room was, soundwise. I was very happy.

    Also tonight was the final night for Seinfeld, so i wasn't expecting anyone to show up. But, sure enough I was wrong again and we had a fairly decent crowd. (It still amazes me.) Too, this evening was a small fundraiser for the Continuum, so I was greatly relieved that we would raise a couple of bucks for them.

    Earlier today, I spent the whole day with Ken McPherson. We talked about our radio interview coming up this Sunday night. His show is called "Hibernia Beach" and it draws a teen call-in audience. He says it's "gender neutral," in that they get a large audience both straight and gay -- his co-host is straight. But Ken is openly gay and they talk very frankly when the kids call in.

    This should be good. Everyone by now knows what a big mouth I already have. God knows what I'll say when unleashed upon the radio. Ken and I spent most of the day at Golden Gate Park in the arboretum sitting amongst the tall redwoods where he had spread the ashes of Don, a man he took care of until Don died of AIDS. The air was cool, the sun was bright, and it was like getting a mini-vacation sitting there on the benches while squirrels, robins and quail walked by us as casually as if they were out for an afternoon stroll.

    One very cool moment: A little robin walked by and hopped up onto a stump, not 10 feet from us. Then he began singing in a tiny little voice. I just stopped and looked at him remarking to Ken how utterly beautiful his song was. Made me realize how much effort I put into singing -- for results that don't even begin to match the beauty of that little robin's voice.

    Later this evening in the dressing room, I was twisting around and around in my mind the difficulties I felt the last night in the presentation of the "show." So, I decided this evening I would start in a completely different way.

    After the lights went down, I peeked around the curtain out into the audience and, instead of going to the piano, I walked to the front of the stage and just said, in a very natural tone, "My name is Steve Schalchlin and I am living in the bonus round."

    Then I said, "Tonight I'm going to be singing songs about my own life with AIDS and I'll make you a promise. Some of this is going to be very tough and some of it very emotional, but I promise if you'll hang with me, I'll get you out of it."

    Then I went to the piano and began with "Save Me A Seat." From that point on, I had every eye and every ear. It was a spectacular night.

    After the show, I invited everyone to come up so that I could meet them. Again, it's my favorite part of the evening -- well, except for singing. (Just occurred to me, what other parts are there? Oh, well...)

    One guy gave me his card and offered a full body massage in exchange for a CD. Another young guy apologized that he couldn't speak cause he had just had his tongue pierced. Another young teenage girl came up and asked me if I remembered her having written me. I asked her her name and when she wrote me.

    Turns out her mom and she drove down from Portland, Oregon to see me here. OREGON?? I just gave her the biggest hug and said, "You drove here from Oregon? Just to hear me sing???" She continued saying that she and her best friend, a guy, had seen TLS in New York. He couldn't come but she really wanted to be here.

    Honestly, I was, by then, dumbfounded.

    One other guy, my pal Richard, said he missed the show this evening because he was facillitating a group, but that two members of his group had come the night before. And he said they described my program like this: "He took us through everything I ever felt with AIDS. And then he brought us all the way out again!"

    And that's just what I had said going into the show this evening. But that's the point, to me. Anyone can take you into hell. Getting intense and sad and fierce is not difficult. But finding the path back into the light and into life -- THAT'S the trick.

    And you can only do it with love and hope and compassion and humor. Well, that's how I try to do it.

    Friday-Monday, 15-18, 1998
    That Is So Het.

    [This is being written on Friday May 21st. At last.]

    Jimmy, Ken McPherson and I were standing on the ferry in San Francisco Bay in the bright sun feeling the brisk, cool wind whip us around. We looked back at the city -- white houses covering the rolling hills, alternating with green hillsides. Look left and the great bridges rise dramatically out of the landscape. Look left again and there are more islands, verdant islands.

    At that moment, I realized that this was the most beautiful city I had ever laid my eyes on. I don't know why I hadn't noticed this before. It really just stopped me in my tracks and I held the moment. (A bonus round moment?)

    I leaned over to Jim and said, "This is like the gay holy land." Jim deadpanned, "Yeah, the Pink Jerusalem."

    We had a full house Friday night and I met the legendary Cleve Jones who started the NAMES Project and The Quilt, and Saturday night, we had another full house. And right on the front row was a group of theatre fans who regularly post at "Talkin' Broadway".

    Sunday morning, Jimmy drove me to the airport. 7am flight to Phoenix. A PLUS Weekend held by Arizona Being Alive and AIDS Project Arizona. I went from coat weather to hot desert sun. I hailed a bony cowgirl cabbie -- I made sure to tell her how clean her cab was -- and off to the event we drove. It was being held at a small college and the room I played was like the one at Penn State -- me below at an upright piano with them on desks that rose at a sharp incline. I love these rooms because you don't need a microphone. I spoke to Edgar and Mark, asking them about the PLUS Weekend. They said this was especially for the newly diagnosed.

    Unfortunately, stats are showing that the rate of infection is highest among young people now that the new drugs are making people like me look so damn good. I've taken to holding up my bag of pills when I do AIDS education programs for schools just to let them see the ball and chain.
    Newly diagnosed.

    I went right back to moment I was sitting across from the social worker when he looked at me and said, "You have tested positive for HIV." The moment my life forever changed.

    I was already melting. Suddenly I was thinking, "Am I going to scare these kids to death?" Starting out with "Save Me A Seat," half the audience was already in tears and I was choking on just about every phrase.

    Miraculously, we made it through to "At Least I Know What's Killing Me" and "Friendly Fire," where the tears turned to laughter and hope (I hope). Lots of hugs followed and I got to hang around a little and flirt with the locals before zipping back to San Francisco, making it just in time to sing my final show.

    We had a smaller turn-out but I got to meet a man from England who consults with one of the mainstream churches there regarding "homosexual" issues. He stated what I hear most Europeans state, "Why are American Christians so obsessed with sex?"

    My answer: So they can pretend they never get any.

    *joke* *honest*

    Sunday night, though, was the greatest. A guest spot on Hibernia Beach Live on LIVE 105 Modern Rock Radio. I was on for three hours during the midnight teen call-in show. With co-host Renee Rotten and email boy Ben, we were like a circus and it felt totally natural. I knew it was going to be outrageous from the very beginning -- when Ken was introduced as...


    I nearly spewed my water all over myself with that one. He laughed out loud. Ken is equal to Stephen Bienskie in the "does everyone love that guy?" contest.

    One of the young callers said how she was really upset that all the kids were using the term, "That is SO gay." For everything they don't like. So the Hibernia Beach crew decided to coin a new phrase for anything totally boring and normal, "That is so het."

    Ken also played an old demo of "The Sad Lady" on the air. He thought it was amazing that someone could write about this subject. I balked at first because the tape I had in the car had been drenched with diet Coke a few months ago and the lyrics were an older set.

    But the phones lit up and some of them even taped it off the radio and posted the lyrics on some cutter bulletin boards. This Friday I'm going to go back into the studio and re-record it because Ken says he's going to play it thus laying the new foundation for me to take over the known world. RADIO PLAY AT LAST!!

    *diabolical laughter*

    Monday, Jimmy and I hopped in the car and had fun all the way home, but, as I found out the next day, I was on the verge of collapse.

    Tuesday, May 19, 1998

    I got up today to do my diary and catch up on the 500 emails that had come in since I left last weekend, when I suddenly felt a pain in my stomach. It was overwhelming, so I laid down and fell promptly to sleep. Then I realized I was on the verge of complete physical exhaustion. There was so much that we did in San Francisco (and Pheonix) over the weekend, that it just blew me out.

    So Jimmy ordered me to bed and I slept almost all day long. After dinner, I fell asleep again. Truly, I slept almost 20 hours today. So, I didn't get a chance to respond to many emails, nor have I had the chance to recount the San Francisco adventure -- which was SPECTACULAR, by the way.

    I fell totally in love with the people and the city.

    The other big news is that Geocities declared my site a LANDMARK site, so I've been hit with a new and thrilling barrage of great notes in my mailbox including a few notes from Baptists and Mormons telling me being gay is "disgusting" to God. Do we see a new political alliance on the horizon?

    But even the least kind jabs expressed love and concern for my health and for all people who struggle with disease. And that's a good thing. I love you all and appreciate your concern even if we do not agree on God.

    P.S. Be careful what you tell others about God. You don't know any more than anyone else.

    Wednesday, May 20, 1998
    Book Report: Literalism.

    On my recent trip to Montana I was totally possessed reading "Adam Eve & The Serpent" by Elaine Pagels. Elaine is a scholar who has spent many years researching the early church in an effort to reconstruct the very early post-Jesus period before there was anything approaching a "Bible" and where the word came from those who had either followed Jesus or learned from someone who did. She originally did this because, like most people, she had assumed that there was a simpler, purer religion which we've gotten away from.

    What she found was that the early church was even MORE divided back then than we are now.

    This book is focused on studying the sexual attitudes of the early church. Since sex is the basic divide upon which we build our gossamer bridges, I sank my teeth into this book like a hungry beggar at a hot meal. I'll sum up what I learned here, but because her book is very scholastic with huge amounts of material drawn from the earlier writings, I'm sure there are many conclusions one could draw.

    Apparently, the first big rule that was debated were the provocative statements attributed to Jesus and to Paul regarding family. The Book of Luke has Jesus telling everyone to hate their families and break off all relations and follow him. (Add Paul's corresponding remarks about not getting married.) In other words, there were husbands and wives who became Christian and promptly stopped living together as husband and wife, devoting their entire energies working among the poor.

    But there were those who did not want to break up their families and felt it was too extreme. They argued against enforced celibacy. Later, when Matthew and one of the letters to Timothy (I think) popped up with modified language allowing for family relations, these presumably gave pro-family Christians the support they needed to finally win the debate.

    But this is also why celibacy developed to be held in such high regard. Even those who disagreed that everyone should remain celibate felt that those who could stay celibate were "closer to God."

    The thing that set Christians apart from their neighbors was their sexual behavior. The pagans were kinda the free-sex crowd. The Jews allowed divorce and even polygamy. During the time of the persecution, Christian scholars fighting for a place in the Roman Empire would defend their faith on the grounds that they are one man/one woman people who don't live in debauchery. They were trying to tell the intolerant authorities that they were not a threat, but were good people. (The Emperor wanted them to bow and make offerings to him. They refused, so he killed a bunch of them anyway.)

    The typical pagan man would have a wife, have "homosexual sex" or sex with other women rather indiscriminately. Given this environment, Christian monogamy set them apart and, interestingly, was scowled at while simultaneously being admired.

    But also, the question of "gay people" as we face it today was simply non-existent. Even if gay "couples" existed, they didn't have the environment of understanding nor did they have America and the concept of personal freedom.

    It puts the Bible into context for me. Someone from Side B, I think, can clearly look back to those days and say, "See? There were no gay couples and they frowned upon homosexual behavior."

    My response is that they are absolutely correct. I would be astonished to find an early church example of a gay couple. Therefore, if they wanted to defend their positions using "tradition," they could make that case. And they will point to NT letters of Paul to show why God looks down upon homosexuality.

    But Jesus, when confronted with eating on the Sabbath -- thereby breaking the written Levitican Code -- made a case for his blatant "sin" by showing how "the rule" is about the spirit of the law, not the specific words.

    This why I believe that the anti-gay Christians err when they use "literalism" as their defense. Arguing against literalism was, to me, a great and freeing message of Jesus -- He changed everything with this attitude. I don't think it would have been consistent for Him to replace one set of laws with another.

    But I digress. My most amazing discovery was about Original Sin. But I think I'll do that in my next report.

    Thursday, May 21, 1998
    Book Report: Original Sin.

    Continuing my book report on Elaine Pagels "Adam Eve & The Serpent."

    The early church had at least two basic beliefs that separated them from the world around them. Both were derived from an interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve. They were: Equality of human beings and free will.

    In a world of emperors and slaves, early Christians were poor folks who lived in slummy areas giving out food and shelter to those even poorer. Imagine a poor person hearing, "You are just as worthy, if not more, than the rich man over there." Or the runaway slave hearing the news, "You are just as good as the emperor." God made "man" in his own likeness.

    The other great pillar of Christian thought was free will. God gave Adam and Eve the power to sin or not sin. It was entirely up to them. But the point they made is that he made them FREE. Free to choose.

    This was potent stuff while Christianity remained the persecuted religion and accounts for why it spread like wildfire among the poor and the slaves. But it also spread into the upper classes because, I believe, freedom is ALWAYS a potent idea for humankind.

    After the Emperor Constantine converted and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the persecuted priests suddenly became men with money, consorts of the court and part of the power structure. Suddenly, the church priorities changed.

    Suddenly, the church that had railed against this evil empire had to find a way to defend it.

    Along comes Augustine. Augustine grew up with an abusive pagan dad and a Christian mom. Dad was a sexual man out of control and Augustine sided with his mother. But he was also driven with a HUGE sex drive. After he left home, many are the stories of Augustine and his (hetero) sexual debauchery.

    Finally, he became a priest and turned (supposedly) celibate, but in his debates he constantly bemoaned the beast within that needed to be sated -- his sexual compulsion. He made the assumption that everyone felt this way.

    Great debates began occurring through written screeds between leaders in various cities and it was in these debates that Augustine, going back to the story of Adam and Eve found what he was looking for -- and it changed the Christian world forever. This was in the fifth century.

    His thesis went like this: Sin is passed down through sperm. When Adam sinned, it meant all men are now tainted with sin. In other words, where traditional Christianity provided for "free will," Augustine said man cannot NOT sin.

    This provoked a fury among other leaders and the debate was vicious and loud. They said, "How can you give Adam so much power? He was but one man!" Or, "How can you say an innocent baby is born with sin?" Look at babies born with birth defects, he argued, it's proof that even babies are not without sin.

    But Augustine had the emperors ear and he stretched the debate this way: He said, "We NEED an empire because, even though it's not perfect, since man is inherently sinful, he needs a power structure or he will become like dogs in the street. An imperfect system is better than no system at all." He declared all who disagreed with him to be heretics.

    And with that, he got the emperor to drive those who disagreed with him out of the church, using soldiers -- and in many cases, they were murdered in the name of God.

    Thus was "original sin" born. And it prevails in nearly every mainline Christian religion to this day. But in fact, it was born of blood, politics and power.

    Thus, I now have a new belief: Horny preachers should never be allowed to write dogma.

    Friday, May 22, 1998
    A Conservative Christian Response.

    Dear Steve,
    I visited your web page because I'm a GeoCities "member". I was expecting something different than what I found but once I began to read I realized the general concept followed many other pages devoted to a gay lifestyle and AIDS that I've visited. I, every now and then, visit sites that are supposedly "dedicated to the promotion of AIDS awareness" and usually find it really is a testimony to a gay life style and an effort to "prove the hateful Christian community wrong". I'll say the same thing to you that I've said to others with your views, "I wish you would get over your "out of the closet" experience and stop blaming Christianity everytime your decision isn't received with compassion. Granted, some "Christians" don't like gay people -- hey, get a clue, some "Christians" don't like drug addiction and they make no bones about it. I don't know, seems we're all expected to accept everyone, regardless of their lifestyle, because we've accepted Christ. When some don't, we're bashed and condemned and, from the gay tactical point of view, we become a focal point in the guise of AIDS awareness.

    What's the point to it all? You made the decision to be gay, you now have AIDS, now you're devoting your remaining life to promoting a gay lifestyle, along with attempting to educate people as to what it's like to be sick? If thousands of people were headed toward a cliff, would you then jump off and write a play about it on the way down? Gee wiz Steve, lots of people are sick, but they don't make it their goal; it doesn't provide them with a reason to succeed. The majority of people who have terminal illness aren't wresting plays, and songs and publishing their every thought on the internet -- not to mention, pushing the gay life theology. I found it interesting that you mention on your web site that you simply published your diary on the internet for yourself and a few friends. Steve, you could have done that in a letter, and not made it available for the world to view. Honestly, I think you're wanting to let the world know your views regarding Christianity. I understand the purpose; it's always the same purpose.

    I wish we could truly communicate with each other regarding your illness. I wish I could be viewed by you as someone who truly wants to reveal God's love to you. Unfortunately, I'll be just another hateful man who doesn't understand your homosexuality, who professes one thing, and does another. Steve, I'm so sad you're sick both physically and spiritually. I'm sure you're rather angry at me and I'm asking your forgiveness. I'm not writing you to make a point, to win one for God or to condemn you for your life. That's not my job. I just hate the AIDS virus, and the promotion of sin. Steve, may God invade your heart and demonstrate without any doubt or deception His unmerited grace and love for you. You're so greatly talented, you could make such a difference for God in this world.

    I close by telling you that I truly am not your enemy, I hope you can believe that. God bless you, my prayer is that you would receive from God healing, both physically and spiritually as I have. "TED"

    I printed this letter because I think this man is very sincere. I think he also speaks for a lot of people. Let me make a few quick observations:

    1. I do nor war against Christians. My problem is with the political leadership. The Religious Right has *publicly* made it clear that they are waging a moral war against gay people. They make no bones about this and daily I receive press releases from them spreading lies and hate.

    2. I did not choose to be gay any more than you chose to be straight.

    3. It's interesting that you see my page as promoting sickness and disease. I thought I was demonstrating how the human spirit can overcome all adversity and still find victory.

    4. On the contrary, when I sing my songs for schools and they feel what I felt at the worst of my illness, it's the most effective anti-AIDS program imaginable because it's not some South Park type character up there just saying, "Sex is bad. Gay is bad..."

    5. I honestly do not see you as a hateful man. I truly believe that you believe the words you speak and that you are honestly trying to make this world a better place. I respectfully disagree with your conclusions, but that does not mean we cannot find common ground.

    If you have the opinion that simply being gay means being diseased, or wanting disease, then we have a long road ahead of us if we are going to become friends. I believe that if gay teens were able to date and go through adolescence the same as straight kids, much of the tragedy we read about with regard to gay people would be greatly reduced.

    I appreciate your candor and I hope we will speak again.

    Saturday, May 23, 1998
    More Conservative Christian Responses.

    Dear Steve,
    Interesting site. I read the letter from "Ted" and your response to it.

    I wanted to let you know that you are stereotyping even us "Christians". I have a lot of faith in God and I, too, believe that homosexuality is wrong. I do not know if you made the "choice" to be gay. I won't even venture to guess. And I bet you didn't want AIDS (who in their right mind would) But I don't think it is right to lump all Christians into the same package. Like I said, I don't believe in homosexuality, not one bit. But that is my opinion. Who am I to pass judgment on others. That is not my duty....."Judge not, lest ye be judged" God will make the final judgment so, I don't need to worry about it.

    I hope that in the future you will realize that Christians aren't as bad as you sounded to make them.

    Now on to other things.....I'm glad to see that you are doing well and I hope for your continued health.


    And here's another... He calls it a conservative Christian rebuttal to the conservative Christian-- it was posted on Again, this writer is a heterosexual conservative Christian family man. I've edited it for space.
    I have never understood Steve's mission to be to lead others to be gay and to get AIDS.

    I assume that Steve understands the need to take steps to prevent the spread of disease to the same extent the heterosexual population does. Steve can very well explain what it is like to be gay and to have AIDS without writing on the way off the cliff. AIDS is a way of life. Being gay is a way of life and I'll accept that it is not a choice since none of us really know what causes us to be attracted to others. Both will be with us.

    Also, despite those of us on the right who say "be gay, just don't have sex", Steve is going to listen as much as our hetero teen children do! So, gays and sex and AIDS are with us and I guess we need to accept that and maybe it is time for Christians of all sorts to stop attacking someone for what he is and to work to make the world disease free for all.

    I think the reason Christians feel that gays are anti-Christian is because Christians are openly anti-gay. Excuse the pun, but should the gays turn the other cheek when you won't? Let GOD judge whether Steve is being sinful or not--my religion says he is; he does not agree!

    My religion also says that all the heteros reading this who had sex outside of marriage and without the goal of procreation are commiting a sin--let he who has not had sex in a lustful way cast the first stone--I can not!

    [respectful snip]

    Wishing the gays away will not stop gays from being gay or AIDS from infecting them. Bashing them over the head to wear condoms and to have single partners and doing the same with heteros WILL reduce the spread of AIDS.


    It has never been my desire to make this site scary or abusive to conservative Christians. I'm not trying to demonize or beat anyone up. Yes, I get angry and sarcastic sometimes, but if you look under the surface to find out what it is I'm angry at -- rather than just recoiling, you might actually agree with some of the things I'm talking about -- like, how ineffective it is to war against individuals.

    Folks, religious matters are very important to me. I was raised in a beautiful conservative Christian home with a fantastic family (except for my idiot brothers, of course -- just kidding). I do not hate Christians, nor do I lump them all together.

    In Bruce Bawer's book, "Stealing Jesus" he makes a point I know to be true having grown up in the fundamentalist environment: Conservative Christians do not consider "liberal" mainstream religions to be "Christian." (You cannot imagine how scandalized I was when, as a young conservative Christian singer an Episcopal priest offered me alcohol.)

    In my young indoctrinated mind all I "knew" was satan had infiltrated the liberal Christian world and corrupted all religions except the Baptists. Trust me when I tell you that there are Baptists right now reading this who agree with that reasoning.
    When I criticize the Falwells and the Robertsons, people might see themselves as being attacked. I do not see them as representing Christians, but many do and I forget this. As one who has dabbled in politics (with NAS), I see the Christian Coalition as nothing but political;. But the average person is not political and they do not make the same distinction. If I offend when I vilify the "Christian" right, I apologize. I'll try to be less angry in my approach and tone.

    I'll tell you what I've discovered after being here and after going out and singing: Christians -- conservative and non-conservative -- really do want to find a more effective approach to dealing with gay people. Christians reading this, you do not see yourselves as hateful, do you? I do not believe you wish to be hateful -- or to be seen as hateful.

    I have questions:

  • Are you *aware* that people genuinely do see much of what your leaders say and do as hateful? (Of course, you do. Just checking to make sure we are on the same page.)
  • Do you wonder why that is?
  • Do you believe that no matter what you do, your actions will be seen as hateful becasue you believe homosexuality to be a sin?
  • Do you *want* to be seen as hateful?
  • Do you believe it's possible to get them to see that you do what you do out of love?
  • There is a high rate of suicide and self-destructive behavior in gay teens. Some say it's because they won't straighten up and choose heterosexuality. Some say it's because there is a hateful and insensitive atmosphere stirred up by anti-gay religionists.

    I open my site to conservative Christians and liberal Christians and atheists and Jews and Moslems and Bahai and anyone else who wants to hang. Everyone should be aware that I will probably get angry at times and say Loud Steve stuff. But if you have patience, I usually will come around the next day and look for common ground.

    And no, you don't have to stay. I don't get paid for this and I am answerable only to myself and to the people who read regularly. We've created a family here.

    I hope you'll stay.

    Sunday, May 24, 1998
    Jim & Steve: 13 Years.

    Jimmy and Steve are celebrating 13 years together this weekend. They said it wouldn't last. And it almost didn't. As most of you know by now, last November, we divorced. This Spring we undivorced. So, I don't know if we get to call the *whole* 13 years our own, but if anyone wants to fight about it, meet us out back.

    Someone asked us how anyone stays together for so long. Who knows? We take each other at face value. We know each others' hearts. When we fought back in New York, they were knock down drag-outs. We said things we didn't mean. All the good stuff you see on bad TV and Jerry Springer (except we never had a black hermaphrodite KKK member as a sex slave). But we never stopped loving each other.

    Mostly, we're pretty boring. Watch TV. (I told you Jimmy is addicted to "The Price Is Right" and "America's Funniest Home Videos.") Play dominos (Mexican Train). Rent bad movies. Eat fatty foods. Scootch (that's a verb) Thurber the Cat to make him squeak.

    How did we get back together? Simple. He came crawling back to me on hands and knees begging for forgiveness.


    So, this weekend we are celebrating the continuation of the abomination that was almost no more. And we intend to abominate each other and everyone else for a very long time.

    This Memorial Day the Bonus Round Site is dedicated to four young teens whose deaths in the war against bigotry make me stop and realize how much work still needs to be done. And how much we all have at stake. In memory of:

    Jacob Lawrence Orosco

    Robbie Kirkland

    Joey Lopitz

    and, of course, my beloved Bill Clayton

    Monday, May 25, 1998
    Greatly Disturbed.

    I must tell you that I have been overwhelmingly saddened by recent letters. For one thing, they brought back to me the horror I felt in my gut back in my teenage years when fire-and-brimstone preachers would rail against homosexuality and how horrible and satanic "homosexuality" was. And there was my Calvinist friend who would inform me that "homosexuality" was pure evidence that one could NEVER be saved (from burning in hell forever).
    You see, Calvinists believe "the elect" were determined ahead of time and that the souls of "the elect" were already purified. Therefore, if you were gay it was proof that you were not pre-selected ahead of time.
    The letter that "got" me is the first one printed above from "TED." If you read it closely, you will see what his clear implication is. To him, gay equals disease. In other words, by merely stating that I am gay, without repentance -- the mere fact that I don't disavow who I am -- I am promoting disease and sickness and turning this disease into a lifestyle.

    Readers who do not come from fundamentalism were surprised when I pointed out that fundamentalists do not even consider being gay a "real thing." To them, we are all heterosexuals who have been possessed or influenced by satanic forces and have become insidiously perverted. I do not exagerrate these beliefs. I'm stating plain fact.

    Silly me, I thought we had all progressed as a civilization to the point that everyone at the very LEAST realized that gay people are REAL.

    "TED"'s letter above shows that he, and most of the conservative Christian world (according to their own writings), consider gay people beneath contempt, satanic in origin, constant unrepentant sinners who are "promoting" sickness and disease by simply being.

    By being alive.

    We don't have to do anything to provoke their wrath. All we have to do is, for instance, ask for health insurance for our partners. (This issue caused the entire Southern Baptist Convention to boycott Disney.) I say to you, how evil is it to try to deny health insurance to other people, people who are not a part of your group? How vile to hurt others in the name of Jesus!

    And they call themselves Christian. More: When I protest these things, I get people telling me that I'm bashing ALL Christians! I do not think that I am but even if I were, do I not have a right to do so? These people who claim the name of Jesus who are intruding upon the private lives of American citizens, attempting to ban them from society and deprive them -- and me -- of our rights? Is that not the American way? To stand up for what you believe and to fight for liberty and justice?

    Sadly, TED's letter forces me to believe that there is nothing I can do that will please these anti-gay so-called "Christians." They hate me for simply being gay.

    (They would not call it hate -- its hidden under the term "love the sinner, hate the sin"). Well, if they loved the sinner, why wouldn't they *applaud* Disney for providing health benefits to gay partners? Wouldn't that be loving?
    THANKFULLY, as in the letter from P-Man, there are conservative Christians out there who do NOT vilify and demonize gay people. Yes, they do believe "homosexuality is a sin," but they realize that gay people are flesh and blood people. Unfortunately, THESE conservative Christians do not hold the reins of power. They're just normal folks who are seeing things clearly, the way most would if given the chance.

    Pastor, right now there is a gay kid in your congregation who is going through torment you cannot even begin to understand. You have a choice. Do you rail on and on against homosexuality and make the kid "feel the burn" of hell? Is that your idea of love?

    One kid I heard of recently, when he came out to his Christian parents at 15, was shut out of the house and told to not come back "until you get fixed." Now, is that a good example of a God-fearing Christian home? Does anyone reading this think this is an aberration that doesn't happen very often?

    Then you should talk to the street counsellors here in the El Lay Territory and ask them how many young AIDS-riddled male and female prostitutes are here because their God-fearing parents threw them out. How blind you are if you think this does not happen over and over again.

    I'm not bashing here. I'm trying to make a point to good, honest Christian people that there is a better way of facing this tremendously controversial issue.

    How should you, as conservative Christian deal with these things? It used to be easy back when gay people were too afraid to come out; when cops rounded us up and put us into jails; when we were cruelly sent to mental hospitals for shock treatments or castration. Christians didn't have to think about it much then.

    But now people like me are standing before you honestly and without shame. I am who I am. You don't have to like it. But you also do not have to wage this Pat Buchanan war against us. Conservative Christians should be the VERY FIRST in line to join groups like PFLAG.

    Conservative Christians should be the very first to stop homophobia in its tracks. To create a safe schools environment by encouraging groups like the new Gay/Straight Alliances, where students both straight and gay sit and talk about the hate and the violence thrown against gay kids.

    Conservative Christians, you who see yourselves as loving, tolerant, joyful, filled with the Word of God and the Love of Jesus -- I know you. I came from your church, your school and your home. I am your son. You created me. I know you're capable of genuine love and acceptance. I know you.

    Many conservative Christians are now repenting for the hate thrown at gay people in the name of Jesus. They've finally come to understand that folks are folks -- and that, just as my parents can sit at a table and play cards with Jimmy and me, conservative Christians can treat gay people the same way they treat Catholics, Mormons, divorcees, and any other citizen groups they consider "sinful":

    With dignity and respect.

    Tuesday, May 26, 1998
    Pictures! Music! Music! Pictures!

    Well, that's just about all the religion I can take for the next 1500 years. I had to laugh at the emails from Europe. They're appalled by American fundamentalism. But forget that. Let's do pictures. Just got them developed and Ronda let me use her scanner. She's feeling better, by the way, but her ankle was really broken clean when she fell. So, she's trying to work, but I can tell she's really uncomfortable.

    The ever beautiful Bob Cox & Steve Schalchlin singing at Theta Sound. This past Friday, Bobby and I recorded "The Sad Lady." Ghost came by to Executive Produce. And we did it exactly like I did the Bonus Round CD: I sat at the black Yamaha piano and did it in one take. No overdubs. Bobby then added some guitar chimes. We're very proud of this recording. If you want to have one, I'll see if I can come up with something. Right now, nothing is pressed.

    Doctoring my poor toe backstage at Josie's Cabaret in San Francisco.

    Jim & Steve looking like models in San Francisco Harbor.

    Lubbock, Texas: Oh, God. I really do look like my dad. EEEEK!!!!

    Buddy Holly's West Texas Walk of Fame plaque.

    Steve illegally hangs on Buddy's statue.

    Thurber the Cat taking his afternoon sun.

    Wednesday-Thursday, May 27-28, 1998
    Yikes. Toe Surgery.

    I lied. I did. I was supposed to go to Hermosa Beach Thursday night to hear my pals, Scott Wilson, Bill Berry and Bruce Larson and others, but instead I was in bed with my foot propped up because it was aching like a son of a bitch.

    Earlier today I went and had outpatient toe surgery. Yes, the thing I had been avoiding forever -- I finally went and did.

    It won't go into the gory details, but it involved cutting the sides of my toenail so that they would stop being ingrown and stop bleeding all over my socks. Thurber the Cat was very happy with this turn of events because it caused me to have to stay in bed and play with him all afternoon.

    I missed our live chat, even though I was home, because it was aching too much for me to be good company. I would have been a total waste in chat.

    Anyway, it feels better as I write these notes, but I'm going to go soak it in epsom salts again and then go back to bed. I'm tired of being in pain. I want fun fun fun!

    We're finalizing our plans for the fall, by the way. Looks like Boston will be in November followed by Pittsburgh and then Phoenix Arizona again. We also got word that TLS is going to play in Houston soon! No details yet. I'll scope that out today. Also, the guestbook and discussion board have been down. Tech support seems to be slow on my new server, so I don't know what's up with that. Might have to look elsewhere...

    Friday-Sunday, May 29-31, 1998

    This was a weekend of recovery. We stayed inside. I kept my foot propped up (soaking it twice day in epsom salts). I scratched Thurber the Cat and ate tons of food prepared by Nurse Jim. The toe is improving and I can walk on it again. It's still swollen but I go back to Dr. Toe tomorrow.

    Dr. Toe, (not his real name) is this sweet little man who introduced himself as a Jew with an Arabic last name. At the beginning of the session, I was sitting in the chair and he was asking me all these questions about if I have trouble standing for any length of time (yes), if I get dizzy sometimes (duh) -- anyway, he said it's because my legs are different lengths.

    (My old bandmate began believing in faith healing, he said, when a traveling faith healer pulled his leg and evened it out with the other one).

    Tomorrow I go back and we check my progress. It does look better, but it's very swollen and red.

    On Friday, we got this fax from a man named Stephen Barefoot who is instrumental in organizing a benefit in Durham, North Carolina. In the event, a children's choir will be singing "When You Care" with a 30 piece orchestra. I didn't even know this was happening!

    To: Jim Brochu
    From: Stephen Barefoot

    Just wanted to thank you again for permitting our use of WHEN YOU CARE in this weekend's 25th anniversary Duke Children's Classic event. The weekend's goal for Duke Children's Hospital is exceeding $4M and celebrities begin arriving tonight for the golf & tennis tournament competition. The show is Saturday night at the Carolina Theatre in downtonw Durham.

    I've thought about you and Steve a lot this week, as the 50 young students who are doing your nu7mber have been putting the final touches on rehearsal. They're all between 11-16 years old -- and they're doing a great job. The number has been orchestrated for 30 pieces. It's Quite moving -- and I'm very proud to have it included in the show's line-up.

    Once we get past the show on Saturday, I'll make sure to send you a full packet of the orchestra parts, a conductor score, the choral arrangement, etc. There will be a video of the performance which will be ready in a few weeks. It's done for the kids in the show.

    The number works beautifully. David Freidman, who wrote the two pieces for the show, is here now, as is Nick Perito, Perry Como's musical director. Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and chairman Jeff Foxworthy will be featured in the performance, and it WHEN YOU CARE that actually serves to bring Jeff on stage...

    Should you have a moment & want to fax a good luck note down to the kids doing the song, I'll make sure I share it with them... The group is from the performing arts magnet middle school here in Durham...

    All the best -- and again my thanks to both of you. Stephen Barefoot.

    Immediately, we wrote a note thanking them for singing our song and telling them how honored we were. Stephen wrote us back and said he would post it.

    This kind of communication is one of the things I love about being available on the net. For instance, all week I've been getting email from kids who heard me on Hibernia Beach, the radio show in San Francisco. (By the way, if you are a fan of that show, new management has taken over the station and they need you to tell them how much you love Hibernia Beach. I've heard rumors that the whole programming schedule is up for grabs.)

    Anyway, I'm going back to the unvirtual world. Nurse Jim needs me.

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