Dystopia No More
Volume 2 Book 2 Part 2 of
Living In The Bonus Round
the online AIDS diary of Steve Schalchlin.

Steve in Omaha
pic by james tobey of Snap!FEST

June/July 1999. Los Angeles, Omaha, Denver.

[ Diary Index ]
Book 1 - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4  - Book 3

Sunday June 27, 1999.
Smashing Jimmy's Car.

This is an expanded version of a note I sent to the TLS list.

Folks, just between us I'm really shook up right now because I had an accident this morning. I showed Michael Sugar (who saved me again by driving me today) and Michael/Marky the banged-up car which is now parked in our garage. If not for the steel reinforced doors on that Taurus, I'd have been smashed and mangled.

The thing is -- and Jimmy saw the whole accident -- I pulled to the end of the driveway, stopped, looked both ways and then proceeded out onto Laurel Cyn Blvd. and SMACK, the door suddenly jumps at me and hits me and glass shatters. I immediately feel a pain in my elbow.

A car had hit me blindside from the left -- hitting the front door square on. I felt the hit on my elbow, and realized the spray of glass meant I wouldn't be getting my Breakfast croissant from Jack In The Box nor would I be at the choir practice at First Presbyterian nor would I be singing for them in the morning service.

I was able to pull across the "Sunday morning empty" four lanes and into an apartment driveway across the street. I was so heartsick at the thought of having wrecked the car and being such a dumbass for not seeing the other car in the first place, I just started crying right there, leaning over the stickshift and holding my arm.

This Latino man came running up to the car asking me if I was okay. Well, I was "crying like a woman" (East Texas macho-speak). But I looked at him and told him I was okay. The lady driving was okay, too, but had some chest pain so the ambulance guys took her to a hospital.

Geez, I just realized what happened as I was typing this. A ton of metal just hurtled itself directly at me this morning and came within six inches of my flesh and bones. Okay. Now I'm shaking.

After the police and everyone left, I laid down on the couch and went to sleep. Oh, first I called the church and told them I would miss the morning service. But I still did my show at 3. Hopefully, one of the Michaels or Jimmy will tell about it. I think I'll go pass out now. :-)

Sunday-Monday, June 27b-28, 1999.
The Aftermath.
After the wreck yesterday, I didn't have much emotion at all. I sat on the steps waiting for the cops who took the story. Then I went upstairs and slept after sending a note to the TLS list asking of anyone was going and could I have a ride.

It was a small turn-out and I frankly barely remember it. My side was starting to hurt more and though the paramedic at the scene of the crime said I didn't have clinical shock, he did say I probably was in emotional shock.

During the singing of the songs, I felt almost no emotions whatsoever. I lined up the songs in TLS and sang them, telling some of the stories behind the writing but the time flew by quickly. There was a clock on the back wall which I watched so that I would know when to quit.

The audience, however, was so loving and appreciative. They warmly accepted the songs and the stories. Then afterwards, in the little reception room each of them gave me hugs and thanked me for coming out even though I had had the car wreck.

Jimmy took care of me after we got home and said not to worry, that we'd just take care of everything the next day.

So this morning, Monday, I woke up for a fitful sleep full of nightmares and pain. I could barely get out of bed. But I was hurting and since it was still early, my brain was unbalanced from the Sustiva.

Jimmy got up nervous and pacing. We're worried that the insurance will not cover my accident. If that's the case, then we are totally screwed. More later.

Tuesday, June 29, 1999.
The End of NAS.
Okay, the car insurance is going to cover the accident except for a sizable deductible, but that's okay. At least we'll have a car again.

We went to the body shop after talking to the insurance agent and waited around for an assessor. For some reason, it seemed like everyone was getting their car fixed today but Jimmy let me go down the block to eat some lunch while he waited.

The man said that the way the car was bashed in from the side he wouldn't really know what parts were needed or how long it would take to fix until he "cracked it open." He said it would be at least a month -- wish you could have seen the shock on Jimmy's face when he said that.

Dickie (aka Butch) picked us up in his purple car and we went to Dr. Hoggly Woggly's Tyler Texas Barbeque for (more, for me) lunch. This time I had both the short ribs and the beef ribs and decided I like the beef ribs most of all. (Why am I telling you all this?).

This is a very difficult entry for me. Last Thursday night I went to a joint meeting where the National Academy of Songwriter formally announced their "merger" with the Songwriters Guild of America.

My first and only job in Hollywood was at NAS and in those days, just to be perfectly frank, we had a very tempestuous and unlovely relationship with the SGA. SGA was perceived as an New York old man's and widow's organization that had lost touch with rock and roll. NAS was born in the early 70s as a street-level storefront for beginning songwriters. The way it was described to me was that the SGA hated the fact that we existed.

I didn't have to take a position on the battle between them. All I had to do was set up workshops, produce concerts and be everyone's fan. (Most of them did not know I was a songwriter since I didn't advertise it at the time.)

Working at NAS introduced me to the bigger world of politics. A few times when songwriters needed to be mobilized over an issue, it would be me (and a couple others) on the phones.

Anyway, the thing about NAS was that we were totally grassroots. There was no money whatsoever. But I and the others cobbled together a program that included seminars on publishing, record companies, contracts, song craftsmanship, etc. and we encouraged new writers with programs like the Acoustic Underground and Acoustic Artist of the Year.

Every year would cluminate in the high profile Salute to the American Songwriter where we would give Lifetime Achievement Awards to writers like Goffin & King, Bacharach & David, etc. and almost raise enough money to pay off a couple of debts.

All during my career I lobbied for all the songwriter organizations to unite, taking meetings with the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), and the SGA. (To be clear, I was a handmaiden in other people's courts here, but behind the scenes I believed that songwriters would never be able to control their own destinies in an increasingly hostile music industry if they weren't united.)

So, as I sat in the Musicians Union studio last Thursday night listening to Lew Bachman from the Songwriters Guild and Randy Sharp from NAS describe how NAS would essentially be "folded into" SGA, I realized that what they meant was that the National Academy of Songwriters was about to disappear -- and a great sadness washed over me.

(NAS in recent years fell deeply into debt so its services had been greatly curtailed to the point of almost non-existence, according to many of the young songwriters who communicate with me still. I originally dropped out due to getting too sick from AIDS.)

As the meeting progressed, I was uncomfortable because the folding chairs were too hard for my PI-ravaged butt. I wanted to say something but I wasn't sure what. Finally, when a lull hovered over the room, I stood to speak.

I told them that I was indeed pleased to see Lew Bachman again -- Lew having been at the SGA for 30 years or more. I described him as a man who knows as much or more about songwriter issues than anyone else on this planet. I said I thought it was about time that the two songwriter groups came together.

I also urged them to keep the street level programs. I told them that I began at NAS as a volunteer but now I had picked up the LA Drama Critics Award for Best Music and Lyrics. *snapheads* (Okay, so I like to brag. Hey, if you can't use these damn awards for clout what good are they?)

I told them that it was because the NAS was so accessible to the outsider, so willing to open its doors to those who have no place in the industry, that I developed industry friends and contacts -- so that when it was time to do our staged reading of TLS, NAS and ASCAP were there supporting us.

I told them I agreed that NAS could do very little politically as a 501(c)3, so I felt the merger was a good thing but I wanted them to understand that an organization like that gets its heart by being involved on a street level. So that was my pitch.

I sat down. My heart was pounding. I didn't really need to say anything probably, but several people came up to me afterward and said my opinion held a great deal of weight with them. I knew Randy and the Board members wanted support for this, too, so I guess I felt I was doing my duty. I'm a very good boy when you take me out in public.

Anyway, if I were a drinking man, I'd raise a glass to the National Academy of Songwriters and my close cohorts there. We made a little history and changed the music industry a little bit.

Goodbye NAS. I loved being a part of you.

Wednesday, June 30, 1999.
Pigs Flyin'.
(Still catching up)
Last Saturday night we went to the opening night of Howard Crabtree's WHEN PIGS FLY, a musical revue here in Los Angeles at the Coronet Theatre and all I can say is go, go, go if you're in this town, go see it. But especially go see it if you're into musical theatre and ESPECIALLY if you like campy gay humor.

Let me put it this way, it's so gay, it rewrites the book on gay and just when you think it's gone too far, there's a gay finale called "Over The Top," where they take it FARTHER gay over the top. And I don't mean sex.

The lead character is a guy who only wants one thing, to put on a show! But his guidance counselor, Mrs. Roundhole, thinks he should be a watch repairman or a gardener. But NO! He wants to be in MUSICAL THEATRE and he comes out in what he calls his "dream Curly" cowboy outfit -- satin with frills and more frills.

Is this show gay? Uh. Yeah. And with Jim J. Bullock in the cast it gets even gayer (especially when he sings his torch songs for Strom Thurmond ("Strom, go ask your mom if I can take you to the senior senior senior senior prom...").

Conceived by the late Howard Crabtree (who died of AIDS just as he was finishing the last stitch in the last costume -- this show is about COSTUMES), and Mark Waldrop, all I can say is I haven't laughed that hard in ages.

Well, okay. Until I saw the South Park movie. Yeah, it's mean and angry and sarcastic but... oh, wait. That's why I like it. :-)

Thursday-Sunday, July 1-4, 1999.
Convalescing. Not.
Well, I've been trying to stay still after the car wreck last Sunday but it ain't easy. For one thing, Dickie has a new piano and so I spent two days there over the weekend just playing it. He finally got a sense of what happens to me when I get into the "zone."

Maybe it was just because it was a piano I never played before -- I don't know. The first day on the piano I was still self-conscious because he was in the house. So I played some but didn't really "lose it" like I did on day two.

What do I mean by lose it... well, maybe I'll get him to explain it to you but on day two I started out by just playing the Quiet Session (my new in-progress song cycle). There are some new words I had for "You Are A Stranger" -- a part right at the end -- and I was wanting to try them out.

Anyway, on this day Dickie's presence didn't seem to affect me. By the way, the little piano is a used one, an Aerosonic by Baldwin that they've stopped making. I remember running into these pianos when I used to play churches down in Texas. They were built in such a way that emphasized the brightness of tone even though they are small and console sized.

I love a bright piano which is why I usually prefer a Yamaha grand to a Steinway for pop songs. Anyway, on Saturday (after he came a picked me up of course, we being carless) I cleared my mind and sat at the Aerosonic and just began playing with the F-7th opening figure just to put me in the mood.

I don't know what it is, maybe my brain goes into an alpha state or something, but at some point I began the song and allowed it to shut out the rest of the world. It's like being on drugs, the feeling is mesmorizing and transforming. I worked through the song, jamming on the chord changes and fooling around with the rhythm until I launched into the new ending. It wasn't quite what I wanted but it was close. I barely took a breath before...

Starting back at the beginning of "Near You." It begins with an A-flat-sus2 / f-minor open-fifth thing. So I started that low on the keyboard instead of the high notes on the Quiet Session tape--

Dammit. I have some terrible news: I've lost the original master tapes to The Quiet Session. I thought they were here in this house but I cannot find them anywhere and I wanted to use them for the new CD. I'm not sure what I'm going to do now -- re-record the songs again? Use a cassette as the master? This is killing me. Anyway...
I started back with "Near You" and I wasn't really thinking about "performing" the song, I just wanted to hear the MUSIC in the song as it came out of that Aerosonic. Not only that, but this piano is LOUD. It really punches, especially in the top and midlower ranges.

At some point Dickie wandered into the room (with my permission) and he stood behind me and put his hands on my back. I didn't miss a beat. I was pounding out this music, jamming on the songs, mixing up the arrangements, listening to them in different ways, always LOUD. I was sweating and my whole body must have gone up ten degrees at least.

This is kinda how I used to play the music from TLS back when I was first writing it, back in Stan Freeman's apartment on his Steinway. But the music from TLS is more structured and, in my mind, less free than the Quiet Session songs. And I started to wonder why I called this thing The Quiet Session. This was not quiet at all.

I don't know how long I went, all afternoon maybe, barely taking a break. I stretched each song out and repeated verses, repeated musical phrases, played with the tempos. It reminded me why it's such a privilege to be able to play in the first place. To be able to just sit down and create this beautiful sound and have it ringing and filling out the room.

I also worked on a new percussive and loud new song called "Sometimes When I Pray" -- all of the Quiet Session songs more or less come from a spiritual place -- about the frustration of wanting to feel something (knowing that "feeling" and "faith" are two vastly different things) when one feels disconnected. It has these oddly long phrases of words that you can barely get out in one breath.

It's very healing for me to express frustration, anger and rage in these songs. After all, if I'm the "very bitter man" that some think that I am; if I am this angry man who is "too angry for high school kids to listen to" doesn't it seem righteous to work through it by writing music rather than some uncivilized way?

Speaking of uncivilized, my Discussion Board has once again been invaded by a self-proclaimed "Christian" who cannot and will not let up. I've taken such wonderful delight in deleting him. See how childish I can be?

I also went to see South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (the movie) last week with my cyberfriend Jeramy -- and yes, it might be the angriest and most mean-spirited musical comedy in the history of film. I don't think I ever laughed so much during a movie in my life. The scenes of Saddam Hussein trying to have sex with Satan had me almost pissing in my pants. Beware! It is not for the faint of heart.

Ah, but then that probably just proves the cyberbasher's point, that I need to find God or something, that I would find such humor in such relentless sarcasm of our culture. But geez, when you got the Congress of the United States passing laws to put the 10 commandments in schools ("Gosh, let's leave our guns at home, the congress says the Bible says we shouldn't kill! I don't know what we were thinking!"), enabling them to pass a law without actually doing anything, as cyberbashers invade my Discussion Board in the name of Jesus, as "Christian" people line up outside a gay prom to protest with hideous lurid signs about hell and death, as gay-affirming ministers are defrocked and churches thrown out of denominations -- WHY WOULDN'T THIS GENERATION BE CYNICAL??? THE ADULTS ARE ACTING LIKE SCHOOL CHILDREN!

Why wouldn't ALL of us be cynical?

I can only go back in my mind to the beautiful faces in the audience at the North Hollywood Presbyterian Church or the Dolores Street Baptist Church in San Francisco. As I sat there singing for them, telling them my story, I saw beauty, love, acceptance and compassion. I know there is hope for this world. I am a believer and I have faith that we can overcome the relentless bigotry and stupidity that passes for religion and Christianity.

But I can't do it by being angry. Maybe anger is my starting point but I feel like my job is just to keep on writing music, continue writing songs and expressing these constant, combative emotions which I believe are merely a reflection of what's being thrown at us.

But it just ain't easy, is it? A simple faith isn't very simple at all.

Monday-Thursday, July 5-8, 1999.
Good News On Tapes & Medical Tests.
DeAnn, bless her little heart, called me and told me that the place that made the Quiet Session tapes DOES have the DAT master after all, even though they twice told us that they didn't! At last it wasn't my fault!! Plus, Barry Fasman has the 8 track master. All is well.

This means we can proceed with manufacturing the new CD. We have enough orders now by check to pay for that. And as we sell more, that money will be given to Maisey to help her. Maisey! We didn't forget you honey!

Dumb Dr. Peter wasn't listening very closely when I told him that my side was really sore from the traffic accident, so when he was examining me he pushed on that side at which point I screamed and broke out into a sweat. Needless to say, he was quite embarrassed.

Anyway,the full results from my blood tests are in. My t-cells are now up to 570! This is amazing. The last test was 400 (40 was my all-time low) and my tcell percentage was up to 19%. (All-time low was 2%; normal is over 30). Crudely put, it means half my immune system has rebuilt itself. I cannot tell you how amazing this is, what a miracle.

Of course, these tests were taken before I switched to Sustiva off Crixivan. My triglycerides were still too high, over 700, and my blood sugar was a bit high so I still think we are doing the right thing by switching. But after getting results like these, it's hard not to have seconds thoughts and wonder if I'm gambling with my life. (Well, actually I am, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, next week I'm in Omaha and I'm looking forward to meeting the director Randy and all the kids in the play. At the end of the month I'm in Denver where we're having a Last Session Fan Club Convention. Then next month, Atlanta, Columbus and Boston. All this is at http://www.bonusround.com/tour/.

Friday-Friday, July 9-16, 1999.
Quick Report on Omaha.
I've been in Omaha now for four days. I haven't had a chance to update the diary because they've been running me ragged, getting me up at the crack of dawn to do promotion for the weekend run of TLS, causing me to spend most of the afternoons here zoned out in bed -- well, not totally. I've also had a beautiful Yamaha grand piano here at my disposal and so when I wasn't sleeping, I was rehearsing and playing.

I'll tell you all about the trip after I get home. Suffice it to say that it has been an emotionally thrilling trip capped off by my unexpectedly performing as Gideon on Friday night followed by the "world premiere" of The Quiet Session, which I rewrote while here.

It's about 6 am on Saturday as I write this and we (Dickie came with me) are due at the airport soon. But I wanted to at least let the reader know that all is MORE than well and that I hope I get to come back to this very lovely city again. See ya in El Lay!

Review of the Omaha TLS

July 17-27, 1999.
Omaha & Denver.
Pics from Denver

Dear Reader,
I have so much to tell but I don't want to spend reams of bandwidth on it so I'll try to make it succinct. The last two weeks in Omaha and Denver have been as life-changing as any two weeks of my life. I've done things I've never done before and met people I never want to lose.

When I arrived in Omaha, the first thing we did was look at a run-through of their local production. Because a fire had destroyed the theatre they had intended to use, everything had been shoved onto a TINY, postage-stamp stage at a local cabaret. All the action took place behind the mics and there was barely room to breathe.

But Randy Stevens, the young director (who was still in teeth braces for god's sake) had done a superb job of casting -- which is 99% of the battle -- and the only thing I really had to do was fix "moments." So much of TLS hinges upon setting the very comic tone and, conversely, making sure the few really dramatic moments have a chance to breathe.

Anyway, they asked me for my opinion and I gave both them some notes based upon our three years of experience and on Thursday night it was like a different show. They really found their pacing and pulled off a beautiful performance even though they had to pre-program the keyboard since Cory playing Gideon couldn't play.

(I'm writing this very quickly and don't have all the actor's names at my disposal -- someone needs to write me and remind me of them).

Meanwhile, they were waking me up at the crack of dawn every morning for 3-minute TV interviews on the local morning shows (which look and sound like every other duo-anchored smiley-faced morning show on every other TV station in the country although why Omaha needs to know stupid Hollywood news is beyond me -- geez, they were talking about box office totals and who would direct what as if Hollywood was right around the corner).

My pal Dickie came along with me for this trip and during the course of it he graduated from Bonus Round guest star to Personal Assistant (not that I'm paying him, of course). James Tobey and David Catalan, who were the main guys responsible for Omaha SNAP!fest treated me like a king, picking me up and driving me around. (Thanks, guys).

There were two highlights on this trip. The first was to the Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP) where we got a tour of the facility and a brief overview of their educational programs and outreach. (One of the main concerns these days is the prevalence of the notion that AIDS is no big deal, resulting in people becoming less careful about using safer sex methods).

But I have to tell you that by the time I got there I was a zombie -- Omaha is two hours ahead of El Lay so the 6am rising times were really 4am for me and I was zonked on Sustiva to begin with. And this is where Dickie took over. On our tour of NAP, he engaged them on stats and resources, etc. while I dropped into any available chair and just stared straight ahead.

Anyway, they have a lunchroom where they feed clients and right there in the corner was a little Yamaha upright. So I played a few of the songs from TLS. And lo and behold, a guy came up to me and said he had met me over the IRC back three and a half years ago when the songs were just being written -- and how proud he was to know that the sick guy with songs had gone and done so much since then!

The big test happened on Friday. About an hour before the show was to begin I got a frantic call from James telling me they would have to cancel the show because Cory Sanchez had come down with laryngitis and couldn't go on!

I didn't even hesitate, "Well, do you want me to go on as Gideon?" I asked.

He responded, "I didn't know that was an option."

"Well, it is now!" I said, suddenly realizing that it had been months since I had performed as Gideon.

They okayed the idea and that's when I started a mini-panic wondering if I was going to be able to even remember the lines. Breathe, Steve. Just breathe.

Well, that night, I met with the cast (who didn't know until they got to the theatre that this was going to happen), I asked them to help me if I spaced out, and we all got in a circle and prayed.

As I got onto the keyboard and the lights came up the first thing I saw a row of RENT FANS stretched across the front. How did I know they were RENT fans? I had just shared a pizza with them, for one thing. (I was starving by the time I got to the theatre and so they got me a pizza which I devoured right there in the front side row just before going on).

AnyHOO... I survived the performance, we got MEGA laughs and applause and from what I heard the rest of the weekend was sold out. So congrats to SNAP!fest.

That night, I debuted The Quiet Session in a little club not too far away after eating a platter of fruit. I have to say that I've rarely been treated with more respect and love in my whole life. Omaha is a lovely city with clean, wide streets, a nice "old town" section where the high school kids hang out at night, etc. (and where our performances were). I loved it and hope I get invited back.

I flew home for a few days and went to the doctor for a few shots and stuff but barely had time to hug Jimmy and the cats before I was off to Denver for the TLS FAN CLUB CONVENTION.


Just read your entry about Omaha and Denver. Thank you so much for your kind words. It was a wonderful experience having you here and I hope we can do it again in the future.

You wanted someone to send you the cast list:

Gideon: Cory Sanchez
Jim: Tom Neumann
Tryshia: Kathy Tyree-Lovelace
Vicki: D. Laureen Pickle
Buddy: Ryan McGuigan

Director: Randy Stevens
Music Director: Rod Carlson
Stage Manager: Rick Bristol

One of the greatest gifts in coming to Denver was the chance to meet Ryan Meisheid, age 17 who was found by John Mandes from the Denver production team on the TLS fanlist. Also found there was Jess Carey, the 17 year old playwright whose plays "Living Aloud" and "The Least of Kingdoms" were being world-debuted this same weekend.

I wonder what was up the year these "kids" were born. Ryan is one of the wisest and most peaceful human beings I've ever met and Jess is one of the most brilliant writers I've ever met. And I'm not exaggerating. Honest. Here they are holding gifts from the TLS fans:

One of the first things I got to do was to see TLS with the local cast. They were wonderful but I wanted to change a few things toward what I was more used to.

When I spoke with the director, he told me his theory behind his creative decisions and they were valid. After all, the Denver Post had praised them and his work. The feeling I got was that they treasured what TLS had to say so much that they were afraid a high comic tone would inconsistent with the seriousness! They played it more like a drama and eschewed one specific comic moment.

So, I got permission to amp up the comedy and restore a couple of moments.

I was nervous about it and you can ask Dickie or Gail, who had to endure a full day of my nerves. Part of the angst was that I didn't want the actors to think that my changing things was an implied criticism of their work. To the contrary, their singing voices were as good, as rich, as full and as skilled as any production we have had so far -- and their commitment to the characters and the spirit of the play was undeniable.

Meanwhile, about 45 or 50 fans descended upon Denver and I was wanting to spend time with all of them while trying not to seem too panicked about what was going to come down on Saturday morning. Anyway, here was the schedule:
3 hour rehearsal Saturday morning
2pm performance
9pm performance
Midnight concert featuring The Quiet Session.

I needn't have worried. The cast was a dream and a pleasure to work with. They endured this jerk coming in and changing things. I know they probably felt like I had put them into a rollercoaster without seat belts, but they held on and by the time we finished our first performance, they understood completely what I was trying to do. We ROCKED the house. And then the 9pm performance was wall to wall laughter and tears/laughter and tears -- and thunderous applause.

One thing that bothered me, though, was that since I took the role of Gideon, the fans would not be able to hear Jody Wells sing. Jody, to put it mildly, has a great and powerful voice. Way better than mine, to say the least. So, before the Midnight Concert, I asked him to perform "Connected." (He did and immediately got requests for recordings).

The Midnight Concert was a thing unto itself. I didn't design it this way, but the fans sat in the seats while the Denver cast sat on the floor in front of me, hugging each other and crying their eyes out. Then we all sang "Shades of Blue" together, ending with "When You Care" with the cast singing the verses and the fans singing the choir parts.

All in all, the experience in Denver was one of the most personally satisfying weeks of my life. From the lows of not wanting to interfere or unduly criticize them to knowing that I had to do a thing I've never done: restage a show.

The most vivid moment for me, though, was the quiet moment at the end of the evening when I looked over at the four beautiful singers and then out at the audience -- and then stopped playing the piano. "When You Care" floated quietly a cappella over the room, embracing all of us and reminding us that we truly only CAN lift the darkness when we care.

Gideon: Jody Wells
Jim: Jeff Simpson
Tryshia: Venus Cruz
Vicki: Carla Kaiser
Buddy: Step Pearce

Producer: David Williams
Director: John Mandes / Asst. Dir.: Ryan Meisheid
Scenic & Lighting Design: John Mandes & Ryan Meisheid
Music Director: Jeff Simpson
Sound design: Bob Yablans
Technical Direction: Eric Cline
"Friendly Fire" choreographed by Jim Brown

Thursday-Friday, July 29-30, 1999.
Baby Kaylee.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love young people and how much I believe in them. Here is an email that came to me from yet another 17 year old via the TLS fanlist. Well, Here's a guest diary page from yet another. It involves a rape, a traffic accident and a baby.
From: Emily Mills:

Well my beloved TLS family, my 17th birthday is one I shall remember forever. Remember my friend, the one who was in an accident (her car was hit on the drivers side by a drunk driver in a suburban) and she had a baby that was dangerously premature?

Well, Monday of last week the doctors told her that if her baby survived she (the baby) would never be able to function, she would spend her life in a vegetative state. They said there was nothing more they could do for her except make her comfortable.

So, my friend, (We'll call her Hannah for purposes of her own privacy) being the strong woman that she is decided to take her baby home so that the baby could spend her last days lavished with love and attention. The baby's name was Mikayla Hope. We called her Kaylee.

Well, Hannah's parents are on a road trip, they never even knew Kaylee was born so she planned to go home to an empty house. Mike and I thought about this: a wonderful girl gets was raped by someone she loved and trusted, is left preganant and all alone, is nearly killed by some drunk asshole, gives birth to a baby girl who because of the accident can't survive, and then has to sit home alone and wait for her little girl to die, what could be harder??

So, we moved in with her.

We took turns feeding and changing and holding and loving this little girl. For a tiny one (3 lbs) who must have been in so much pain Kaylee was incredibly sweet. She loved it when we would sing to her. She heard every show tune, pop song, lullabye that we knew. We took turns catnapping because we didn't want to be asleep when "it happened".

Talk about beautiful babies. Black fluff on her head, clear, porceline like skin, blue eyes. After one look at this baby, who could not love her?? It was hardest when she was in the hospital, her tiny body was just covered in tubes and moniters.

But when we got her home, she was just angelic. She would coo, and watch us intently. I have never felt a more intimate connection than when I fed her. People say newborns can't track movement, but she really could. Well, she lived for four days after she got home.

Every day for her was filled with love and attention. We tried to never ever cry around her, and talk and sing in soothing voices. But on July 23, 1999, at about 9:30 pm Mike woke up from his catnap and just wanted to be with Kaylee.

He walked into the room where Hannah was rocking Kaylee and I was sitting with them and said, "I think it's time for us to sing to her again" and we started with "Seasons of Love" from RENT and then "Would You Like To Swing on a Star" and then "When You Care" from THE LAST SESSION.

At the end of "When You Care" her breathing became really labored and we all knew that "it" was going to happen. We knew that she was dying. Hannah gave her to me and told me to hold her, because she just couldn't. But she didn't leave.

I sat in the rocking chair with Mike on my right and Hannah on my left and we sat that way touching her in any way that we could, cuddling her, talking to her, telling her how much we loved her -- and at 9:48 pm Kaylee died.

We followed the procedure the hospital told us and called an ambulance, but I knew she was gone. I have never felt so sad. We held a small funeral and her gravestone says:

Mikayla Hope
July 15, 1999 to July 23, 1999
We had to say we love you before we said goodbye

The last line is a line from a song Mike wrote for Kaylee and the three of us "parents" sang at the funeral. If I had to choose defining moments in my life, this was one of them. Two good friends of mine, caring for this innocent baby who wouldn't get a chance at life, because someone else made a stupid mistake.

Hannah could have had an abortion, she was a rape victem, but she choose to have this baby and give it to a couple who didn't have children. Well, this couple balked when she was born prematurely which makes me question their parental qualifications in the first place.

But I wouldn't have given those four days up for anything. Except a healty Kaylee. But do you want to know something? In the nine days she was alive, Kaylee taught me more about courage, and strength and tenacity and love than anyone else in my 17 years of life has. And I realized how happy I am to be alive and to be able to experince miracles in my life.

Even if those miracles hurt.

I experinced one in a three pound bundle. And on my 17th birthday, I was born again. I am a new person. And I'm ready to take on the world. And if you made it to the end of this e-mail, I applaud you and thank you for listening.

Much love

[ Diary Index ]

Book 1 - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4  - Book 3

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© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin.
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