THE GLASS CLOSET
Volume 2 Book 5 Part 3 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin
[ Part 1 ][ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ]
October 2000. Stanford University. Davis, CA. El Lay.
October 10-11, 2000.
His name was Jonathan J. King and my job was to present the 10th Annual Jonathan J. King Lectureship at Stanford University. The previous "lectures" were delivered by doctors from such institutions as Harvard Medical School, Columbia School of Medicine, The Rockefeller Foundation, etc. etc.
In other words if you looked at the list of distinguished speakers it goes:
To a graduate of Buna High School and Jacksonville Junior College this was heady stuff. I wanted to make sure I went in there not looking TOO MUCH like an idiot. So I flew up to San Francisco and few days early, staying as usual with my buddy Ken McPherson.
On Monday we watched online videos of previous lectures. But it was the video of Jonathan King himself that made me realize I was just as, if not more, qualified to do this "lecture" as anyone -- though it seems funny having your concert called a lecture -- because the point of the lecture series is compassionate care; making sure doctors, nurses and other caregivers see their patients as people, not numbers.
It was during one of the introductions, though, when I heard someone talking about Jonathan himself that I turned to Ken and said, "This is a beloved person." Dr. King was a computer scientist, humanist, philosopher, renaissance man who was felled by a rare incurable cancer. The Jonathan J. King Lectureship is part of his life's legacy -- "Reaching Out To Patients As People."
After we arrived at Stanford, I met with some of the researchers and doctors in involved with the Stanford Medical Ethics Department. I especially enjoyed speaking with Barbara A. Koenig, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. It made me feel like a real scholarly type.
Barbara Koenig and Steve talk about medical ethics
The event took place in a lecture hall on the Stanford campus. A baby grand piano was set up down on the stage. The room was raked really sharply with the seating rising high. The night of October 10th, my dad's birthday. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY!!). I was sitting in the front row as I was introduced. But first, they played a five minute video of Jonathan King on a big screen above the piano. This was done about two weeks before he died.
Jonathan J. King:
"The patient is your client and should be treated with respect."
Bev was there and took a lot of pics of the performance. I was introduced as a "patient-performer" which cracked me up. Here are few moments from the concert.
"I am NOT patient 2B. My name is Steve!"
Holding back tears as I remember a nurse who made me feel special.After the concert I got to meet Ellen King, Dr. King's widow and their youngest son.
Steve, Ellen King and son (whose name I forgot -- sorry, dude)
The next day, Bev, Ken and I went to see the AIDS clinic they have there on the campus and we had lunch with the medical staff as well as members of the GLBT organization on campus. Ken, who is both and AIDS and gay activist in San Francisco, took over much of the conversation to my great relief. He knows all the "issues" WAY better than I do. Then that evening, I performed a second concert which was open to the student body.
I don't know what possessed me, but obviously I went nuts. The pics made me laugh BIG TIME. I look like I'm running for President. Also, since it was National Coming Out Day, I included the new song, "The Closet."
Okay. I recognize "Friendly Fire" there on the right...
And, of course, sometimes I get serious.
By the time it was all over, we had spent two days of non-stop meetings and dinners -- going from 10am to 10pm both days. But what a richly fulfilling, emotionally draining experience. The people from and surrounding the Stanford Biomedical Ethics Department were intelligent focused people of great heart who listened and cared. To say they are honoring the memory and work of Jonathan J. King is an epic understatement.October 12-13, 2000.
I'll never forget them or him.
[All the photos Bev shot are at http://members3.clubphoto.com/steve238923/ ]
Davis High Rocks.
Oh, I forgot to mention the big news that occurred on my birthday which I couldn't talk about until the official announcement. The Board of Directors of El Portal Center for the Arts in North Hollywood named Jim Brochu (my gorgeous husband) as Artistic Director. THAT was the best birthday present of all. I love my Jimmy and I'm missing him so much, even on a trip as emotionally, creatively and -- yes -- spiritually satisfying as this one. Anyway, it continues...
On Friday, Bev scheduled me to sing three concerts at Davis High School for the kids there. (The other high school turned down our offer stating "It would just be an excuse for putting a gay guy in front of our students and we don't need that.")
Isn't that nice? Never mind that they'd be getting an effective, absolutely free AIDS education program with no strings attached for a segment of the population which now comprises MORE than 50% of all new AIDS infections.
Never mind the fact that I'm so serious about this that I conform to ALL school guidelines to the point of not even MENTIONING homosexuality (if they have to get all pissy about it) -- JUST THE MERE FACT THAT I'M A GAY MAN was all they needed to hear.
Well, at Davis High School, we rocked the house. The half hour concerts took place in this room that was converted from a shop class into a little rehearsal/performance space:
The little rehearsal stage at Davis High / Gwyn Bruch
That's Gwyn Bruch, the drama teacher, in the front introducing me. She was so very excited about the whole thing. This was Homecoming Day so all the classroom periods were only a half hour and she extended an invitation to other teachers to bring their kids.
I'm always a bit nervous when I sing for high school kids because it's the one time I really feel my age. I don't want to come off as some old guy telling them what to do and I also don't want to look like I think I'm cool or something. But I do want them to hear my message.
I do get passionate when singing for kids. I want them to hear me.
But from the very first note, they were totally into it. Because I only had a half hour, I went straight for the tough stuff. Save Me A Seat, Somebody's Friend, The Group, and Friendly Fire. They were leaning forward and watching absolutely every move and listening to every single word.
Just a few of the faces during the most intense moments.
We laughed together, cried together, and each half hour flew by so quickly. I finished up each concert with my Sharon Stone story and then When You Care. And I told them, " I am here because I want you to live long, beautiful lives full of love and babies and families. You are the ones most at risk for HIV. Protect yourselves. Protect each other. And do it because you care."
By the way, the faculty and kids at Davis High are NOT all pissy about me being some "gay guy." They actually have a Gay/Straight Alliance with at least 30 members on campus and after my concert, girls AND boys lined up to tell me how much the program meant to them.
That's Geoff, president of the Gay/Straight Alliance
It makes me nuts when I hear cranky adults talking about how kids today are so much "worse" than generations past. That is totally bullshit. Kids learn from their elders. And when a school makes an effort to actually expose their students to the world, to open their minds and their hearts to knowledge and truth, the kids will respond.
Was I ever that young?
[More photos from this event at http://members3.clubphoto.com/steve238923/ ]
October 14-17, 2000.
Studios, Memorials & Home.
I got home this long trip and the first night in my own bed was weird because I couldn't sleep all night long. For the first time in my life, MY bed felt unfamiliar. Too many nights on the road, I guess. But this is my busiest time.
Jimmy is looking really good these days. He's working hard down at the El Portal now that he's officially the Artistic Director so he felt bad that on my first night out, he was down at work. But he seems more energized and happy than ever. Funny though, yesterday I told him, "It's like we're living two separate lives."
But we both realize that right now he must put as much effort into the theatre as he can. And given that this is my busiest time for travel, it's just as well. But I do miss him. We plan on taking a vacation in January, though, to just get away from it all.
Last Saturday, Bob Cox drove up from El Lay for the big recording session in Oakland (right across from where Green Day got its start). The "band" consisted of Ned Sykes, KC Bowman, Bob and myself.
KC is the guy in the red shirt with the big glasses. He runs Timber Trout Studios and actually gave me us his talent and the recording time for free. So I was in pig heaven. I decided, after consulting with Ned, that we would record a new number called "Salvation Song" which supposedly will be part of the new God musical. It's a hard song to describe but I can give you a section of lyric:
"If Jesus had a rock bandIt's a rock tune that I decided the Beatles might record during the Billy Preston era. So it's all about the drums, Hammond organ and what Ned called a "chaos track" of us screaming, clapping and singing.
Would they play on Friday nights?
Do you think they'd charge a cover?
Would the band show up on time?
Would the bar serve Virgin Marys?
Would the wine turn into blood?
Would it fall into the sawdust
And get ground into the mud?"
Bob Cox, Steve on piano plus nun puppetKC brought a nun puppet and it become the mascot for the session. After Bob left, KC, Ned and I posed like The Monkees (with nun of course).
I'm very proud of the track we cut. It burns. Thanks to Ned's drumming and KC's awesome guitar solo and bass tracks. Bob and I want to take them on the road with us.
On Sunday in Sacramento I was to sing at this BIG Catholic Church for a memorial service for people who've lost their lives due to the sexual orientation or gender identity. The place was packed and it was very moving. Here are some pics from the event:
Rehearsing with Sacramento Men's Chorus
I sang "Gabi's Song" and "When You Care"
Getting interviewed by local TV & meeting people afterwardsOn Monday, I was ready for home even though Bev and Walt had taken really good care of me in their home in Davis. Last night, I sang two more concerts back at Cal State Northridge for some Religion classes.October 18-24, 2000.
Today, Wednesday I am totally exhausted but I wanted to write up this diary and let you see all the cool pics. I love having Bev with me when I sing. On Friday I take off for Kentucky. So it's a whirlwind for Steve. Now, time to do the laundry and get ready for the next trip.
Kentucky & Arkansas.
The most poignant moment of my weekend trip to Henderson, Kentucky and Jonesboro, Arkansas happened Monday night in Jonesboro after my concert at the Forum theatre in downtown Jonesboro. There was a little reception at an art gallery. I was dog tired after having sung for about an hour and a half.
But there was a couple there accompanied by their young (early 20s) son. The mom and the son had disappeared down the staircase but the dad stopped and came over to me.
He stopped me, looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "I am a Southern Baptist, I love my gay son and I appreciate what you said about your parents." (I had told the story in my concert about how loving my Baptist parents are, not just to me and Jimmy, but to everyone they ever met).
He went on. "I have received criticism from the people in my church, from family members, and from neighbors. People don't understand how much pressure parents are under when they decide, in a small town, to accept and love their gay kid. I may not understand it or approve of everything he does, but then he isn't going to approve of everything I do either. But I love him and he will always be my son and I will never desert him or turn him away from my home. We go fishing together, we do things together. And nothing will ever change my love for him."
I grabbed this man and gave him the biggest hug and told him how proud I was of him. Later on I found out his son had nearly died of AIDS and had come home to die but was now a Lazarus person. He was now healthy-looking and beautiful. And there was no doubt in my mind that the parents' love was responsible for this life.
The previous Saturday morning, I had sung at the Mt. Zion United Church of Christ as part of a weekend gathering called "Peace With Justice Weekend" featuring progressive faith based activists.
In my presentation I went out of my way to emphasize that, in my experience, there are really great people in conservative Christianity but that they've been stirred into fear and bigotry by the leadership of the Robertsons, Falwells, Dobsons and Bauers in their world.
My point was that those of us seeking to create love and justice in this world cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking we're so much better than they are. Otherwise we merely become a mirror image to them.
I felt myself being renewed by these people who were so absolutely committed to the standards of peace with justice. I especially enjoyed meeting Dr. Carter Hayward, a highly regarded minister and professor of theology and Christology.
She also discussed her book, "Saving Christ From Those Who Are Right" because she says it began as a treatise against the religious right but widened to show that anyone group can fall into wrong behavior, even lefty liberals because, "...when religion becomes powerful it becomes authoritarian, moralistic and adversarial."
We also made almost $1500 for Youth Guardian Services as a result of CD sales and love offerings. That thrilled me!
Monday morning began with a visit to Arkansas State University to speak to two classes studying physical science. I wasn't sure how to connect my story to the subject matter of the class until I saw a diagram of a molecule on the blackboard. Suddenly I was transported back to Dr. Bruce Dorsey's lab at Merck where he invented Crixivan.
I told them how Dr. Dorsey had found my page after Crixivan saved my life, how we had become friends and I even attempted to describe how the drug was created (by fitting the tinkertoy molecule into a slot on the protease molecule to gum it up).
The concert that evening took place in the Forum Theatre downtown and we had a wonderful crowd, a mixed group of students, healthcare people, persons with AIDS, etc. And I don't know what it was -- maybe cuz I was born in Arkansas, but I felt really at home.
Or rather, I suddenly became painfully aware of just how isolated from "the real world" a place like Jonesboro, Arkansas can feel. The local AIDS group has to serve something like 18 counties, it gets NO HELP from the state (presumably the state prefers to either let people with AIDS die or would prefer they just move away) and this night our goal was to raise enough money to buy them a laptop computer to assist them in dealing with case management.
Unfortunately we didn't reach our goal but hopefully the money we did raise will help them. All I know is numbers of people came up to me afterward and told me how grateful they were that someone from the outside came in and cared about them.
And I do care. How I wish I had the money to just buy them that laptop. How I wish I could make people understand how crucial agencies like this are for PWAs in rural areas. The next day I visited the office and I overheard them dealing with patients on a one to one basis -- "We've got his D4T over in the cabinet." "Ms. Smith out on post road needs a ride to her doctor." On another phone someone had called asking if they really had to wait in line three years for drug assistance.
I promised them I would come back and that I would do my best to make sure the world understood how vibrant, heroic and wonderful these people are who give so much -- and do so much with so little.
[ Part 1 ][ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ]
© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.