Volume 3 Book 6 Part 10 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Ever try to sing while holding back tears?
(photo: Mark Hahn, mccla.org)
[ Book 3-5 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] - [ Book 3-7 ]
November 28-December 7, 2003.
Surrounded By Angels.Sunday night I was surrounded by angels. Some of the angels were there in body, but there were many more, thousands more, there in spirit. It was a candlelight memorial service I dreamed up for World AIDS Day called "A Joyful Lamentation."
In body, I was surprised at how many finally did attend since it's the kind of event that seems to have fallen out of fashion. I'd say there were at least a hundred of us gathered in the sanctuary of Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles on this beautiful Sunday night. The air outside was crisp and cool.
All around the sanctuary were huge sections of the Names Project AIDS Quilt. Rev. Neil had remarked in the service Sunday morning that it only took a couple of minutes reading the names before he began to choke up. I felt the same way. And in fact, that morning as I sang "Save Me A Seat," I had to pause a few times just to keep from losing it in front of the congregation.
Rev. Neil Thomas & Mary Jo Catlett
(photo: Mark Hahn, mccla.org)
We began the evening with Barry Fasman and members of both the Palisades Peace Chorus and the L.A. Gay Men's Chorus, led by both Barry and Dwight Stone. They were joined by singer Dean Givens, the grandson of Count Basie. Barry was really "on" and so was Dwight when he sang his solo.
Barry Fasman at the piano.
Our combined chorus. Small but mighty!
That's Dwight leading them, far left.
I didn't get a face shot of him. Sorry, Dwight!
(My camera is being sucky).
Dean Givens, grandson of Count Basie sang.
David Peterson and Steve sing "Save Me A Seat."
Behind us are sections of the AIDS Quilt.
Jim Brochu, Mary Jo Catlett, Rev. Neil Thomas, Steve (me), David Peterson.
Members of the audience with their candles.
The guy on the right was so excited about Mary Jo being there.
The Candlelight Service:
The choir was beautiful, Jimmy's song was chilling and Mary Jo told about a friend of hers who died of AIDS, someone she's never forgotten. David's "Nessun Dorma" brought the room to a quiet stillness. Then the two of us sang "Save Me A Seat." After that, I sang and told stories, songs from The Last Session. Jimmy and I did a brief scene from "The Big Voice."
At the end of evening, after the song "Connected," I called for everyone to light a candle. Then one by one, I asked people to say the name of someone they lost, followed by a single sentence of what the person meant to them. I cannot put into words what it felt like in that room as we invited all our loved ones to come back and be with us.
"He made me believe in myself."
"She taught me unconditional love."
"He taught me the violin."
"He loved me just as I was, even when I was fat."
"He was just a child."
I wrote Rev. Neil this letter:
Rev. Neil,TAKING DECEMBER OFF
I thank you for allowing me/us, People With AIDS, to have a voice at MCC. I thank you for not letting it be forgotten. And what I love most about it is I never get a sense from you, as you continue to open the church's doors to full inclusion, that you do it simply because it's politically correct. Not for a moment. Your heart is completely there. Your love shines through. Not just with us, but with all the groups within groups.
God does have hands in this community. They are your hands. They are the hands of the people of the Metropolitan Community Church.
And with that, I am going to be taking a month off from writing in the diary. The good news is that I will be focusing on writing music. I will also be focusing on my health (as always, but this is more than that.) I went to see a dietician, something I had never done before. And okay, let's do a health update.
If you recall, the last thing I did at the doctor was have blood drawn to see if my virus has become immune to any of the anti-viral medications I'm taking. We did this because, for the first time since starting therapy, I was showing traces of virus in my blood (500 copies).
Well, the lab said that by the time we drew the blood again, the virus had gone back into suppression. They couldn't find any virus to test. This does NOT mean I don't have HIV. It means the virus is being held in check inside the CD4 cells. They are not reproducing. Therefore, there is no "free virus" floating around in my blood. He said they have great instruments that can find it down to less than 100 copies, but they were unable to find any virus.
That's great news. It means my anti-viral regimen is working, that I am being faithful in my dosage and that there is no emergency. However, my kidneys are throwing off protein. That means they are overtaxed and that is from the high triglycerides. THIS is why I went to the dietician. That's why this next month is going to be devoted to great diet and exercise.
She took little pieces of latex food and showed me what I can eat and what I shouldn't eat. She felt my diet was really good and that if I don't cheat too much, with a little exercise, I could even gain weight. (She told me to eat all the nuts, avocados, olives and olive oil I could get my hands on. I was surprised because I knew they had high fat content. She said, true, but it's good fat, monosaturated. It actually LOWERS bad cholesterol. And since I don't have a weight problem, I can eat all of that stuff I want.)
I LOVE NUTS, OLIVES, AVOCADOS and OLIVE OIL!
For this next month, as we go on another lecture tour together, I am going to eat lots of seafood, exercise, write music and do all the good things that will keep me healthy, kickin' ass, and alive. I will not be on the Internet except maybe twice a week to get mail. I will take lots of pictures and tell you all about it when I get home. The housesitter is already here. The cats are with Mo. Ernie's taking us to the airport in the morning. Larry is picking us up when we land. Indianapolis and Chicago are ahead for us in the new year. We have producers circling us who want to bring us to New York. AND we've already booked our third musical, "You Weren't Like This When I Married You" into three theatres in the coming year. (Now we just have to finish writing it. Heh.) Such an exciting year ahead!
I sincerely apologize to anyone I've offended in the past year. I regret saying things that hurt anyone and I am only human. I do make mistakes. I also hope all my readers realize how grateful I am to be here, to be alive, to have so many friends and fans who believe in me in spite of my shortcomings. These are the true riches of life. I wish these things for you.
END OF BOOK SIX OF LIVING IN THE BONUS ROUND.
© 1996-2003 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.