Fantasy Faith & A Runaway Train
Volume 1 Book 6 Part 3 of
Living In The Bonus Round
by Steve Schalchlin.

[ Book 5 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] - [ Book 7 ]
[ Diary Index ]

December 1997. El Lay.
During this period, what isn't spoken is that
Jimmy and I are separated. Our relationship ended
and I'm suddenly on my own in Los Angeles
while everyone else is in NY with the show.

I'm battling major depression and anxiety but I
don't have the courage to talk about any of this in the diary.
(That's why I'm telling you here in the intro -- context!).
Then someone close to me dies.

Monday, Dec. 1, 1997
The Blue Collar Songwriter.

It was a fantastic moment I haven't had in eons. David Robyn and I were in his little garage/studio working on a song of his. Though I have consulted with him on songs in the past, this was the first time we were "officially" going to co-write. And it was a modest effort. We were simply trying to write a rock song for another band in town who needed "a hit." No big deal, right?

Well, at one point in the process, I had goaded him into departing from his usual chords and laid on a different kind of melody. Then he took that and moved into a more aggressive finale, and when we finished singing it that time through, we just stopped.

Neither of us moved. It was the kind of creative moment that comes so rarely in anyone's life that I knew it would have been a mistake to let it pass, so I just said, "Don't speak..." (like the character in the Woody Allen movie). "Don't speak..." And for a few brief moments, we just sat and bathed in the luxury of creation.

People are always striving to be more "God-like" -- not in the "infinite power" kind of way, but in the more wiser and peaceful kind of way. Well, it's my opinion that there is little you can do that's more "God-like" than to create. It was God's first act in the Bible. And I believe we will be judged by civilization on our ability to create -- and by the tone and the love we invest in our creations whether they be works of art, works of business or children.

Well, I put on a nice pair of pants, a nice shirt, and I showed up for work today. By the way, the place I'm working is Bobalew Music with Ronda and Kim, who you've met through this diary. Judy, who works the front desk normally, is majorly pregnant and about to take a leave of absence. That's why I now have a job. (thanks judy!)

I got up really early so I could use Ronda's computer to write this diary and to answer my emails. (a note: i love your letters, but you'll have to suffer short answers right now because of time limitations).

After everyone arrived, I played them the fantastic video of Kurt the CyberGuy's broadcast of my story early this morning. It was beautiful. Kurt called me a "hero" and told everyone my computer was broken and "...if anyone has an extra computer, let us know." It was fantastic. I also spoke to the guys in New York and found out TLS is participating in the annual "Gypsy of the Year" fundraiser today. One of only three off-Broadway shows to participate.

Also, I found out from a reader that Playbill has named us one of the "must-see" shows of the year. Very exciting! I went there to look for just such an announcment but didn't have time to wander through the site. They really have an exceptionally fine website, by the way. And they are going to be selling our CD online!

To close out this diary entry, I want to make a point about songwriters. When I first arrived in El Lay, I had no idea about how songwriters make a living. There is this impression that if you get a big hit or have a show running, you are immediately catapulted into the Land of the Rich.

But after working at National Academy of Songwriters (as the receptionist, I might add), I found out that most professional songwriters go to their pianos or guitars on a daily basis and try to write something that will just pay the rent and get their kids through school. Like any other job. They get songs into movies or on TV or theatre and they work their asses off. I coined a term for this kind of composer:

The Blue Collar Songwriter. Not rich. Not famous. Not driving Mercedes. Just a person like you or me trying to make a living by creating works of art. The music industry is really horrible to songwriters, by the way. They are the last to be invited to recording sessions, the last to find out if their song is being used and the last to get paid.

By the way, Bobalew and Evening*Star never treated me this way as we began creating the cast album. And the producers of TLS never tried to block the individual vision that Jimmy and I had for the show. Whether you love or hate it, what is on that stage in NY and what is on the cast album is exactly what Jimmy and I wanted. That is a gift they gave to us. I only hope that if you are a songwriter, you will be treated the way Jimmy and I have been treated. It's rare, my friends. But it does happen when you surround yourself with great people.
I'm not complaining (well, maybe a little), but today as I sat in the office entering royalty statements into the computer and answering the phones, my mind was thinking, "Man, I'd rather be home writing right now." And I realized that I had finally become a Blue Collar Songwriter (one level up from "aspiring songwriter," I suppose).

It's not exactly glamourous to be typing and making copies and answering phones, but it's the real world and it made me realize that the last year spent working on TLS has been a period of luxury, where all I had to do was go to the theatre, hug those fabulous actors, and watch them sing their guts out every night.

I know that this period of my life may not be as exciting as the lights of Broadway, but a life is a life and, frankly, the hugs of Thurber the Cat are just as wonderful as anything on this planet.

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997
More Mixed Signals.

Yesterday, Monday, there was a great article in the LA Times about the difficulties many PWAs are facing in trying to return to work after years of disability. For many, their insurance and livlihoods are at risk. Luckily, the government has many programs to help people return to work, but it's scary scary scary. Mostly because, like me, they've accrued bills of epic proportions that they were simply unable to pay -- which compound and compound and compound. I know I'm going to see the end of all this stress about money, but man it's hard to cope sometimes.

Speaking of coping, I spoke to Dr. Ellie, my primary care physician today and, of course, he contradicted everything the endocrinologist I met last week said.

This means he's going to consult with another endocrinologist and get back to me. Christ, does everything have to be this difficult? At one point in the conversation, I confessed that I was getting angry about the f***ing mixed signals and that I wished there was a way to just KNOW what to do. I need to gain back the weight I lost, I need to find out if I need insulin, I need to know --- well, here's one thing:

The doctor from last week said Crixivan does not cause diabetes, but that d4T and 3TC (the other two meds I'm taking) do. Dr. Ellie was going on about how Crix *has* been causing high blood sugar in patients. Now, who the hell am I supposed to believe? I didn't go to medical school.

So I got half the world telling it does and half the world telling it don't. I should go eat some cake or something.

I spoke to Jimmy last night who said he met Paul Simon coming out of the Brill Building yesterday. Jimmy said Hi to him (we don't know each other) and they talked about the difficulties of theatre. Jimmy told him the old joke about how the best way to punish Hitler was to send out of town with a show. Paul said he wished he were out of town so they didn't have to fix and polish "The Capeman" under a microscope. They began previews on Dec. 1 for a January opening.

Meanwhile, our producers are working madly to pump ticket sales. As I told you before, we are just drowned out by the billion dollar budgets and star names that are our competition in NY. Everybody's trying to get publicity and everyone knows this is the busiest season in decades. Luckily, it's the veteran theatre goers who have become our biggest fans. But it's not enough. We need that tourist dollar. So, cross your fingers for us.

We're just little and they're so big.

The Lovely Shawn Decker:

If you haven't caught up with Shawn Decker's journal lately, I'd say go read it. He's such a funny writer but he has made implications that Beavis & Butthead are gay. Now, Shawn, these guys have no class, no brains and they go gaga over naked women. Plus, they listen to stoopid music and they bowl. Call me a bigot, but that's classic hemo thinblood straight boy stuff. Clearly, that Brazilian Amazon Woman has given you River Fever or something. LOL

By the way, Shawn has a fantastic column in this month's POZ Magazine about Ryan White. Shawn, do you have a good editor or something at POZ? How is it they can make you sound so smart??? (i love you positoid brother).

Wednesday, Dec. 3, 1997
The Night I Met John Fogerty.

Today was quite a day. First, Dr. Ellie called me back after consulting with several top endocrinologists, then I confronted my bills (cancelling my cable and putting off some other bills) and later this evening I *DID* manage to sneak my way into the National Academy of Songwriter Lifetime Achievement Award dinner where I got to meet my biggest songwriting hero (and a few others).

Dr. Ellie's news was simple. He spoke to three specialists and all three of them had different answers. (Why did this not surprise me?) One recommended oral medications to help keep my blood sugar low. The next said that since my levels were below 200, he would recommend controlling the problem with diet. (Etc.)

They also felt I could be more liberal in my intake of sugar, but not to excessive amounts. Then he said (apologetically but bluntly), "What they were saying is that at the levels you're experiencing, the effects would be felt over a 30 year period... and they didn't think you'd..." ...and I finished the sentence, " that long. Right?"

I am going to go meet with this new endocrinologist today (with Dr. Ellie's blessings) so I can get yet another opinion. I did get the distinct impression, though, that this guy tended to be very aggressive in treatment. And then it will be my call once again.

Dear Steve,
A million thank yous for taking the time to convey information in regard to HIV management and endocrinology. I am president of our local chapter of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, and have an opportunity to disseminate information of this type each month. I will definitely keep an eye open for more precious nuggets of this kind.

The very best to you upon your return to the workplace. You will doubtlessly be the most excellent receptionist! Enjoy.

Most sincerely,

A quick comment to D.K.:
I'm thrilled that you can use the information I am conveying, but please understand that I am not a doctor and that anything I say here is information as seen through the eyes of a very frustrated patient. I'll try to keep as complete a log of what I'm being told as possible. Good luck in your work. -- Steve

I have met a lot of superstar people in my lifetime. From playing backgammon with Lucille Ball to posing for pictures with Stevie Wonder to having Jimmy Webb sing "Only One Life" privately to Jimmy and me to dragging songwriter P.F. Sloan offstage to watching Jackson Brown rehearse to, please forgive, sitting in a hotel room smoking a joint with the late great guitarist Randy Rhoades two weeks before he was killed in a plane crash. And, for the most part, I handled these encounters with some degree of cool. But tonight...

Tonight was different. A private banquet honoring John Fogerty (who wrote all the Creedence songs), Ashford & Simpson, Robbie Robertson ("The Weight"), and Quincy Jones. There we were at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in a room full of hit songwriters and music industry folk all dressed in tuxes. (I was in my fancy midnight blue suit that Carl and Jamie bought me for TLS opening night and I was wearing my brown shoes Linda George gave me because my big toe is still slightly infected and I can't fit any other shoes on right now -- thank god people in the music industry assume that if you're not wearing a tux, you're just being "artistic." (One year I wore a black motorcycle jacket over a tux shirt and pants because I was too fat for my coat and you can't imagine how many songwriters told me they thought I was making some kind of totally cool fashion statement). ANYHOO...

I was sitting at a table with the ASCAP folks pretending I belonged there and then I noticed him.

John Fogerty was less than 20 feet away sitting with his back to me at the next table. And for a moment, I was back in Buna, Texas in my bedroom holding Creedence Clearwater's "Green River" album on my lap looking at the slightly psychedelic swirly picture, dreaming of the day when I would be on a stage somewhere singing my own tunes. I don't even know how many times I listened to that record -- or "Cosmo's Factory" or... well, I guess you get the idea. Loretta Munoz was sitting right next to me, so I leaned over and said, "I just have one wish tonight. I just want to shake John Fogerty's hand. That's all I ask." She said, "It'll happen..."

I picked up the souvenir program and looked through it. As I scanned the list of Gold Members, though, I saw that my name was missing. I thought, well I guess they forgot about me or maybe they took my Gold membership away. After all, it was given to me under unusual circumstances (i.e. normally this elite membership is awarded after someone either has a huge hit song or if they have a lifetime body of work that has enormous influence. Mine was awarded because of the score for THE LAST SESSION long before more than only a roopful of people had heard it. Or perhaps they gave me the membership because they felt sorry for me or thought I'd be dead soon after. Who knows?).

But I wanted to make sure, so I found Randy Sharp, the President of NAS and asked him about it. He assured me that it was simply a mistake. Then he said he had seen me on Channel 5 the night before and he congratulated me on the success of THE LAST SESSION.

I felt better but still... Anyway, I made my way back to the large round table and soon it was time for the presentations.

Producer Daniel Lanois introduced awardee Robbie Robertson (of The Band) who told a story about, at the age of 15, having written a song for Ronnie Hawkins that appeared on Roulette Records. When the record arrived, he was puzzled that someone named "Morris Levy" was listed as a co-writer. The next year, he was brought to NY where, in the Brill Building, he met so many great songwriters and then met Mr. Levy who was surrounded on all sides by huge men wearing what looked like pistols in their jackets. He made the decision then and there that he wouldn't question the "co-write" problem.

Don Henley then came up and introduced John Fogerty who graciously sat and played a couple of tunes. And I was in heaven. My first time to hear him sing live. And he looked so damn good, too. And his voice -- that spectacular voice -- was everything it ever was and more. To say I was in Endorphin Heaven would be an understatement of epic proportions.

After John finished speaking (and honoring his new wife for his newfound peace of mind), the voiceover announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Ashford & Simpson," and they burst forth from the wings and went straight to the piano -- and sang a hits medley -- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "I'm Every Woman," and others followed by their award presentation by Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Berry Gordy -- who NEVER makes appearances like this. I could see they were as flabbergasted as we were.

(I once tried to get Berry Gordy to appear for Stevie Wonder when Stevie was given the NAS Lifetime Achievement Award but he was out of town or busy or something.)

Finally, Babyface introduced Quincy Jones who recounted another Morris Levy story (about how he'd take life insurance policies out on his acts and then have them killed to collect the insurance).

After the ceremony was over, John Fogerty took his place again at the table next to ours and I knew this would be my last chance to say something to him. I just sat there and sweated. (I couldn't believe it. After all the people I've met. After all the performers I've known, I couldn't believe myself that I was so nervous about meeting John Fogerty!) I kept thinking back to the time when I sat in Rosie O'Donnell's audience trying desperately to think of something clever or witty to say. Even if I did meet him, what would I say? (By the way, I've gotten notes from a few people who have said that they have felt the same way about meeting me. My only response is, "You've got to be kidding..."). But now it was my turn and I knew it was silly to feel this way, but how do you thank someone who gives you great music, great hope and great inspiration? What do you say? How do you keep from sounding like an idiot?

As the room began to clear out, I gathered my courage and went up to him. I tapped him on the arm and said, "May I just shake your hand?" He turned with a kind smile and said, "Sure!" And I looked directly into the face of my hero. The blood rushed from my head and I stammered, "I think you're the greatest songwriter in the world!"

(OH GAWD... WHAT A STOOPID REMARK... I felt like a total idiot--like a teenage girl meeting Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Renfro...)

He laughed and kinda blushed and said, "Really?" as if disbelieving anyone could think that about him. Then I told him that I had a musical running in New York. He looked really interested and said, "Really? What's it called?" I said, "It's called THE LAST SESSION and when Playbill interviewed me and asked me who my influences were I told them you and Stephen Sondheim." He smiled again and said, "Well, he's written some really great songs."

It was awkward for both of us. He was being so kind and I was so silly. But hell, if I ever get to the point where I am not awestruck when I meet great people, I might as well be dead. He introduced me to his wife -- and I thanked her for inspiring him to get out on the road again, and then I thanked him again and walked away.

Just after that, I shook Nick Ashford's hand, too (speaking of great songwriters) and told him that in the NY Beacon the review of TLS was right next to a big picture of him and Valerie. He laughed and said -- oh, I don't know what he said. But he was totally cool.

Outside afterwards, I saw lots of old friends and told them about what a great trip I have been on in the last 9 months. Some of them -- hit songwriters -- told me that having a musical in New York was their lifetime dream. Everyone was generous and gracious with their comments and we laughed that I had a "hit" musical in New York but couldn't pay the rent back home.

And as I drove off into the cool Los Angeles night, I once again thanked God and Jimmy and my parents and everyone else who has loved me and cared for me so that I could be there that night to see yet another fantasy of mine fulfilled. "Long as I can see the light..."

Thursday, Dec. 4, 1997
The Recalcitrant Patient.

First some good news: I got the full report on my viral load and t-cell count from Dr. Ellie today. My viral load is now testing below 25 copies, which happily means it's undetectable in my blood. But the great news is that my t-cell count leaped from 190 to 410! Now, we will need to watch the longterm to see if that's an aberration or a consistent pattern, but after being at a low of 40, this is fantastic news.

Maybe I'm getting cranky in my old age or maybe I'm just learning to be more aggressive -- too much time in New York? -- but as I began filling out forms in Dr. Peter's office, I saw that he has his own labs and that the permission form to run tests said something about giving permission to do these tests "forever." I refused to sign it. Then the lady in charge of such things came out and explained that this would end if I stopped seeing Dr. Peter. I said to her, "I don't see that written here." So, she crossed out the word "forever" and initialed it.

In Dr. Peter's office, he told me he was the only doctor he knew of who was specifically and exclusively dealing with diabetes and AIDS and we began with me giving him an oral history of my experience. Allergic to Bactrim, one bout of PCP, monotherapy with d4T for awhile, failure of Saquinivir (the first protease inhibitor), the addition of 3TC and Crixivan to my regimen, etc. and now high blood sugar.

Then we went in for an exam where he checked for certain physical signs of wasting and neuropathy. Then his assistant came in to draw blood. I saw on the chart, though, what looked like permission for a complete blood count, which I had just had not two weeks ago. And for some reason, I just told the assistant, No. Then the head of the lab came in and said that all labs were different and they needed to establish a baseline, etc.

But I wasn't having any of it. So, I was herded back into Dr. Peter's office.

He asked me what was wrong and I told him my objections. I told him I am, like many other people, a frustrated patient who is tired of getting a hundred different opinions from a hundred different people and that I didn't want tests which had already been done re-run.

He seemed a bit confused/annoyed, but offered to give me a lecture on what tests he was running and what they were intended to show. I leaned across his desk, looked him right in the eye and said, "Okay."

So, he exhaled heavily and began explaining the tests one by one. And, by the way, I was incorrect in my assumption that he was running a Complete Blood Count. At one point he said, "I don't have to run these tests. I could just try to treat the high sugar level, but I'd like to know exactly what it is that's gone wrong in your system."

After the little lecture -- once I had at least an idea of which organs and what chemicals he was trying to evaluate, I gave him permission to proceed. I even apologized for being a bit edgy. But those of you who read this on a regular basis know what I've been going through and I just didn't feel like being a passive "yes doctor" patient.

Ironically, when he tested my blood sugar the level was only 110. (80-120 is normal.) He noted that I hadn't eaten in about five hours, but remember back in NY? Even after a 12 hour fast the level at that time was over 200 still. This tells me I'm really doing something right dietwise. Dr. Peter was pleased with the results but his main concern is working on the wasting and helping me to gain weight. So, he prescribed an oral medication which presumably will help my cells absorb more nutrition from the sugars I do eat. And he told me I should begin adding fruit to my diet, but no simple sugars. He also cautioned me that with the new pills, I should travel with hard candy just in case they cause my blood sugar to drop. (He said I'd start to sweat and shake if that happened).

Can't wait.

Friday-Sat., Dec. 5-6, 1997
Rainy Day Weekend.

Today was a full day of staying home with Thurber. Last night the rain raged for hours. But inside, the Cat and I are enjoying each other's company very much. Saturday he watched me dump the hard drive on my computer, wipe it clean and reinstall all the software. I was explaining to him that I just couldn't bear being without my tools. Whatever was on there is now gone forever. Cyber graveyard in the sky.
He agreed and stated that the carpeted spiral staircase was a tool for him. He likes it when I provoke him into a "play mode" -- or is it him provoking me? (He once jumped on Jim's head from there.) I can't get him too riled up, though, or his asthma will kick in.

FAVORITE NEW MEAL FOR UNDER $5: Frozen Chicken Kiev and Chicken stuffed with Broccoli/cheese. I take one of each and cook them in the toaster oven -- half hour at 400 degrees. Microwave half a bag of frozen broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts -- 4 minutes on high. Drain the veggies. Then put them all into a big bowl, (being careful when puncturing the Kiev cause it squirts) and scarf it down while watching Korean game shows on TV.

For T'burr (Bobby Cox says T'burr is Thurber's Klingon name), I wash the bowl each time I feed him and I alternate meat with various kinds of fish. He won't eat generic, though. Not T'burr the Klingon Kat.

By the way, one of the people who works with me at Bobalew is Ginger Freers who sings on my "Living In The Bonus Round" CD. Hey, when Ginger and I get famous, all of you can say you knew us "when."

Clinking glass of champagne
Cool, sterile lounge in New York City. Cigarette holders. A voice:

 "I was reading the diary back when he was still just a sickboy dreamer who sang one of the staged readings with a totally blocked ear. "

"Yeah? Well, I reading him when he was still in diapers."

*organ sting*

Diapers. Blocked ears. Feeding tubes. It used to be my whole life. (Fellow Sickboy Shawn Decker ain't feeling so hot these days so I been thinking a lot about him. He's doin' the "...connected to the TV thing." It seduces you, ya know. Shawn mentions how it's oddly comfortable to be too sick to move.

But that gets old real fast. But, being the upstart that he is -- trying to cash in on my "somewhat famous" profile, he approached me again about us making personal appearances together. Would you like to see you fave Internet Positoid Pals in person?

Okay positoid. Let's get famous. Make the crowds yearn for us. I lead a session. You lead a session. I sing. You sing. Mariana strips and sings Brazilian Heat songs while Luke drinks beer. It's perfect.

Look what we've done in the year and a half we've known each other. You get a Poz cover, a shot on MTV, and a meeting with the Vice President. I get an off-Broadway show, Harvard and the New Yorks Times! How irresistable are WE???????

Diapers and blocked ears remind me of The Zephyr Theatre, too -- where I starred in the workshop production. It would be nice to do a concert there. A Christmas concert maybe. I gotta remember to call Linda and Gary and Irene.

I was so excited about meeting John Fogerty the other night, I forgot to tell you what Randy Sharp did from the podium. I can't believe I left this out of the story:

When the show opened, Randy made some very quick announcements and introductions and thank yous. But just as he was about to finish and introduce the first segment (Daniel Lanois introducing Robbie Robertson), he said, "Oh, and there was a mistake in the program. Steve Schalchlin's name was left out of the NAS Gold Membership list..."

I couldn't believe he was saying this in front of everyone! Searing heat flushed down my face, into my scalp and down my body. He said it right out loud! Then he mentioned The Last Session and how he had just seen me on Channel 5 the night before.

And when I spoke to John Fogerty afterward, when I shook his hand I mentioned that I was the guy Randy Sharp mentioned in the opening remarks and he laughed and said, "Oh, yeah!"

Zollo called me tonight. His new book is out and he invited me to Highland Grounds to sing a few songs and hang out with all the songwriters. I was going to go, but it started raining and I started writing this and it's so warm and toasty in this apartment. Also, tonight was the first night I really just sat at the piano and played and sang in several days, so I didn't go out. I think he'll understand.

It's very quiet here. The pounding dishwasher suddenly stopped and I can hear now hear the gentle waves of a cars swooshing by on the rainswept Laurel Canyon Blvd. Thurber crunching some dry cat food. Hmm. I think all is right with the world.

Sunday-Monday, Dec. 7-8, 1997

Today, Monday, was a spectacularly beautiful day in Lost Angeles. The Nino rains had completely swept the brown air out and when that happens all the beautiful mountains surrounding the City Of Angels become crystal clear and it makes you remember why people came here in the first place. On the radio, Rush Limbaugh was railing on about environmental wackos who want clean air and water (imagine that). I suppose when the only thing you care about is a big meal and a cigar, clean air and water don't mean that much to you.

December 1 was my grandmother's 90th birthday. I called there to wish her a happy birthday on Sunday, though, because I thought it was Dec. 7th. When I asked my mom why Dec. 7 stuck in my mind, she reminded me that that was Pearl Harbor Day. lord...

Thurber and I spent Sunday alone in our very peaceful apartment. I figure they're going to to be shutting off the electricity and gas soon, so we better enjoy it while we can. :) (not really...)

Actually, I managed to pay most of my utilities and rent for the coming month, so some of the stress has been relieved. I really and truly took a day off, though, and mostly just snuggled with His Majestic Catness. I also spent some time getting my computer de-bugged and back in working condition. Later, I enjoyed a tree trimming party at Kim and Ronda's. Just family. Made me homesick.

By the way, the article on Jimmy and me in A&U Magazine has been posted on the net. ( and I posted an illegal copy of a recent Newsday article, too. I know I'll have to take it down soon, but didn't want you regulars to miss anything.

Monday also brought a new trip to the hospital where I got an exam of my inner organs -- particularly my pancreas. I watched the procedure on the little TV monitor, but couldn't make heads or tails of it. Then I booked on down to David Robyn's and we had another amazing writing session together.

David keeps reminding me that I have been a rocker at least once in my lifetime. There's just something special that happens when we dig into his songs and start working on them. Like me, he plans on hitting the road next year, so we're working our asses off to get him as many new tunes as possible.

I'm also compiling a new press and pitch kit that I can send to universities and smaller schools who might want me to come do a presentation. I'll post it here also as soon as I get it all done. February will bring me to Pennsylvania and then, who knows? Maybe your town! Hmmm, maybe I should get myself an agent or something...

Tuesday-Wednesday, Dec. 9-10, 1997

NOTE: If you have written me in the past couple of days, I have not gotten your mail. My ISP has apparently not received my overdue check yet, so they've frozen my account. Hopefully, it will all be squared away soon. I apologize for the delay. Just post something in my guestbook and I'll see it there.
Wednesday was fraught with excitement. I'm down at Bob-A-Lew and my job for the day is to type copyright forms for their songwriters. (It's tedious and boring and I decided it would be much easier if I could standardize it using their computers. But after an hour or two of futzing with it, I failed miserbly and was back on the old typewriter by mid-afternoon.) But that morning we had gotten a call from a trucker asking where he could find us because he had a delivery.

A delivery?

Yes, the cast album was done. It was on its way. At long last. So, the whole day was energized with the excitement of knowing we about to get this thing we had been waiting and waiting for. I have been craving those voices: Bob and Grace and Binky and Amy and Dean have been on my mind the past few days. I've been missing them so much.

Why can't El Lay and NY be closer together?

I have to admit, though. that I needed some good news. I've not been in a very good frame of mind now that Jimmy has decided to permanently stay in New York. Everything has changed for me here. I can't afford this apartment or my car or anything -- and the ramifications of all this is suddenly bearing down on me with the full weight of "the future."

The Future.

No wonder "healthy" people go crazy. I have to keep reaching back to last year to remember how it felt to have no future. How weirdly peaceful it was -- how easy to drink in each precious day and live in the moment, "knowing" there wouldn't be that many more. Monday night, I was lying with Thurber the Cat on our couch and I suddenly realized I was not having fun. I was so drenched in worrying about what might happen "next year" Ñ how I'd make a living, how I'd find a roommate, whether I should start a firesale of all our things, whether I might have to move...

Then I looked down at Thurb and realized he had been purring loudly enough to set off car alarms. How awful to lose the "here and now." How terrible it is to allow "what might be" to interfere with "what is." I felt almost ashamed that I was squandering such a beautiful night with him.

I had just come from a Border's Bookstore where I heard Paul Zollo reading parts of the reissued "Songwriters on Songwriting." That's the book he compiled from many interviews he did with songwriters during the years he (and I) spent at National Academy of Songwriters.

He talking about Paul Simon and Frank Zappa and Sammy Cahn and Bob Dylan (among others) and how they create songs. Paul Simon likes to start with the music, Bob Dylan says that once he gets a song started his main job is to get out of it, and Sammy Cahn said his songs start with "the phone call" Ñ i.e. someone offering him a job. It's a fantastic book because the interviews are about the process itself. It may be the most tabloid-free set of interviews in modern history. (Which is ironic since the original interviews were published in our tabloid-sized SongTalk journal).

I began thinking back to the many interviews I've had since THE LAST SESSION began playing in New York and it occurs to me that not one single interviewer has asked me questions about the songs themselves. I can't blame them, though. I know the story of the diary and the miracle of the production is fascinating all on its own.

And who besides songwriters would care about the process? Does it really matter which came first, the words or the music? If Sammy CahnÕs answer is "the phone call," I guess my answer would be, "The disease." LOL

But back at Bobalew, just as I was about to complete a form for Stephen Kupka of Tower of Power, Judy excitedly shouted, "TheyÕre here!!" So we all rushed down and helped bring up the boxes. We ripped into them and there there were: The most beautiful cast albums in history. They fold out into three panels and there's a full booklet with pictures and all the lyrics to the songs.

We put it on and played it and, for a moment, I was back in New York seeing the whole production again. For just a moment, I forgot all about bills and apartments and cars and roommates and garage sales and diabetes and pills; and I allowed myself to remember that somewhere in Manhattan, there's a miracle on 47th Street.

Thursday-Friday, Dec. 11-12, 1997

I got two really close friends who are dying. They have a chance to survive, I think. But I don't know what the formula is.

One of them is very "out" about his condition and he is railing against the universe. He says to me, "I wish I had AIDS. My entire body is falling apart on me," (and it is).He keeps begging me to give him AIDS so he could at least go to APLA and get help. He is over 50. He lives alone in what can only be described as a room with a bed. In his bathroom, there are at least a hundred or more bottles of pills lying about. It looks like the room is vomiting pill bottles. He keeps asking me why he should hold on.

My other friend has withdrawn with quiet dignity. He has a very close circle of friends who attend him as he lies in a hospital bed riddled with cancer. I've had maybe one conversation with him voice to voice in the past two months. But the one conversation we did have was so emotional for both of us, it was quite enough.

I plead with him for more, of course. I told him I would even be content to just sit in the room and let him be a shadow behind a curtain. He laughed when I told him it would be like Japanese shadow theatre. Very exotic, I said. Isn't reason enough to let me come?

Honestly, I only want what he wants and to make sure he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he needed me, I'd be there.

One calls himself The Ghost of the Last Session. If you read this diary, you know who he is. He and I had a birthday party all by ourselves up in the little conference/library of Hollywood Community Hospital.

I saw him today, by the way. I was bringing him the very first copy of the cast album of THE LAST SESSION. When I went into his room (past the nurse who he things hates him -- aside: "Ghost" is a handful, but he kinda has a right to be a bit on the obstreperous side.)

He was lying in bed asleep. He had a breathing tube attached. (This brought back the lunch I had with him this past July when he brought his portable oxygen tent with him to the little restaurant.)

I stepped in and I kinda knew he'd want me to wake him, but I just couldn't, although I allowed myself to be noisy just in case he was only catnapping.

When I was really sick, I loved being in a kind of state of sleep/not-sleep, but didn't mind getting woken up if friends came in to visit.)
Instead, I took a LAST SESSION CD and put it on the little metal tray that was swung around in front of him. The bright red case on the cold metal tray.

Using bandage tape which I found on the table next to his bed -- taking care to jostle the bed gently -- I affixed one of the TLS Window Cards (a brightly colored poster) to his hanging television set. Then I sat down and cried.

His old computer which they allow him to have was lying on a table next to him, the top jimmied off and the ancient monitor reading, "It is safe now to turn off your computer."

Just as I was about to leave, someone else showed up. Another friend of "Ghost" who brought a fistful of mail. He was a quiet man about my age. I caught a glimpse of sadness in his eye when he looked over at Ghost. He said he had been helping Ghost for several years and that Ghost had lots of friends, but that they'd kinda dropped off one by one.

Disease is inconvenient in this way.

I told him my name and I laughed when he said, "He thinks you walk on water."

I told "Jeff" about the CD and the poster and he told me how he and Ghost have the same first and middle names but in opposite order and how they both had been raised very strict Catholic.

He told me he had lost his lover to AIDS and how difficult it was for him to be here yet again. He saw five friends die in hospitals that year. We talked about the pills we were both on and how weird it is to be alive again.

Then I got an idea and I tucked it away in the back of my head.

I walked "Jeff" down to the parking lot and we kinda had a moment. Like veterans who had been in the same war but served in different platoons. And we carry our patches on the inside.

Hospitals. Doctors.
I almost hugged him goodbye even though I didn't even know his last name.

From the little hospital near Vine, I drove down to Melrose, took a right and landed at my favorite store in the world: Hollywood Neon. In the window is a huge green neon Christmas tree. So, I burst in through the front door and said to the woman behind the counter (who wasn't looking):


Without batting an eye, she slowly, without fear and without losing a SHRED of dignity, lifted her eyes to mine, started into what was probably going to be an, "Excuse me?" When she suddenly recognized my face and screamed, "HI!!!"

Hollywood Neon is the store next to, and in front of, the Zephyr Theatre where we did our workshop of THE LAST SESSION summer a year and a half ago. Oh, and the woman screaming at me was Linda Toliver, who co-produced that workshop.

I said to her, "I see 'Making Porn' [a play] is gone. I came here to get free tickets. Now what am I gonna do?" She said they had been in the theatre so long, she was afraid other companies would forget about them. (She hates turning down a theatre rental.)

After we talked a bit, Linda got a customer, so I walked out, past the wrought iron gate, through the little tree-lined courtyard between the buildings to the theature itself. There was an old gray-haired man painting the floor black. But the Zephyr looked as emmaculate as ever. (Gary wouldn't even let us have drinks in there during rehearsals. We had to eat out in the courtyard.)

When I went back inside Hollywood Neon, I put the cast album on her counter and she smiled the biggest smile I've ever seen. "You know what made us want to produce the workshop aside from the fact that we loved the material?" she asked. "It was at the very first meeting right there in the courtyard. Gary asked you where you saw this show, where you wanted to take it. And you looked at him and said, 'Broadway.' And now, a year later, you're on Broadway!"

She said the first time she laid eyes on me, she had rarely seen someone so sick. "...and every day you'd come here and work so hard, and rather than wear you out, you just got stronger day after day."

I answered, "Well, technically, we're a block from Broadway. I threw a dart and missed by one block."

I told her I had an idea. And when I told her my idea, which involved the theatre, she told me I could have the theatre anytime I wanted. So, there and then we sealed a deal. [I will reveal these plans soon].

And just as I was about to leave, who should walk in but one of Jimmy's and my oldest pals, Eleanor, whose job is theatre promotion. And another lightbulb goes off in my head...

Afterwards, I was to head down to Redondo Beach to see David Robyn, but my toe began to ache and I realized the infection was acting up again. So, instead, I went back over the hill blaring the cast album at full volume all the way over Laurel Canyon, drive to the grocery store for frozen food, epsom salts and cat stuff, then to the cheap Thai diner down the road for Chicken Curry and back home for a very quiet night with the cat and my computer.

Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 13-14, 1997
Odds & Ends.

MTV Online has just posted a fantastic new review of THE LAST SESSION. They noticed that 14 or 15 members of THE LION KING show on Broadway came to see the show this past weekend.

Member of several shows (including THE LION KING and Paul Simon's THE CAPEMAN) will be singing with the cast this Friday, the 19th as our gang sings A FREE CONCERT IN TIMES SQUARE at noon. Apparently, the performers in these hugely funded shows love our little bitty show and want to help us get more public attention by seeing the show and by singing with our cast in public. It's really fantastic.

ITEM: I've been posting in a theatre chatroom at the Talkin' Broadway site. They have a very classy site with excellent writers. This next week, they'll be reviewing the show and the cast album -- and maybe even conducting an online interview with yours truly.

ITEM: ASCAP has posted a new article about TLS called THE LAST SESSION: A New Musical's Courageous Journey to Off-Broadway. It's a wonderful article and is written from a songwriter's perspective, which I really love.

ITEM: Arts & Understanding finally posted their article called Musical Healing, and it has one of Jimmy's and my favorite pictures.

ITEM:Speaking of Jimmy, he is really tearing New York up. He reconnected with an agent friend of his, went out to audition for a commercial and danged if he didn't get cast in his first try. It'll be a TV ad for Thomasville Furniture and it's supposed to run nationally. He's also going to be directing and teaching at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Jamie the producer told him he was now officially Orson Welles because he creates his own plays, directs them and appears in commercials to earn a living.

I went back to the hospital to visit the Ghost yesterday and he was awake and just as full of fire and music as ever. He had listened to the cast album and though he is my biggest fan, he approved of the way the cast handled the songs. He said the bridge between my "Connected" and Bob Stillman's "Connected" was easy and that Bob had really captured the emotional tone of the song while still retaining his (Bob's) own particular vocal artistry. (He feared he'd have to "get used" to a different voice).

*WHEW* -- A lot can happen in just a few days...

Monday-Tuesday, Dec. 15-16, 1997
Decisions, Decisions.

One of the coolest things that has happened in the last couple of days is that a distant cousin from Australia -- a girl (who I'll call "Aussie") -- came to visit me here. We aren't even sure how we're related because we met through the internet! But look at the evidence: Her last name is Schalchlin and her family lives in Arkansas. Now, my family is from Arkansas and our last name is Schalchlin. If you do a netsearch on my last name, you will find only two personages: me and Aussie's mom who works at a University in the Actuarial Deparment and I don't even know what a Actuarial is, so there ya go.

I felt guilty, ashamed and humiliated, but I had to admit defeat to Ronda this past week. I am not strong enough nor healthy enough to work full time. I supposed in decades past when men were men, and everyone worked coal mines for 12 hours a day, I would be considered a big wimp, but facts is facts. I spent this past weekend so zoned out, I could barely function. And each day, I seem to have less and less energy because I've been expending it trying to work a desk job, trying to work on music and fretting about bills and Thurber and everything else. It just got to be too much and I crashed.

Ronda didn't even blink. She told me she had someone else who could do the job (which, by the way, was more than receptioning -- that was just a little self-deprecating humor on my part). She had, in fact, offered me the job because she knew I needed the income. Friends. I love my friends.

I'll probably go in every day anyway to help out around the joint -- but not for pay. If anyone -- even me -- knew everything Kim and Ronda had done way beyond the call of duty for me and for the show, they'd get some kind of humanitarian award.

They and my other friends have also helped me in still another way: They really didn't pity me when I was cowering in the corner feeling sorry for myself after I realized I was going to be responsible for all these bills and things -- when I was in a state of panic.

Once I kinda worked my way through the emotional crisis, I realized it was up to me to figure out what the rest of my life was going to be about. I mean, isn't that true for everyone? It's time for me to take stock, stand back, and make a definitive plan. (I think I mentioned this before, so excuse me if this is boring...).

But, over the holidays, which I am going to spend here with Thurber -- just the two of us, I am going to more completely map out a plan for the immediate future. As of January 1, I'll be starting Book Seven and I already have the name of it chosen. It's going to be called "Reconstructing Steve." Can't get more pretentious than that, so it's perfect.

You see, I've sorta discovered that my wishes come true. And that they come true faster than I can think them up. So, I need to make new wishes and I don't want to squander them by thinking too small or by making wishes that don't mean anything.

My friend, Kathleen tells me that in order to really accomplish a goal, first you have to decide specifically what the goal is so you can implement said goal. For instance, I need to have more "Living In The Bonus Round" CDs to sell. Frankly, I gave over half of the initial run away to help promote The Last Session since that was the only "demo" we had for the show.

So, I need more "product," as they say in the music biz. So, do I just rerelease the same CD or do I make a new CD? Well, that takes cash. Right now, Evening Star is not in a position to help me -- long story, not relevant -- so, just like when I released the first CD last year, it's something I'm going to have to figure out on my own. Fair enough.

Many friends and fans want me to record "Shades of Blue" -- which partially appears in The Last Session. And there are a few more songs I've been working on -- plus some people have requested recordings of the two songs which were cut from TLS ("One More Song" and "The Faces In The Music"). History demands these cuts!

I also need to reduce my expenses by major amounts, so I need to find a roommate who will never be here (*smile*) and I'm going to resurrect my ancient car which is my only possession and put Jimmy's Taurus into mothballs because it's too expensive to run. (I have a 7 year old Ford Festiva which I didn't drive for three years because I was too sick to drive, so the mileage is low, but it sits in the parking garage under a blanket of dust and the registration is waaaaaay past due.)

I gotta wash the dishes.

I need to find an agent who can help me get appearances in universities and colleges.

Well, I hope you're beginning to get the picture. I'm having to reconstruct my entire life, but remember, until last year, I was mostly preparing myself for death. I didn't think -- or have time -- to prepare myself for life.

The last year and a half has been a tornado of nothing but making TLS happen. Last summer, after I was "brought back to life," the first thing I did was make Jimmy and Ronda go to New York to find a theatre, then I did a "comeback concert" in Santa Monica, recorded a CD, flew to NY for the reading, pushed Carl and Jamie into accepting the offer from the Currican for the off-off-Broadway production, flew back to NY to promote that by answering phones, taking tickets and giving out 2-fers in the TKTS line. Then I went nuts because I was getting diabetes which I didn't know was happening, Musical Supervised the production of the current 47th Street Theatre show, did more interviews and promotion, helped with the recording of the cast album, got sick, came home, realized I was on my own for the first time in 12 years, facing "the future" with no "visible" means of support or planning.

Hey, maybe I'm a wimp because I couldn't hold up in an 8 hour day working environment, but it's not like I've been sitting on my ass eating bon bons and making Thurber change the channels on the TV set! And when the hell am I gonna get a vacation? A vacation from what? Life?

Had that. Didn't like it much.

More to come. I'm just getting started.

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 1997
Somebody Cares..

They CARE!!
Now, I'll tell you the best story of all but it's driving me crazy. On Friday, Dec. 19th the cast of THE LAST SESSION will be performing a free concert on a big flatbed truck. But here's the kicker: Cast members of RENT, THE LION KING, THE CAPEMAN, TITANIC, SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE, MISS SAIGON, GREASE!, TRIUMPH OF LOVE, SIDE SHOW and FORBIDDEN BROADWAY and others are going to back our cast members up in an all-star choir as a show of support for little shows like ours.

It's a real thrill that these other shows are putting themselves on the line to help us. I think they're dubbing it "Broadway Cares... about Off-Broadway.

What's driving me crazy is that I'm NOT THERE!! (oh anguish). So, if you work for a major news outlet, would you please send a crew and tape this thing for me? Please????? Hey, they even got MTV's Randy Majano to celebrity-host!!

Wednesday night on Star Trek: Voyager, Neelix gets killed, gets brought back from the dead, has to endure lifelong injections from the Borg Woman, and then decides to commit suicide because he doesn't want to go on. He said, "I guess this whole 'back from the dead' thing is harder than I thought."

Now, excuse me, but isn't this the plot for THE LAST SESSION???? (minus the Borg, of course...)

Speaking of lawsuits, I also noticed that VH-1 has a new show called "Storytellers" where they get the songwriters to tell the stories behind the stories. When I was at NAS, we pitched that show concept to them over and over again because it came from the original "Salute to the American Songwriter" concerts created by Dean Pitchford and Kevin Odegard.

Where's my lawyer. I'm gonna make a mint. After all, this is the United States of America. Lawsuits are a way of life here!

Thursday, Dec. 18, 1997

[As I write this, it's Friday morning and I'm watching the news to see if anyone anywhere is going to broadcast a blurb on the noon concert in Times Square today. I hope I hope I hope I hope....]
It rained like crazy here today, the wind blowing ferociously. A real downpour to accompany the news that Chris Farley was dead. I managed to make it to Bob's Pharmacy and I saw Bob -- whose a really cool guy -- for the first time in almost a year. I told him, "You remember those songs I was writing? Well, my show just opened in New York and it's till running." He looked at me in utter disbelief. (Last time we had a "real" conversation I was making demos for 10 cents running around Los Angeles trying to get people to listen to them.)

I saw Dr. Peter, the new endocrinolgist today. I told him to forgive me if I was rude the last visit. We did a blood test and my blood sugar was slightly high again. But the good news is that my insulin level tested high -- i.e. my pancreas ain't dead yet -- so we're going to increase the Glicase dosage to 3mg two times a day.

What was weird was my "triglycerides" were 10 TIMES the normal amount. I have no idea what that means. *time to do a netsearch*. He also gave me said my testosterone level was low, so I got a shot of that combined with a steroid to get my body to put on some weight. He's really worried about how gaunt my face looks.

David Robyn and I took some pictures the other day and I thought my face looked terrible! Ronda's been telling me I'm too skinny, but I didn't really "see" it until I looked at those photos. YIKES!
So, now my mission in life is to eat a lot of food, exercise, wash the dishes, pick up around here, write songs, write in this diary, pay the bills and plan Book 7. I've gotten some wonderful mail recently related to that, by the way. Several readers have said they have also found themselves needing to reconstruct their lives and "start over" so I invited them to join me on this journey. As I invite you to do the same.

"Aussie" called me Wednesday and she said goodbye. We still don't know if we're actual relatives or just two Schalchlins from Arkansas. (She even calls her grandmother "mamaw.) Also, she went to dinner Wednesday night with one of David Robyn's burnt out surfer friends, so it's time to start the gossip mill rolling down under!

Apparently, I've hit the papers in Malaysia and Philadelphia because I'm getting new messages in my guestbook. One guy criticized me, saying my site seemed like just a big commercial for The Last Session. It was an honest comment and I agree I do go overboard a bit. Sorry. Really. Funny though, I thought The Last Session was just a big commercial for ME. :)

Good luck to all my pals on in New York. I'm so proud of you and I hope you have a fantastic concert in Times Square today. Please, please, please somebody videotape it for me. (pleeeeeeeeeeeeze....)

Fri.-Sun., Dec. 19-21, 1997

[JUST IN! LIZ SMITH'S MONDAY COLUMN in the NY Post! Here's what she said:

RECOMMENDED: "The Last Session," a sleeper hit of a musical running at the 47th Street Theater, off-Broadway. Though the central character has AIDS, "The Last Session" is not a depressing experience. It features talented actor-singers, Steve Schalchin's wonderful score (the story is based on Schalchin's own life) and Jim Brochu's book (he also directed the show). Don't miss this one. ]

Liz, you're a babe!

On Friday, as 9am my time -- 12 noon east coast time -- rolled around, I knew the cast was probably singing out there on the flatbed truck, surrounded by other gypsies and crowds of people. I flipped through CNN and MSNBC and anything with news just to see if any major news sources are reading my diary and all I can say is that they probably aren't. What a great publicity stunt that would have been for them. Such a Christmas story it coulda been. Big network tapes concert for missing positoid 3000 miles away!

I got some calls and even email from people who saw the show and they raved about it. Also, in the guestbook, a note from someone who sang in support of THE LAST SESSION. So I sorta got to live it vicariously.

Meanwhile, I've been focusing almost exclusively on my health this weekend and I'll let my friends tell me if I'm succeeding. Every other day, I'm working my hand weights, eating as much as I can while avoiding sugar, taking my meds exactly on time, and sleeping a lot. I haven't even gone to see a movie.

Thurber the Cat has been with me all the way, watching me do push-ups (and sometimes crawling beneath me so that I can't lower myself all the way), helping me remember to eat, waking me up on time. Some cynic might say he's only doing it to make sure he gets fed, but I know it's all for me. Isn't it, Thurb?

Saturday I spent all day with David Robyn. After seeing him at the club this past week with the band, I had only about a ton of notes to give him. There were a few songs I told him never to play again, some I demanded he never exclude, etc. but mostly I told him that if he wants to make an impression on the world, the only way I know how to do it is to musically cut his heart open and bleed.

Stockbrokers and lawyers and accountants do not need to do this -- although they can if they want. But a songwriter/performer who is unknown and who wants to break through the tens of thousands of other songwriters has only one great tool or weapon: Himself. His own story. His own fears. His own soul.

I told how ironic it was for me that the more personal my songs became, the more universally they were accepted. Perhaps it's the equivalent of seeing a car wreck where the drivers just *HAVE* to turn and look, but the blood ytruth is the only thing that's truly interesting in a society of card sharks.

I'm amazed at how shocked some people are at how much truth is in the songs I write -- or in this diary, not that I tell you everything, of course. (As Bob Stillman once said to me, "You have a private life?")

On Sunday, I went to visit Ghost who is now back in his little apartment in Hollywood. He's hooked up to at least three tubes and he still tries to walk around and function. I took him grocery shopping and then out for a nice lunch at the French Market where he could ogle the cuties who come there on a Sunday.

I did have one of those "cry moments" though. I was standing in his little hallway looking back at him. He was sitting in a chair amidst the chaos of clothes and medical equipment, looking for his missing discount food coupons. And there was just something about the aloneness and the poverty of disease that wrenched me so deeply, tears gushed down my face and I wondered how many other sweet, intelligent people have to live this way.

He kept asking me, "Why am I fighting so hard to survive? What do I have to live for?" I had no answer. We talked about Christmas dinner together, then I gathered up his laundry and cried all the way home playing the cast album at full volume all the way over the hill.

Monday-Tuesday, Dec. 22-23, 1997
Christmas Hibernation.

I confess I haven't done anything "Christmassy" this year. No lights, no presents. I didn't send cards to anyone. Part of that is because Jimmy usually does our cards and also because of the Great Computer Crash of 1997, I have no phone numbers or addresses of any of my friends. Oh, well, if you're a friend of mine, HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A GREAT NEW YEAR.

There. That's my Christmas card.

Also, I know I haven't written that much. And if I did, it seemed disconnected and inconsisent. But frankly, I haven't been wanting to bore you with a lot "me me me" kinda stuff. I don't know if I'm hibernating or just retreating to the womb, but I'm processing. That's the best way I can describe how I feel right now. I'm just processing information and letting it all coagulate into a huge mess o' thoughts and plans.

The new health regime I've put myself on -- i.e. mostly staying in and eating while working with my hand weights seems to be working. I've gained over five pounds this week and I like the way it looks on me. It's mostly muscle that has appeared on my chest, shoulders and arms. Now I look like Marky Mark -- except taller. And skinnier. And older.

Steve, the Schalchlin that visited you -- my grandpa Schalchlin and her grandpa Schalchlin were brothers. If that is not right it would be her great grandpa. Love, Dad.
UPDATE ON NEW ALBUM: I've not worked on getting costs and stuff together because I've been slow to decide what is the best course of action. Even if I had studio time, there's the problem of choosing what should be on the album itself. If anyone reading this has any requests, the door is open now. The choice is to simply make some more of the current Living In The Bonus Round record, or to record some new tracks, add them to the old tracks and create a SUPER Bonus Round CD. It would cost a couple of thousand more to do the new one, so that's the deal.
The first review of the cast album has been posted by Joseph Milnar at Talkin' Broadway, a place I've been checkin in on lately. Joseph says, "...There is not one bad tune to be heard here. Each and every one is packed with gut wrenching truth and honesty that is truly touching...I have never known anyone with AIDS, but after listening to these songs, I feel like I have a pretty good idea I know what they are going through. The performers give their all and it is hard to single out just one, but Bob Stillman deserves singling out because he does a fantastic job in the lead role of Gideon. Not only does he sing and act, he also plays the keyboards on this recording. "I highly recommend this CD for any musical theater fan. It is a must have. Upon first listen, one or two songs grab you, but after a few more listens, they all do!" -- Joseph Molnar, Talkin' Broadway.

Also, my new doctor said he knows some investors who might be interested in a west coast production. I wonder if they'll let me audition for the lead? I wonder if it would be difficult to insure such a production with someone who has AIDS in the cast? Or maybe Bob could come here and open the LA production while I got to NY and do that one! I could get into that... Here's a note from Bob Stillman telling all about the gig in Times Square:

Hey! I finally have a moment to write and describe the times square gig.

As you've no doubt heard by now, the piano refused to work. No power at all. So Tom Clewell ran back to the theater to get our power supply... " [here Bob describes the technical problem and then says...] "... but at any rate it was clearly not going to work.

So [producer] Michael Alden said, "The only thing I can think of is to sing to the tracks from the CD." You can imagine the objections I had to this---"We won't be able to hear, we'll get off the beat!" and so forth. Of course, Amy was all "Oh, come on, let's just do it!" and Michael said, "Look, just try 'Preacher and the Nurse' and if it works then do the rest." So that's what we did.

The amazing thing was, it actually turned out to be the best possible thing that could've hapened. Singing against our own vocals gave them extra thickness, and the tracks sounded better than anything I could've played. Plus, I GOT TO STAND UP!, which is just such a joy.

My favorite moment: waving to the tourists on the upper level of a passing double-decker bus while singing, "You're alive on the outside, But you're the walking dead!" They smiled, I smiled....

Second favorite moment: Binky grabbing his mike stand and doing this rock-and-roll crouch in the middle of "Friendly Fire"---I thought he was just having fun, but it turns out he was doing it to block some weirdo who was trying to take photos up Amy's skirt! Ah, New York....

So, anyway, it was a true experience and it went off very well. The pick-up choir sounded great, and I understand the news clips look terrific.

Wednesday, Dec. 24-25, 1997

On Christmas morning, mom and dad called and I put them on speaker phone as I opened the great presents they sent. Shirts, socks and a pair of pants. Perfect! (I love new socks and mine are starting to feel like cardboard.)

V.J., who founded and runs the elegant and interesting Talkin' Broadway site posted an essay I wrote for Christmas Day called, "It's A Wonderful Life." It was a challenge to step back and write for someone else. After all, I write here so often, what's left to say? I'll leave it to you to judge the results.

Me and Le Chat Thurb decided to spend Christmas Eve together. He had a hot date with another neutered animal of the feline pursuasion, but then I gently reminded him that such a coupling was illegal in California and declared immoral by the Vatican. So, we spent time on the couch watching Alistair Cooke's "A Christmas Carol."

Earlier that day, I saw Dr. Peter and I'm happy to report that the level of sugar in my blood was 101, well within "normal" ranges, so the 3 mg twice a day, of Glynase is working well. He said to me, "If this continues, we can avoid the insulin injections." *whew* He was also thrilled that I have gained weight -- then he gave me another shot of steroids.

A reader was concerned that I have been needing testosterone and steroids to gain weight. Well, I assure you that in HIV-AIDS management, this is quite normal. You see, what kills PWAs almost every time is drastic weight loss caused by an opportunistic infection. It is important to remember that the new AIDS drugs might help stem the replication of the virus itself, but the body is still open to infections and diseases.

As a person with AIDS fights off the new infection -- whatever it might be -- he or she loses weight rapidly and this weight loss contributes to the possibility of death. In my case, I'm about 20 pounds underweight and what we are trying to do is to put muscle on my frame as a hedge against death by wasting, when and if an infection should attack.

To that end, I spent almost the entire day working with my weights here at the house. I have only 20 lb. hand weights, but I know a lot of good execises and I have been quite dedicated to my training. The doctor's assistant reminded me to not lift aerobically because I do not need to burn calories.

Between work-outs, I was writing the column for V.J. when I realized it was time to eat. I'm not a cook, but I decided there had to be an easy way to make a meal. I found three chicken breasts in the fridge, so I put some oil in a pan and started frying them. As they cooked, I started cutting them into small pieces. Then I remembered I have those frozen veggies -- broccoli, carrots, and water chestnuts -- so I zapped them in the micro and poured them into the chicken. In the cabinet I found a package of some stir fry powder, so I added that, and before I new it, I had a fantastic meal. Hey, this cooking thing may not be so hard after all.

[My friend Bill Kibler suggested I write a cookbook as part of my search for ways to earn a living. Well, Bill, now I have three recipes. (My world famous breakfast sandwich being one). ]

As I was finishing up my dinner, Tony Trupiano, my radio host friend in Detroit called. He said he was concerned about me and wanted to know if I felt "lonely." My latest entries worried him. Then he asked me this:

"You're only writing this diary right now for us, aren't you? Because we want you to.."

This kind of shocked me because I hadn't really thought about it. I said, "Well, yes." He continued, "Steve, I love the way you write. I love your use of language and you inspire me at times when I really need it. And trust me, you will never know the full extent of your influence or who is reading."

He then told me of a man who had been listening to his morning radio program who wrote him after Tony discontinued the program. The man depended upon Tony's show everyday and was bitterly disappointed when it ended. (Tony's show is very inspirational.) Tony continued, saying that he never knew this man was listening and how many others are listening. He encouraged me to keep writing, saying he felt it was as important as the music or anything else I might do.

On Christmas Day I also visited my friend Kathleen Freeman and gave her a cast CD as a gift. She just kept looking at me and marveling at " good you look." She them recalled how terribly sick I had been at a few of her previous parties, thinking they might be my last. I gave her a big hug and told her how life was pretty fantastic nowadays.

[ Book 5 ] - [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] - [ Book 7 ]
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© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin