BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- which is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and playing the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Enormity Of It All.

Today, I walked around the Civic Center plaza in San Francisco.

It was early in the morning. The streets were almost deserted.

I stood in front of the magnificent city hall and looked across the street. There was the opera house, a gorgeous monument with Greek (or Roman?) pillars. Next to it is another building just like it.

I felt like I was in Greece or Rome. These remarkable institutions just standing there in the sunlight, a testament to the high arts.

Next to them was this beautiful modern building with a large panoramic glass front.

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

And I was totally overwhelmed to realize that my music would be performed in this building where the usual repertoire is Beethoven, Bach, Ravel, Gershwin, Handel, and all the greatest composers this world has given to us.

I thought back to my high school days in Buna, Texas, a town which consisted of a drug store, a broken down movie theater where the rats would run over your feet, where the only traffic light was a blinking yellow light on the highway, where half the grade school kids didn't even have shoes, where all the men worked at the paper mill down the road -- a place where I couldn't even IMAGINE an opera house or a symphony hall.

Tears just started streaming down my face. The enormity of it all began to overtake me.

Now, look. Some perspective from the other side: In the big picture of serious music, I'm not really even a blip on the map. Few people know my name, really, so I don't mean to sound like I'm even close to being on the same level as the great composers listed above. That's not my point. As big as my ego is, I at LEAST know THAT much.

But I would be an ungrateful fool to not stop and breathe in this moment, this opportunity, and embrace and be thankful for this gift -- and look back to realize how far I've come.

No one knows the long road I've traveled, the little country churches, the dinner theater in Dallas, the endless number of Rodeway Inns and casino lounges, piano bars, hospital rooms, emergency rooms, funerals, and... and... places I don't even remember.

And tomorrow night, my songs will be referred to as "movements." My simple musical stories will become a choral/symphonic work in one of the most celebrated symphony halls in the world.

Even as I write this, tears are streaming down my face. It's almost too much to think about.

But it's real. It's really happening. And I honestly believe that if you look at my background and see where I came from, if there's anything I would want you, the reader, especially if you are an aspiring writer or singer or conductor or performer, to take from this, is that if it can happen to me, a person who has literally come from one of the most poverty stricken corners of the United States, who grew up learning nothing about serious music, who never saw the inside of a theatre until he was in his 20s, who barely was able to play a single Bach three part invention, it can happen to anyone who truly believes in him or herself and who writes from the heart.

I say all these things not to brag about my situation, but it's my dearest and most fervent hope that you will take this as inspiration no matter what your talent. Whether it's in the arts or in business or in education or in anything, really. The only thing holding you back is yourself.

I believe I'm here because I believed in myself and I believed that I had something to contribute -- and because others believed in me and let me know that they believed in me. I believe this, too, of every human being on this earth. Every one of us has something to contribute, a message no one else can bring.

Even if you can't be at the concert, I hope you'll celebrate this moment with me. It will come and go so quickly, but I'm going to hold it in my heart forever.

My hometown newspaper did an article on me.

This is so Janis Joplin/The Rose. My east Texas hometown newspaper, the Buna Beacon, did a front page article on me in celebration of New World Waking.

by Juliee Beaver.

It has been almost 40 years since lyricist and composer Steve Schalchlin
graduated from Buna High School in 1971. A lot has changed since then,
but much has remained the same.

Roden Theatre closed its doors and the old elementary school has been torn
down, but the infamous Polka Dot House still stands.

Born in Arkansas, Steve Schalchlin, his brothers and parents moved here in
1968. Mother Carolyn worked as a nurse at the Buna Medical Center and his
father, Bro. Neil, pastored at Northside Missionary Baptist for 14 years.

His brother, David, enjoyed playing basketball while Steve worked at the local
Buna newspaper, East Texas News. In addition to taking photos and writing
stories for the paper, he also had a cartoon called "Leafy."

Steve's early musical development was in the church when his piano lessons
began at the age of seven. He wasn't a particularly good student. He hated
practicing his lessons and he couldn’t join a dance band since Baptists don’t
dance. But he did love rocking out the little church on Sundays until his mother
scolded him, "The church is not a rock group!"

On a full-ride scholarship to Jacksonville College near Tyler, he earned his AA
degree in Music Education and was chosen for vocal leads in the school's gospel
quartet, choir and mixed ensemble. He also wrote and sang with a gospel band
called "The Damascus Road" which released three albums.

Relocating to Dallas and moving on to lounge bookings and cabaret gigs, his music
career was taking off while he was slowly coming to terms with his attraction to
the same sex. Landing a job at a high class dinner theatre, he found his love of
storytelling was a perfect match and began writing for the stage shows.

A cruise ship performance led him to meet his now life partner, Jim Brochu. A job
offer for Jim from Hollywood brought the couple to Los Angeles. Steve dove head
first into his first love of writing songs by first volunteering and then quickly
becoming the managing director of the National Academy of Songwriters.

His job allowed him to lead workshops, seminars and fundraisers with some of
the biggest names in entertainment, including Stevie Wonder, Bacharach and
David. Whomever Schalchlin wanted to meet, he would just call and ask them
to do a seminar.

With Steve’s guidance, the Academy grew and pulled itself out of debt, adding
hundreds of hit songwriters to its membership. The year 1994 was bittersweet.
Though hugely successful, Steve was diagnosed with HIV and his progression
to full blown AIDS took about a year.

Given 12 months left to live, he began an online diary to keep his friends and family
appraised of his failing health. Miraculously responding to a last treatment option,
he found his ground-breaking "AIDS blog" had gained quite a following. Cited by
Wikipedia, Steve is regarded as one of the first HIV/AIDS bloggers. Impressive,
considering that very few people even had an email address back in 1996.

Regaining his strength, Schalchlin and his partner, Brochu, focused on their talents
and composed "The Last Session." The musical production was critically acclaimed
and was the first of many honors awarded to the couple for their cult smash off-
Broadway hit. Unbeknownst to Steve, he had also created the first website for an
off-Broadway show.

Citations of "Best L.A. Theatre Production," "Best Concert of a Musical," "Best Original
Writing," "Best Lead Actor," "Best Musical Director," "Best Musical," and "Best Score"
are just a few of the many accolades achieved by this dynamic duo for "The Last
Session," "Zero Hour" and "The Big Voice: God or Merman?"

Opening Dec. 1 at Davies Symphony Hall by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is
Schalchlin’s next production, "New World Waking!" featuring special guest Piper Laurie
and special guest soloist Jennifer Holliday.

Today Schalchlin is alive and strong, but must strictly adhere to a regimen of pills
to maintain his health.

Looking back on his East Texas memories, Steve warmly acknowledges the differences
and similarities of days past. "I know people in Buna probably don’t understand, or may
have difficulty with the fact that I’m gay, but I’ve always felt like people there are
smart and compassionate."

He further elaborated, "In my time, no one had a lot of money, but they taught me
generosity of heart, and what it means to truly love your neighbor."

Steve still resides in Los Angeles and his parents now live in West Monroe, LA. Go to
www.bonusroundblog.blogspot.com to view Schalchlin’s video footage of early 1990s Buna.

One More Day.

We drove to San Francisco only to discover that our car was spouting a huge leak of something. Probably oil.

Find a mechanic open on Saturday night on a holiday weekend? The AAA people said to just forget it and wait till Monday.

Meanwhile, I can't sleep. All I can think of is the 20 minutes they've given me before the show on the stage of Davies Hall, to describe how New World Waking was born.

I AM SO EXCITED!!!

I'm also glad I don't have to perform the thing. All I have to do is just let go and let Kathleen, the chorus and the orchestra do all the work.

AN ORCHESTRA! A CHORUS! A SYMPHONY HALL! MY MUSIC!!!

It's the fantasy dream of a lifetime.

Get Devin's CD (with Steve songs!).

I posted about this before, but there's a terrific write-up about Devin Richard's wonderful new CD (with two Steve songs on it!) at BroadwayWorld.

Now go get it!

Seriously. I don't want to have to hurt you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

SF Chronicle on SFGMC and New World Waking.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles the Chorus about Monday's concert:

Like the subject of any great tragedy, Harvey Milk needed his chorus. He got it on Nov. 27, 1978, the day he was assassinated along with George Moscone, when 100 singers joined an impromptu memorial on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall and sang "Thou, Lord, Our Refuge."

Just months before the slayings, the singers had organized as the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - the country's first choir to openly identify as homosexual. On Friday evening, the chorus returned to the City Hall steps, joining a vigil memorializing the assassinations, and commemorating its first public appearance.

On Monday, a more joyous note will be struck. The chorus is celebrating its 30th anniversary at Davies Symphony Hall in a show with full orchestra and a roster of guest stars.

"A lot of things were happening in 1978," says Teddy Witherington, the chorus' executive director. "It was the year that the rainbow flag first appeared during the pride parade. The Gay/Lesbian Freedom Band had formed. The chorus formed, Theatre Rhinoceros formed - lots of things were popping in the community."

Now, thanks to the battle over gay marriage, things are popping again, and the chorus is still around to fulfill its role. "When people think about all these events that have happened in recent history, the chorus has always been there to help people get through the times, whether it's celebration, protest, anguish or joy," Witherington says.

Each of those emotions is likely to be on display at the anniversary show, which is a joint project with three AIDS service organizations: the Positive Resource Center, Under One Roof and Meals of Marin. Adding glitter are three stars of stage and screen: Jennifer Holliday, Kim Kuzma and Piper Laurie. The centerpiece of the event will be the world premiere of a suite the chorus commissioned from Steve Schalchlin called "New World Waking - Songs on the Road to Peace." Strangely enough, it's a piece that developed thanks to a piano owned by John Lennon.

Specifically, it was the piano Lennon used to compose "Imagine." The upright Steinway, complete with the ex-Beatle's cigarette burns, is now owned by pop singer George Michael and his partner, Kenny Goss. For a photo project, the pair had been transporting the piano to places where acts of violence had occurred, Witherington says.

One of the places was the Olympia, Wash., home of Alec and Gabi Clayton, whose son, Bill, committed suicide after suffering a gay-bashing attack in 1995. Schalchlin wrote a song dedicated to Bill called "Will It Always Be Like This?," so he was invited by the Claytons to play the Lennon piano at their home. What came out that day were the beginnings of "New World Waking," which Monday will start with "Will It Always Be Like This?," then progress through three parts: "Violence at Home," "Violence in the World" and "Awakening Suite."

Guests at the concert

The Claytons will be in the audience for Monday's show, as will a couple whose story is told in another Schalchlin piece from "New World Waking" - "William's Song." William was getting beaten up at his school in Fayettville, Ark., and when his mother, Carolyn Wagner, could not get officials to act, she sued the school and won, leading to an adjustment to Title IX law that forbids harassment of gay and lesbian students.

"Carolyn and her husband, Bill, are flying in from Arkansas to be at the concert," Witherington says. "Chorus members have all thrown in to make their travel possible, donating air miles and money so they can be here and share that moment with everyone."

The chorus members are used to pitching in like that. It's a skill they tapped in the '80s and '90s to sustain each other while HIV was devastating their ranks. More than 250 chorus members died of AIDS. Yet the chorus stuck together, and even thrived. Hiring Kathleen McGuire, who had mounted productions at Lyric Theater Opera in Boulder, Colo., as artistic director in 2000 brought new credibility. Under the leadership of Witherington, who came aboard two years ago after running the Gay Pride Parade, the chorus has expanded its roster of commissioned pieces. Witherington says he got hooked on the chorus while witnessing a rehearsal the night Matthew Shepard was murdered in a hate crime attack in 1998.

"They sang, as they do on occasions, the Irish Blessing, and it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Everything just came together and I said to myself, yes, this is why I do what I do."

At Monday's show - occurring on World AIDS Day - the Davies stage, plus the terrace behind it, will be filled with 170 choristers, backed by the 50-strong Community Women's Orchestra. McGuire will conduct both outfits in "New World Waking" plus several other commissioned songs the chorus has been performing during its 30th anniversary season. The chorus also will sing several of the holiday selections it will reprise during its annual Home for the Holidays concert at the Castro Theatre on Dec. 24.

The guest stars will be doing their part, too. Laurie, perhaps best known for playing the crazy mother in the 1976 film "Carrie," will deliver a tribute to World AIDS Day, and narrate sections of "New World Waking." Kuzma, the best-selling Canadian artist who's crooned with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus on a couple of occasions, will sing "Guardian Angels," a tune written by Harpo Marx and now dedicated to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Showstopper

Holliday, Grammy Award-winning star of "Dreamgirls" on Broadway, will sing her showstopper from that play, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," and will bring "New World Waking" to a rousing close, leading the chorus in the gospel-infused number "My Rising Up."

Friday night's commemoration at City Hall was a more somber affair, with a candlelight vigil and march up Market Street and through the Castro District to the location of Milk's old camera shop. Participants were reminded of the horrific circumstances that led to the chorus' first public appearance, but also of the hope and promise that allowed Milk to be elected and the chorus to form in the first place.

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus: 30th anniversary concert on World AIDS Day with Jennifer Holliday, Kim Kuzma and Piper Laurie. 7 p.m. Monday. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Tickets $20-$100. Call (415) 865-2787 or go towww.sfgmc.org.

To hear samples of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, go to www.sfgmc.org.

E-mail David Rubien at drubien@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Harvey Milk Remembrance to Feature "My Thanksgiving Prayer"

Today, in San Francisco, there will be a memorial to Harvey Milk, and the SF Gay Men's Chorus is going to sing one of my songs, "My Thanksgiving Prayer." Nothing could make me feel more proud and humbled all at the same time.

For those who don't really know who Harvey Milk is, go to Jim Burroway's superb recounting of the moments leading to his assassination posted at Box Turtle Bulletin. And if you are anywhere near where the movie MILK is being shown, go see it as soon as you can. It's the best film I've seen all year.

As he recounts,

Thirty years ago today, on November 27, 1978, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.

What Jim didn't mention is that this was the first public appearance by the first gay chorus in the world. For me, the fact that they're going to sing one of my songs on this historic occasion means I get to play just a little part in gay history.

Back then, Harvey was fighting against a proposition that would have started a witch hunt in the public school system to get rid of anyone who is or might be gay. Backed by the loathsome words of Anita Bryant, who compared us to dogs and insisted that we would be the downfall of civilization, it's amazing to be at this moment in history where, once again, the conservative religious forces used the same demeaning tactics to strip away our civil right to be married.

So, things don't change. Only the faces change. The heated hate-filled language continues, except this time it was powered by a 20 million dollar campaign by the Mormons, aided and abetted by even more millions donated by groups led by James Dobson, the Catholic Church and other misguided souls. And, once again, the campaign was filled with lies and hateful rhetoric.

30 years ago, Harvey Milk was killed because he refused to stand down when he insisted that gay people are human beings who deserve to be treated as equals. He refused to stay in the closet and he demanded that all gay people "come out, come out wherever you are."

In his memory and his name, I hope every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person will come out to their family, workmates and friends this weekend. Make that call. Stand your ground. Let them know that "the gays" are not some mob "out there in San Francisco making trouble."

Unless and until every GLBT person comes out fully and openly, our chances of being accepted as human beings will fall just a little short.

Come out! Come out now. Come out today.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire: A Great Adventure/Romance.


If you're looking for great movies to see over the holiday weekend, please do not miss SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which, alongside MILK, stands heads and shoulders above anything I've seen all year long.

The sheer scale and scope of Slumdog is staggering, especially for a smaller budget indie film which almost didn't get released until it started winning audience favorite awards at the film festivals -- and has now debuted to universally great praise. If it's not nominated for and Oscar for Best Movie, it not be because it doesn't deserve it.

The story, which takes place in India, but which is spoken mostly in English, is about a boy from the slums of India who is one question away from winning the top award on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." At the beginning of the movie, he gets arrested by the police and tortured to confess that somehow he's cheated the system.

But, see, as we learn about the boy and his life (through an ingenious plot device I won't reveal), it becomes apparent that there's nothing you can do to this kid worse than what he's already lived through.

And thus we are plunged into a world that is weirdly similar to the one Americans live in, and yet wholly foreign. A parallel universe that's alternately horrifying -- think modern day Oliver Twist with a horrendous man who uses and abuses children to make money -- and hilarious, such as the Indian phone bank school where everyone takes lessons to learn how to pretend they don't live in India.

At its heart, though, this is a love story and if you have even an inch of romance inside of you, you will, like me, be streaming tears. Does it have a happy ending? Well, I said it was a romance. But I am not going to tell you how it ends. And even if I did, it wouldn't take one single thing away from how it all works out.

Lastly, I've always been a sucker for movies that feature people who come from nowhere, who have to endure great hardship. They're so much more interesting that these endless TV shows featuring rich people whose biggest problem is whether to have the maid clean the ashtrays or do it themselves.

Bring your Kleenexes and do NOT let this movie pass by. Moviemaking and movie watching -- it doesn't get better than this.

My Thanksgiving Prayer

In this time of my thanksgiving as my song begins to rise.
Listen to the prayer within me. Look into my grateful eyes.

May I humbly stand before you, as I reach out with my hand.
May the music bring a healing to this cold and troubled land.

As I face the burnished off'rings to the gods of pow'r and fear,
Make of me a living off'ring. Let me be your servant here.

Give us grace to face the struggle which the world yet holds in store.
Walk beside us ever loving; grant us peace for evermore.


"My Thanksgiving Prayer"
Lyrics by Rev. Peter J. Carman
Music by Steve Schalchlin

"Steve, Can We Sing Songs From 'New World Waking'?"

Q: Can I sing songs from "New World Waking" and do I need an orchestra and 200 voice chorus in order to do so?
A: Yes, you can sing these songs. They were written so that people could sing them. No, you don't need a chorus and orchestra. The songs are very simple and can be sung solo or by smaller groups, and they sound just fine with only a piano or guitar accompaniment.
Q: How do I get copies?
A: The SF Gay Men's Chorus intends to have the live recording ready by Christmas, believe it or not. They will make a recording that night, and then mix it, master it and package it in time for the holidays. How's THAT for instant gratification?
Q: But what about sheet music? Where do I get that?
A: After we have the recording and Kathleen has finalized all the score, we will submit it for publishing so that it can be available to high schools, universities, church choirs and civic choruses. If we don't find a publisher interested, then I'll hit the Xerox machine and make copies myself. 

And that goes for people who just want individual pieces of sheet music. I've written out basic piano/vocal charts for each of the songs. And I've recorded demos of all the songs for people who can't read music. 
Q: Are they difficult to learn? Do I have to have an opera voice?
A: Don't let the symphony hall fool you. These are folk songs at heart, meaning songs intended to be sung by folks. Some of them sound better when sung by a rich, trained voice. Some sound best when sung very simply. For some, you might need some rock and roll chops. For others, some Gospel or jazz chops. But, for me, as long as you sing each song with meaning and heart, you can't go wrong. 
I've always loved simplicity.
Q: Do I/we have to sing the whole thing?
A: Nope. Each song stands on its own and tells its own unique story. New World Waking is like a collage or, as I was describing to someone else, an art gallery, where each painting stands on its own, but, collectively forms a larger statement. NWW is not a narrative, and yet, somehow, each of the songs relates to the other, and by the end, if it works, the listener will be carried along by a flow of emotions that will, hopefully, at its best, help them understand the effects of violence, and encourage them to become a part of the solution.
I hope someday you'll join us.
Frankly, though, I'd be just as happy if the listener just enjoys the singing and the music. For all the "messages" that might be in the piece, we've also packed in some great entertainment. 

So, one way or the other, whether we find a publisher or not, I'm going to be performing the songs myself wherever I'm invited to do so, and I want other people to perform them too. 

A song means nothing if it's just sitting on a piece of paper gathering dust.

Stay tuned and as soon as I know what the plan is, I'll let you know. 

Meanwhile, have a great Thanksgiving.

Wait. "Broadway Gospel Musical King?"

You know, sometimes you read things about yourself and you just go, HUH? But, hey, as they say, the only thing worse than being talked about in show business is not being talked about. The San Francisco Guardian did a blurb about our concert on their events page and this is what they said:

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

Remember AIDS? That insidious disease may have been pushed off the homepage of late, but it's certainly still raging. Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day — and the super-talented, penguin-suited songbirds of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, on that seminal organization's 30th birthday, have a whole lot of dazzling gospel going on to remind us of that fact. Joining the chorus to clap her hands and say "Yeah!" will be the gayest dreamgirl of them all, Jennifer Holliday, and she is telling you to just try not getting inspirational tingles as she and the singers perform Broadway gospel musical king Steve Schalchlin's specially commissioned, John Lennon-inspired three-suite composition, "New World Waking! Songs on the Road to Peace." Also in attendance to present Schalchlin's new work will be actress Piper Laurie, though probably not hysterically brandishing a crucifix. (Marke B.)

(My bolding). Broadway gospel musical king?? Fine! Who knew? Did Broadway? Doesn't matter. It's in print. Must be true!

Oh, and that last reference to Piper Laurie "probably not hysterically brandishing a crucifix" is, of course, a reference to her role as the mother of "Carrie" in the movie adaptation of Stephen King's "Carrie."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bay Area Reporter on "'New World Waking!"


Just posted: A terrific article by Richard Dodds in the Bay Area Reporter on New World Waking! When we did the interview I wasn't sure I was making any sense at all. It was my first time to discuss the piece and I felt completely inarticulate. But, happily, Richard managed to make sense of my ramblings and actually made me sound like I knew what the hell I was talking about.

Go to the website, but just in case it doesn't stay on the website forever, I'm copying it here.

Music as an alternative to violence

'New World Waking' premieres in a
World AIDS Day concert

Published 11/27/2008


Steven Schalchlin sitting at John Lennon's piano, with a picture of Bill Clayton, who inspired one of the songs in New World Waking. Photo: Caroline True




Somehow, it was the cigarette burns on the piano that made it real for him. Steve Schalchlin was sitting at the piano at which John Lennon had written "Imagine," but the context – a suburban front-yard in Washington State – didn't conjure up the historical import of the instrument. But the cigarette burns were physical evidence that Lennon's fingers once touched these keys. It was also this moment that clarified for Schalchlin what he had been working on for the past few years.

"The way I work is to start writing songs, and at some point they come together and make sense to me," Schalchlin recently said from his home in Los Angeles. "Not only was I writing songs for this piece not knowing where it was going to be done, I wrote it before I even knew what it was going to be."

But with a clarity brought about by his experience at Lennon's piano, trucked to the home of a mother and father whose teenage son had committed suicide after a gay-bashing, Schalchlin could envision a structure and a connecting message among the songs. Before long, he had a sponsor in the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, a title, and an engagement at Davies Symphony Hall.

New World Waking, with music and most lyrics by Schalchlin, will have its world premiere on Dec. 1 as part of a World AIDS Day concert that also marks the chorus' 30th anniversary. Veteran actress Piper Laurie, a personal friend of Schalchlin, will provide narration during one of the musical sections, while Jennifer Holliday will join the chorus during "My Rising Up," the pull-out-the-stops finale.

"When I heard that the chorus had gotten Jennifer, I was jumping through the roof," Schalchlin said. "We're going to tear the place apart. It will be like Hurricane Jennifer hit the building."

"My Rising Up" is written in a southern gospel style, the kind of music Schalchlin heard growing up as a Missionary Baptist in Texas. Later he became a member of Top 40 bands before becoming a piano-bar performer and the co-author of the musicals The Last Session and Big Voice: God or Merman?. The musical styles of the dozen or so songs in the 45-minute piece represent his diverse background: pop, rock, folk, jazz and doo-wop. But the concluding section definitely favors a gospel flavor, "because that's the sort of inspirational sound that choruses sound so great doing."

The SF Gay Men's Chorus in
Davies Symphony Hall.
And it also helps convey the political, social, and spiritual message of the overall piece. New World Rising comes with a manifesto that notes that religion and politics are failing to provide role models of peace, before stating that "music can cross all boundaries, all customs, all languages, and all creeds."

Schalchlin said he "walked a very delicate line" in trying to make the songs resonate whatever the faith a listener may hold. "I made a very specific decision that each of the songs, whether or not it had a religious connotation, could be heard with equal meaningfulness whatever one believed, secular or otherwise."

The three sections that make up New World Waking are subtitled "Violence at Home," "Violence in the World," and "Awakening Suite." Religious or not, many of the songs do touch on subjects involving violence and discrimination directed toward the LGBT community.

The opening song, following a prologue, is titled, "Will It Always Be Like This?," and it was a song that Schalchlin performed at John Lennon's piano in the front yard of Alec and Gabi Clayton's home in Olympia, Wash. Their son's suicide, and their reaction to the tragedy, inspired the song. A happier ending comes in "William's Song," based on the successful efforts by Carolyn Wagner to protect her son from officially tolerated homophobic harassment in high school.

On several songs, Schalchlin turned to outside lyricists. Music historian Paul Zollo provided the lyrics for "Brilliant Masquerade," a song about the famed jazz musician Billy Tipton, who was not revealed to have been a biological female until his death. Peter J. Carman, pastor at the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester, NY, provided the lyrics for several songs, including the AIDS-related "Lazarus Come Out."

That song gives thanks for friends and caregivers who have helped HIV-positive people, an issue that has long been a focal part of Schalchlin's life. He began the long-running online diary Living in the Bonus Round in 1996 to chronicle for friends and relatives what he thought were to be his final days. Now, instead of his own illness, Schalchlin is likely to be writing about his musical projects as well as health and political issues that face the queer community at large.

Guest star Jennifer Holliday.

His personal experiences with AIDS also provided the basis for The Last Session, a 1997 musical written with creative and personal partner Jim Brochu about a dying musician's efforts to record a final song before taking his own life. Following a New York run, the musical has been staged by numerous theaters, including the New Conservatory Theatre Center in 2001. Schalchlin and Brochu themselves brought their autobiographical musical Big Voice to NCTC in 2007. A member of the audience one night happened to be Dr. Kathleen McGuire, artistic director of the SF Gay Men's Chorus, and later Schalchlin told her about a piece he was creating.

"So we sat down in a little room with a little broken-down piano," Schalchlin said. "It was kind of like doing an old Tin Pan Alley audition."

McGuire quickly gave Schalchlin the green light to proceed, and she has written the arrangements for the 200-plus-member chorus and orchestrations for the accompanying Community Women's Orchestra. The evening will also include a collection of holiday songs, a performance of Kim Kuzma's new single "Guardian Angels," and an encore appearance by Jennifer Holliday singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."

Schalchlin is expecting New World Waking to have a life beyond its Dec. 1 premiere. That performance will be recorded for a live CD, and he's already heard from other choruses interested in the project. "All the songs can be lifted, so other choruses can perform them collectively or individually," he said. "I'm looking forward to spreading it around."

And he doesn't see the material as necessarily restricted to gay audiences. "We have witnessed the events through our eyes, and we propose that music can be an alternative to violence," Schalchlin said. "To me, this is a message from one gay man and one gay chorus to the world."

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus 30th anniversary concert will take place at 7 p.m., Dec. 1 at Davies Symphony Hall. Tickets are $20-$100. Call 865-2787 or go to www.sfgmc.org.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From A Member of the Chorus...

On his blog, Rey says this about New World Waking!

I cannot tell you how much heart and soul that we have poured into this event, and you really have to be there to experience the emotions from the sounds, music and words. When I first heard and sang some of the songs we will be performing, I literally cried, not out of sadness, but out of sheer joy and touching emotion. The works are beautiful, fun, emotive, and life-changing.

I honestly, hope you can join me on Dec 1 for this unique event. With all of the hatred in our world these days, especially against homosexuals as we saw with the passage of Prop 8, this concert is a spiritual reminder for our community that we can and will rise up. I guarantee you will be moved.

With love and light,
Rey

Breakfast with Ernie & Steve.

I've talked a lot about my friend, Ernie, but I've never put him on youtube. We usually try to have breakfast together about once a week. So this past week, I grabbed the camera and, over a Mexican breakfast, told him to interview me about the upcoming New World Waking! Since Ernie laughs at all my jokes, I told him we'd have to do this more often.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Backstage with Ed Asner & Monty Hall.

Jim & I appear at a benefit fundraiser for the West Coast Jewish Theatre. Backstage, some jokes start flying around with Ed Asner and Monty Hall. I also took some footage of the performances. Jim & I were the headliners.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why "Twilight" is BAD for girls but GREAT for guys.

I just finished reading the first book in the "Twilight" series. I can summarize it easily:

Girl moves to new town.
Meets vampire boy.
Describes (endlessly) how beautiful vampire boy is.
The end.

So, as a reading experience, I found its crimson prose to be dull and obvious. However, given its sensational popular amongst young teen girls, it provides a valuable insight into the emotional, romantic and sexual fantasies of estrogen-based life forms (and that's not a put-down; I'm just stating a fact).

So, if "Twilight" is an accurate mirror, girls wants a guy who:
1. ...at first eye contact, forgets that he ever knew or met another living female. His life didn't START until he sees her.

2. ...a guy who is a loner, doesn't hang with the locker room crowd and has no friends... until he sees her.

3. ...has great breath. (This was one feature of the book that mystified me. She had to mention that he has great breath? Fascinating. A dead person with great breath.)

4. ...is the strongest human alive and could kill anyone, but he has the heart of Jesus and can't kill a fly, and if he does get out of hand, only she can talk him down.

5. ...will pledge to protect her eternally and be there for her, night or day.

6. ...will refuse to have sex with her because his passion for her is so great, it might kill her.

7. ...has infinite patience and complete understanding of estrogen-based mood swings. In fact, the crazier she gets, the more he loves her.

8. ...has the maturity of a man of 100 but is cute and naive, and shy.

9. ...has biceps and muscles of hard statuesque stone.

10. ...can't stop talking about how alive he is now that he's met her.
So, how is this bad for girls? Because it gives teen boys a roadmap into how to seduce teen girls. How? By imitating the above fantasy traits.

Let's see.

Stare directly into her eyes. Let her make the first moves. Keep your mouth shut. When she's completely insane, just smile and say you understand and love her anyway.

What else? Go to the gym. Don't join a sport. Don't joke with your male friends. Don't date any other girls until you've met "her."

Work out.

Oh, and take breath mints everywhere.

See how easy that is?

Friday, November 21, 2008

New World Waking! Press Release

MEDIA STATEMENT 11.21.08
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New World Waking

- World’s First Gay Chorus Connects With Its Roots In Landmark 30th Anniversary Concert

San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the first chorus with the word “gay” in its name, takes center-stage at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall on December 1, in celebration of its thirtieth anniversary and to mark World AIDS Day. Setting a high-water mark for the gay choral movement, award-winning Broadway composer, Steve Schalchlin, has written New World Waking! Songs on the road to peace - inspired by John Lennon’s Piano especially for the occasion. Artistic Director and Conductor, Dr. Kathleen McGuire, says: New World Waking! is truly a piece for our time and captures, in music, stories of incredible power, pathos and hope.”

In thirteen emotional, genre-transcending songs, New World Waking! explores violence in our community and in the world and celebrates the individuals who stand up to it and change the world in the process. New World Waking! The Community Women’s Orchestra provides full accompaniment. Two songs tell the true stories of ordinary mothers who fought against the homophobia their gay sons faced and both women will be in attendance on December 1st. McGuire explains: “The chorus was so moved by the stories that they clubbed together and have donated their own money and air miles to make this happen. This spiritual connection to the incredible music and the stories is something we invite you to share with us. New World Waking! tells us that, in the face of hatred and adversity, one person truly can make a difference.” Grammy award-winning guest star, Jennifer Holliday will join the chorus to sing the suite’s rousing finale, “My Rising Up.”

A special arrangement of “Guardian Angels” sung with Kim Kuzma and dedicated to the caretakers of those who struggle with HIV is the centerpiece of a tribute, introduced by three-time Academy Award nominee Piper Laurie, to those lost to the AIDS pandemic. The concert concludes with an upbeat selection of holiday music, reflecting the diverse traditions of the Bay Area.

Tickets for the 30th Anniversary Concert start at $20 and are available from the community box office at the LGBT Community Center (1800 Market), by phone at (415) 865-2787, or online atwww.sfgmc.org. A portion of all proceeds will assist HIV/AIDS charities Under One Roof, Meals of Marin, and the Positive Resource Center.

McGuire concludes: For thirty years the Chorus has sung for you. We invite you to join us on December 1, and we hope that when you listen to the chorus it awakens the beautiful voice in your heart.”

New World Waking! CD plus other news updates.

1. Yes, these will be a CD. The chorus is going to issue a double-disc 30th anniversary CD featuring selections from the entire year of chorus concerts. One of those discs will be New World Waking!

2. Yes, there will be a "composer chat" on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall from 6:25 to 6:45 where I will be at the piano talking about the making of New World Waking!

3. Yes, Piper Laurie will have a part of New World Waking! No, she doesn't sing, but luckily I wrote some text in the middle of one of the movements. She'll be handling that.

4. Yes, they're calling each song a "movement." (I love that!)

5. Yes, the lyrics from the full piece will be reproduced in the program that night.

6. Yes, it's a week from Monday.

7. Yes, I'm so excited I can barely contain myself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Amancio's Theme.

This is a theme I have written and dedicated to Amancio. It's actually the second movement of a piano piece still in progress.



But I was approached by documentary filmmaker Tom Murray about writing a theme for what was then called the Amancio Project, about a transgender performer who was killed in Yuma, Arizona, I couldn't get this theme out of my head. So I went to a website filled with pictures of Amancio and cut them together with my piano theme.

I don't know whether they'll actually use this for their film, but on this day, which many people have set aside for remembering transgender people who've been victims of violence, I thought it was appropriate.

You'll notice in the video I have not captioned anything. It's just music and images. But I'll tell you that there is a small portion of video of a very peaceful water basin -- a run-off from the farms. That's the place they found Amancio's body.

The flim is now called "Amancio, Two Faces on a Stone." And it's the story of how one elderly gay man found the story of Amancio's murder casually mentioned in the paper, and who taught himself the Internet, set up a webpage, connected with the mother, who didn't speak English, and then became responsible for the capture of the killer, the community aspects of the Internet making something happen not possible in an earlier era.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Health Resources from the FTC.

Hi, Steve –


I work for the Federal Trade Commission. I’ve noticed you that you cover a lot of ground – including health topics – in Living in the Bonus Round, and I wanted to let you know about a new booklet and website – announced just this morning – that you and your readers may find informative and helpful.

Who Cares: Sources of Information About Health Care Products and Services is a resource guide from the Federal Trade Commission that points older consumers and their caregivers, family, and friends to reliable sources of information on a variety of health topics, including alternative treatments, generic drugs, hiring caregivers, hormone therapies, and medical ID theft. For more information, check out our news release at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/11/whocares.shtm.

As mentioned in the news release, you can read Who Cares online at ftc.gov/whocares. All of the information in the booklet is in the public domain, so it can be adapted, reprinted, shared, and linked to freely. And in the Partner Resources section on the website – ftc.gov/whocares – you’ll find buttons you can grab for your own site. We hope that you’ll help us get this information to people who might need it.


Consider it done.

Prologue - From Dream to Reality.

This video begins with me singing the "Prologue" from New World Waking! at Kulak's Woodshed. Then it morphs into a rehearsal of the same song, as arranged by Dr. Kathleen C. McGuire, by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. This was one of their first rehearsals and the soloist, Dan O'Leary, is doing it for the first time with the chorus. But you can see how majestic this is going to sound, especially after they add the symphony orchestra.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Love My Big Cat.



What Minority Groups Have To Say About Prop 8

According to AP:
Five civil rights groups asked California’s highest court Friday to annul the ban on the grounds that Proposition 8 threatens the legal standing of all minority groups, not just gays.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and two other groups petitioned the state Supreme Court to prevent the change from taking effect. [PDF - 28 pages; links to all Proposition 8 documents here.]

The petition is the fourth seeking to have the measure invalidated. But it’s the first to argue that the court should step in because the gay marriage ban, which overturned the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay unions, sets a precedent that could be used to undermine the rights of racial minorities.

Stepping in for Hal Linden.

Ed Asner, Jim BrochuEd Asner killing Jim Brochu.

Phone rings. Jim picks it up.

It's Herb Isaacs of the West Coast Jewish Theatre. We were planning to attend their fundraiser tonight, a show featuring several performers. Hal Linden was the headliner.

"Hal can't go on tonight. He's got a kidney stone. Can you go on? Maybe sing 'If I Were A Rich Man?'"

Jim hasn't sung it in awhile. But, how often do you get asked to go on for Hal Linden? (Is this a new marker of our "fame?" That we can substitute for celebrities Hal Linden or below?)

He asked, "Who's the musical director?"

"Gerry Sternbach."

"I'll do it."

Gerald Sternbach is one of the best musician / musical directors / musical minds in Los Angeles. He's a brilliant pianist and a terrific arranger and musical director. Getting to work with him is a privilege. Seriously.

Then Herb asked, "What else can you do?"

He needed to fill more time. He needed 20 minutes. So, they decided he'd also do "Sunrise, Sunset."

"What else?"

Jim said, "Well, if you really want to bring down the house, have Steve sing 'My Thanksgiving Prayer.'"

There was a little hesitation. Then I hear Jim repeating the question he just heard, "Will it work for a Jewish audience? Of course it will work for a Jewish audience! It's Thanksgiving! It says thanks."

Herb wasn't sure. I don't think he knows me yet as a performer. And I don't blame him. A good producer never puts on someone without knowing what he's getting.

He said, "Well, can you do something from Big Voice?'"

(The show about a Baptist and a Catholic. That sent both of us over. Thanksgiving he wasn't sure was Jewish enough, but songs about the Pope would be?)

Jim laughed out loud, "Herb!"

Finally it was decided that I would sing "My Thanksgiving Prayer." Luckly, I've been rehearsing all week over at Michael's apartment (with Jake Wesley Stewart, who's going to be joining me Tuesday night at Cafe Bellissimo, BTW, on that very song. And I seem to have a lot of people showing up for Italian food and Steve songs, too! Very cool! Who knew I had fans?).

So, we drive up from the Valley to the University of Judaism, where I've sung twice before for AIDS education concerts. It's up off the 405, Mulholland.

What we notice, though, getting up higher in the hills was the smell of smoke. Fires in Chino and Symar have laid a clowd of smoke over our little San Fernando Valley. Jim was coughing just taking in a breath. The acrid taste filled my mouth and nose. I thought about my friends, Ernie and Chris having lost their apartment to fire. I don't like fire.

Inside, though, it was better. The large auditorium had a curtain on the stage. Behind the curtain was a table set up with sandwiches. And who do we walk into?

Ed Asner, Monty Hall, songwriter Marty Panzer and there's Gerald Sternbach, who is just a good looking man. That's all I'm gonna say. He's a cuddly daddy bear. And hot.

Gerald SternbachGerald Sternbach

Ed Asner, Steve SchalchlinEd Asner talks to me.

Steve with Mary Panzer


Actor, Herb Isaacs, Ed Asner, Jim BrochuActor, Herb Isaacs, Ed Asner, Jim Brochu

Jim Brochu, Monty Hall, Steve SchalchlinJim Brochu, Monty Hall, Steve Schalchlin

Steve Schalchlin, Herb Isaacs, Ed AsnerSteve Schalchlin, Herb Isaacs, Ed Asner.

There was also a singer there named Jake Simpson. He's the one who won on "Star Search," and then when he sang on Oprah, they brought out Stevie Wonder behind him and suprised him. And all I can say is, wow, can this guy sing.

So now comes Jim's big moment. We're all kinda sittin' around telling jokes and stories, when Ed says something -- and Jim looks at him and says:

"You got spunk."

Ed laughed out loud, responded with something hilariously vulgar and I knew this was going to be a great night.

The show started. Monty Hall was the emcee. First he brought out an Israeli singer. Beautiful woman. Lovely voice.

Then, Marty Panzer told his stories about working with Barry Manilow (and then Jake would sing the song). "Even Now" he totally killed. Amazing voice this guy. And he plays piano, too!

That was followed by Ed and this actor friend of his whose name I will chase down, doing a scene from a play about the Jewish composer.

That was my cue. After my great introduction -- Awards! Nominations! -- I told the audience about New World Waking! and how much the theatre appreciates its donors and supporters. And then I sang "My Thanksgiving Prayer."

Jimmy followed as the headliner -- and this is where Gerry Sternbach is so great. "If I Were A Rich Man" is an acting scene as much as it is a song. So the tempo varies, and Jim always invests himself fully in the moment. But no matter how he might cut time, speed up, slow down or pause, Gerry was right there on top as if they had been doing all their lives together.

I did shoot video, so I'll start editing that soon. But what a wonderful unexpected night!

We have spunk!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Playbill Announcement of NWW

In today's Playbill:

Milk, A Movie For Our Times.

Coming right when we needed it -- though I would have loved to have seen it released before the election -- comes a movie that remembers what it used to be like for gay people. It's called MILK and if you are at all interested in seeing how a single person can change the course of history, go.

The film opens with a series of scenes of documentary footage of gay bars getting raided by police. If you were gay or if you hung out with gay people, in the Police State that America can be when it decides "your" people are not wanted, we see normal folks being herded into police wagons.

And why were they being herded into police wagons? Because they were gay.

I remember when we visited the oldest gay bar in New York City. The patrons back then were required to face the wall while drinking because eye contact meant jail time.

This is what our lives used to be like. And it was done everywhere. In San Francisco, when election time rolled around, the police would back the trucks up to every gay bar, force everyone into the paddy wagon and destroy their lives forever. Why? So the local pols could get "credit" for wiping out "vice."

That was the world we lived in.

Then this guy named Harvey Milk came along. He was one of the sweetest persons you could know. And Sean Penn miraculously manages to capture this steely sweetness in one of the most accurate and low key performances I've ever witnessed.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay public official ever elected to a public office -- City Supervisor 5th District of San Francisco -- and for that he was assassinated by a jealous fellow Supervisor who was given a light sentence for this murder (provoking a riot in response), but who subsequently committed suicide.

What was most interesting to me about Gus Van Sant's miraculous movie was not merely the fact that it was perfectly made and acted, filled to brim with stars: Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Lucas Grabeel, and so many others.

No, the miracle was how closely this movie parallels exactly what's going on now in the world of politics as, 30 years later, we are still fighting for basic human rights.

Back then, a particularly hideous man named Briggs created something called "Prop 6" which was designed to force the firing of any teacher who was gay. Back then, we had Anita Bryant running around telling everyone about how "evil" gay people are, and that "God" is deeply disturbed by our very presence.

The self-righteous leading the self-important.

But back then, Prop 6 was defeated. In our current day, Prop 8 was passed.

See, here in California we had the right to marry. But Prop 8 stripped us of that right by public vote. Since when are human rights subject to a vote?

Back then, all the establishment gays said to Harvey, "Don't protest! Don't put the faces of gay people into the ad campaigns! You'll just upset the straight people who don't like us!"

Harvey's response was, "COME OUT! COME OUT! WHEREVER YOU ARE! Get into the streets! Show them who we are! If they can't see us, they don't know us!"

But the leaders against Prop 8 in our time were just like the old establishment figures of then. The ad campaign here in California curiously pictured NO GAY PEOPLE. NO GAY COUPLES.

It was as if our own leadership were ashamed of us. Instead, we got these phony-looking treacly ads with crappy music featuring straight people looking and sounding like they were selling Medicare supplement insurance.

Funny how things never change.

Even now, as gay people are marching once again out of righteous fury at being stripped of our rights, we have people demanding that we sit down, get quiet, shut up and don't disturb the waters. We are being told, "You'll upset people. You'll make enemies."

Harvey Milk would have laughed first, then pulled out his bullhorn and cried, "MARCH! Get into the streets! Let them see you!"

I was astonished, while watching this movie, how every single argument they were having back then is being echoed right at us today.

On Saturday, I'm going to be marching down at City Hall. It will be a peaceful march. And I'm going to be doing it because Harvey Milk, who was killed 30 years ago for daring to not hide in the closet, daring to not care what the "establishment gays" had to say, for daring not to pretend that this isn't about our lives, for daring to be a proud, out, openly gay man, said it best, "Come out. Come out. Wherever you are.

As I watched this movie, I felt this low level of anger and fury building up inside of me. And I realized that things never change unless each and every person, gay, lesbian or straight, bi or trans, black, white, brown, Asian -- unless all of us come together as human beings and get in the face of the powers of bigotry and demand to be treated equally.

Human rights were never gained without cost. Harvey Milk was killed for nothing more than refusing to hide, refusing to pretend, refusing to be anything except the compassionate and warm GAY MAN that he was.

And he took it to the streets. Without apology and without shame.

We march for you, Harvey and we march for our lives. Because if they can strip us of the very basic human right to marry, they can strip us of every other right, including the right to exist.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Big Voice Plays Allentown, PA This Week


If you're anywhere near Allentown, PA this week, please visit the Rainbow Players production of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" starring Dean Hiatt and Jim Lamb will play three performances only.

They are super guys. I met them when we were in Philadelphia. Cute, too!

Morning Smile.

Just to bring you a big smile: Hamster on a piano.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Get Devin's CD (with Steve songs!).


Go NOW to Devin Richards site and get his new CD. He sings "I Want To Make Music" from The Big Voice: God or Merman? and a new song, done comedically, called "Lovers In Disguise" with lyrics by Amy Lynn Shapiro.

Pill Panic & Community.

Call it Pill Panic.

It's the sinking feeling bordering on full scale panic you get when you can't find your HIV meds. Sometimes it happens on a trip. Sometimes it happens on the way to the airport -- like wondering if you forgot to turn off the oven.

But from the beginning, we who take these meds have been told that if you miss a day or take them irregularly, the virus will evolve and the pills will become ineffective.

So, we live in a world of clocks and time zone changes and making sure we remember to call the pharmacy at precisely the right day each month to make sure next month's pills arrive in a timely manner so that the supply chain is not interrupted.

One of the many pills that I take during the course of the day is one called Atripla. Atripla is a combination of three HIV medications, the "cocktail" as they've been dubbed. Ever since I've been taking HIV meds -- 12? 13 years? -- I've been absolutely compliant, almost never missing a dose. Being three pills in one, it's very expensive.

And each month, I refill my pill tray -- seven days a week, four slots a day -- I'm very meticulous about emptying the past month's pills into the tray and replacing the old bottle with the new bottle.

I don't put a list in front of me. I just have old bottles/new bottles, and if I have an empty bottle from the old and no corresponding new bottle in the "new," then I know the pharm made a mistake and I correct it. No problem.

Then, the next week when I'm using all new pill bottles, I just refill them into the right slots and I know I have all my pills.

This method has worked perfectly for all the years I've been taking pills. As for each individual slot in the tray, I kinda can tell when or if something is missing, even if it's jam-packed.

So, I was three days into this new tray when I suddenly had this feeling that the bottom slot didn't feel "right." Something was missing.

In fact, I wasn't even looking at it when it hit me. I was on the couch with the TV on or something, and suddenly the image of that tray slot came to me and I realized it was missing my Atripla.

I popped up and ran to the tray. I was right. No Atripla.

So, I grabbed my big bag o' pills and pulled each bottle out one by one.

No Atripla.

How can this be? It's the beginning of the month. I searched back in my memory and definitely recalled taking two pills from last month's Atripla and placing them on top of the new ones in the new bottle (so I could throw the old bottle away).

That HAD to be there.

Nothing.

Pill Panic.

How many days have I gone now without my HIV med? I looked at the tray. Three days in. No! I've never missed more than one dose in a row. And now a whole month?

What did I do? Throw them out with the old bottles?

I looked on every shelf, sorted through every bottle of everything. (Aspirins from when??).

Nothing.
REALITY CHECK:
At this point in the process, I took a deep breath. Since the early days of HIV therapy, some people have been known to take what they call a "drug holiday" -- where they go a number of days or weeks in a row of non-med taking (for whatever reason, side effects, etc.) -- and the meds work perfectly well when they resume.

So, I calmed myself down and decided to just let fate happen as it will happen. If I can't get any, then we'll call it a drug holiday and cross our fingers. Still, I'd rather not disturb the waters. I want to stay compliant.
I called the pharmacy. They said they definitely shipped it to me, according to their records. I told them my process, how I always am able to keep up with every prescription. And that I've never, ever lost any pills, especially my Atripla. But that I was also sure that it was in the package.

But, still, I was now in trouble because I didn't have any for this month.

He said, "Well, this is a very expensive drug, you know. We can't afford to give it away."

I said I totally understood and that I couldn't afford it either. So, I asked, "Do you have any extras just lying around?"

He came back to me, "I can give you 10."

Okay. Ten's good.

Now I just about two more weeks worth.

I spoke with Michael who told me about a local community of HIV positive people who help each other out when stuff like this happens.

And within a day, he found someone who had extras they could share.

Pill Panic over. Community comes to the rescue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"The Craving" at Kulak's Woodshed

This is a song about addiction. First public performance.

Why SoulForce Marches.

New World Waking! is a musical call to recognize the effects of violence in politics, religion and society in general. But if you don't intend to ever use violence (of the heart, tongue or fist), then what can you do to express your profound disapproval at an oppressive system? SoulForce, which is a GLBT advocacy group that uses the principles of non-violence as taught "by Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr." outlines the reasons for street action and what they accomplish in the overall struggle for freedom and equality before the law.

I bolded several parts I found especially illuminating.
Time to Take It to the Streets

A national call for nonviolent direct action
in the struggle for marriage equality

Jeff Lutes, M.S., L.P.C.

Last week thousands of lesbian and gay people and their friends filled the streets of California in peaceful protest. Outraged, these upright Californians chose to take action and publicly march against Proposition 8 and the LDS Church for financing the deceptive ads that helped it pass.

First, bravo to our California friends -- their moral indignation is healthy and just. Second, hooray for those in other parts of the country who have begun to follow suit -- let us not stop until every community has mounted sustained campaigns of resistance.

Despite our substantial legislative efforts, thirty states have now passed bans on same-gender marriage. That should serve as a wake-up call to our movement -- one that forces us to consider what we might be doing wrong.

Discrimination does not begin in our courts or in our government -- it ends up there. The fear and misinformation that drives unjust legislation gets its start within society, and the primary source of the problem is the sanctuaries, wealthy mega-churches, and powerful religious institutions of this country. With gigantic and captive national audiences, both Protestant and Catholic churches teach falsehoods that cause voters to cast their ballot against the constitutional promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for their gay and lesbian neighbors.

In this election, like so many others before it, the call from the pulpit was clear: We must stop the gays. As millions of gays and lesbians had their hearts broken, some religious leaders rejoiced in that suffering. The Rev. James Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego County, told the New York Times "It was a great victory. We just saw the people rise up."

It's time for all of us to rise up like thousands are doing now in the Golden State and elsewhere.

We are tired of defeat, token change, defending ourselves against charges of moral inferiority, and being told to "wait" in the land we love while liberation occurs in other countries. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledged that real change takes time; yet he also warned against the "tranquilizing drug of gradualism" and instructed the oppressed to demand equality now -- not on the convenient time schedule of those doing the oppressing.

Nonviolent direct action strategies such as marches, vigils, demonstrations, boycotts, public protests, and civil disobedience, seek to create what Dr. King called "healthy tension." This constructive nonviolent tension forces those who perpetuate injustice, and society as a whole, to pause, reflect, and consider the ugliness of their prejudices and the indecency embodied in their discrimination.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored." Public protests empower us and educate those who are still the victims of fear and division.


It's imperative that we remain nonviolent in our approach. Although it may provide short term emotional release, it's ultimately counterproductive to scream expletives at those who have harmed us. We must refrain from damaging property or trying to destroy the character of others and instead approach those who promote discrimination in a spirit of nonviolence. As both Gandhi and King taught, we must avoid violence of the fist, tongue, and heart and remember that in truth we are challenging unjust systems, not people. In due course, we seek to be in community with those from whom we currently find ourselves divided.

So, start organizing now. Don't wait on a LGBT rights group to take the lead. Most of the protests in California were organized by just a handful of people. You can do it too. Imagine the productive conversations around America's dinner tables if the evening news was flooded with coverage of peaceful marches in the other 29 states that ban marriage equality.

In the wake of our recent losses, let's rededicate our lives to speaking out with integrity and let's reclaim nonviolent direct action as part of that process. Let's understand that the vision of equality belongs to all of us and we are each responsible for taking direct action in pursuit of that dream. We all have the faculty to be powerful, influential, and prevailing. Let's reinvest in our movement for social change, believe in our own capacity to affect that change, and allow the boldness and hunger for justice to grow and contagiously spread to others.

Let's take it to the streets.
And for those who did not see it, Keith Olberman delivers a powerful editorial here:



But it was Andrew Sullivan who said it best for me, "We will win this because we're in the right."

And we are. Same sex couples are not some weird alienfuture life form. We're just people and we love just as sincerely and just as deeply as heterosexual couples. Asking for the right to marry does not change society except in one way: It makes it more just.