Monday, September 29, 2008

My Mom Says, "It's Definitely The Tea."

My mom responded to my drinking green tea.

She said, "People
take Coumadin to thin the blood and it warns against drinking Green tea because it tends to thicken the blood, It has Vitamin K in it that is used to stop bleeding so that may be a problem for you."

Coumadin is the same thing as Warfarin.

Why The Bail-Out Failure Happened.

I'm no expert in politics but I know why this bail-out failed.

It's because the Bush White House did not sell it to the American people. All we heard was THE SKY IS FALLING!

Well, no one in this country believes Bush when he says this stuff because, like the boy who cried "Wolf," his personal credibility is shot. He's played the fear card so often, no one believes him. Conservatives don't believe him. Liberals don't believe him. Independents don't believe him. Republicans don't believe him. Democrats don't believe him.

So, the entire country, WITHOUT PROVOCATION, showered the congress with emails and faxes -- all of them saying NO.

The reason it failed is because the people spoke. And if the people are making the wrong decision, then someone with some brains and personal credibility -- are there any left? -- will have to step up and make the sale.

It doesn't help that politically pure conservatives, liberals and libertarians all hated it.

Just who do we listen to?

Thick, But No Bleeding Today.

Stupid me. 

First of all, my blood count was up from last week, so it was actually thicker, even though I've been guzzling water like crazy all week.

Dr. Richard asked me, "Have you been drinking any caffeine?"


"Cough medicine? Anything like that?"


"Well, we should do a phlebotomy, but I don't want to do it if you're still sick."

I was sitting there wearing a surgical mask.

He listened to my chest.

"A little congestion in the upper chest but nothing in the lower. You definitely don't have pneumonia."

"That's good."

"Okay. Come back next week. And drink a lot of water!"

I drove back home, so happy to not have to endure the bleeding. Got to the kitchen and started looking around. 

And then it hit me.

The green tea. I've been drinking green tea.

I looked at the label: caffeine. Not a lot, but some. And I've been drinking a lot of it.

Problem solved.

Next week, my blood is gonna be thinner than kool-aid.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman Dies: AP

Photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
An Enduring Film Star and Social Activist

Paul Newman, one of the world’s most enduring and popular film stars, died on Friday of cancer, according to his spokeswoman. Above, Mr. Newman in 2006.

He was a class act. I have two bottles of his salad dressing in my fridge.

The scenes of Paul Newman and a blazing hot Piper Laurie in The Hustler scorched the earth back in 1961. (Naturally, Piper's character had to die for being so brazenly, naturally and unapologetically sensual). And Jackie Gleason was magnificent. What a movie!

Look at him:

Rest in peace.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Staying Still. Sleeping A Lot.

Not a lot to report. Just staying still. Throat too sore to talk. Head stuffed up. But the stomach isn't feeling too awful.

Night before last, when it hit, I had actually been feeling okay, though I had detected a little "burn" in the back of my throat, plus mucus. But I hadn't had any fever and, when my doctor on Monday, looked in my throat, he didn't see anything.

I had even gone down to Kulk's Woodshed to hang out for the jam session, playing and singing a lot of Beatles songs.

Woke up about 1:30am. Sweating. My throat burning like hot coals. Every hour I would wake up, alternating between sweats and chills.

Spoke to friends who said they had also been through it. The best thing to do is stay still, sleep a lot and drink fluids. So, water, chicken soup, green tea. All day long.

It's interesting watching all the politics. The problem that's going on here is that the American public feels like it's just been ripped off. It doesn't matter what the Congress or the president does if they cannot figure out a way to sell it.

People feel like the stupid out of town tourists who just got stripped naked in a foreign casino -- who are now being told that they have to pay for the restoration of that very casino that just ripped them off.

And it did not help that when President Deer In The Headlights finally gave a speech, he looked like a prisoner of war having to read a "Death to America" confession. And I do not mean that sarcastically. Does this administration know ANY approach that doesn't involve massive shovels full of fear? Is the sky ALWAYS falling?

Or, more to the point, is it even possible to make a rational and correct decision during a "sky is falling" moment? I'm starting to think that our society isn't as addicted to oil as much as it is addicted to fear.

Or is it the cough syrup?

I'm going back to bed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MILK -- A Great Movie Trailer.

The Gus Van Sant movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected politician, a man assassinated for nothing more than being gay and refusing to pretend otherwise, looks incredible. I actually began to tear up in the theater just watching it.

Filmed in San Francisco and featuring what appears to be a sensational performance from Sean Penn as Harvey Milk -- well, if the movie is as good as this trailer, this could sweep the Academy Awards. And I hope it is. And I hope it does.

Link to trailer in high definition.

And here it is on youtube:

Clay Aiken Telling His Parents.

Clay Aiken's coming out story is now up on

Clay's story, his rise to superstardom, and now his coming out, is truly something unique. I mean remember back when he first auditioned? Here was this totally geeky, completely impossible, performer and, well, mama's boy.

His eyebrows were bushy, his hair was stupid, his glasses dorky -- and I remember Simon all but laughing him off, since, for him, looks are mandatory for an "idol."

But he had this magnificent instrument. Without this show, Aiken would never have made it. The music industry is not looking for people who look or sound like Clay Aiken. It's doubtful that even if they had, they would have been able to market him. He doesn't fit into any available formats.

The other thing that's interesting about him is that he was raised in a conservative Christian home, and that this is a source of pain for both him and his family. This is from the article:
The born-again Christian singer also reveals how he told his mother Faye he's gay four years ago. After dropping off his younger brother Brett, who was being deployed to Iraq, at Camp Lejeune, "I started crying in the car," Aiken remembers. "It was dark. I was sitting there, thinking to myself. I don't know why I started thinking about it ... I just started bawling. She made me pull over the car and it just came out."

So what was his mom's reaction? "She started crying. She was obviously somewhat stunned. But she was very supportive and very comforting." Even now, Aiken admits, "She still struggles with things quite a bit, but she's come a long way."
And that pretty much describes the situation for all us southern boys with Baptist families. Some family members totally embrace the fact of a person's gayness and some "struggle" with it. It's easy for some to feel cynical about Clay Aiken. He's the easiest of targets. For years, people were goading him to just come out, already.

(And I get that. I get that we glbt persons are better, as a group, when more of us come out. That was the lesson taught to us by Harvey Milk and Leonard Matlovich. Our families need to see us. Our co-workers should know we exist.)

I don't know Clay Aiken so I'm only presuming, but I relate to him as a small town southern boy trying to live his own life -- the kind of life so many fantastize; a life he earned by being talented.)

Each in our own time, each at our own pace, each in our own way. Coming out is a process; a journey, not a race. Unlike most journeys, there is no one destination in mind, only a direction. Keep on. When you stray, or slow down, don't be afraid to ask advice or direction. Your journey is yours alone, and regardless of where you end up, or when, don't let anyone else plan the trip."

--Steve Basile, PFLAG/Austin

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The World's Worst Kept Secret.

What I like about his decision to come out is that he did it because he didn't want his son to see him hiding and lying.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Clay Aiken is finally confirming what many people suspected: He's gay.

"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken has rarely addressed rumors about his sexuality.

"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken has rarely addressed rumors about his sexuality.

The cover of the latest People magazine shows Aiken holding his infant son, Parker Foster Aiken, with the headline: "Yes, I'm Gay." The cover also has the quote: "I cannot raise a child to lie or hide things."

The magazine has an interview with Aiken and confirmed that he was on the cover but refused to release the article until Wednesday.

The baby's mother is Aiken's friend and record producer Jaymes Foster.

Aiken, who gained fame as the runner-up on "American Idol" in 2003, rarely addressed the frequent rumors about his sexuality. He said two years ago, "I don't really feel like I have anybody to answer to but myself and God and the people I love."

The multiplatinum singer recently released the CD "On My Way Here" and made his Broadway debut this spring in "Monty Python's Spamalot."

Soulforce Equality Ride.

Soulforce will be conducting another of their Equality Rides and are seeking donations for the riders. From their website:

With a financial contribution to the Soulforce Equality Ride you will enable students and young activists to jumpstart a dialogue with school officials and bring hope and empowerment to closeted gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students at the religious and military schools that currently oppress them. You will also be helping to confront strongholds of misinformation about sexual orientation at its source.

  • $75 will provide four riders with housing for one night.
  • $250 will buy lunch for all 35 riders for one day.
  • $350 will fill up the gas tank on the bus.

This donation form is for making a general donation to the Soulforce Equality Ride. If you would like to sponsor one or more of our 2008 riders, please click here.

"It's like when you make a cake..."

"It's like when you make a cake. You have all the ingredients except the eggs. You know they're on the way from the store, but you can't finish the cake until you finally get enough eggs..."

This was Dr. Richard, my hematologist who's been bleeding me for the past month or so. He was trying to describe to me why I should avoid iron, and to make sure I don't have too much iron in any of the vitamin supplements I'm taking.

"See, the body needs iron to make red blood cells just as a baker needs eggs. So, one of the things we're doing while thinning your blood is eliminating extra iron that the body needs to make more blood. Even if there's something in there saying, 'Make more blood,' it can't because without iron -- the eggs -- it can't."

"However," he continued, "your blood levels are almost at normal again. They're slightly elevated, but what I want to do is to get them to normal so we can establish an equilibrium. Then we'll see where we go from there. Have you been hydrating a lot like I told you?"

"Yes," I said, pointing to the water bottle next to me.

"Avoiding caffeine?"

"No caffeine has entered my body. I even stopped drinking my beloved Mountain Dew Red."

"And try to avoid red meat and spinach -- anything that has iron."

"I hardly ever eat red meat, but I do love my spinach -- my favorite item on the Indian food buffet."

He continued, "everything is moving in the right direction. We'll phlebotomize you one more time today and then check again next week. Hopefully, this will be the last time for awhile."

Well, that was good news, anyway. This week I was ready to be a submissive patient. And all week I've exercised, watched my diet and drank lots of water.

My arm, bruised and full of holes, is doing its best to hold out under all this sticking and poking and draining. Luckily, I have good prominent veins, even if they are scarred. People looking at me probably think I'm a drug addict of some kind.

In the infusion center, they had these new chairs and I couldn't figure out how to get the foot rest to raise up. The lady across from me, a cancer patient undergoing chemo -- I could tell from the hat on her head and the hideous white liquid in her infusion bag -- couldn't figure it out either but she spoke almost no English and was shy about asking for help.

I got the nurse to show me how to do it and then I helped the lady across from me. We were kind of crowded in this little room so that when our feet were raised, the nurses couldn't pass by easily. But we didn't care. You can't sit there for three hours and not raise your feet. It's too hard on the back, especially because you can't move around very much with all this hooked into your arm.

After a couple of hours, I realized I had dozed off. A new, younger lady was being hooked up. But we both had opposite problems. She was having iron infused into her blood.

I told her they were draining me to get rid of the iron and they were infusing her to give her more. I told her I would offer some of my iron, but that she did NOT want my blood.

The phlebotomy today really took a lot out of me. I felt weak all day long, sleeping almost all afternoon. I went down to my regular Kulak's Woodshed Monday night open mic, but asked to go on early so I could bug out early. I just wasn't up to being there all night.

Happily, though, when I got home, it was time for the new season of "Heroes," my absolute favorite show on TV. Well, I also love Mad Men and a couple of others. But my superhero comic geekdom rules all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Songs 4 Earth!

My friend, JD Sebastian, is a songwriter and performer here in Los Angeles who has created a new site on the net to help songwriters, musicians, DJs, engineers, singers and others to join together to create "a new anthem" for the earth.

It's called and if you have a talent for writing lyrics or music, or if you're a musician, studio owner, engineer or producer, the goal of the site is to hook people up to inspire and collaborate with each other to create songs for the planet to encourage people to begin taking care of our environment and to network with each other to promote "green" causes.

I sort of became the unofficial "godfather" of the site because JD says he got his inspiration from a conversation the two of us had as I was conceiving "New World Waking!" and we were talking about the power of music. As you can see, he's splashed my face all over the front page.

I'm very proud of JD's industriousness and more than a little humbled by his optimistic enthusiasm.

This is the description on the site:

Our mission is to bring together ecologically-minded singers, songwriters, musicians, and engineers from all over the world to contribute and collaborate on music which will help bring education, inspiration, hope and healing to our planet.

To create, through an online community, a Music Revolution where creators devoted to a healthy world environment can connect, both in person and long distance, and record songs to raise public awareness of the necessity of green living; reducing our carbon footprint, identifying and boycotting major polluters, falling in love with Nature and nurturing Mother Earth and her plants, animals, the oceans, and biosphere.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Help Some Small Town People on the Gulf Coast.

This is from a friend in Texas:

Sept 19th 8 AM

Residents are cleaning up San Leon, pretty much on our own, getting their own backhoes & clearing streets.

We don't know when the county will arrive for the debris clean-up, I'm sure Galv is priority there.

FEMA is giving out mis-information so they are more harm than what little good they are.

The staging PODs are located in towns with little damage (Dickinson-which has power & water, and just lost some branches). BUT when a San Leon resident drives out, most only heard about the Seabrook POD, they are turned away, their PODs say they are for the local residents only. So San Leon residents have wasted all that line
time and gas.

They also think they will get housing help there, and it's just for food and water, which we are already taking care of.

Help can come in now, the resident just has to meet them at the entrance
My Element forum has pulled together, and they are sending in care packages.

It doesn't look like we can wait a month for demo, the mold is kicking my ass!

Sept 19th 10 AM
In response to what they need...


Yeah I know, big stuff

But everyone's garages, appliances were on the ground floor, 70% of the island flooded.

Cleaning supplies, for water damage, insect repellant, sunscreen, everyone is outside and burnt! including ME!
deodorizers, nails & screws --I've been trying to patch the hole in the floor and been scavenging screws.

Speaking of scavenging, just got a call on the radio of people scavenging the copper out of everyone's appliances.

Sept 17th 8 AM

I took a break from the house yesterday, and went out and gave info to to the locals. Stood in the middle of the street and stopped every car and asked them, what do you need? Food, water, housing, water for flushing, ice?  Then sent them to where all that stuff was.

Kenny has water back to 1/2 the town, I organized a quick goat burial for a neighbor after he asked the sheriifs dept, and they said they didn't have time for animal burials.

The neighbor was grateful his neighbor left his goats in the barn and they drowned, he said he could live through mnay things, but that smell will run you out.

Just do it yourself, and it'll get done.

1/2 the water is on, with no help from anyone, food is here thanks to Red Cross. In fact Kenny's office manager is still trying to get housing for the employees through their insurance (Time Management Inc) she said SCREW FEMA!

No one has seen FEMA. 

I actually heard a politician say -"We need to get rid of FEMA"

We're going to get this town back on our own quicker than those that are sitting around waiting for help.
I'm going to go back out to help the town today, my house can wait, heck it's still standing.

I'll send more pics tonight.

Send things via UPS, FED Ex etc. (Jo's name has to be on it so she can meet them at the barricade to the town) to the San Leon MUD (water department):

Jo Keller, Relief Supply Coordinator
San Leon MUD
443 24th St.
San Leon, TX 77539

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ray Boltz and His Quiet Journey into Truth.

A few years ago, there was this singer in the Contemporary Christian Music field who had sold millions of records who suddenly got very quiet and dropped from the scene. He didn't seek the limelight or make a big deal out of the changes he had made. Instead, he worked quietly with his family and, today, they are reconciled and happy.

His name is Ray Boltz and he was tired of fighting off his same sex attractions. So, now in his 50s, he informed his wife and family (who are now completely supportive), and he was quietly living his life in Ft. Lauderdale until one day, while traveling, he dropped into an Metropolitan Community Church in Indianapolis after striking up a friendship with Rev. Jeff Miner. (MCCs are gay-supportive Christian churches.) Soon after, he casually sent Rev. Minder a CD.

Here is the full story at The Washington Blade.
Miner liked the Christmas CD and was so impressed he e-mailed Boltz and asked him if he'd ever thought about doing music full time.

Boltz laughed as he read the note.

"He obviously had no idea who I was and I just loved that," Boltz says. "I just said, 'Uh, yeah, I used to.'"

Miner showed the CD to the music leaders at MCC Indianapolis who, recognizing Boltz's name, were dumbfounded that he'd been to their church. When they mentioned some of Boltz's hits to him, Miner made the connection.
Here is how its covered in Christianity Today.

I was reading some reactions there. It's interesting to me how many sincere people are still arguing the same circular arguments. They don't want to move from their entrenched positions. And by that, I don't mean that their theology. I mean how they discuss the issue at all. And there's very little discussion about whether there's a better discussion to be had over the issue.

The whole Ray Boltz story is interesting because of HOW Ray Boltz chose to come out. Until this story, I had never heard of Ray Boltz. Though I used to be involved in the beginnings of the Conservative Christian Music movement, my songwriting wasn't really that great back then (there are some real embarrassments). We did, however, have a kick-ass band, mostly playing in Texas. And there was a time when CCM music, called Jesus Music back then, was the most cutting edge music in the world -- and I mean that sincerely. It was a candle that flickered oh so briefly, but it did happen.

But now, as one commenter at Christianity Today put it, "It's an insular world." Me, I left it and never looked back. I have no idea who sings CCM and I don't care to be a part of that world, no offense -- not that they'd have me anyway.

But I do think it's time for everyone just just get over it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Faces In The Music at Kulak's Woodshed.

Here's the song I sang last week at Kulak's. It was cut from The Last Session early in the process because it didn't work in the context of the play, so a few years ago, I wrote a new verse and here it is.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yep, I got bled.

I almost got it low enough. Last week, my red blood count was over 18. We want it down to 15. I got it to 17 or maybe a little lower. So, I got sent to the infusion center.

This is the first time I've done it in the daytime. I saw a lot of cancer patients and their spouses. At the check-in counter was a little basket of crocheted "cancer caps" for women who've lost their hair. In the bathroom over the toilet was a sign that said, "If you're receiving radioactive therapy, please flush twice."

Before going there, though, the first stop was the lab. They poked my "other" good vein but she couldn't get the blood to flow. "You have a lot of scar tissue here." Hey! That's supposed to be the vein that has the LEAST amount of scar tissue. Anyway, she painfully wiggled the needle around until she finally got a blood flow.

After labs, I saw Dr. Richard and apologized for being a "bad" patient last week. He said not to worry, that if it was something urgent or really dangerous, "I wouldn't have let you say no."

"I figured. Anyway, I'm ready to submit today."

He gave me a great big hug. (Must remember to do this more often!)

"So we'll do the phlebotomy. Then, come back in a week and we'll see if we have to do it again."

And I thought, is this going to be an endless string of bleedings? How many weeks am I going to have to do this? Forever?

With the band-aid on the first arm, I walked into the infusion center with its high ceiling and beautiful fish tank and rows of easy chairs set with pillows. I got poked again. This time farther up on my right arm over the bicep.

No scar tissue there, but it was still hard to get the blood flow and, once again, she dug around while I just gritted my teeth and tried to breathe, whining and trying to just get through it. Once the flow was established, it stopped hurting. The needle was set and, after draining me, she set up the saline solution to re-infuse.

Since there was nothing to do but sit and wait, I brought a book with me. I'm reading "Mississippi Sissy" by Kevin Sessums and I love it. I adore it. The two hours of re-infusion passed quickly. I even slept a little until the beeper went off, letting them know to change the bag.

Just then, an older woman came in with a stylish turban barely covering her wispy, almost non-existent white hair. She grabbed the pillow in the seat next to me and threw it into the chair next to that. Then she sat in that chair like she owned the place.

The nurse came in with a couple of large bags of fluid hanging off an I.V. tree.

She asked, "Now, is this the three medications or just one?"

The nurse responded, "Just one."

"Sorry I'm late. There was a car wreck on the freeway and it took me three hours to get here. Usually, it only takes two and a half."

"That's okay."

"I did all right on that last dose. It didn't make me that sick."

I was admiring this woman's steely take-control attitude. I also realized that as I was sitting there bemoaning my fate, whining about the needle in my arm with its still prominent (if scarred) veins, I watched them as they tried desperately to find one good vein in the woman. Finally, it worked and I watched them pull blood of out her with a huge syringe before starting the infusion.

I couldn't even imagine the pain she must be in. And did I hear a single whine? A single complaint? Nope.

And I thought, you know, sometimes I just need to shut up and look around. No matter how badly I might think my situation is, it's nothing compared to what this woman was dealing with -- and nothing compared to what most of the other people sitting around this room was dealing with.

Lesson learned? We'll find out next week.

To Bleed or Not to Bleed.

This morning I will be going to the hematologist/oncologist to see if I need to be bled again today. I sure hope not. I hate doing that. I hate being poked. I hate having that needle shoved up into my tired, scarred veins. I hate sitting there bored out of my mind through the endless hours of the re-infusion of saline.

I've been good. I've been exercising and drinking a ton of water this weekend. Let's see how it goes.

And if I have to be bled, well, then I be bled.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Justin's Big Gay Conference.

I have a great friend named Justin Lee. We met at the dawn of the Internet on a discussion board trying to facilitate discussions between mostly religious gay-affirming and non-affirming religious people. He was this kid with this amazing mind and a great deal of ambition.

He, also being a devout evangelical Christian, created a site called the Gay Christian Network. Justin is proudly, defiantly and sometimes hilariously gay. He has been a source of great inspiration for glbt persons of the Christian faith.

Here is Justin announcing their next big national conference.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I said "No" to my doctor today.

As I drove to the hematologist/oncologist Dr. Richard's office today, I was thinking it would be my last time. I was through with this. I had tested negative for cancer. My blood test last week was normal.

This would be my last visit. I was so happy! I checked in and went to the lab.

The blood draw wasn't easy since my "good" veins are scarring up. Then I went to a waiting room.

While I was reading a year-old magazine, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a big poodle's nose at the entrance to the waiting area. Then it disappeared.

Then, a moment later, a big white poodle came into the waiting area. She was on a leash.

I reached out, without approaching too closely in case it was a service dog, and the owner said, "Go ahead. You can pet her."

Then I saw that he had on a vest designating him as a volunteer. This was a hospital doggy! I reached out and scritched her behind the ear.

And saw the hospital tag around my wrist.

Right. I'm a patient.

I still loved being able to pet the dog, but the moment itself was slightly spoiled.

The nurse came and took me to the exam room and took my vitals. I told her about the negative biopsy test results and how I'd probably not be seeing her anymore. We hugged goodbye.

Dr. Richard came in. More hugs!

I felt sad that it would be our last time. He's very caring. He really listens. And, well, he's a very handsome man with a brilliant smile. I like him a lot.

"So," I said excitedly, "the test results were negative!"

"Yes, but that doesn't tell us everything."


"We'll need to do new scans in November. After all, you did have activity in this throat area and it could have just been a passing virus or a sore throat. But we need to see if it's still active when we test again."

I think I slumped.

Then he looked at CBC test results from when I waked in, "Your hemoglobin is high again. It's 18. I need it down to 15. Let's go ahead and schedule a phlebotomy for today."

"What?? Now?"

I was just so caught off-guard. I've been so compliant up to this point. I've been a really good patient, eating well, getting back into my exercise routine, taking my pills with absolute regularity, getting all the bleedings, the scans and the biopsies...

And for a few weeks I've felt so totally normal. Going out and singing. Working on New World Waking, etc.

And now I was so instantly a REAL patient again. Not just the armband, but the bleeding room, more tests.

I didn't want this. I didn't want to be a patient today.

Then I did something I don't think I've ever done before. Or maybe I have. Who knows. I just told him no.

I said, "I just can't. I can't do it. Not today. Can't I just run more and drink more water?"

"Running dehydrates you. Drink a lot of water when you run."

"Tell me I don't have to do it today."

"It's not critical but that thick blood makes you at risk for stroke, heart attack..."

I just looked at him helplessly, like PLEEEEEZE don't make me go through the ordeal of the bleeding room. Not today... (This all sounds so medieval, huh?).

He relented. "Come back Monday. I'll schedule the phlebotomy for then, but we'll test first to make sure you still need it. Drink a lot of liquids. No caffeine. No alcohol."

"No problem."

Then he felt around my neck and beneath my armpits. Nothing in my neck, but those two glands in my pits are still kind of swollen.

"Do they hurt?"


"Tender here?"


"Good. See you on Monday."

I don't know if I should have had the phlebotomy or not. I just know I couldn't do it. So, now I have the weekend to get myself back into full compliant mode.

And I will. But I still have this week to just feel free.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Going It Alone" at Kulak's Woodshed.

I was really wanting to have a good live recording of "Going It Alone," which is the song that closes act one of The Last Session. So, finding Kulak's is a dream come true.

In the past couple of months, as I've become more comfortable in front of the camera and have gotten more used to the sound of that piano, I decided that I would just forget the camera, find the groove in the song and just play and sing it the way I do when I'm home.

I also wanted to do it with harmony. So, having Jake Wesley Stewart there to hit all the high notes felt really great. (I wrote about this night last week). I thought he totally nailed it, especially as the song climaxed.

One other thing to note. The host that night was Dave Morrison, who is a great songwriter and singer in his own right. His comments at the end of the song made me smile, so listen through to the end.

The Story Behind "New World Waking!"

Today, in Dr. Kathleen McGuire's blog, she posted the personal background story behind the making of New World Waking!

This is from her blog:

Members of the chorus have just returned from our fall retreat. The chorus goes away on retreat twice a year, usually at Camp Newman north of Santa Rosa. Retreats are galvanizing insofar as we spend concentrated time learning our music, and we also spend time getting to know each other. This is especially important for our "newbie" members who joined only a a few weeks ago. The Faux Talent Show on Saturday night is a wonderful way for members to showcase their 'talents' before a loving audience of peers.

Joining us at this retreat was guest clinician:
Dr. Timothy Seelig from Dallas, TX (pictured left - photo by Erwin Barron). Dr. Seelig is an expert in vocal pedagogy and has written several best-selling books on the subject. He is the artistic director in-residence of GALA Choruses, and was the director of Turtle Creek Chorale for twenty years. In addition to enjoying the swimming pool and water slide in unusually glorious sunshine, the members spent rehearsal time with Dr. Seelig as he reinforced some important principles of vocal technique.

It also bears mentioning that Dr. Seelig was particularly impressed with the new music we were rehearsing. He said to me as he left: "I think you've got a hit on your hands." Some have likened it to "the next
NakedMan" (SFGMC's 1996 commission) due to the work's accessibility, the breadth of the material covered, and topics relevant to today's gay and social-justic political climate.


by renowned gay composer/performer
Steve Schalchlin
(The Last Session, The Big Voice: God or Merman?)

This wonderful new pop/rock/folk song cycle will premiere on Monday, December 1, 2008, at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, commemorating the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus's landmark 30th Anniversary.

Composer Steve Schalchlin wrote the following notes about how the work came to be. There are still opportunities available to sponsor the commission. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact the SFGMC administrative office, ph: 415-865-3650,
Songs on the Road to Peace
Inspired by John Lennon's Piano

by Steve Schalchlin

New World Waking! came together in my mind on the day I was selected by pop star George Michael (and his partner, art gallery owner Kenny Goss) to play John Lennon's IMAGINE Piano in the front yard of a house in Olympia, Washington as part of a photographic project. The piano was being taken to places where acts of violence occurred, such as Ford's Theatre, Dallas, Memphis, Oklahoma City and the kitchen of Alec and Gabi Clayton, where their son, Bill, had taken his life after a gay bashing.

I knew this family, the Claytons, and I had written a song about Bill and the aftermath of his suicide in a song called, "Will It Always Be Like This?" (Now the opening number of NWW, following the Prologue.)

I had been writing the songs over a period of four years, with a general idea of what it was about, but the thing hadn't come together. I didn't know what I was writing. I just knew these songs were making a lot of sense to me. (I've written the scores of both our shows in this Zen fashion, writing without a destination in mind.)

So that sunny day in Olympia, after the truck pulled up and delivered the piano beneath a shade tree in the front yard, I was sitting there looking down at John Lennon's cigarette burns, touching the keys he touched, and thinking about him. What was he thinking the day he wrote this song? How much of a difference did the feel and sound of the piano make in the creation of the number?

I sang "Imagine," remembering that the first time I played it was in a Columbus, Ohio airport hotel lounge the night he was killed. Played it perfectly all the way through that night, to an empty bar, without ever having played it before. My fingers just found the chords and my mouth sang the words. It was like magic, the way the song had imprinted itself in my brain.

And I thought how amazing it would feel to write a song of perfect peace. A song that reaches so far into your heart that it strikes a common chord of yearning we have as human beings for peace and justice (because one without the other is impossible).

That's when I saw the entire song cycle in my mind, as if John Lennon had given me a little gift.


Then, last year, Jim and I were in San Francisco performing our musical, The Big Voice: God or Merman? and I invited Doctor Kathleen McGuire of the SFGMC to attend. Afterwards, I told her I had a song cycle for peace and asked if I could audition it for her. Soon, we sat in a little rehearsal room and, on a tiny, well-worn upright rehearsal piano, I started at the beginning...

"Will It Always Be Like This...", the story of Bill and Gabi Clayton.

I feel like the SFGMC, especially because they were the first gay men's chorus in the history of our planet (well, except for the chorus at the Vatican) was the perfect fit because the thing about John Lennon is that his music and his life were political. His belief in peace and justice, and the open way he advocated and fought for it, his very existence was an activist act.

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus are political and social activists by their mere existence.
And, I suppose by virtue of my own existence, I became an activist.


It all began in March of 1996, the day I began keeping what Yahoo/GeoCities designated a "Landmark Website," my online AIDS diary called "Living In The Bonus Round." At the time, I was just trying to keep my family informed of how sick I was so they would know when they could order the casket because I was dying. Fast.

Modern blogs do this routinely, but back then, it was totally unique. In fact, my AIDS diary is the oldest, continuous AIDS diary online. But, again, I wasn't thinking in those terms. I was sick. I just needed help and I wanted to make a statement to the world before dying.

Unbeknownst to me, it became a source of crucial information for doctors, caregivers and medical students around the world who were facing HIV and AIDS for the first time, far from the rest of the world.

I became a sample case study played out in real time, worldwide. One of the first, I later learned. By writing about my treatments, my emotions, side effects, etc. they were learning about the disease on a personal basis. (I even got to meet Dr. Bruce Dorsey, the Merck scientist who created the drug that eventually saved my life).

I was then invited to Harvard University School of Public Health, where my diary was incorporated into the course curriculum materials for that year. The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Club sponsored a concert where I sang the songs from my musical about AIDS, The Last Session.

This continued exposure brought me into doing AIDS education programs for high schools, colleges, universities, churches, synagogues, theaters and other groups all over the country, including the prestigious Jonathan King Lecture at the Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Biomedical ethics.

And that's how I became a health advocate.

But the diary reached into more communities than I could have anticipated.


It led me to PFLAG where I became active online, talking to parents and scared gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. I corresponded with a young man, for instance, named Jason Hungerford who, at 19, was creating safe spaces for teens at AOL. So, I helped in the creation of, and served as Board Chair of Youth Guardian Services, an online peer support group for GLBT youth and their straight friends. They've now counseled tens of thousands of GLBT youth and saved many lives.

I also, in that first year, encouraged a mother named Gabi Clayton to tell the story of her bisexual son's suicide. She has since become very active in the Safe Schools Coalition and helped found Families United Against Hate, for which I proudly serve on the Board of Directors. We provide comfort to the families of hate crime victims.


As a recovering Baptist, my diary also began attracting those who opposed not just the fact that I was openly gay, but that I totally accepted my homosexuality on a spiritual level. My confrontations with conservative religionists led me to reading the Soul Force principals about how to combat violence with non-violence.

I participated in the historic first March To Lynchburg to protest the hate language of Jerry Falwell.

We were supposed to have lunch with him and his church members. But Rev. Falwell, at the last minute, withdrew his offer of a lunch because, he said, 'the bible' told him not to eat with sinners. So, instead, we sat with his church members and drank water. It was a little like visiting strangers in prison.


The first songs for New World Waking! came from a stack of lyrics given to me by my friend, Rev. Peter J. Carman, the pastor of Lakewood Ave. Baptist church in Rochester, New York.

Peter had taken a bunch of standard "high church" hymns, few of which I'd even heard of since I was raised with a more rural Southern canon. He had written all new lyrics to the old melodies. And since I love writing music to finished lyrics, I took them with me.

Unlike a lot of newer hymns trying to be really theologically neutral, which I think sometimes can feel limp and bloodless, I found Peter's themes and words were deeply emotional and spiritually contemporary without seeming stiff or patronizing. I strung four of them, my favorites, together and played them over and over again.

Then, on New Year's Eve, 2004, I had a vision.

It was about 3am and I was sitting alone in the ship's piano bar playing through these songs when I suddenly saw, in my mind, an image of all the gods sitting around a bar not drinking and not talking to each other.

It felt like a reflection of society and the world's religions. Everyone in their own corners. No one really talking and no one really listening -- and I realized how there seem to be a dearth of role models of peace in the worlds of religion and politics and media.

Then, in my mind, I saw a huge hall. A beautiful piece of music was playing and everyone in the hall, of all ages, races, cultures and creeds, was at one with the music. This was before I played Lennon's piano. But at that moment, I realized that we musicians have the power, as creators of music, to bridge divides and reach across cultures.

I began furiously writing new songs. New lyrics about War. The mass media. Religious violence. But still not knowing what it was all adding up to; just trusting the process.

Fast forward a few years. I'm sitting there beneath and shade tree in the front yard at the Clayton's home in Olympia Washington about to put my hands where John Lennon's hands once were, the instrument whose sound inspired the song 'Imagine', and I knew in that momentNew World Waking! was meant to be:

A simple song of peace from one gay man, and one gay chorus, one gay community, to the world.

And it all starts with "Will it always be like this?"

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Video: Steve Sings "Holy Dirt" at Kulak's Woodshed.

Me & Chuck & Palin & Putin.

Someone wrote me and asked me what Chuck's opinion of Sarah Palin was. Chuck was irritated by the fact that she won't face any press.

He lit up a cigarette and leaned over his cart full of cans and bags and bags of cans.

Getting excited, but not getting loud, he said, "She's afraid of this, what are they calling them, 'DC elite.' Who coined that phrase? DC Elite? First it's the Hollywood Elite, the New York Elite and now the DC Elite."

Our conversations merged, so I don't know who said what. He would say something. I would say something. He would say something. And, soon, we were both agreeing on everything. It sounded kind of like this.

"Does this mean she's afraid to talk to the opponent? What about Iran? Russia?"

"Does she think Chris Matthews is more formidable than Vladimir Putin?"

"Would she talk to Vlad if he called?"

"Joe Biden could take that call. And I think Barack Obama can stare down Putin. He's like Captain Kirk. Joe Biden is Spock, except from some planet where the people get excited and talk a lot. But Kirk just keeps his cool and listens, letting everyone else get in over their heads."

"John McCain would be looking at notes trying to remember if it's the Sunnis who... no. The Shiites... wait..."

"And also, let's say McCain becomes President. Who's he gonna get to back him up? The Republicans all hate him. Even if he gets in, he's gonna govern with the Democrats because the Republicans will say no to everything he wants to do except drill for more oil and make war."

We laughed at it all. We both agreed that Jon Stewart was the hardest interview of all because he calls you on your bullshit.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you. When I left Dr. Tony's feeling a bit despondent, yet determined, he said to me, "I wish all my patients were like you. You do take good care of yourself."

I'm learning, Dr. Tony. I'm just learning.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Maggie Gets Quoted in USA Today!

My friend and mentor and buddy, Maggie Heineman (that's us, left, in 2006), was mentioned today in USA Today in an article about biking.

Maggie Heineman of Medford, N.J., came to the pursuit late in life. Sitting at the breakfast table in the Old Tavern at Grafton on Day 2, the trim, attractive 72-year-old tells of a lifetime of yo-yo dieting until, at age 67, she got on a bike.

"My goal is to be cycling when I'm 85 because it's social. And it's fun," she says. 

The article goes on to mention how a lot of states are creating new biking paths, and then connecting them together to create a bike version of a highway system across the country. I think this is a terrific idea. 

But I'm very proud of Maggie. And I agree with the reporter. She's a total babe.

Doc Visit, Jogging and Chuck.

With all the bleedings, scans, biopsies and blood tests that have been going on the past month or so, I've not been keeping up with my exercise regimen. Just after the biopsy, it took me at least a week before I could do very much. 

So, my blood sugar has been testing a bit high. The thing is that when I work hard at maintaining my health, I can get to feeling normal. I forget about the virus and how easily my body starts to feel like it's coming apart when I'm not being diligent. 

When I saw Dr. Tony, we talked about the higher blood sugar and he said there were new drugs out there, etc. But something inside me just said, "You know, I'd rather fight this with exercise and diet. And then, if it doesn't work, we can start looking at medications." I just felt like I could do it.

One of the things I like about Dr. Tony is that he's aggressive. If something looks a little wrong, we hit it hard. Time is not on the side of a person with a damaged immune system. At this point, my total t-cells are still below 400. But then, they've been that way, it seems, forever. I guess this is my stabilization point, assuming there is such a thing among positoids and I think I'm basically about as sound as a person can be in my condition.

I decided there in the office that I would work this through by sheer effort. 

Last night, after we had dinner, I put on my shorts, t-shirt, socks and shoes, and went outside. It was about 7:30. The sun had set, but the sky was still light. I began speed walking. Since it's been awhile since I've run, I didn't want to go too fast. But to just listen to my body. And speed walking felt good.

Once I kind of settled into that and my breathing felt normal, I went into a jog. I had forgotten how nice it feels to settle into a nice jog. It can be like flying if you let it. 

One of the great motivations for getting out and running is my rediscovery of Kulak's Woodshed.

About the time, I was ready for a break, I was standing right there at the front door. The thing about Kulak's is that there's no cover. If you want to just drop in, it's like having an extra living room in your house. It makes me feel like there's a neighborhood here in this otherwise cold and dark street filled with blocks of apartment houses. 

It's just too weird that Los Angeles has the best weather on the planet, and no one goes outside. 

Remembering that James Lee Stanley was playing, but hadn't started yet, I plopped onto the sofa just to his right. Immediately, an adorable white poodle comes up to me and sniffs at my cuffs. I reach down and scritched her under the ears. She started rubbing against me, almost like a cat, so I patted the couch and she jumped up into my lap.

I had a four-legged companion for the show!

Then James Lee asked Paul Kulak, "Is it time to start?"

Paul said, "Anytime you're ready." (Everything is broadcast live over the net).

And there I was, less than six feet away from James Lee Stanley as he sang and did funny monologues for an hour. (His story about Star Trek underwear, from his days as an extra on the set of TNG is graphically hysterical.) 

Musically, he writes intelligent, witty and emotional lyrics and would probably call himself a folk singer, but to me, it's just great music. His guitar playing was intricate and edgy. For many songwriters, by the way, James Lee Stanley is close to godhood. And here he was kicking ass in this tiny funky space, hocking his CDs and making jokes about how "in Hollywood they line up to forget you." 

And I'm there as part of my evening jog.

I left after an hour. Stephen Bishop (!) was on next, but I needed to get myself moving again. I said goodbye to the doggie and hit the street again. Just about a block from home, I looked up and there he was. 

A stick figure wearing a baseball hat and pushing a cart jam packed with bags sticking out on all sides.

It was Chuck

Just as I approached, he held out his arms and said, "I can tell it's you from a block away. Old Thunderthighs."

I gave him a big hug. Chuck is a homeless veteran, by the way, for those of you who don't read this blog regularly. He dumpster dives, but only for cans and plastic items and the random treasure, and tries his best not to get oily or dirty. He is well known in the neighborhood by many of the merchants who will sometimes feed him. He freely admits to being an alcoholic, and he works harder than anyone I ever met, but he lives on the streets. 

He said, "I had a heart attack since I saw you last."

He did look thin, and he had a bandaid over his nose. His glasses are old and very thick.

He lit a cigarette. "I know I shouldn't smoke or drink, but this is my life. I'm not chasing death, but if it comes, it comes."

"I wrote a song about that once."

His face brightened. "Hey! I found a great place to sleep!"


"These guys have this business and the parking lot is behind and kind of protected. And they kind of know me from the neighborhood. I mean they know I'm not scary or threatening or anything. So, after they close, they said if I want to sleep back there, away from the noise and view of the street, it'd be okay."

"Wow! That's great! And it doesn't hurt for them to have someone on premises at night."

"They told me never to do anything, but that if I see something or someone snooping around, to tell them the next day."

"Sounds perfect."

"Yep. There's this one place just in front of the cars where I can stretch out and play my radio. Do you ever listen to 'Coast to Coast'?"

I said I did. It's a radio show with psychics and paranormal "experts" talking about the planet or the sun or ghosts or whatever.

"That's everything you need to know about me."

And I believed him.

"What do you think about this Sarah Palin?"

Now, this was interesting. One sometimes assumes that homeless people are automatically shut off from society. But Chuck stood there and gave me an analysis of the whole situation. She had only given her speech the night before. 

After I made it home, I realized that in cities like Los Angeles, there are little pockets of communities within communities. But you have to go out and find them. They don't come to you. You never run into people accidentally if you don't get out and look around. 

The problem is that these neighborhoods, created through zoning don't really make it easy. (That's why I support places like Kulak's and why I'm glad they've let it stay around. Too bad it's been such an long, hard, expensive ride for Paul. I'll be telling that story at another time.)

 I like having a neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Pantheon" is retitled "New World Waking."

This is to announce that the choral piece I've written for the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus now has a new name and description. For the longest time, I've felt that "Pantheon Bar & Grill" was an okay title, but a bit obtuse and doesn't really tell the audience what it is they're coming to see.

Then, Teddy Witherington, the Executive Director of the Chorus, and Kathleen McGuire, the conductor and artistic director, expressed the same feelings I was having, so, after a weekend of thinking about it, we decided to rename it "New World Waking," which is one of the lyric/musical themes in the piece.

Also, since the concept of a work about "peace" came to me while I was in Olympia playing John Lennon's IMAGINE piano, and since the word "cantata" sounds old and musty (besides the fact that, technically, it's not really a cantata), here is the full new title:

New World Waking
Songs on the Road to Peace
Inspired by John Lennon's Piano

December 1, 2008
Davies Symphony Hall
San Francisco, California
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

Order tickets here!

"The Secret of the Great Big Hall" at Kulak's

I was a bit nervous trying out this song for the first time in front of an audience. Also, I'm still getting used to Kulak's piano and the sound. But I think it's an okay first try.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Remember when I told you about the doggy benefit this past Saturday where there weren't many in the audience? (Labor Day). It's a monthly event to help out a local neighborhood group that rescues older, sick pets who've been abandoned by their owners and left at the pound to be destroyed. They give them medical attention and the adopt them out to people who will take in older pets.

If you go to this page, you'll see some of the faces who are looking for homes. 1-800-Save-A-Pet. The dog on the left is Pepper, a Jack Terrier.

You can also donate a few bucks to help them out. I'm sure it will be put to very good use.

From my friend, singer/songwriter Julie Chadwick:

The Pepper Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non profit Animal Rescue Group. We specialize in rescueing mostly senior and special needs doggies from our City and County Animal Shelters. These are animals that have been discarded by their owners, and would normally be put to sleep because of health issues and  age. But we feel these little souls have the right to live out there lives in a wonderful and loving home. We take care of all their medical needs and rehabilitate them, and try to find forever homes for them. Somtimes with senior and special needs this is difficult, so we let them live out their lives either in our care or in loving foster homes. Unfortunately special needs and senior doggies cost the most which is why donations are always greatly appreciated, since we survive soley on donations. We can be reached at if anyone is interested in either adopting one of our precious souls or making a donation.

Singing With Jake At Kulak's.

Last night at Kulak's turned out to be great fun. Jake, unfortunately, couldn't find it at first, so he missed the sign-up to sing a solo, but he made it perfectly in time for us to sing together. The video won't be available for another week, but here are a couple of photos of Jake I took down there in the space. I told him I was adding him to the act because it needed some sex appeal. Luckily, he can also sing.

Jake Wesley StewartJake Wesley Stewart

Jake Wesley StewartWe sang "Going It Alone" together. He took the higher harmony.

And it was a great night of talent, too. Dave Morrison, who is a superb performer and writer, was the guest host. Dave is hilarious on top of all his other talents -- guitarist, singer, etc.

I also got some nice emails from people who checked in on the broadcast and really enjoyed hearing a night of alternative folk music. Well, I'll be back there next Monday!

EDIT: The videos that are made at the open mic become available in a week. So, you'll get to see how well we did!

Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm Singing Tonight at Kulak's Open Mic.

This evening I am going to be down at Kulak's open mic if anyone wants to watch online or just be there. Just know that it's a very small, relaxed listening room. The seats are not particularly comfortable, but there is a bed and some floor futon seating. (I usually prefer to sit on the floor). It starts at 7:30pm Pacific time and goes till 10.

I was a guest artist there this past Saturday night for a little fundraiser singer Julie Chadwick was holding for a small pet rescue group but, because of the holiday, there were only a few attendees (who weren't on the bill as performers). A guy in a wheel chair, a senior lady dressed as if going to church sitting on the couch, possibly from the senior center just up the road, and a few scattered others.

A little background: If you don't have a car, North Hollywood's Laurel Canyon Blvd. can feel dark and dangerous. There's no real place for community. It's zoned in this area for business. But none of the businesses are open at night. So, it becomes a ghost town.

Or was until Kulak set up this small performance/hang-out 8 years ago purely as a labor of love. I met Paul back when he was first getting the Woodshed started. He loved folk music and great songwriting and he wanted to create a space for that to happen. (Unfortunately, this is irritating two of the surrounding businessmen and it's been a tooth and nail fight to stay open.)

So, songwriters in the area, both new and old, began hanging out, doing jam sessions on Wednesday night, playing music for each other. And it started creating a community of artists, writers, plus folks who live in the area on limited incomes who benefit from a safe, alcohol-free, drug-free place to go at night. There's no charge to hang out at Kulak's but donations are accepted. Kids and pets allowed.

And it's all acoustic. The noise level has to remain low.

And the artists are broadcast live over the net.

Paul Kulak, who pays for the overhead with his camera rental business, has installed, over the years, a multi-camera set-up all made with spare parts and ingenious creativity. One automated camera is pitched high on the wall and runs on a home-made track to scan the whole room. One is on a boom, and a third runs along a rail set up along the headboard of the bed.

It's fun to sit in the control booth with him and listen to him teach his volunteers how to frame shots. If I were going to TV school, I'd be down here every night volunteering.

And by doing this he has created a wealth of material, the soft underbelly of music made in Los Angeles by Los Angeleans. It's value is incalculable. A lot of it is online here in the archives.

It's the open mic, though, that's my favorite. Open mics are always dangerous because there will always be some garage superstar who imagines himself to be the greatest thing on earth who will embarrass everyone but himself. How can you not love that (well, except while it's happening, of course)?

But then you get a couple of young, good looking guys who just show up, whip out a guitar and a small keyboard and sound like Radiohead. (Akiav). Or there's this teen girl who comes. Very beautiful. Dresses in matching boots and hats. You're expecting a weak approximation of a vocal but instead it's this amazingly rich alto. And like me, she plays well enough to accompany herself.

I have been taking some video myself and will soon post some stuff for you to look at.

Also, I met yesterday with a guy who I met up in Pismo Beach doing Shakespeare. His name is Jake Wesley Stewart. Very talented, impossibly handsome, actor and singer who is a year fresh from North Carolina. He works for a mutual friend, Marty Panzer, one of L.A.'s most gifted songwriters. (Hi, Marty!) So I invited him over to sing and he's going to join me tonight on "Going It Alone."

You'll know me. I'll be the garage superstar who imagines himself to be the greatest thing on earth who will embarrass everyone but himself.