Yesterday, Ernie and I began the process of wrapping all the little bitty things Jim and I want to hang onto, including knick-knacks, photos on the walls, paintings, souvenirs from around the world, and awards. (Where and how did we manage to accumulate so much STUFF??).
Everything was going into bubble wrap and stuffed into boxes. Ernie was cleaning the dust off of them and I was wrapping and stuffing. He had told me, earlier, that moving is a very emotional activity, but I wasn't feeling emotional. I was just feeling overwhelmed by how much we had to do.
At one point, he pointed over to a crystal angel and asked, "Is that an award?"
And out of NOWHERE, I just BURST into tears.
That little angel -- and I don't have a picture to show you right now because I didn't bring the camera with me and I don't have a smart phone, not because I don't love technology, but phone plans are so expensive right now, we're just trying to keep our expenses to the very minimum -- that little angel represents a world of history.
It was given to me by Don Kirkpatrick on the day Kurt Knutsson, "The Cyber Guy," flew him out from *El Paso to L.A. for a little reunion. I tried to find a way to tell the story, but I was sobbing too much.
So, I'll try to do it here, though longtime readers probably know the story better than I do.
1996. I had just started the online diary. Don was one of the first readers to stumble across it, a senior who was finding his second life as a gay man thanks to the Internet. He began reading about our show, about our lives, and he offered us, out of the clear blue sky, the funding to go to New York and do a little showcase.
From that act of generosity, all of this -- and I mean all of it -- began. Our off-Broadway production, a circle of friends, many of whom I'm still in contact with, TV shows, award shows, my entire musical career -- how do I, in a few moments, tell this story, all embodied in that one little piece of glass.
As I recall the moment with Ernie yesterday, I sit here with tears welling up in my eyes.
It was a story that couldn't have happened in the pre-Internet days. Hell, it's a story that couldn't have happened six months previous.
As I sat there on the couch, wrapping up every little item, I started to see, in my mind's eye, a thousand different stories, a thousand different people, all of whom contributed to the Story that is Living in the Bonus Round.
How can I possibly repay all that's been given to me? I know of only one way: To keep living, to keep writing, to keep striving, to continue my "work," whatever that is.
There was a point, back in August of 1996, when I knew I was not going to die, when everything -- Life -- began to overwhelm me. I had, up to that point, come to a real peace about the fact that I had only short time left to live. It felt so -- easy.
Easy. The disease was taking away all my choices. All I had to do was live it out, die, and then let God or Fate or Who or What Ever just take it from there.
The Last Session was my passion. It was my Final Statement. It was finished. I was finished. And First Angel, Don, had come along, out of nowhere, to make it a miracle that would live long after I had gone.
And, now, here it was. August 2010.
I'm still dealing with a lot of health issues. I'm still fighting every day for breath and for life. And I have no idea what the future is, or how to create it -- maybe there is no such thing as "the future." Maybe we're all just living in an extended Now. A long moment that stretches back and extends forth.
I had a real existential crisis in August of 1996 because I had to ask myself, "Now what?" And I've been asking myself that same question ever since. The answers have rolled out slowly. That's when I coined the title "Living in the Bonus Round." And each new chapter is another answer to that question: The Big Voice. New World Waking. Musical Insurrection.
And all of it, yesterday, just came rushing at me with that simple query from Ernie about the little crystal angel:
Is this an award?
Yeah. Maybe the best one of all.
*I had originally written, in haste, "San Antonio." Don corrected in the comments section.