Funny the World...


May 19, 2000

I’ve returned from a couple of days in the Bay Area, yet again seeing Steve Schalchlin in concert. Walt and Jeri were going to the San Francisco Symphony, and were taking the car, so I decided to take the train down.

What a delightful way to travel. I got on the train in Davis and had a lovely hour and a half with tons of leg room, lots of empty seats, a dining car (with overpriced food; I had a bag of chips for lunch). The weather was delightful and the scenery on the way down beautiful. It’s interesting to travel by train because you take more or less the same route as the Interstate, but not quite, so getting one’s bearings is often challenging. The train also passes by the back of businesses and homes. Moreso than when traveling by car, you have the opportunity to borrow small pieces of someone’s life as you rush past. There’s a yard that is badly neglected, another one meticulously groomed, one filled with flowers, one a resting place for a dozen rusting old cars. As we got out into open space, we had a clear view of the hills and the patchwork of mustard growing everywhere. Egrets stood majestically in swamp water while huge hawks chased each other across the sky.

As we passed what were obviously low income houses in Richmond, there was an old woman dressed in a coat and knit cap sitting at a white plastic table that had a candle on it. Was she waiting for a gentleman to join her? Perhaps one of the men huddled together under the freeway overpass in Berkeley, passing a bottle of wine back and forth. You don’t get this close when you travel by car.

Olivia met my train in Oakland and we went back to her house to visit a bit, have dinner, and then get ourselves over to Metropolitan Community Church for, first, its Taize service (a candlelight prayer service), following which Steve gave his concert. Since I know Steve doesn’t read this journal, I will comment on why I love this man so much. The Taize service ends with people coming to a large cross on the floor by the altar, lit by votive candles. They are invited to offer private prayer and then light their own candle to take back to their seats with them. In groups of 2 or 3, or individually, people came to the front and knelt or sat in front of the cross to say prayers. Steve was sitting across the church from me and I could see him becoming concerned. Suddenly he got up and came to the cross and sat down next to a man I had not noticed before. It was obvious that the man was troubled and Steve just sat there with him, stroking his back, hugging him, speaking softly to him. It was such a beautiful thing to watch (and so typical of how he lives his life)--that he had recognized someone in emotional pain and had gone to help. At the end of the service, one of the ministers came and took he man by the hand and led him back to his seat and Steve returned to his seat across the church.

The concert was a great success. It meant so much to me that Olivia have the chance to see Steve. They have crossed swords on the Internet and I had deliberately not played any of his music for her because I wanted her to see him live first. She bought a CD at the end of the show, as did our friend Susan, who accompanied us.

I’m not sure why, but "The Group," his song about a support group, has never moved me to tears before, but I was very moved last night. Perhaps because he introduced it by talking about his best friend Dickie, who died of AIDS in January. Usually "Save Me A Seat," in which he talks about his own memorial service, gets me, but last night it was "The Group." "William’s Song," the new rockabilly jingle about a mother in Arkansas who sued the school board for failing to prevent her gay son from beaten up in school, was a great crowd pleaser--and fun to hear it done with guitar and drum accompaniment. And he closed, as always, with "When You Care," this time with the backup of MCC’s choir, which was a lot of fun.

I spent the night at Olivia’s and took the train home again this afternoon (I sat in the same seat as the previous day and my leftover bag of chips was still in the seat pocket!)

The train arrived in Davis around 12:30. It’s about 2 miles from home but I decided to walk instead of trying to find the bus stop. It was a lovely day and I walked by the Paul Plaza and looked at the bricks again, then on to Central Park, where I decided to take a picture of a statue of a circle of naked women cavorting happily. As I was taking the picture, a man, who looked like he was probably homeless, suggested that what I really needed to do next was to take a picture of the woman sleeping on the bench nearby. "That will give you a contrast," he said somewhat bitterly.

The words to part of Steve’s song, "Where is God?" came to me.

The Channel Seven newsteam did a special live report
'Bout how cold the homeless man was in his corrugated fort
I bet that cozy newsroom would have seemed like a resort
They didn't take him there. They asked him Where Is God

I walked farther through the park and, though I felt a little uncomfortable about it, I did take a picture of the sleeping woman (though from a discreet distance). When I passed her I saw that she had her clothes in a dirty sack with her, and there was a little box of pills lying on the ground next to her. Her shoes had holes in them. It was indeed a contrast to the joyous women dancing in the statue.

As I continued to walk, I came to another piece of public art. It was a pair of huge hands. and I remembered the last part of "Where is God?"

If God has eyes, they’re our eyes
If God has hands, they’re our hands
And if God has love, it’s our love....

I thought about Steve reaching out to the man in trouble at church. I thought about the people who work at the Shelter, and those who work with the AIDS clients at Breaking Barriers. And it seemed to bring the whole two days full circle.

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created 5/19/00 by Bev Sykes