98th: Drink not, nor talk with your mouth full, neither gaze about you while you are drinking.
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3 December 2004
Steve and I gave this cute guy so much pleasure last night you'd have thought we were running a house of ill repute.
It was late at night and The Apple Farm restaurant had already closed, so we went off in search of somewhere to eat dinner in San Luis Obispo. We stopped at a Bar and Grill and our waiter couldn't possibly have been more happy to see us or more accommodating. Every single thing we thanked him for, he responded with an enthusiastic "My pleasure!" It got to a point where I think I was asking him for things just so I could thank him and have him respond "my pleasure!" (He may have caught on because the last time he just said "no problem.")
Yeah, I've had one of my famous ridiculous long-distance overnighters and actually, the whole thing was pretty much about giving and getting pleasure, if you think about it.
I whipped through a couple of tapes for the psychiatrist yesterday morning (which I know gave him pleasure!) and was on the road by 9:30 a.m., headed for San Luis Obispo, which is about 250 miles. There's nothing pleasurable about hours and hours on I-5, but I had a fresh selection of CDs in the CD player and it worked out just perfectly.
I listened to San Francisco's KGO talk radio until Stockton, when the reception started to fade out. Then I started the CDs. I have two CDs of soundtracks from two versions of "Forbidden Broadway," a hilarious show that we saw when we were in New York. Those CDs are so long that they lasted all the way down I-5 to Kettleman City, the turnoff from I-5 over to Paso Robles. The miles flew by so quickly I hardly realized I'd been driving for about 3½ hours.
At Kettleman City John Denver's concert in Australia came on which lasted just slightly longer than the hour it takes to drive from I-5 to 101. And then at 101, Steve started singing the songs he would later sing that night and those took me all the way into San Luis Obispo. Coming home, I reversed the process and it seemed like it took no time at all to get home.
It was a strange drive. There seemed to be a light haze all over California, at least between Sacramento and San Luis Obispo.
It was World AIDS Day and Steve had been invited to give a presentation to the GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) group on campus. I've written something serious about World AIDS Day every year in this journal. Last year I wrote about the people I know who have died of AIDS; the year before I talked about working The AIDS Quilt display in Washington, DC; the year before that I talked about an AIDS rally I attended in Sacramento; and the year before that I talked about people I knew who had died of AIDS (there were fewer of them that year, but that's the problem with a fatal disease, isn't it?)
This year, I spent World AIDS Day with the guy the program called the "celebrated HIV-positive songwriter, Steve Schalchlin." Ooooo. Steve and Jimmy have spent so much time concentrating on "The Big Voice" that it's been a long time since Steve did this show--probably not since last World AIDS Day. And if they make good on their plans to move to NY, this will probably be the last chance I'll have to spend World AIDS Day with Steve!
We were all registered with the La Cuesta Inn and we managed to get me just two doors from Steve and Jimmy. It was a very nice room...and how can you dislike a place that gives you a rubber duckie in your bathtub??
Jimmy was working in their room, so Steve and I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and chatting. We haven't had a chance to do that, one on one, in awhile and I've missed it, so this was a great opportunity for some more bonding.
At 5, the director of the Women's Center came to pick us up and run us over to the campus for sound check. There was some confusion because she had booked the hall weeks ago, but apparently the university forgot to tell the Agricultural Business class that expected to be in there as well! Steve finally pointed out that the class was scheduled from 6-7 and his show wasn't until 7, so if she could end the class a bit early, he could start a bit late, and nobody would be inconvenienced. Worked like a charm.
We went over to the Women's Center office to sit and wait until 7 and there ran into a guy who was such a fan of Steve's that he came wearing a t-shirt from the very first run of "The Last Session" in Laguna Beach.
He told Steve he had all his CDs and wanted to know when the next one would be out. It was a nice way to start the evening (in keeping with the theme of this entry, which is giving and receiving pleasure!)
At the appointed time, we went back to the hall and finished setting up while Steve was interviewed for the 11 p.m. news (when it ran it was so short, you might have missed it--but he was there to give his statement).
The hall was about 1/3 full, which was a good crowd for a program like this, especially considering that there was a competing AIDS event also taking place that day.
It was fun seeing Steve do the show again and watch him pulling up all the old stuff that he's done so often. He gives a very effective message without being preachy. He just lets people know the reality of living with AIDS and sings the songs he wrote when he thought he only had a short time left to live.
He gives no statistics or "how-to's" or anything like that. He just is Steve, a guy who has lived with the reality of AIDS for over 10 years now, a guy who is living his "bonus round" (where time speeds up and the prizes are better) and making the best of it.
One of the questions after his presentation was whether people contracting the disease today still have to take the +/-50 pills a day that Steve takes. It did give him an opportunity to explain how the disease works, why you need to take so many, and how some of the medications he is taking are to deal with the symptoms or conditions that the AIDS medications have caused.
I hope it was a real reality check for the kids in the audience, because an estimated 3.1 million people became newly infected in 2004 and today half of the new cases are women. AIDS is the leading cause of death among 15-44 year olds in the Caribbean, where 2% of the population is infected. Sub-Saharan Africa has 10% of the world's population but 60% of its people are living with HIV--some 25.4 million. In this country AIDS is ranked among the top 3 causes of death for African-American women aged 35-44.
So the threat of AIDS is not gone, and the new medications, while they are allowing people like Steve to live longer, aren't a panacea for casual mixing of bodily fluids. The problem with today's young people is that they either weren't born, or were too young to remember that when Steve was diagnosed, AIDS was a death sentence. If you were infected, you died. Period. There isn't a gay man alive today of a certain age range who can't list dozens, if not hundreds of his friends who are no longer alive because they died, too young, to AIDS. But because the new medications are allowing people to live longer, and to live productive lives like Steve, some young people may think that if you contract it, you just control it with a pill. Steve's message is that it ain't that simple.
Hopefully, some folks left the hall with that message firmly entrenched in their heads. And judging by the line to give him hugs after the show (a regular part of Steve's appearances), I think he managed to get the message across and still give a lot of pleasure to the audience.
So that was my World's AIDS day. I arrived in San Luis Obispo at 3 p.m. and left this morning at about 7:30, but it was a very good trip and I'm so glad that I went. I always get lots of pleasure out of spending time with Steve, who more often than not fills the roll of the obnoxious little brother I never had....and I know that gives him pleasure!
PHOTO OF THE DAY