16 October 2008
I didn't exactly forget my friend Steve Schalchlin's birthday on October 4th. I sent him a note via Facebook. I had intended to surprise him with a journal entry all about him, because he's such a shy guy and hates publicity.
But I wasn't inspired to come up with an entire blog entry worth of material that didn't sound forced. But this morning I was going through Facebook and came across a new video he'd just posted. It's not a new song, but he's lately been performing at a little club near his house and the videos from Kulak's are always just excellent, so I sat here and listened to the famliar words by the familiar voice and was struck yet again why I love this man.
I can't remember when he wrote this, but I believe it was either just before or just after our troops entered Afghanistan. See what you think:
(My apologies to people who can't view embedded You Tube videos.)
I met Steve because Paul died. The weekend that Paul was supposed to have been performing in Davis, I wanted to get out of town, so Walt and I went to Los Angeles to see Steve's first show, The Last Session, about which I have written much in previous years. Steve wasn't performing in the show, but I was taken with the heartfelt (I stuck that in for Steve) lyrics. I don't think I ever fully felt them, though, until after I'd met Steve in person, a few weeks later. He and I met for lunch in San Francisco when he came up to do a one night show at a club there, and we hit it off right away. A friendship began.
Not long after that, Walt and I flew to Denver for the first meeting of what I call "Friends of Steve," to see a production there. The day before the group was going to see the show together (Steve was doing a guest shot for two performances this time), the group was going to go on a sightseeing tour. The tour would include Columbine High School. The tragedy was still fresh in everyone's mind. Paul died the day of Columbine and my first thought, when we all thought he'd killed himself, was that it was in response to the Columbine shootings, since he tended to get very emotional (and dramatic) about stuff like that. So the very last thing I wanted to do was to see Columbine High School.
Walt wasn't eager to see Columbine either, nor was he interested in seeing The Last Session twice in one day, so he went off by himself to walk around downtown Denver. I went to the matinee of the show. It was the first time I'd seen Steve play the role of Gideon, the singer-songwriter who is dying of AIDS and who assembles his best friends to make one last recording as a farewell to his partner, Jack, before he plans to kills himself.
Steve lives with AIDS and is doing well, but at the time he wasn't that long into his "bonus round," and I sat there alone in that little theatre, watching this man I had come to regard as a good friend, singing this song about his own funeral, the funeral of Paul still so fresh in my mind. I sat there sobbing., thinking that there was a very real possibility that this man I had come to love might one day die of his disease. I still get teary when I hear the song, though I know that when I die (because I will die before Steve--it has been decreed), he's going to be the one bringing nachos to my funeral and will sing this song for me.
Steve and I have been through a lot together. We became best friends, did a lot of traveling together when he was giving lectures on living with AIDS to college groups. I was able to go to Stanford University with him when he was honored there. Walt and I flew to New York when Steve's second show (both were written with his partner Jim Brochu) opened at a Musical Theatre Festival. We've shared hotel rooms, meals, and deep, dark secrets. And he almost always eats half my dinner when we go out to eat, something we haven't done in a long time now.
We've kind of let space come between us in the last year or two. He's busy about things and I'm busy about things and we haven't seen much of each other, and don't have our morning on-line chats as often as we used to. But I am very eager to see the world premiere of his Cantata, "New World Waking!" which the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus is going to perform at the Davies Symphony Hall in early December.
The best thing about my now 8-year friendship with Steve is that he has also become friends with Ned and the Preoccupied Pipers crew and has actually recorded a couple of songs with them, and even performed with the group a couple of times
So I guess this is a belated birthday greeting to my friend, who still has the power to move me with his music and for whose presence in my life I am still very grateful, even if he does drive me crazy sometimes.
Steve and Ned after a recording session
MILES TO NOWHERE: 79 miles