BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- which is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and playing the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A TLS Trivia Question.

Here's a trivia question: Which actor in a starring role on two major TV shows played Buddy in the first workshop of The Last Session?

Answer: Charles Esten. (The link takes you to a new interview at Vulture).

He's in Enlightened on HBO and in Nashville on ABC.

And yeah, while I was playing Gideon, with the I.V. still stuck in my arm, my co-star playing Buddy was one Charles Esten, one of the kindest, smartest and most talented human beings on the planet.


What Schools Don't Teach

There was a time when being a computer coder was for nerds and outcasts. I don't know how to code, but when I first went on the Internet in 1995 and then put up my website in 1996, I had to learn html in order to write webpage. So I did. Some of it was just rote learning, and some of it was copy/paste from someone else's basic code. But I learned it well enough to put up a website back when 2/3 of the students in college classes I visited didn't even have email yet.

But if students today want the jobs of tomorrow, this is the modern "shop class" that ought to be everywhere.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Sure Can Scream.

"This is going to hurt," she warned me. I shoulda put my wallet in my mouth.

This plantar wart on my foot. It's been too persistent. This was my first time in her office.

She was talking about the Lidocaine that was about to be injected into my foot. I was immediately transported back to the famous Bell-Toe Incident in the old diary. Here is how I described it back then, when they had to numb my toe:
Of all the torture devices on this planet, of all the pain I've felt, nothing tops that needle going into the joint of my big toe. I started hyper ventilating and screaming again. She kept saying, "Slow down your breathing. It should stop hurting soon. Slow down!" My mind was a maze of pain and horror. I knew it would be over, but ohmygawd it just seemed to take so long.
 After I finished screaming yesterday, as she numbed the area between my toes, she said, "We can all go home now! You just cleared out the dressing room."

The reason for the numbing was she wanted a biopsy. So, today, I'm lying with my foot elevated -- and Jim has been taking care of me.

I wonder how long I can string this out?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finger Aches.

I discovered it for real when, not long ago, my hands were in extreme pain after setting down some grocery bags.Then I felt pain as I picked them up. Now I am noticing this pain almost all the time, like when I stretch our my fingers wide.

I like getting old, but I hate the side effects.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seed Planting.

Yesterday, blogger Seth Godin wrote another of his profound blog entries about seed planting. In time of scarcity, the harvest become fraught with competition and danger. But if enough seeds are planted during that time, the season of fear will pass and a season of plenty will soon come.

When the Righteous Mothers and I sang our concert in Olympia, Washington, I wasn't physically doing so well. When the strep throat -- or whatever it was -- came on, it was all I could do to croak my way through the show. My mind was on my misery, though we had a wonderful bonding experience, the audience, the other singers and I.

 But, as if by magic, an idea formed in the head of someone who was there purely by happenstance, who had never heard of me.

How often can we brag we not merely inspired someone, but that we inspired an artist? One of those special kinds of persons who take one thing and turn it into something else.

It's something everyone can do, even if it's just planting a seed of kindness. But it also got me to thinking that we plant seeds every day, all day long, whether we know it or not. And those seeds bear plants that grow long roots in the brains and lives of others.

I was too sick to remember much of that night. But Sally Penley heard a message about bullying and hate, and the next thing you know, she's at a meeting of the world's calligraphers signing people up to create art around words related to bullying and violence -- and peace and harmony.

And thus, we have "Out Of The Silence." But I didn't just grab that seed out of nowhere.

The seed I planted had been planted in me by Gabi Clayton and her desire to memorialize her son's suicide by reaching out to other disaffected youth who were victims of violence and bullying.

And I have no doubt that Out Of The Silence will plant more seeds.

Speaking of seeds, just as I was quoting Seth's blog, he writes this terrific post about bullying, and how it survives because institutions and bureaucracies thrive on conformity. Bullies are conformity's unofficial enforcers. How often has the victim been told, "Well, if you didn't walk that way" or "talk that way," there would have been no problem.

Which is, of course, a lie. The bully will simply find something else to attack. The victim is not the problem. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review of "Out of the Silence."



From the Seattle Gay News:
'Out of the Silence is an exhibit celebrating Diversity, Love & Understanding.' What it does is set up a visual feast of thoughtful, inspiring, and provocative quotes that represent some of the many voices standing up to bullying. And the proceeds go to Pizza Klatch, an Olympia organization whose goal is to reduce the rate of suicide (and attempted suicide) among LGBTQ students.
This is the calligraphic exhibit I told you about earlier, which was created by Sally Penley, who told me she was inspired by my concert in Olympia. They even mention me in the article!
It was in January 2012 that Penley attended a PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) sponsored event in Olympia. When a New York songwriter began performing a song about his own experiences, Penley was so moved that she decided to figure out a way to help the fight against LGBTQ youth-bashing and suicide.
That's me! The "New York songwriter!"

Thanks, Sally, for making art out of my lyrics and for allowing yourself to be inspired.

Blood Test Results.

Liver function, normal. Kidneys, normal. Cholesterol, normal. T-cells over 500 and holding steady. T-cell percentage at 24% (the highest it's been -- this is good). Triglycerides almost normal. Blood sugars under control. No kidney stones.

After delivering the good news, Dr. Tony said, "Ah, I'm good." And then polished his fingernails with a grin. 

After a year of much pain and worry, and after months on this new veggie diet, plus new HIV meds, it seems it's all working. Now I just need to rebuild body strength to prepare for my big moment at the World Domination Festival.

At one point, we were talking about being sick and I mentioned how I once had moluscums that were breaking out on my face and skin. He said, "You have to have an almost destroyed immune system when you're breaking out in those." He also said that, of all his patients, I've come from the longest way, healthwise, starting from when I was at the very bottom, back when I started this blog/diary. 

Speaking of Dr. Tony, he makes a quick appearance in the trailer I just made for this month's video diary. 


Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Scared is Scared

Found this on Digg. Love it. A six-year tells a story and then philosophizes on how to stop being scared of things.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

How Yoga Helped a Veteran.

Zuzu's Petals by Kevin Andrew.

Kevin's story is one filled with heartaches and triumphs. Told firsthand, it is a personal journey in which one man struggles to find meaning through his own experiences with religion, war, death, physical disability, cancer, and depression. Ultimately, through meditation and the practice of yoga, he finds peace and turns tragedy into triumph. Kevin's story will inspire anyone who seeks to find sanity and simplicity in an insane and complex world.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Video Diary Jan. 2013: 2 Seconds at a Time



A little experiment that turned out better than I ever dreamed. I had read about a person who recorded two seconds of video every day and came out with an entertaining video. So, I thought I'd give it a shot.

There are a few celebrities sprinkled throughout this video. Can you pick them out?

EDIT: Here is the shot list.

1. Manhattan skyline, looking south. World Trade Center. Christmas Eve, Dec. 2012.

2. Hudson river. New Jersey.

3. Hudson River. Jacob Javits Center and entrance to tunnel.

4. Midnight Mass. Christmas Eve. Silent Night. Candles only.

5. My pill tray. My list of medications beneath it.

6. WTC. Between Christmas and New Year.

7. Snow. Manhattan Plaza, which has subsidized housing for actors and retirees, through door.

8. 10th Avenue and 42nd street.

9.  Hudson River.

10. 42nd Street New Year’s Eve.

11. Me mentioning the barracades.

12. McDonald’s Times Square.

13. 42nd Street cleaner.

14. New Amsterdam theater. Mary Poppins is closing soon.

15. Me and Mary Poppins.

16. Times Square subway tunnel on my way to church.

17. Subway station underground. Waiting for the 1 train.

18. Rehearsing my  “Gloria.” Mark Janas conducting.

19. Performing “Gloria.”

20. Rehearsing in church.

21. Danielle Erin Rhodes winking.

22. Jonathan Marro, attached to Danielle. The three of us pretend we a thruple.

23. Me.

24. Organist Kalle writing intensely. He’s always writing intensely.

25. Rehearsing some ancient sacred song.

26. Steinbeck manning the feeding station.

27. Manhattan Plaza. Christmas lights still up.

28. Jim at the Big Apple grocery and butcher shop. They just closed it because they building is being replaced. It was the only place to get affordable food. Everything else in midtown is “gourmet.” Same stuff. Twice the price.

29-31. More shots of the, now, late Big Apple. Jim says hello.

32. The Good and Plenty in front of Manhattan Plaza also just closed. They had really great home-cooked meals. And then, suddenly, without warning, a notice. Closing because of rents or something. It was always crowded. It’s hard to find affordable food, which is tough for both the poor actors and for people on fixed incomes.

33. Our annual ritual of changing from the old Week-At-A-Glance to the new.

24. Lucy Es Inciente.

25. The pine needles have fallen from our mini-tree.

26. Taking off the ornament at the top. I think it’s from the White House, but I forget.

27. The cards will also be coming down. WTC in the background.

28. Pretty!

29. Jim just got his copy of the magazine from the Lyric Theater in Stuart, Florida where he’s going to do Zero for one last tour. He is ready to put his Zero shoes away. Character Man is coming.

30. Four Broadway theaters. The newest name changes were the Schoenfeld and the Bernard Jacobs. We call them the Merman and the Martin, because that’s what they should be.

31. Magician and comedian Rich Bloch.

32. Steinbeck gets a zerbert.

33. Boiling broccoli. My new diet is plant-based. Doctor’s orders. Kidney stones.

34. The poster of Zero Mostel in our kitchen. It was on the wall of the LA Shubert Theater and given to us when they tore it down. Or, rather, at the closing party, we claimed it from the stack of giveaways.

35. Asparagus and peanuts. More of my new diet. No salt.

36. Foggy day.

37. Merchant of Venice, which I am reading and from which I have learned a monologue.

38. Me doing my serious actory Shakespeare face in the subway.

39. At the Starbucks in Christopher Street waiting for Mark Janas, to head to church.

40. Church.

41. Swinging toward Mark Janas.

42. Mark Janas’ fingers playing something hard.

43. Subway home from Brooklyn. Trying to get to acting class.

44. Andy Gale’s advanced acting class. He’s the best in the city.

45. Jake Wesley Stewart.

46. Walking down 46th street, restaurant row. Broadway Joe is a steak house, I think.

47. Don’t Tell Mama, a premiere cabaret spot, where I’ve sung several times.

48. Marge Champion, Grand dame of New York dancers. Was the model for Cinderella and for the hippos in Fantasia.

49. Jim Brochu on Maude, as a patron in a gay bar.

50. Hudson River at night.

51. Signature Theater. New complex on 42nd street.

52. The backside of Hell’s Kitchen.

53. WTC at night.

54. Steinbeck. Early morning.

55. Jim and Steve.

56. Lunching with some lady friends, Magda, Jane and Merrill at the Polish Tea Room.

57. Running into a fan in Times Square. Cindy.

58. Jim imitating an very annoying commercial on TV.

59. Stack of books I’ve been reading.

60. Slats in the bedroom window.

61. Jim on the phone. Very serious. He wanted me to stop taping.

62. 10th avenue looking toward the Yotel.

63. Jim walking toward 42nd street, 10th avenue.

64. In front of new gay resort is where all the cops park. The station is next door. We’ve turned on 42nd and are headed west.

65. The police station.

66. The new Pearl Theater. Opened in the space abandoned when the Signature moved into the new building two blocks over.

67. West side highway, 11th street headed toward Javits Center.

68-70, JIm crosses the road, talks..

71. Inside the Javits Center.

72. There’s a motorcycle show. We weren’t going to that.

73. More walking.

74. Empire State Building.

75. Travel Show!

76. Going in.

77. The Russia exhibit.

78. A sign.

79. New Antarctic exhibit at Sea World.

80-81. Kids.

82. Another kid.

83. Jim covets Thai hat.

84-86. Lithuania.

87. Steve philosophizes.

88-89. More dancers.

90. Cindy Marchionda. She sang in choir that day, so we’re in Brooklyn.

91. Brooklyn.

92. Andy Gale’s class.

93. Stephen Wallem at Birdland. (Nurse Jackie’s Thor).

94. Steinbeck at the trough.

95. Morning exercise.

96. The OUT NYC.

97. WTC at night.

98. WTC later in the morning.

99. Me in the mirror.

100. The last cutting from the old red flannel bathrobe referenced in The Last Session. Frame was a placeholder at an awards show I hosted for the Spirit of Broadway theater.

101. Hudson River. Blazing sunset. Camera couldn’t really get it.

102. WTC sunset.

103. Hell’s Kitchen sunset.

104. The Skivvies at 54 Below. Yes, they play in their underwear. They are also very talented and very funny.

105. Stone and Stone, hilarious twin comics. Also 54 Below.

106. Jim in his chair. Steinbeck below.

107. Me and my meds.

108. Steinbeck on the blanket we call “the cat catcher.”

109. Jim writing.

110. I dusted!

111. WTC.

112. Hudson River.

113. A strange painting left to us by jazz pianist, Stan Freeman. I think it’s actual art.

114. Kitchen towel.

115. Steinbeck on the cat catcher.

116. “Fish not with this melancholy bait.”

117. Family members at the 13th Step.

118. The 13th Step.

119. Shooting a movie “Perfect Timing” from PrashNYC.

120-122. Caricatures in the Players Club in NYC in the bathroom.

123-124. Jim Brochu reads the gift of deed from Edwin Booth, donating his mansion to the Players. Junius Brutus Booth, father of Edwin and John Wilkes is in the portrait above the fireplace.

125. An onion we didn’t use.

126. Flowers/WTC.

127. Steinbeck.

128-132. 42nd and 9th at night. On my way to see Terese Genecco and meet Kathleen McGuire.

133. Traffic cops.

134. Getting the “magic bus” which runs down 10th to 34th street and then cuts to the east side. Our stop is the first stop, so the bus starts empty.

135. It fills up quickly, especially on a rainy night.

136. Looking up Park Avenue.

137. Subway on the east side. The letters turn green.

138. The new Cutting Room. Never been there.

139. A display inside.

140. Terese Genecco and her Little Big Band. She’s a great entertainer and singer. And her band is thrilling.

141. Lea Delaria presenting Terese with a signed prison uniform, a souvenir from her new series that takes place in a women’s prison. It was auctioned off for charity later that night.

142. Kathleen McGuire and me.

143. JIm.

144. Steve.

145. A caricature of me drawn on cup by Carl Maguire. Cap’n Shakl’n.

146. JIm at the new Cake Boss Cafe where the cakes cost $50. He had to try a pastry.

147. Bobble head doll of Cake Boss.

148. Aunt Bea drunk.

149. Picnic on Broadway.

150. Me.

151. Jim assaults stranger on street. (Actually, Timothy Jerome who is now in “Phantom.”