I deal with sound mostly. I like songs because they stop after you’re done singing them, and there’s nothing to clean up (usually) and you don’t have to figure out where they go… I like that about non-objects. But I also like the sensation of movement. And speed. you wouldn’t think of speed necessarily when thinking of a ’94 Toyota Corolla. None the less, this car gave me my first sensations of going 90 on the beltway with the windows rolled down on a summer night. This car loved me no matter which boyfriend I had in tow or whether I was smoking or not or fit in my jeans or not or how many accordions I had packed in there. You know how cars are. Mine was not the ornery type. Not the whiney type. It was the giving type.
I ran into black ice this winter on my way back from fetching photographs of Walter for his memorial show. The costs of repair are too much right now. Yesterday, my mom and I said goodbye. My mom and I wrote poems for BGY200. She refused to read hers, so I read it for her.
Here’s the text:
“About my life with Susan Hwang”
by Jean Hwang
My name is BGY 200, very cute name.
Blue color and small body, cute car.
I spent whole my life, 20 years with Susan only.
Wherever she wheels me, I listen and follow her direction.
Sometime I was not happy to go to a certain place but I was very submissive without complain.
I lived so many different places with her but most of the places I don’t like except her mom’s place. I met so many friends but they are not nice to me.
They hit me all the time and my body has so many bruises, dings, deform certain part of my body but nothing I can do. I have to be patient.
When I was sick, she took me to clinics and cared about me and kept feeding me.
Then, I can keep my job.
I like Susan very much but one thing I don’t like her because she doesn’t cleanse me. My body is smelling and face is very dirty with all kind dust and dirt from the city. Her mom is not happy whenever she sees me. I like her mom very much.
Eventually I am getting old and I am not able to function but she didn’t let me go.
I really want to get rest in a quite place not in the crazy city but I am able to come down to my original place and I am very happy about it.
Please let me go, Susan. Please keep many beautiful moments between you and me.
Thank you, finally you decided let me go. I am so happy about it.
Please have a good and meaningful life even though I am not with you.
Love you and appreciate you keep me so long and love me so much.
This is my poem/eulogy:
And a gratuitous mom at fridge shot.
Another funny thing we discovered is that whatever we talk about shows up at my mother’s front door. I had noticed the bottles of squeeze honey on my mother’s shelf with this lady’s picture on them. Nina Davis with long, curly hair. I thought it was funny to have this random lady in her kitchen. The next day, mom mentioned how she was using the dry heat sauna iat the gym. This lady says “You have a beautiful body.” It’s a real estate lady. Nina Davis. The lady on the honey. Turns out she knows all the people on my mom’s block. All the old people, that is. My mom was a little creeped out because it’s like she’s just waiting for her and the other old folks on the block to die. Also, my mom felt weird about being complimented on her body.
As we were cleaning up lunch, the doorbell rings, and guess who it is. Nina Davis with an envelope of forget-me-nots with her picture on it. There’s a Nina alter forming now in my mother’s kitchen. She complimented me on my face as she handed me the envelope. And weirdly, as I was crossing the street to the laundromat this morning back in Brooklyn, a lady stopped me and said, “You have a beautiful body.” What?? AAGH! Is she going to start plying me with honey? Is she going to leave me pork shoulder or chimichurri with her face on it? Actually, that doesn’t sound bad…
I told my mom we need to start talking about VW hatchbacks or minivans so maybe one will show up at her door for me. Or how about a pegasus. I would take a horse with wings. I like mobility.
I turned my head, because I hadn’t my nosegay. I kept thinking this on the train this morning, and I wanted to explain to the man sitting next to me. I wanted to tell him not to take it personally. I’m sensitive. And at different times in my cycle more than others. It’s all fluctuating. All the time. I didn’t get up and move, because the train was crowded, and because the smell wasn’t offensive enough for that. I just turned my head in the opposite direction.
I wanted to let him know that he didn’t smell like excrement or even b.o. A little bit like maybe unwashed hair. Mostly, just stale. A staleness. And oil. Like at the Greek diner I used to work in college, the kitchen smelled like that. Maybe he works in a kitchen, and there’s not a proper closet where he can put his coat, so it gets the oil and the smell of the oil on it all day long. One can’t help these things…
Nosegay. I’ve never used this word before. I’ve never said it aloud, I think. This morning was probably the first time I’d ever said the word to myself in my head. I really wanted one at that moment. You see how convenient they can be when you don’t want to smell something, but you don’t want to give up your seat on the train. Also, metaphorical nosegays would be useful. If that depressing thought is depressing you, you should stick your head into a nosegay of The Marx Brothers say… or Buster Keaton or my good friend, Rachel Feinstein. I think this is why I like comedians so much. They are braingays… tempermentgays.. moodgays… mindgays…attentiongays…. Lifegays.. realitygays. Some days there aren’t enough gays. More gays! There are days you need more gays, so as not to be phased by the crazed bombardments to your sanity. Gays are whatever will raise your gaze and amaze, from a prophetic phrase to a blaze of mayonnaise or trays of glazed donuts.
I was just reading about Emily Dicksinson for the Bushwick Book Club show inspired by her work that is next week, February 25th, 8pm at Barbes. Nosegay thoughts this morning, and then just now I read that Dickinson used to send visitors and friends gifts of poesies and poetry. Nosegays and spiritgays! Why does it always all come back to songs about books? I’m just going to roll with this one.
Speaking of BBC… Did you listen to the songs on the bandcamp from our last show? The Kurt Vonnegut BLUEBEARD songs are UP! There’s a bunch of shaky video footage too. What a fun time those 2 shows were. Crappy weather can make for fun times sharing songs and art and puppets inspired by Vonnegut. Infused vodka—also great for inspired sharing. Thanks Barbes and Moscow 57! More fun times ahead..
There’s nothing like a relationship to give you an excuse to beg for forgiveness. Please enjoy this free Valentine’s Day download of a Solomon Burke cover off the new Soozee Hwang and the Relastics album.
The whole album is here. Free as a Valentine’s Day special!
“Appreciation is the gateway drug to happiness.” A thought I had on January 18th, 2015. “Feel all the love you can feel. It’s either that or kill yourself. I suppose. Some people get the early retirement plan.” That’s another thought I had on January 18th, 2015. You can see where my head was at. I was writing a new song for Bushwick Book Club. The book was Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve written nine songs inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s books. This new one makes it ten. Usually, it’s easy for me to write the Vonnegut songs, because the depth of his feeling and observation along with the humor and sincerity in which it is conveyed is something I easily connect with. It reaches me easily. It is palatable. There is not much in the way.
This time, I was focusing on Chapter 18. In it, Marilee explains that the real, untold ending of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is that Nora walks out the house, right into traffic and dies. Walks directly in front of a bus (or carriage) and dies. Marilee concludes that Nora should have just stayed home and made the best of it. Then all the suicides of Abstract Expressionists in NY are listed… Arshile Gorky (hanging), Jackson Pollock (car crash), Terry Kitchen (fictional Abstract Expressionist who shot his father and then himself), Mark Rothko (cut himself open). Those artists chose not to stay and make the best of it. And even the ecstasy they experienced making their paintings wasn’t enough to make them stay. So I thought about suicide all day until I became…. suicidal. It’s when you use whatever excuse you’ve got to feel like nothing. When you get going on this, it becomes loud. It doesn’t make any sense, because you figure nothingness should sound like nothing, but it doesn’t work that way. Nothingness gets loud. So loud until it’s all you can hear. Nothingness howls until you do anything to make it stop. Including cutting yourself open or what have you. I had conveniently forgotten that I was familiar with that feeling. So I refamiliarized myself in the writing of this song. And now… I have a song.
What I like about writing songs is that it’s like giving yourself a present. Here’s this thing you didn’t have before! This brand new thing for you to play and play with and share with others! Have at it! So I really do appreciate having a new song… I’m going to try and make the process of it more fun next time. Less wanting to die next time. I’m setting that goal. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here’s the song as played this past week at Moscow 57 (The folks there are great. The food is great. The waitresses let my ass be in their way the whole night as I was facilitating the show. My ass always gets really involved):
Sateen Duraluxe is the name of the paint used by Rabo Karabekian in his most important work. It had the defect of disintegrating over time. It just disappeared. He became an art history joke because of it…
Okay, one more thought this week. I saw this guy yesterday on the train. He was a gift, because he was another one of those instances where you think something’s going to be very annoying, and then it isn’t. That’s one of my favorite ways of being wrong.
He came on the train and kind of mumbled to nobody…. “I’d appreciate any donations you might have….” Nobody wanted to give him anything… he was just this mumbling kid. You figure geeze, if you want something, just say it. Get our attention… present yourself like you’re presenting yourself.. what are you doing?? And then he did this… he just quietly played his sweet, sad backing track and did this silent dance:
It entranced everybody. After he was done, there were dollar bills waving at him from everyone’s hands. I don’t think the video conveys it, but it just affected everyone. We were all held there together in this midday trance instigated by this young man’s interpreting his understanding of beauty through movement. And funny, as the train lurched, I lost my balance and started to tip backwards, and the man in front of me saw and reached out his hand toward me. I grabbed it just in time and did not hit the floor but was caught for a moment in perfect suspension before swinging back to standing. So we did a dance too.
Okay one more thought from yesterday. When I transferred trains, I saw this guy. Oh… I loved the hat so much, so I sort of stalked him until I got the picture. I mean, the hat is commitment. It really makes me love America. I’m serious. And he’s made from the best stuff on Earth.
Some mornings you can feel more. Some mornings just talk to you and don’t shut up. This morning, the air was soft, and it was romantic, looking at the Bushwick rooftops from the elevated train platform. There was romance. I’m sure that’s what it was. I didn’t take a picture. But I took a picture of the lady’s tote that I saw soon afterwards:
“Dwell in possibility” was the quote. I loved it. Dwell in… yes, if you’re going to dwell in anything, it may as well be in possibility. I’ve often said that I’m a citizen of doom, because that’s where I was born. I know all about it. But who cares where you were born. If you have a chance to choose where you dwell, you can choose to dwell in possibility. I thought about Dickinson’s famous solitude. She chose very consciously where she would dwell. And what company she would keep. It sounds like she was pretty unwavering in this. I thought, “Emily Dickinson was so smart.” She really had it going on. She really knew what was what. Here’s the whole poem:
I dwell in Possibility – (466)
BY EMILY DICKINSON
I don’t know what to think of the holidays. I don’t have the same early childhood memories of magic and getting what you want that other people do. With my JW upbringing, Christmas was always this horrible time of flagrant false religion that was all Jesus-oriented on the outside but actually dripping with Satan the whole way through, so you know, it was to be tolerated until the evil was over. Until the next year.
So far this awful Xmas music coming from a lighting display at a Bushwick dollar store is my favorite thing about this season. It’s mesmerizingly bad. I just want to watch it over and over. I don’t want it to stop. I may have to go back and get a longer clip. It’s a good lesson for all of us though as we leave this year and head off into the new one. If you’re going to be bad, be mesmerizingly, hypnotically bad. If you’re going to do it, really do it. Here’s to us. Merry merry!!Share
We started talking about love. I don’t know how we started. I think it was because he wanted to marry me. Some days it’s just like that. You sit on the subway train and somebody proposes. And then his friend does too. They had just gotten done singing a song. The one man stopped to give me a compliment, asked about my marital status. I lied, because it was funner and because I can’t help it. I said I’d been married three times. “Third times a charm,” I said.
He said, “But you’re single now.” Yes, I’m single. I’m only a fibber; I can only carry it so far. He said, “So how about a fourth?” Well.. And then talk about love… love is a beautiful thing. “Why yes it is,” I said. “And everybody has it.” He agreed. His friend came up behind him to chime in, “It’s free… you can give it, share it…”
“And produce it,” I said.
“And reproduce..” he said.
“Whoa!” his friends said from the other side of the car.
“Wow, he’s really cutting to the chase,” I said. “These are modern times.” We imagined how beautiful our babies would be. I said yes, they would be very beautiful. None more so. He said, “How about not giving me a fast no, but a slow yes?”
I said, “Who needs reproduction. How about a number? I’m a sucker for harmonies…”
So they did this song. For me. And for reproduction, I guess. If it sounds this good, it could be for paper cuts and bikini waxes, whatever. Sing me the song:
You can hear me on some of the “ah”s and the last “ooo” at the end. I couldn’t help myself. Bypassing marriage to sing the harmonies. It’s a good trade off. Any day.
Come and hear me and Marlon Cherry play some songs on Friday night as a part of “Call and Response – ‘answer songs’ to the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil by Natalia Zukerman, Susan Hwang, and Ben Arthur.”
Friday, December 5th, 8:30pm
Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3
185 Orchard Street
New York, NY
Still all about Satan – Friday @ Rockwood Music HallShare
What I want to say to Kim Jong-un regarding http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/04/world/asia/kim-jong-un-north-korea-name-ban.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news:
Look, nobody does that anymore. It’s very old-fashioned. And how about feeding your people instead of monitoring their names? What about that? Being a Korean, I feel like I can pretty accurately say, Koreans like to eat. Like really. And nobody cares about your name. Nobody. But those people are still hungry.
There’s no word for “foodie” in Korean. That’s because it’s considered just being alive.
Okay… speaking to dictators. I’ve never done that before. I should probably stick to what I know, like misinterpreting signs.
I liked seeing these signs everywhere in Montreal, because when I read it quickly, it always looked like “A Lover.” Just big signs announcing lovers. Like if you were looking for someone who loved so much that they identified themselves primarily as lovers, you could find one here. Sat long enough next to that hater? We have your antidote for you right here…. This was in Montreal. Montreal apparently is chock full of lovers. This must be why stores don’t open until at least 10am, and some don’t even open at all on some days. Hey, when you have to love, you have to love, and love takes its own time. And hopefully… it’s a long time.
While some people were looking for God, I found Jeffrey Lewis!
He was right here on this poster, announcing his coming arrival to Montreal. And, what was funny was that I did get to see him last night at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn playing an inspiring, fun-charged, rock and roll night with Kung Fu Crimewave (you know the Kellys, right? The Kellys of Brooklyn. Talent and awesome is in their DNA) and the beloved, powerful surge of rock exuberance known as Schwervon! Sniff…
The neat thing about an 11 hour train ride back to NYC is that it gives you lots of time to… make friends. I mean, 11 hours together. You have time to sleep and read and stare out the window and ask all kinds of personal questions about someone’s job, their family, the lives of saints, the devil and miracles. Marcos and I talked about all those things.
He’s the first priest I ever met. I had a lot of questions. He was really open to answering them. He might even come to a show some day. He’s right over in New Jersey, and even a priest needs a night off for Christ’s sake.
I should text him about the show on Friday and have him be a guest speaker!
Friday, I’m playing a night of songs inspired by The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” called Call and Response. It’s a new series created by NYC musician and writer Ben Arthur. Singer songwriters present songs in response to other artists and artwork. I’m psyched to play… I’ve got a lot to say about the Devil and about sympathy. And I love it when I think of ways to make things even better, like when I asked Marlon Cherry to join me on percussion and vocals. Oh gosh. It’s going to be really fun. All Satan all night with a Cherry on top!!!
Friday, December 5th, 8:30pm (doors 8:15pm)
Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3
185 Orchard Street
New York, NY
A couple of awesome things happened this morning, that I can’t not mention.
First of all, I saw this lady:
I saw her, and I thought, oh… I do this too. New York City is an orchestra of facial ticks some mornings (and afternoons and nights). And there’s an anonymity and permission allowed to you on the subway. Is it like this in all cities? I know about the NYC subway policy of behavioral leeway, because I’ve wept multiple times on public transportation, and once I had an explosive screaming fight on the Jay Street Metro Tech platform with a now ex-boyfriend. It was all allowed. MTA decorum enforcers did not arrive with tissues or counselors. They also didn’t say anything when I saw a man clip his toenails and eat fig newtons right there on the seat. When a man tried clipping his toenails at Goodbye Blue Monday during one of my shifts, I had to ask him to stop. He was a little indignant. I said, “This is a public place. You’re doing a private thing. It’s not a bathroom. This is something you should do in your bathroom…” I guess I was the first person to explain this to him. I told him not to take it personally; it’s just a societal norm.
The lady in the video has a job. I’m assuming she has a job. It was morning rush hour. I don’t think anyone would sit on a train at that time if they weren’t going somewhere to get paid. I wanted to follow that lady and see where she worked. What does she do for a living? What does her cubicle look like? Does she like her coworkers? Do they like her? Hey lady! Can I stalk you for a little bit?
The other awesome thing was also on public transportation. I was on a different train–the 2 train going into the financial district. I haven’t been in these parts for years. I used to work at 85 Broad St. for like 7 years from the late ’90s on. Being there was really bringing back the ’90s for me. I had forgotten what a crush of human beings filled the train cars close to 9am. We were all on top of each other, breathing each others’ air, withstanding the conductor’s whimsical breaking. And nobody killed anyone. Not even one murder. People were even saying “excuse me” and “sorry.” I heard it on the radio once… if we were all gorillas in there, we would have ripped each other apart. Blood, mayhem, fury. But we on the train, we didn’t even growl. No one died. Not even a little.
Everyone got off the train, and the other track let off its load, and then there was the effort to get up the stairs. How is this ever going to work? But it did. We all just moved as much as we could, not killing anybody, and we got through it.
AND I even overheard a man offering to carry a woman’s heavy rolling bag up the stairs for her. A strange man asked to carry a strange woman’s bag for her and she let him! Amazing. I just wanted to say I’m impressed. No one died, and a lady got help with her bag.
Okay, sometimes things can be so horrible they are amazingly horrible, and I’m not going to ignore those either. This example comes from this past summer when I discovered a new form of subway torture… it’s when you’re exhausted, and all you want to do is go home and rest your pathetic struggling bones and you waited for 30 minutes standing for the train that finally came and then it stalls on the platform with doors open. And there’s music playing. And sometimes the torture is a singer-songwriter with an original song you don’t like and a voice that is wailing and little bit flat and a need to be liked that is huge–too huge for you to fill. And sometimes it is a saxophone with a meandering solo
that makes you question your love of horns. And sometimes it is this (but longer):
Bagpipes. On the subway. This happened.Share
Am I over my October performance art tour of Canada? No. No I am not.
Here are some more pictures. Look, Leslie is green. It’s the magic of theater. We are in our world created by the loving and genius hands of Julie Lamendola as we sing Leslie’s song “Sleep.”
And Genevieve with her monologue in the song “V-JJ” that I wrote initially for Bushwick Book Club presents Philip Roth. It was her improvised vagina monolgue. She initially wasn’t going to talk about her vagina but vaginas in general since her mom was in the audience that night, but in the end, she decided to talk about her vagina afterall. Her mom was okay. She knows her daughter has a vagina.
AND… here we are at the finale. Julie Lamendola’s interpretive vaginal dance.
It was the closer. I mean, where do you go from that. You go and have a drink and call it a night… You might want to sigh and digest your feelings, maybe mull it over with fellow spectators, maybe dance, shake it out, let it move through your body, your glorious body that is yours alone to experience the world with. But that’s about it.
Way to be, Rouyn-Noranda. Thanks for having us. You know how to make a vagina feel received.
Photos by Christian Luduc.Share