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
This is a rare bird of a month. I’m not usually in Canada. The last time I was here was for Ching Chong Song shows in Montreal. Halloween 2008 or something like that. Goodness. One time before that, Murderizer played a bike messenger show also in Montreal. The boys behaved so badly, I drove us straight home. My bands have gotten more fun since then.
I will work backwards. I just said goodbye to this lovely man:
He is a sweetheart whose name I feel insecure pronouncing. It’s Alain, but you don’t pronounce the “n.” The “n” is a felt, understood but unspoken thing. What a subtle thing to think a letter but not have it come out your mouth. If Chinese is a tonal language, then French is a subliminal one — filled with intentions that aren’t necessarily acted upon. I suck at French. My intentions are flung willy nilly.
But I’m loving hearing the language and the mix of French and English that is everywhere in this city. Alain is studying landscape architecture. His home is full of growing things–little plant cuttings in water. A small tree. Happy little beaded succulents. Alain is also a performance artist and dancer. Well of course he is, he comes from Rouyn-Noranda. He grew up with Genevieve there. This small mining town 8 hours north of Montreal is an unlikely artist haven. I’m not sure what’s in the water there. Alain says it’s pretty toxic actually. But whatever it is, it must breed artists. Genevieve and Matthieu, a couple who is also a rock duo as well as visual artists, have created a community there and a bi-annual performance art festival that attracts international theater and performance artists to L’Ecart, their performance art and studio space for a week-long celebration and communion of the out-there, the creative, the brave, the true(ish) expression. Good lord.
Here are some revelers after our performance on Friday night. They were inspired by the toning we did at the top of our set. We ended up toning all night with the help of some apple brandy/whiskey thing that was delicious.
Julie made this world out of cardboard and paints for our performance.
Julie spent a couple days in the basement in her sweatshirt and underwear listening to hip hop, happily creating the pieces of this world. She was so content there making these things. I’m more visually challenged, so I marveled at the pleasure she got from letting her imagination have at it with cardboard and paint and old clothes.
Leslie, Julie and I had words on cardboard that we tied to our waists and dragged around for part of the show. It reminded me of the handicaps that people dragged around in Kurt Vonnegut stories. Mine was “baby.” Just dragging around that inner child.
Alain made the food for the festival. Oh my goodness. A feat of deliciousness.
He also said we could use his apartment in Montreal while he was gone. He said we could have sex in his room. Now that is hospitality. I smell like Alain now from the blanket he let us use on his futon. It’s not a bad smell at all. I smell like an adorable man whose name I can barely pronounce.
I bought jeans yesterday, probably because I don’t know how to give myself a break, and I’m wearing these jeans with the same hesitancy that I say Alain’s name. Is this how you do it? Is this okay? Surely, this can’t be right.
This is my third week away from Brooklyn. So so strange. Most things feel strange, and I make myself nauseous over doing it (chocolate, apple cider vinegar, alcohol, you name it). A few things remain consistently right– singing (it’s always better to sing than not to sing) and Alain’s laugh. He has this cackle, high-pitched glee and pure joyful bubbling noise that flies out easily and sincerely. It’s not a tortured, long-awaited thing that is coaxed out. It’s this easy sound that sails and catches the air with the slightest movement. It’s really something. I’ll try and get a recording.
Alain and Carolina. They are jokes and good times. Alain says French is an unserious language compared to English. I think he may be right. But British people are culturally hilarious too. There’s that. I’ll continue this argument myself, don’t you think on it too much.Share
The Cole Haan woman is the new Marlboro man.
I saw these advertisements after reading a few paragraphs of My Life As A Dog for the Bushwick Book Club show that happened last week. These were passages talking about America and walking out in nature. The main character, a young boy in 1950’s Sweden, is imagining himself as an American and all the romance that entails. He imagines himself “walking into the American wilderness..” He eats “the fruits of nature and drink(s) from rippling streams and springs and rivers.” He walks with a wolf/dog/super-human and realizes “his is also not wholly dog nor human being. We are the best of both–one for all and all for one.” That is the dream–one of the most romantic notions of America. The frontier. The return to the basic essence of people as inhabitants of the planet. A connection to nature and our purer, primal selves. The frontier is abundance, with you as a natural participant in, recipient of that abundance. That land of milk and honey that is yours as your human birthright. And of course, that’s in contrast with reality. Especially reality now. Everyone longs to be epic, fighting big battles of good and evil instead of just the battle of will power against Doritoes and reality TV where we indulge our inner voyeurs by watching people treat each other horribly. We give in to our smaller natures by watching other people flagrantly give in to their smaller natures.
I’m trying to think of all the least epic things — doritoes, cubicle walls, tourists, emails, email blasts, xboxes, plastic forks, walmart, airconditioning, flourescent lighting, fat mirrors in the elevators, cheetos. I don’t know… These are all arguable. I really tend to think that packaged snack foods in general though are anti-epic. And fastfood chains. They take most of the food out of the food and then package it in mass quantities for us to eat and become addicted to. What a racket. What an easy trick on us humans who need nourishment so bad that we’ll take it in these depleted forms that kill us in the end. Sometimes there seems no end to the depth of human patheticness. So here we are..
And the Cole Haan ads reflect this. They know what they’re doing. They want you to associate their shoes with epicness, with something beyond the day-to-day pathetic tedium, mediocrity, mundanity that makes us feel unconnected in the end. Mostly unconnected. From each other, and from ourselves, and certainly from anything epic. But the ads, they show a young, lithe blonde woman in the wilderness. There are mountains behind her. Maybe they are the American Rockies. She’s on a road. She’s going places. She’s walking. Maybe she’ll hitch hike. But right now it’s just her and the elements. It’s just her, living her life, at peace with the unknown, ready to accept whatever the gods put before her on that road.
But these are pricey shoes. You can’t get a pair of flats that aren’t at least a hundred dollars. A pair of boots can cost half a month’s rent. And how long would your $500 boots last you in the Rockies? And if you could afford those boots, you probably wouldn’t be walking on that road. You would be driving your SUV. Or you would have your driver drive you. Or you would have that boyfriend who bought you those boots drive you. And if you paid for them yourself, you might have had to spend way too long in over air-conditioned environments, away from any natural light. You might be very short on vitamin D from your lack of sunlight and short on melatonin from your lack of complete darkness. You might be very short on sleep in general because people want you to work all the time. Everyday. For most of the week so that all that time you spend making money for rent doesn’t leave you much time to enjoy the apartment you’re paying rent for. So those boots of that brand that is supposed to connect you to the eternal grandness inside you can only be bought by submitting to the most mundane, but painful, robbery of that grandness inside you.
What a trick these Cole Haan people are pulling–telling us we need $300 dollar shoes to feel connected to the earth and nature, when we already are the earth and nature. We’d probably feel more connected to the earth and nature without any shoes at all. We could all probably use more time in our bare feet.
Well, maybe soon we’ll all be spending more time in nature anyway, because there are the garbage patches in the ocean and then there’s the global warming, and it’s going to cause coastal flooding and flooding of major urban areas so we’ll be homeless and in nature a lot more, what’s left that we can stand on that is.
Oh, I just thought of another similarity between the Cole Haan woman and the Marlboro man. The Marlboro man used the rugged American frontier to sell cigarettes that kill you. And the Cole Haan woman uses that same romantic frontier to sell consumerism that kills you.
Jesus. Why does advertising keep wanting us all to have cancer?
I don’t see the point in that.
Incomplete list of non-epic things:
I was talking with Leslie the other night about how I don’t tend to post things from the lower clouds. I mean, my last post was from cloud 9, but generally speaking I won’t speak online if I’m not at least coming from cloud 7. Yesterday, I got to Cloud -5, which included sitting on a train that wouldn’t move after I had already waited 30 minutes for it when I was dead tired at the end of the day. It sat with the doors open on the platform where a folk singer played and played, making me feel like I was at that eternal open mic in hell. I cried.
But you know, it never ceases to amaze me how all things exist at once. There I was crying in hell, but then there’s this great thing that exists now that is the product of some of my very favorite people coming together to make something. Here’s the new music video for “Girl Pool,” a song I wrote for our Vonnegut-Cat’s Cradle Bushwick Book Club show a while back. The recording features Matt Menold on guitar (who I miss a lot), Mark Ospovat on bass (who I miss a lot), Adam Amram on drums (yay!) and Julie and Leslie on vocal harmonies (sweet and powerful mix). Oh, also Cecil Scheib on trombone! He’s the best.
The video is made by my dear friend and talented filmmaker, Deborah Magocsi. And the cast of course includes adorable people I know from many different worlds. And they all came together and got in the water with me. It was a beautiful experience.
People come together for weddings. And funerals. The making of this video felt like I married myself, and all these loved ones came out to witness and celebrate. Or maybe it was a funeral too. A funeral of one of my old selves, and the moving on to a different place. Well, now I want to do it again. More wedding/funeral/choreographed dance numbers, please.
Speaking of songs about books, there’s also a SHOW next week at City Winery with the founders of BBC Malmo. TICKETS are on sale now! You can get them here: http://www.citywinery.com/newyork/bushwickbookclub082014.html
Wednesday, August 20th, musical nerdery reaches new heights as we present our first international collaboration of songs about books at City Winery. The founder of Bushwick Book Club Malmo (our Swedish Chapter) will be in New York to present new songs and performance inspired by Reidar Jonsson’s My Life As A Dog.
The night will feature original music and performances by:
Sunny Sanam – performance artist, actor
Julie Lamendola – Ching Ching
Sam James – The Wowz
Charlie Nieland – www.hervanishedgrace.com
Christy Davis – GOLD
Casey Holford – www.caseyholford.com
Early Riser – Heidi Vanderlee, Kiri Oliver https://www.facebook.com/earlyriserrr
Susan Hwang – www.susanhwanglalala.com
Jessie Kilguss – jessiekilguss.com
Hilary Downes – hilaryedownes.com
Pierre de Gaillande – www.pierredegaillande.com/
Pearl Rhein - pearlrhein.com
Sweet Soubrette – sweetsoubrette.com
Hosted by Susan Hwang with the founders of Bushwick Book Club Malmo – Kristian Carlsson and Thomas Teller,http://bushwick.se/
August 20th, 8pm
155 Varick St.
New York, NY 10013
Ph: 212 608-0555