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Dame Darcy unapologetically yours

The next Bushwick Book Club show is for the work of Dame Darcy with an emphasis on Meat Cake Bible perhaps, but really it’s a celebration of all things Darcy, because she is a celebration of what it means to be all you are, whatever you want to be at the same time, when and how you like it. In her case, it means being an artist, musician, performer, animator, filmmaker, illustrator, painter, doll maker, world maker, storyteller, witch, mermaid, pirate.

December 15th, we’ll have our event with 15 different musicians, songwriters, comedians and one chef who will respond to Darcy’s work. Darcy herself will be there and performing with us. It’s the final BBC show of 2021 and also our first fundraiser. We just achieved 501(c)(3) status this year. It’s happening at one of my favorite places that happens to have the best Ukrainian food in the East Village – The Ukrainian National Home at 140 East 2nd Ave. between 9th St. and St. Marks.

Here’s the flyer designed by the stupendous Scott MX Turner. And I’ll also include a video that Darcy made of my performance of “Cutting” written in response to Meat Cake Bible from a few years ago. I’ll be performing the song again live on the 15th. Lusterlit released it on vinyl not too long ago. The single had “Cutting” on one side and Charlie’s rocking “Waxwolf” on the other. I think you can still order the ’45! But also listen to it digitally on Bandcamp.

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Summer

Is it boring to talk about the weather? Is it mundane to mention the seasons? I don’t know, sometimes boring is great. Sometimes boring is just what you need, and it takes a lot for me to say that, with my general stance since I was born being that everything should be fun all the time. But I’m thinking now that there’s fun even in boredom. See those threads of fun in the fabric of boredom? What a trick.

It’s been kinda an explosion of extroversion. I was not exactly ready for it, but I think I did okay. Remember that first “party” where it was everybody’s first time in a room with other people, and you were all trying to remember how to socialize? Everyone felt conversationally clumsy. I was all thumbs. My friend Virlana said she was having trouble discerning whether she had just spoken a thought aloud or not. Boy, was it thrilling just to feel that awkward. With people.

Ooo. I’m just realizing that you need people for awkwardness at all. I mean, you can’t feel awkward alone. Can you? So “social awkwardness” is redundant. There might not be such a thing as solitary awkwardness. At least I hope not.

Other thrilling (and somewhat awkward) things in my book:

Released this video for Yara Arts with lyrics from Serhiy Zhadan’s poem “Psalm to Aviation #58.” And thanks “Ukrainian Weekly” for covering the release event in this article by Olena Jennings!

And Lila Eaton, the daughter of my best friend from freshman year at college, was here with her TRUMPET and learned the parts *that day* to perform at the release with me and Marlon! Omg. Trumpet dreams do come true.

Lila Eaton on trumpet and Susan Hwang on accordion at the video release event for "Psalm to Aviation 58" based on the poem by Serhiy Zhadan.  The release event included live performances from Susan Hwang with Marlon Cherry on percussion and Lila Eaton on trumpet.
Susan Hwang on accordion. Lila Eaton on trumpet. Marlon Cherry on percussion and backing vocals (not pictured). Photo by Bob Krasner.
Marlon Cherry and me performing the first part of the release event outside on the stoop! Photo by Bob Krasner

Journalist and photographer Bob Krasner also covered Bushwick Book Club‘s first in-person and live streamed event for AM New York. It was a creative feast and a much needed, heartening gathering of artists, musicians and author. I would describe that show for Brandy Schillace’s Mr. Humble & Dr. Butcher as spectacular and deeply satisfying, and Bob’s article really caught the moment and all the layers of meaning in the article and photos.

Okay THEN… Bushwick Book Club presented our first stage at the Porchstomp music festival on Governor’s Island. Here’s some of the documenting I was able to do:

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New music video and music on the stoop with Marlon, Charlie and Penny Arcade.

There’s music happening. It’s in multi-dimensional realms with mythical creatures like in the new music video for Charlie’s TIGHTROPE. It’s also right here on the stoop in the East Village with special guest drop-ins like the magnetic irresistible Penny Arcade coming up to sing a few songs.

I’ll include the video clips here, and just so you know, there will be a live stream on January 23rd for 7MPR Dance Company on Facebook. Plus, the first Bushwick Book Club live stream of 2021 is coming February 13th for Kurt Vonnegut’s TIMEQUAKE. There are incredible songwriters chomping at the bit for this! Or rather, they’re chewing their Vonnegut and turning every bite into brand new literary-song GOLD!

The amazing video by B.A. Miale for Charlie Nieland’s song TIGHTROPE.

On the stoop for Accordion Fridays:

Getting ready to go down to the stoop!

It was great to have Penny Arcade there to do a cover of Marlon Cherry’s “Just How Beautiful (You Are)” with Marlon on percussion. She sang to all of 2nd Avenue… when she performs, she opens all of her heart. I felt like she was extending her love to everyone who passed the whole city of course. It was exciting to have her be our special guest for the live stream.

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Lusterlit – The 4th Annual Brooklyn Jeff Buckley Tribute

We’re happy to be participating in this year’s Jeff Buckley Tribute. Charlie and I played with Marlon Cherry with footage by NYC filmmaker and artist, Rick Rodine.

Friday, November 13th, 6pm-9pm
Tickets available at: bit.ly/34jdVK3

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Accordion Fridays from the roof

Here’s the October 9th set with Marlon Cherry and special guest, Ray Brown from my East Village rooftop (also known as Banduristan). We play again October 23rd with special guest, songwriter Phoebe Kreutz!

Me with Marlon Cherry and Ray Brown on the roof of Banduristan, East Village, NYC.
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Other things I’ve been up to

I’m not always good at updating all this and that everywhere one is supposed to. I’m happy if I can keep my plants and cat watered. I don’t have a green thumb. Not something I inherited from my dad, whose thumb was in fact green.

I’m starting another batch of fermented black garlic this week, and I shot this video with Marlon on the roof today. It was an experiment. I think it worked. We have a live stream set tomorrow, Friday, October 9th at 5pm Eastern at facebook.com/susanhwanglalala . Everyone is in a context. I create mine in part with commitments to present music.

Here’s our last live stream on Sept. 11th which was… really fun.

Posted by Susan Hwang on Friday, September 11, 2020

Hope to see you tomorrow, 5pm Eastern, October 9th at facebook.com/susanhwanglalala.

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Some things I’ve been doing.

I do a lot of nothing too. Just swaths, gobs of nothing. And sometimes, even if I am doing something, whatever it is, it is surely not the right thing or enough.

Here is some documentation of things I have done the past few months. I should document the nothing too I suppose. Why not? Oh, I get it now… What I’m presenting here now is the documentation of nothing. Here’s the nothing I’ve been doing.

Interview on Sub Rosa Sound Radio

Host, Ariel Wang, and I had a lot of fun talking about music and songwriting, Bushwick Book Club, creativity, what to wear for zoom meetings…

Fermented Black Garlic

Fermentation is a journey. Here’s the path of Black Garlic timed to the Full Moon in Pisces.

The start

The fourth ferment! Black garlic coming in 9 days. #blackgarlic #fermenting

Posted by Susan Hwang on Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The finish

A clip from a Lusterlit set in Seward Park. Music in front of actual people without a computer!!!

In front of actual people. Christ. Thank you PincLouds and everybody at Seward Park today 🙂

Posted by Susan Hwang on Sunday, August 30, 2020
I think my legs look fat in the video, and I’m singing god knows what, but honestly, it was so thrilling to do this, I don’t even care. I had to post the documentation of this bit of nothing. It was most thrilling nothing to partake in.

Many thanks to PINCLOUDS

Speaking of PINCLOUDS, here’s a video I put together of Claudi from that afternoon set to music I recorded of theirs in Tompkins Square Park earlier in the month:

Accordion Babes’ Accordion Fridays

Also, here’s my latest live stream from Accordion Babe’s Accordion Fridays performance series. Oh, the joy of accordioning accompanied by the wonderful Marlon Cherry on percussion, backing vocals and kazoo.

Posted by Susan Hwang on Friday, August 28, 2020
August 28th live stream w/ Marlon Cherry.
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It Takes As Long As It Takes, and What is Time Anyway?

It’s been three years since my last post. THREE YEARS.. ha. I’m EXACTLY the same. Actually, I don’t remember who I was, so I have no one to compare myself to except, Christina Aguilera, because she’s the last person I saw (on Netflix – “Burlesque” made in 2010 with Cher and Peter Gallagher and cameo by Alan Cumming who really should have had a much larger role, don’t you think?).

I did the unthinkable. Invited over of a bunch of strangers to my bedroom to play a short accordion set. This is a lot for an introvert.

Here’s the set from last Friday, May 8th. I don’t have any wisdom to share. Man, do I wish I could offer you something like wisdom or perspective, whatever you desire, really. I wish I could offer that to you! I may not be able to give it to you, but I believe you will or are in the process of getting it! So congratulations on that, no matter what that feels like… but I hope it feels good or somewhere very close to good. In the vicinity. Meanwhile, there’s awkwardness and accordions in my room. That I can give you. Lots of love..

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Five bags of turmeric and my right foot.

I have five baggies of turmeric in the top of my luggage right at the zipper.  They are tucked into another ziplock baggie, because if the bags break… everything I own will be a different color.  Plus I’ll have to run and get more turmeric, which I do on a constant basis anyway, because, you know, like everybody, I’m living my life, and I take every avenue to avoid pain.  Like, you know, you might have a friend who likes to talk about how mercury’s in retrograde all the time because some kind of planetarily-inspired chaos is more exciting than the pain of the deep sadness for the connection he doesn’t feel in his daily life and his inability to take in life’s basic pleasures.  I inherited my mother’s trick of keeping myself very busy, and you figure if you run around doing a bunch of stuff, you won’t feel the pain of your own uselessness.  Honestly, it doesn’t always work.  Self loathing is bad, but self loathing and being over scheduled is worse.  If you’re going to hate yourself, you should do it lounging on a beach.  Sipping a margarita.

What does work, however, in terms of pain management, is turmeric.  For me.  It’s something that works. I need it to work.  If it doesn’t, the I go back to my old routine, which was as follows:

— open my eyes.

— go the bathroom to pee.

— stand at the sink to brush my teeth for as long as long as I can before the pain gets so bad shooting down my lower back and left leg and through to the bottoms of my feet that I run back to my bed and lie down.

— lie down until the pain subsides enough for me to get up and go downstairs to make coffee.

— stand there making coffee for as long as I can until…

That’s kind of how it went.  And then I’d take advil, and I’d eventually be able to move around enough to do fun things like walk to the medical center down the block from the pawn shop to wait hours to see someone who wouldn’t have any idea what was going on with me and send me to someone else who would give me tests and tell me to come back to see someone else who you’d have to re-explain everything to so you could be told that you would be in pain for a long time and you should take large horse pills of ibuprofen until you decided on cortisol injections into your spine, and when that stopped working, you could have surgery to cut the nerves in your back that were giving you all the trouble.  Hooray!

And you know, in between, I would do my experimental paleo cooking and worry about money.  And write songs and record an EP with Charlie and schedule shows and edit video for BookClub and wonder what the big deal was about being alive anyway.

I had a running joke with myself that the dirtiest part of my body was the bottom of my right foot, because my left foot and leg was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand on it long enough to lift my right foot and wash the bottom of it.

So you see, this turmeric thing is important for me and for the cleanliness of my right foot. 

It’s kind of a turmeric anniversary for me, because Charlie and I are headed to Seattle to play Bushwick Book Club and Lusterlit shows on the west coast for about a week.  We did this last year, and in the bucket seats of our cheap rental Hyundai is where I really made the connection between turmeric and normal, pain-free functioning.

I had been using turmeric in the paleo cakes I ate daily, and I was taking less and less advil, and feeling better and better.  I didn’t realize it was so connected to the turmeric until I stopped cooking those cakes on my trip, and the symptoms returned.  Sitting in the car was excruciating.  I couldn’t stand up straight without being in pain.  It was hard to walk.  It was hard to be.  It scared the shit out of Charlie.  I told him to run to the Safeway and get me eggs, cocoa powder, flaxseeds, coconut flour, stevia and a shit ton of turmeric.  I returned to the cakes.  The apartment we were staying at was a bachelor pad with minimal cooking utensils, but I found a milk frother and frothed all my ingredients together.  It worked, sort of.  It worked enough.  I was on my way back to relatively normal functioning!  I found ways to keep baking and baking the whole rest of the trip.  I’d sit in the car and shove turmeric cake in my face looking at the Red Wood forest, stretches of that farmland in California where all that gorgeous produce comes from.  Those strange Star Wars oil pump crane things.  The west coast is turmeric tinged for me.

So, that’s the long way of saying, look, I want to share a recipe with you.  And I want to let you know, in case you were on the fence about it, that um, yes, what you eat affects you.  What you put into your body matters, and there are ways of giving yourself what you need.  And what you need may not be a cortisol shot that you wait half a day at the medicaid medical center office for.  It may be cake that you make in your oven that smells great each morning.  It’s amazing that what you put in your mouth affects everything, even the cleanliness of the bottom of your right foot. 

Here are some turmeric cookies I baked in Don and Monique’s kitchen.  Don’t they look great against a Seattle back drop?

Here’s a video of cooking turmeric cakes I shot with Larry Krone in his kitchen in the East Village.  We used a dozen eggs.  I forgot to mention that.

Tonight is the third Bushwick Book Club show for Chuck Palahniuk’s LEGACY – An Off-Color Novella For you To Color.  It’s at The Last Bookstore in downtown LA.  Please come out and hear the new songs about books!!

I’ll be the one wearing turmeric-colored shorts tonight held up by Lusterlit/BushwickBookClub tour buttons because the zipper broke.Share

Speaking of immigrants – Me, My Dad and Ray Charles – Being American

Tonight I’m playing a show called The Current curated by writer and musician, Deenah Vollmer that raises money for immigrant advocate group Make The Road.  Musicians and poets are performing new work in response to the times at CounterEvolution – the beautiful venue created by Jim Malone (who knows what to do with reclaimed bowling alley wood).  Doors are at 7pm tonight.  37 West 17th St., 2nd floor, Door code 2695.  It’s BYO so I’m headed to the Trader Joe’s for some snacks in a minute, and we can all share.  Lusterlit (my duo with Charlie Nieland) are on the bill with poets Deenah, Niina Polari and Josef Kaplan and also musicians, Gary Lucas, Phoebe Kreutz, Vincent Caccione, Devon Church and Jeff Lewis.

But you know how when you’re working on something, suddenly it’s everywhere.  I spoke a lot about music and my family’s experience as immigrants in an interview last week.  I didn’t intend to.  Writer and radio host and producer, Jia Jung approached me about participating in her podcast with John Asante, Play It Back, which focuses on songs and the stories around them.  I didn’t know when she asked me that I’d delve into my earliest recollections of songs sung, how music reflected my family dynamics and how a single song can steep layers of personal history with understanding and meaning that keep being revealed to me.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Jia Jung and engineer, Steve Francis of Stush Music were both really receptive and sensitive which made it easy to share.  So much more came to light for me as I responded to Jia’s questions and curiosity, but I wanted to include the text of my initial email response to her invitation which was the jumping off point for the interview.  Here it is:

GEORGIA ON MY MIND – My father loved this song.  My father loved singing.  Mostly he sang old Korean folk songs or Korean pop songs from the 60s and 70s.  But he’s from a family of singers.  I mean we’re Korean, so it means you sing.  You sing whether you can or like to.  But most of us can and like to.  My father’s parents were famous for having great voices and really killing it in duets at parties.  I found out years later that my grandmother was also a riot and was known for her jokes and storytelling.  She was illiterate and could barely sign her own name, but she was the life of the party and the apple of my grandfather’s eye.
My father was… not so much the life of the party.  Not that he didn’t love them.  He loved hanging with his buddies more than anything, but he’d be the quiet one, laughing at all the jokes.  He was a non-talker, like a lot of dads of that generation.  But his English never improved to the degree of my mother’s so that put another barrier in communication between us.  I speak great three-year-old Korean, and when I lived in Seoul briefly in the 90’s my Korean improved to where I could comfortably keep up with my uncles in conversation and soju (it’s nice how they help each other).  But I never gained fluency enough to speak as freely as I would have liked with my father.  And he never drank soju.
My father died in 2000 of Hepatitis C that he probably contracted from contaminated needles used for mass vaccinations when he was a kid during the Korean War.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but it keeps occurring to me now that music is a way that I connected with my father.  My mother likes music too, but she’s not a singer.  She likes classical and opera, so there was a lot of Pavarotti and Placido Domingo on rotation in the house, but she never had a liking of pop songs or American music.  I played Aretha Franklin for her once and it just annoyed her–“Why is that lady screaming?”  But my father would play the radio.  One of my earliest memories is listening to Olivia Newton John’s “Will A Little More Love Make It Right” in my father’s tan Chevy Chevette hatchback.  It was my father’s idea to come to America.  He was the one with the American dream.  He loaded up the whole family and brought us to Chicago and eventually to Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C.  He always bought an American car for himself (my mom drove the Volvo).  He loved washing that American car in his American driveway.  He loved American songs like John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Andy Williams’ “Moon River.”  And Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind.”
Life in America wasn’t easy.  Raising three kids who got so much better at maneuvering in this new culture than he ever would wasn’t easy.  He was riddled with frustration and regret that he would never speak but that I could always feel.  But even with or even among all the struggle, there was music.  There were songs.  They were windows of ease.  They were meditations; they were unadulterated spaces of feeling good and not much else.  I mean, that’s how I feel about Ray Charles.  That is a universally agreed upon fact about Ray Charles, right?  And I like that Ray Charles could be that for my father, and can be that for me.  I’m extremely grateful for Ray Charles providing my father with some peace, because god knows, I wasn’t going to do it (he worried about me until the day he died.  On his deathbed he was trying to convince me to not hang out with musicians because they can’t function in society… sigh.  Sorry Dad.).
My father had never been to Georgia, would die without ever setting eyes on Georgia, maybe didn’t even know where Georgia was on a map, but that song was Georgia to him.  That song was a moment of peace, a feeling of beauty, bounty and freedom for him.  He gravitated toward those things.  I do too.  It brought him to this country.  It brings me to making music with everything that I have.
During his last days, I was back and forth a lot  from New York to Maryland to stay with him in the hospital and support my mother.  Liver failure is terrible, and they make you do it in a paper bib which I don’t know how that helps matters any.  My father was often really agitated and in various states of lucidity.  My mother did everything she could to bring any amount of relief to the situation which was mostly hand-making my father’s favorite dish daily–a cold noodle soup called nengmyun (a North Korean specialty – my father’s family was originally from North Korea).  My sister and I did what we could.  We sat and sang “Georgia on My Mind” to him.  It was pre-ipod times, and we didn’t think to bring CDs.  We did what we could.  We’re no Ray Charles, but we were there, and we sang a song he loved for him.  And these days, I love the song even more because when I hear it, not only do I hear Ray Charles, but I hear my father singing along in his Korean accent.  It’s a way for me to remember him, to love him and to keep hearing the sound of his voice.
So what I’m saying is thanks, Ray Charles, for being the one thing my father and I could agree on.  Some father/daughter relationships have baseball or home improvement projects…  My Dad and I had “Georgia On My Mind.”

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© Susan Hwang 2017. Photo: Carrie Jordan, ShotsByCarrieLou.com. Site design by Billkwando@yahoo.com