Songs About Books Gone Wild

August 12th, 2014

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
Sophie Malleret
Early Riser – Heidi Vanderlee, Kiri Oliver https://www.facebook.com/earlyriserrr
Susan Hwang – www.susanhwanglalala.com
Summer Morse
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
City Winery
155 Varick St.
New York, NY 10013
Ph: 212 608-0555
Door: $10
Tickets: http://www.citywinery.com/newyork/tickets/bushwickbookclub082014.html

www.bushwickbookclub.com
bushwickbookclub.bandcamp.com\

“The Bushwick Book Club takes humdrum book reading to a new level.” — The New York Times
 

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Aygo Chamna and Monday Night with Amrams

August 5th, 2014

Hi.  I’m writing to you from Cloud 9.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be up here.  I’m not going to stay.  I don’t think they let you.  You get booted in time, so you can find another way up.  But it’s nice to make it here today.  I got here with the help of Amrams and Dr. Vella.  It’s a pretty potent combination and one that I couldn’t have planned, but glad I fell into.

You know that David Amram has this monthly residency at Cornelia Street…  I saw it for the first time in May after I had moved onto Hart Street.  Actually, the day I moved in.  Adam moved me to the apartment
and then said he was playing with his dad later on Cornelia Street if I wanted to go.  I was dead beat, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the show.  I was charmed and amazed and moved.  David Amram can freestyle.  There’s almost nothing more exciting, right?  It’s like the Cirque du Soleil equivalent of verbal acrobatics.  He’s got all the plates spinning; he’s contorted and balanced and is hanging in impossibly beautiful positions in mid air.  Will he fall?  Will it all come down?  How can this sustain itself?  But instead the contortions continue and now chainsaws are being juggled and then midgets are being balanced on chins, and then he dismounts and lands perfectly on the ground.  It’s like that but with words and singing while playing piano with a 4 piece band.

That night in May, Mr. Amram improvised music to accompany a recited poem.  He followed the story and added drama in whichever way tickled his fingertips, and because of his natural playfulness and musical agility, the accompaniment was as much the story as the words.  It was one of those things I saw and then knew I could do.  There actually aren’t that many things like that.  I mean most things, a lot of things I see, and I think, ‘That looks really hard’ or ‘Not for me in this lifetime.’  Like when I see really good guitar players… really good musicians, any instrument, actually, I kind of know I’m never going to get to that level.  I’m not a virtuoso, not even close, on any instrument.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s in my make-up.  I may not have the head space or the ear or the coordination or the discipline or the, what is that called… talent.   As I explained once, I don’t have any chops.  Maybe one chop on a good day, but plural, never.

But when I saw the poem accompanied by David’s improvisations, I just knew that was something I could do.  So I asked Adam if he thought I could tell a story at the next show.  And he said yes.  And so I had to have a story.

But it was intimidating, as that process often is..  All weekend, I was “writing.”  Which requires all kinds of breaks, like going to pick up my keyboard and eating Chinese food.  There’s lots of time needed for staring off into space.  Suffice to say, it wasn’t exactly flowing.  I thought I could do this.  What the hell?

So the whole weekend, and I’m still confused.. nothing’s clear about the story I want to tell.  Usually it’s pretty obvious to me what I want to say and how I want to say it, but all of a sudden, I’m spewing out things and all kinds of tangents that I’m not sure are interesting…  I’m really wishing I had an editor.  And I mean, this has to be good..  if I’m bad, they might regret letting me do this, and I’ll never be allowed to do anything again ever.  That would be really sad for me.  Very regrettable.  Why did I say I wanted to do this again?

Monday comes, and things are STILL murky.  I can’t do anything but focus on this, but I can’t seem to focus on this…  I’ve got to go to Dr. Vella’s in Queens later…  I’m running late.  He’s running late..  I tell Dr. Vella about my dilemma.  He says he’ll fix me.  He’s a chiropractor, but he’s really not like any chiropractor you’ve ever met.  He just touches little spots on your back and neck and tail bone and then lets you lie face down for a while and then comes back and touches your feet and has you move your head left and right.  And he can check your system to see what it’s compatible with.  I swear, my body never talks to me, but it will talk to Dr. Vella and tell him things.  Answer questions.  Pretty remarkable.  I never knew my feet had so much to say.  Apparently, sugar alcohols are all kryptonite to me.  Who knew.

I leave Dr. Vella’s with that open, mushy liquid feeling… a little vulnerable, but not bad at all…  I work on the piece on train.  I have dread.  I thought maybe I shouldn’t do the show, but the pendulum said I wouldn’t regret it, so I said fine, I’m coming.  I’m writing stuff out by hand, because it’s not like I have a printer.  I’m cutting and re-wording… which sections stay, which sections go?  I’m still writing as the show starts..  I don’t know if this is going to work.  I imagine calling out for the hook to pull me off stage if I get terribly boring.  Can I just carry my own exit hook with me to extract myself out of failing performance situations?  Is that allowed?

But as I start talking (telling the story of the time I dyed my hair blonde and then had to go to my brother’s medical school graduation dinner, so bought a wig to wear so as not to offend my Korean relatives and spirits of my ancestors), I was flanked by Amrams.  I was in their attention.  It was intense.  I had known this before from playing with Adam.  He locks into you, and then whatever you do, he’s already with you; he’s already there.  Now I see where he gets that.  It’s like their whole nervous system takes you in, connects with yours.  You can see it in their eyes, but really it’s their whole being.  And the great thing is, they respond to you with their own creativity and skill.  Which is huge.  I mean, their creativity and skill are huge.  Formidable, really.

So things went where I had no idea they would go.  Some of the parts I doubted the most ended up being the most fun.  The audience responded in ways I hadn’t anticipated which changed what I did, which affected the band, which affected me and then the audience… whoa… we were on this ride.  I was out there on this wave with two Amrams in the Cornelia Street Cafe.  You didn’t even know there was ocean in that basement, did you.

I’ve never actually been surfing in my life, but I can’t imagine it could be more thrilling than that.

I jumped off the stage like I was just delivered to shore.  The rest of that night, I kept thinking, gosh, my parents came to this country.  We had no idea what we were in for.  But look, last night happened.  I did a scary thing that ended up with me surfing with Amrams in a historic venue in New York City.  What a thrill.  Thanks mom and dad for being brave enough to come to this country even though I now can only speak Korean like a three-year-old, and it caused you much heartache because your kids did exactly what you told them not to do–art.

Last night will not be written about except for here.  I don’t think it was recorded.  The memory may please some of the people who were there for a little while.  Certainly, any enjoyment or expansiveness of a shared moment like that does something good to you and adds some measure of joy and connectedness to your store of joy and connectedness.  I think there’s that.  I don’t think any time spent in pleasure and sharing is time wasted.  However, even with the transience of last night’s moment, I count that moment.  I mark it in bold, for myself, because I walked through some dread and uncertainty to arrive on a stage with incredible people, and we created something.  We made something.  Really the whole room made something, because we were informing and affecting each other the whole time.  And me there, who came to this country as a toddler, with parents who never wanted me to sing in public, I got to share that stage and be a part of an American culture of music and performance.  My parents never wanted this, but isn’t it great.  I’m really happy about it.  Sometimes the best things are the things you never could have imagined.  I’m glad for all these moments that don’t last, past and future, doing what my folks never ever imagined, but what makes me happiest.

Look, Amrams have a penchant for musical multi-tasking.  My theory is, you throw an Amram any two things, and he/she will play them at once:

David Amram on flutes (an Egyptian song):

And Adam on drums and trumpet in my room.  That’s me singing along like an idiot (albeit a happy idiot):

See that space, that space between the 2 Amrams?  That’s where I was standing, talking about my hair.  And.. the obligatory selfie in front of Cornelia Street Cafe.  David Amram said, “That was a great story!  Does your mom know you’re telling that story?  I bet she would really like that.”  Well, he obviously doesn’t know my mother, but I called her today and mentioned it.  She was silent mostly in response.  I asked her if she remembered that time with the wig.  She said, of course.  How could she forget?  I asked, what was it that you said when I took off that wig?  She said, “Aygo chamna.”  I asked what exactly that translates into.  I know what it means for me, but I wondered what the exact words were.  She said it translates into “Oh my god.  So awful.”  Oh, I now have the next album title…

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Sunday – Philip Roth in the Park

July 18th, 2014

Okay, it’s on this time.  July 20th in Propect Park.  Join us in the southern end of the Big Lawn in Prospect Park under the tree on top of the hill with the Teddy Roosevelt Boy Scout Tablet.  We’ll be the ones playing songs inspired by Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth.  

Sunday, July 20th, 3 pm
Prospect Park – Teddy Roosevelt Boy Scout Tablet

PerformersPierre de GaillandeJessie KilgussSusan HwangLeslie GravesDave Voigt,Chris RaelDon Rauf, Geoffrey Scott Diesel, Julie LynnMark Lessereaux

 

bbc_roth.revised

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My hair knows things now.

July 11th, 2014

It was just a haircut, but it was also a reflection of my evolution as a being.

I tell Hannah that I want Brigitte Bardot hair (the usual).  She gives me layering options.  We let the pendulum (Pendgie) decide on the classic cut/shape for me, and I head off for shampooing.

I’m met by a lithe young woman named Ford.  I’m a little intimidated at first at how lovely she is.  She’s effortlessly beautiful in her strappy white top and brown skin.  The kind of girl whose only needed cosmetic is a nice tan.  Her loveliness has this eternal quality to it.  Surely, she must be immortal.  I should have asked.

I normally feel like a truck driver around women this pretty.  This happens  a lot around French women who have a built in, cultural or genetic quality of impossible femininity.  Like Asians have this genetic connection to cute things–hence the creation of Hello Kitty and Hello Kitty-like things.  But the French women have this extreme, hyper, yet refined, femininity.  It is a force.  And around it, I always feel like a truck driver.  Actually, when I think about it, I often feel like a truck driver, whether I’m around the French or not.  It’s weird when I catch myself in the mirror and realize I don’t actually look like one.  I am, however, a very good driver.  And I can parallel park with the fearless abandon of an Olympic figure skater or um, Errol Flynn or Inigo Montoya (prepare to die…). .  I’d like to learn to drive camels and elephants one day, because I have a friend who says he needs a mahout.

So I didn’t ask if Ford is immortal, but I found out she has the hands of a goddess.  This is the view I have of her as she presses and rubs my head. Come on, mythic beauty.  You can see why I was questioning her mortality.  She does this amazing thing where she presses hard on the very top of my head.  Oh, this must be my reset button!  Ford, is making me new!  I make  sounds.  She asks if it’s too hard.  I say, you can’t press too hard on my head.  You just can’t.  And we talk about how expressions of pleasure and pain are sometimes indistinguishable.  I think, what a wonderful thing to give a person for a living.  Of course, she’s apprenticing to become a stylist herself there at Blackstones.   But I was thinking, if I could, I would give up my mahout dreams and just wash peoples’ hair, pressing on their heads until they felt like heaven.  I think that would be fulfilling.

So they start haircuts at Blackstones with ecstasy, which is a very nice

way to start.  And then I go to Hannah’s chair where you can bare your soul and be received with expert attention all while getting that much closer to Brigitte Bardot.

Speaking of bare..  yes, that’s a bear in between us.  And an antelope.  Or I guess a deer.

I tell Hannah that I’ve finally made peace with my forehead.  It only took about 41 years.  My whole life, I bemoaned my mediocre forehead.  I wanted it to be as large as Rita Hayworth’s Hollywood-altered forehead.  Or this.

Now this is a forehead.  This forehead is royalty.  And romance.  You can dream on this forehead.  Carol Lombard’s forehead is moonlit nights and mystery and the height of everything.

Hannah and I have had similar forehead issues.  We’ve both tried covering them up with bangs and strictly-enforced side parts.  For over ten years I had Bettie Page bangs, then various bang-like fluctuations, and then finally, in my forties, I’ve said, you know what, I’m going to just let my forehead be my forehead.  So what.  And you know, for the first time in my life, I love my hair.  I walked into the salon that day and said to Hannah (who gave me my last cut as well), I love my hair.  I don’t know why I’m here.  I love it.  I guess maybe trim it a little?  She did.  It was a touch up refresher.

I told her that I’m not married to my side part either.  She agreed–why be committed to a side part?  Yes, these days, I let the part fall where it may.. the middle, off from the middle, left right.  It does what it wants.  All the time.  Which brings me to my new motto:  Do What You Want All of The Time.

Honestly, anything else only gets you in trouble.

So see, sometimes it takes you 41 years, but you eventually get to learn flexibility and acceptance.  Even my hair knows it.

I’ll leave on this note.  Hannah is one of my heroes.  She’s one of the amazing young women I met working at Goodbye Blue Monday.  What I lacked in tips at the bar I certainly made up for in inspiration from the young people around me.  They were all (still are) like 15 years younger than me, but they moved me so much in how they shaped their lives into what they wanted them to be.  Hannah was working at the cafe, but wanted to be a hair stylist.  She got up the nerve to ask her favorite salon, and they hired her.  She worked her way up to being a top stylist/cutter there.  She transformed her life, and she spends all day transforming other people.  She’s all about making everything more beautiful.  I think that’s beautiful.

I feel like that generation of girls has less fear than mine?  Or maybe just less fear than me…  but I don’t think I’ve ever changed my life like that, where I get to do what I want most of the time.  I think it’s because I never believed I could, so I just let things happen instead of directing myself where I want to go.  I’ve always been a good driver, but if you don’t have a sense of where you want to go and the bravery to move in that direction, then you’ll just parallel park or sit in traffic.  Well..  better late than never.  And I have great inspiration from those friends I made at GBM.  My hair is already learning things like flexibility and acceptance.  Where is that elephant..

 

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Educational App

June 27th, 2014

I’m so excited about this, I can barely write.  Surely, it must exist already.  I was sitting on the train and looked over to where a boy was squiggling his finger rapidly on his device…  He startled me, but he was just playing one of those video games where you have to zap a bunch of things with your fingers.

I know and am related to people who know and love video games, and I had my time with the likes of Frogger and Pitfall and Tetris…  Pong too, sure, but in general, I much prefer to stare off into space than stare and poke at a little screen.  Besides, my fellow commuters give me plenty to look at.  Sometimes too much.

Something about that young man’s intense fingering of that screen made me think–my, if only people paid that much attention to pussy, they’d be really good at it.  It just takes attention, focus, practice, repetition.  Like anything.  If they made pussy into a video game, boys would be really good at it.  It would be an educational app.  You would manipulate your iphone va-jj until you hit your goal.  You would have to pay attention to the sound, heat, movement and swelling, and if you got really good, you would hit the bonus level of magical multiples where you earn points like crazy.  And each clitoris and vagina would would be different with different characteristics and different rhythms and different sensitivities, so even if you scored into multiples with one, the next time you played you’d get a completely different one and have to master that…  You can play with your friends..  at the same time, you know with the headsets like they do for those simulated flight games, right?  You could get very good at Virtual Vagina or Practice Pussy while playing with friends around the globe.  You can buy the plastic screen cover to protect from moisture damage for when you get to the oral manipulation levels which is really for experts because you can’t see what you’re doing.  Oral manipulation is a blind art.  It’s all feel.  Imagine, an iphone app that would help you develop feel (and a feeling other than addicted frustration that you’re not getting more messages and updates…).

Of course, the idea of this game is that you would get really good so you could go forth in real life with a certain knowledge and confidence and skill level.  I mean, people who play those flight games may never fly a plane, but we’re hoping that those who practice, hone and learn on the Virtual V-JJ go on to please many actual v-jjs into the realm of magical multiples.  It’s win win.

This is just an idea…  I wonder if this would take all the sexiness out of sex?  But then again, mindless fumbling with being too embarrassed to ask isn’t sexy either.  Or complete ignoring of because you’re a man and supposed to know everything.. that doesn’t get anybody going either.  What we really need to cultivate in this society is excitement about learning about sex, definitely about vaginas.  Vagina education should be the best part of the day or week.  I’ve always been very into learning in general.  Usually, I do it the hard way, but none-the-less it makes you feel alive.  And if you’re alive, you may as well feel like you are.  It’s such a jip to be alive but feel like you’re dead.  What a dumb joke that is.  No thanks…

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Playing the Julia Child-inspired Bushwick Book Club show TONIGHT!

June 25th, 2014

It’s that time of the month.  Yes, I’m irritable and angst filled and eating to distraction… because I’m writing a new song.  Sometimes, you have to turn into a horrible person just to get a song out.  I don’t know how other people do it, but that’s my, um, process.  And now I’m single.  But I have this new song to play tonight for Bushwick Book Club, and it’s inspired by Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking.  Come see and hear what souffles and omelettes and butter inspire in performance tonight.  It’s making me hungry.

June 25th, 7pm at Barbes in Brooklyn

The Bushwick Book Club takes on its first cook book with a show of new original music in response to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  It will be a literary/musical feast at our favorite Park Slope venue.

Performers:  Bob Holman (poet, founder Bowery Poetry Club), SPACE MEOW (Dool Chao, Adeline Thery), Susan HwangLeslie Graves (GOLD), Casey HolfordJessie Kilguss, Sophie Malleret and Shannon Pelcher .  Hosted by BBC creator, Susan Hwang.

Wednesday, June 25th, 7pm
Barbes
376 9th St.New York, NY 11215
ph: 347-422-0248
Door: by donation

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Show in Red Hook Tonight

June 20th, 2014

If the animal parts have trouble coming off, we’ll just change our name to The Relasticats.

The show is tonight at Bait and Tackle in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Tonight, Friday, June 20th, 10pm
Bait and Tackle
320 Van Brunt St.
Brooklyn
ph: (718) 451-4665
Door: by donation

We are playing songs inspired by physicist, Richard Feynman, plus a new doo-wop inspired by Philip Roth and girl parts.  Join us at Bait and Tackle with our friends Jessie Kilguss and her band playing her beautiful alt. country originals.  We can walk by the water afterwards and gorge ourselves on negative ions.  Oh look, we’re making up our own perfect pre-solstice rituals.  That is so resourceful of us….

Last night, we raised money for this guy:


 

Charlie requires 2 surgeries to have an abscess removed from his ear.  He’s got an active lifestyle.
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Toast

June 17th, 2014

I saw this at the grocery yesterday.

People don’t have time to toast their own bread anymore.  This is what the world is coming to.  And a soul-less bear with dead eyes is selling it to you.  I don’t trust that bear.  It’s a cartoon zombie, and it might be what you turn into when you finally give in to pre-toasted bread.

Pre toasted bread.  Why don’t they just sell you pre-digested food.  Sliced excrement so you don’t have to make your own.  Look at the brand name “Bimbo.”  See, food for dummies.  No thanks..  I have enough problems without being turned into a cartoon zombie Bimbo.

Also, I was wondering if it means you’ve made it when you can make this face on city advertisements:

Some other examples:

I think it’s supposed to signal that the story is a comedy.  Or it could signal Armageddon or something, I don’t know.  It could be the face that lets the devil know you’re ripe for hell?  The face you make forever in hell.  Maybe something like that.

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Ddong Peh

June 11th, 2014

I got to my desk this morning.  That’s already success right there.  You get up, you grab what fits, you feed your cat and run out the door.  I got to my desk and I looked down and saw this:

Oh..  my ddong peh.  I thought I grabbed clothes that fit this morning, but I grabbed clothes that barely fit, and I seem to have a problem with clothes that stay fastened.  Part of why I’m alive is to wear clothes.  Shoes in particular.  You would think that I’d be better at the details.  Once, I walked into my bosses’ office at Goldman Sachs with my belt unbuckled (so professional).  Another time, my shirt was unbuttoned (same boss).  I once escorted an executive from a European office clear across the trading floor with my dress tucked into my underwear.  I’ve looked down while on the subway train and noticed my shirt dress was unbuttoned just so that my entire navel in addition to ddong peh was exposed.  Last week, carrying my accordion around town, I noticed I was getting funny looks.  I looked down and my shirt was wide open.  I’m a walking Seinfeld episode.

I have no conclusions about this except that apparently my intimidation with physical objects applies to my garments as well.  Listen, I sing songs.  What do I know about appearances.

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Getting better

June 5th, 2014

My friend Steve gave me a wonderful gift recently.  He jury-rigged, macgyvered the door handles of my car with bits of whatnot and copious gorilla glue.  The driver’s side wouldn’t open from the outside, the passenger side from the inside.  Getting in and out of my car has only been increasingly acrobatic and stupid for the last 2 years.  Some of my friends are nice about it and say they enjoy the “quirkiness” of my vintage ’94 hoopty.  I would just grin and bear it and try not to fixate on the latest sign of decay.

When Steve sent me this picture of his handiwork, I was elated.  I told him so.  He asked if there was any sarcasm in that.  I was taken aback that he might think so.  Of course I was sincere.

Don’t you know, that most things in this world get worse, not better?  In particular, cars?  A mechanic told me once, “They’re not like human bodies. If you leave it alone, it’s not going to heal.  If you don’t fix it, it just gets worse.”

So the fact that Steve took the time and care and attention to do this was a huge gift that was not lost on me.  And yes, I understand about cycles and birth and death and rebirth, so I shouldn’t be so sad about things falling apart, but still, I appreciate that this focused application of gorilla glue means you’re willing to act against universal laws of decay and chaos.  It’s a form of love.  And I will take it.  Every time.  It’s a note my heart hears.  It’s a color that it knows.  The fixed door handles, unclogged drains, air conditioner put in, snow off my windshield, enter my heart as a sweet variety of pure love.

Thank you for defying the universal trend toward decay and chaos for me.  Thanks for making something work.  It’s one of the nicest gifts you can give a girl.

I get such a kick every time I pull on that little pig tail curly cue to get into the driver’s seat.  Ha!  Look at that!  It works!

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© Susan Hwang 2014. Photo: Dany Nierman. Site design by Billkwando@yahoo.com