Mother of Accordions

June 17th, 2015

We can’t all be mother of dragons.  Accordions need birthing too.

susan in studio w accordionThis photo was taken last weekend by Storm Garner who also designed the cover art for the “Dong Peh” album from Soozee HWang and The Relastics.  More photos from that session coming soon!

This was right after the awesome show with Marlon Cherry last weekend.  We did an experimental duet set with some of Marlon’s originals and some of mine.  And some blues thrown in too!  And Cecil Hooker of Too Many Lauras as our special guest on violin.  Moscow 57 was drenched in the sweat of Asians pumping blues.  We did a version of Hoochie Coochie Woman, which is always funny to me, because there’s no such thing.  There is no such thing as a Hoochie Coochie Woman, because anything close to that would be regarded as something of a hussie.  But look!  This is our language, and it is evolving, so look what just happened…  not only are accordions birthed, but Hoochie Coochie Women exist simply by singing the song.  Did music just do that?  Not bad for an artform that is just sound…  air vibrating into your ear, into your skin, maybe reaches an organ (other than the ear and skin).

I’m still riding on the wave created by the Moby Dick Bushwick Book Club night.  Everything is water and boats and deep and obsessive and moving.

The next Relastics set is this Saturday the 20th at 3pm at The Living Gallery!  It’s an afternoon set for the Popsickle Literary Festival!  Songs about books from me and Marlon and 2 Julies!   Julie Lamendola and Julie Delano!  It’ll be the best company this side of Broadway!  Zane VanDusen curated the show which includes a video piece titled “Anal Masturbation and Object Loss.”  I think there’s no losing with that title.  It’s a triumphant Saturday afternoon… only triumph.


Moby Dick – Bushwick Book Club

June 1st, 2015

I don’t know why this surprises me anymore.  What happens is, there’s some classic that I never wanted to read that we end up using as the theme for a Bushwick Book Club show.  I read the book, fall in love, and then everything in my life becomes the book.  Right now, that book is Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  I never wanted to read this book.  I don’t think there are any women in it…  no sex…. they kill whales; it’s long.  Very long.  But what I’m finding is that I love Ishmael’s contemplation of people and nature.  All the things in his head are things that are familiar to my head, and often spoken in surprisingly plain language even if it’s also poetic and influenced by Shakespeare and The Bible at times.

So, this also means that as a kick off to the Bushwick Book Club Aquatic Summer 2015, I’m seeing tattoos on Bushwick girls of huge, old sailing ships.  Anchors everywhere.  And whales.  I’m not kidding; this morning, the first sounds I heard were whales:

That’s what Bushwick whales sound like.  Incredible, isn’t it?  Mournful, other-worldly.

The show is Friday, June 5th at the historical lightship The Frying Pan at 26th STreet in Manhattan and The Hudson River7pm start.  DJ sss spinning tunes afterwards for our post-Moby enjoyment.  Moby Dick inspired visual art will be shown throughout the ship, and there will even be a table where you can play DICK the card game inspired by the novel.



Goodbye BGY200

April 14th, 2015

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.

Your car,
BGY 200

This is my poem/eulogy:

photo 2The scratches along the side are fresh from last year’s Puerto Rican Day parade down Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick.

The memorial dinner consisted of greens from my mother’s garden.  After saying goodbye to BGY200, we the first shoots of new green onion of the year in a sauce with oxtail









And a gratuitous mom at fridge shot.

photo-7Another 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.  photo-5There’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.




More gays

February 19th, 2015

Feb. 18th:

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..


Down on your knees

February 14th, 2015

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!


Stay or Go, Surprise Beauty Suspension on the Subway, The Best Stuff on Earth

February 7th, 2015

“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.





January 12th, 2015

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:

1.12.15_dwell“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)

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
Dwell…  I like that “well” is in this word.  A deep well of feeling well..  choose deliberately where you dwell.. may as well be possibility.
Then I saw this guy…  I just thought I’d capture him, because he’s someone my mom 1.12.2015_subway2
would look at and say, “Does his mom know his hair is like that?”  I’ve always loved a good fro myself.  I can’t help it, I’m pro hair.
And then I saw this guy:
Who I LOVE… I see this Chinese man several times a week.  We tend to get on the same train, the same car.  I think he gets on earlier than me?  Later?  I like seeing him, because he’s my unspoken train friend, and because his face is one that always has an extra happiness in it.  I will try and get a better picture next time.  Some faces have built in tragedy.  My mom’s best friend from Korea is that way.  Mrs. Ma.  She’s a beautiful, beautiful woman.  Always has been.  She has this delicate, fragile femininity and pale, pale skin.  And if you look at the photos, as far back as high school, her face had the tragedy behind it.  Behind her eyes and the vulnerability of her chin, there is this sadness that is blooming.  That sadness in her eyes speaks of big, epic doom, like in Russian novels.  I’ve never actually read a Russian novel.  I want to read The Brothers Karamazov this year though.
This Chinese man..  he is the opposite of Mrs. Ma.  He has built in joy.  Like his joy is so loud, there’s no question in it.  It’s just the frequency his face emits, has always emitted.  Will keep emitting…  People say that Asian faces are not as expressive.. what is the word?  Inscrutable.  I don’t know how true this is.  I mean, there is a thing about showing emotion and about formality.  There are rules, but goodness knows, no one loves tragedy and drama more than Koreans.  Except maybe the Chinese?  I was speaking with a member of the Main Squeeze Orchestra who is Chinese, this awesome woman, Elaine Yau, and she’s learning to play the erhu.  She said the Chinese love tragedy too.  Her teacher wouldn’t teach erhu to her daughter because  the instrument is too sad for children.  You should have already given up on life and the possibility of happiness before you touch it.  So Elaine’s learning it herself.
What was I talking about… faces.  Right.  I think that “inscrutable” business is something white people say because they didn’t grow up in an environment where all the faces were Asian.  You have to go to Seoul, and see only Asian faces everywhere, in the advertisements and on TV.. every type of person will be Asian… there will be nothing that an Asian face can’t be or express or represent.  Then we can see what you say.  People just need to get out of the country more.  That’s all.  We need to have mandatory world travelling as U.S. citizens.  Like some countries have mandatory military service for young people.  We need to have mandatory study abroad.  I’m telling you, it will cure some things.  At the very least, it could improve conversation.
Speaking of Asian faces… what is it about big ear muffs that make it so that people think it’s okay to “ching-chong” me?  I’m serious.  I get consistently more ching-chong noises when I’m wearing these
muffsthan when I’m not.  I must be asking for it.  Is that right?  Is there something in the audacity to wear loud head gear that says, “This girl wants you to yell nonsense at her.  She’s begging for it.”   Or does it say, “This girl has no boundaries!  She is aching for contact that transcends language.  Go ahead, just make unintelligible noises at her that poke fun at her race.”  It’s a mystery.  Is it because I look more like a hello kitty with these on?  I become closer in appearance to a large-headed, mute cartoon cat, so of course, I’m a receptacle for all those pent up desires to make another person uncomfortable.   I really don’t understand, but I will continue to study this phenomenon.  Once, I was ching-chonged walking through downtown Brooklyn, and I stopped and asked the guy why he was making those noises at me.  He said, “Oh… I’m sorry.  I just thought you couldn’t speak English.”  Right.  So if I don’t speak English, I am obviously fluent in gibberish.
This is a true story.

Even the bad parts are good

December 23rd, 2014

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!!


Sing it to me

December 4th, 2014

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 Hall


Call and Response – “Pleased to meet you — hope you guess my name”

December 3rd, 2014

What I want to say to Kim Jong-un regarding

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.

louer2louer 1

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.

showmegod 1And everyone wants to see God.  No one ever tires of that.  Look, in Montreal, they are asking directly.  Why beat around the bush (but check if it’s burning!).

While some people were looking for God, I found Jeffrey Lewis!

montreal 4He 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




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