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The next Bushwick Book Club show – Edgar Oliver

Show is June 4th, 6:30pm doors at Caveat in the Lower East Side (21 A Clinton St.)

It’s an indulgence. But I have to remind myself that Bushwick Book Club has always been so. It was born out of an indulgence of my curiosity by Steve Trimboli, so it always feels right when BBC moves from this impulse. Undulating to a little indulgence.

This time, the pleasure to give-in to is Edgar Oliver. He’s an East Village art/theater/literature treasure that if you haven’t heard of yet, you have the pleasure of coming to know now. His written work is not the easiest to get a hold of (I didn’t find any listed in the NYPL stacks) but you can start with enjoying this playlist:

AND we’ve got a tremendous line up of NYC and Brooklyn talent responding to Edgar in song and art, including fellow East Village art/theater/literary treasure, PENNY ARCADE hosting. In addition to Edgar being there to watch the show and of course give a reading in his singular (I would say inimitable, but we all try to imitate it) voice, we have performances from these most creative of NY’s creatives (the cream of the creatives?):

Penny Arcade (hosting)
Adira Amram
Ralph Denzer
Bob Holman
Rachelle Garniez
Susan Hwang
Charlie Nieland
Don Rauf
Lianne Smith
Jason Trachtenburg

TICKETS are $20 at the door /$15 advanced purchase / $10 live stream

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March 17, 2022

CONFESSION:  I didn’t care about your grandmother.  She was old.  She was 85 or something, and she was sick for a long time, and she was a shell of herself––never the same after your grandfather died.  It was a relief to her and to everyone else when she finally let go.  And you told me about it because it was your grandmother, and she loved you and she pressed your forehead when you had chicken pox, and she taught you how to play badminton.


But see, that’s why losing Barbara, who was 87 years old is not at all like losing a grandmother.  And that’s why it makes me so upset.  It is losing a peer.  The last time I spoke with her was mid February when I was preparing for a show.  I needed someone to sing the hit from 1867 made popular by one of the first transmale vaudeville sensations, Ella Wesner, for a tap dance/performance piece by Stephanie Larriere for Bushwick Book Club’s show celebrating Hugh Ryan’s WHEN BROOKYN WAS QUEER at The Bureau of General Services Queer Division. I called Barbara to see if she would sing it.  She said she’d love to do it, but AJ was in town, and she wanted to spend his last night in town with him.   So she went through her entire rolodex of superstar, super talented students from the cabaret, downtown, Joe’s Pub music scene, suggesting those she thought would be good for the piece. She went through the *entire* list.

She’s not someone one would ever consider “at the end of her life” even though she was 87.  She was making art.  She was helping other people with their art.  She was writing.  Her FB posts buoyed many far and wide through these past 2 and a half years, why?  Because she knew how to share what she was going through with other people.  Why?  Because that’s what she did.  She communicated.  She connected.  She supported.  She expressed.  She was herself––thank god––and made herself available to others…. to the world… to beauty… to love.  I think that’s how we’re supposed to live life.

So yeah, it’s upsetting that she’s no longer here.  She was so good at loving.  And she was still active with it.  And right now, I figure, we need more people who are really good at it, who can not only continue to do it, but teach us all how… remind us, be a guide to us.  No one ever gave me a manual for living life.  My parents tried, but a) my Korean sucks and b) I don’t listen.

Barbara not only gave me an example of top notch, doctorate level, ninja master level loving, she helped me find my voice.  My voice.  It’s something I’ve been reaching for since I was in elementary school when I asked Mr. Buras, my 6th grade music teacher, how I could get those high notes.  He had no good answer.  I had to wait like 25 years to meet Barbara who worked with me with patience and without judgement.  With her keen observation and way of connecting to a person with innate knowing, experience in artistry, passion and compassion, she helped me to find my voice.  It’s not the perfect voice (if there is such a thing)––not even by a long shot.  But it’s mine.  It’s one of the few things about myself I’m so very happy to have.  That and I don’t have to shave my legs.  But the skin I was just born with.  The voice I had to find.  I had to listen for and allow.  Barbara gave me the space and the guidance for this to happen.  A voice means a lot as a woman.  And as an Asian woman.  What with ancestral guilt and shame and centuries telling you to be quiet, be accommodating, be polite, be perfect or be invisible.  My imperfect voice is still mine.  And Barbara, as my vocal sensei, taught me how to use it, to know it, to wield it. Remember when she would have you shape the sound into a sword pointing up out of your head?  That was so cool.

This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s kind of everything.  And I still need her.  Did anyone else notice she would kiss you full on the lips whenever she greeted you at the door?  Is that a 1950’s thing?

I know there’s a war in Ukraine.  I know there was an earthquake in Japan yesterday.  I know that there’s systemic racism and sexism and queerphobia and white supremacy engrained in Christianity in America and all manner of people treating each other horribly.  Domestic violence.  What about that.  Global warming.  Don’t get me started.  But see, that’s all the more reason we need Barbara here now.  I tried to tell the angels that.

She was game.  She was up for something.  She was up for something everyday into her 87th year.  Who does that??  I hope it’s me.  I hope I do that.  I want to be up for something until the day I die––having too much fun to flag down death, so that if it wants me, it’ll have to come and get me.

Also, I didn’t mean to insult your grandmother.  I know she was very special.  I’m in pain, and I don’t always know what to do with emotions.

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