Thursday, May 31, 2018


            “You said,” you say, but I didn’t say, and you reply, “You did,” but I didn’t do. Where does this leave us, but in love? And what’s love but a neighborhood of stoops (crumbling) and (artisanal) aimlessness.  
            A kid ran out of the park at 3:00 o’clock in the morning only to strike a taxicab. The kid bounced, without a shirt, the rent fabric of his breath in the freezing air. A passerby gave him socks. It wasn’t unkind, exactly, but ill-fitting, emblematic of the post-industrial wasteland that saddens our generational critics.
            There sat the kid, untying his shoes (still shirtless) beside the flashing hazard lights of the taxicab, tossing his own socks into the gutter, and replacing them with the warm, sweaty cottons from the donor. I had little to do but watch beneath a loud lamp. I’ll never forget the bunch of agitated blue jays, four or five of them, stabbing the cold with the metallic tone of their vocabulary.
            “Word, comma, your mama.” Did you clarify? Yes, you clarified.
            We were never happier (you and I) than when we were lying to each other. You texting me selfies on windy afternoons and me pretending to receive them an hour later. If I stood somewhere other than where I purported to stand, I did so out of fear, and in losing you, okay, what I lost was this:
            […] the bus stop is empty when the bus arrives. Instead, a worker sweeps old leaves into a dustpan. Why is the sinoatrial rhythm of our hearts keyed to the murmurs of thunder?

This is part of a double issue. If you don’t like stories, you might like a song. See trying to teach a mockingbird the bebop song “salt peanuts”


I spend about two hours on the rooftop of my building every morning, writing and singing. Most of this activity must (by necessity) remain mysterious, as it will appear (fully realized) with a rock ‘n’ roll band. Let us call this enterprise “Orchestra + Vocal.” You shall be hearing more about “Orchestra +  Vocal” over the summer, dear reader. Please stay tuned.

Some of the time, however, I sing to a mockingbird. He is the dominant bird in my neighborhood. If you hear twenty birdcalls (and siren) coming from the same beak, it’s him: the polyglot. I especially like it when he speaks blue jay and nuthatch. I say “dominant” because he’s so loud. He perches on ladders, smokestacks, the crowns of gigantic trees, rooftops, ledges, et cetera.

I have been trying to teach him the bebop song, “Salt Peanuts,” which is usually credited to Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy played the tune with Bird, but by that, we mean Charlie Parker. I’m not aware of any wild fowls who scat “Salt Peanuts,” except for maybe this feller. Listen to him. Am I right? For a few glittering moments, this mockingbird might’ve been a real hep cat.

This is part of a double issue. If you don’t like songs, you might like a story. See what I lost was this:

Thursday, April 19, 2018


If I slept two or three restless hours on the night of Sunday, March 4, 2018, I don’t remember. All sorts of unsettling scenarios kept nagging me every time I began to drift—nobody would show up, the historic windstorm would double back, I would improbably fail my partners Emily and Erich with some horrendous oversight—until I threw myself out of bed at daybreak and began hoofing toward the Capital Fringe Trinidad Theatre in Washington’s H Street Corridor. I carried in my backpack what any good co-producer would carry: a couple of four-terabyte hard drives and ten home-made (hand-crafted!) sandwiches. 

A little back-story: After reading my research-post on the song “Li’l Liza Jane,” Emily Cohen contacted me last July. She and I had collaborated on several earlier projects, but hadn’t spoken in a couple years. We both declared that we required something else in our lives, something bigger than ourselves. After a typical Emily-Dan conversation (okay: sometimes we quarrel, we’ve had some classic donnybrooks, but it’s very productive!) we decided to embark upon a documentary film project. We would call it Li’l Liza Jane: A Movie About A Song. Around Thanksgiving, the luminary cinematographer Erich Roland joined the team as Director of Photography and we began planning the production of a fundraising trailer. In time, we settled on the Trinidad Theatre space and the date, March 5th. Everything would happen there and then. 

A couple days before my night of tossing and turning, a severe windstorm with hurricane-force gusts pummeled the D.C. area, upending trees and power lines. It spared the Trinidad Theatre, however, and it spared Emily, who lives in Wyoming, and who made it to D.C. after enduring a few frustrating air-travel delays. The crew—including Andrew Capino (Assistant Camera) and Lenny Schmitz (Sound Engineer)—had already begun to load-in a copious amount of gear when I arrived. Emily and her personal assistant (her father Mike) arrived with coffee. Our featured musician Phil Wiggins brought a bag of thirty harmonicas to the filming session. Our featured interviewees Faye Moskowitz, Bobby Hill, and Elena Day appeared, and all four of our people-to-be-filmed brought their A games. So did the fabulous Capital Fringe staffer, David Carter, who assisted us throughout the day.

Phil kept a harmonica in each hand and played both interchangeably as he cycled through his stirring rendition of “Li’l Liza Jane” again and again. Faye surprised us not only by singing, but singing “Liza Jane” lyrics that nobody had ever heard before. Bobby emphasized that African American people didn’t always have a chance to describe their plight, and so, told their stories in song. Elena emphasized that, at the heart of “Li’l Liza Jane,” stands an independent woman who would be an impressive person, now, during an era when women are empowering themselves. As opposed to the worst happening (as when I panicked, sleepless) the best had happened, instead. Each person put her or his stamp on the session.

Check out our trailer [click here] if you haven’t done so already. The amount of effort and professionalism on display speaks to the great affection we have for music, for one another, and for the support of a good cause. The full story of America’s favorite poor gal, Li’l Liza Jane, will be told, and with any luck, this trailer will be helpful in attracting funders to the project. Emily and I will be following every lead, tirelessly, in the days to come. By doing so, and by eventually endowing the film with adequate resources, we hope to reward the trust of all the crew members and interviewees who helped us to create this preview. Notably, we want to think of the men and women—dating back nearly 200 years, enslaved people and hardscrabble fiddlers alike—who recited some of the original versions of the tune, as well as Li’l Liza Jane herself. . . . .whoever, and how many different women, she may be.

               Trailer Day Trivia
               Varieties of sandwiches: 3
               Renditions of “Li’l Liza Jane”: 2
               Number of fog machines: 1
               Crew members: 5
               Number of temple oranges: 7
               Cans of sparkling “Refreshe”: 12
               Number of microphones: 3

               Guide to the Photographs
               1. Phil Wiggins
               2. Emily Cohen, Erich Roland, Andrew Capino, and Phil Wiggins
               3. Faye Moskowitz
               4. Tape
               5. Elena Day
               6. Bobby Hill and crew
               7. Emily Cohen and Dan Gutstein

               Still photography by Mike Cohen (1, 3, 4, 5, 6) and Dan Gutstein (2, 7)

Friday, March 23, 2018


The sailors overtook the ship at lunchtime, in Matinee on the Bounty.
Enjoy some Junior Minsk, the li’l box of chocolates from Belarus.
“Persecuted? Yeah, we had that in the joint. I stole a purse, and got 
the electric chair: I was purse-a-cuted.” Suffering from Markie Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder? (You watch too much Night Court!) Now we know
that Marlon Brando had ‘Pryor knowledge.’ A few Japanese assassins
suffer from the gum disease, Ninjavitis. There are many vast possibilities
to choose from these days. As a result: I have multiple or chasms……

Re: the singing tradition—Call Center and Response—[Hullo?] [Please listen
carefully…] [Hullo?] […as the menu options have changed!] [Hullo…?]
Modality meets hip-hop, bird, geometry, and WW II, in Kind of Blue Jay Z
Axis Powers. “Feasible? Yeah we had that in the joint. If it could go in the freezer
it was feasible.” A Sea Dog pursues the mutineers, who fire a warning shot
across the bowwow. Now, they’re serving time for involuntary man’s laughter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


The musician arrived with a bag of 30 harmonicas.
30 harmonicas!
He selected two.
And he began playing both of them, together.
A folk song.
A beautiful tune, newly interpreted. His way.
There were many others of us there.
We all had jobs to do.
(I myself “co-produced.”) (I also made some sandwiches.)
Whatever each of us was doing. . . . .
When the man played, and sang, we heard him. Oh yes.
“A recording was made,” as they say.
There is more. Much, much more.
Stay tuned, my friends.           


Imagine Dr. David Banner tripping along dystopian urban streets in the year 2019, which was not so long ago. Coincidentally, it’s the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, a city with 106 million people, most of them cavorting-about with their spacey umbrellas perpetually sprouted. There are talkie-ads the size of skyscrapers and flying cars and embittered replicants, artificial people who intend to visit some voracious vengeance upon the malevolent corporation which designed them.

In this future, the camera follows Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, and especially Harrison Ford. (“Harrison Ford?” says Dr. David Banner.) Yes, Harrison Ford, which is really aggravating, so Dr. David Banner hulks, his mouth agape, his eyes resembling the green of lightning. The buttons on his shirt pop free, one at a time, and he shreds the legs of his blue dungarees to inhabit them perchance as a perfect pair of cutoff jeans. “Rawwr!” he says.

By now, Dr. David Banner hulks every fifteen-twenty minutes. So much so, the makeup artists tire of scrubbing off the green pancake, and slopping it on, scrubbing and slopping, until it’s just Lou Ferrigno walking around as an ill-clad drifter, a kind of Mr. Green Universe Meets the Crowded Indifferent Future of California. There’s no more need for Bill Bixby, who is seen smoking apple tabac and attending dubious matinees. His anger no longer matters; he’s cured of his gamma radiation overdose.

When all of a sudden, Lou Ferrigno espies Pris Stratton, a basic pleasure replicant who could be The Incredible Hulk’s spirit animal. They are both pancaked, they are both raccoons, they are both shorn in the same shaggy hairdo. Pris is really Daryl Hannah. She dunks her hand without pain into water that boils a dozen eggs. Perhaps she desires a magnificent sprawling omelet, the ambient heat of the whipped eggs and southwestern ingredients. “Rawwr!” goes Lou Ferrigno.

If Daryl Hannah was capable of love, then she’d have already crushed Harrison Ford’s face between her thighs, his head bouncing down the stairs like the meatball in the spaghetti song. We know more about the future than ever before, and it continues to predict the demise of Pris, kicking her legs and howling for help. The Incredible Hulk trudges toward a second transformation, green and dumbfounded, and in that way, Lou Ferrigno resembles all of us, trapped in the lonely squalls of our acrimony.

too futuristic? see super secret project

Friday, February 16, 2018

the doctrine is IN.

The rapper reveals his sensual exploits in S & Eminem, a Yo Yo Mah Jongg film. Perhaps he was “cup-holded” in a previous relationship, you know, forced to watch his partner place a beverage into a strange receptacle. Or perhaps he developed sympathies for the captors who kept him hostage in a warehouse—he might’ve suffered from Stockroom Syndrome. Do you know the hip-hop poet, Eazy-e.e. cummings? Well, L.L. Cool J. Edgar Hoover Dam!

We say “patty wagon” because in the beginning of law enforcement, only hamburger makers were thrown in the back of the van. Did you know that the cops can invoke “Search and Caesar” and thereby confiscate your salad? The Chinese, meanwhile, will be catering the next solar eclipse with their cuisine, Dim Sun. Before that happens, you should go see the new episodic play that focuses on Native American deified spirits—The Kachina Monologues.

Listen to the editor, when the editor sez: “I smell errata!” He may be suffering from a Chagall stone in his De Gaulle bladder. Humankind emerged from the ancient goop to primordial ooze and ahs. Thirteen deer are a hunter’s venison whereas every bird is a moderate, owing to its left and right wings. Chickens are always being forced to re-coop their losses, while turkeys are on the rise—and on the pumpernickels. I saw it on that TV show, Slaw & Order.

Thinking ahead, the husband and wife planned their funerals: his and hearse. Afterwards, they watched a triple X movie about double-entendres: Read Between the Loins, a Yo Yo Mah Jongg Film. Here are your messages. The crunchy sixty-something called you back—yeah, the baby boomer rang. Whereas that Australian toy you chucked at the far horizon, that didn’t return? What a bummer-rang. Lodge a complaint with the Obscurity Exchange Commission!

Was it B.B. Q’ing who sang the blues and ate the barbecue? (He’s back on line, he’s B.B. Queueing, for some more saucy meats.) Okay, okay, I’ll mind my appeasements and queues. The mafia are now predicting the end of the world, or so sayeth the Cosa Nostradamus. If you can’t honk there’s a product—“Honk Ease”—that should help you honk, whether or not you’re brightening your coffee in Half & Halfghanistan.