Dan tells a story, adds a song cue. And a song.

Tell a story? With pleasure, Pamela. With self-celebrating pleasure.

As some of you may be aware as a result of the shamelessly self-whoring amount of linking that goes on around da blog, I am one of three collaborators of a musical. This musical has been in development for some time now, and, in its earliest incarnation, ran exactly 148 pages and contained well over thirty songs. As we’ve seen the thing performed and realized that no audience member wants to sit through thirty lavish, glitzy musical theater numbers (and no one named Adam wants to write them), we scaled the script (er, “libretto”) to a fighting weight of 112 pages and have cut several songs and overhauled several others. Some of the songs were awesome: Tracie still weeps silently into her pillow that “It Counts” — in which Bill promises that there’s been no infidelity because his hands don’t get involved, sung to his Smithers-esque George — never made it past the first draft. Some of the songs were dangerous and unwieldy: twelve whole pages containing an entire impeachment trial were trashed outright, leading to a sweeping sense of relief that we wouldn’t have to ask our producers who they intended to cast in the role of “Congress.” Some of the songs have died, only to see their rotting corpses reconstituted and resuscitated somewhere in another song: we’ve cut the rhyming couplet “this plan leads to disaster” with “it’s set in stone, not just in plaster” from at least three different songs.

Anyway, in the spirit of October, a month that finds us returning to the evaluation (and consequent flagellation) stage as we open ourselves up to another round of readings, I thought it would be fun to showcase a periodic feature entitled “Cut Songs.” Some songs were cut for the sake of length. Some songs were cut for the sake of narrative clarity. Some songs were cut for the continued sanity of those who wrote them. Some songs I forgot were ever in there, and some songs I still think about every day. They’re just like children. And some of those children fucking suck.

The first entrant into the cleverly named “Cut Songs” cycle is entitled “Once There was a Town Called Hope (But Everyone’s Gone From There Now).” Though Tracie and I maintain a fully “Lennon/McCartney” relationship in sharing songwriting credit for all of our songs, I’ll admit it: this one was totally my fault. I had just written the twelve-page trial (aforementioned, cut), and I wanted to show that Bill was at a low point. Alone. Low. Lower than ever. Low and sad, and not funny. Just low. The first time the three of us read the whole thing together, Adam shrugged non-committally, and Tracie offered a succinct, “That song scares the hell out of me.” The second act was revised majorly. The song was axed.

I vowed that “Hope” would have its revenge; I would wait until the show had been running on Broadway for ten years, and then have it published as a poem in The New Yorker. But here it is instead. Because really, the only thing about The New Yorker that’s better than the blog is the font.

ACT II, SCENE IX

SONG: Once there was a Town Called Hope (But Everyone’s Gone From There Now)

BILL
(starts quietly)
A LITTLE RED SCHOOLHOUSE, A LITTLE WHITE CHURCH
AND A SLEEPY GEN’RAL STORE
JUST A DUSTY OL’ OUTPOST ON THE DIXON SIDE
A PLACE THAT MOST CITY FOLK MIGHT THINK A BORE

THERE WERE FENCES OF PICKET, AND ACRES OF SKY
AND OUR FIRST STOPLIGHT IN ’63
AND NO HUMAN CRUELTY, AND NO ONE WAS SNIDE
WHERE A SMILE AND A WAVE WERE ALWAYS FOR FREE

AND THE SETTLERS CAME IN WITH THEIR PICKS AND THEIR HOS
AND BUILT UP PARADISE ON THE LEFT MISSISSIPP
WHERE THE CLOUDS ARE LIKE COTTON, AND THE SUMMERTIME SLOWS
WHERE THE RAIN SMELLS LIKE ROSES, AND THE TEMPERATURE DON’T DIP

IN THIS QUIETEST HAMLET I FIRST FELL IN LOVE
WITH ONE SINGULAR, MOST PERFECT GIRL
WHO FLEW DOWN FROM HEAVEN ON THE WINGS OF A DOVE
AND A SWEET SUGARY LOLLIPOP SWIRL

TO WHERE TWO SMITTEN KIDS COULD RUN OFF AND ELOPE
AS THE LAX LOCAL LAWS WOULD ALLOW
ONCE THERE WAS A TOWN CALLED HOPE
BUT EVERYONE’S GONE FROM THERE NOW

(a little more intense)
LEFT BEHIND THAT RED SCHOOLHOUSE, THAT LITTLE WHITE CHURCH
STOPPED STOPPIN’ ON BY THAT GENERAL STORE
FOR MY LIFE’S LEGACY, I SET OFF ON A SEARCH
AND TO DO MY TOWN PROUD WAS ALL THAT I SWORE

BUT THE FENCES WERE BARBED AND A DARKENING SKY
THREATENED LOFTY INTENTS AND A NATURE BORN PURE
AND I MOVED TO A TOWN CALLED DECEIT, FILTH, AND LIES
WHERE THE SCHOOLHOUSE IS EMPTY, AND THE CHURCH COFFERS POOR

AND THE SETTLERS SLEPT WHILE THE LOCUSTS FLEW IN
AND ON TENDER YOUNG CROPS THEY STARTED TO SWARM
AND THE FAT THE FOLKS LIVED OFF GREW PROGRESSIVELY THIN
AND THE SUMMERS GREW FREEZING AND THE WINTERS GREW WARM

IN THIS QUIETEST HAMLET I BETRAYED MY TRUE LOVE
AND LIKE SUGARY COKE TURNED TO SICK SACCHARINE TAB
ALL MY FAKE BECAME REAL AND IT FIT LIKE A GLOVE
AND ONTO MY VALUES I COULD NO LONGER GRAB

AN EMPTY HOTEL ROOM, A MISGUIDED GROPE
I WOULD TAKE IT ALL BACK, TELL ME HOW
ONCE THERE WAS A TOWN CALLED HOPE
BUT EVERYONE’S GONE FROM THERE NOW

(bridge)
THERE ARE THOSE DETRACTORS, SAY MY LIFE IS A LIE WHO
DON’T KNOW MY HIS’TRY FROM BACK ON THE BAYOU
I HAVE SKIRTED THE STRICTURES OF OUR HOLY LAW
I’VE RUINED THE NAME OF ALL ARKANSAS
ARKANSAAAAAAAAAAS…

(screaming now, really unhinged)
NOW THE SCHOOLHOUSE IS SHAMBLES, AND THE CHURCH IS AFLAME
SINCE I PLEDGED MY ALLEGIANCE TO THE LORD’S NAME IN VAIN
AND THE GEN’RAL STORE SELLS ONLY SINS, LUST, AND VICE
AND THE BACKSTOCK OF KINDNESS IS CRAWLING WITH MICE

AND THE SKY TEEMS DOWN BRIMSTONE, AND THE PEOPLE TAKE FLIGHT
AND THE STOPLIGHT CAN’T GLOW THROUGH THE PITCH BLACK OF NIGHT
TRUST AND GOOD DO EVAPORATE, AND CONDENSE INTO SHAME
AND THEY RAIN DOWN MY FAILURE, AND I’M ONLY TO BLAME

AND THE SETTLERS MOVED ON, FOR THE LAND DRIED AND BAKED
IRRIGATED WITH VITRIOL THAT POISONED THE LAKE
AND THEY DIED WHERE THEY STOOD, THEY WERE JUST BONES AND SKIN
AND THE TREES BORE THE FRUIT OF ORIGINAL SIN

(slowing down now)
IN THIS QUIETEST HAMLET I LET DOWN THE WORLD
AND THE SACCHARINEY TAB BECAME UNDRINKABLE JOLT
WHEN I GAZE UPON FATE I FEEL THOUGH I MIGHT HURL
THAT MY SELFSAME REFLECTION INSPIRES REVOLT

(reflective)
IT’S A HELL OF MY MAKING, MY OWN PRIVATE DISTOP
CAN’T PRETEND TO BE HOLY…CAN THOU?
ONCE THERE WAS A TOWN CALLED HOPE
BUT EVERYONE’S GONE FROM THERE NOW

YES, ONCE THERE WAS A TOWN CALLED HOPE
BUT EVERYONE’S GONE FROM THERE NOW

Oh, and I’m sure you’ve heard our collection of Internet Porn Haikus, right?