The river is a winding tunnel through the jungle.

Dreams Of The River[1]
Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
54 minutes
Preceded by: A Kiss Is Just A Kiss
Followed by: Photography

Dreams Of The River is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1986.


Joe describes a journey down a jungle river, including an odd assortment of things on the shore ('ukuleles, credit cards, partly-eaten cupcakes, autumn leaves, genealogical charts, telephones, and blood-soaked underwear'), in the third person. The captain, a woman, dozing in a hammock on the bridge, speaks in German.[1]

1:30: 'He tries to sleep as long as possible…' Joe describes a man's efforts to avoid waking up because he doesn't want to face the day - he shoots for noon. He feels badly that others are doing things, he's not.

5:50: 'He went to a small college in Ohio - he was a music major' Joe tells the story of his college career, in the '60s. He drives home to NYC for vacation, stops at Howard Johnson's. He steals brownies, eventually accumulating 2 steamer trunks' worth, then returns them stale.

12:50: We're back to the journey on a jungle river. He sees a house, an old whore in a negligee lounges in the doorway, whispers in German.[2]

13:40: He turns on the TV to watch the 1 PM movie, often watches until dark. If a friend is going to drop by he sets up his guitar and letters in hope he will look busy. Sometimes he takes a walk; he hasn't shaven or showered; he sometimes envies the homeless on the street.

17:30: He smokes dope in the evening, which makes him stop caring about the failure of his life.

18:10: He tells of his dealer Maury, a serious smoker, who dies of a cerebral hemorrhage.

19:50: 'After dropping out of college he came back to New York', moves into the Village, takes courses at Columbia, takes a janitorial job at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; his father pays tuition and helps out. He steals snacks from the kitchenette refrigerator.

22:30: After work he hangs out at the Gold Rail, a campus hangout. He meets Greta, 'a tall blonde German woman in her mid-30s with a thick accent who waited on tables.' One morning, after spending the night with her, he takes her to St. John, where they make out on a table in the library, are seen by a priest. She talks to him in German while they make love - 'she always does'.

25:50: We're back on the river. He sees men in purple robes and hoods, carrying a glass coffin that holds a statue of Christ. He remembers when he played Christ in a passion play in college.

27: The church fires him for stealing food, doesn't mention his encounter with Greta in the library. Greta leaves without saying a word.

27:30: He stops in a drug store, window-shops. He steals a pair of sunglasses, a pair of jeans at The Gap, sneaks out of busy luncheonettes without paying, finds a purse in the gutter, tries to sell the credit cards.

29: He sings promotions of a new product at a department store chain, steals stuff from the gift shop.

29:30: He fundraises for a major opera company, calls a woman who can't speak.

35: Joe describes going into the subway like entering an alternate state of consciousness; the people behave like animals; it used to be better-appointed. He thinks about living in an underground city, that ancient Christians did in Rome.

39:10: 'A few years ago he had a job singing and playing the guitar at a small ratty Upper West Side neighborhood bar' - he comes on at midnight, when the audienceis mostly drunks, the kitchen closing. He figures out that few listen to him. He gets a free meal, drinks, and $15. The manager was a Colombian who looked like an ex-prizefighter. A wealthy woman who loves him funds the bar. The place deteriorates, closes down.

46:20: A woman talks in German.[3]

49:30: When he was younger, he had a strong stomach; in his mid to late 30s, his stomach began to hurt. He eats junk food at fast food joints. He gets morbidly obese. He bleeds after having sex.

54:30: 'The river is a winding tunnel through the jungle' - Joe repeats some of the beginning, except the German the captain says changes.[4]

Legacy Synopsis

A washed-up musician tries to fill time. As a college student, he steals brownies from Howard Johnson's restaurants. In New York he gets a job as a janitor at a church and dates a German waitress. Stealing sunglasses, cafe meals. Telemarketing for an opera company. Subway stations as an underground world. Playing music in a bar. Hiring prostitutes. Imagining oneself as a character in a novel.


  • This program contains no music other than drones


This show has 3 parts: the dreamscape journey on a jungle river, a middle-aged would-be musician (about 40) who has wasted his life and is trying to avoid feeling badly about it, a woman speaking in German (first the ship's captain, then a whore in a negligee in a house by the river, then Greta, the waitress at the Gold Rail he has a relationship with, then the ship's captain again - all the same voice.).

The German sounds like soft-core porn to my ear. A German acquaintance and a German Redditor both say it reads like a Groschenroman (a dime novel). 2 German Redditors say the accent is definitely Austrian; 2 say it sounds like a man, not a woman.

Joe re-uses the failed musician's story in Fat Man Down, with some differences; Fat Man Down ends with the German that appears at 46:20 in this episode.

Thanks to Professor Ned of the Joe Frank Mailing List for the transcription and translation.


  1. »Liebling… bitte nicht so…ich wollte ganz nah bei dir sein, bitte…bitte küß mich noch einmal, bitte…so… jetzt kann ich deine Wärme fühlen…ich möchte bei dir bleiben…geh' nicht von mir weg… halt mich ganz fest… bitte…«
    'Darling … please not like that … I wanted to be very close to you, please … please kiss me again, please … so … now I can feel your warmth … I want to stay with you … don't go away from me … hold me tight … please … '
  2. Can't make out what she says.
  3. »…ich schäme mich nicht, ich hab' kein Gefühl von Schande, nur Erschrecken…ich bin erschrocken, wie du das gesagt hast…so ein ganz tief Erschrecken ist in mir…ist das Liebe, glaubst du, der Schrecken? die Sehnsucht? das Gefühl, das ich hab', dass ich in hinein schmelzen will… ich will aufgehen in dir, nicht mehr Ich sein, sondern Du werden…
    »Ich fühl' so eine Sehnsucht, so eine wilde Sehnsucht, dass du mich…dass du mich walten sollst, dass du mich schlagen sollst, mir wehtun sollst, in mich hinein drängen sollst…das muss Liebe sein…ich liebe dich, ja, ja, tut's noch einmal, mehr, mehr… lass' mich nicht los… lass' mich nicht…
    »Du, bist du mein Geliebter? Willst du mein Geliebter sein? Kannst Du mich so anfassen, so, so deine Zunge, sie ist ganz heiss, und rau… Du… das ist so wie ein Tier, so, mit du das von meinen Hals hinunter leckst, ich fühl's, ich kann's fühlen, ganz in meiner Seele, innen, innen…
    »So…kannst du fühlen wie meine Haut heiß ist? Bist du erschrocken? Ich bin's auch…aber ich schäme mich nicht, ich bereue es nicht, ich kann es nicht bereuen, ich fühl' dich überall… immer… auf ewig, ich werde dich nie vergessen, nie, ich will dein Eindruck behalten, deine Schenkel, deine Muskeln, deine Knochen…deine Härte, deine Fut… deine Zähne, oh, wie sie beißen, wie sie heiß und schrecklich auf meinen Achseln zucken…
    »Geliebte, noch mehr, mehr, halt' mich so, und sag' mir, dass du mich liebst, sag' mir, dass ich die einzige sein werde, für immer, immer…mein Geliebte…jetzt wein' ich auch, jetzt kommen mir die Tränen…«
    …I'm not ashamed, I have no feeling of shame, only fright…I'm frightened, as you said…such a very deep fright is in me…is that love, do you think, the fright? the longing? the feeling I have that I want to melt into you…I want to merge into you, no longer be me, but become you…. 'I feel such a longing, such a wild longing, that you should…that you should rule me, that you should hit me, hurt me, push into me…this must be love…I love you, yes, yes, do it again, more, more…don't let me go…don't let me….
    'You, are you my lover? Do you want to be my lover? Can you touch me like this, like this, your tongue, it's all hot, and rough… You… it's like an animal, like this, with you licking it down my neck, I feel it, I can feel it, all inside my soul, inside, inside….
    'So…can you feel how hot my skin is? Are you scared? I am too…but I'm not ashamed, I don't regret it, I can't regret it, I feel you everywhere…always…forever, I'll never forget you, never, I want to keep your impression, your thighs, your muscles, your bones…your hardness, your butt…your teeth, oh, how they bite, how they twitch hot and terrible on my armpits….'
    'Lover, more, more, hold me like this, and tell me that you love me, tell me that I'll be the only one, forever, I'm crying too, now the tears are coming...
  4. »…ich fühle dich… nicht so, noch mehr, noch mehr, du kannst näher sein, mich so nehmen… zärtlich, und wild, und wütend! Schrecklich…«
    I feel you … not like that, even more, even more, you can be closer, take me like that … tender, and wild, and angry! Dreadful…