The Wise Wait

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 I very recently became aquainted with Tom Waits, and am convinced he is one of the wise men sharing a joke on soft gray mornings.

Through auditory perusal of Mr. Waits' work, one inevitably encounters his seemingly world-weary wisdom. The stories he croons, the characters he recalls, he's evidently seen and done it all, or at very least a good amount of it.

A considerable portion of his apparent candidness comes frm his voice. The rugged growl of his later work simply transmits as implicit, while his earlier, somewhat softer sound is just too charismatic to deny.

It isn't the voice alone, though, that expresses Tom Waits' wisdom. For me, the most convincing component is his lyrics. His observations, reminiscings, realizations, often ring so true they leave nothing else to be said. He can sing a stanza so sad it reminds you of your lowest moments, or tell someone's tale so vividly that you're forced to imagine leaning against a beat up car with them with a hand-rolled cigarette clutched between thumb and forefinger. For example;

'Romeo Is Bleeding', from Blue Valentine
"They're seein' how far they can spit. Well it was just another night. And now they're huddled in the brake lights, of a '58 Belair, and listening to how Romeo killed a sheriff with his knife."

Hearing that, you, or at least I, can't help but want to be in that huddle, in a group of great friends, being regalled with an incredible tale.

'New Coat Of Paint' from The Heart Of Saturday Night
"All our scribbled love dreams are lost or thrown away. Here amidst the shuffle of an overflowing day. Our love needs a transfusion, lets just shoot it full of wine."

So well here does the man articulate the sometimes hopeless hope at the heart of a saturday night. The alcohol-fueled interaction he substitutes for substance.

'Heartattack and Vine' from Heartattack & Vine
"See that little Jersey girl with the see-through top. With the peddle pushers sucking on a soda pop. Well I bet she's still a virgin, but it's only twenty-five to nine."

He paints such a poignant picture of fleeting, fragile innocence, so close to its corruption. A freeze-frame of this young girl. sipping soda on the corner, waiting for a ride, or a john, for her night to begin.

'Tango Till They're Sore' from Rain Dogs
"They drive along the pipeline, they tango 'till they're sore. They take apart their nightmares and they leave them by the door."

It isn't overly difficult to picture a group of peope who uninhibit themselves when the situaton calls for it, but I've rarely heard it put so accurately.

'The One That Got Away' from Small Change
"And the ambulance drivers, they don't give a shit. They just want to get off work."

Honestly, that's probably true.

'Swordfishtrombones' from Swordfishtrombones
"Perhaps this yarn is the only thing that holds this man together. Some say that he was never here at all."

The tale told is almost mythic, undeniably spectacular, and this specific sentence underlines that. It could 'hold him together' by keeping his memory alive, or by aiding his maintaining of his sanity, but then he may never have been at all. As Mr. Waits says, "If you think that you could tell a bigger tale, I swear to god you'd have to tell a lie."

This small glimpse of the gentleman's grandeur exhibits the allure of this man and his music. He's the class or cat you buy drinks for to receive recollections in return. The sort of man you seek out at a bar, nursing a brew with shots adjacently ordered, with age in his eyes and lessons in his language. I, for one, am most definitely listening.


Dylan H. said...

Waits is a pure artist. We may never know what he's building in there...

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