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This is my place to figure things out. It's that simple.

Location: United States

I'm 25 year old Wisconsin girl living in the city of neon and chrome who's slowly gaining her identity while losing all sense of reality.

26 March 2010

Tom Waits for No Man.

I Just gotta say, I want to be like Tom Waits.

I mean, the man is crazy talented. And if you've ever seen an interview with him or read any of his quotes or seen him in movies, it's hard to miss his ridiculous sense of humor. I think he's hilarious. He's only a few years younger than my parents yet he still seems like a big kid. The thing about Tom Waits is he's done so much that you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like SOMETHING he's created, even if they don't know he was the one who created it. He's done music for movie soundtracks and plays and his music has been covered by many, such as Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, and The Ramones. When one looks him up online, he's commonly associated with the use of the word 'prolific'. And then on top of everything, there's the adorably symbiotic relationship he has with his wife...

Most importantly though, the man has principles and he sticks to them. He doesn't let people use his music to sell crap on TV (he's been known to sue companies for doing so and then he gives the money to charity), and he certainly doesn't conform to what the music industry tells us music should sound like. Often described as a 'storyteller', he simply creates what he wants to.

I will admit, a fair amount of his music could certainly fall under the category of 'an acquired taste', but there is something about the raspy, reverberating, depth and richness in his voice that I find almost hypnotic. Even on the occasions when his pitch is slightly off key (I get the feeling he may do this on purpose) I still find I can't help but be drawn in. For me, his music is best enjoyed in darkness and solitude, either through headphones or by turning the volume up loud enough that the music engulfs you, body and mind. Lying awake in bed on a sleepless night I can close my eyes and his music will create vivid, sensual landscapes of rundown bars, dirty street gutters, and heartbreaking lost loves, ripe with colors and textures you can almost feel and taste. It's as if his music contains his very soul, or perhaps a very soul of its own. There is something pure, almost religious about the way he creates: His music is beautiful because it is honest and raw. It is because of this that I find it is easy to lose myself within it.

Fearless and creative, I find hard not to like his music.

I will admit, my love for all things Waitsian was not something I found on my own. In my second year of college I was cast in a student directed one act (written by Kobo Abe) entitled "The Man Who Turned Into A Stick". It was about, as you might guess, a man who turns into a stick. There are demons and couple of rebellious kids and the play centers around what will happen to this man's soul after he has jumped off a building and become a stick. Looking back now, it would seem almost silly for the director NOT to have used songs by Tom Waits for this show. But that's not exactly what first drew me in. I enjoyed the songs we used in the show ("Earth died Screaming" and "Goin' Out West") but what really piqued my interest was how much the director (who became my first boyfriend and will always be one of my dearest friends) held Tom Waits in such high regard.

I was over at my friend (the director)'s house hanging out. He had to take a shower before dropping me off at my dorm and going into work and he put on Tom Waits' album Bone Machine in the bathroom. I remember hearing it through the door, and becoming completely enthralled. As someone who grew up mostly on radio and the Beatles, it was like being at the grand canyon for the first time. I remember sitting in the short hallway outside the bathroom straining to better hear and eventually just yelling for my friend to turn the music up. He didn't seem phased that I was so interested in Tom Waits. For him, it was more of a give in. "Of course you like Tom Waits. He's Tom Waits." He later explained to me the finer points of why Tom Waits is amazing, and his reverent love for the man's genius filled me with wonder. This was a friend with a much wider musical knowledge than my own and a talented person in his own right, so his opinion was one to be noted and respected. It's no surprise then, that I eventually did my own looking into things and discovered that, yes, I too find Tom Waits to be just about infallibly awesome.

(Also, if you couldn't tell, I feel irrationally compelled to use both his first and last names when talking about him because just using one or the other doesn't sound... well... "prolific" enough.)

To anyone out there poo pooing my gushing laudation, please at least let me explain why I feel so compelled to write it now:

This past week has been hard for me. For whatever reason my mental state has been slowly dragging itself through the mud. I've found myself frustrated and bored out of my mind at work, uncomfortable and uninspired at home. I just have been. Yet every time I wander to Tom Waits' website and read his lyrics, joke online with an equally bored friend about what the mini, pocket sized Tom Waits sitting on our shoulders (Shoulder Tom Waits or STW for short) is telling us to do, or listen to his music when it's 2am and I can't sleep, my mind has cleared of all its negative thoughts and I feel a sense of Joy and wonderment for what someone can accomplish if they are true to them self. Sappy as it may sound, this week Tom Waits has been the life raft in my sea of self doubt. When impacted so profoundly by someone or something, how can one be expected to keep quiet? It seems unnatural not to want to share this feeling.

So any way, Thank you Tom Waits. You and your music have made my life richer and more enjoyable. I can only aspire to do the same for someone else oneday.


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