About a month ago, I got an email. Early in the morning. I read and re-read the subject. Was I dreaming? Did it really say:

“Tom Waits Announces Tour Dates!”

For a long time, I’ve had a recurring dream. This is my dream: Tom Waits is playing the small college town where I live, or sometimes it’s the town where I went to college. He wants to hang out with me and my friends, just sitting around talking in the alley, or a friend’s house. Sometimes, when everyone else in the dream is in college, and I’m almost 40, he notices me across the room as the mature one, a woman among college-aged girls, and he and I hang out. Sometimes he and I fall for each other.

I recall reading Tom Waits loves his record label because they don’t mind if he wants to go play a 300-seat auditorium in Lisbon.

I looked at the email. A couple years ago, I had signed up for an email list announcing Tom Waits tours, in case he were ever to play anywhere I could actually get to. When I subscribed to the mail list, I got a weird error message, so I assumed the list was defunct. Resigned to checking his record label website periodically to see if he was going anywhere besides Frankfurt, or Budapest, I dreamt of flying across the world to see him. I have often thought that cliché, but it’s true: if there’s one person I’d want to see perform before he expires, or I expire, it’s Tom Waits.

But…I read the email. Not only is he touring, he’s playing two dates within a 3 hours’ drive from my home. A choice of venues. In my mind, the Orphans tour is for us orphans out here in the “flyover” states. I’ve been struggling with writing my new novel, which is partially inspired by the clang und dram of Tom Waits’ syncopation, his bangs and textures. Metal and earth. Grit and rust. Sometimes a Tom Waits song feels like the only thing that gets me, slogging, through the day…misery’s the river of the world, everybody row…

I saw something today in this poster of Tom Waits, which a fan posted on The Eyeball Kid. Tom’s looking out at the orphans, maybe he’s weary, who can tell, he always looks like his odometer has turned over at least once, yeah, he’s racked up plenty of miles, but, notoriously unkeen of touring, he’s coming here anyway. For us. In my crazy rabid fan-tasy, he’s coming here to inspire me, to remind me I still got an oar, I still can row…

One thought on “Everybody row

  1. Ah, Tom Waits. I saw Tom Waits once. It was in the early 70s sometime, at a gym at the University of Texas, and he was opening for Buffy St. Marie. He was pretty much unknown then, at least outside LA. He would have been young, too, early 20s, though even then he didn’t seem young.
    Anyway, pairing him with Buffy St. Marie was not a good fit. She was at the height of her popularity and the crowd had come to see her. The crowd didn’t understand Tom Waits and got impatient.
    But even though I, too, had never heard of him and had come out to see Buffy, I remember being entranced by what he was doing and annoyed by the people who began to show their impatience (rudely).
    He reminded me a little of Leonard Cohen — a kinship of darkness, I think. I had dream fantasies about Leonard Cohen akin to yours about Tom Waits. I saw Leonard at about the same time, at the old Municipal Auditorium in Austin, and he ended up continuing the concert on the shores of Town Lake after officials said time was up — we were out there for hours. Ah, to be so caught up in music that you made wild choices for it.

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