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A Short Narrative on a Love for a Man Caught in Smoke

~ Tom Waits ~

Apr 22, 2014
Grace Brown

My love for Tom Waits makes me blush a good blush.

When I think about the 1979 Australian interviews with him [on The Don Lane Show] … as he’s buckled over in uncomfortable cigarette smoke, crooked as an old tree, and not much older than me, with grunting side smiles, rocking side to side, I find myself dreaming of, “What if I met him and he loved me? I'd totally be his crazy gal.” But s***… I’m far far away from 1979.

Tom WaitsAnd holy ******,  does he look different. I recall his appearance in the movie Wristcutters: A Love Story. Everyone said how OLD he is … how unappealing. People talk about the once dreamily strange Tom, and how he turned into a creep … he even played the devil. I shrug in agreement, but I feel like the creep, dreaming half-heartedly about him.

So, yes he’s all wrinkly now … but wasn’t he always a weirdo, a creep? Isn’t that why everyone loves him, or is that just me?

I recall sitting on my bed listening to the album Real Gone and wondering what in Hell must his daily life be like? How does one create such clanky, crazy, almost unlistenable insanity without a bizarre existence?

But in response to my own inquiry of Mr Waits, I imagine that he’s actually just sitting at his kitchen table eating cornflakes every morning … maybe lands his paws on the piano for a bit and sits on the porch drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. I never imagine him being in a real studio, but rather in a dark cobwebbed basement of musical genius.

The first time I actually listened to Tom Waits was in San Luis Obispo, California. My friend had his record Blood Money (the only one I do not have now, oddly enough). Myself, said friend and another had just finished watching an episode of Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules, and had all picked up our own respective books, when I noticed a box of records. It was a toss up between Blood Money and a Belle and Sebastian album. Thank God for my choice.

Though the third member of our Hercules party was offended by my musical choice and went home, I kept listening, pleasantly horrified by “Misery is the River of the World.” I listened until it got dark outside, and my life was changed.

My mom said she saw him open for Judy Collins years ago [in Berkeley, California in 1975], and she thought Mr. Waits was lovely, but circumstances prevented her from forming a new love affair just then.

When I came home from travels, with stacks of CD’s, I threw Closing Time in her car radio, and had a wonderful afternoon of reintroducing him to her, and sharing our strong love of music.

His music is a companion to my crazy and my gentle sides, from songs such as, “Fish and Bird” to “Clang Boom Steam.” Snarling, tender in cooing smoke, finger tips slapping the keys, with shoulders twisted as a tree …

It’s a monstrous gentility, in that crooked babe.

Photo by Anton Corbijn,

Grace Brown is an artist, writer, photographer and continuous wanderer. She is a farmer, a student of herbology, and has participated in birthing lambs and puppies. She has perused the countryside from New Zealand to California to Maine to Vermont.

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