Tom Waits For No One
Hang on…I’ll get to Tom later.
Last summer my wife and I traveled down the road to a beach town about an hour away to see someone who is a mainstay of these pages perform at a small club. As we stood in line waiting to get in I took a look at those around us, leaned in and whispered to her that they seemed…well, kind of old. She looked at me in the way she sometimes does and replied “They’re your age.”
What was going to be an essay of “how everyone my age (except me) has gotten old” is now a bit more.
I never met Jay Bennett or Duane Jarvis nor knew that much about them, but I find myself thinking about their passing these past few days. And I think about the heart surgeries that Peter Case and Buddy Miller recently had. And Steve Earle, who at fifty-four with fourteen years of sobriety behind him knows he was just a hair away from the grave and is your basic walking miracle. It’s the fragility of life and the loss we feel when things and people slip away that has me thinking.
I used to pass over the death notices in my hometown newspaper each morning, and now I linger a bit to look at the faces and read the stories. We all pass through sooner or later, but it seems so sad when it comes at you unexpectedly or quickly, before you’ve finished doing whatever it is you had on that list of yours. There’s a choice you make of working hard to get as much done as possible while you’re still here, or just letting it slip away. And when you choose the latter…that’s when it seems that you start aging exponentially.
So I found myself recently trying to get stuff done, and much is music related. Writing songs, playing a couple of small gigs here and there, trying to insert myself back into the business thats left me, thinking about recording some…the Cakewalk is still sitting’ in the box on the desk. Voraciously consuming new and old music lately (as my wife describes it) like someone addicted to internet porn, and she’s sort of right. I can’t stop myself from urgently exploring new artists and catching up on the ones I missed. Every night I spend some amount of time seeking out recommendations and checking out samples and websites. We’re also going out to see more live performances. I’m on a mission….and hell, I’m even growing my hair out before it’s too late to do so.
The oldest kid…fifteen years old with a serious music and film passion…has been my occasional traveling partner on this journey. He’s got a good sense of what the old man likes and doesn’t, feeds me daily suggestions and sometimes pokes and prods me when I get stuck. Where I’ve been more Farrar than Tweedy, he had me revisit the Wilco body of work a few weeks ago and of course he was both correct to do so and spook-ily prophetic. It made Jay’s last few songs that much more special when I listened to them last night.
He also pushed Tom Waits on me….see, I told you I’d get there. Never been much for his voice or style, but I went through five discs of his last weekend. To be honest, I didn’t find that much to interest me, but Rain Dogs was special and there is this song called “Time”. Got no idea why, but it pulls at something inside of me and makes me tear up. I think about how time waits for no one…and it takes us each whenever it damn well wants.
Well the smart money’s on Harlow and the moon is in the street
And the shadow boys are breaking all the laws
And you’re east of East Saint Louis and the wind is making speeches
And the rain sounds like a round of applause
And Napoleon is weeping in a carnival saloon
His invisible fiancee’s in the mirror
And the band is going home, it’s raining hammers, it’s raining nails
And it’s true there’s nothing left for him down here
And they all pretend they’re orphans and their memory’s like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget
That history puts a saint in every dream
Oh it’s time time time, and it’s time time time
And it’s time time time that you love
And it’s time time time