Friday, September 5, 2008

A QUESTION OF "COOL" AND TOM WAITS FOR THE ANSWER

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Hey, it occurs to me that this is the 13th entry on my “Stuffs” Blog. That’s kinda like being the 13th caller to a radio station, isn’t it? Do I win tickets to anything for this? Two tickets to see Amy Winehouse at The State Pen? Britney Spears shuckin’ an’ jivin’ at The Child Protective Services agency? Tony Bennett performing half-live nitely at The Old Folks Home? Anything at all?
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How come I never win? Even the losers get lucky sometimes!
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While I was in the process of gathering song lyrics for my last Blog Bit (see below), I found myself at the official Tom Waits website because I wanted to quote his song lyrics correctly, and let’s face it, it’s not always easy to hear what Waits is singing— uh, saying— uhm, well, croaking, I meant. How many times have you asked yourself “What’d he just say? Did Waits really say ‘leviticusly deuteronomous’ or was he only hawking up phlegm and expectorating into a saloon spittoon?”
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And then of course there are those names – “Thumm and Giardina” – in his song “A Sight For Sore Eyes.” If I can’t sing or dance, I figure the least I can do is to accurately spell words and avoid spilling wine. So, attempting to find the “officially approved” lyrics and name spellings, I went to the official Tom Waits website. (I don’t know, but something just ain’t right about that combination – a Waits website. Isn’t that a bit like giving a website to the town drunk so he can write about “Great Ripples I Have Known”? Or, “The Thunderbird Best Buy Of The Day”? “Any Alley In Which I Park My Shopping Cart, That’s Where I Call Home”?)
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Anyhow, while at the Tom-approved website, I stumbled upon an interview that - it seems - ol’ Tommy boy had conducted with . . . himself. (I wonder if the “interviewer’s people” had to make an appointment for the interview with “Tom’s people.” Anyone remember the old 1969 King Crimson song called “21st Century Schizoid Man”? Well, I guess we now know who they meant.) I read a portion of Tom’s interview with Tom and then scrolled down to the comments that folks had posted, and I gotta tell ya, it’s kinda embarrassing to see guys fawning all over Waits like a gaggle of twelve year-old girls trying to sneak into Bobby Sherman’s arms in 1970.
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One fanatic there was a David H. who on May 21, 2008 at 5:33 A.M., posted the following:
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“And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Tom Waits is always The Coolest Guy in the Room.”
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You can see for yourself if ya don’t believe me:
http://www.antilabelblog.com/?p=288#more-288
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Well, my first question: What was David H. doing on a Tom Waits website at 5:33 in the morning? I mean, really! I’ll bet he hadn’t even gone to bed yet. Does this dude have a job? Does he contribute to society in any way whatsoever? Or does he just stay up all night drinking Chivas Regal and surfing the web while listening to “Pasties And A G-String” over and over? And my second question: Is Tom Waits really always the coolest guy in the room? Nah, protly not. Although certainly his chances improved after Waylon Jennings died.
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The question of “Who is the coolest guy in the room?” immediately reminded me of an episode I mentioned in my 1984 book “THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS”. Back in the early ‘80s, the red-headed Torch Nordan definitely would have had something to say about whether or not Tom Waits was always the coolest guy in the room.
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Well, I called it a book, but “The League Of Soul Crusaders” wasn’t really a book actually; it was a 1984 Christmas present for the boys (the Soul Crusaders), but some of them mistook it for a book and I didn’t have the heart to correct them. In fact, one teen-something brother of a gal I knew said that it was “the best book” he’d ever read. But seeing as how the only printed matter he had ever read and would have been able to compare it to was his collection of DC Comic Books, I didn’t let the compliment increase my hat size.
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Torch read the prologue from my “Christmas present” as part of his Best Man’s speech at Pooh’s wedding in 1994 (men cried and women fainted, while little children picked their noses and wondered what that term “Bachelorhood Lost” meant). Unfortunately, the “Until death do us part” part didn’t even make it to the decade mark, leaving me just hoping that my prologue wasn’t the Kryptonite in that divorce. (Maybe I should write comic books?)
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Well, please forgive me, but I’m going to share with you here that particular episode that came to my mind when I saw David H.’s remark about Tom Waits always being the coolest guy in the room.
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“THE LEAGUE OF SOUL CRUSADERS” by Stephen T. McCarthy
Copyright-- uh... yeah, well, if you’re going to copy it, I hope you get it right.
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This comes from chapter 27 titled The Loudest And The Coolest and here is your cast of “characters”...
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Torch: The most charismatic and quick-witted person I’ve ever known.
Joshua Marx: My late friend Marty Brumer (see my Blog Bit below titled “What I Imagine And What Imagines Me”).
Napoleon: My brother. Think “The Tasmanian Devil” only without the lethargy.
Wally: Napoleon’s friend recently discharged from the Army.
Pooh: My friend Pooh.
Moody: Your black-leather-jacketed tour guide . . . Me.
Tiburon: A permanently topless, (kinda resembling the color…) white, 1964 Cadillac.
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The time: The Spring of 1983. Remember, this was before cell phones. (Yes, young reader, there was such a time!)
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This section in the chapter comes after Pooh has already irritated a guy who’s had a fender bender; after bloody marys and several games of pool at Jolly Jacks; after I’ve proven to Cranium that I’ve already befriended the new guard dog at the auto body shop between our house on Bay Street and our home away from home: Lucky Liquor liquor store; and after we’ve learned to our great surprise that everyone else on the street is terrified of us:
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Torch had called early that evening and we told him that we would most likely end up in Westwood at Yesterdays bar and restaurant. He had a bit of work to do on Tiburon and around the house, but said that he’d try to get in touch with us later on in the night.
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Joshua Marx showed up as well as a few other people and before long we had abandoned our Westwood plans, and a large get-together formed at Bay Street. There was drinking and merriment and all the usual.
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“Moody told me to walk up to you and punch you as hard as I could in the nose,” Joshua said to Wally.
“Why did he tell you to do that?”
“He wanted to watch you beat me up,” Joshua admitted.

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The ruckus continued on into the late hours while Napoleon, Pooh, and Wally got very drunk playing Caps.
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A bottle of bourbon was purchased and everyone began doing shots.
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“I refuse to drink it,” Joshua said, “if it is poured above the white line on the shot glass.” Joshua was instantly booed and became the victim of much derision.
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Torch, meanwhile, had called Yesterdays in Westwood, attempting to locate us:
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“Yesterdays,” the hostess said into the telephone.
“Hello, I’m trying to find some friends of mine and I believe they might be there. I was wondering if you could take a quick look around for me and see if you spot them. There will probably be four or five of them, one will be wearing a black leather jacket, and they will be the loudest and the coolest people in the place.”
“They’ll be what?” the surprised hostess asked.
“They’ll be the loudest and the coolest. ...I’d appreciate it,” Torch said.
“Hold on,” she replied and set down the phone. A minute later she came back on the line. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I’m afraid that there isn’t anyone here who is any louder or cooler than anyone else.”
“Oh,” said Torch, “then they aren’t there. Thank you.”

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Torch got in touch with us afterwards and came down to our house in Tiburon to join the party.
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Now granted, if we boys HAD been at Yesterdays when Torch called for us, and if Waylon Jennings and Tom Waits were at Yesterdays as well, there might have been some question as to where the coolest guys in the room could be found . . .
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…WRONG!
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Waylon and Waits would have undoubtedly asked to join us at our table, Sillies!
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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