Saturday, November 29, 2014

Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night, Christ The Heart Of Any Night-The Songs of Tom Waits-Take Five

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

A YouTube film clip of Tom Waits performing Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night

If you, as I do, every once in a while, every once in a while when the norms of the today’s bourgeois-driven push, you know grab goods, grab the dough, grab some shelter from the storm, the storm that these days comes down like a hard rain falling, to get ahead in this wicked old world have to step back and take stock, maybe listen to some words of wisdom, or words that help explain how you got into that mess then you have come to the right address. Okay, okay on that bourgeois-driven today thing  maybe going back further to Calvinist Puritan avenging angels times with John Winthrop and the Mayflower boys but you best ask Max Weber about that since he tried to hook the boys to the wheel of the capitalist profit, profit for you at the expense of me, system with the new dispensation coming out like hellfire from Geneva and points east and west. But you get the point.

If all that to-ing and fro-ing (nice touch, right) leaves you wondering where you fell off the edge, that edge city (edge city where you danced around with all the conventions of the days, danced around the get ahead world with blinkers on) where big cloud outrageous youthful dreams were dreamt and you took risks, damn did you take risks, thought nothing of that fact either, landed on your ass more than a few time but just picked yourself up and dusted your knees off and done stick around and listen up. Yeah, so if you are wondering,  have been pushed off your saintly wheels, yeah, pushed you off your sainted wheels, and gotten yourself  into some angst-ridden despair about where you went off that angel-driven dream of your youth, now faded, tattered, and half- forgotten(but only half, only half, the wisp of the dream, the eternal peace dream, the figuring out how to contain that fire, that wanting habits fire in your belly dream sisters and brothers), and need some solace (need some way to stop the fret counting the coffee cups that while away your life), need to reach back to roots (reach back to roots that the 1950s golden age of America kicked the ass out of to make us crave oneness, to forget about those old immigrant customs, made us forget that simple country blues, mountain breeze songs, cowboy ballads, Tex-Mex, Cajun Saturday night that make the people feel good times), reach back to the primeval forest maybe, put the headphones on some Tom Waits platter (oops, CD, YouTube selection, etc.- “platter” refers to a, ah, record, vinyl, put on a record player, hell, look it up in Wikipedia, okay) and remember what it was like when men and women sang just to sing the truth of what they saw and heard.


If the norms of don’t rock the boat (not in these uncertain times like any times in human existence were certain, damn, there was always something coming up from the first man-eating beast to the human race-eating nuclear bombs), the norms of keep your head down (that’s right brother, that’s right sister keep looking down, no left or rights for your placid world), keeping your head down being an art form now with appropriate ritual (that ritual looking more and more like the firing squad that took old Juan Romero’s life when he did bad those days out in Utah country), and excuses, because, well, because you don’t want to wind up like them (and fill in the blank of the “them,” usually dark, very dark like some deathless, starless night disturbing your sleep, begging, I swear, begging you to put that gun in full view on the table,   speaking some unknown language, maybe A-rab, maybe gibberish for all you know, moving furtively and stealthily against your good night) drive you crazy and you need, desperately need, to listen to those ancient drum beats, those primeval forest leave droppings maybe, that old time embedded DNA coda long lost to, oh yes, civilization, to some civilizing mission (think of that Mayflower gang or ask Max Weber), that spoke of the better angels of your nature when those angel dreams, half-forgotten but only half remember, ruled your days. Turn up the volume up another notch or two on that Tom Waits selection, maybe Jersey Girl or Brother, Can You Spare A Dime (can you?), Hold On, or Gunn Street Girl.


If you need to hear things, just to sort things out, just to recapture that angel-edge, recapture the time when you did no fear, you and everybody else’s sisters and brothers, that thing you build and from which you now should run, recapture that child-like wonder that made you come alive, made you think about from whence you came and how a turn, a slight turn this way or that, could have landed you on the wrong side. And I have the list of brothers and sisters who took that wrong road, when he wound up face down in some dusty back road arroyo down Sonora way when the deal went bust or when she, maybe a little kinky for all I know, decided that she would try a needle and a spoon, I swear, or she swore just for kicks and she wound up in Madame LaRue’s whorehouse working that bed to perdition, hey, sweet dreams baby I tried to tell you when you play with fire, watch out.

So if you need to sort things out about boozers (and about titanic booze-crazed struggles in barrooms, on beaches, in the back seats of cars, lost in the mist of time down some crazed midnight, hell, four in the morning, penniless, cab fare-less night), losers (those who have lost their way, gotten it taken away from them like some maiden virginity), those who never had anything but lost, not those who never had a way to be lost, dopesters inhaling, in solitary hotel rooms among junkie brethren, gathering a needle and spoon in some subterranean dank cellar, down in dark alleys jack-rolling some poor drunk stiff out of his room rent for kicks (how uncool to drink low-shelf whiskeys or rotgut wines hell the guy deserved to be rolled, should feel lucky he got away with just a flipped wallet), out in nighttime canyons flame blaring off the walls, the seven seas of chemical dust, mainly blotter, maybe peyote (the sweet dreams of ten million years of ghost warriors working the canyon walls flickering against the campfire flames) if that earth angel connection comes through (Aunt Sally, always, some Aunt Sally coming up the stairs to ease the pain, to make one feel, no, not feel, better than any AMA doctor without a prescription pad), creating visions of long lost tribes trying, trying like hell, to get “connected,” connected in the campfire shadow night, hipsters (all dressed in black, mary mack dressed in black, speeding, speaking be-bop this and be-bop that to stay in fashion, hustling, always hustle, maybe pimping some street urchin, maybe cracking some guy’s head to create a “new world order” of the malignant, always moving), fallen sisters (sisters of mercy, sisters who need mercy, sisters who were mercifully made fallen in some mad dash night, merciful sister feed me, feed me good), midnight sifters (lifting in no particular order hubcaps, tires, wrenches, jacks, an occasional gem, some cheap jewelry in wrong neighborhoods, some paintings or whatever is not saleable left in some sneak back alley, it is the sifting that counts), grifters (hey, buddy watch this, now you see it, now you don’t, now you don’t see your long gone John dough, and Mister three card Monte long gone too ), drifters (here today gone tomorrow with or without dough, to Winnemucca, Ogden, Fresno, Frisco town, name your town, name your poison and the great big blue seas washing you clean out into the Japans ), the drift-less (cramped into one room hovels, shelters, seedy rooming houses afraid to stay in-doors or to go outside, afraid of the “them” too, afraid to be washed clean, angel clean), and small-time grafters (the ten-percent guys, failed insurance men, repo artists, bounty hunters, press agents, personal trainers, need I go on). You know where to look, right.

If you need to be refreshed on the subject of hoboes, bums, tramps (and remind me sometime to draw the distinction, the very real and acknowledged distinction between those three afore –mentioned classes of brethren once told to me by a forlorn grand master hobo, a guy down on his luck moving downward to bum), out in the railroad jungles in some Los Angeles ravine, some Gallup, New Mexico Southern Pacific  trestle (the old SP the only way to travel out west if you want to get west), some Hoboken broken down pier (ha, shades of the last page of Jack Kerouac’s classic), the fallen (fallen outside the gates of Eden, or, hell, inside too), those who want to fall (and let god figure out who made who fall, okay), Spanish Johnnies (slicked back black hair, tee shirt, shiv, cigarette butt hanging from a parted lip, belt buckle ready for action, leering, leering at that girl over there, some gringa for a change of pace, maybe your girl but watch out for that shiv, the bastard), stale cigarette butts (from Spanish Johnnie and all the johnnies, Camels, Luckies, no filters, no way), whiskey-soaked barroom floors (and whiskey-soaked drunks to mop the damn place up, for drinks and donuts, maybe just for the drinks), loners (jesus, books, big academic books with great pedigrees could be written on that subject so let’s just pass by), the lonely (ditto loners), sad sacks (kindred, one hundred times kindred to the loners and the lonely but not worthy of study, academic study anyway), the sad (encompassing all of the above) and others at the margins of society, the whole fellahin world, then Tom Waits is your stop.

Tom Waits is, frankly, an acquired taste, one listen will not do, one song will not do, but listen to a whole record (CD okay) and you won’t want to turn the thing off, high praise in anyone’s book, so a taste well worth acquiring as he storms heaven in words, in thought-out words, in cribbed, cramped, crumbled words, to express the pain, angst and anguish of modern living, yes, modern living, looking for busted black-hearted angels (who left him short one night in some unnamed, maybe nameless, gin mill), for girls with Monroe hips (swaying wickedly in the dead air night, and flaming desire, hell lust, getting kicked out of proper small town hells (by descendants of those aforementioned Mayflower boys promising the world for one forbidden night), get real, and left for dead with cigar wrapping rings, for the desperate out in forsaken woods who need to hold on to something, and for all the misbegotten. 

Tom Waits gives voice in song, a big task, to the kind of characters that peopled Nelson Algren’s novels (The Last Carousel, Neon Wilderness, Walk on the Wild Side, and The Man with the Golden Arm). The, frankly, white trash Dove Linkhorns of the world, genetically broken before they begin, broken before they hit these shores (their forbears thrown out of Europe for venal crimes and lusts, damn them, the master-less men and women, ask old Max about them too), having been chased out, cast out of Europe, or some such place. In short, the people who do not make revolutions, those revolutions we keep hearing and reading about, the wretched of the earth and their kin, far from it, but those who surely, and desperately could use one. If, additionally, you need a primordial grizzled gravelly voice to attune your ear and occasional dissonant instrumentation to round out the picture go no further. Finally, if you need someone who “feels your pain” for his characters you are home. Keep looking for the heart of Saturday night, Brother, keep looking.


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