Tag Archives: tom waits

Someone Else Noticed

Nick Cave wrote another book.  It’s called The Sick Bag Song, and tonight at The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, he read selections from the book to a live audience.  I was there, of course.  I arrived at 5:45pm and stood in line with all the young goths.  My younger brother arrived at 6:30pm and bought us each a Schlitz.  A security guard came around and asked if we already had tickets.  I nodded that yes, we most certainly did.

“Then why are we in this line?” my brother asked, innocently.

“Because the seats are unassigned.”

“And this starts at…8:00pm?”

I smiled.  He smiled.  I was happy he had agreed to come to something few people would be interested in seeing with me.

I don’t yet own a copy of The Sick Bag Song, but based on what I witnessed tonight, I can confidently describe it as poetic exploration colliding with memoir.  Nick Cave wrote the book during his tour of the United States last year, and, as he said tonight, the narrator is, “A guy who also happens to be on a tour of the U.S. and looks a lot like me.”  Each chapter is titled after a different city visited on the tour, although the chapters aren’t telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  At least I don’t think they are.

The selections I heard were mostly depictions of actual events told with Nick Cave’s signature fantastical doom.  In a story about meeting Bob Dylan at Glastonbury, for instance, Nick Cave writes that the torrential rain had formed a lake that separated his trailer from Bob Dylan’s.  Naturally, Bob Dylan climbed into a boat powered by a bag of wind to cross the lake — or as Nick Cave said, “moat” —  and say “hello.”  The boat bit may not have happened, but I have read about Nick Cave meeting Bob Dylan in the rain at Glastonbury. The chapter titled “Los Angeles,” however, is more of a fever dream about a woman on a bed in a hotel in West Hollywood.  The narrator calls himself a “small God,” and then, after the woman raises her “gash” to the sky, the narrator becomes an “erect God.”  Those are the only details I can recall of the writing.  Jim Morrison would have loved it.

(To change things up a bit during the live reading tonight, we were shown a film of Nick Cave reading this chapter.  I admire and adore this man, but there are times where I find him downright hilarious, regardless of whether or not he’s trying to be.  This film was one of those times.)

Nick Cave himself was in a comparatively pleasant mood.  He smiled more than once, and didn’t even get too cross when his headset was having technical difficulties.  “It works for Madonna,” he cracked.  He also seemed very excited to read from his book.  An interviewer sat on the stage with him and asked him questions to keep things moving, and Nick Cave always went back to asking, “Shall I read some more?”

Finally, we reached the Q&A section of the show.  I was at a different Nick Cave Q&A last July, during which he seemed horrified to be the star of the evening.  That night, I managed to summon every bit of courage I had and ever will have, and asked him a question using complete sentences.  He answered it, but I only remember my question and not his answer.  I remember speaking clearly into the microphone and thinking, “Holy shit, I’m not fucking this up!”  When I was finished talking, I steadied myself on the seat in front of me.  My heart was racing and I was sweating underneath my new Free People dress.  “Nick Cave is addressing me,” I thought, as I concentrated on my breath.  According to my dad, who witnessed the entire thing, Nick Cave gave me a very thoughtful answer.

“I think he really appreciated your question,” my dad whispered.  “No one else has asked him anything good.”

I didn’t feel like putting myself through that kind of stress again.  Besides, I still haven’t read The Sick Bag Song.

No one in the audience asked a truly great question this evening either, but Nick Cave did a truly great job of remaining dry and funny as opposed to dry and dour.  Someone asked him about what he said earlier regarding the narrator that “looks a lot like” him, and whether Nick Cave the man is different from Nick Cave the rockstar.  He confirmed, “That just becomes who you are.”

Nick Cave wears fierce suits.  Nick Cave is married to a model.  Nick Cave idolizes Elvis and has not yet quit smoking cigarettes.  This is who he presents to the world, and this is who he is.  Amanda Palmer once wrote a great blog about meeting Nick Cave in a hotel after he had picked up his dry cleaning.  To me, her anecdote authenticates the whole thing.  Nick Cave isn’t being handed a rented suit by a stylist before each show — the suits that transform him from Skinny Australian Guy into Nick Cave are his own Goddamn suits that he drops off at the cleaners.

I wonder how he feels about wire hangers.

More questions went by.  “What’s a movie you saw recently that you loved?”  “I saw that movie ‘Foxcatcher.’  Fucking amazing.”  “How do you feel about music streaming and art no longer being tangible?”  “I have a manager that handles all that.”  “Are there any new bands that you follow?”  “No.”

A young man stood up to ask a question.  He was wearing a red sweatshirt.

“I drove here all the way from Alaska to see you,” he said.  Nick Cave was sweet.  He managed a, “thank you.”  The young man continued, “What I really want is to ask you about Gladiator Part II, but instead I’ll ask you about what you said about being the man versus the mask. Does that get difficult? I mean, Tom Waits does it and he does fine with it, but it killed Hemingway.”

Dorky, for sure.  Not only was he asking a question that had already been answered, he also referenced Nick Cave’s fabled failure of a Gladiator Part II screenplay.  I cringed.

Nick Cave didn’t care about any of that.  Instead, he immediately became serious and snapped, “I don’t wanna say anything about Tom Waits.”  The guy tried repeating the question with greater clarity, but Nick Cave cut him off: “I can’t say anything about Tom Waits.  I don’t wanna go there.”

This absolutely fucking alarmed me.  “I don’t wanna go there”?  Go where?  Is Tom Waits a “there” that you cannot go to, Nick Cave?  What’s the T?  Spill it, Nick Cave!

Earlier in the evening, someone had asked Nick Cave why artists “stop growing.”  He said that he didn’t know because things are “different for everyone.”  Could it have been that Nick Cave didn’t want to speak about Tom Waits because he felt he’d be speaking for Tom Waits?  Or did he want to avoid the subject of Tom Waits at all costs because he was afraid of letting loose and tearing Tom Waits apart?

Nick Cave got quiet again.  “Do you wanna ask a different question?” he said to the young man from Alaska, who replied, “What happened to Gladiator Part II?”  Nick Cave didn’t crack a smile as he said, “That’s between me, Russell Crow, and a trash bin.”

The Q&A ended.  The theater emptied.  My brother and I made our way to our cars.  We were in separate lots on opposite sides of the street, so we hugged on the sidewalk and parted ways.  As I walked toward my car, I spotted the guy from Alaska.  I recognized him instantly, thanks to his red sweatshirt.  He was fishing something out of the back seat of his car.  I decided to talk to a stranger.

“He got really strange at the mention of Tom Waits, didn’t he?”

He looked up at me, startled.  A wad of chewing tobacco peaked up from behind his lower lip.  His eyes widened as he realized what I was referring to.

“Oh my God!” he yelled, doing his best not to spit his chew in my face.  “I’m so glad someone else noticed that!”

“Yeah,” I said, becoming very pleased with myself for deciding to stop and chat, “I wonder if he didn’t wanna talk about Tom Waits out of respect, or because, ya know, he doesn’t like Tom Waits.”

“Exactly!” he shouted.  “That would be so weird!”

“Well, you can’t Google search one of them without finding a picture of the other, I said.”

He spat tobacco juice into a cup.

“It’s Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits,” he said.  “I mean, that’s it.  It’s them.”

“And Leonard Cohen,” I said.

“Right!”

He paused.

“Can I hug you?”

Because we live in a fucked up world, I immediately took note of whether or not the back door of his car was still open.  I figured that if it were open, he could easily shove me inside and drive me back to Alaska with him.  Screw it, I thought.  Hug the Nick Cave fan who drove here from motherfucking Alaska and said the words “Gladiator Part II” to Nick Cave’s face.  Hug him.  Hug a fellow crazy fan who bought a ticket to this random fucking show at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.  Hug the guy who is just as distraught as you are by the idea that Nick Cave doesn’t like Tom Waits.  Do it, Steff.  Just do it.  You’re safe.  Nick Cave fans don’t kill each other.  There’s no crying in baseball.  Goonies never say ‘die’.

I hugged him.  He hugged me back.  When we broke our embrace, he repeated, “I’m so glad someone else noticed that.”

We chatted for another minute about the show.  He spit more tobacco juice into his cup, but this time he apologized for his “disgusting habit.”

“I would love to ask Nick Cave if he ever hears from Shane MacGowan,” I said.

He chuckled briefly, and added, “I would love to ask him if he would give me Warren Ellis’s phone number.”

Our BFF moment was over.  He had changed the subject from Shane MacGowan to Warren Ellis.  I wasn’t disappointed, but there was nothing more to be said.

“Have a safe drive back,” I said.

“You have a good night,” he replied.

I turned and began to walk away.  Over my shoulder, I heard him yell, “I am so glad you said something!”

I turned my head and smiled at him, then continued to my car and smiled to myself.  I do hope he has a safe drive back, and I do hope Nick Cave at least respects Tom Waits, and I do hope that everyone gets to experience the occasional pleasant interaction with a stranger who is only as crazy as they are.

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Anybody Want Anything?

want |wänt; wônt|

verb

1 [ trans. ] have a desire to possess or do (something); wish for : I want an apple | [with infinitive ] we want to go to the beach | [ trans. ] she wanted me to go to her room | [ intrans. ] I’ll give you a lift into town if you want.

     • desire (someone) sexually : I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you.

noun

1 chiefly archaic; a lack or deficiency of something: Victorian houses which are in want of repair | it won’t be through want of trying.

     • the state of being poor and in need of essentials; poverty : freedom from want.

2 a desire for something : the expression of our wants and desires.

Ever heard of California Chicken Cafe?  It’s a restaurant chain here in Southern Cali.  Most everything on the menu involves chicken, and, rest assured, the items that don’t contain chicken contain avocado.  You can also add chicken to any non-chicken item for $1.75.

You don’t know what you’re missing.  Really.  ::Cough::

California Chicken Cafe is a popular lunch option at the office where I work.  I, myself, rarely participate in the California Chicken Cafe extravaganzas.  No, I don’t think I’m better than everyone, I just can’t be spendin’ money on shit that doesn’t bring me immense joy.  Plus, I spent all my money on baked clams and cannoli last week at San Gennaro in New York City.

I regret nothing.

Today, a co-worker was about to make a chicken run when he suddenly cried out, “Anybody else want anything from California?”

There was a pause, and then I asked, “From California?”

“Yeah.”

I thought for a moment, and then said, “I want a house near the ocean.”

My co-worker laughed.

“No, no, as in, do you want anything from California Chicken Cafe.”

I didn’t want any damn chicken.  I did, however, proceed to ramble about some of the things I do, in fact, want.  When it was time for me to shut up and get back to work, the rambling continued in my head.

I now present to you Ten Random Things I Want.  Some of them are unique to California, and some of them…well…

♥♥♥

Ten Random Things I Want

by Stephanie Callas

10.

I want a house near the ocean.  I will live there by my damn self until I decide I want company.  I have not yet decided the exact location of this house, but I know it will be North of Pismo.  It will be impeccably decorated, and feature a killer sound system.

9.

I want my car to be paid the Hell off.  No more monthly car payments.  None.

8.

I want a bulldog.  An English Bulldog.  I will name him Brando and he will be my buddy.  He will be a healthy boy, with no respiratory problems or hip dysplasia, and he will not die of heatstroke like so many English Bulldogs tend to do.  He will be chubby and cute and he will love The Godfather as much as I do.

7.

I want to know how to program computer viruses.   Ya never know when ya may need to rip someone off.

6.

I want the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney.  People will come from all over the world just to get a glimpse of it, and I will charge admission based on my personal prejudices.  60-year-old man in an Armani suit with a 23-year-old socialite on his arm?  $10,000.  Cute hippie-boy with a beard and a beanie who wants to stop and see The Walt on his way to Mexico?  Admission is free!  (This is, of course, not including the food and wine he will inevitably purchase in his effort to seduce me).

5.

I want to be able to travel.  I’m talkin’ far and wide.  I want to wake up, decide that I should spend the weekend in Barcelona drinking from a wine skin and speaking in an English accent and introducing myself as Brett, and then go do it.

4.

I want to be friends with John Waters.  I want to be on a first name basis with him.  When he’s not visiting me in my fabulous house by the ocean, he will be sending me funny text messages and buying me semi-perverted presents.  We will Skype every Monday morning while we’re having our coffee.  He will say things like, “Mondays are just such a DRAG,” and I will say, “Honey, you WISH you were a DRAG,” and he will say, “Honey, the world couldn’t HANDLE all THIS in DRAG,” and I will say, “Honey, you WISH the world couldn’t handle YOU in DRAG”…

3.

I want to speak fluent French.  I will go to Farmer’s Markets all over the world and ONLY speak French.

2.

I want a box of cannoli from Ferrara’s bakery to be delivered to my door every Friday night.  FRESH.  I want them to be all different varieties — regular, chocolate, Nutella, pistachio — and they will all have perfect shells and perfect filling.  I will serve the cannoli to all of my fabulous dinner guests.  Some parties will be small, and others will put Woodstock to shame.  Brando will be everyone’s favorite couch companion, and John Waters will bring out everyone’s inner freak.  Tom Waits will be playing the piano and Patti Smith will be playing the clarinet.  Peter O’Toole will be serving champagne and Leonard Cohen will be handing out white lilies.  Nick Cave and Barbara Streisand will perform duets that bring the guests to their knees in cathartic abandon.  My parents will be excited to be out of the house and my brothers will be happy to be away from school and work, even though school and work is treating them just fine.  All my friends will bring fabulous dates — no assholes, no losers, no fuddy-duddies — and those who do not will be more than thrilled to spend an evening unattached and irresponsible.  No one will get drunk, and everyone will get happy.  The next morning, I won’t have to do one bit of cleaning.  While everyone is driving home, not one person will be thinking about work problems or school problems or money problems or family problems or marriage problems or credit card problems or plumbing problems or love problems.  No one will think, “I should have just stayed home and studied,” or, “I should have stayed in and searched for a new job,” or, “I wish that guy had called me back,” or, “I wish that girl hadn’t been there.”  All they will be thinking is, “I can’t believe I got a picture with the cryogenically frozen body of Walt Disney.”

1.

I guess it goes without say that I want World Peace, so fuck it — I want Don Draper.

The End?

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Rain Dogs

I went for a walk this evening after burning a few CDs for my younger brother, Michael.  He had to drive to Hollywood for his weekly acting class, and he wanted some Pogues albums for the road.  Hollywood is only 30 miles away, but the trip can take two hours if you leave at the wrong time.  (Remind me why Carmageddon got so much publicity?)  I gave him The Pogues’ sophomore album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, as well as their first album, Red Roses For Me.  He had requested those two — he’s been on a Pogues kick ever since he found my dad’s copy of The Best of The Pogues on the CD shelf behind the bar in the family roomThe third CD I burned him was a copy of a playlist I recently made, which goes like this:

Rain Dogs — Tom Waits

Stagger Lee — Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Bowery Blues — Jack Kerouac

Dharma Brains — Foxygen

Hard On For Love — Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

The Shower — Charles Bukowski

Tom Traubert’s Blues — Tom Waits

It’s A Motherfucker — Eels

The Moon Her Majesty — Jack Kerouac

The Stranger Song  — Leonard Cohen

Map — Jason Webley

Whiskey, Mystics, And Men — The Doors

Scum — Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Honey In The Hair — Blackbird Raum

Broken Cup — Jason Webley

Children’s Story — Tom Waits

Desperadoes Under The Eaves — Warren Zevon

Last Song — Jason Webley

Readings From On The Road & Visions of Cody — Jack Kerouac

Anywhere I Lay My Head — Tom Waits

Looking at the list all typed out makes me smile.  Honestly, it looks Just Like a typical hour of “Dancing Barefoot,” my old radio show on KZSC Santa Cruz.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I once did play “Tom Traubert’s Blues” followed by “It’s A Motherfucker.”

What’d I call the playlist?  “Rain Dogs,” of course.  I get a real “Rain Dogs” vibe from all of these songs — vagabonds wandering city streets and all that.

I left for my walk at the same time Mike left for his class.  I decided to go ahead and listen to my playlist to see if it actually worked as well as I thought it did.  I walked up my street and around the corner, which takes you down a long hill that leads to Kanan Road, a street that, by suburban terms, is loud and crowded.  Not crowded with people, of course — Kanan is crowded with SUVs and luxury autos and the occasional Prius.  Once you reach the strip mall with the Starbuck’s and the Ralph’s and the Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito, then yes, you see some people.  Mainly, Kanan is all hustle and bustle because it leads to the freeway.

I’m sure Walt Whitman could make it sound poetic; he’s dead, though.

During “Dharma Brains,” I turned onto a cul-de-sac, and after about one minute I started hearing this weird click-clacking sound that I knew wasn’t part of the song.  (I should know, for it is one of my favorite songs.  For serious.)  At first I thought it was due to my headphones being old and shitty, but after a few minutes, I felt that familiar “I think someone’s behind me” vibe.  I turned, and there were two 14(ish)-year-old boys walking behind me.  They didn’t scare me, but the sight of them definitely startled me.  I smiled at them, and then when I turned back around I saw a white plastic spoon land in front of my feet.  I turned around again, and, low-and-behold, the boys had run away.

The little jerks had thrown a spoon at me.

I laughed to myself and kept walking.

I thought about when I was in middle school and used to wander the same exact streets doing stupid things.   I used to walk around with a friend of mine writing bizarre messages on notecards and taping them to people’s doors.  On one notecard we drew a picture of an alien with a word bubble coming out of its mouth that said, “Hmmm…bagels…interesting.”  It nearly killed me.  I thought that it was the most hilarious thing that ever appeared on paper.

When I came to the end of the cul-de-sac and turned onto the street, I saw The Little Jerks looking right at me, plastic spoons in hand, ready to open fire.  I stopped walking, took off my head phones, and said, “How ya doin?”

“Good,” said the smaller one.

“What’s goin’ on?” I asked.

“Nothin’,” said the smaller one, thus establishing himself as the dominant Little Jerk.

I decided to just be blunt with them in hopes that it would freak them out.  After all, my bluntness has scared away men in the past, even when I didn’t want it to.

“Are you gonna throw that spoon at me?” I asked.

“Maaaaaaaaybe,” said the smaller one, shit-eating grin plastered to his face.  I didn’t let it intimidate me.

“Well, please don’t.”

“Okay.”

I put my headphones back on, disappointed that The Little Jerks had made me miss the first half of “Hard On For Love.”  I started the song over, and after about thirty seconds I felt the “I think someone’s behind me” vibe once again.  I turned, and, sure enough, The Little Jerks were there.

I stopped walking and said, “Are you guys seriously gonna throw those spoons at me?”

“Yes.”

Why?”

“I don’t know.”

I spread my arms out, threw back my head, and said, “I’ll give you a free shot.  Go for it.”

Nothing happened.

I looked at them, and the dominant Little Jerk stepped forward, wound up, and threw his spoon.  He missed me by about 10 inches.  When the spoon landed on the sidewalk, I bent down and picked it up.  “Next?” I said.

The quiet Little Jerk missed me by about two feet.  I picked up his spoon, too.

“How old are you guys?”  I asked.

“Seventeen.”

“You’re seventeen?”

“Twenty-one!”

“Thirty-four!”

“Forty-seven!”

“Fourteen.”

Pause.

“You’re fourteen?”

“Maybe.”

They were pretty cute, really.  Still, I was done with their game.

“You guys should go do something else,” I said.

This seemed to confuse them.

“Can we have our spoons back?” asked the dominant Little Jerk.

“No,” I said.

The quiet one laughed.

“You guys go on home, now,” I said, shooing them away with my hands.

They turned away and took a few steps, and then turned around to see if I was still watching them; I was.  They took a few more steps, then turned again.  I was still there, waiting for them to walk away.

I watched them as they made their way back up the hill.  Every few seconds they’d turn around to look at me, or spin around pretending they were spinning around just for fun.  For a good three minutes I stood my ground, staring right back at The Little Jerks.  I never wavered.  I waited and waited and waited until they were far away, and then, when they disappeared and hid behind a tree, I waited some more.

Finally, I put my headphones back on and continued down the road.  I didn’t hit “Play” right away — I wanted to be able to hear The Little Jerks in case they came back with their spoons.

I made my way down Kanan, passed the Starbuck’s and the Ralph’s and the Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito, and as I turned to head up Thousand Oaks Boulevard and back to my neighborhood, I hit “Play.”  “Tom Traubert’s Blues” came on.  I listened to it once the whole way through, and then I thought to myself, “I wonder if I know all the words.”  I started the song over, and sang at the top of my lungs.

The Little Jerks never reappeared.  Maybe I really did scare them away with my confidence, or maybe they really did go home.  Maybe they found a different unsuspecting victim and lost two more precious spoons.  Regardless, I hope to Hell they have fun this summer.  I hope they ring a lot of stranger’s door bells and dial a lot of random numbers.  I hope they make a ton of noise inside of Rite Aid and get thrown out of Blockbuster for knocking movies off the shelves.  I hope they run home laughing their heads off after terrorizing some college kid who works at Baskin Robbins.  I hope they Double Dare each other to steal candy bars from CVS, and end up feeling twice the rush when they almost go through with it.  I hope they never forget this summer, and how badass they felt when that 24-year-old chick in the “Protect Our Oceans” t-shirt and ripped jeans threw her head back and said, “I’ll give you a free shot.”  Most of all, I hope they never forget how dorky and annoying and awkward and brilliant they were when they were fourteen-years-old — for they are Rain Dogs, too.

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