For 20 years, I have been punished by inebriated men in questionable hats, the kind who snap their suspenders as they bark jumbled-up Bukowski quotes. They corner me in bars, in stairwells, in dark alleyways under the premise of a cigarette with their annoying (albeit, innocuous) intent. I know what’s coming. But like a child who endures the presence of a clown for the promise of a balloon animal, I hang around just long enough for the payoff:
“Say, you a Tom Waits fan?”
For years and years, my favorite Tom Waits song was the theme track to The Sopranos. I hated it at first, but eventually it grew on me, and nobody could tell me there wasn’t a lyric in there that went “Shave my body.” I was shocked and dismayed to discover that it was not, in fact, a Tom Waits song. That honor belongs to the British band Alabama 3, whose Englishness makes the blues-y romp and Waits-ish vocals even more confounding.
The point is—and I hope it is crystal clear by now—I am not a Tom Waits fan. And that’s putting it lightly. His music is like nails slowly screeching down a chalkboard, or like being strapped down to a chair in one of those CIA acid tests and being forced to watch bad YouTube reenactments of Peaky Blinders episodes while two guys dressed like train conductors bang on pieces of iron next to my face and record the sounds of my suffering. This feeling of disdain extends to his die-hard fans as well. And now, I’m going to figure out why.