Friday, August 04, 2006

Old Tom

If you see me this weekend, you may notice a dark cloud hanging over my head. There's a simple explanation for this. It's called my obsession with music. To be more specific, it's my devotion to the man called Tom Waits. "Man?" They say he was born in the back of a taxi cab. He sleeps hanging upside down in a broom closet. The neighborhood children fear him. They dare each other to run to the front door of his old house and stand for as long as possible before the the sheer anxiety of being up there drives them away. In case you've never heard Old Tom (as I like to refer to him), he bangs out captivatingly beautiful music on an old piano, barking like an overzealous sea lion in heat and shaking his fist at an invisible presence above him. His voice sounds like it was left in a glass of rusty alcohol all night, only to be placed back into his head like a pair of old dentures. So if you want to call him a "man," that's perfectly fine because it's been determined that there's really no other pre-existing classification for Old Tom.

Now you might ask why I'm blaming one of my primary contemporary artistic influences on this dark cloud above me (the one you'll see this weekend, I can assure you). He's playing two shows within driving distance this weekend. In the decade I've been obsessed with Old Tom, he's played in the States only a handful of times. Of this handful of times, they've been shows that have been announced very shortly beforehand, and on either the right or left coasts. I know what you're thinking "road trip." Well, yeah, but Old Tom's shows sell out so fast that it's never been a possibility. The closest I ever came was back in 1995. I was with my friend, Ernest, hammering out a screenplay at his uncle's secluded cabin right outside Boulder, Colorado. Two days before we were to depart, we were having dinner at a Subway in Boulder when we overheard one of the locals mention the Tom Waits show at one of the pubs in town. Our ears perked up, as we had both just began listening to--and obsessing over-- Old Tom. And it was a Midwest show, which was unheard of. I promptly asked the native if there were still tickets available. He told me that he wasn't sure, but the show was "Saturday night" (it was a Friday at the time) and that the owner of the pub often has extra tickets leftover. We left our footlong meatball sandwiches behind and jumped into Ernest's truck. After directions from a gas station attendant just blocks away (did you read that, Lisa? "Directions") we arrived at the small pub, giddy with anticipation (don't let Old Tom know I used the word "giddy." He would never let me live it down), only to find that the show was the following Saturday. There was no way we could stay out another week, as we both had our jobs waiting for us back in Kansas City. So I promised myself I would never let the opportunity to see Old Tom perform slip through my fingers again.

Which brings me to the present day. When it was announced that Old Tom would be playing eight dates in the United States, I noticed that the closest performances would be in Chicago and Tennessee. Tennessee would be the only real possibility since it was on a weekend. As a matter of fact, there are two Tennessee shows--tonight and tomorrow night. I called Brandon to see what he thought of the idea of a road trip. Never one to turn down live music OR a traveling experience, he agreed that it would be a necessary task. So it was settled. Tickets were going on sale the following Friday and one of us would try to get tickets to the Memphis show (tonight) and the other would try to get tickets to the Nashville show (tomorrow). The odds of both of us getting tickets were slim but we figured if it ended up happening, we would try to make both shows. I even had Lisa's blessing.

You, the reader: "Mark, please get to the point of it all. What does 'Old Tom' have to do with that annoying cloud above you?"

Yeah, yeah. So I'm not going to see Old Tom afterall. This decision was mine and mine alone. As you might remember from the pilot episode of Bored Beyond Belief, I mentioned that I spent the entire summer looking for a job. Well, I woke up very early in the morning before the tickets were to go on sale, ridden with anxiety. You know how it is when you wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep and are haunted with the problems or 'what if's' of your present life and it seems even darker and hopeless? Well, I got to thinking of all the reasons I shouldn't go. First two things were my family and the money. Is it fair to Lisa and Audrey if I just up and get a ticket (or two) to a show in another state? Where I'll have to get a motel room, gas and dining on TOP of the money I paid for the ticket in the first place? Then I got to thinking about when I became old enough to be able to drop everything and go see some band in another state somewhere, but even though I was an "adult" and able to do such things, I would really be acting like a kid if I did it now, what with my responsibilities around here and all. Once again, adulthood rears its ugly head. So I got out of bed, came into the office and emailed Brandon, hours before he would get the message. I told him that Old Tom came to me the night before and reminded me that I wasn't 25 years old anymore. Brandon got back to me later on in the morning, telling me that it was cool with him whatever I decided I wanted to do. He would support me either way and that he realized how huge of a decision this was for me. Besides, I already had my final road-trip-to-see-a-show already. Back in December, about three weeks before Audrey was born, Brandon and I dropped everything to drive out to Chicago to see MF Doom in a rare hiphop performance at an Irish pub, The Abbey. I took that trip, with the promise to myself that it would be my last for a while. So Brandon pointed this out and it somehow made it a little easier for me. I had actually made those plans with the intention of not doing it again for a while.

So in conclusion, if you see me this weekend, you're going to see my dark cloud above me. But you're also going to see me listening to nothing but Old Tom on my iPod. And, like Brandon pointed out, Old Tom's still got a few good years left in him. He'll be around again. And then there'll be three of us going instead of two--me, him and Audrey.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the most depressing thing I've read today. I know exactly where you're at. Except for me, replace 'Tom Waits' with 'Rachel Portman,' 'Memphis' with 'Oklahoma City,' and 'concert' with 'light opera based on the children's class The Little Prince.'

But other than that, it's exactly the same. Even Brandon was set to go.


04 August, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I'm missing the Death Cab for Cutie / Secret Machines twin billing tomorrow in Lawrence. Don't ask why. Except a big part of it is that it's a day long festival - I just can't stand festivals anymore, sorry - and they are playing AT THE EXACT TIME. I mean, this thing is, what, 8 hours long, and they're playing them at the same time on separate stages?! Festival sets are never really that good anyway, and both bands tour their be-hinds off, so I'm sure there will be other chances.

However, this may be Old Tom's last full-out tour ever, so I am feeling it for you, man.

Saw Palmetto

04 August, 2006  
Blogger mwt. said...

According to The Eyeball Kid, here's the setlist from the Memphis show last night. Depression continues...

Make it Rain
Hoist That Rag
Shore Leave
Ain't Going to the Well
Yesterday is Here
God's Away on Business
Til' the Money Runs Out
2 19 (My Baby's Leaving on the)
Dead and Lovely
Tango Till They're Sore
House Where Nobody Lives
The Ocean Doesn't Want Me
Invitation to the Blues
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Heart Attack and Vine (with Spoonful snippet)
Shake It
It Rains on Me
Trampled Rose
Get Behind the Mule
Murder in the Red Barn
Going out West

Day after Tomorrow
Sins of the Father

05 August, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it helps, I'm not going to see Don Williams' last concert on August 18, and he's playing only 45 minutes away. I actually cried over that one.

(groping around for company in the same dark cloud)

05 August, 2006  

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