Tag Archives: tom waits

Two Pontiacs – Tom and Lyle

Reid Dickie

A pair of inspired and inspiring short stories from two masters of the territory. The first one is Tom Waits with an improv yarn complete with context, audience and story arc called The Pontiac. It’s from his Orphans triple CD set.  Click the cover and Tom will expound for you. Lovely!

For sheer spookiness and concise yet ambiguous visions, it is hard to beat a tune from Lyle Lovett called Pontiac, the title tune from his second album released in 1987. Lyle evokes a remarkable story in a mere 108 words! And here they are:

PONTIAC

 I park my Pontiac
Down the hill out in back
Late every afternoon
With a coke and a cigarette
And all of the neighbours there
They see a nice old man

And the girl there across the street
She sits on her front porch swing
She never realized
What I told her with my eyes
How back in the second war
I killed twenty German boys
With my own bare hands

And the woman inside my house
She won’t stop talking
She never says a thing
She just keeps talking
And I might just leave her still
After the sun goes down
And I smoke this cigarette

Basically it’s an old man’s well-encapsulated lifestory but we sense his story isn’t over yet. Ominously he hints that the next chapter might suddenly include silence in the house, perfect permanent silence. This pivots on the various meanings of the phrase, “leave her still.” He has killed before with “his own bare hands.” We are left to imagine what will happen after the sun goes down and he finishes his cigarette. This would make a fine story for a movie in the right writer’s hands. Now watch Lyle’s video of his great song.

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Filed under Fiction, Images, Music, Old Souls, Spirit

Happy Birthday Tom Waits

“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.” The genius in the basement turns 62 years old today. Let’s celebrate with Tom’s thoughts!  “Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.” “There ain’t no devil, only God when he’s drunk.” “We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.” “A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.” “The big print giveth and the small print taketh away.” “I’ve never been a fan of personality-conflict burgers and identity-crisis omelets with patchouli oil. I function very well on a diet that consists of Chicken Catastrophe and Eggs Overwhelming and a tall, cool Janitor-in-a-Drum. I like to walk out of a restaurant with enough gas to open a Mobil station.” “Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad — ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor. While the court can’t make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers.” “Commercials are an unnatural use of my work. It’s like having a cow’s udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating.” “George Bush is a fan of mine, he came to see me in the Seventies. His coke dealer brought him.” “The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.” Watch Satisfied from Tom’s new CD Bad As Me.

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Filed under Momentous Day, Music, Old Souls

Obituary Euphemisms

Reid Dickie

“Some say he’s doing the obituary mambo…” – Tom Waits

“It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.” – The Most Interesting Man in the World

There is always an understory to an obituary. I have read and written enough obituaries, including my own, to know what’s being said between the lines. Alarmingly frequently people succumb to short or long battles with cancer or something equally thorough in heroic and/or valiant ways. If not fully stated in the story, the disease becomes explicit in the donations section. Not much mystery there.

Vivacious is a drunk as is his door was always open, so is a character. Fun-loving bachelor and he never married are usually gay; free spirit is unemployable, utterly carefree is utterly senile. Death has its own clichés: passed, passed on, passed away, passed over, passing, met his/her maker, crossed over, departed, lost, ad infinitum.

Finding the hidden meanings in obituary euphemisms can tell the story of an unclear death. Tragically usually denotes an accident. Suddenly indicates suicide more often than not. Unexpectedly cuts closer to suicide. I have even seen by his own hand followed by a short bitter obit. Taken by the Lord is wide open to interpretation as is Ascended.

Since Linda’s death, I have discovered several of life’s loose ends, including writing my own obituary. Very few people write their own obituaries, usually leaving the difficult  task to close family members under stress. I think it would be a loving gesture on anyone’s part at any time of life to write his or her own obituary. Think how much stress you’ll relieve when its time comes. You’ll be even more popular!

There are no children to write my obit, that’s why I did it myself. Plus I’m a writer. I enjoyed it. I recommend it as a thought-provoking exercise in self-awareness. I reflected on what was important to me in my life, what I wanted people to remember about me, my family and my accomplishments. I often tweak it. I chose the picture I want to accompany my obituary in the paper, where to run it, who to contact to get it in the right papers.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written my own obituary. In the late 1960s I attended Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now University) in downtown Toronto to study radio announcing in a course called Radio & Televisions Arts. The curriculum included a writing class that I was keen to attend. The first day the writing instructor, whose name I have regrettably forgotten, walked in and told a room full of fresh faced kids, including this 19 year old from a little prairie town, that we were all going to die today and needed to write our own obituaries. He gave us very brief guidelines: write it all in past tense, say what you want people to remember about you, a short list of life data to include. We spent the rest of the sombre class quietly pondering our lives and scribbling out our death notices.

At 60 there’s plenty of source material to draw from but at 19, there isn’t a huge pool of fact to access. We were told not to embellish, be truthful. Many were flummoxed, a few, like myself, dived in trying not to flourish too much. One girl started to cry thinking about being dead. She got a pass on the obit. With his introductory bit of drama and flair, the instructor got my attention and I learned a great deal about the craft from him that year.

OBITUARY OUTLINE

An obituary is a person’s final and personal contact with the world. This list offers suggestions on what to include, all are optional. The list is not exhaustive. I provide it as a public service.

  • Intro including date and place of death
  • Predeceased by
  • Leaves to mourn
  • Kind of person she/he was
  • Parent’s names incl. mother’s maiden name
  • Birth date and place
  • Upbringing location and schooling
  • Youthful accomplishments
  • Further education
  • Marriage date, to whom
  • Offspring in birth order
  • Work life
  • Hobbies, sports, pets, achievements, other activities, what gave her/him pleasure
  • Spouse death
  • Life since then
  • Service date time and place
  • Where buried
  • Donations
  • Funeral home in charge

Do you have a last will and testament? Check out my post.

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Filed under Death and Dying, Life and Life Only, Public Service

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Wily Tom Waits holds a press conference regarding his 2008 summer tour.

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Filed under Humour, Music, Old Souls

New today! Coming Friday!

         The Tom Waits Song of the Week now on my Blogroll features one of his best songs and one of his most evocative videos – Downtown Train. Although it has a Guy Maddin feel to it, the video was directed by French photographer and video maker Jean-Baptiste Mondino. The old man at the beginning is boxer Jake LaMotta. Treat yourself.

         As promised! Coming Friday! The Very First Reid’s Pop Song of the Month and Why. Who will it be? Got you curious?

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