Tom Waits : Kentucky Avenue

St Paul tells us when we are grown to adulthood that it’s time to put away childish things.

As a guide to moral conduct that may well be sage advice.

There are choices to be weighed in the balance.

There are responsibilties to be shouldered.

There are strengths and weaknesss to be acknowledged.

There are trials, torments and traumas to be survived.

Yes, you need to look at the spinning world with a cool appraising adult eye if you are to navigate it safely.

And yet … we all carry the child we once were within our skins and deep in our psyche.

There is a knowing, an untutored first poetic knowing, known and retained by that child, we would all do well to tap into throughout all our adult days.

You should never be so old not to want to fly away on a magpie’s wings and hop that freight train in the hall all the way down to New Orleans in the fall.

All the way to New Orleans in the fall.

 

 

Tom Waits tells crazy stories blazing with drunken truths.

Tom Waits tells crazy stories blazing with sober, artful lies.

Tom Waits tells crazy stories that make perfect sense to the labouring adult crying out for rest and the blithe bubble blowing child within you.

Tom Waits tells the best damn stories you ever heard and Kentucky Avenue is one of his very best.

The song is brilliantly composed and sung in the continuous present we live in during our childhood days.

The characters who populate the story are ordinary figures and at the same time shadow thrown giants looming on the young mind’s eye.

Eddie Grace’s old Buick is rusting on his drive and Eddie don’t drive no more but Wow! you know those holes in the side … they’re bullet holes! (From the time when Eddie ran with the mob – how do ya think he got that limp?).

Mrs Storm looks at at the world from behind fly blown curtains and she don’t talk to no one not even the mail man since that son of hers went missing in the war.

He used to keep that lawn of hers so perfect it was greener and truer than Augusta.

Sshhh …  don’t put a toe on that lawn – she will stab you with a steak knife if you do!

When you are a child you haven’t exhausted your capacity for pleasure and your sense of wonder is acute.

Man, half a  pack of Lucky Strikes and a packet of macadamia nuts is more treasure than Long John Silver ever dreamed of.

When you’re a child you don’t have to be told you’ll live forever you just know – let’s go ever to Bobby Goodmanson’s and jump off the roof!

And .. oh oh .. the secrets. The secrets.

Hilda plays strip poker when her mama’s across the street and (he told me and he don’t ever lie) Joey Navinsky says she put her tongue in his mouth.

And … oh oh … when you got just one friend, a blood brother … you own the world. The world them others don’t even see … seems like they walking around stone blind.

Let me tie you up with kite string, I’ll show you the scabs on my knee!

Fabled adventures are born every new Dawn – watch  out for the broken glass, put your shoes and socks on,and come along with me

Let’s follow that fire truck, I think your house is burning down!

Let’s  go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel (It ain’t dangerous at all ..).

And, oh oh … when you’re having adventures you don’t calculate repercussions – don’t you just love the sound of breaking glass?

We’ll break all the windows in the old Anderson place!

We’ll steal a bunch of boysenberrys and smear ’em on your face .. how great we’ll look!

And, ah ah .. when you give and get presents as a child they are like no presents you’ll ever get again:

‘I’ll get a dollar from my mama’s purse, buy that skull and crossbones ring
and you can wear it round your neck on an old piece of string.’

The things we did and the things we nearly, nearly did!

Remember that time we spit on Ronnie Arnold and flipped him the bird or the day we would have slashed the tires on the school bus if the janitor hadn’t woken up!

That’s the kind of thing you do when you’re Blood Brothers (funny how you’re much closer to your Blood Brother than the brothers in your house – you don’t share your dreams and secrets with them!)

I’ll take a rusty nail, scratch your initials in my arm and show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore.

And … oh oh .. when you see with the eyes of a child you see with a clarity .. a vision it’s so easy to lose as your eyes grow accustomed to the adult world:

I’ll take the spokes from your wheelchair, and a magpie’s wings
And I’ll tie ’em to your shoulders and your feet
I’ll steal a hacksaw from my dad, cut the braces off your legs
And we’ll bury them tonight out in the cornfield

Just put a church key in your pocket
We’ll hop that freight train in the hall
We’ll slide all the way down the drain
To New Orleans in the fall

 

 

Thank you Tom for reminding me of how a Magpie’s wings can take you places a 747 never could.

And for letting me keep looking out for that freight train in the Hall.

Let you into a secret … one day I’m gonna ride it all the way down to New Orleans.

Planning to do it in the fall.

In the fall.

73 thoughts on “Tom Waits : Kentucky Avenue

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