( A clip from a recent Tom Waits interview, struck a chord with me)
GROSS: So I just want to quote something that you told the Guardian, the British newspaper, a few years ago – in 2006. And you said that when you stopped drinking, you wondered: Am I genuinely eccentric, or am I just wearing a funny hat? What am I made of? What’s left when you drain the pool? So I think it was like years ago, many years ago that you gave up drinking. What did you learn about yourself when the alcohol wasn’t there anymore?
WAITS: I didn’t know what to do with my hands.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: Oh, like when you stop smoking.
WAITS: Yeah. Well, yeah, I was smoke in one hand and a drink in the other. What did I learn? Boy, that’s a big question, Terry. I…
GROSS: If it’s too big, don’t feel like you need to answer it.
WAITS: I think it’s probably like the – what my wife said about the reality distortion field that I live in, which is kind of a place that you don’t necessarily come back from. You know, maybe the drugs and alcohol are more of a vacation from reality, you know?
WAITS: They say that life itself is really just the dead on vacation, you know.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GROSS: Oh gosh, I hadn’t heard that.
WAITS: Isn’t that terrible? Hmm. I don’t know. Yeah, am I just wearing a funny hat? Am I just trying to say weird stuff ,or am I really peculiar, genuinely?
GROSS: Did you want to be peculiar?
WAITS: Well, I wanted – I’ve always wanted to be curious and provocative, I guess, and interesting, and interested in this kind of sparkling, you know, sapphire we all call home, you know. I always wanted to be mystified by it all – and rather fascinated with life itself. And I don’t know, when, you know, I think maybe when you drink, you are – you’re probably robbing yourself of that genuine experience, even though it appears what you’re doing is getting more of it. You’re getting less of it. And it takes a while, when you’ve had a rock on the hose like that for so long. It takes a while for the hose to be a hose again, you know, and for things to start flowing.
Like with songs, if you don’t play for a while – if you stop playing for like, even like a year – sometimes it all builds up in a really great way. But there’s no such thing as not playing. You know, there’s just – you know, music has rests in it, so you are on a rest right now. And the music will begin shortly. You know, it’s like an orchestra tuning up. I used to try and get myself started. I would take a tape recorder, and I would put it in the trashcan and – the ones that are on wheels, you know? And I’d turn it on, and then I’d roll around in the yard with it, and then play it back and see if I could hear any interesting rhythms, you know, that were just part of nature, you know.