Archive for October, 2011

Ideal Stations

Thursday, October 27th, 2011


“My ideal station,” he half smiles, “is possibly a hotel in Switzerland.”

W. G. Sebald

Yo también. Pictured above is Hotel Castell in Zuoz, where I recently gave a lecture, Paolo played a concert in a James Turrell Skyspace situated on the hotel grounds, and we spent three lovely days; an ideal station, indeed. While I was there, surveying the Alps across the Engadine valley from our room high up the mountain, eating in the fancy dining room, or relaxing on the long balcony in the sun, I kept thinking about the Western literature of the Swiss hotel: Henry James’s Daisy Miller, et al. It’s always the genteel ground of action for some emotional, sexual, political, or intellectual unfolding. Some studied and dramatic deflowering. See the opening of the aforementioned James novella:

Part I

At the little town of Vevey, in Switzerland, there is a particularly comfortable hotel. There are, indeed, many hotels, for the entertainment of tourists is the business of the place, which, as many travelers will remember, is seated upon the edge of a remarkably blue lake–a lake that it behooves every tourist to visit. The shore of the lake presents an unbroken array of establishments of this order, of every category, from the “grand hotel” of the newest fashion, with a chalk-white front, a hundred balconies, and a dozen flags flying from its roof, to the little Swiss pension of an elder day, with its name inscribed in German-looking lettering upon a pink or yellow wall and an awkward summerhouse in the angle of the garden. One of the hotels at Vevey, however, is famous, even classical, being distinguished from many of its upstart neighbors by an air both of luxury and of maturity. In this region, in the month of June, American travelers are extremely numerous; it may be said, indeed, that Vevey assumes at this period some of the characteristics of an American watering place. There are sights and sounds which evoke a vision, an echo, of Newport and Saratoga. There is a flitting hither and thither of “stylish” young girls, a rustling of muslin flounces, a rattle of dance music in the morning hours, a sound of high-pitched voices at all times. You receive an impression of these things at the excellent inn of the “Trois Couronnes” and are transported in fancy to the Ocean House or to Congress Hall. But at the “Trois Couronnes,” it must be added, there are other features that are much at variance with these suggestions: neat German waiters, who look like secretaries of legation; Russian princesses sitting in the garden; little Polish boys walking about held by the hand, with their governors; a view of the sunny crest of the Dent du Midi and the picturesque towers of the Castle of Chillon.

I hardly know whether it was the analogies or the differences that were uppermost in the mind of a young American, who, two or three years ago, sat in the garden of the “Trois Couronnes,” looking about him, rather idly, at some of the graceful objects I have mentioned….

Romance through metaphor or, Fantastic occupations or, A whole dark forest living inside of her

Thursday, October 20th, 2011


From the Tom Waits Library:

Quotes from Tom Waits on his wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennen and her fantastic occupations (unearthed in anticipation of the new record and new feats of midweek procrastination):

“We’ve been working together since Swordfish… I’m the prospector, she’s the cook. She says, “you bring it home, I’ll cook it up.” I think we sharpen each other like knives. She has a fearless imagination. She writes lyrics that are like dreams. And she puts the heart into all things. She’s my true love. There’s no one I trust more with music, or life. And she’s got great rhythm, and finds melodies that are so intriguing and strange. Most of the significant changes I went through musically and as a person began when we met. She’s the person by which I measure all others. She’s who you want with you in a foxhole. She doesn’t like the limelight, but she is an incandescent presence on everything we work on together.”

Michael Zangari (1977): “He says he’d like to get married someday. Heads turn around in surprise. Waits shakes his head and retreats, “Yeah, I even want to have kids. I’ll call the first one “Get off the rug” and the second one “You too”. (Source: “Tom Waits Lives His Haggard Vision And Survivers”. Colorado Daily (USA). November 3, 1977. By Michael Zangari)

Johnny Black (1981): “There’s a favourite scene in gangster movies where the private dick is standing at the bar with the bad guy and the bartender slips him a note with his double brandy. “Look out kid, he’s got a gun,” it says. I had a similar experience when the phone rang an hour before I left my house and Waits’ press officer nonchalantly told me, “You know he just got married?”. “TOM WAITS? MARRIED?”. “Yes. Last month, to a script analyst at 20th Century Fox.” Waits’ version of how it happened is more appealing. “Kathleen was living in a convent, studying to be a nun. I met her when they let her out for a party on New Year’s Eve. She left the Lord for me.” (Source: “Tom Waits: Waits And Double Measures”. Smash Hits magazine by Johnny Black. March 18, 1981)

Tom Waits (1983): My wife is from Johnsburg, Illinois. It’s right outside McHenry and up by the ching-a-lings. She grew up on a farm up there. So it’s [Johnsburg Illinois] dedicated to her. It’s real short. Somehow I wanted just to get it all said in one verse. There are times when you work on a song and end up repeating in the second verse what you already said in the first. So I thought I would be more appropriate if it’s just like a feeling of a sailor somewhere in a cafe, who opens his wallet and turns to the guy next to him and shows him the picture while he’s talking about something else and says: “Oh, here. That’s her.” and then closes his wallet and puts it back in his pants.” (Source: “Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones “. Island Promo interview, 1983)

Tom Waits (1983): “We met at a miserable little funeral in a miserable little town called San Casedra. She was an aerialist with circus Vargas and we were both standing under the same umbrella. It’s a very long story, the guy was in his seventies, he choked on a chickenbone.” (Source: “Skid Romeo”. The Face magazine. Robert Elms. Los Angeles, 1983)

Elissa van Poznak (1985): ” Waits says his wife of four years drives him “insane when I’m working and insane when I’m not”. TW: She may have actually worked for the Ringling Brothers Circus at one time. “She can lie down on nails, stick a knitting needle through her lips and drink coffee, so I knew she was the girl for me,” claims Waits, though it’s doubtful whether she “jumped the Grand Canyon with Evil Knievel and had seven kids from a previous marriage.” (Source: “Lower east side story”. The Face: Elissa van Poznak. Ca. October 1985)

Tom Waits (1988): “My wife’s been great. I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s Irish Catholic. She’s got the whole dark forest living inside of her. She pushes me into areas I would not go, and I ‘d say that a lot of the things I’m trying to do now, she’s encouraged.” (Source: “Tom Waits 20 questions”.Playboy magazine: Steve Oney — March 1988)

Bill Holdship (1988): Your wife is obviously a writer as well. TW: “Yeah, we co-wrote a lot of the songs [Frank’s Wild Years] together. She also did that painting inside the cover of the new LP. Kathleen’s Irish-Catholic, from Dublin. I rescued her from the nunnery.” BH: Are you serious? TW: “Absolutely. She was going to be a nun. We’ve been married seven years.” (Source: “A Flea In His Ear”. City Limits magazine. Bill Holdship. Los Angeles. May 12-19, 1988)

Tom Waits (1988): “We’ve been married for eight years and we’re partners. Kalhleen’s a great collaborator She’s quick – she can catch a bullet in her teeth. She has a pet snake, reads The Wall Street Journal, has a ’64 Caddy, and loves periodicals. She’s from Johnsburgh. Illinois; that’s the last place you can get margarine before you cross the Wisconsin border. No one makes me laugh like Kathleen. She got me listening to Frankie Laine, Rachmaninoff, and John McCormick. We write together, and she wants to do a two-character drama about a singer and his giant bald-headed limo driver who has a US Road Atlas tattooed on his head, wherever he itches his head that’s where they play next. She’s great in emergencies and she’s brutally honest. Her own writing – her stories – is strange, bizarre and wonderful. Tragic and very Irish. She’s real black Irish. Kathleen has a great sense of story and of the architecture of a story. I have a tendency to go back over familiar ground, and she’s much more of a pioneer.” (Source: “Tom’s Wild Years” Interview Magazine (USA), by Francis Thumm. October, 1988)

Tom Waits (1988): “Kathleen has helped me to feel safe in my uncertainty. And that’s where the wonder and the discovery are. After a while you realize that music – the writing and enjoying of it – is not off the coast of anything. It’s not sovereign, it’s well woven, a fabric of everything else: sunglasses. a great martini, Turkish figs, grand pianos. It’s all part of the same thing. And you realize that a Cadillac and the race track, Chinese food, and Irish whisky all have musical qualities.” (Source: “Tom’s Wild Years” Interview Magazine (USA), by Francis Thumm. October, 1988)

Goodbye Summer Jams, Hello Autumn Blues

Thursday, October 20th, 2011


////    Riding For the Feeling ////

Art, Ethics, Writ, SVA, NY

Monday, October 10th, 2011