Tuesday, April 03, 2007

You Choke My Days, I'll Choke Yours

Photo by Anton Corbijn, taken from here

I have a tendency every once in awhile to channel surf in the wee hours. Usually this activity ends up in frustration, after fruitless hours or so spent cycling through yawnsome home reno programs, unpleasant crime dramas, World War Two pornography, and the news in Tagalog. Sometimes I get lucky and hit a double bill of Dog the Bounty Hunter. I like Dog. And his pneumatic wife, Beth.

The other week, however, I serendipitously bumped into a screening of Tom Waits's Big Time, an marvellously peculiar and shambolic assembly of concert footage and theatrical scenes from his play, Franks Wild Years. It was even better than Dog.

At one point during the film Waits introduces a song with an anecdote about bad days. As I listened to his smoke-and-gravel delivery, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and had one of those rare moments of glorious clarity where you know that you're staring truth in the eye. So here, let me share his story with you:

"This is about all the bad days in the world. I used to have some really bad days. And I kept them in a little box. And one day I threw them out into the yard. Oh, it's just a couple of innocent bad days. Well, we had a big rain... I don't know what it was growing in, but I think we used to put egg shells out there and coffee grounds too.

Don't plant your bad days! They grow into weeks, the weeks grow into months, and before you know it you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me: CHOKE those little bad days! CHOKE 'em down to nothing! There are your days, CHOKE 'em! You choke my days, I'll choke yours!"

So, Dearest Friends, do we have a deal??

Tom Waits - Telephone Call From Istanbul (buy here)
Actually, the anecdote was an introduction to More Than Rain, but this song off of the same album sits deep in my heart. Not only does it contain the immortal advice "Never trust a man in a blue trench coat / Never drive a car when you're dead," but Dearest Wife and I danced our second dance of our wedding reception to it. And to help choke your bad days, I will dance to it for you, in a sort of slow, shuffling, hip-swaying, bum-shaking, arm-flapping stylee.


Matthew said...

I first saw that when I was really young and only into Tom's first couple of albums - the really accessible ones - and really didn't know what to make of it. Fast forward nearly 15 years and I am now a slightly disturbing Tom Waits obsessive and watching a video (yes, I know) with my folks in France. After the movie there was a bit of fuzz and the last twenty minutes of Bog Time appeared.

Honestly, it was like a religious experience! Wonderful, brilliant, deranged, inspired stuff!

I played 'Better Off Without a Wife' at our wedding, and bless her, Mrs Toad thought it was a great idea.

A. B. Chairiet said...

I hope you can choke all your bad days.

They do grow into bad weeks, months, years...even whole bad lives.

I had a bad day on Sunday, and it's overgrown to the point I can't write.

How do you choke a day, though?

I know how to choke other things, but not days.

Love the line: Never drive a car when you're dead.

Reminds me of an old Film Noir type scene.

Bacall smarting off about going alone to investigate something, and Bogart grabs her and shakes her, and says, You can't drive a car if you're dead! (slap)

That was her slapping him. ;)

Best of luck with all your choking...

I'll help if I can. :)

Mentok the Mind-taker said...

One of my favourite Waits quotes comes from his bit part in that vastly unappreciated great film Rumblefish.

“Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item. See, when you’re young, you’re a kid, you got time. You got nothing but time. Throw away a couple of years here, couple of years there, doesn’t matter. You know, the older you get, you say: ‘Jesus, how much I got? I got thirty five summers left.’ Think about it. Thirty-five summers.”

That quote has always stuck with me, haunted me a bit. I always make sure to live 'er up in summer, since I only have maybe 30 left now.

I'm not sure if the line comes from Hinton, Coppola or Waits himself, but the way he delivered it, Waits made that line his own.

ally. said...

what a marvelous way to start the day - thankyou x

Matthew said...

Mentok - it's such a Waits line that even if it isn't his, it should be. I really can't imagine anyone else saying like he can.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Me and the boys parked around the corner from the theatre on Denman when BIG TIME played Vancouver. (Damn! That was so long ago it may have been before the city began experimenting with growing dope as possible economic replacement for the forest industry.) We smoked something good and really enjoyed the show. I would like to see it again, in case I missed anything.

mjrc said...

this moved me so much when i first read it that i couldn't even post a comment. thanks, fil, and of course, you've got a deal. : )

FiL said...

Dearest Matthew - Was Bog Time the Toad version?? ;) Yes, it was quite the epiphany for me too. I had never seen the whole thing until the other week...

Dearest Ash, by celebrating all that is good, beautiful, and glorious. That's how. :) And I'm glad it was Bacall doing the slapping - for a second I was very worried...

Dearest Mentok, I confess to having never seen Rumblefish. It's on the list. And that is a very Waitsian line!

Dear Mr B&H, try channel surfing - you might just catch it!

Dearest Marcy, so glad you signed up!! :)

Hello Ally! Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed the post. You have a lovely blog yourself - I enjoyed brushing up on my polari!!