in Marginalia

Tom Waits on Fame and Recognition

A 1959 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, which may be similar to the one Tom Waits drives. (Lars-Göran/

He’s home almost all the time, because—unlike other dads—he doesn’t have a day job. Which is why he’s known by local schools as the guy they can count on whenever they need an adult to do the driving for a field trip.
“I’m down with the field trips,” Waits says. “I got the big car [a 1960 four-door Cadillac Coup De Ville]. I’m always looking for a nine-passenger opportunity.” Recently, he took a group of kids to a guitar factory. It was a small operation, run by music types. “So I’m waiting for somebody to recognize me. OK. I think, someone’s gonna come up and say, ‘You’re that guy, right?’ Now. I’ve been there for, like, two hours. Nothing. Nothing. Now I’m getting pissed. In fact, I’m starting to pose over by the display case. Still waiting, but nothing all day. I get back in the car. I’m a little despondent. I mean, it’s my field. I expect a nod or a wink, but nothing.”
Waits takes a pause to stir his coffee.
“So a week later, we go on another field trip. It’s a recycling thing. OK, I’m in. We pull up to the dump and six guys surround my car—‘Hey! It’s Tom Waits!’”
He shrugs wearily, like he’s telling the timeworn story of his life.
“Everyone knows me at the dump.”

— From Play it Like Your Hair’s on Fire by Elizabeth Gilbert as featured in Da Capo Best Music Writing 2003.

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  1. It is. Also just read Philip Gourevitch’s profile of James Brown. Angaling rin. Got it from Chapters and Pages in Galleria.

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