Features | Articles

A Door That Doesn't Close

By Tom Waits | 29 October 2010

Dear Tom Waits,

Did you see that Kanye video?



Hi Clay,

I don’t really get invited to parties, but that’s because I can’t be reached. I nailed my mailbox shut with rail spikes. I drowned the telephone in the bathtub. My computer screen is a dusty black mirror. No, I arrive at parties under my own steam, creak open the door and stand gaggle-framed on the porch. “Won’t you let me in?” I’ll be the bowler hat in the corner, having a conversation with your cat.

So I’m at this one party, and there’s a plinking sound from the other room. I thought it was in my head but by the third hour I realized there was a back-and-forth being conducted, a comparison: ten kids, crowded shoulder-tight around a screen, alternating between some music video and and SNL performance. They babbled and bubbled with like they had scurvy. Which, they wanted to know, would dictate the scourge and doom of their impending winter lives? “Kanye West” one of the kids explained to me, and I took a long, thoughtful drag on my cloves as I watched. Such firehosed hubris. Is that a Kubrick reference? “Flicking cigarette ashes from the shoulders of gods,” I muttered, and the kid (Kevin) said “Yeah, he’s really into Japanese art.”

I once heard the word “douchebag” invoked to seal a door to a less-than-preferable plane. I don’t know this West gentleman, but I warn him: there are proper and improper ways of stroking the zeitgeist—it bristles with teeth. Such comfort with the plasticized blockbuster! He’s lounging naked on its contours. I suspect this man has already lost some vital part of his sanity.

I once met a man, a tin merchant, on a lonely road between towns, and when he spoke you knew he’d gone somewhere you don’t fully come back from. There was too much of the world in his eyes. Now, I’ve looked at this “Runaway” video, stood in an adolescent huddle and pictured myself at that long white table, toasting the underbelly. I’m prepared to say that Kanye West could make that poor, mad peddler run screaming into the desert, never to return. West: you’ve opened a door that doesn’t close.