The Wisdom (& Wit) of Tom Waits

Tom Waits
If you don't already know the music and mind of Tom Waits…you should. To me, he's one of the great thinkers and musicians of recent memory.

His quirky music – a brilliant mosaic of styles mixed often with Frank Zappa-esque satire and commentary – takes a little getting used to at first, but grows on you quickly. (And, he has many a beautiful ballad in his collection; my wife and I did our first dance at our wedding to Waits' beautiful Little Trip to Heaven.)

Behind the music, as is almost often the case, is a great mind. In interviews I've read and heard over the years, Waits has always amazed me with his quick wit and cutting intellect. But just today I stumbled upon Tom's blog and a nice interview he did with himself.

In reading it, it proved to me once more that inspiration can be found in the most unexpected of places…here are some excerpts:

Q: What’s wrong with the world?

A: We are buried beneath the weight of
information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being
confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog
made 12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio made
$30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in
every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.

Q: Do you have words to live by?

A: Jim Jarmusch once told me “Fast, Cheap, and
Good… pick two. If it’s fast and cheap it wont be good. If it’s cheap
and good it won’t be fast. If it’s fast and good it wont be cheap.”
Fast, cheap and good… pick (2) words to live by.

Q: What is a gentleman?

A:  A man who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.

Q: Can you tell me an odd thing that happened in an odd place? Any thoughts?

A: A Japanese freighter had been torpedoed during
WWII and it’s at the bottom of Tokyo Harbor with a large hole in her
hull. A team of engineers was called together to solve the problem of
raising the wounded vessel to the surface. One of the engineers
tackling this puzzle said he remembered seeing a Donald Duck cartoon
when he was a boy where there was a boat at the bottom of the ocean
with a hole in its hull, and they injected it with ping-pong balls and
it floated up. The skeptical group laughed but one of the experts was
willing to give it a try. Of course, where in the world would you find
twenty million ping-pong balls but in Tokyo? It turned out to be the
perfect solution. The balls were injected into the hull and it floated
to the surface, the engineer was elated. Moral solutions to problems
are always found at an entirely different level; also, believe in
yourself in the face of impossible odds. [Note: turns out the ping-pong ball story is mostly true!]

Believe in yourself in the face of impossible odds…Now there's something I need to remind myself of from time to time. Thanks, Tom.

How about you?
Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker [& avid Tom Waits fan] from Colorado.

  1. Renee
    ReneeAugust 8,08

    Cheers, Jake!

  2. DSD
    DSDAugust 18,08

    Your expedition is almost starting Jake!
    We are all looking forward to hearing about the whole inspiring experience!

Leave a Reply