collection unearths the stories that run parallel to those
of Tom Waits' early songs. They do not retell as much
as push the envelope wider, strain the meaning of a few
lines, and stretch the place the song occupies so that
the river rats and abandoned dogs, crying children on
the street and shifty-eyed suits, salesmen with their
patter and hobos with their rags, can shoulder out a space.
Searching for the American dream and distracted by a promise,
a woman tosses pennies into liquor bottles in a half moon
bar, a fast car leaves the parking lot with the radio
on full, even while a knife fight wounds the street and
an old man pumps quarters into a one-armed bandit.
songs tell the story of a man who carries the Midwest
on him like a ring he can't get off, who rattles on the
wide streets of the American west like a tin can tied
to a junkyard dog and crowds in the eastern cities where
the brownstones spill out onto the broad steps of long
afternoons. Refusing to be caught by the despair of the
endless nights, he jockeys for dollars with the sell-outs,
fishes for the glisten of silver among the litter in the
alleys, and sleeps under the bridge on a rainy night.