Friday, November 4, 2011

Stereo Instructions in German

“Q: What’s hard for you?

A: Mostly I straddle reality and the imagination. My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane. Math is hard. Reading a map. Following orders. Carpentry. Electronics. Plumbing. Remembering things correctly. Straight lines. Sheet rock. Finding a safety pin. Patience with others. Ordering in Chinese. Stereo instructions in German.”-Tom Waits

I remember when I was a kid walking down the school hallways, I used to count the tiles and only step on the brown ones today, or the only the white ones today. It was easy because I was the one that was moving around. I was in charge of the giving and taking. Then they wanted me to do long division, and I've been waiting for that click ever since. Somehow when it comes down to it, you can do anything with numbers. You can manipulate them your own way, somebody else's way, everybody's way, or you can just stop being so manipulative and let them be. I love 2x as long as it's the size of my hot fudge sundae.

I am straddling the line of reality and imagination, too, Tom. Let's say, for instance, that you're driving down the street and you see a man riding a bike. There's something about the way that he moves that makes you think "prehistoric." He is obviously a close relative to the T-Rex, the way that he's moving there, mechanical, like his arms and legs are on greased-up hinges. His head spins upwards towards you, in the car, and he gives you a bizarre look. He knows that you know. You'd better drive faster. His little hands with chicken claws are extending in your direction. Just step on the gas and don't look back at him. Maybe he'll get into a fight with a stegosaurus instead.

Or, let's say that you go to your favorite local restaurant and the waitress has squirrel-blonde hair. Is it natural? She's got it cut so that you wouldn't be able to tell. Did she harvest your meal after digging up her secret stash of acorns? So much depends upon a mellow metaphor. Does your father have stout Jack London-eyes? Do you see Al Pacino every time you look at your uncle? My neighbor has a Tom Hanks voice and every time I hear him I want to put on a cowboy hat or get stuck on some island and talk to a volleyball. Everything is connected. Write what you love.

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