Put that name and those words beside each other and I can picture it all right now: It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m sitting in a dark and grimy smoke-filled bar, nervously chain-smoking cheap cigarettes with my brain floating in Kentucky bourbon. Tom Waits is on a small stage singing a number you could almost waltz-too, voice chiseled ever so perfectly by the very same vices I indulge in while I watch the man sing his song.

Waits then breaks into bits of “Auld Lang Syne” as the five or six other drunks in the bar sing along with him; but I just sit there and watch, out of fear that even the slightest odd movement could ruin such a moment.

I then lose myself for a minute or so, dreaming about hitting an open road with a sense of freedom promised to me somewhere down the line; I even consider it for a second, as Tom sings:

“I was leaving in the morning with Charles for Las Vegas
And I didn’t ever plan to come back
I had only a few things
Two hundred dollars
And my records in a brown paper sack”

I then look around and notice the rest of the patrons wearing the same expressions of unbridled hope that I am: thankful for the past, present, and most of all for the existing possibility of new beginnings, albeit defined by a seemingly arbitrary timeline.

We all sit there thinking about doing something, but ultimately we don’t do a thing. We just sit there and watch Tom sing his song.

Nick Backovic