TW: Yeah, it’s amazing we’re all responsible for its being built. The whole town is kind of like a folk song. It’s like public domain. You do have a hand in the building of it. It didn’t get built by one guy. This is what I envisioned, we all work together. Even in your house, the things you do to your house, well, someone will be living in it, and its what you did to it. And someone after them will be living in it. I get bothered by all the people you see every day that I’ll never see again. We’re surrounded by strangers. Millions and millions of people you see every day that are just like fish. They’re just extras in the movie starring you and you’re an extra in the movie starring them. It’s just peculiar. Then you’re really aware of it in a city ‘cause there’s so many people and you’re just pushing through. You’re just like a sperm flipping your flagellum around, you know, trying to make your way through the city. BH: Who you know and whatever situations you find yourself in with whatever people—it’s all sort of arbitrary. There are an infinite amount of doors you could’ve opened. TW: And walk right out and walk right into another door and start another life six blocks away. BH: I wonder if you could really do that anymore? I just went to Japan and they scan your eyes when you come into the country now. They have a computer that reads your finger print. TW: At the airport? BH: Yeah, when you’re going through customs. TW: They read your eye? Oh, man! BH: Yeah they read your eyeball. TW: Japan is the home of the $700 orange. BH: It’s the best orange you’ve ever had. It’s gonna be a religious orange experience. (Laughs)
BH: When I first got my license, you could get a car second hand from an ad in the Recycler [classified ads]. Nobody wanted them; maybe because it was in the early 80’s. You could get a car from the 50’s or 60’s for $200 - $250. TW: It’s still a new car. They don’t say ‘used,’ they say ‘previously owned.’ I can’t remember when I last saw a car pulled over on the side of the road with the hood up and a guy with his head under there. You just don’t see it any more. It was very common. Underneath, you know, with a wrench. Now it’s all computers. People don’t know what to do when their car stops. BH: I bought a car once— I didn’t know the battery was under the driver’s seat. I had taken it in to get an oil change. When I showed up, the mechanic…his pants were burned off. The metal in the seat, it hit the battery and it went up in flames. TW: Burnt his pants off? BH: Yeah. He had been a master mechanic in Germany. But when he came to America he didn’t have the same credentials and was working out of a Salvadorian tire shop. He was a genius mechanic. I showed up one time and said I only had $15 and the car was on its last leg. We had become friends, so he said he would see what he could do. I came back later and he had taken a piece of string and a matchstick and re-rigged the stick shift. It would have another good month in it. But when it burned his pants that was the end, he wasn’t having it. I called the car Jaws because the front of the hood had been smashed in so the hood was slightly open. It was a station wagon so it kind of looked like a shark. I painted some teeth on it at one point. TW: That could catch on…that’s what Einstein said, if it has a flaw and its irreparable turn it into a feature. If you’re always burning the pancakes, put it on the marquee. Burnt Pancakes, 99 Cents. People who can fix anything with string are disappearing. I think most things can be fixed with string, but we need to be reminded of that. Except if you pour a fresca into your computer, I don’t think that will work. Or if you pour a coke in the back of your television the string won’t work. It’ll turn into a coffee table immediately.
Tom Waits and Beck talk. It’s pretty amazing. Tidbits are:
BH: I was born in the McArthur park area. TW: You remember when they drained McArthur Park, the lake? BH: I do, yeah… TW: They found unbelievable things: Cars, human bones, weaponry. BH: They should have done an exhibit. TW: I don’t know why they didn’t. I thought that’s why they drained it. BH: I’d always heard that when they drained the Echo Park Lake they found an amateur submarine. TW: Oh, my God. BH: I don’t know if that was lore. TW: You mean a homemade submarine? BH: Yeah, I think it was older too, from the early days of “home submarine building.” I don’t know if that subculture still exists? TW: That was the East Kids. BH: There’s so many different versions of the city.
BH: I think of the city as a sort of mirage. If you look at pictures of the city a hundred years ago it’s just a bunch of weeds and desert dust. Its not really supposed to be here. I was always fascinated by the city it was meant to be. I guess it was a place created by developers. It’s not really like a city where some people roam around and then they find a good piece of land, and then they test it out for a while and make sure there is water so they don’t die, and then they decide to make a city. I started looking at some pictures…Beverly Hills was originally supposed to be called Morocco Junction. I started thinking, if they’d gone with that name we’d be in a whole other situation. I was wondering if there were any things that you remember? It seems like it’s shed its skin so many times.
TW: It’s like they found one of those van Gogh’s at a garage sale. This woman bought it and she was using it to block out the sun in her kitchen. She was using it as a window shade, so it was getting all faded from the sun. And she cut it because it didn’t fit the window. When they finally discovered she had a van Gogh as a window shade, they brought in all these experts from the museum and they were all filling in her living room and they said, “How can you cut off the top off this painting?” And she said, “It was just a little piece of the sky.” Sometimes it’s the value you attach to things. It’s subjective. And we record on stuff that’s going to disintegrate. Just like films are made on celluloid that’s going to vanish, it’s going to be gone. It’s like drawing on wax paper or something.
We are launching another section featuring extended informal conversations with musicians, artists, filmmakers, and other various personages called Irrelevant Topics. The first one up, which took place early last month, is with Tom Waits. The conversation will be posted in several installments. Look for updates in the new section several times a month.