I guess I first discovered Tom Waits sometime around the 10th grade. I was starting at a new high school and was not having much success making any friends, but it was okay 'cause I had Tom. He was like my lucky rabbits foot or invisible friend. His albums made me feel like I knew something that no one else knew, and that made me feel special. Who needed friends when you had Tom Waits songs? His songs took me away from the bland hallways of Sir Allen MacNab Secondary School. At first i only knew his first four albums, Closing Time, The Heart of Saturday Night, Nighthawks at the Diner, and Small Change, since those were the only albums my sister had, who was the person who introduced me to the man from Pomono, California. But those four albums were enough to do the trick. The songs were the keys to a secret world, my own private world full of small time hustler and smokey bars, pin-up girls and pool halls. Through them I would discover jazz music, film noir and an ongoing lover for late night, greasy spoon diners. Full of weirdoes and outcasts, yet they were sung in such a way that gave them all a little dignity. In fact it made the fringes of society seem like the place to be, and since high school life is a microcosm of the world at large, that was exactly what I needed to hear.
Soon i would discover the one-two punch of Swordfishtrombone and Rain Dogs on a trip to the public library followed closely by a latenight viewing of the Jim Jarmusch 1986 classic Down By Law, on CityTV's Late, Late Movie. From that moment on Tom Waits defined cool and would be a measuring stick that I would use when meeting new people. If you didn't know who Tom Waits was, chances are we were not going to be friends. Well, unless you were a girl that I was interested in, then I would use Tom's coolness to help me get the girl. I can honestly say that I don't do either of these anymore, but if I see any of his albums in someone's record collection the first time I am in their place, it still fills me with a warm feeling.
All that to say, that when I heard that Tom Waits was going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in my mind that place got a whole lot more interesting. I guess me and the Hall might be friends after all.