John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Mining the musician's lyrics to find out where, exactly, "all the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes."
Where in the world do "all the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes"? Where did folks dance with the "Rose of Tralee, her long hair black as a raven"?
The answers are 9th Street at Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis and Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland, respectively. Look, here they are:
But you'd know these things already if you were in possession of the fabled "Tom Waits Map," a survey of all the dives, haunts, joints, intersections, cities, states, and countries that the singer has referenced in his decades-long career. It's all there, from the telephone call from Istanbul saying his baby's coming home in the 1987 album "Franks Wild Years," to Portland's pasties and a g-string (plus beer and a shot) mentioned in 1976's "Small Change."
This labor of musical love, utterly useless to anybody except a Tom Waits fan, was produced by Sweden's Jonas Nordström. "Windy Jonas," as he goes by on Twitter, made the map earlier this month and has steadily been adding onto it with suggestions from tipsters. Such as the Cinema 14 from the song "Union Square," which one of Nordström's network of Waits researchers claims used to be a "gay porn theatre" at 133 Third Avenue in Manhattan. (Another source: "Operating from 1972 to September 30, 1988, this gay porn house was the first movie theatre in the city to be closed by the city of New York Health Department as part of efforts to stop the spread of AIDS.")
A zoomed-out view of the map reveals that Tom Waits' imagination, if not Tom Waits himself, has traveled far and wide around the globe. Places justifying repeat shout-outs from the death-rattling singer include New York, New Orleans, Southern California, Oklahoma, along the Mississippi River, and the United Kingdom. Southern Australia also has a handful of references, and South America and Antarctica miss out completely:
Top image: Tom Waits at a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert in New York City in 2005. (Jon Simon / Associated Press)