POSTED: 08 SEPTEMBER 2004 - 8:30am HST

The Wolf - A Cautionary Tale
illustrations and story by
David Tidquist

Scratchy records. There's something about that sound. Makes you wonder if they were ever new. I don't remember them without that hiss... and it feels comfortable. That static feels like the past--I'd like to have a whole album of just that. You pull the disc off the turntable and examine it--and wonder: where did that spot come from? Odds are it's alcohol, and it probably got there sometime between 3 a.m. and dawn on some long forgotten night.

Somewhere back there was a "gin-soaked boy." He wore one collar up because it made him feel like Holden Caulfield, and he walked hunched and determined--as if into the wind.

Some time after all the days of rage and confusion---after the protesting and experimentation, he falls in with a crew of leftovers self-deluded anarchists and counter-culture diehards. And they decide to make their last stand at a crumbling roadside tavern called Burnsie's.

So one day they're sitting there plotting (they were always plotting; whether it was the overthrow of the government, or how to get that bar-room queen off her throne and into the sack), and this angry social reject named Joe U. stumbles through the side door. He was raging at the world and dragging about ten yards of clearly discernible emotional baggage.
To this day, no one is sure exactly where he came from but, evidently, it was somewhere grim and painful. There were spiritual needle marks scattered throughout his opening aria--and we all listened. He seemed to know a lot about boxing and horse-racing, and Charles Bukowski and Jack & Neal. And he'd gladly talk about them all--all night.

And he brought his Tom Waits Albums.
And he made us listen.

And he walked us through the words of this angry, sentimental, gin-palace poet laureate.

Joe also talked a lot about The Wolf. The Wolf was either just outside the door or waiting for us when we were home alone. Joe said that someday we'd have to confront The Wolf. The Wolf, I guess, was our conscience--or he was death--or he was us--our inner truth.

And--sure enough--one night, in walks The Wolf.

No one spoke to him, nor he to anyone there. He just loped the length of the bar - looking at each one, individually, with steel-gray, non committal eyes. He moved to the side of the wood stove back in the corner and laid down next to it. And from that moment on, he was always there.

No matter our history, we always tend to romanticize it; even when looked at through the haze of a 'bad liver and a broken heart'. So now, when Tom speaks to us from that dusty turntable, in the light of all that's happened since; it sounds different.

Joe spoke personally with The Wolf about six years ago. Joe's earnest heart gave out in a rehab center somewhere in upstate New York.

So Tom sounds different today to those who were there. His words carry even more weight. But to those who haven't yet heard him, he's waiting--waiting to spin a tale--to tug on your sleeve.
I think he might be The Wolf.

Note by Juan Wilosn

This piece was written in 1990 as a "cautionary" tale. It accompanied a compilation audio tape David Tidquist made to introduce two young friends to Waits' music.

David did the illustrations in this article with 2H lead pencil on paper. Each represent about 150 hours of drawing time. David did one drawing each winter during the 1990's.

One interesting detail about the Tom Wait's drawing is a testimony to David's skill with a lead pencil. The drawing was done as a negative image. White for black and black for white. The image had to be scanned and then inverted to be seen as a positive image.

The story and images of David's pencil drawings were published in the winter of 1998 in The Gobbler (a now defunct newsletter and website that Juan and Linda published from 1993 to 2001).


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