Okay, so on my Southwest Airlines flight home from Oakland to Burbank, guess who was the next-to-last passenger to step onto the plane?
TOM FUCKING WAITS
I fully did the cartoon double-take and then locked eyes with Mr. Drinking Piano himself. He smiled, I smiled, he passed by me, I silently went batshit crazy insane. Actually, I may have gone "eeee."
Tom was looking good. He was wearing a slim tailored black suit over a crisp white shirt; his face was the perfect manifestation of wabi-sabi. I would, as they say in the parlance of our times, hit that.
By the way, how awesome is it that Tom Waits flies Southwest... in the C group?
So the plane took off and whatever and an eternity later the in-flight beverage service started. When the flight attendant, who looked to be twelve years old, stopped at my row I said, "I'd like to buy Tom Waits a drink."
"Tom Waits? The singer/songwriter/LEGEND?"
He shook his head so I gave him a pretty thorough physical description ("... a face like fifty miles of bad road - - but in a good way") after which the flight attendant said, "If I can find him I'll do it, but it'd be easier if you walked through the plane and found him for me."
I wasn't about to obviously stalk Tom Waits on an airplane so I stayed put and concentrated on not throwing up. Five minutes later the flight attendant came bounding up to me: "I found him I found him I found him! But he declined your drink offer. He's having water." And then, sotto voce: "I think he's already pretty wasted."
I resisted the urge to obviously stalk Tom Waits on the airplane. Until we all deplaned, at which point I pretty much jumped on him in the Burbank terminal. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I know it was rambly and mostly incoherent. He was very nice, in that way one is nice around mental patients, and was starting to do the "okay, I'm going to back away slowly now" move, so as a last ditch conversational effort I told him I was a friend of XXX XXX's (they're acquaintances) and that XXX had often spoken highly of him (which is true). His face lit up and suddenly he was all warmth and sunshine. As much as Tom Waits can effulge sunshine. He told me he'd quit drinking years ago (he totally looks 20 years younger than he looked 20 years ago) and a bunch of stuff I couldn't understand because Tom Waits is naturally rambly and mostly incoherent. Something about liking The Prestige. When we got to the rental car counters he asked me my name, said it was a pleasure to meet me and shook my hand with the sincerest of handshakes. (Swoon.) He didn't ask for my hand in marriage or anything, but maybe that'll be the next Southwest flight. I'm flying Southwest forevermore.
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