The Friday Morning Listen: Tom Waits – Mule Variations (1999)

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by Mark Saleski

“Every man has inside himself a parasitic being who is acting not at all to his advantage.”

-William S. Burroughs.

This seem true enough, and mine wants to live in that house. He whispers in my ear to leave almost everything behind. We get into these major fights about what stays and goes. The house is quite small, so my (our?) choices are limited. TheWife™ and TheDogger™ obviously come with me, on that we can agree. It’s the physical collections that are the cause of concern. One guitar, a few books, CDs, and LPs. The stereo, yes, although he would prefer it if I could make the digital leap and leave a bunch of the plastic behind. I want my whole history — which seems to be wrapped up in things — he wants it too, but condensed.

How about the calliope? My collection of rare late 1940’s era Chevy bench seats? The set of Victrolas and boxes of of 78’s?

No. You don’t really own any of that stuff. Quit with the stalling. Just a few things. A couple of chairs. A bed. They’ll be situated on the shiny painted floor. We’ll be much happier.

I get to wondering how this insistence on slimmed-down change is parasitic, because the standard view these days is about how your things can end up owning you. So isn’t this a good thing, to pare down? I suppose it would be except for the fact that it’s a major distraction from just about everything else. There are so many loose ends to deal with: at work, writing, and…

The end of the year has come and the inner parasite is “winning” for the time being because I’m trying to make sense of twelve months of noise. This time comes around and it feels like I’ve been in one of those old amusement park rides where you’re pinned to the centrifuge wall. I’ve been viewing everything around me in the only way possible and then the spinning stops…and everything falls to the floor. I’m tired, my defenses are low, and just maybe it’s easier to get into these arguments about this simpler future. It’s a form of procrastination, I know.

I’m sure we’ll leave one day, though probably not to that house. And it’s unlikely that a we’ll just disappear, leaving no traces. I’m not the most responsible person in the world, but my escapist side would like to do the right thing. There are too many abandoned houses around here already, and I’m not interested in adding to the sum total of those sad stories.

Happy New Year everybody.


Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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