LETTER FROM CANADA

Home is where the music makes sense

We may share poverty, but never the songs that make us shiver.

Tom WaitsTom Waits (Source: Reuters)

Tom Waits never sounded as good in Slovakia as he did at home. Which surprised me, given how poor a country Slovakia remains. Waits is a singer who chronicles the lives of the down and out. He sings about alcoholics and prostitutes, people who either don’t have the money to fix a leak in their shoes or are too drunk to notice it in the first place.

I brought a poster of Tom Waits with me when I moved full-time to Slovakia in 1995. I hung it up in every place I lived, and I loved looking at it as I would go out the door to teach, interview or carouse. But it never impressed anyone I brought home. Any more than a picture of Karel Kryl would impress a Canadian. Some things are impervious to translation, no matter how much emotion you have invested in them.

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