I think most of us have a “Heartattack and Vine” somewhere stashed away in our lives. It’s probably in some shit hole of a neighborhood or tucked away in a corner of a bar that caters to what is known as “rough trade”. Those are the guys who don’t look they’ve washed in the last decade or so and usually the most you can get out of them is a mumble as they stare up at the television screen and nurse a shot and a beer. Those are the type of guys that order their next round by just nodding at the bartender or moving their glass towards him when he isn't looking.

He'll do the rest.

It’s probably one of those places that can’t seem to get through a night without broken bottles and cue sticks littering the floor both inside and out. The bathrooms reek like piss and you wouldn’t shit in there on a dare and hey, what the fuck is that on the floor, somebody’s tooth?

A real bucket of blood

Back in the late eighties, I had my own Heartattack and Vine. The name of the place really doesn't matter but this was in Brooklyn, New York and it was the Reagan Years and cocaine was falling in the neighborhood like snow in the wintertime. Shit, I was working on Wall Street at the time and making some pretty decent scratch and even though I had a family to support, I’d still try and find other ways to blow it. When 4:00 AM rolled around, another eight ball was just a phone call away. Back then, cell phones were still a novelty so we relied on pagers. You’d get a call back within minutes from your dealer and the bartender would leave the place open so long as he got his cut and the next thing you know you’re snorting rails off a filthy toilet seat.

Yeah, it was indeed glamorous times.

Liar liar with your pants on fire,
white spades hangin' on the telephone wire,
gamblers reevaluate along the dotted line,
you'll never recognize yourself
on Heartattack and Vine.

I’d make it home with just enough time to apologize to the wife and ask her not to wake the kids. They didn’t need to see me like this and all I needed was a shower, some coffee and a token to get me back on the subway to get back to work. I was fuckin’ invincible! I was young, strong and any after effects of the blow and the inevitable hangover wouldn’t show themselves for hours. Or at least until lunch time where I could duck out for an hour and suck down five or six screwdrivers just to take the edge off. Four o’clock would roll around and I'd pick up the phone…

”Yeah honey, I’ll be right home tonight after work….No, I swear…Do you need me to pick anything up?....No?... You sure cuz I could stop by the grocery store and maybe…Okay, no, I’ll be home as soon as I can…. Love ya!... Bye!...”


"Fuckin’ bitch…I’m the one bustin’ my ass to make the money, I’ll do whatever the hell it is I goddamn please…Maybe I’ll just have one or two…"

Anybody got a recipe for lather, rinse, and repeat?

Doctor lawyer beggar man thief,
Philly Joe remarkable looks on in disbelief,
if you want a taste of madness,
you'll have to wait in line,
you'll probably see someone you know
on Heartattack and Vine.

And I’d come through the door and be greeted by both the darkness in the bar and the other assorted patrons like some kind of conquering hero. Same cast of characters sitting in the same places assuming the same poses and trying to help me fill in the blanks of what was last night. Telling stories that went something like this…

“Man, you were FUUUUCKED UP! You don’t remember almost fighting that dude? Fuckin’ guy was a fuckin’ wimp, he’d a got his ass kicked. Hey asswipe, you owe me twenty bucks for losing at pool.”

And so it began again. Another day, another dollar

Another excuse..

Boney's high on China white, Shorty found a punk,
don't you know there ain't no devil,
there's just God when he's drunk,
well this stuff will probably kill you,
let's do another line,
what you say you meet me down
on Heartattack and Vine.

Did you ever know inside your head that what you’re doing to yourself is some fucked up shit? I mean, the mirror, it don’t tell no lies and if you stare at yourself long enough you begin to recognize that some bad things are just over the horizon. The wife you once loved, the mother of your children, has become a worn out hag that has nothing better to do than bust your balls about everything under the sun and the kids, the goddamn kids that used to be so cute and loving now avoid you as if you‘d had the plague. What the fuck is their problem?

Everybody is an asshole.

So it’s back out and time to drown your sorrows. All you need is somebody drunk enough, desparate enough, and willing enough to hear your side of the story. If you’re patient enough, trust me, they’ll come along…

See that little Jersey girl in the see-through top,
with the peddle pushers sucking on a soda pop,
well I bet she's still a virgin
but it's only twenty-five 'til nine,
you can see a million of 'em
on Heartattack and Vine.

My wife at the time would put up with a lot of my indiscretions. Falling down drunk, pissing in the bushes or in the sink and gambling away the rent money went with the territory. Hell, she was Irish and had some brothers and relatives that would put me to shame.

Fucking another woman?

That was another story…

It wasn’t long before she dispatched some savage divorce attorney on me and cleaned me out but good. My wages were garnished to the tune of about sixty percent and I was forced to move in with some shithead ex-friend of mine and share a piece of crap apartment in, God help me, Staten Island.

Better off in Iowa against your scrambled eggs,
than crawling down Cahuenga on a broken pair of legs,
you'll find your ignorance is blissful every goddamn time,
your're waitin' for the rtd
on Heartattack and Vine.

You know what? More power to her. In retrospect, I’d have divorced my ass a long time ago but she tried to stick it out and did her best. I took to my heels and ran off to Ohio where I had some family and to get my act together.

Those friends at that bar? They said I’d be back in three months.

That was almost fifteen years ago.

As for me and my ex? After a period of bad blood we’ve sorta started becoming cordial to each other over the years. As it stands now, we remain “friends” to this day and chalk much of it up to just being young. She’s somewhere out in Arizona now and I hope she’s happy.

As for me? Well, I still fuck up every now and then and stay out too late every once in a while and have been known to tip one or two back on occasion but I’m sure not the asshole that I once was…

Let’s hope not…

Lyrics to “Heartattack and Vine” copyright by the one and only Tom Waits who seems to know more about me than even I do.

CST Approved