‘I’m Waiting for the Man’


I’m waiting for my man/Twenty-six dollars in my hand… — Velvet Underground

“Twenty-six dollars!” Swamp Rabbit yelled. “That’ll git ya one Oxy from the ice cream man on Staten Island. Maybe two mixed drinks at Death & Co.”

He was on the porch at my shack in Tinicum swamp, drinking Wild Turkey and making snarky comments about the record on my turntable. In front of us were mallards paddling through the pond scum, which for some reason gets thicker when the weather turns cold.

“You can’t feed a drug habit with twenty-six bucks,” the rabbit said. “That’s good for three packs of ciggies at 7-11, or a few toots on the pipe with the mayor of Toronto.”

“Twenty-six dollars went a lot further in the 1960s, when Lou Reed wrote the song,” I explained.

The pesky rodent has been dissing Reed all week. I recited for him the Velvet Underground’s discography and informed him that Reed, on “I’m Waiting For the Man,” is working the “white Negro” hipster persona that Norman Mailer glorified in the 1950s.

I suspected the rabbit had no idea the song was so old and hadn’t even heard of the Velvets until Reed died. Then again, he reads a lot more than he lets on. I realized he might be setting me up for another of those questions I can’t answer. He pretended to doze.

“You’re as dumb as duck shit,” I said, looking out at the mallards.

“Maybe so,” he replied. “But if you’re so smart, how come you live in a swamp?”

Footnote: I couldn’t find a live version of “I’m Waiting for the Man” that sounds as junk-sick as the studio recording posted above. First thing you learn is you always gotta wait

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