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Tom's Diner

I am sitting in the morning
At the diner on the corner
I am waiting at the counter
For the man to pour the coffee
And he fills it only halfway
And before I even argue
He is looking out the window
At somebody coming in
"It is always nice to see you"
Says the man behind the counter
To the woman who has come in
She is shaking her umbrella
And I look the other way
As they are kissing they're hellos
I'm pretending not to see them
And instead I pour the milk
I open up the paper
There's a story of an actor
Who had died while he was drinking
It was no one I had heard of
And I'm turning to the horoscope
And looking for the funnies
When I'm feeling someone watching me
And so I raise my head
There's a woman on the outside
Looking inside does she see me?
No she does not really see me
Cause she sees her own reflection
And I'm trying not to notice
That she's hitching up her skirt
And while she's straightening her stockings
Her hair is getting wet
Oh this rain it will continue
Through the morning as I'm listening
To the bells of the cathedral…
I am thinking of your voice…
And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time before the rain began..
And I finish up my coffee
And it's time to catch the train

single cover
Single Release : 07.1987
Lyrics : Suzanne Vega
Copyright : © 1987 AGF Music Ltd. & Waifersongs Ltd. (ASCAP)
Album : Solitude Standing

"Solitude Standing" - tracklist :


"There's no Tom's Diner, but there's a Tom's Restaurant. And of course you know "diner" sings better than "restaurant", so that's why I changed it to "diner". It's up on 112th Street and Broadway, which most people know by now that that's where it is. I have heard that Tom's Diner is also the place where is say "RESTAURANT", I think that the signs are the same ones that they use for the Sienfeld show. I always thought that was kind of a funny thing because now it has become like a symbol of New York, because back 15 years ago when I wrote the song it was just a neighborhood joint. I used to eat breakfast there when I was going to school and before I would go to work. It's a really, at least it was back when I wrote the song, it was a very ordinary place, a very sort of New York place, nothing fancy, not picture perfect, not even terribly atmospheric, just like regular a joint. And that's why I really liked it. The main about this person whose sing this song, the narrator of the song, is that he's not involved in anything he's looking at, even the woman that looks in through the window: he thinks that she flirting with him, but it turns out that she's only fixing her stocking. So in a sense he's isolated from everything that he's looking at. He looks through the paper, he sees that there's someone, an actor, but he doesn't know the actor and so he skips over it to the horoscope, which does concern him. So it was a little bit of a portrait that I was trying to draw using that device. And at the very end there's just this one memory, the memory of someone's voice and the bells ringing and the memory of a midnight picnic (I actually did have a midnight picnic with someone on the step of the cathedral at the St. John the divine. I think it was about 12:30 and we had this little picnic, we brought our food, sat on the steps and we ate it. It was a very romantic moment for me in my own life.) So I picked these different moments out and I made a little storyline. That's one thing, I think, that people miss sometimes, it's not just a song about breakfast, it's a song about being disconnected or feeling alienated and then think this sort of wistful moment back to when you really felt connected to someone when you were in love with them. So that's really what the song is about."
In concert: El Rey Theater, Los Angeles, CA, USA, November 20, 1996 (http://www.vega.net/elreytr96.htm) transcription by William C. Andrews

""Tom's Diner" was written in Tom's Restaurant, it's really about Tom's Restaurant, on 112th Street and Broadway in New York City, and it was really written from the point of view of my friend Brian, who is a photographer, and had made a comment to me one day that he felt that as a photographer, he saw his whole life through a pane of glass, and always felt like he was the witness to a lot of things, but was never really involved in them. So I was sitting at Tom's Restaurant one morning, and suddenly I guess I got this weird feeling, it came over me, and I thought, 'well, if I were Brian today, how would I be perceiving these different things? And in a way it was supposed to be slightly humorous, and not entirely to be taken totally seriously. And also I thought of it from a male point of view. I'd originally heard it with piano in back, but I don't play piano, so it's a capella."
From the Interview LP "Portrait of an Artist", A&M 1987, trancribed by David Hammar in the website "Tom's Diner Day" (http://www.vega.net/tomsdiner/tomsdine.htm)

On the above linked page, it becomes clear that Tom's Diner was apparently not written on one single morning, rather, it was a recollection of several mornings (at least two) . November the 18th 1981 was the morning Suzanne read about the actor in the story. This newspaper gives the information that it was not raining that day. [Ed.]