Tom Waits is my favorite musician, and this is one of my favorite Waits songs. I pieced together that he was almost certainly talking about his time living in Whittier, California. Whittier does, indeed, have a Kentucky Avenue. I contacted their museum hoping to find some documentation on the “hobo jungle” where Waits and friend killed rattlesnakes with a trowel. The folks were intrigued and dug for what they could but no solid evidence was found. So, not sure if that hobo jungle was a detail taken from somewhere else or if simply there had been a hobo jungle that went unrecorded.
Regardless, I enjoyed reading this piece. “Kentucky Avenue” is one of the sweetest songs Waits ever wrote. People miss that and think it’s something else because it’s about two young hoods. But, to me they’re just kids who were born into the world of hoods…still kids first and foremost, and still with good hearts, even if that goodness manifests in illegal activity (ha). Yea, I love this song.