Thursday night Mike gets home as I’m starting to make dinner – really, just a big salad. I’m drinking a glass of wine and jamming out to Billy Joel. Sometimes I’m just in a Billy Joel mood. Mike starts to grill up the chicken. You want a glass of wine while you’re cooking? “Yes.” Once he’s almost finished I make the rice. It’s microwaveable and only takes two minutes. I’ve never done this before, so it might be terrible, but it’s Trader Joe’s so I figured I could try it. It ends up being pretty tasty – and way healthier than like, rice-a-roni. Mike prefers the rice-a-roni. He tells me about his day and his upcoming schedule while Billy continues to blare. We eat the chicken and rice first, then the salad. I feel like your family right now. “Why?” I don’t know, drinking wine while we’re cooking and eating the salad last (they always eat the salad last…it was weird the first time but then I liked it). “Yea, but we don’t listen to music really loud.” True. I guess this is like my family, too. I grew up with music blaring through the house. Sometimes for no reason, like a nice afternoon with all the windows open, or during dinner for holidays, or because it was the weekend, or because Mom and Dad had a few drinks and got all reminiscent.
I never minded. In fact, I loved it, especially when the music selection was Billy Joel. He’s always been my favorite singer. My siblings are fans, too, but I was the biggest. It was a thing I could have with my parents – just me. In a family of five I guess you look for these kinds of things. Mom and Dad first saw Billy Joel live in college (at Fairleigh Dickinson, where they met at the Rutherford campus…doesn’t exist anymore). It was before he was a huge name, I guess, because it was in a small venue and they were right up near the stage. I’m sure tickets were dirt cheap.
I was in 4th grade when Mom and Dad took me to my first concert. It was awesome because it was a school night, and awesome because I was the first kid they took to a concert. Stephen later went to Genesis, Sarah to Amy Grant, and I don’t really care about the twins. It was probably q102 or something lame.
For my first concert I really didn’t know that many of his songs. My favorite album was Glass Houses – it was the only cassette I had and listened to it constantly. My favorite song was “It’s Still Rock and Roll to me.” I had a dance to it. I must have been the youngest person at the concert. It felt like he played every song from Glass Houses – there were so many songs I knew. It was amazing. That’s him! Down there! That’s Billy Joel! So crazy. I can’t believe I’m in the same room as him.
Afterwards, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get out of the parking lot, Dad leaned out the window and purchased a T-shirt from one of those guys on the street. All he had left was extra large. “OK, we’ll take it.” It was enormous. I was swimming in it. But I didn’t care. It was late when we got home – around midnight or so. I remember waking up tired to go to school in the morning, but was so excited to wear my Billy Joel shirt and tell all my friends about it.
I have many Billy Joel memories. Some are very random. I distinctly remember a car ride at night – we were driving home from somewhere far, maybe Grandma’s, and a Billy Joel song came on. Dad turned it up and I happily sang along. I was just happy in that moment, which must be why I remember it. Another time Mom was cleaning the Buick and put us to work. I had to shake the dust and dirt off a car mat. I was spinning around in the backyard with the car mat in my hands while “We Didn’t Start the Fire” played through outside speakers.
In 8th grade, my parents took me again. I think they were afraid that one of these tours would be his last, and they didn’t want me to miss it. (I saw him five times.) This time, I was a real fan. I knew a lot more songs and enjoyed the concert even more than the first time. This was also when his River of Dreams album had just come out, so I listened to his new stuff but wasn’t a huge fan of it yet – except “River of Dreams.” I loved that one. I knew all the words – people standing behind us made comments to my parents because they couldn’t believe that such a young girl knew all the words to Billy Joel songs. Yea, that’s right. If I said I didn’t notice these strangers watching me, I’d be lying.
In high school I went again – this one was spoiled because it was during basketball season and I had to miss a game. Telling Coach Filipek was not fun, and she made me feel pretty terrible about it. It does sound bad when you say you’re missing a game for a concert, but it was Billy Joel. It was always more than just a concert. At some point during high school I learned all the words to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Every day before school I would blare it on the stereo downstairs while reading the lyrics that came with the CD. Whenever I got to the point I hadn’t memorized yet, I’d start the song over. It was a great way to start the day.
In college, Mom and Dad got tickets for themselves and not for me. How rude! Christmas afternoon Mike came over and surprised me with tickets for the same day that my parents were going. It was really fun to experience Billy with Mike and my parents together. We didn’t sit together (Mike and I had better seats!) but we hung out at our house together before the concert, blaring Billy as we always did. We drove over together and ate wings and drank coronas in the parking lot.
The worst concert I went to was probably the last one, when Billy and Elton John performed together. Firstly, I don’t really like when they perform together because they play all the “popular” songs; the radio hits. I want to hear the other stuff, the stuff that only real fans know. But that’s not why it was so bad. When I see Billy Joel I get so happy and excited that I always stand for his songs. I always have. I guess everyone around me always did, too. But this was such a lame crowd. No one was really standing, and the guy behind me started yelling at me, telling me to sit down. What kind of pathetic fan are you that you’re telling someone to sit down at a concert? He wasn’t even that old. I was so mad. He said something rude, and Mike turned around and said something back to him, and then we moved. It was an outside concert and there was standing a little further up, so we went there. But I was livid. And disappointed. What an asshole.
I daydream a lot. For some reason I daydream sometimes while running. These are the best runs because I completely forget I’m running and get so absorbed in my thoughts. One of my daydreams includes Billy Joel singing at my wedding. Another is so embarrassing. I’ve made it in Hollywood, and it’s my first time on a Late Night show. Jimmy Fallon. He always does fun games and things with his guests, and I bet he has a questionnaire he has them fill out to give him some ideas of what to do when they’re on. So in my questionnaire, it asks who my favorite singer is and I write Billy Joel. Jimmy then challenges me to a Billy Joel contest to see who knows him better. Or maybe, who is the bigger fan, because Jimmy will claim that he, too, is a huge fan. He’ll play little tidbits of Billy Joel songs and I have to name the song and/or the album. Man, that would be so much fun. This will never happen, but I have thought of it on way too many occasions.
I do have one real expectation. While he might not perform at my wedding, I already know that my father-daughter dance will be to “Lullabye (Goodnight my Angel).” I already told Dad. He didn’t say much but I know he loves that I picked a Billy Joel song for us. Or maybe he didn’t say much because I told him about my wedding when I have no plans of getting married any time soon. I still have my Billy Joel T-shirt from 1993. I wear it all the time – as pajamas. It fits now, sort of – the neck is all stretched out and it’s long. It’s so thin and worn and faded. A couple years ago Mom started collecting old T-shirts from all of us to make us each a T-shirt blanket. Loved the idea, until she asked for my Billy Joel shirt. I don’t want a piece of this in a blanket. I’m going to wear it for the rest of my life. Seriously.