What I Would Be Thinking About If I Were Billy Joel Driving Toward a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano.
[Originally published April 27, 2005.]
I’m not doing it. I’m just not. I know I say the same thing every year, but this time I mean it—I am not playing it this year. Seriously, how many times can I possibly be expected to play that stupid song? I bet if you counted the number of times I’ve played it over the years, it probably adds up to, like, a jillion. I’m not even exaggerating. One jillion times. Well, not this year.
This year, I’m just going to say, “Sorry, folks, I’m only playing holiday songs tonight.” Yeah, that’s a good plan. That’s definitely what I’m going to do, and if they don’t like it, tough cookies. It’ll just be tough cookies for them.
But I know exactly what’ll happen. I’ll sit down, play a few holiday songs, and then some drunk jerk will yell out, “‘Piano Man,’” and everybody will start clapping, and I’ll look like a real asshole if I don’t play it.
I wonder if they’ll have shrimp cocktail.
Now that I think of it, it’s always Bob Schimke who yells out, “‘Piano Man.’” He does it every year. He gets a couple of Scotches in that fat gut of his, and then it’s, “Hey, Billy, play ‘Piano Man’!” That guy is such a dick. He thinks he’s such a big shot because he manages that stupid hedge fund. Big deal. He thinks because he used to play quarterback for Amherst that everybody should give a shit. I don’t. Who cares about you and your stupid hedge fund, Bob? That’s what I should say to him this year. I really should. I should just march right up to him and say, “Who cares about your stupid hedge fund, you dick?” Let’s just see what Mr. Quarterback has to say about that. And I know he made a pass at Christie that time. She probably liked it—that’s probably why she denied it even happened.
I’m such a loser.
Why do I even go to these parties? I mean, honestly, how many times do I need to see Trish and Steve and Lily and that creepy doctor husband of hers and all their rich Long Island friends? Although that Greenstein girl is nice. Maybe she’ll be there. What’s her name—Alison?
What if Alison asks me to play “Piano Man”? Then what? I’ve got to stick to my guns, that’s what. I’ll simply say, “Some other time.” Yeah, that’s good. Kind of like we’re making a date or something. And then at the end of the night when we’re all getting our coats, I’ll turn to her and say something like, “So when do you want to get together and hear ‘Piano Man’?” Oh man, that’s really good. That’s so smooth. After all, how is she going to say no? She’s the one who asked to hear it in the first place! Oh man, Billy, that is just perfect.
Maybe she’ll say something like, “How about right now?” Yeah. And maybe we’ll leave together. I can drive her back to my place and I can play her the stupid song and then maybe we’ll do it. I’d really like to do it with that Greenstein girl. How awesome would that be? Me leaving with Alison on my arm and Bob’s big fat stupid face watching us go. That would be too rich. I’d be real nonchalant about it, too—"See you later, Bob."
Who am I kidding? She’d never go out with me. She was dating that actor for a while. What’s his name? Benicio? What kind of name is Benicio? A stupid name, that’s what kind. Hi, I’m Benicio. I’m so cool. I’m sooooo cool. I should start going by Billicio. I’m Billicio Del Joelio. I play pianolo.
Sing us a song, you’re the piano man …
Oh great. Now it’s in my head. Perfect. Now I have to walk around that stupid party with that stupid song stuck in my head all night.
Amherst sucks at football.
You know what I should do? I should just turn this car around and go home. Just pick up the phone and call them and tell them I ate some bad fish or something. Yeah, that’s what I should do. This party’s going to suck anyway. By the time I get there, all the shrimp cocktail will probably be gone anyway.
What am I going to do? Go through my entire life avoiding situations where somebody might ask me to play a song? I can’t do that. No, Billy, you’ve just got to grow yourself a sack and take care of business. And if that loudmouth Bob Schimke requests “Piano Man,” I just need to look him in the eye and tell him I’d be happy to play it for him just as soon as he goes ahead and fucks himself.
Who am I kidding? Of course I’m going to play it. I always play it. Probably the only reason half the people at that party even show up is to hear me play “Piano Man.” They probably don’t even like me. Not really. They just want to tell all their friends that Billy came and played “Piano Man.” Again. Like I’m the loser who’s dying to play it. Whatever.
Fine. I’ll do it, but not because they want me to, but because I want me to. I’m not even going to wait for them to ask. I’m going to march right in there and play the song and that’ll be that. I’m not even going to take off my coat first. Yeah. Let’s see what Bob has to say about that. I might even play it twice.
Available in print with
The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
SUGGESTED READSThe Lyrics to the Billy Joel Song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” If They Were Written by a Muskrat Instead of by Billy Joel
by David Litt (3/22/2005)
John Moe’s Pop Song Correspondences: A Note Placed in the Pay Envelope of Billy “The Piano Man” Joel
by John Moe (5/16/2007)
List: Popular Singers Inspired by Fats Domino and Chubby Checker
by Dan Guterman (5/12/2005)
RECENTLYLet’s Save Sitting!
by Liza Behles (5/22/2015)
How to Find Love: Lessons from an Old Maid: Halfway Point
by Connie Sun (5/22/2015)
List: Batting Heckles Uttered by the Dad On My Son’s Little League Team Who is a Meteorology Professor and Whose Research Interests Include Cloud-Based Analytics for Spatio-Temporal Data With a Primary Focus On Climate, Hydrological and Ecological Sciences
by Gary M. Almeter (5/22/2015)