Warming Up with Billy Joel

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I’m going to call it Polar Vortex oppression. It’s this feeling of heaviness, inertia, lack of control.

What’s been spinning through my mind almost the entire month of January is this: Just please, get the hell off me.

I don’t recall ever being affected by weather in this way. I know it’s common. I know people who deal with it every year. But it’s never been me. At least not to this degree.

One recent night while nesting in yet again because I couldn’t bear the idea of contending with the cold, I caught the movie “Shall We Dance?” with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. I was drawn to the movement, the desire for balance and grace. Further, I realized I miss moving to music, letting it take me. Hmmmm.

Billy JoelIt wasn’t by design, but shortly thereafter I was standing in Madison Square Garden swaying and singing along with Billy Joel. As the night wore on, it was like a slow thaw.  I could feel the Piano Man snapping me out of my slump.

From the moment the house lights went down, the stage lit up, the musicians kicked in and he began singing “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway … “ as the crowd went wild, I was transported. Back to high school in the ‘70s. Back to a time when I was a Catholic girl starting much too late. Back to car rides with my brother with Billy blaring out of the stereo. But also transported from the frosty world we’ve been inhabiting to this enveloping cocoon of happiness.

The tickets for the concert were purchased months ago with the idea of celebrating my brother’s 50th birthday. We were joined by my cousin (who’s like a brother to us) and by my brother’s college friends (who have become our family friends). It was special. I could not have anticipated when we made the decision to go that it would feel like a perfectly timed reprieve from Polar Vortex oppression.

It was lifting off me.

Higher and higher.

Maybe this won’t last very long
But you feel so right
And I could be wrong
Maybe I’ve been hoping too hard
But I’ve gone this far
And it’s more that I hoped for

And higher.

It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
Mama, if that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out.

And even higher.

But I know what I’m needing
And I don’t want to waste more time
I’m in a New York state of mind

After watching Billy Joel sing New York State of Mind on television for a Hurricane Sandy benefit last year I was teary. Being in the Garden while he sang it? I turned to my brother and said, “That was fucking epic.” And I don’t say epic. We relaxed in our seats for that one. It was mellow. But others had us on our feet, singing and swaying. What must it be like to see and hear thousands of people brought alive by tunes you created? To have them in the palm of your hand for a few hours?

Later when I told a friend about the concert she said, “Billy’s like comfort food, isn’t he?” Yes. That’s exactly right. Soothing. Familiar.

Only, unlike how I feel after macaroni and cheese, I was energized. I didn’t care one iota that after the concert I walked onto Seventh Avenue and was greeted by the persistent 18-degree chill. I was still singing in my head.

Don’t wait for answers
Just take your chances
Don’t ask me why

Daring the cold to try touching me, invading my spirit.

Cold beer, hot lights
My sweet romantic teenage nights

The following morning I turned on the radio just as Only the Good Die Young was coming on.

You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain’t too pretty, we ain’t too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud
But that never hurt no one

I raised the volume. Sang along with what was left of my voice.

Heavy had given way to light. Snow be damned. I got my wish. The oppression got the hell off me.

Expectations exceeded. Allowing oneself to feel and share.

What an antidote.

Found warmth

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