Between the lines: Piano Man

It was around midday last Sunday, I was putting my make-up on when a song started playing on the radio: Piano Man by Billy Joel. I usually really like songs that tell a story, so it caught my attention. While it was going on I realized it talked about something that has been on my mind a lot lately: the feeling that you don’t belong where you are and that you could be in a better place if circumstances were different or if you had handled situations better. I have come to realize that most if not all people feel like this in one way or another.

I played the song over and over to discover its secrets and since I wanted to make a blog post referring to this, I thought I could start from those wonderful lyrics.

The song builds a very atmospheric image of a piano bar on a Saturday evening. We see everything through the pianist’s eyes although we never learn much about him compared to what we hear about the rest of the people who are spending the night in the bar. The figures are almost stereotypical and we can probably recall them in our memory. We have probably come across them at some point.

As the pianist begins to explain what he sees, he starts describing an old man who seats near him drinking his gin and tonic – he actually uses the words “making love to his tonic and gin” which emphasizes his dependency on alcohol. The old man asks him to play a melody he knew as a young man. This person is the first one who is being described and is probably somehow the future self of everyone in that place. He listens to the piano full of nostalgia, missing a life he had but he was never able to appreciate at the time just like the younger people in the bar. He looks back at what everyone else turns away from and what he probably had turned away from when he was young: his life. Now, he only lives in memories hanging on a bottle and the tunes of the pianist that will somehow let him return to what he once was.

The next person we meet is John, the barman. He comes across as a very cheerful man He always has a joke to tell but deep inside he just feels trapped. He is a friend of the pianist so he can confess to him that he’d be a movie star if he wasn’t stuck at the bar. In this case, we, as the listeners, feel like he could change that. He dreams of being an actor but remains there doing nothing about it. Of course, we know nothing much about John’s life but we assume that if he wants it that bad, he could take a risk. He says that this life “is killing him”, so does he have something to lose if he takes a risk? Is his phantasy of being a famous actor really a desire? Or is it just something he uses to make himself feel somehow like a failure?

Two men are sitting somewhere near, Paul and Davy. Paul is a novelist who doesn’t have a family. We can assume he is a cynical and practical man, since the pianist describes him as a “real estate novelist” and he is taking to another man named Davy who still works in the Navy “and probably will be for life”. Of course that “still” is the magic word that changes the meaning of the lyric. It instantly gives us the sense that Davy wasn’t intending to stay at this job but for practical reasons, he stayed. He probably had bigger dreams. Maybe he would be a movie star just like John would but he’s there now and he’ll never know.

Lastly, Bill, our Pianist, refers to the waitress who speaks with a stoned businessman. They are both lost in their loneliness trying to fight it in meaningless conversations. In the end of the song, as we are almost seeing that bar in front of us, feeling the loneliness of every single person in there and knowing that they can only get away from it for as long as a song lasts – a song by the piano man  – something devastating happens. Someone approaches Bill and gives him a tip. Then he asks him “man, what are you doing here?”.

After we’ve seen everyone else through Bill’s eyes realizing how they’ve wasted their lives and they’ll probably never be happy, someone else comes to ask the question we’ve been too busy – thinking about everyone else – to ask. What is he doing there, in this sad, little bar filled with unhappy people looking to drown their problems in alcohol instead of admitting their wrong choices? Was that his dream all along? Is anyone where they were supposed to be? Is life an endless chain of mistakes we just keep trying to cover up? Is loneliness inevitable?

I thought of the song lyrics for days. I started noticing people around me wondering how they were experiencing loneliness or what were they settling for out of fear. Let’s not lie. At some point we all do. Or… can we chose not to?

have a magical day,


glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

A little something you forgot to consider

When you look at the world you see a combination of brilliance and dirt altogether. It makes you want to get out and explore every single part of it, every possible human emotion and at the same time, it makes you want to run to bed and stay there forever. It’s like being in a huge library with a billion books. You wish you’ll choose the most fascinating ones, those that will teach you a lot and make you a wiser person but still… you cannot know the ending in advance. There’s always a risk.  It’s scary – terrifying actually – but I suppose life can give you a few things that are worth the “pain and the aches of the outcoming fortune” in the words of the Danish Prince.

It is incredible that you have all these choices concerning who you want to become and how you want to use your life in order to contribute to society. But what most people forget to mention when they talk about the endless possibilities is risk and fear. The smallest choice you make has outcomes. There’s never a win-win situation. You always have to face consequences, responsibilities and stand up for the path you took and for the person you are today.

We chose friends, behaviors, careers, lovers, places to live in and even ways to approach situations. Every little thing is crucial but there are some choices bigger than others. These are the choices that will change your life. When you stand in front of a choice this big, I tell you, it’s scary. Nobody mentions that. Everyone goes on and on about doing the right thing but… when you’re actually standing a step away from opening one door or another, you can’t see “right” or “wrong”. You can only see the regret at the end of each way and you’re afraid of it. There are paths that guarantee security and others that involve greater risk.

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Making the step is hard. But no matter what you have been thinking so far, no matter what all the voices around you have been going on and on about, you have to take a step back and put yourself in the microscope. I don’t mean endless hours of worrying and re-thinking – which is something I am guilty of, to be honest – but to really stand across your deepest desire and ask yourself “Where do you want to go?”.

This process is usually so hard because we forget to keep in mind the fear that goes with it. It’s what we forget to consider when we make plans. Fear is usually a huge part of our choices but it shouldn’t be. Go with your gut. There is an instinct inside every one of us, we’ve just learned to ignore it over the years while trying to rationalize everything.

Remember back when you were a kid? You took one look at a person and you knew if you liked them or not. You went to ballet lessons for a week to find out you want to quit and then you tried piano and Italian and none of those were right for you. You knew and you were not afraid to admit you changed your mind. Nobody would call you a loser. Then, you finally tried tennis or playing the tuba and it was fun. You couldn’t see the time to go to practice. That’s what we suppress over the years, our pure instincts. We learn to like what we should like but, how will we ever be happy if we don’t risk walking the road our heart tells us it leads to happiness?

Charles Bukowski said “Go all the way” and he was right. If you don’t go all the way, you’ll never know. It takes a huge amount of courage to stop thinking of every little thing that can go wrong and focus on your pure desire. Don’t be afraid of it. Take a step on the path your heart points at. There must be some reason. Show it some trust and you’ll eventually find out why it took you there.

Have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

Never ending dream chase

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the future. I would ask my mom how many days are left until I’m a grown-up – free to do what I want any time I want to. Little did I know… I had no idea that Peter Pan was right when he chose to stay in Neverland and I secretly wish I’d followed him when I still had the chance. But we grow… we become adults and take life in our own hands and those things that once seemed like a faraway dream, are now everyday worries, all written down in To-Do Lists on the refrigerator looking judgmentally at you day and night. What happened?

When you’re little, you dream, you idealize the future and somewhere inside you, you know that you will do everything right. You won’t make the stupid mistakes all the other grown-ups make. You’re so much wiser. You’ll succeed and thrive. It can’t be that hard when you’re free to do your own thing. Soon, life will prove you wrong and you’ll you might forget your great dreams somewhere along the way.

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Dreams are not only the most important thing of our childhood, dreams must remain a great part of our adulthood as well. The fast rhythm of life makes us lose our way and forget where we are going. We settle. We settle for safety, for comfort or because we are secretly afraid to find out what would actually happen if we had the courage to pursue that dream. We make up excuses that convince the rest but they’re never enough to convince ourselves. Deep down we all know they’re carefully made-up and brilliantly convincing lies. Not for our family or our friends who wonder why we changed our minds but for the kid in us asking why we ended up betraying that once-so-clear vision.

Taking risks in a world that never helps the ones who dream of something greater is hard. It takes everything you’ve got and yes… you might lose everything you gained with so much hard work but… there’s one slight chance if you trust that little dreamer you left behind somewhere on the way here, you’ll find the life you once thought you would have. Don’t you know that this is the one you deserve?


Dreams must play the role of a map or a compass in life. We must always look at them to tell us where to go. The journey is what will make us happy and complete but looking at that destination will keep us on the right path. It’s ok to change your mind and let your dream change as you evolve as a person but never settle for less and never give up. There is incredible strength in each of us. You’ll be surprised to find out how much of it is hidden in you. If you have dreamt it, even as a child, you do have what it takes to do it.

It might mean you’ll have to sacrifice comforts and time and even people in your life. But would you rather wonder forever?

have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

Unsolved mysteries inside

It’s happened to you. It’s happened to all of us. For some it’s a smell, a song, a color, an object… anything, really! To me, it’s usually light. The way the sun comes in from a window. It instantly takes me to another place without me expecting it and forces me to get in a mood. Firstly, the mood I had in that particular memory – it kind of feels like time-travel – and then instant and inescapable nostalgia. I know you’ve experienced it.

You’re at a friends house having dinner. You taste the chicken pie that looks delicious and all of a sudden it tastes just like the one your grandmother used to make when you were a kid. The memory strikes you hard. You suddenly feel as careless as you were at that moment, playing with you cousin in the back yard. A feeling of light sadness follows. You guessed it. Today, we talk about memories

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Memories are a huge part of life. They are past experiences that form our actions, our choices and the biggest part of ourselves today. People since the beginning of time have been trying to find ways to keep memories alive for as long as possible. They did it by telling stories, painting portraits, writing books and then printing them so anyone could have access and for the past century memories are recorded in cameras: photographs and video so they never die. Is that enough to keep them alive, though?

Even if you experienced something with an other individual, the memory of that incident will be completely different in their mind than it will be in yours. Memories are to a great extend – if not completely – subjective. They are formed inside your head and they are mixed with you perception of reality, you feelings, your personality and you past experiences. Researches have shown that the more you talk about something you experienced, the stronger the memory of it gets in your mind. So, you are more likely not to forget about it in the future.

A lot of people believe that we are our memories, that our lives are actually a collection of past moments. But is that so? Since everything has passed and all we’re left with is the present, are we rally a pile of memories all together or is it a little more complicated than that?

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At some point, bad things will happen. You will not be who you were, neither will I. At that moment, don’t sit around remembering who you used to be, missing your life back then. There’s always a way to make it better. Benefit form your experiences and don’t repeat mistakes – if you can, if you do repeat… don’t be afraid to try again! –

We might be just a collection of moments or we might be our present self and nothing more. In the future we might not even be… at all. No matter what, be grateful for where you’ve been so far – because it’s made you, you! – and work for where you’re going to be in the future. Get to work! You have so many new memories to make.

have a magical day,



glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou