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

We do not suffer by accident

Jane Austen claimed through Elizabeth’s voice in Pride and Prejudice that our suffering is our responsibility and in a way our choice. She didn’t blame anything in fate that made her a woman who had to always depend on others and was considered extra trouble for the family if she didn’t marry. Well, she didn’t marry. She rejected a few good offers because she wanted to marry for love, a chance which she never got. Still, it was ok because she remained faithful to her beliefs.

As a teenage girl I was a huge Austen fun, I loved her writing style, the characters, the era and of course I worshiped Jane for being such a believer and for daring to be herself in a time when it was unacceptable for a woman to write or to refuse marriage more than once. In my eyes she was a rebel and I wanted to become just like her. Of course, I still admire her and her books always have a special place in my heart, her words still trouble me sometimes. Sometimes like tonight.

Are we really the only source of unhappiness for ourselves? Do we somehow create all those so unwanted problems and worries  that make every day difficult and won’t let us sleep well?Undeniably, each choice we make has a straight impact on our emotions and the little details of our routine, but are those really all that matters or is it our mindsets? Is it just a matter of appreciation or is it something deeper? A well-made relationship with one’s self. Knowing who you are, your fears and your limitations and playing by your rules while walking steady on your feet.

It has been proven that the signals we give to the world are similar to the ones we receive back. For example, if you walk down the street and you smile to a random stranger (not in a creepy way!), you are more likely to get a smile back. This is so effective that it has been adapted as a method of Major depressive disorder treatment. It has been observed that people tend to mirror their interlocutor’s mood. For example if you see a person being sad, you will probably not go up to him and start shouting joyously about everything great that’s happened to you. That shows that we can – in a certain extend – control the vibes we collect from our environment. Send positive energy and you will get it back from others. Your mood will be uplifted in no time.


But… did Jane Austen mean just that when she said that “we do not suffer by accident”? Maybe she was referring in something greater, something more general: the civilization that we made. We live in a world where being different is non acceptable.The society puts us in pathways and so it can control us in a certain extend (which is in fact way bigger than we think!) but that is reasonable since we are part of a group and we live all together. Still, this model does not allow our inner selves to be expressed in any other way than the ones it has already allowed us to go. You can only use the tools that are available in order to build your life and find you individuality, which is anyway oppressed. We have to try and live by society’s standards whether we agree with them or not. That is a cause of stress for million of people because not everyone fits in. Nobody can prove that what we’ve learnt to call “normal” is right. There’s not even anything that is right, really. There is only personal truth and rules we’ve created so we can get along. But as useful as the rules are (which they are!), as time passes by, they don’t always apply and they take such long time to change.

So? What happens to those who are already a step ahead – just like Austen was -? They suffer. They only do because society cannot change within months or even years. It might take centuries… life times of people trying to say something that won’t be heard. I always thought that if all people could have critical thought, open minds and access to information, the world would really… evolve!

Don’t forget to: 

  • read some Jane Austen
  • and do some thinking! 

have a magical day,


glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou