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

Stop It – violence against women

I am a person who talks about this kind of subjects a lot – ask my friends, they’ll tell you about it. There is nothing I find more important than human rights, so since I haven’t yet talked about it in this blog I thought this was the right chance to start with the first of many related articles to come.

This is the 26th of November, which means that yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. To be honest, I don’t believe in “international days”. I believe that the day for the elimination of violence against anyone should be every day. We mustn’t forget about what’s happening when this day passes. Although, it is a very good chance to inform people that might not be aware of the problem and to make women all around the world see that they are not alone.

Violence is not only a problem that concerns women. It is a problem that has been unsolved for as long as humankind exists and the sad fact is that, although we have made so much progress as a species, we haven’t yet given the appropriate attention to resolve matters such as this one. I strongly believe that it is completely in our power to stop it. Violence against anyone is an equally serious and important matter.

Women have always been victims of violence. For centuries, they didn’t even have the right to express opinions or make any important choice concerning their life. They were entirely dependant on their fathers and later on their husbands, who were allowed to treat them however they desired to, taking for a fact that they were somehow superior.

To this day, this kind of behavior has not gone away. Still, little girls are forced to marry or become victims of trafficking. But the problem, of course, does not stop there. Women all around the world are victims of violence in every form behind closed doors in their “safe” home environment or work.

Why is this still happening? Although we are all aware of the problem and we all agree that sexual, physical or verbal violence is wrong, we tend to forget to specify exactly what this involves. One in Four women admits to being a victim of violence by their intimate partner. What about the ones who remain silent, either because they are afraid or just because they are unable to identify as a victim? A lot the victims do not know if their situation is a violent one because they are constantly told they are overreacting until they start to believe they are crazy. They live in fear and disappointment.

We think casually joking about matters like this is harmless but in fact, it is exactly the opposite. It makes the situation seem casual and it allows people to subconsciously consider it a given, a fact that will not change. Consequently, this makes the abuser feel his action is acceptable and the victim feel like they should tolerate the violence.

Every person should have a right to live freely without fear. This comes down to me and you. We are all equally responsible to stop this from happening. If you witness a violent situation, do not turn away, encourage the victim to speak out and stand by their side. If you are the victim, please do not feel like you are alone. I know you deserve better. Do not be afraid to ask for advice from a professional. Anyone could be in your shoes. There is nothing to be ashamed about.

For those of you, like myself, who feel that you need to do something, don’t hold back. Inform everyone you know on the matter and its importance, start conversations. If we are all aware of the problem, we will be able to spot it and eventually… stop it


have a magical day,

glance at the sky

by Elena Ktenopoulou

  • Violence against other groups is an equally important subject. We will be discussing it soon.