The Longest Time

Karin and I after the Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden

I became a Billy Joel fan in the wee hours of a Saturday night in 1984, while dancing on a friend’s bed and listening to “Uptown Girl” on vinyl. In the later 1980’s, I filled my Sunday mornings listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, and my Billy Joel fandom continued. In 1990, I attended my second concert ever with two friends and my parents — Billy Joel’s Storm Front tour in Indianapolis. I made my parents sit in a different section.

Through the years my music taste evolved, and I attended numerous other concerts, including Sting, Bad Company, Lollapalooza, James Taylor, Van Halen, Genesis, The Cranberries, Dave Matthews Band, U2, Live, Alanis Morisette, Pearl Jam (6 times), Jimmy Buffett, Barenaked Ladies, Silversun Pickups and Imagine Dragons. Some of these have been Greg’s choices (Pearl Jam), and my panic attack at the Smashing Pumpkins concert is a story for another day. In recent years, my taste has moved into modern folk, and I have seen David Gray, Brandi Carlile, and Josh Ritter.

But of all the concerts I’ve seen, Billy Joel still stands out as one of best entertainers. In my early years of marriage, my friend Megan and I drove twice to State College to see Joel – once with Elton John. And when he came to Hershey, my dad and I went to see him again. This time we sat together.

So when I heard a friend had seen Billy Joel in Madison Square Garden for her husband’s 50th birthday, I added this to my bucket list. I told my friend Karin, whose 2020 New Year’s resolution was to attend more concerts. We bought the tickets for March 2020.

It came as no surprise that the concert was postponed twice.

It was finally rescheduled for November 2021 and even then, Karin and I doubted whether it would happen. But as it got closer, I visited the Madison Square Garden website and saw that the concert was indeed taking place.

The concert was on a Friday night, so we made plans to drive to New York that morning.

Once we arrived in New York, we had time to kill, so after stopping at Gregory’s Coffee (after all, both of us are married to a guy named Greg), we went to the Museum of Modern Art. Neither of us had been there, and we debated what constituted modern art on the way there. Karin was correct in that modern art is art created between the years of the 1860s to 1970s.

Scenes from a Korean Restaurant

Following our visit to the museum, we went back to our hotel to freshen up before meeting my high school friend Leigh for dinner in Koreatown.

Leigh and I became friends in tenth grade, circa 1991. As adults, we both ended up on the east coast 3.5 hours away in two worlds as different as possible. She is a vice president of a company in the biggest city in the U.S., and I am a part-time housewife, part-time stay-at-home mom with two part-time jobs and a blog, who lives on a farm. But she remains one of my dearest friends to this day.

She suggested we eat in Koreatown. I had never eaten Korean food and if Karin had, it had been years ago. We were uncertain, but Leigh assured us that we would like bibimbap.

As we prepared to leave our hotel to meet Leigh, it occurred to me that I had forgotten the concert tickets in Pennsylvania. One may wonder why I didn’t have electronic tickets, but I purchased them on StubHub and received paper tickets in the mail.

I called Greg and asked him to take pictures of the tickets and text them to me. He agreed, but was certain we wouldn’t get in. Luckily, Karin is easygoing and when I told her about the tickets, she laughed.

We finally made our way to the restaurant to meet Leigh – albeit 30 minutes late – and I told her I had forgotten the tickets.

“At the hotel?” she asked.

“No, in Pennsylvania,” I said.

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Leigh and I

During our dinner, which we savored, we debated the best course of action for getting into the concert. Due to my rule-following personality, I suggested we call Madison Square Garden and explain the situation. Both Leigh and Karin said we should just act like New Yorkers and attempt to get in using the barcodes on our phones, same as we would show our vaccination cards. We decided to go with this.

And it worked.

When I told my mom we were going to see Billy Joel, she said, “I hope he doesn’t stand on the piano again.” Apparently he did this during the 1990 concert, although I have no recollection. She worried about the instrument.

To her relief, he did not stand on the piano, and at 46, I enjoyed his concert as much as I did when I was 15. He played all the old favorites and at least one song that has made it to Julia’s playlist due to its TikTok popularity.

In our country that feels more divided than ever, two and a half hours of singing and dancing served as a respite from the heaviness of the past 20 months. While seeing a musician live is a privilege, sharing this experience with 20,000 strangers reminded me that we are not alone. And for that, I am thankful.

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View of the stage from our seats