Last I looked, the little Sansa Clip Zip I've pressed into automotive use contained 5,089 tracks, with room for maybe a thousand more if they're short and sweet. Billy Joel's "Piano Man" is neither short (5:40) nor sweet, but it does seem to pop up in the rotation a lot more often than some of those 5,088 other songs. It came up during the evening commute, and one line, describing John the bartender, jumped out at me: "There's some place that he'd rather be." Is there some place I'd rather be?
Not that I'd fault John for having dreams. I figure everyone who's tended bar, from Jackie Gleason's Joe the Bartender to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has at some point — I nearly typed "at some pint," which also works — has thought something similar. It's a perfectly honorable occupation, with a single drawback: dealing with drunks, which I imagine can grow tiresome rather quickly. Still, I don't know anyone who's served up the suds but gave it up after one too many annoying customers. In this regard, it's like working retail: no matter how many times they remind you that the customer is always right, there's always going to be one of them with the personality of a Giant Scoliid Wasp (Megascolia procer).
Now John was sure he could be a movie star, if only he could get out of that place. Having worked at this one job for twenty-eight years, I can assure you that I have occasionally daydreamed of being somewhere else entirely. This past week, with high temperatures at or close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I have had fleeting thoughts of Fargo, North Dakota, which can reach those heady heights in the summer but doesn't very often. The last time I was there, it was something like 82° and wonderful; if I said so to the residents, though, they would remind me of the inevitability of February. And wickedly cold winters would definitely get in the way of my usual off-work wardrobe, which can most easily be characterized as "nothing." An argument for Pasco County, Florida, which has more bare skin per square mile than any other place in the country?
So I thought of that briefly, to the extent that one can think of something briefly without being anywhere near a pair of briefs — before you ask, no, but I did go commando yesterday — and it dawned on me that my car has leather seats. (Did I ever? Well, yes, but I threw a towel on the seat for reasons I think should be obvious.) Besides, Dr Melfi (not her real name) insists that my most immediate need right now is for some form of romantic-adjacent companionship, and I already know what it's like to live with someone who quails at stripping to take a showr.
"Movie star," of course, is out of the question: at best, I look like Walter Brennan sounded, and if I have any other talents related to the entertainment industry, I'm not aware of them. Once upon a time, a genuine Hollywood producer bounced a sitcom idea off me, believing I could somehow write the character he had in mind. Another time, an editorial type, seeing something in my barbaric yawps he liked, offered me a copy-editor slot at a great, or at least profitable, metropolitan newspaper. But maybe two out of every zillion story ideas end up on the air, and that newspaper is now part of a chain which thrives on outsourcing all the editorial functions. Either way, there's a lot to be said the idea of knowing where my next paycheck is coming from.
So maybe where I am is where I need to be, at least through 2019. Perhaps I'll dig out a Billy Joel album or two to help pass the time. I'll have to include this one, of course.
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Copyright © 2019 by Charles G. Hill