Billy Joel Wrote A Song About My Sister?
I was in high school, and it immediately became one of my favorite albums (and apparently other people's as well). And, although it faced some stiff competition from the artist's earlier "Piano Man" album, "The Stranger" features a song that has always been very special to me. Because it's a song about my sister. Well, at least to me, it is …
Back in 1977, when the album was released, I was a teenager and Black was one of the few women at NYU's business school (and would ultimately not only survive but thrive in the male-dominated oil and gas industry). She's always been very intelligent and very independent, never thinking twice about speaking her mind, although at times I thought it curious when she wouldn't have anything to say. (I was too young to realize it was a "strategic" decision as she knew some things are best left unsaid.)
So, imagine my reaction when Billy Joel's song "She's Always A Woman" came out, and I heard him singing about a woman who, as described by almost every single lyric, could be my sister. Of course, I knew the song wasn't really about her, and even though I could simply enjoy the song as yet another great Billy Joel song, I quietly smiled to myself at its "hidden meaning" for me.
And that memory lay dormant … until I was recently driving home from Austin and was listening to The Billy Joel Channel on Sirius. After all, could there be any better music to enjoy while on a road trip? (Well, since it's just under a three-hour drive, I guess it's not really a road trip, but you know what I mean.) Anyway, one of the things I love about this channel is how Joel describes the "backstory" to featured songs.
So, there I was, cruising down a particularly scenic stretch of Highway 71 outside of Bastrop, Texas, when I first heard Joel talk about how "She's Always A Woman" was about his wife at the time. A woman who was, as the song states, "ahead of her time," as she was a tough and savvy music executive back when women executives were a rarity. And while she displayed all the seemingly negative characteristics that the song talks about, he expressed, with some annoyance, how people would focus on those things, ignoring the song's title and how, to him, "She was always a woman to me." Punching out each word in the title of the song as if to say, "I think you missed the point of the song."
But it was his very last comment that made me laugh as it probably most reminded me of my sister, as I could imagine her saying it,
That's how it is in business … stop kvetching.
If you asked Black about National Pet Month, she’d probably quote you statistics about the number of people who have pets and the health benefits, conveniently “forgetting” what she told Red about unconditional love. But Red would tell you that she celebrates Moo (read the original post from 2021 below to learn about the other “unusual names” of her four-legged family members) every day, letting her know with a hug and a cuddle how much she’s loved.
|Well, this month marks 18 years since you changed my life, so I wanted to thank you. Again. For bringing such happiness into the lives of the girls and me, although some heartbreaking sadness, too. But there's nothing like unconditional love.|
|OK, but can you tell me what you are talking about?|
|Do you remember when I moved to Houston after living overseas, and we started going to the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio for Memorial Day weekend? You were married to Larry, and his girls were young, and Natasha and Sawyer were even younger. Well, in 2003 you asked me if it was OK if you got us a puppy.|
|You had always talked about getting a dog but wanted to have children first. The timing seemed right, but given your allergies, the options were limited. Until I learned about a new breed, well technically a mixed breed, originally developed in Australia to be hypoallergenic guide dogs.|
|I'll never forget you showing me photos of the most incredibly adorable dogs I'd ever seen. The fact Labradoodles were half standard poodle, which was what I had initially thought we'd get, and half Labrador Retriever was amazing. But only you could find the perfect dog from an article in a business magazine.|
|Fortune magazine. It was written by Andy Serwer back when he was Managing Editor (he now is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! Finance), and you never knew the topic – or angle – of his next piece. Sometimes serious, sometimes amusing, but always astute and worth reading. And, I actually saved that article.|
|Of course, you did. All I know is that starting with that day in the hotel, I was in love, first with the idea of the Labradoodle, then with the puppy pictures they sent us, and then with her. In fact, from literally the moment you and I picked her up at the airport and then came home and gently placed her next to an unsuspecting Natasha who was asleep on the sofa, she became the most loved member of the family.|
|If only people were as good at unconditional love as pets. Anyway, not only are pets a source of love and companionship, but studies – and science – have shown there are proven health benefits .|
|Well, I don't need a study to tell me how much, over the last 18 years, having Woof, and then Oink and Moo, has meant to the girls and me. And although I still find it upsetting to think of Woof's early passing in 2007, and Oink having left us this past summer still breaks my heart, I'm so grateful for all the memories and love that's still there.|
|I do not think we ever forget them. I still remember Mom's family dog, Buttons, a beautiful Irish Setter that Grandma Betty and Poppy Louie would sometimes bring to the house so she could run free in the backyard. She was almost as tall as me, but was very gentle, and always affectionate.|
|That's funny because our childhood dog, Yenta, was anything but affectionate. I know poodles have a reputation of being proud, and although I loved her, she wasn't the most lovable dog around. I just wanted her to be cuddly, but she wouldn't have any part of it. Instead, if a dog could put their nose up in the air and walk off with a royal air about them, that was her.|
|I prefer to think of it as being stubborn. And, independent. Both traits of poodles. And, may explain why she and I got along so well.|
|No comment. Except to remind pet owners that this is National Pet Month. So, what better time to show your pet how much you love them than to celebrate with them?|
Another year, another Masters golf tournament! Now, it’s been decades since I was glued to the TV watching golf every weekend. But this year, even though I barely recognize the names of the top Masters contenders, I can’t wait to watch the first foursome tee off. That might not seem to make sense, but the Masters always features an honorary starter, and this year it’s my favorite golfer, Tom Watson. And while my favorite Masters memory is of meeting Arnold Palmer (see below), my favorite golf memory is when my dad and I watched the 1977 British Open at Turnberry and Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus (by one stroke).
For golfers, spring means another Masters golf tournament. Last year, everyone talked about the 35th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’s amazing come-from-behind victory to claim his 18th major championship. What made it even more amazing was that, at 46, no one thought he would ever win another major. This year, the talk’s all about Tiger Woods (now 46) competing on the 25th anniversary of his first Masters win. It’s a comeback story straight out of Hollywood as a serious car accident 14 months ago initially left people wondering if he would survive, let alone ever play golf again. (Which is reminiscent of when Ben Hogan, one of golf’s all-time greats, came back after a horrific car accident in 1949 to win The U.S. Open in 1950.)
For most golf fans and lovers of great sports comebacks stories, those are inspirational examples of never giving up. And although I was in the crowd around the 18th hole in 1986 when Jack Nicklaus raised his putter in triumph, that was my second favorite Masters memory. And my greatest memory at the Masters didn’t actually take place at the Masters. Well, not at the golf course, anyway.
But first, I want to explain how I was able to go to the final round of the Masters that Sunday. It was due to the generosity and kindness of a total stranger that lived down the block from Augusta National Golf Club, home to the Masters. I met him that Saturday when I asked if I could possibly park in his driveway, as I was hoping to walk around and somehow find a ticket for sale. Later in the day, when I told him that I had no success, he said I could have his for Sunday. (To this day, I still shake my head in disbelief, but it does qualify as my third best Masters memory.)
So, what was my favorite memory? It’s when Jesse Haddock, the legendary golf coach at Wake Forest University (where I had graduated with a theater degree in 1984), replied to my letter saying that while he couldn’t help me get a ticket to the Masters, I was invited to Wake Forest’s annual golf alumni reception they always held during Masters week. I decided that alone was worth the plane ticket and a few nights at a motel, so off I went, thinking that perhaps I’d meet PGA players (and Wake Forest alums) Jay Haas or Curtis Strange or even Lanny Wadkins. Never dreaming that my expectations were, well, set a bit low,
Shortly after Jesse introduces himself and gives me a hug, he takes me by the elbow and tells me there’s someone he’d love for me to meet. An instant later, all I can think of is how much I can’t wait to call my dad later that night. (This was in the days before cell phones.) However, first I have to smile and pose for a photo, as I’m now standing between one of the greatest college golf coaches of all time and certainly the greatest Wake Forest alumni golfer, not to mention one of the world’s greatest golfers, ever, Arnold Palmer.
Repeat After Me ... Every Day Is Groundhog Day.
It’s Groundhog Day. Again! A day that reminds me of a great movie with a great message (see my thoughts below). Again. And this year, it reminds me that I have great friends. Now, you may wonder, what does that have to do with Groundhog Day? Well, a few years ago, I visited one of my dearest friends when she was living in Woodstock, IL, where the movie, “Groundhog Day” was filmed. Standing in the town square on a snowy night with one of my best friends is a day (well, technically a night) I’d be happy to repeat. Again and again.
Yes, I know that Groundhog Day was last week. But truth be told, on the actual day, I almost forgot that it was Groundhog Day. Until Black, on our morning phone call (we talk almost every morning – sometimes specific Red & Black items, sometimes current events, sometimes just "life") wishes me, "Happy Groundhog Day." Well, these days, every day feels like Groundhog Day, so I thought she was just being sarcastic, which wouldn't be unusual. When I started to reply with something like "yeah, same ole, same ole", I paused, because I realized, it really was Groundhog Day.
But even if Black hadn't brought it to my attention, there was still no escaping Groundhog Day, as beside it being mentioned on the morning shows, I noticed that one of the movie channels had the movie "Groundhog Day" on all day. Literally all day, as in on a loop (which seemed appropriate). It was ok with me, as it's one of my all-time favorite movies.
For me, the movie has everything. A great cast (Bill Murray was true perfection and I hope they never, ever do a remake because no one can top him), a great script that somehow made a very simple storyline come alive, and subtle messaging. Yes, each day is the same. Sounds boring. But no, because even with the same day every day there are nuances of humor, of sadness, of happiness, of goodness, of badness. And decisions to be made, or not made. Do you do the right thing, the easy thing, the unexpected thing? Do you think about yourself or others?
Yes, I know, my theater degree is showing. (Something Black claims I rarely use, except when I'm being, well, theatrical.) But it's an accurate analysis, and when I watched "Groundhog Day" for the umpteenth time this Groundhog Day, it was through the lens of the last year and the coronavirus. When I thought every day was the same. But watching the movie, again, made me realize it really isn't. Because each day gives us new opportunities to make decisions, both big and small. Each day, in its own way, is a gift. And although almost every day this last year has felt like we're living our own personal "Groundhog Day", at the same time it has taught us so much.
And this time, even though I've seen the ending countless times, it really made me stop and think …
That if we're lucky, maybe, like Bill Murray's character, who ultimately found patience and then happiness in appreciating what was there, not tomorrow, but today … that we find happiness today but also see that our "Groundhog Days" will one day be over. And that all our "todays" are making opportunities for tomorrow's new beginnings.