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.
Photograph of Jackie Aguilera courtesy of Jackie Aguilera


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I have a confession to make, which I’m sure will make you roll your eyes.


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Interesting caveat and probably true.


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Every time we meet with Jackie (Aguilera) from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy and hear what she’s doing in the world of adult education, I feel like I’m back in school and having to take copious notes.


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I am more than happy to send you “homework assignments” as I come across relevant articles and research.


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Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick to taking notes. But that does explain why you’re so knowledgeable about literacy.


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But, reading information is very different from being at the forefront of literacy innovation. And, if we had never met Jackie, I never would have realized how literacy is more than the dictionary definition, and encompasses more than just reading and writing.
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Photo by Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash

As Black knows, going to the movies is my escape (and even sends me research about it), but she also knows that it’s all about the popcorn. So, it should come as no surprise that’s how I like to celebrate my birthday. And even though she’s not one to “celebrate” birthdays, she does indulge (or maybe the word is “tolerate”) people who do, and whenever my birthday falls on a workday, she gives me “permission” to escape to the movies.

Which is what I’m doing today on my milestone birthday, and although the “rerun” part of this post (below the line) was from last November, some things never change. Except … this year, as I’ll be waiting for the movie to start (and waiting to start eating my popcorn as I refuse to eat even a single kernel beforehand), I know I’ll be wondering, “How did I get to be 60 years old?!”

It's a running joke in my family that the only reason I go to the movies is for the popcorn. And while that isn't 100% true, it's probably close as I can't remember a time when popcorn wasn't an essential part of the experience. (I'll admit I couldn't believe it when I recently read that South Korea's banning movie popcorn in the theater!)

I can still remember seeing "Young Frankenstein" when it was first released (in 1974) at the Massapequa movie theater, which was literally at one end of an old strip shopping center. It bore no resemblance to the multiplex cinemas of today, and the concession stand offerings were very limited. It was dark and a bit dingy, and the seats were old and uncomfortable. But I didn't care because the popcorn made up for it. And while I sat through multiple showings of the movie (hey, it's still one of my favorites), I was grateful that my dad had given me enough money to get multiple popcorns as in those days, there was no such thing as the big bucket, let alone free refills.

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Photos by Red


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I know you’ll roll your eyes, but it made me smile when I found not one, but two, of Daddy’s typewriters at Mom’s house. It just brought back so many memories.


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I remember the old black one, which is probably long gone, before Daddy “modernized” and got an electric one. I remember taking typing class. And, I remember pulling an all-nighter to write, or technically “type”, my M.B.A. thesis the night before it was due.


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I still can’t believe you did that. Too bad you couldn’t turn in the handwritten version.
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