I clutch my sauvignon blanc and circle the bar tentatively, shrinking into myself the way I did as a teenager. For me, Billy Joel always conjures up high school; after dropping out in 1967, he received a diploma from my alma mater, Hicksville High School, in 1992, thanks to his lyrics satisfying the English requirement; as a ninth-grader two years prior, I endured a three-day unit on "We Didn't Start the Fire." A stretch of my hometown's main drag might be named after him, although the fact that he's not dead yet is holding back the rechristening.
It's a little after six on a sultry Tuesday evening, and the Champions sports barnestled inside the Long Island Marriott is packed with an unusual crowd. The walls are lined with memorabilia from the New York Islanders, who up until a few days ago called the crumbling Nassau Coliseum next door home; beneath the jerseys and photographs, sweaty men ask for Grey Goose and tonic. At 6:30 almost exactly, "Keeping the Faith," Billy Joel's irritated 1983 paean to the days of stickball and 45s, blares from the bar's speakers, its horns crackling in between seating announcements.