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Better Than Drinking Alone

By Susannah Q. Pratt

Two days after the election, I’m standing alongside a grand piano in an upscale New Orleans bar, preparing to sing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” accompanied by (wait for it…) a man on the piano.

For someone who is reluctant to karaoke, this impromptu performance is more than a little out of character.

     A wicked nostalgia has been accumulating in me as my children approach adolescence and my country descends into chaos. Joel’s song, with its cynicism and sentimentality, is the perfect crescendo. A nod from my accompanist is my cue; I begin to sing.

     • • •

     In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine issued a list of the top 500 songs of all time. That “Piano Man” makes the list (albeit at #429) is not surprising to me. My twelve-year-old is playing it on the piano and I still like it. In fact, if this isn’t one of Rolling Stone’s selection criteria, it should be. Anyone who has listened to the halting progress of a child learning a song on the piano knows exactly what I am talking about.

     “It’s nine o’clock on a....”

     “It’s nine o’clock on a Saturd…”

     “It’s nine…”


About the Author

Susannah Q. Pratt is a Chicago-based author whose essays have appeared on literary websites including Full Grown People, Literary Mama, and Third Coast Review, among others. She’s also a regular contributor to the blog over at Ruminate Magazine. Inspired by everyday cultural material—music, film, maps, Barbie dolls—she’s interested in how shared artifacts become jumping off points for larger conversations about meaning. She believes in the power of writing to explain and explore the many ways in which we belong to one another. Find her at