Billy Joel is in my town tonight. My initial reaction to this news was to shrug and roll over. It’s not really anything new to have celebrities roll through as they check out the many attractions that the Hudson Valley has to offer. In fact, many well-known celebrities have homes around here. I’ve heard stories from friends who ran into so-and-so while they were working at the mall. I actually rode on a Trailways bus with Steve Buscemi when I was in grad school. Just a few weeks ago, the area was inundated with stars, such as Keanu Reeves, who were in town for the Woodstock Film Festival.
Welcome to the Neighborhood, Mr. Joel
I found out that Billy Joel was in town via the facebook wall of a local business owner. He posted a photo to prove it–he and Mr. Joel, posing in the municipal parking lot just outside of my apartment complex. I suppose that’s what piqued my curiosity. It isn’t so much that Billy Joel is in town, as it is that he’s in MY neighborhood. Is he just walking around, checking things out? That’s what it sounds like. The buzz at Dermot Mahoney’s Irish Pub was that Billy was riding around with his daughter on his motorcycle. That’s really all I’ve heard.
Walking Along the Rondout
When A. came home and told me he had seen the yacht, I got really curious. Feeling restless a little while ago, I decided to get up and go for a walk. It’s drizzling outside, so things are pretty quiet. I could hear the Kings of Leon playing over the system at Mariner’s Harbor. Besides that, the only sound was the occasional car driving over the bridge to Port Ewen. I walked down the street, past the Hudson River Maritime Museum. I saw the Rip Van Winkle docked in its usual spot…and then there it was. Right next to the Rip…this shiny boat,the Audacious, nicer than any I’ve seen. The first thing I noticed was the flickering of light through one of the windows on the lower level. Although the blinds were pulled shut, I could easily make out the glow of a flat screen TV mounted to the wall. I imagined Billy Joel, laying in bed watching TV, the same way I had been before my curiosity got the best of me.
Why is Billy Joel HERE?
I didn’t hang around for too long, because I didn’t want to seem like some weirdo stalker. I honestly just wanted to see the boat. Still, as I walked back to my apartment, the same question kept repeating in my mind. “Why is he here?”
People come to Kingston. I know that. I can’t shake the feeling though, that very few of them actually know Kingston. I mean, Billy Joel has this 95-foot yacht docked down the street, and just a few blocks away, I know Gary is curled up in his usual spot in the doorway of the empty storefront on Broadway. We’re in the midst of a gang epidemic…there seems to be a growing heroin addiction around here. The majority of Kingston’s residents make minimum wage at best. So WHY is Billy Joel here?
On Charity and Wealth
I don’t believe that people are required to be charitable. I don’t really think that anyone is entitled to what someone else has earned. At the same time, I believe that if you have an abundance, sharing the excess is simply the right thing to do.
I know that Billy Joel supports a number of charities and organizations. I don’t think he’s required to give us anything in order to come here…It just strikes me as odd, thinking how unlikely it is that he really knows what lies beneath the surface in this Hudson Valley town.
I’m thinking about all of the celebrities who spend time here. Who remark on the “charm” that the area holds. I’m thinking that if people really love it here so much, they should want to preserve and improve things however they can. Kingston is my home, where I’ve spent most of the last 28 years. My family has lived here for generations, and their tombstones line the hillsides. I know the names and layout of the streets. I can tell you what’s where, and what used to be there. This place is important to me…I don’t want it to be just another tourist attraction, where the wealthy reap the benefits while the residents suffer. For whatever reason, Billy Joel is docked down the street. I hope he likes things here enough to look beyond the surface. Get to know us. I hope this place holds a fraction of the importance for you as it does for me.