Georgia on My Mind

Last Thursday night, I posted the following to Facebook…

Clay is currently delayed at the Atlanta airport waiting for his flight to DC so he can get home in time for us to leave at 5am for….(drumroll)….Atlanta.

It was past midnight by the time he walked through the door but he was home (yay!) After finishing some last minute packing, we settled into a peaceful slumber until our children demanded our presence at 3:00am. We were able to divide and conquer and as we met in the hall after successfully putting the little ones back to sleep we decided to go ahead and get the show on the road. Our offspring continued to sleep as we did adult things like shower, drink coffee, and set up the car top carrier. So by 5:00am, we were southbound on I-95 enjoying the near empty roads and watched the sun rise over Richmond.


The infamous Gaffney peach (now known to more thanks to House of Cards) sighting occurred early afternoon, which means we pulled into my parents driveway at 3:30pm, just in time to watch the sky open up and dump sheets of water for miles. No lake activities for us that day – womp womp. My cousins, Matt and Nick, were in town visiting from California and Michigan respectively, along with their fiancees so we spent the rest of the evening catching up and fighting to stay awake past 9:00pm.


Saturday ended up being a nice day weather-wise so we spent the majority of our time outside. My sister, Julie, and her husband, Zach, and my brother, Scott, his wife, Kelly, and sweet little baby Emma joined us for the weekend as well. Growing up in Phoenix, I spent many hours on our family boat at Lake Pleasant and Bartlett Lake. So while Clay and I have no plans to own a boat while he is in the Army, I’m happy that our children will be exposed to the lake life whenever we visit my parents. They moved to northern Georgia as I was finishing up my time at Clemson so when we visit, I don’t feel ties to the area beyond ‘this is where my parents live now‘ but I do enjoy having access to the lake.


Due to a necessary wave runner rescue mission, Violet was able to take her first boat ride on Saturday morning. It was fairly windy so she was a little unsure but she didn’t cry so I consider it a success! For those unfamiliar, Lake Lanier is a large man-made lake in northern Georgia and named after Sidney Lanier. A poet, he wrote Song of the Chattahoochee to celebrate the beauty found in north Georgia along the Chattahoochee River {Out of the hills of Habersham, Down the valleys of Hall, I hurry amain to reach the plain, Run the rapid and leap the fall…”}. The valleys of Hall became what is now known as Lake Lanier when the Army Corps of Engineers damned the Chattahoochee in 1956.


The rest of the afternoon, evening, and night was spent poolside.


Angie and Abbie – the two newest members of the family!


And of course, no get-together down south isn’t complete with some smoked pork.

On Sunday morning we said goodbye to our cousins and their betrothed and lounged around outside before Clay and I headed to the Atlanta airport so he could catch a flight back to DC. We stopped at Lennox Square for an early dinner and fought a ridiculous amount of traffic before arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson.


Megan, Mike, Mikey, and McKayla flew into Atlanta on Tuesday so the kids and I have just been hanging out and taking advantage of extra sets of hands. Clay flies back into town on Friday evening (woohoo), we are having a big family celebration on Saturday, and then on Sunday morning, Clay and I leave for our kid-free vacation of the summer (insert backflips, bullhorns, and air-streamers). I believe the Pointer Sisters said it best – I’m so excited!

The Billy Joel Experience

On Saturday night, I fulfilled a dream I’ve had ever since discovering my parents’ Billy Joel vinyl records in the 4th grade (my birthday present that year was a stereo with a record player). Whether you know him as The Piano Man, The Entertainer, or An Innocent Man, Billy Joel is a music icon who performs one hell of a show. Clay and I both agree that it was the best concert we’ve attended and we won’t hesitate to see him again. Two words can easily sum up the show – absolutely amazing.


The sold-out concert was at Nationals Park – we went with our friends, Chris and Christine, who have the same affinity for Billy Joel. The four of us are not fair-weather fans (e.g. I danced with my Dad at our wedding to Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) and Clay and I once spent a 16-hour road trip only listening to the entire Billy Joel catalog) and we were thrilled to share the experience with good company.


While on the metro into the city, we learned the majority of fellow riders were on their way to the concert as well. Our train car was a great representation of the concert-attendees – young and old fans alike. We chatted with one couple who attended their first Billy Joel concert in 1972 (!) and have attended countless shows since. We met up with Chris and Christine at the Fairgrounds and enjoyed some ice-cold beers on the ridiculously hot evening before entering the ballpark.


Once inside, we had some time before the 8:00pm start time so we waited in line for our first Shake Shack experience. Clay fancies himself somewhat of a burger aficionado so he was eager to see how hipster-loving Shake Shack burgers stacked against others (verdict: the shake was decent, the fries were unremarkable, and the burgers were pretty darn delicious). Chris and Clay almost ordered the Shroom Burger but thankfully discovered last minute that it was the vegetarian offering and not made of beef - phew. We ate our dinner, grabbed a couple more beers, and headed to our seats. photo-3

While they were on the upper deck, our seats did have an incredible view of the stadium and we had no problem viewing the action on stage. Gavin Degraw was the opening act and did a great job – despite not owning any of his albums, I enjoyed his set, especially Best I’ve Ever Had. At 9:00pm the sky was dark, the air just a little bit cooler, and Billy Joel walked out on stage to thunderous applause, sat down at the piano, and began to play A Matter of Trust.


Like I said earlier, the show was amazing. Billy Joel is a true entertainer – he interacted with the crowd between songs, often offering insight to the lyrics or melody of a particular song. He kept a flyswatter on his piano and used it when necessary (let’s face it, Washington DC was built on a swamp. A swamp!). Billy Joel made sure to highlight his band members throughout the show (Mark Rivera and Crystal Taliefero were insanely good) and he didn’t hesitate to joke with the crowd. Before one song, he informed us that we could sing along if we were “able to keep up with the lyrics.” Of course everyone thought he was going to play We Didn’t Start the Fire and the crowd exploded. And then he launched into She’s Always a Woman. After finishing, he jumped off the piano bench, grabbed a guitar, and catapulted into We Didn’t Start the Fire. He also toyed with the crowd before Piano Man, playing a variety of melodies before settling into the well-known chords. Much to our delight, we were also treated to rendition of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell by Chainsaw, a longtime roadie of Billy Joel. And halfway through Goodnight Saigon, Vietnam Veterans filled the stage and were treated to a standing ovation for the rest the song. A chilling moment, for sure. Billy Joel is known for playing his hits but with a catalog as large as his, there is no way he can play everything. I’ve been stalking his set lists of previous shows this tour so we all went into the concert with our long-shot hopefuls. We were thrilled to hear The Downeaster Alexa but sad that I Go to Extremes and And So It Goes didn’t make the cut this time around. We weren’t disappointed though because it just gives us an excuse to see him again, which we definitely will! It was just an amazing experience.

Setlist – Billy Joel, Nationals Park, July 26, 2014

  1. A Matter of Trust
  2. Pressure
  3. The Entertainer
  4. An Innocent Man
  5. Zanzibar
  6. New York State of Mind
  7. The Downeaster Alexa
  8. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
  9. Goodnight Saigon
  10. Allentown
  11. My Life
  12. She’s Always a Woman
  13. We Didn’t Start the Fire
  14. Highway to Hell (Chainsaw)
  15. Don’t Ask Me Why
  16. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
  17. The River of Dreams
  18. Piano Man
  19. Uptown Girl
  20. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
  21. Big Shot
  22. You May Be Right
  23. Only the Good Die Young