Monday, July 28, 2014

Song of the Day: Billy Joel - Allentown

Here's a little blast from the past, from one of my favorite singers.

"Billy Joel - Allentown"

Why this song, why now?  Well, I don't need any excuse to post any song I feel like, of course.  But in this case, the song is prompted by a recent visit to ... Allentown, Pennsylvania!

I had a trip to western New Jersey to visit a vendor (everything has to be made somewhere!), and I really didn't want to fly into Newark or La Guardia.  It turns out that flying to Allentown was just as cheap and just as close, and a lot simpler.  So that's what I did.

Initial reaction driving from the airport was that it was a typical, old, northeastern town.  Hilly, narrow roads not in the best of shape.  Then I drove to my meetings in New Jersey.

On the way back, due to flight schedules, I had an early morning return flight the following day, so I stayed a night in Allentown.  Booked a hotel downtown, with the intention of checking out the city a bit, do a little walking, see what it was all about.

Well, Allentown is a dump.  At least that is my impression.  Not even a cool downtown area with some good bars and restaurants.  Basically, the Billy Joel song paints a bleak picture of Allentown, and my opinion is that the city doesn't even live up to that bleak picture.

I asked about restaurants at the front desk, and was told about a brew pub, a Jamaican place, a Thai place, and a soul food place.  The brew pub was described as 150 steps in that direction, and the other restaurants were described similarly--all very close.  Why the mention of steps?  Well, not 1/4 of a block outside of the hotel a panhandler came up to me.  I think the hotel staff wanted to emphasize that the restaurants were very close.  Just fight through the riff-raff, you'll be there soon!

Anyway, I didn't feel like walking the city at all after seeing it.  The brew pub, Allentown Brew Works, was both very nice and very close, so that's where I ate.  It was Friday night, and the place was half empty.  Not a lively downtown.

Back at the hotel, I had a drink at the hotel bar.  The guy next to me strikes up a conversation.  He's wearing a suit, wearing some jewelry/bracelets, doing okay for himself it seems.  Turns out he's from Venezuela.  I've been to Venezuela and know a little about it so we had a decent conversation.

He came to the U.S., to Allentown, in 1999.  And he LOVES Allentown!  Cheap place to live, money to be made (he's in banking, he said), close to New York and Philadelphia.  He leaves his door open during the day, he claimed, so he must be in a nice neighborhood.

So you never know.  I could be completely wrong about Allentown.

On the other hand, he said that he voted for Chavez in Venezuela before he left for the U.S., back when he was 19.  So this guy may be completely and totally full of shit.

I repeat.  You just never know.