Billy Joel Gets Waxed

We were in Mongolia to make a movie. It was a wild trip. In Ulaan Bataar, I met the Dali Lama (what really happened was he tipped his arrowed hands at me from behind the tinted window of his limousine, but still), visited the world tallest gold buddha, ate mutton over a hot rock stove in a ger (aka, a yert) and drank beer while watching street kids climb in and out of sewer tunnels, where they lived. We were in Mongolia to play hockey, but there was one problem: no ice. The Mongolian winter had been unseasonably warm, and it wasn’t until the last day that our director, Mike, found a frozen circle in a nearby amusement park. We iced two teams and played, and the camera caught everything on film. It was great fun– and, it turned out, good art; the movie later won a Genie Award for ‘Best Sports Doc’– and, on our last day there, our host, Pujee, took us to a disco. There were two discos, at the time, in UB: the ‘Let it Be’ and ‘Skylab’ discos. We went to Skylab, where we drank Mongolian vodka and listened to EuroPop and LiteTechno played over the enormous sound system in the empty hall. We met three women– one from France, one from Scotland, one from the USA– who were studying there, all around the same age, perhaps a bit younger than us, and we sat together. Pujee poured the drinks and we drank and drank and then, suddenly, the sound system came alive with the most unlikely of songs: ‘Uptown Girl’ by Billy Joel. Before that moment– before the drummer’s cracking snare shot through the cavernous hall– I hadn’t given Billy Joel a second thought, except to make gagging gestures whenever ‘Piano Man’ came on at the supermarket. But having been away from Western music and rock and roll, the song hit me with full force of the entire genre: the awesome handclaps, the ‘haaaaayayaaaas’ of the backing vocals, the glorious openness of the bridge, and the sudden realization that there isn’t a single guitar within ten miles of the mix (so why I am air-guitaring now?). The seven of us– three young women, three drunk film-makers and Pujee– pushed back our chairs and leapt to the dance floor. The person responsible for the club’s lightning saw this is as their moment, pulling every switch and toggle and filling the room with pinwheel lighting. We danced hard and shouted on “Ty-yi-yime!” and “My-yi-yind!” and Pujee took off his shirt, waving it around like a flag. The song ended and the bouncer came over. He told Pujee that, if he wanted to stay, he had to put his shirt back on. He did. The deejay played more songs but they weren’t nearly as much fun.

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