My Hamster Ate The Piano Man

Earlier this week, Tara and I helped out a close friend by delivering copies of her free publication, Portland Book Review, to a bunch of local businesses. We had had Chris over for dinner one day last week so she could meet my girlfriend. Chris and I go way back – once upon a time we were wage slaves in a call center for a health insurance organization together, and have remained friends and business associates over the years. Chris is almost like a sister to me, and she stood by and watched while I went through a series of less-than-ideal relationships, all while biting her tongue. (Though not always. She occasionally told me what an idiot I was for putting up with the stuff I did, but of course I never listened. We Taurus’s are stubborn like that). I am enjoying introducing my friends to Tara, and it was important to me that the two of them got along. Naturally, they did. At one point I found myself hunched over the kitchen sink washing dishes while the two of them gabbed on and on. Not exactly sure how that happened, but I didn’t mind.

Chris is the Editor-in-Chief of PBR, and needed help distributing the June issue. We agreed to deliver to a bunch of businesses on Hawthorne Boulevard, not only to help out a friend in need but also to give us an excuse to hang out on Hawthorne again, one of my favorite Portland neighborhoods. It was pretty cool, stopping by bars and cafes and bookstores and delivering copies of the paper. And it only took us a couple of hours, which gave us some free time to explore the area afterwards. We had heard about a record store called CrossRoads Music that houses thousands of titles for sale by various vendors, all under one roof, and decided to check it out. Tara and I are both big vinyl fans, and together have quite a record collection. The moment we walked through the doors of this place, we were in LP Heaven. We browsed for over an hour, only tearing ourselves away because it was time to pick the kids up from school, and walked away with about ten records between us. Good stuff, and most of them were priced at $4 or less. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Joel, Wings, The Who, Dire Straits, Jefferson Airplane, etc. All in excellent condition. I envision many return trips in the future.

My love affair with albums dates back to 1977. That summer Elvis Presley died, and though I was only eight years old, I quickly became a big fan of his music. The first record I ever bought was “C’mon Everybody.” Over the years, many more followed. I was into bands like Journey and Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles and (sigh) Culture Club back then. One of my favorites was Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, a two-record set that contained all of The Piano Man’s greatest hits. Up until 1986, at least.

Don’t be fooled by that cute face. He’s got really sharp teeth!

At the time, I owned a hamster. I kept him in a cage in my bedroom, and while he was a cute little bugger, the laps he ran on that squeaky wheel in the middle of the night drove me bonkers and kept me awake. In retrospect, I don’t know why I wanted a hamster so badly in my senior year of high school. I’m not a big fan of rodents, and while hamsters are furry and soft, they also smell and you have to – gasp! – clean their cages often. Plus, it’s not like you can have them fetch a stick or sit on command. Still, I liked my hamster well enough.

Until one day, when he escaped from his cage.

The ingenious little bastard animal had climbed atop his wheel, nudged the screen lid off his cage, and climbed out. When I discovered he was missing, I searched high and low for the critter. The trail grew warm when I opened my closet door and found a hole in the cardboard box that contained my records.


I loved this album. Unfortunately, it was rendered unplayable thanks to the large holes my hamster chewed through the vinyl.

There he was, making himself a second home amongst my LPs. I grabbed him and returned him to his cage. Then, as I was flipping through my albums, I discovered that the furry little devil had chewed a hole through the Billy Joel record. Not just the cardboard sleeve, but the vinyl itself. Both albums.

Arrgh. My hamster ate The Piano Man!

Those records, of course, were unplayable after that. And I was not a happy camper. Soon after, it no longer mattered anyway. Records went the way of the dinosaur. I put mine into storage and amassed a large collection of CDs instead. I assumed albums were dead. Mine didn’t see the light of day for 25 years. And then, a funny thing happened. They started to make a comeback. I bought a Crosley turntable a couple of years ago and dragged my records out of storage. They were in surprisingly good – almost pristine – condition.

Except for the Billy Joel album, of course. It’s hard to listen to “It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll To Me” when there’s a ragged, chewed-up hole in the middle of the song. So I finally tossed that album. Fortunately, with places like CrossRoads Music and other groovy (pun intended) record stores all over Portland, I’m pretty sure I can replace it easily enough.

In the meantime, I will always remember the hamster who was cute as hell – but a real pain in the ass.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

21 thoughts on “My Hamster Ate The Piano Man

  1. “Don’t be fooled by that cute face. He’s got really sharp teeth”


    Well, as I shared with you on my post, I adore Billy Joel (especially his “Stranger” album).Therefore if this had happen to me, I would have been equally as upset.

    What a sacrilege!

    And I honestly can’t believe he CHEWED through an LP?!?!? He must of had teeth like a shark!

    “I assumed albums were dead. Mine didn’t see the light of day for 25 years. And then, a funny thing happened. They started to make a comeback.”

    OMG…that reminded me of a time before I moved back east and took my whole LP collection ( which was HUGE) and tossed them into a dumpster because I thought they were gone for good. I don’t even want to think of how much I could have sold them for when I was broke.

    Oh well, live and learn, I guess.


    1. Oh, Ron. I cringe whenever I hear stories about people tossing their albums in the trash. I did that with my cassettes, but for some reason could never let go of the records. Good thing, too.


  2. That’s even better than my rodent story. I had a gerbil that chewed a hole in my gym shorts. My PE teacher never did buy it. I always had an excuse for not dressing down.

    Piano Man is one of my favorite songs. Pure literary genius in those lyrics. (“And the piano, it sounds like a carnival, and the microphone smells like a beer. And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say ‘man, what are you doing here?'”) I wrote a blog post about it once.


    1. Somewhere, at some time, somebody’s dog really DID eat their homework. And I’m sure the teacher thought that was a bunch of bologna.

      Clicking on your link in a sec. I bought Billy Joel’s “Turnstiles” at CrossRoads Music the other day but have not yet replaced his Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2. In time, I’m sure. Love “Piano Man” myself!


  3. I remember those good old days of listening to records and singing along to the lyrics on the sleeve. I wish I would have kept my records :-/


  4. Darn rodents…I gotta tell ya…I probably would have thrown him outside…and I like hamsters!

    I think it’s so awesome that you guys are so into vinyl. I personally think there is nothing better to listen to than a vinyl record. Who cares about the hisses and pops…that’s what makes them so unique! And the linear notes are so totally awesome! You just don’t get them anymore….not like that!

    Sure makes me nostalgic. *Sigh*


    1. I agree with you on the hisses and pops. They add warmth and character to the music. Digital is too sterile!

      And I didn’t mention it in the post, but when my hamster went to the great rodent wheel in the sky (not long after he chewed through the record, though I swear I did not hasten his death in any way, shape or form) his “burial” consisted of me tossing him in the garbage. So much for sentimentality, eh?


    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Kathy! I got the inspiration while reading Ron’s post about hamsters. Sometimes a simple comment can lead to a whole blog post. I love it when that happens. You and Sara have a great weekend, too!


  5. There’s just something about listening to music on vinyl. My Dad recently gave me his collection (which I have drooled over for years) and I love putting them on and cranking up the volume to The Piano Man, Dan Fogelberg (certain songs), Zepplin and many others I used to sit and listen to when I was little. I shall keep in mind not to adopt a hamster though. Glad things are going well!!


  6. Monday was great…delivering the reviews and browsing LPs! Sure hope we get an excuse to go down there again soon. Although, do we really need an excuse to kick it on Hawthorne, other than just the want to go?

    And for the record (ha! pun intended), there will be no hamsters, gerbils, or any other rodents that can nibble on vinyl.


    1. You should talk, Miss I-ate-bologna-and-lived-to-tell-about-it-and-oh-by-the-way-when-I-go-hiking-I-drink-wine-from-a-canteen-when-I’m-not-busy-bashing-my-head-into-doorways. 🙂


  7. I’m sure you miss the album, but the incident did allow you to truthfully and meaningfully put together the words for the title of this post – not many of us could make such a claim!
    I had a hamster in my dorm room my senior year in college – the noisy nighttime escape attempts were really getting on my nerves, so I made a cushioned spot in my closet, left the door open a bit, and put the hamster in the little plastic running ball at night, wedged in among some towels – voila! no metal to chew on and make a racket.
    It worked for a while. Then one morning, I was quite surprised when I awoke to a hamster sitting on my chest looking into my face, evidently just waiting for me to wake up. She had chewed a hole in the plastic and crawled right out.


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