The Downeaster Alexa Echo

I‘ve written a love letter to Billy Joel throughout the pages of Moose, exposing my undying love of his music. Billy Joel is from the town of Oyster Bay—where I live now, here on Long Island, where I was raised. And here’s what I just did. “Alexa, play Billy Joel’s Downeaster Alexa.” Oh, the joy. I now have all Billy Joel songs playing in my living room as I type this. Though it’s maybe best not to sing along to Downeaster Alexa with Alexa nearby.

When I was in middle school, I wrote a paper about the future. Specifically I wrote about the year 2010, when we’d be able to talk to our homes. I was mesmerized by the possibility, and now it’s here.

Alexa isn’t just in my living room playing classical music and thunderstorm sounds as my kiddos do their homework. She’s in my bedroom, by way of the dot. She’s in my kitchen playing Audiobooks as I prepare dinner or wash dishes. Every morning, she tells me the weather and the news, tells me the open hours of any local business, lists nearby movie times and tells me about specific movies. She’ll tell me who the director or writer was of any movie. She plays 20 Questions with the kids and reads them bedtime stories. Hot damn, she’ll tell me the number of the kids’ orthodontist when I’m too lazy to look it up in my contacts (I’m so sick). If I don’t know the name of a song, I can say, “Alexa, play me that song that’s about Scrabble.” Then, as fast as that I hear Lorraine Feather’s Scrabble song (it’s weird). Or, “Alexa, play me Otis Redding songs.” Oh baby, now we’re talking. You can also name Alexa anything you want. “God, turn on my lights.”

My amazing home setup:
Amazon Echo in my living room. Mine is white because I’m racist.
Amazon Dot in my bedroom.
Logitech Harmony Hub this hub allows you to control your TV, video game consoles, lights, and other devices through your smart phone and with just your voice using Alexa.
Philips Hue bridge, dimmer switch, motion detector, and smart light bulbs. Rather than spend $60 per bulb with a Lifx wireless bulb that doesn’t need a hub or bridge, I opted for the Philips Hue bridge that controls up to 50, $14 bulbs.
Amazon Music Unlimited (Free 30-day Trial). Gives you all songs on command, vs. Amazon Prime Music which is much more limited.
Audible Audiobooks (Free 30-day Trial plus 2 Free Audiobooks)

You can also get voice-activated Alexa-compatible video security systems, thermostats, carbon monoxide alarms, doorbells, door locks, blinds, fans, vacuums, dishwashers, ovens, lives. INSANE.

This post contains affiliate links. And no, I’m not actually racist for all those who don’t read me the way I intend.



  1. So – have you ever read Orwell’s 1984? I often wondered how anyone could gain control of seemingly free-spirited, independent people. I was sure I would resist such coercion. However, I – like everyone else – am strangely glued to my iPhone. Or my iPad. Or my laptop. I have given away all of my free will willingly and eagerly. If you think about it, now ‘technology’ knows everything about us. How much we weigh. How fast our heart beat is. How many steps we take in a day and exactly where we go (both walking and driving). It knows what music we want, and when we want it. It knows how we spend our money, get our money and keep our money. It has photos of everything important to us, knows our age, our social security numbers, our birth dates, every password ever created. It knows if we’ve been sleeping. It knows when we’re awake. It reads our e-mails, our phone calls…and now with Alexa…it listens to us all the time. All. The. Time.

    The other day I had a meeting in a neighboring ski town. The woman I was meeting came in flushed and breathless and excused herself to go to the restroom to take off her winter gear. Turns out – she got up at dawn, put on her skis and made her way to their snowmobile, and then rode that into town. Granted, we live in the mountains, but we all have a car. She’s gone completely off the grid. She and her husband live 20 miles outside of any town. No electricity. No running water. No phones. No computers. No credit cards. She has waist length dred-locks, is happy and healthy and has an amazing appetite.

    We visited for a while, and I asked if she had been raised this way. She said that she had been raised in an upper middle class Iowa home, and had raised her children the same way. When they graduated from high school – she remarried and took to the hills with her now husband.

    How, you ask, did she find me to set up a meeting? She wants to volunteer for my charity, and had done so in Iowa. She cross-country skied to the library and e-mailed me from there. A fascinating woman, to be sure.

    I have zero desire to ever go off the grid, but meeting her did give me pause as I realized just how much of myself I have voluntarily offered up to ‘Big Brother’…whoever that is. In a rare moment of conspiracy theory indulgence, I wonder if we are being placated into this parasitic relationship, and as long as we have benevolent overlords, we’re safe. But we all saw the election…change is coming.

    1. Author

      So interesting, not just the woman but the ominous warning about change coming. As someone who has always put myself “out there,” I cannot complain about privacy. Though, I will say that I’m not always on my phone or ipad or computer. The kids are allowed no electronic devices, no video games, no TV during the week. On weekends, we observe a “digital sabbath,” where from sundown on Friday night to sundown Saturday night we don’t use our emails or texts or any social media checking, etc. We shut down our computers.

      Last night, as a family we played Settlers of Catan. A board game about gathering (and trading) resources on the secluded island of Catan.

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