Monday, August 24, 2015

Hot August Nights

Alternate blog titles: Shine Bright Like a Diamond...or...I Squeal for Neil. But it's August. And the evening temperatures are high. So why the heck not?

A friend once told me, "There are two kinds of people in the world, Neil Diamond fans and closet Neil Diamond fans." I believe this to be true. I know there are people who would try to deny it. But they're just not looking deep enough inside their closets. Of this, I am convinced.

If you can't tell, I am the former kind of person. I first fell in love with Neil when I was about 13. Sweet Caroline. Shilo. Forever in Blue Jeans. Cracklin' Rosie (although for years I thought she was a stalwart woman, not a store bought one.) I heard the songs on the radio. Loved them. Loved him. It may not have been cool to be obsessed with Neil Diamond in the days of Bon Jovi and Depeche Mode. But I was anyway. At least I thought I was. And then, when I was about 17 years old, my parents got me his In My Lifetime CD box set. Sigh.

That was when I really knew. I mean, before that, our relationship was in the early stages. He made me giggle. And gave me butterflies. But I would never have dared let him see me without my aqua eyeliner on. (Cut me some slack. It was the early 90's.)

But once I listened (with insane frequency) to all 3 discs of the box set? Well, something changed. Our love grew deeper. The comfortable, he-really-gets-me kind of love. We laughed together. We cried together. We skipped over America together. (I don't hold it against him, but let's just say: not a favorite.) At that point, I knew it was really love. The kind where we could share secrets and sequin shirts. The kind where he would hold my hair and bring me ginger ale when I threw up. (He might. You don't know!)

The man is a lyrical genius. With a voice as powerful as the low rumble of thunder; as soft and piercing as a lover's whisper. The showmanship of Barnum+Bailey×Mick Jagger. The bare-chested awesomeness of Al Pacino à la Scarface. And the eyebrows of a Muppet. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

His songs spoke to me then. They speak to me now. And as a tribute to my first love (except for maybe jelly bracelets and Jake Ryan) I give you 3 of My Very Favorite Neil Diamond Songs.

1. I Am...I Said.
It first touched me as an awkward teenage girl trying to find her place in the world. Feeling the emptiness deep inside that only an adolescent thinks they can truly feel. "Like, nobody gets me, okay!"

Then when I moved in my early 20's to Southern Utah from Southern California (which is 400 miles apart geographically and 4,000,000 miles apart in almost every other way.) Then I really knew what it was like to be lost between two shores. Even if they were just the shores of the Pacific on one side and Cedar City's own Coal Creek on the other.

Now the song speaks to me because I am a mother. And no one ever hears what I say. Not even the chair.

2. Play Me.
Again with the adolescent longings. The dreams of someday finding someone (hopefully John Cusack) who is the moon to your sun, the words to your tune. Could there BE anything more romantic? No, no there could not.

Then you date a little. And live a little. And start to wonder if this person actually exists. (And come to terms with the fact that it will not be John Cusack.) And if you're lucky, you do find someone who is totally willing to not just put up with you, but maybe even love your crazy, neurotic self in the process. (And tolerate your borderline-unhealthy obsession with Neil Diamond.) And you decide that maybe that's better than a moon.

And then you have kids. And you would sell your soul if they would just go to bed. And you spend hours in negotiation talks with the tiny hoarders until you agree to let them keep their garbage for "just 3 days" and put the stickers from their new clothes on your bedroom mirror. And bribe them with everything that is in your power to give, just to get them out of the car when they suddenly decide they "don't wanna go to school."

Then, and only then, do you find out what it really is to be played.

3. Hell Yeah.
This one is more recent. No angst-y teenage stories for you here. It's no Soolaimon. Not a super catchy tune or a great one to sing along with. But awesome and empowering in it's own right.

Neil is an old friend. And one I trust implicitly. For advice. For comfort. For karaoke. So when he says,

I hear you wondering out loud
Are you ever gonna make it?
Will you ever work it out?
Will you ever take a chance
And just believe you can?

Hell yeah you will
You're gonna be okay
And you might get lost
But then you'll find a way

Well, I believe him. 

And I sing this one to myself a lot lately. Because every tiny feat I accomplish these days feels like a major miracle. Turned my homework in on time? Made dinner? Remembered where we keep the vaccuum cleaner? Sent the kids to school wearing both socks AND shoes? Hell yeah, I did.

Are there only 3 Neil Diamond songs that I love? No way. And though there are a couple I could live without (Oh Heartlight. Why? Just why?) For the most part, they are all my favorite. At different times and for different reasons.  

A Solitary Man? Not if I have anything to say about it.


  1. I, too, love me some Neil Diamond, but sadly not with the breadth and depth which you so beautifully describe here. (And thanks to you, I know who he is at all...if not for your influence, I probably wouldn't even know who sang "Sweet Caroline," or who the original singer of "Red, Red Wine" was. That's just a scary thought.) Simple as it is, my love for Neil Diamond can be summed up in 5 words: Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show. It's a pack up the babies and grab the old ladies kind of love. Halle halle.

    1. One of the Top 10 Greatest Moments of My Entire Life will always be singing the You Don't Give Me Flowers duet with you at your work party. Sigh. Good times. Good times.