Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why I Owe My Life to Neil Diamond

In the climactic scene of the classic film Back to the Future, Marty McFly looks at his family picture and realizes that if his parents George and Lorraine don't dance, kiss, and fall in love at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance then his family would never be. I'm here to tell you today that without Neil Diamond, my family would never be.

I owe my entire life to Neil Diamond. Here is just a short list of gifts that Neil has given unto me:

He gave me a love of music. Some of the earliest memories of my life are singing "Sweet Caroline" in my front room, at my Grandpa's house, and in my Dad's Buick. My parents, Big J and Crazy Sue, were avid Neil Diamond fans. I remember listening to Neil records. Replacing those worn out records with 8-tracks. Trading in the busted up 8-tracks for cassettes and finally upgrading to compact discs.

He gave me a comedy bit. One of my favorite running gags when I get angry is the "I will rent my sleeve" threat. A normal person would suspect that I learned about the renting of sleeves in seminary or by studying the Old Testament. Nope. I discovered this by watching Neil Diamond in his tour de force performance in The Jazz Singer. In the film Neil plays Jess Robin, fledgling Rock Star and son of Rabbi Cantor Rabinovitch (Sir Laurence Olivier). Against his father's wishes Jess leaves his Jewish roots behind and heads to California in hopes of breaking into showbiz. During the film's most poignant scene, as Neil tries to say goodbye to the good Rabbi, he is strongly rebuked, his father rents his sleeve and proclaims, "I have no son." I must have watched that movie recorded from TV on an old VHS tape approximately 3,687 times (or maybe 10 my memory is a bit fuzzy) as a child. Fast forward about 10 years. I am now 17 and I have been waiting for the perfect moment to really take this bit to the next level. For a time I was able to drive the Gyllenskog Family's 1979 Ford Mustang. It was a great car. Loved it. However, shortly thereafter Kim and Aaron get married and some crazy car swapping begins. The Mustang goes to the Skousens. Kim and Aaron take the Skousens' Toyota Tercel and I'm left begging my mom for her car on the weekends. So one Saturday I'm informed that the Bells have decided to purchase a Subaru which means the Skousens are taking back their Tercel and the Mustang has just been returned to its rightful owner, me. The next day as I am sitting in Sacrament Meeting I find out that Kim and Aaron got cold feet and Kim somehow convinced the dealership to take back the Subaru. The Mustang is gone again and my dreams are shattered. I sit there. The rage builds. There is only one thing left to do. It makes perfect sense. I get Kim's attention, I mouth to her, "I have no sister" and I rent the sleeve of my white shirt. Right there in Sacrament Meeting. I ripped it right off. High comedy at its finest.

And last but not least, Neil gave me my family. On November 1st, 2001, Elise and I embarked out on our first real date. We arrived at the E-Center early. We knew there would be no opening band and we didn't want to miss a second. We were nervous. We were excited. Due to our seat location on the side of the arena we had to angle our bodies slightly to see the stage. Our knees touched. Our hands would brush each other at just the right moment. And then Neil came out. Did he rock the house? You bet your ass he did. Was it magic? Of course it was. As Neil led the crowd on the 23rd encore of "Sweet Caroline" Elise and I looked into each others' eyes. My mind raced. I saw myself as a child. I could see MY children in Elise's eyes. It was at that very moment that I KNEW we would be spending the rest of our lives together.

So here's to you Neil Diamond. Thanks for everything.


Corbie said...

Okay, I thought I owned the Obsessive Neil Diamond Fan title because Marti and I have seen Neil Diamond in concert together more times than I can count and her ringtone on my phone is Sweet Caroline. Plus, I take the box set on road trips and sing into my faux microphone (the cigarette lighter) until my kids beg for mercy. After reading your adorable Neil Diamond post, I happily turn over the crown...you win.

Jen said...

I wasn't realy on the Neil wagon, butI have to admit I bought the greatest hits album a couple of years ago after Kim was playing some tunes in the car, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Also, I had no idea anyone else loved that sweet V8 mustang as much as I did. It was wasted on Kim. She didn't appreciate the goodness.

Melissa said...

I have no words....

Other than...beautiful, touching, heartfelt. Yay...a masterpiece of love.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Somehow Neil Diamond was always writing a song about my life at the time the event was happening. I was able to retreat from harsh realities within his music and find peace in his words. Even now, over 37 years later, I play the songs that take me back to a simpler and happier time. Neil Diamond was always there for me whether he knew it or not.