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Far, I’ve been traveling far

Far, I’ve been traveling far

May 1, 2008

I exceeded bandwidth last month. Oooops.

When I was in college I spent a summer in western Africa studying art. The culture shock was, well, shocking. Some things were hard to process because there was no framework for which to put the experiences into. And so some of the memories sort of hang out there in my brain, alone, until something triggers them and pulls them back to the forefront of my memory.

The other night we were watching American Idol when Neil Diamond came on. My older children groaned a bit. “Do you like that music?” one of them asked.

Rob answered, “Well, I don’t particularly love him. But your mother does. Ask her to sing his repertoire.”

I had to admit that Neil Diamond holds a special place in my heart.

On my last day on the African continent, ever since I have yet to go back, we were back in the city in our hotel room supposedly resting before our flight left. You have to remember that this was in the days before digital music, digital cameras, laptops, heck CDs were not even popular yet. So for this entire summer no one in our travel group had any access to music, news, messages from home.

The television had nothing on to watch other than state run programs that weren’t in English and a non-stop porn station. My friend Katie and I had turned it on and stood there gaped mouth until I finally turned to her and said, “I don’t even know what that is that they are showing.” She didn’t know either. Until they showed us a different camera angle. At which point we squealed and covered our eyes. Ah yes, back in the innocent dark ages when hard core porn was not available in everyone’s living rooms 24 hours a day.

The clock radio that was in our hotel room that last day was not so much a radio as it just played music in a continuous loop. There were several “channels.” I can’t remember what was playing on the other channels, but we preferred Neil Diamond over all of them. The song loop came around a few times and then one of us, not sure which one, began singing along. Next thing you know we were singing as loud as we could, and about as well as a typical American Idol contestant, which is to say not very well at all. We sang and danced and jumped on the beds through the loop a few times; eventually the hotel staff knocked on the door and told us to be quiet.

We listened to the loop a few more times and tried to sing along more quietly. But Neil Diamond demands to be belted out with overly dramatic enthusiasm.

Since then, Neil Diamond has always held a special place in my heart. I still know all the words to those songs by heart. And when I find myself scanning the radio in the car and one of them comes on, I have to stop and sing along. LOUDLY. (also badly and to the utter embarrassment of my children).

This would be why on Tuesday night you could have seen me singing karaoke style in my family room to Neil Diamond. And also why when it came time to vote one child said, “Well, I’m not voting for you that’s for sure.”


Over at Parenting, my 10 yr old son has written an ambitious list of 101 things to do this summer. I share part of the list we have decided to do as a family.

At Work It, Mom! I have a roasted cauliflower recipe that I tried out to mixed children reviews. The adults in the house loved it.

Posted by Chris @ 9:06 am  

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  1. Shannon says:

    Awww, his list is adorable. My son is almost 11 and has hit the overly dramatic phase, but still likes the things on that list too. I am the same way about old songs. I was loudly singing along with the Cranberries yesterday and my 8 year old asked me to “sing softer” because “people might hear me”. :)

  2. Wicked Stepmom says:


    I am living proof that you don’t have to travel to AFRICA to belt out Neil Diamond. :)

    My mother is/was a huge fan, had all of the vinyls and EIGHT TRACKS. When I was 10 or 11, I remember singing, dancing and jumping from the couches in the my living room to “America” … really, to the whole Jazz SInger album, but America demands to be sung at the highest decibels and with the greatest of acrobat feats that only an eleven year old can successfully do without dislocating a hip joint or something.

    Still love him. And now I just realized my iPod is totally lacking ANY Neil Diamond. Must. Fix. NOW.

    Thanks for stirring up some of my happy childhood memories. :)

  3. Heather's Garden says:

    My good friend came over to watch Idol on Tuesday with my husband and I. We’re such geeks that we both did actual “work” work on laptops during the show and then when it was over put on Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits (yes I own it) and sung along. You’d better believe that my husband was at the other end of the house as fast as his legs would carry him there.

  4. Kris says:

    I understand! Oh how I understand.
    OMG - You just brought memories flooding back! I spent my the summer I was 10 in Poland (1978). My cousins had a bunch of 45’s and a record player but the ONLY record that was in English was “Little Jimmy Osmond - Long Haired Lover From Liverpool”.

    I still remember ALL of the words.

    Click on this at your own risk (it’s a catchy tune) LOL…

  5. kalisah says:

    well you’re right about one thing - Neil Diamond songs are ideal for singing at the top of your lungs, more than anyone else I can think of.


  6. javamama says:

    I love Neil Diamond. I loved him as a kid. I love him as an adult. Perhaps that is strange for a 35 year old woman, but dammit, I love me some Neil! It could have been that my mother made us watch The Jazz Singer 100 times growing up? But no… I won’t question the gift, I just accept the gift.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I LOVE Neil Diamond. And Barry Manilow. And I’m always amazed at how many of their lyrics have stuck in my head.

  8. The Simple Family says:

    See? Told you that your bandwidth issues had something to do with Porn.

    Also, many moons ago, I was in Khazkhstan and had the joy of watching a dubbed Spice Girls video in Russian. It was totally awesome.

  9. Leeann says:

    Hey Chris,

    Speaking of American Idol, what was your kids’ take on the major judging gaffe by Paula Abdul? What did YOU think of it?


  10. Jeanette says:

    Confession: When I was eight-nine-ten I had a huge crush on Neil Diamond. He was sexay in a 1978-79-80 kind of way, and my mom had all of his albums. Needless to say, his were the songs that I would sing to my children when they were babies because those seemed to be the only ones I could remember every single word of!

    Pathetic, I know.

  11. Jolyn says:

    I, too, spent a semester in (East) Africa AND HAVE YET TO GET BACK. My Neil Diamond memory is from high school, my best friend’s boyfriend was a huge fan and we made fun of him. But you just keep singing. I do that with Simon and Garfunkel.

  12. Mymsie says:

    I had a similar experience but the song was “Rocky Top” by John Denver and I was in Croatia. :-)

  13. Amanda says:

    Oh gosh, I love Neil Diamond so much. A group of us get together to watch American Idol every week and I was the one singing along to Every. Single. One. of his songs…and I’m 20.

  14. Amy says:

    LOVE HIM!!! My hubby took me to see him in concert. He’s not a fan and I totally embarrassed him. I was pregnant and real hormonal (I love that excuse. It’s better than, I’m an idiot) and when the lights would go down and he’s standing on stage in his sequined gloy, I’d shout, I LOVE YOU NEIL!!! Neil even layed on his side on the stage and sang to some young girl during the coarse of the night. I quit screaming after he did that. A bit creepy.

  15. Debbie says:

    My Husband walks on the treadmill every morning to Neil Diamond on a DVD on our big screen with music blaring. Our grown daughter says when she hears a Neil Diamond song to this day she groans remembering her “alarm” was Neil Diamond at 6:00 a.m.!

  16. Laura says:

    I have loved Neil Diamond since I was a child. Seriously. I actually got the soundtrack to “The Jazz Singer” as a First Communion present. Neil is an American treasure. So is Barry Manilow.

  17. josy says:

    i’m disappointed that you blogged about africa and neil diamond in the same post but failed to mention the taproot manuscript. tsk tsk.

  18. jenB says:

    I totally have bandwidth I could give you. :-)

    I am also going to try the cauliflower, i love the fart vegetables.

  19. Stephanie says:

    Western Africa? Color me envious. Western Africa is a destination on my life list (yeah whatever, I do things after I watch Oprah.)

    But I too love me some Neil Diamond, I sang with him in college as well. The only guy who had a car drove this gigantic brown Oldsmobile with a ridiculous mixed cassette, we were never allowed to touch the radio. Neil headlined that mixed-tape and so we belted it out with him for four years, at the top of our lungs, driving down the Pacific Coast Highway among the starletts and the richy-rich kids.

    It was completely wonderful.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    OMG I thought I was the only closet Neil Diamond fan. I love his music!!!!!!!!.

    And he’s touring this summer. I got tickets to the show Aug 5th her in DC. I CAN’T WAIT.!!!!!! He should be coming to your city too, check it out.

  21. cce says:

    Neil Diamond reminds me of Sunday mornings when my parents would put on the records and torture us all for hours. Now, because of that memory, I really like all those tunes even though I didn’t back then.

    My husband has similar childhood memories of his parents subjecting him to Neil Diamond marathons and he too now has an affection for Neil.

  22. Jeanne says:

    Love, love, love Neil. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show is my favorite. I’m a big girl now (in more ways than one!) and we’d sing and dance to Neil in the early 70’s when we were babysitting. I still get together with those friends for a few - got to sing Neil real loud into the beer bottle. There’s just no other way. Except if you’re driving from NY to VT and you can turn a greatest hits CD way up and drive your kids nuts.

  23. angela michelle says:

    I have the same feelings about my memories of college travel–everything was so strange I could hardly process some of it and weird little details stick out in my mind.

  24. Sue says:

    Neil Diamond makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork.

    When we were little, we used to travel from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City in our station wagon, all NINE of us and we had exactly ONE eight track to listen to - The Jazz Singer. As a result, that eight track is seared into my memory. Whenever I hear “We’re Coming To America” I have the urge to hit someone and ask if we’re there yet.

  25. Brigitte says:

    It’s good to know that there are LOTS of other under-50 people who love Neil too! I’d always been hiding it as a shameful secret.

  26. kelly says:

    “…Sweet Caroline…bahm, bahm, bahm….good times never seemed so good….”

    You gotta sing the bahm, bahm, bahm part really loudly.

    And this part too:

    “…Oh, one…touching one, reaching out, touching me, touching yoooou…”

  27. Heather says:

    I have to say, I loved the movie The Jazz Singer.

  28. Belinda says:

    I heart Neil as well - saw him in concert and he was fantastic.

  29. Cary says:

    I remember driving my friends around in high school in ‘95 trying to convince them that “Play Me” was the most beautiful love song EVER!!! They thought I was crazy geek, but they are probably just envious now that tey were not as coooool!
    “Money talks,
    but it can’t sing and dance, and it don’t walk.
    As long as I can have you here with me,
    I’d much rater be
    forever in blue jeans BABE!!!!!

  30. Ali says:

    I’ve seen Neil Diamond in concert twice and I just heard he’s coming back this summer. I want to go again and SING!

  31. kathy says:

    Whenever I hear “Graceland” or anything by Tracy Chapman (from her first album), I am immediately transported to southern Chile. On a train. Heading south.