Two of my long-time favorite musical performers are named Neil. One of them is Neil Young, but we’re not going to talk about him today.

The other one is Neil Diamond, that son of a Brooklyn cantor who has been able to put grief, loss, love, and feelings of disaffection to music that was loaded with enough hooks to be hazardous. One of the best live albums I’ve ever heard is “Hot August Night,” and for pure pop pleasure it is hard to beat.

Neil in the sixties. OK … he was adorable, but looks aren’t everything. Or musical talent. Or height. Or hair.

Yesterday at the gym I was doing my aerobic walking with headphones on when his song “Holly Holy” came into the rotation. You know how it is when a song comes on the radio and it absolutely grabs you at that moment and when it is over you wish you could put it on replay? That’s what happened with Holly Holy at the gym. But this time I could put it on repeat (iPod) and for the next mile on the indoor track I had it playing over and over.

In an interview with the BBC, Diamond said of this song: “What I tried to do was create a religious experience between a man and a woman, as opposed to a man and a god.”

Perhaps what I had was not exactly a “religious experience between a man and a woman,” but I did recognize the prayer-like quality of some of its lines. And there was my rapid heart rate and heavy breathing … . (But I go too far. There is a stupendous gulf between the rapid breathing of passion and my hypoxic gasping on the track. )

And as far as that experience between a man and a god, I’m actually laying kinda low and hoping to go unnoticed by the gods for a few more years. Not making any waves at all.

Holly Holy, by Neil Diamond


Picking up on something I just wrote, a phrase often heard is “the disaffection of youth.” Everybody has some sense of what this means. We were all young once and trying to figure it out, with no clear idea of what to hang onto or where we would end up. Confusion and doubt were our state of existence.

One of my problems was that I wasn’t done with disaffection when youth had passed. So I have had to deal with the disaffections of youth, young adulthood, middle age, and now advanced decrepitude. And at all these milestones Neil Diamond’s music has had resonance for me. (I do get my mileage out of a tune this way)

Perhaps by this time of life I should have sussed things out more thoroughly, but I haven’t. What this means is that the song I Am … I Said can still ring true every once in a while, just as it did more than fifty years ago.

I Am, I Said, by Neil Diamond



Pet Peeve Department

Being the lifelong member of Anal-Compulsives of America that I am, there will inevitably be things that lesser beings do which annoy me. Those humans with less organization and perfection in their inconsequential lives, you know.

One of those annoyances, which unfortunately comes up way too frequently, is the use of the word decimate by members of the media. They use it to describe situations where nearly everyone was killed, whether it is in a battle or a natural disaster. The usage couldn’t be more wrong. The Romans had it right, because they invented it.

Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination,, and for pacification of rebellious legions.


Now, compare this sturdy and no-nonsense definition of the word with the spineless one which follows:

Current usage of the word: decimation in English is often used to refer to an extreme reduction in the number of a population or force or an overall sense of destruction and ruin.


See the difference? The more modern one is sloppy and can mean almost anything the speaker mwants to say, which means that it is meaningless. This slovenly practice is so irritating to a man with standards that spittle flies from my mouth when I begin to speak of it and gets all over my papers. This, too, annoys me to no end.

From here on in, let the media beware. Every inappropriate use of the word decimate that I come across will be met with all the outrage that my computer keyboard can muster. Do it twice and expect to find me outside your door with a placard in my hands. Three times = decimation.



Cosmic Joke Department

(Headlines noted on two articles that I read this week:)

A. Why Constipation Is More Common as You Age, and What to Do About It

B. Regular Laxative Use Could Up the Odds of Dementia By 51%

And who said the gods have no sense of humor?


The recovery process from knee joint replacement is a slow one, with enough of pains along the way to bring joy to our all-time favorite sadist, the Marquis de Sade, were he still among us. Patience and taking the longer view are the name of the game.

But soon we will be gamboling once more on the mountain trails that surround us. In fact, when that day comes I believe that we should throw caution to the winds and take off to frolic naked in the alpine meadow moonlight with the fauns and sprites.


Now that I think more about it, there are bears and lions up there as well, and perhaps being completely uncovered may not be the best idea if one of these larger creatures comes ’round on an evening feeling particularly peckish. Diving into a tent means that you have only placed a very thin layer of fabric between you and an entity positively brimming with teeth and claws.

Let’s change that to “take off to frolic well-shielded in the alpine meadow moonlight,” shall we? I feel better already.


2 thoughts on “Frolicking

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