Reflections on the GRE and Neil Diamond

A Haiku in Fifty-Seven Parts.

Just kidding.

Reflections on the GRE:

It was much more high security than I thought it would be.  The ACT, I remember, was most of my high school senior class packed onto tables in the cafeteria.  We were allowed several breaks, during which we could stretch and chat and wander freely.  The GRE was me in a cubical with a computer and some scratch paper.  No interacting whatsoever was allowed, and entering/exiting the testing site meant a security scan and “turn out your pockets.”

The test itself wasn’t so bad.  I’m glad I took those practice tests, because I generally knew what to expect, how to use the provided calculator, etc.  Right off the bat was the Analytical Writing bit, which I, admittedly, had been dreading even more than the math.  Writing I have no problem with.  Writing under pressure, however, having to make coherent, organized, snappy arguments in a short amount of time, is not always my strong suit.  It went really, really well though.  I had a lot to say, but I had sufficient time to say it, and even to read it over a few times for good measure.  That made me feel confident heading into the rest of the test, and I have to say that if my Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores aren’t up to snuff, I’ll be crushed to have to retake the test and lose those beautiful (if you’ll allow me the presumption) Analytical Writing scores.

Reflections on What Happened Afterward:

Immediately following the GRE, after I breathed a few long sighs of relief on the sidewalk, where the sun was beating down like nothing had happened, Mom picked me up and shuttled me downtown to the St. Paul Grill.

Now, when my Aunt, who is the only other person in the family who was excited at the prospect of seeing Neil Diamond, said that we’d have dinner at the St. Paul Grill, I thought of outdoor seating, sandwiches and salads, paper placemats that we could doodle on if our meal took an hour to arrive.  What I didn’t think of was this:

Possibly the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, stationed inside the St. Paul hotel, which was built in 1910 and features the likes of crystal chandeliers, roses, tuxedoed men, and darkly-papered rooms lined with rich wood.

People like Gene Autry, Lawrence Welk, James J. Hill, and Charles Lindbergh have stayed at the hotel.

That pales, however, in comparison to the person whose picture was hanging unassumingly on the wall of the Grill.

I know you’ve guessed it.

This guy ate at the St. Paul Grill back when the mirrored bar wasn’t lined with gem-like bottles of alcohol:

And so, of course, my night was made even before we got to the concert.

Neil was wonderful, though, as I suspected he would be.  Not only does he still sound (for the most part) the way he did in the 1970s, but that man knows how to work a crowd.  He would stop in between songs to tell stories, or to say something gracious about the audience, or to voice a ridiculous notion like his mission to ‘earn our loyalty’ through his performance.  You’ve already got it, Mr. Diamond.

Several of the people we ran into, for example, mentioned that they had been coming to see Neil since he first played the Twin Cities over forty years ago. “Some of the old folks have died off since he was last here,” quipped the twinkly man in front of me.

Another thing I’ll say for Neil is that he didn’t skimp on the classics.  “Sweet Caroline” (BUH BUH BUH), “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Shores” (my favorite), “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “I Am…I Said,” and of course…

I couldn’t resist making an illegal recording.  Neil Diamond was singing my song, for heavens’ sakes.