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Rod in action at The Riverton Rendezvous, July 2001. 
Photograph courtesy Jay Hagan.

A Thought for Today

Some men talk only when they are sure of the crowd. The true believer is unafraid to address the mob



I’m back after eight weeks, tanned and ready, though admittedly having a little trouble getting back up to speed. When I arrived home a new disc was waiting from Jay so that I can include some rather rare or at least not overly used poetry and prose on coming Flight Plans. Also waiting was Melinda’s September birthday list, newly expanded from Wade Alexander’s original compendium. So, if I’m not off and running at least I’m getting a bit of a start.

Two months is a long time to be away from home. A Safe Place to Land is a second home for me since for the last three years-plus I’ve been here nearly every day. Not that I’ve been totally absent lately, I’ve dropped in from time to time to check on things and I picked all of the columns from Flight Plans past that Ken has provided you with during my absence.

There were a few notable exceptions to that rule; Ken and his team of reporters kept you posted on the concert, balloon lift-offs, parades and antique car activities in Riverton (with some great photos) and the benefit in Santa Fe.

In addition to everything else Ken has done his usual top-flight job of editing, formatting, posting and holding down the fort. He too was supposed to be having some time off, but with the daily responsibility of everything that goes into keeping A Safe Place to Land current (never mind being a very active husband, father, breadwinner and all that that entails . . . while changing residences in the bargain), I doubt he had much breathing space let alone time off.

I’ve missed all of you while really enjoying the company of old friends like Linda, Larry, Jay, Melinda, Rita, Kyletta, Jerry and – I never should have started mentioning names since I’m bound (without checking my diary) to leave out more names than I can ever mention. In days to come I hope to make contrition’s for and explain away suspicions, superstitions and – to continue with the alliteration – additions and omissions.


During the next few weeks I’ll be writing in depth about Riverton, Santa Fe, 4th of July in California’s not so sleepy town of Redding, my motor trip through the Southwest and the joy of tomato and onion sandwiches the last couple of weeks at home. And, while I’ve talked about the once in a lifetime experience I had with Frank Sinatra Jr. in Atlantic City, I’d like do something more in depth about that last week in June that started my very eventful summer.

Then there’s the matter of the hoops I didn’t even know existed that the (too energetic for prime-time) Ringmaster The Marques de Linda Becker put me through in a 50 hour plus around the clock Wyoming wing ding. (Not that I didn’t end up enjoying the whole Riverton experience immensely. I did indeed, as you’ll find out.)

Linda writes, “I hope you are well rested after your marathon. Although I am enjoying reading the archives on the Flight Plan, your current news is missed. Are there plans for your July adventures to be written for Flight Plans?” Yes, Linda, see above. You’ll get yours! Confidentially I must like punishment because I’m still standing. “Well rested?” No comment.

Mail to Ask Rod certainly hasn’t slackened, so there are lots of questions to answer and I’ll be offering new poetry and more “Love Letters Unsent” – the first new one appears below. Thursday will soon become “Words About Music” day. Once I get caught up on mail I plan to use it to write about all the kinds of music that interests me. And as you know, there are few kinds that do not.

Before the year is out I’ll be announcing some new concerts and appearances and I wanted to again remind you that even this far in advance The Actor’s Fund Benefit on November 10th is well on its way to being a sellout.


For those of you who haven’t visited here recently here’s a quick recap of that event: It’s called “Tap Your Troubles Away” and features the songs of Jerry Herman. The big reason a sellout is assured is that the show will feature one of the most formidable collections of Broadway, television and film stars ever to perform together in one evening. Sure there are award shows with more star power but the difference is that each one of these talented people will be belting out and caressing the varied songs of Jerry Herman, one of the most prolific (and still very much with us) Broadway writers.

The artists include Angela Lansbury, everybody’s favorite “Auntie Mame” and Carol Channing who originated the role of Dolly Levi in “Hello Dolly.” The cast also includes Lucie Arnaz, Mary Jo Catlett, Carole Cook, Wilson Cruz, Tyne Daly, Nancy Dussault, David Engle, Jason Graae, Brian Lane Green, Gene Herbin, Sam Harris, Marilu Henner, Kim Hoy, Dale Kristien, Andrea Marcovicci, Donna McKechnie, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Rita Moreno, Karen Morrow, Lee Roy Reams, Marcia Rudd, Douglas Sills, Jodi Stevens, Leslie Ugams, Jo Anne Worley and Jerry Herman, himself.

And, there’s more. Those of you who have attended past David Galligan Actor’s Fund and Aids benefits I’ve been involved in (and certainly many who haven’t) need no introduction to the likes of Sharon Lawrence, Charlotte Rae, Susan Johnson, Jane A. Johnson, Hugh Pennaro, Joely Fisher, and Valerie Pettiford; I was on the bill with her again last month in Santa Fe.

This time around I’ve been asked to sing one of Jerry’s most musical and lyrically adept songs. Hint, over the years it has become a Barbra Streisand showstopper, meaning I’ll have to reinvent it since I sing more like margarine than ‘buttah’.

Again the resourceful and unflappable David Galligan is staging and directing the affair and the musical direction and arrangements are being handled by the more than able Ron Abel. Michael Kearns & Harry Prongue are the producers. In the show biz vernacular, be there or be square. Ticket info can be found on the Home Page under concerts and appearances.

The Sunday feature “Some of the Best” returns tomorrow. If you are celebrating the last long summer holiday, celebrate safely and Happy Potato Salad. Sleep warm.

RM 8/30/01 Previously unreleased.

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Box Car Willie o Edgar Rice Burroughs o Yvonne De Carlo o Alan Dershowitz o Gloria Estefan o Vittorio Gassman o Barry Gibb o Engelbert Humperdinck o George Maharis o Rocky Marciano o Marilyn Miller o Seiji Ozawa o Walter Reuther o Leonard Slatkin o Lily Tomlin o Conway Twitty o Don Wilson
Rod's random thoughts I measure success by the ones who come back.

It’s not how great you are but how willing you are to contribute to the greatness in others.

Distance is distance it needs no further definition.


Dear You,

So much of what you are is making me what I am. Better as a man, more confident living within my own old skin. Your love has given me a worth I’m unaccustomed to. I do not flinch at mirrors or artfully avoid their glances back the way I always did before. I pass a looking glass and see myself head on and flaws in face and form are not as bad as what I figured. I am what I am. You did that. Your wanting me as me, not what I should or could be makes the difference hour to hour.

I don’t know why as individuals we tend to beat up on ourselves so much, but catching you’re eyes full of love for me is a home run I now experience every day. I’ve left all those rusty recriminations and self doubts so far behind that I couldn’t find or cling to them again even under clinical critical gaze.

Fundamentally I haven’t changed. More lines have formed about the corners of my eyes and when I frown my forehead is a rural road map, but I love every ragged wrinkle because each was earned at some expense. Here and there an age spot that other times I might have tried to pass off as a freckle is greeted with amusement as much as amazement. My chest would sag if I would let it, but I won’t. My testicles hang lower yes, but all the better to require both your hands to hold them.

As posterity pushes me toward the limit, your continuing admonishment to ‘walk tall and smile’ has even changed my posture. So many little things and each add growth to all my grins and inches to my posture and confidence.

In writing you to brag about the transformed me, I always speak of us. Please remember, do not forget, We Are Us. If my universe turns faster, horridly hops along – on and off its axis at odd moments, you turn beside me / are the gears inside me. You make every motion with me as we go. I do not find this rearrangement of our lives astonishing this late in life because our solo selves have all but gone. In the initial blush of US let me pause to say I love you. Five paragraphs have pushed their way along the page without my saying so except by implication. While every word from me to you and those returning is a loving one, I must not forget to drop that aged, three word, eight letter phrase into every conversation – ear to ear or in each note I write and sing and send to you. I love you.

Your mind and body, both naked to me, overwhelm me. Sink down into the pillows with me and don’t rise up again until we’ve loved so long that we remain too weak to rise. There. Your head face down against my belly is the perfect starting place.

25 August, 2001, 3:30 AM • California

Previously unpublished. First publication 9/1/2001

© 1974, 1980, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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