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A Thought for Today

Thank God for memory, it is the closest we can come to perfection.


Following the posting of a letter I received from Rod over thirty years ago (see the Flight Plan of 23/05/01), the following popped up in my mailbox from the man himself.

Dear Ken,

You're just full of surprises!

I just read your Flight Plan for today. A 50 year class reunion and a 30 year reunion with a letter all in the same week. Oh boy!

There's something even more valuable about that letter that you don't know about.

For a while when I lived in the first house I ever owned (Montcalm Avenue, Hollywood, CA) I had an out of work actor come in three times a week because among other things he was a speedy typist. I'd dictate letters to him, he'd type them up & I'd sign them. He also helped Edward and me with the mail order. Yes, we operated out of the house.

Around that time I got the idea for the San Sebastian Strings series and talked Anita into writing the music. We had one problem though I recorded for RCA and we sold the idea to Joe Smith at Warner Bros. He gave us $10,000.00 to produce an album, the only stipulation being that he was given no idea of what the album would be about. He had to accept the deal on blind faith.

Things were just beginning to happen for me on several fronts and it wasn't hard to talk him into it. Thus the San Sebastian Strings were born. How did I choose the name? I spun a new globe that Edward had given to me and as it slowed I closed my eyes and touched a point on the globe at random. It turned out to be San Sebastian, Spain.

Still that problem of who was going to be the voice on the album since my contract with RCA had a year to run.

Just then my secretary (remember him, the out of work actor?) Jesse Pearson arrived with a stack of letters for me to sign. The rest is history, not folklore. I don't think your letter was typed that day, that would be too much of a coincidence, but it was typed by Jesse during that period.

Luv & thanks for the memory,


PS: Why do I get the feeling I've just written you a Flight Plan for an upcoming Wednesday?

Thanks for a fascinating insight into the world of the San Sebastian Strings, Rod!

One of the questions I get asked most is "who is the voice on The Sea?" I've been waiting for someone to ask "why is the voice on The Sea not Rod's?" and when they do I'll now be able to answer with some degree of authority. As for the naming of "The Strings", I'm just thankful your finger didn't land on Bloemfontein when the globe slowed. Wouldn't have had quite the same ring, somehow!

It's a very short step from talking about Jesse and the San Sebastian Strings to "The Sea" so my poetry choice for today comes from that very album. I only have to read these words for Jesse's resonant voice to leap into my mind and I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I do.

Don't forget this is your column so if you have a favorite McKuen song or poem you'd like to share, please drop me a line at and it will be my pleasure to post it right here one Wednesday.

 - Ken, Johannesburg, June 6

Two new appearance dates just announced!

Booking for "An Evening with Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for more details:

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Sandra Bernhard o Gary U.S. Bonds o Bjorn Borg o The Dalai Lama o David Dukes o Ena o Harvey Fierstein o Nathan Hale o Neeme Jarvi o Staci Keanan o Kirk Kerkorian o Aram Khachaturian o Ted Lewis o Andrew McFarlane o Thomas Mann o Maria Montez o Alexander Pushkin o James “Munky” Shaffer o Klaus Tennstedt o Dwight Twilley
Rod's random thoughts Even when my memory has a favored day, some prisoners refuse escape.

All memory is embellishment.

The ability to forgive saves wear and tear on the memory.


You see how easily we 
                        fit together -
as if God's own hand
       had cradled only us.

And this beach town's 
          population were but two,
and this wide bed was 
                but a child's cradle,
with room enough
            left over for presents.

Tomorrow I'll buy you presents.
Pomegranates and 
                 bread sticks,
tickets 'round 
the room and back.
And red, red roses
like everybody buys everybody.

Everybody's got a 
            diamond ring,
and Sunday shoes,
neckties and 
pistols and 
      tennis balls.
Everybody gets a
sandwich sometime,
and a piece 
         of cake
and ice cream, if they're nice.
We've got us.

I found a twenty 
         dollar bill once
when I was - 
maybe ten.
I bought a cardboard circus,
and a fountain 
and a jack 
because I 
never had one before.
My mother thought
I'd stolen the money.
But she checked around,
                          and -
she believed me
when I brought her 
perfume from the dime store.

I was rich in 
      those days.
For a week I 
had everything.
I wish I'd 
known you then.

                                          - from Folio 21, 1979

© 1970, 1986, 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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