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Photo by Bob Gentry 2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

The poetry in our lives separates sanity from savagery.


Just a thought. Sixty years ago America was thirty-three days into World War II, I was a youngster but I remember the time vividly. In this age of relative peace and prosperity we can't think about and honor the thousands of American who gave their lives in World War II and other conflicts too often. 

Today's mail brings lot of questions. Here are the answers to some of them including what happens backstage after the March concerts.


Hey, Rod: Did you know that Billy Bob Thornton quoted you on Sixty Minutes January 2nd? He said, "If you love somebody, tell them." Carolyn Sey

Dear Carolyn, Yes I did. In fact I heard it with my own ears. Read on . . .


Hi, I read your books in the 60's and 70's and was inspired by them. I recently have gotten back with my first love and he reminded me that I would read your books for hours. I would like to know the name of the book that has the poem in it that starts out "If you love somebody tell them." Thank you, I have looked in many bookstores and can't find any of your books. Anne 

Dear Anne, "If you love somebody tell them" is a line from a poem of mine entailed "Atlas." It first appeared in one of my early Animal Concern Calendars and later in Woman's Day Magazine and the books "With Love," 1970, "Hand in Hand," 1977 and finally "Valentines" in 1986. All are available from Stanyan By Mail. Here it is.


Don't be afraid
to fall asleep with gypsies
                or run with leopards.
As travelers or highwaymen
we should employ
whatever kind of wheels it takes
to make our lives
go smoothly down the road.

And if you love somebody,
               tell them.
Love's a better roadmap
for trucking down the years
than Rand McNally ever made.

Thanks for asking, Anne. Warmly, Rod


Dear Rod, Today I received my copy of A Man Alone and the album. It dawned on me that you must have to sign so many things for people, that at some point you have to wonder if there is any end to this. I just want to thank you for the attention you give these requests and I love my martini drawing. I wanted to share with you wonderful vodka I found which makes the most incredible martini, it is called The Tall Blond and is from Estonia. 

Since I am from Latvia, I figured this is worth a try. Unfortunately, I can only find it in Marietta, GA and have to stock up when I am there seeing tara and my best friend, Linda. If you can find it there, I highly recommend giving it a try. If you cannot find it, let me know and I will have a bottle sent to you.

Through you and your work, I have found such wonderful new friends, tara, Kyletta and Rita.

In my line of work, psychotherapy, I often see unhappiness and despair in people. It lightens my heart to see how you bring joy and peace to others and I have your books and music in my office for my patients to read and listen to. It really is very therapeutic for them.

I just wanted to thank you for your time, talent and heart. Hope to see you in Aurora in March, just in time for my birthday. Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. Love and warmest regards, Jana

Dear Jana, Thanks for the tip on The Tall Blonde vodka. I'll check it out at my local liquor emporium and let you know if they have it. I love being turned onto new vodkas, because I do love Martini's. I might even one day subscribe to the George Burns philosophy of 3 Martini's a day (he lived to be 101,) but for now one before dinner suits me.

I'm telling everyone I know about Grey Goose Orange vodka. I especially love it for Bloody Marys, because strange as it may sound the orange flavor perfectly compliments the tomato juice.

As you might know, I collect old martini shakers (the older & stranger the better). This year for Christmas I got three to add to my collection, including one picked up from a Flea Market in London with the initials V.Q. engraved on it. Wonder what family it once belonged to? I also got a plastic Swatch Martini set (complete with shaker and wristwatch) for traveling.

Wanted to advise you as I did in a letter to Rita that I won't be meeting people or signing autographs before or after the Aurora & Madison concerts. With so much energy going into the show, a new band & conductor, worrying about sound & light cues, trying to remember the lyrics to about 40 songs and poems . . . and these being my first full out concerts since the mid-eighties, I've got a lot on my plate. I'm sure I'll be more than a little nervous.

I know it sounds rude and impolite of me, but in the old days I used to stay backstage and say hello to everyone after the show. More often than not, this process took longer than the show itself. Don't think I'm up to it anymore. So rather than play favorites, the best thing is to not meet with anyone. 

There will have to be a couple of exceptions, of course. I'll need to meet with Jay and Melinda on business, because they are both involved so heavily with this Website and the 'in the works' Stanyan House. If she comes, though I don't think she will (how rude), I'll need to see Susan since she was my editor for the new book & there are last minute revisions. Eric takes care of the USA technical end of things so I'll be meeting with him too.

What I really owe an audience is the best show I can possibly give. So this is going to be no social event for me but hard work. I hope to make it up to all of you by doing a bookstore autograph tour later in the year when the new book comes out.

There has been an added problem because of a series of vicious (and everyone who sees them thinks) threatening letters from one individual, I've had to add extra security and take their advice about activities other than the show itself. It's a shame when one person sets out to ruin it for everyone else. Having done thousands of concerts all over the world, this is the first time I've had to take these precautions. I guess we live in different times.

It was even suggested that I cancel the concerts, particularly after the last E-mail arrived assuring me that although promising not to come this individual would indeed be showing up for both shows. Can't understand why, since she now considers me such a vile individual. Canceling was an option I didn't consider for very long.

Back to vodka. This morning (Sunday) I had a delicious mushroom omelet from an all-mushroom cookbook that Cheryl Hagan made for me and a side order of one of the few ripe tomatoes still on the vine outside. During preparation of this feast I sipped a Grey Goose Orange Bloody Mary.

Here's my recipe for the McKuen Bloody Mary.

1 tablespoon Green Tabasco Sauce
1 tablespoon Red Tabasco Sauce
1 tablespoon Worchester sauce 
1 tablespoon Hot Sauce from Hell (or any similar Cajon sauce)
a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper
2 ounces of Grey Goose ala Orange Vodka
stir together and add
1 12 ounce can of tomato juice.

Serves one and one should be enough. But it goes down oh so easy. If it sounds too hot for you, reduce the tablespoons to teaspoons.

You can add a celery stock for garnish if you like and a couple of ice cubes (I like my Bloody Mary's at room temperature.)

If I didn't have a Flight Plan do this afternoon, Jana, I'd be off to check out Tall Blonde Vodka. Thanks for the tip. Warmly, Rod


Besides yourself, who else made a hit recording of "Jean"?
Thank You, Mardeelv

Dear Mardeelv, The real hit recording of "Jean" was by a young singer named Oliver, who had just had a hit with "Good Morning Starshine" from the musical "Hair." While my recording made the charts in several countries and I sang it over the end titles of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," Oliver's version sold several million copies worldwide.

Oliver's single was produced by the producer-writer Bob Crewe. Crewe is best known for his work with such artists as The Four Seasons and Freddy Cannon. He also had hits like "Music to Watch Girls By" with his own group, The Bob Crewe Generation. He is in the midst of a very successful second career as a fine arts painter and sculptor.

Oliver (his real name was William Swofford) truly had the voice of an angel. He death this past year was a shock to all of us and a personal loss for me. Sincerely, Rod


Where can I find the LP or CD of Something Beyond-Suite for orchestra ? I have an old "hand me down" LP that's worn out.
Harry Weyer

Dear Harry, "Something Beyond" is still available from Stanyan By Mail, Thanks for asking. Rod


Hello Old Friend, I think of you that way. Please pardon my familiarity.

Can you help put a name to your recorded pieces that received the most radio play in the San Francisco area from 1966-1968? I have a few of your CDs but think that somehow, among all these wonderful tracksI have missed the very ones I was looking for.

Thanks very much for your kind consideration of my request,
Teri Lyn Smith

Dear Lynn, If I remember correctly it was the songs that dealt specifically with the Bay Area that were the most played by San Francisco disc jockeys. That would include "So Long, San Francisco," "Stanyan Street," Channing Way" & "Kearny Street."

All of the above songs were recorded by both Glenn Yarbrough and myself. Glenn's recordings were every bit as popular as mine. Jimmie Rodgers had hits with several of my compositions during the late Sixties including "The World I Used To Know," "Doesn't Anybody Know My Name" and "Someplace Green."

Damita Jo's version of "If You Go Away" was a hit in that time period and the 60's closed with "Jean," made famous by Oliver and covered by Johnny Mathis, Percy Faith, Ray Conniff and dozens of other artists.

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. Cheers, Rod


Mr. McKuen, My mother-in-law wants a copy of your poem "October 14." Where can I find it? Is it in one of your books that I could buy? Please let me know. Sincerely, Isabel

Dear Isabel, "October 14th" can be found in my first book ". . . and autumn came" and its available from Stanyan By Mail." Best Regards, Rod


Dear Rod, I found "A Safe Place To Land" quite by accident a few months ago, on my way to looking up other things on the 'Net. It was an awesome surprise for me. Upon rediscovering you, I realized how much I've missed you in my life. My days now begin with a cup of coffee and reading ASPTL, like the morning paper. It's so good to read what you've been up to, that your outlook on life is as down to earth as it ever was, that you're well and, age, aches, etc. notwithstanding (!), healthy, and to know that you're as devoted to your fans as ever.

I was in possession of several of your books but over the years that collection has dwindled to only two....Seasons in the Sun, and Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows. There was time in my life about 25 years ago when your work sustained me, like food to a starving woman. I would quote significant lines and passages to myself to get through another day, and to friends if they needed encouragement or food for thought. "Listen to the Warm" was always a favorite of mine.

In today's Flight Plan you mentioned the first dates of your 2001 tour, and I'm hopeful that as dates are added, they include a stop in Michigan, where I live. I've never seen you in a live performance, and would love to do so now that we've become "reacquainted".

I'm sure you've heard this before, but I never thought I'd write to you, just "lurk" and read what you and others had to say. At this time of year, though, warm fuzzies have overcome me and I feel compelled to write and let you know that words alone cannot convey my thanks to you for enriching my life with your words. Please accept my fondest wishes for a truly warm and wonderful holiday season with those you love. Most sincerely, Kate Anschuetz

Dear Kate, I'm glad you found ASPTL and welcome. I'm not sure what lies beyond the concerts in Aurora and Madison. I hope there are promoters in Michigan who might be interested in presenting me but so far I know of none that have been in contact with my concert management. 

I appreciate your kind thoughts, Kate, and it's nice to know you've supported my work all these years. I'm all for letting people know how you feel about them instead of 'lurking.' Again, welcome back. Warmest regards, Rod


Dear Rod, I was very excited to see that your first concert will be close to my home. I introduced my 14-year-old daughter to your work 2 years ago and her grandfather this year. He has enjoyed reading your books and listens to your CD's when he is laying down for his nap. 

My daughter has brought your poetry to her English classes and coffee club. She also enjoys your Back to Carnegie Hall CD. The one time I saw you in concert was in Chicago on April 1, 1975. Afterwards I went backstage and you signed my copy of Listen to the Warm. I remember I had on a necklace, which held a hand painted picture of my dog and you told me you liked it. I can't wait to get my tickets for your concert in Aurora. Wishing you the gifts of Peace and Happiness this Holiday Season and always. Janice K

Dear Janice, Wow, three generations, I am impressed. And I am very pleased that you'll be attending one of the March concerts. All the best to your Granddad and your daughter. Luv, Rod

Webmaster Ken returns tomorrow with his weekly This One Does It For Me and other surprises. I'll be here to welcome him and I hope you will be too. Sleep warm.

                          RM 1/8/2001 Previously unpublished

Details of Rod's upcoming concerts and appearances can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Joan Baez o George Balanchine o Vilma Banky o Simone de Beauvoir o Bob Denver o Gracie Fields o Crystal Gayle o Battesimo de Gesu o Roy Head o Judith Krantz o Fernando Lamas o Gypsy Rose Lee o Anita Louise o A.J. McLean o Dave Matthews o Richard Nixon o Jimmy Page o Joely Richardson o Lee Van Cleef o Scott Walker o Susannah York o Chic Young
Rod's random thoughts All it takes to start a beard is a week or so of being lazy.

There are some simple sights once seen that haunt the mind forever.

We can all afford a little charity toward our enemies once they're gone.


Here is some grand arrangement,
some complicated and divine mosaic.
Look between a child's downy hair
and that chin-chin forming
and you will find eyes deeper than
                            the soul is deep,
and floating on the tops of them
unstructured, unformed thoughts
part of past and coming generations.

Civilizations, civilizations
alliterations of these things
that only float in children's eyes.

The size of skies is not intimidating
                              to a child
not energy or atom can compete
with that subculture nourished,
then brought forward from the womb.

With each new child
we go from strength to strength.
Umbilical, as always, saves us.
To those who fear
the future colorless as eiderdown
                              against the snow
I say contrast, even white on white
comes up against itself most vividly.

As soot is softer
than the coal it comes from
so too is pollen different 
                        than the mother stem.
Our differences will always give us 
continuation through the decades.

Child, child, you are the promise
new bud bursting into pretty petal
as long as we have you,
your daughters and your sons upcoming,
we are of independent means.

- from "Suspension Bridge," 1984
1969, 1970, 1977, 1984, 1988, 2000, 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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