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A Thought for Today

We can always use reminders on how to better treat each other.


Nan Peden was one of Rod's most ardent fans and a regular contributor to this site and her passing last week has left all of us the poorer.

Nan was a one woman cheer leading squad for all things McKuen. From arranging trips to see Rod in concert to rallying the troops to celebrate Dwight's birthday she never missed an opportunity of spreading the McKuen message, even to the extent of "converting" strangers she came across in the course of her day to day activities. I have absolutely no doubt that more than a handful of our current readers came to this site by way of a Nan Peden recommendation.

Following Nan and Dave's decision to move to California, she was finally able to realize her long held ambition of meeting Rod in person. We're fortunate to have a record of one those meetings and the photograph published below is a constant reminder that good things can, and do, happen to nice people.

We miss you, Nan. Things won't be quite the same without you around.

Below is one of Nan's contributions to this column, published in May of last year.

Dear Ken,

I have stated many times that I associate for some reason with the feelings of "A Newly Painted Bench". Long ago when I read this poem, I cried, as if I had been there. The deep feelings of this girl and of Rod when he saw her and yet could not make contact with her. 

How many times in our lives does this happen. Love and happiness is within reach, but we cannot secure it. Maybe that is why I cry. For the girl and for Rod.

Please publish this poem so that I may read again its beauty.



Rod and Nan, Thousand Oaks, March 2001

The Wednesday column is reserved for you so drop me a line at and let me know all about your favorite McKuen song or poem. I'll make sure it gets published in the near future.

 - Ken, Johannesburg, September 19

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 Jim Abbott o Brook Benton o “Mama Cass” Elliott o Brian Epstein o Berqen Evans o Frances Farmer o William Golding o Rosemary Harris o Kevin Hooks o Jeremy Irons o Leon Jaworski o Leslie “Twiggy” Lawson o Joan Lunden o Randolph Mantooth o David McCallum o Joseph Pasternak o Freda Payne o Kurt Sanderling o Rex Smith o Duke Snider o Alison Sweeny o Blanche Thebom o Ernest Truex o Lurleen Wallace o Adam West o Paul Williams o Trisha Yearwood
Rod's random thoughts To see the sunsets truest color we need only to look into a stranger's or a good friend's eye.

Some pages in my diary are blotted or unused. Those must have been the happiest times, for who can jot down happiness when it is happening.

All people have lessons they can give us, even in rejection.


Standing, waiting, smiling in the line.
You were patient - while impatiently
                                    I moved toward you.
A touch as slight as some single 
a name scrawled in a book
and you were disappearing,
                     fast as the steamy Brighton night
through the crowd, out of the door, away
leaving me to go on scrawling.

We knew, My God, we knew
without the running radar eye
whose signal never stopped
even when your back was turned
                       and you no longer looked at me.

Knowing isn't always good enough.
One of us should have been braver.

I cannot say how long it took
for that over peopled crowd
           to one by one go home.
When I emerged into the new May moonlight
the sidewalk still held faces asking questions,
and bodies with their arms outstretched
for handshakes and hand holding.

You were there again
sitting silently against the wall
                     upon a painted bench.
I could only smile
perhaps a half smile, for in it
                               there was deep regret.

How often I've said no by saying nothing.
Life is passing with a hundred alternate endings
                                            I will never know
because I only travel work to work -
not by choice or even need.
Although I preach the need for one to one
I seldom set in practice my own ethic.
Perhaps on some occasions I write down
                             these little tragedies
so that I'll commit to memory
times and places, fancied forms and faces
not for the reader's sake, but mine.

The heart says help me
but it does not say how.
The mind knows all the ways
but will not shift from idle
                       into thinking.

Not knowing, I'm observed, applauded
                                       at a distance,
even as I am reaching out.
These arms are never long enough
to reach the sighted but unseen.

I go on traveling like a bullet
on luxury liners and late model limousines.
A cadre still commands my every move,
town to town, performance to performance, -
the chance of stepping from the stage
into a pair of waiting, wanting arms
grows more remote the more I grow.

I looked at you. I looked at you,
and if I failed to stride
to where you waited smiling
                   on that newly painted bench,
know that I'll regret my indecision
                                all my life.

You were a siren calling me
to some new shining sea,
and I was too wound up to listen.

And so on Friday night,
May sixteenth, Nineteen Eighty,
I left Brighton once again
and left behind a form, a face
that I had come a thousand
                        and a thousand
and three thousand miles to find.

As I was driven through the night to London
I sunk down in the backseat of the car
as easily as the dead slip into
newly hollowed graves.

                                - from "The Beautiful Strangers", 1981

© 1970, 1981, 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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