Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001
A Thought for Today
The heart has bigger things to think on than old hurts.
"I'D LIKE TO THANK THE
Sunday morning around 10:AM you had only to surf the satellite to know this was not a typical day. Depending on your taste in movies, you could settle in and watch Tootsie, Panic in the streets, Around the World in Eighty Days, Ghandi, Life is Beautiful, The Cider House Rules, Coal Minors Daughter, The Way We Were, Postcards From the Edge, The Right Stuff or The Age of Innocence.
If that choice seemed limited there was more; Cinema Paradiso, True Grit, The Longest Day, The Talk of the Town, Tom Jones, Stalag 17 and the pay for play Gladiator, The Perfect Storm and dare we mention Battlefield Earth. The latter won the top Razzie award a few days ago for the worst film of the year.
For those who still didn't get the message that this was Academy Day, the E Channel had a six-hour special beginning at 9:AM entitled "Countdown to the Red Carpet."
Of course lest an Alien landing on the planet and turning on the tube for the first time think all this fare to good to be true he had other early morning choices; Police Academy 2, Powderpuff Girls, Nasty Nurses, Beverly Hills Bordello, Fetish Dreams or Cecil B. Demented.
Would that every other hour and day of the year had such a healthy choice of flicks for our home entertainment.
The longer this site stays up (we'll be starting our fourth year here in a month) the more I hear from Vietnam vets and those who lost friends in Southeast Asia. Many of the letters are hard to read and even more difficult to answer. But I try to answer as many of them as I can.
I was making a lot of music and writing a lot of poetry during the Vietnam War and I corresponded with GI's who found themselves in the jungles of an alien country and those who stayed at home waiting and hoping for their safe return.
As much as all of us were aware of what was going on 'over there' and 'over here,' with each new letter I learn more about the real meaning of those times. Here, amid other mail, are three letters that recall the period.
Mr. McKuen, Thirty-one years ago I served in Vietnam. I volunteered to go because I thought that someday my child
would ask her father what was war, and I thought I should be able to answer that question. I'm still trying to understand and find that answer. I now have children, two wonderful
daughters, 22 and 16. We have talked about war.
Once, when my oldest had just gotten out of her last day at kindergarten, we packed up, left St. Louis and went to DC to visit the Wall. Along the way, we stopped at Gettysburg.
Walking around the battle sites and the cemetery, Era stopped and asked me a question. "Do more good people or more bad people die in a war?" That from a six year old little girl. I still wonder.
I have been a high school resource teacher for over 23 years now and make it a point to always talk to my students about war. I tell them I do this because it is a promise I made to myself when I became a teacher. I would never let my students be as ignorant of war as I was when I was their age. I still remember a high school Christmas dance when one of our graduates showed up in Army dress uniform. Several of us gathered around him admiring his attire, and he mentioned that he had orders to go to Vietnam. I
remember asking him, "what was Vietnam?" I hope he made it home. I may not have found some kind of perfect answer to that question, but I hope I have made others aware of what it is not.
Why am I writing all of this to you? Because I am 53 years old, sitting here at night by myself, remembering. Plus, I just read that you are appearing in Chicago in March and I am thinking of trying to attend. Plus, I didn't know you were still alive. Sorry. Most importantly, I wanted to say thank you
because there were many nights that I would sit down in my room in Vietnam, put on the headset, turn on my Sony reel-to-reel and listen to your poems on my recording of your record, "The Sea". The sounds of the ocean, that
nameless calm voice, your words, were very soothing to a young man several thousand miles from home. I just wanted you to know.
Since then, my reel-to-reel had stopped working and I hadn't listened to your music and poetry in a long time. I did buy one of your books, Listen to the Warm, and found I still enjoyed your poetry. But I missed the sounds of the sea. Then I walked into a vintage vinyl store and discovered many of your records in pretty good condition. My family and friends, who were having dinner at a restaurant across the street, were somewhat surprised to have me rushing in carrying a large plastic bag of old records, and going on and on about some guys music. As they ate, they received a crash course in memories.
So, I just wanted to say thanks, not only for helping me get through a few nights in Vietnam, but a few times since then as well. I wish you well. I hope I can get to Chicago and let the memories come back even more. Sincerely, Mike Baumer, Byron, IL
Dear Mike, I don't know if you made it to the Paramount Theatre for the concert on the 10th (I like to think you did) but I wanted to write and thank you for an inspiring letter.
Inspiring and important because as a teacher you are in a position to use your experiences in Vietnam to educate and instill in your students the futility of war without taking anything away from the brave young women and men who were wounded, gave their lives, or if they were lucky enough to come home physically intact were changed forever by Vietnam.
As always it is the old men who legislate these conflicts that those barely out of childhood go off to fight.
You will never find satisfactory answers to all the questions you pose aloud, and those none of us can articulate concerning the necessity people seem to have to settle their quarrels over religion, politics and turf with violence directed to one another. But, at least you are equipped to help your children and those other young people you teach question misdirected authority.
You are doing important work. If I was there for you a few nights in Vietnam I'm grateful that you are here
and helping to make a difference for all of us. Affectionately, Rod
ANOTHER VIETNAM VET
Rod, I listened to you in the early morning (2
am or so) after returning from Viet Nam, after a divorce and losing what I thought was my life. You were a connection to life itself. Thank you, my friend. I hope we can meet sometime.
Cecil Brown P. S. I still share your poetry.
Dear Cecil, I second the emotion and maybe we'll get a chance to meet and talk along the concert trail. Divorce is never easy, no endings are or can be. But by now you've obviously learned that life does go on no matter the conflict or circumstance. Nothing is ever for nothing, we learn and are nearly always better from stumbling and righting ourselves in the process. Perhaps the most important discovery is finding out that we needn't close up because of rejection or hopes not yet realized. Stay open and thanks for writing. Warmly, Rod
A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO LOSE
Rod, After meeting you in Aurora back stage , and playing your CD's all day long I think I have lost my mind.... You are great! Got a favor to ask ,,,, you had a poem Love being the right hand of God should be dealt with courteously and Fire Works and that fizzle in July should not be accountable in August. Can you help me with the rest of this I can't find it. All my love to you and that
cute brother Ed, Karen Cheyenne, Wyoming
Dear Karen, According to my own personal Boswell, Jay (Captain America) Hagan, the poem is entitled "Eight" and it's from "Caught in the Quiet.
being the right hand of God,
should be dealt with courteously.
And fireworks that fizzle in July
should not be held accountable in August.
I will not scold you
just because you changed your mind,
though I'll admit a jealousy of curtains
that just now separates your face from mine.
-from "Caught in the Quiet," 1970
You can order "Caught in the Quiet" from Stanyan By Mail or with the help of Adobe Acrobat you can download a complete copy of the book from this website for free.
Kindest Regards, Rod.
PS Edward says hello. And I'll bet at his age he loves being called "cute."
Hey Rod, Please set an e-mail list that goes out to people like me automatically or whatever so we know when and where the next gig is...I missed or did not know of March 8,
my birthday was March 7, 1948.
Take Care. John Frazar, Rancho Santa Fe, Ca. and put me on that e-mail list if you do it.
Dear John, Good idea. The list is somewhat hit or miss right now since I'm the guy who keeps it and I'm somewhat behind. I'll suggest to Ken that he put a button on the
Site Map page where those who want to can sign up to be on the mailing list. Thanks for the suggestion.
A belated Happy Birthday and thanks for writing. Cheers, Rod
LIKE A CHILD
Hello Rod, When I was younger I remember reading one of my moms books of poetry titled I think Listen to the Warm. I was wondering if you could send my the words to Like A Child. I have thoroughly searched your web site and those you recommended with no success.
I haven't read it for a long time because my mother wouldn't let me take the book off of her bookshelf for fear that I would ruin it. I recall either the beginning or middle saying (forgive me if this is wrong it has been about 7 years) "Like a child I sat in the sunlight and played with the minutes as they
went running by, Like a child who had never known sorrow I didn't hurry tomorrow I just looked at the sky, as the clouds went on endlessly passing all the clouds on their long voyage home...." I hope that helps. I would REALLY appreciate this help. Thank You, Michelle Hass
Dear Michelle "Like a Child" is a song I wrote to a melody by Jacques Brel. Here is the lyric to the song.
LIKE A CHILD
Like A Child I just sat in the sunlight
and played with the minutes as they went running by.
Like A Child who had never known sorrow
I didn't hurry tomorrow I just looked at the sky.
While the clouds went on endlessly passing,
all the clouds on their long voyage home
seemed to say that youth is everlasting
but a rose cannot grow alone.
Like A Child I would listen in silence
To the soft sound of evening as it caught up the day.
Till you were there in the gathering darkness
and we found that our green years had all gone away.
Now the clouds are going forever
here awhile then gone evermore
and a child on the far side of never
has to run when time closes the door.
Then take my hand and as children we'll go now
all alone through the thundering crowds.
Take my hand and together we'll look now
Like A Child for the little lost clouds.
Written 1965, ©1967 by Rod McKuen
-from "Listen to the Warm."
Thanks for asking, Michelle and I'm glad you enjoy the song. All the best, Rod
LIVE AT THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Hi Rod, I am trying to get hold of a CD : " Rod McKuen Live At The Sydney Opera House for a an elderly lady but have had no luck finding it anywhere, can you suggest where I might find it.
Thks in advance Elt. Elton Young, IT Manager BMCMedia.com Ltd
Dear Elt, The Australian CD of " Rod McKuen Live At The Sydney Opera House" differs quite a bit from the LP released in the United States and so far the CD of that version hasn't been issued. The LP is still available from Stanyan By Mail.
The CD was issued in OZ by Festival records and should be available at any major music store in Australia or you might try writing directly to Festival Records in Sydney. Best Regards, Rod
AN EVENING WITH ANITA & ROD
Dear Rod: Do I fall in love with your talent once again, or do I curse you? I recently purchased a two set CD of your greatest hits. The house was empty- quiet for a change, and I played the first one.
I am 18, sitting at a table at the Troubadour, waiting to hear some friend of Larry's. I hadn't heard of you, but at 18, didn't know much anyway. I am little, blonde, hard bodied, bright-eyed, and knew everything....until you begin to sing.
Within 2 minutes of your performance, I am hooked. You show me places and feelings still unknown to me...you give me hope, dash it against rocks, and gently hand it back to me.
If I remember correctly, I attended nearly every performance during that engagement. Each evening, we would visit after you finished, and you were always so welcoming and charming. Even the words you wrote on albums and books I bought made me feel important - worthy. I came again when you and Anita Kerr performed, and it was beautiful.
I am listening to many of those same songs for the first time in years. I'm no longer blonde, the body is softer (ass is working its' way to the back of my knees, and gravity is proving it's true power); the eyes aren't as bright, and I now realize that the longer I live, the less I know.
For a few moments, though...I experienced that wonder again .... the warmth flowing through me was as intense as the first time - your words painting beautiful pictures, just as they once did. I do owe you gratitude, but the next time I listen to you, I will cover or remove all mirrors so I can enjoy the illusion just a bit longer! Warm regards, Kathy Cullen-Johnson
Dear Kathy, Thanks for all the superlatives you heaped on me and for remembering that engagement at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. I'm especially pleased that you managed to catch the single live performance that Anita and I did together. That was a night I'll never forget. It's one thing to have made more than a dozen studio albums with Anita Kerr, but quite another to perform side by side with her before a large and enthusiastic crowd. It really was a magic evening, particularly when you consider that instead of a 35-piece orchestra Anita and I performed with just bass, drums and her soft and lovely piano styling.
I've always wanted to tour with Anita conducting The San Sebastian Strings, but we never had the
opportunity. Still that intimate evening is a memory good enough for a lifetime. Once the San Sebastian Strings CD's are released (please don't ask when) I hope that I can talk Anita into doing a concert series around the country with symphony orchestras.
I'm glad you are enjoying the new CD set. It was supervised and put together by Steve Ann who did an all around terrific job. He co-produced the 2 CD's that have just been issued with my new book, "A Safe Place to
I'm afraid gravity is at work on all of us, but it sure as hell beats the alternative. Luv, Rod
(This letter was sent to you before I understood about the flight plan and archives. I have spent hours looking through 2001 archives and most of December 2000 for your response. I was able to find this letter in a folder, and am again sending it. If you have already responded, my
apologies to you and the fans, but I hope to hear from you.)
Dear Rod, thanks for being available to your fans. My wife and I live on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe and I started this note on a snowy day last week. Because computers & the internet are foreign to me, the letter was lost, not sent.
I have a 30-year-old question that I was hoping you may be able to help me with. In 1969, I lost two best friends, 30 days apart, in that senseless Southeast Asian war. I went into deep
depression for several years and my one, best companion was a tape of your words that Glenn sang/spoke. My tapes were stolen and that record was lost.
Once, every 4 or 5 years or so, I try to find that recording but I'm sure it is out of circulation. As I recall, the Album was titled Stanyan Street Revisited - as I recall, the song started with singular piano cords, then the words "there are golden apples to be picked" and shortly afterwards "..and later on the other side of time, the apples no longer taste sweet" etc.
Rod, that song, those words truly helped carry the tremendous, self imposed burden I beheld. It is
interesting that I say to you, a man of words, that words cannot describe the support I gained from your words and
Glenn's music. Through the years, every once in a while the elusive melody comes to haunt me. Is there a
chance you can help me locate a copy of that album? Have I been looking in the wrong direction all these years? - - I just had a flash that I know that you would truly appreciate.
The day before my one friend, Elgin, left for Nam, we sat on the top of Stanyan Street and drank a bottle of Lancer's wine!! The day I buried Elgin, I returned to the same place and had another bottle of Lancer's - as we promised each other we would do when he returned. I buried the cork there and have returned to visit it over the years.
The top of Stanyan Street became our customary stop on the way to the City for my friends and myself. I have many pictures of us together at that special street. (We may have, on rare occasions had beer can races down the hill!) - In memory of my friends and to the piece inside me that is still missing, I thank you for your help. Also, thanks for all the words and music, although we no longer have a record player, The Sea sits with our classic records in the closet. Love and Light, Bruce Hill.
Dear Bruce, The album you're looking for is entitled "The Lonely Things" and I wrote it especially for Glenn. It was originally released on RCA and the CD is available from Folk Era Records. They can be reached at (708) 637-8303. You might also try Glenn's Website.
I'm sorry about the loss of your friends. Nearly all of us who lived through that period lost someone we knew or loved to the war. I found your story very moving and I'm sorry to be so late getting to your letter.
As you might guess I too have especially warm memories of Stanyan Street. Unlike you I haven't been back for a visit in a long time.
Glenn's extraordinary voice really caressed my songs and he and Jimmie Rodgers were among the first artists who
championed my work. Glenn still gives concerts, with and without The Limelighters, and Jimmie Rodgers appears in Branson. Wishing you the best, Rod
Join Webmaster Ken tomorrow for "This One Does It For Me." Sleep warm.
RM 3/26/01 Previously unpublished