Happy Birthday Mr. McKuen!

In 1966, I moved from my little valley town to the San Francisco Bay Area. The fountainhead of creativity, freedom, revolution. In all ways of expression, I was there; red bandanna, blue work shirt, threadbare jeans, sandals, guitar, bicycle. In those days, you could color me a very happy 1960’s flower power energized, we can change the world idealist.

And with me at all times, never left home without it; Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows, by Rod McKuen.  I loved that book of poetry, and carried it with me everywhere I went. At nineteen, I was not compelled to analyse and evaluate Mr. McKuen’s verse as though he had no business putting his words on paper unless I first approved them. Criticized them. Accepted or rejected them. No, I simply loved his poetry, and was touched by the openness and simplicity of those words.

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I do not know when I removed Stanyan Street from my purse, and placed it on a bookshelf. Cannot recall when I stopped being able to recite the lines from memory. And it really does not matter that in these subsequent years Mr. McKuen and his works have been relegated to the ranks of tiresome and commonplace.

There was a time when a generation cared about all the words he wrote, and felt emotionally empowered by them. Being a member of that generation, to you, Rod McKuen, I would like to say Happy Birthday, and thank you for sharing your heart with us over these many years.

And here is that missing fourth stanza from Stanyan Street; it was not published until six years after the original book was marketed. It also happens to be my favorite verse of the poem.

There are those times
when I’m not sure
there ever was a house
on Stanyan Street.
That house,
just like that long gone love
          fades too sometimes.
One doesn’t think
to photograph the now
when you’re convinced it lasts.

But real it was and is
kind reality for some of us
is only those things
done or thought done
           and well remembered.





5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Mr. McKuen!

  1. OMG! I was a HUGE fan of McKuen in the late 60’s early 70’s and saw a few of his concerts. Remember how much he used to tour? I always had one of his calendars, also, and over the early years, owned each and every one of his books. Even in the military where I was stationed, they had a Rod McKuen hour on Thursday evenings, as I recall.

    Thanks for the wonderful memories and reminders of our pasts.


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