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 Lonesome Cities

The Art of Catching Trains Cowboys/Cheyenne Boat Ride Morning Church Windows Manhattan Beach To Watch The Trains Atlantic Crossing Celebrations Concerto For 4 Hands o Waiting For What? The Sun Is A Moveable Target Along The Coasts of France The Language Of Hello Lonesome Cities.

Arranged & conducted by Arthur Greenslade.

I used to hide from the snow. That was port of growing up. But even now I sleep with the electric blanket on in Summertime. Sometimes when I travel there are no electric blankets where I stay and so I bed down with last year's or lost night's memories. Those times when I'm wrapped up in love I push aside the memories and build on what is happening now, knowing now must be worth remembering every tomorrow. I am not a collector of people, I am a saver of places and things, I know they'll bring the people back for me when they're needed.

My step-father was a cat skinner , levelling hills into highways. We never stayed in one place long. Portland Oregon. Skamania Washington. Alamo, Nevada. When he worked we had a Model T or a second hand Chevrolet. When he didn't, it was thumbs up along the highway for the family to get to where the work would be. (My mother looking beautiful and getting us rides.)

I learned my first four letter word from fellow hitch-hikers in Winemucca, Nevada. The second one I learned was "love " because I needed it. Today that word is used as a noun, pronoun, verb and catch-all word for a generation coming up that isn't getting much of it either. You see it chalked on men's room walls and leading every slogan used in every protest march. They're even writing books to tell us how to go about it now; technology is so advanced the Kama Sutra's nothing but a comic book and Pompeii's hardly worth the extra dollar for the hidden rooms. That word will bury us before hate does, if we're not careful.

Lonesome Cities ? I've known some. Some of them are here. Cheyenne - my camera catching blood speckled cowboys on white speckled horses. Gstaad- I liked the snow that time and all the views from the Gondelbahns that gave a not-so-Disney look at cows and countryside. Paris - ah the maids in the rooms of the Hotel Crystal... quoting everybody's business but their own. And roaches lined up in cinema seats along the bathtub, arriving so frequently I almost gave them each a name.

London has a heart if you can find it, and I almost have.
Mijas is a town in Spain. The day they laid Bob Kennedy to rest I sat upon my roof and listened to a folk mass ringing down the mountainside and mixing with the goat bells. The birds were speaking Spanish but I understood. I got to wondering where all of us are going. "We're on a treadmill to oblivion" Fred Allen would say. Maybe so. But there must be one lonesome city somewhere where a man can go and not see children throwing rocks at one another while the elders burn their heroes in order to insure their memory.

I'm in Los Angeles right now amid mid-August sheep-dog days. Tonight I'll sing some songs where once I thought I had a friend. He smiles now and counts the money that my craggy face and creaky throat bring in, but never sits through one performance. He's changed, as have so many who wish me not success but a kind of limbo where a friend or foe might come and gape.

It was a climb, God knows it was (He's about the only one who does) up hill all the way. Here I am, as the poem goes, my cardboard suitcase traded in for leather. I've put a few more pounds on but I don't live too much better.

Tomorrow off to other cities. Lonesome? Some of them. To fill another book with the observations of a man who's come to love (that word again) all people but who prides himself on saving just enough dislike to heap on those for whom that second four letter words is tied upon a yo-yo string and snapped back at convenience. You know your names. Stay away. I've little enough time and love to share with sheep-dogs and civilians in Grand Rapids or off along the coasts of France.

I've some friends in Caliente I haven't even met. If I get through one more winter here I might get to know them yet.

Rod McKuen, August 1968

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