Lonely Things

i must be improving. By this time for the past five nights, i have been stuffed with pills and trying to figure out how i can minimize the crud from continual interruption of sleep. i feel that way now, but the urge to write — i was going to write “put something down on paper” and that remains the greatest joy of writing to me, but just too damn inefficient for one who is much like my mother’s description of my father as a “worm in hot ashes” — was strong, and i obeyed. So i think i’m getting better.

i could not talk to Maureen or my daughters tonight. The hoarseness is abating i think, but it’s still work to talk.

So i sit in my office thinking about lonely things. i guess that’s natural if you have been alone (except for Maureen’s cats) for two days. In my life, i have often felt alone and identified with lonely things. i don’t think that is terribly bad. It could be good.

In my world of growing up, i lived a full life, running through it like a bull hell bent to do everything one could possibly do. But in my way, i was lonely, just me. i was wild, or at least as wild as a Tennessee boy could be who had matriculated to the Southern version of Ivy (Vanderbilt) and had made what has turned out into a life-long connection to the Navy.  But i never seemed, at least to me, to quite fit in, anywhere. Even with the women i loved, there seemed to be a loneliness.

Perhaps that was because of the time. Regardless of what we thought then or now politically, culturally, religiously, we were mostly a generation of romantics in oh so many ways. Perhaps that uncertainty created by being romantics in a both practical and insane world we lived required us to identify with the lonely things. i did.

In 1966, there was this gentle soul who captured the imagination of many in my age range. He was the flower child of gentleness, not the in your face, wild-haired confrontational onslaught of the beatniks. Rod McKuen wrote some soothing stuff for romantics. Folks nowadays might call it sappy. Perhaps that is why when Sharry Baird Hager once called some of my writing “sappy,” i took it as a compliment.

He wrote a lovely romantic book of poetry called Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows (1966). i read it at sea in the Navy soon after my first divorce. i heard him recite it sometime shortly afterward. i was entranced.  He captured my sense of lonely things.

Then, there was this guy, a member of a folk trio, The Limelighters. He left his folk group to perform on his own and recorded an album “Glenn Yarborough Sings the Rod McKuen Songbook” in 1969. i bought it in 1970 in the Navy exchange in Sasebo, Japan. i listened to
“The Lonely Things” incessantly on my 22 trips between Sasebo, Korean, and Vietnam that year. i still have it.

After all, i was into lonely things.

Yarborough took the last verse of “Stanyan Street” and recorded that on the album as “The Lonely Things.” If you care not to listen to Yarborough’s version or McKuen reciting “Stanyan Street” on the web, then i offer the lyrics of those verses here:

The silent rain that falls, the meadowlark
the winter wind that calls the lovers from the park
the sad and bitter song December sings
these are the lonely things.

The sun behind the clouds, the starless night
when you’re alone in crowds the need for sudden
the empty loneliness that parting brings
these are the lonely things.

A taste of love too soon gone wrong
the sad mistaken heart that heard the sirens song
and sang along.

The waves that drum the shore at morning light
the friends that come no more to try and make things
the hopes that fly too soon as though on wings
these are the lonely things.

And these lonely things aren’t really all that bad. In fact, they can be beautiful. If only you think about it in the right way.

3 thoughts on “Lonely Things

  1. One of my top priorities in my 40s was to learn how to be alone without out feeling lonely. I think I’ve achieved that but ‘need’ was an integral part of my psych. Boy, howdy, was it a tough obstacle to overcome. But, once I made the first step I was off to the races.
    Good piece Jim.

  2. Ahhh….the Irish melancoly is always just over one’s shoulder …..I understand…perhaps that’s why we became friends so many years ago….we recognized that in each other! I hope you feel better soon and regain your voice!

  3. Thanks for posting the lyrics. It’s almost impossible to find any of the lyrics for the songs in that album. Like you, I like the sad songs, and while McKuen’s songs are beautiful poetry, they can be absolutely depressing- as this one is. But, then, like a torch singer, I’m never so happy as when I’m absolutely depressed.

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