San Fancisco (Scott Mckenzie) My Walk

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  • dungbeetle

    Scott McKenzie
    September 2001


    My Walk begins in Arlington Cemetery with the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I walk among the rows and rows of gravestones to the Custis-Lee Mansion, the memorial to the crew of Challenger, the headstones of John and Robert Kennedy. From Arlington Cemetery I walk across Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln and Korean War Memorials. My Walk used to end at the Viet Nam Wall. This year I plan to go by train from Washington, DC to New York. I need to walk NYC streets, ride NYC subways, eat at NYC restaurants, talk to NYC people.

    In 1990 John Phillips and I sat down in the Mayflower Hotel in New York to write a song. John was struggling with the dilemma of whether or not he could abide the idea of his children going to war in the Persian Gulf.

    We had hoped to include the song in an album, but the project fell through. I got on a Metro Liner to DC and took My Walk, then flew to San Francisco; John went back to his house in Huntington, Long Island, to care for his daughter, Bijou.

    During the next few months, as war became inevitable, John recorded an instrumental track in his home studio. On the evening of January 14, 1991, I boarded the redeye from San Francisco to New York. Because of the nationwide fear of terrorism, both the airport and flight were eerily quiet; I was almost alone in the airport and on the airplane.

    The next night we were about to record my vocal when Bijou, then eleven, burst in to tell us that the bombing had begun. She was frightened and crying because she knew there were eleven-year-old girls in Baghdad as well as Huntington, Long Island. As I hugged her I realized it was Martin Luther King's birthday.

    We've Been Asking Questions

    We've been asking questions of everyone we meet
    People that we've known for years, neighbors down the street
    How did this happen? How were we played like fools?
    Gambling with our children's lives in a game that has no rules?
    We need an answer, a reason why

    The rulers wage the wars, but our children fight and die
    Mothers and fathers, you're charged with your children's lives
    It's up to you to cull between the truth and all the lies
    Is there a parent living on this earth
    Who doesn't understand what their children's dreams are worth?
    We need an answer, a reason why

    The rulers wage the wars, but our children fight and die
    Did you ever think about the pain in the night
    Of the mother whose child was killed in the bloody fight?
    Or the young veteran who comes home, but not the same?
    Did you ever wonder how it feels to have that pain?
    Presidents and dictators, tyrants and the shahs
    Order us to go to war, according to their personal laws
    But don't blame your mothers and your fathers, or your feelings inside
    Cause we're all the victims of generations of lies
    When it comes right down to it, it's up to you
    The future of the world depends on what you do.

    John Phillips/Scott McKenzie, 1990

    I need to take My Walk again. I need to witness again the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns;

    stand in the hush of the Custis-Lee Mansion, home of Robert E Lee who, rather than bear arms against Virginia, resigned his commission and left his home forever;

    stand before the memorial to the crew of Challenger;

    walk across the Potomac River on Memorial Bridge;

    enter the Lincoln Memorial, gaze upon the granite face, read and whisper Lincoln's words,

    then come back outside and stand on the steps where Martin Luther King said I Have a Dream;

    gaze into the faces of the bronze soldiers at the Korean War Memorial;

    read again the 58,178 names on the Viet Nam Wall;

    take the Metro Liner to Penn Station in NY;

    check in at the Mayflower Hotel;

    hit the streets and subways and restaurants of New York City;

    shake the hands of people still working at Ground Zero and of every New York cop, fireman and EMS worker I see.

    Difficult questions appear each time I take my walk. I think difficult questions must be natural companions on long walks. Einstein said something about the relationship between questions and answers; he said a clearly stated question contained well over half of its answer. Perhaps if I just keep taking My Walk some answers might come to me.

    One question always appears: What is the value of a single human life?

    October 5 I fly from Los Angeles to Washington. I'll check in at a Crystal City hotel, close to the Metro station. On Sunday I'll take the Metro past the Pentagon, get off at Arlington Cemetery and walk up Memorial Drive and Roosevelt Drive until I reach the Tomb of the Unknowns. I plan to be there in time for the first daylight Changing of the Guard.

    October 8 I'll take a train up to Penn Station in New York and check in at the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West, where John and I began work on our song.

    Whoever reads this, I hope you will consider meeting me on Sunday morning, October 7, for the Changing of the Guard at Arlington Cemetery. You won't be able to miss me; I'll be the arthritic 62 year old one-hit-wonder with the long silver ponytail, who dresses in ill-fitting travel clothes and walks like a wounded parrot. I'll probably look like a khaki blimp with too many security pockets.

    If you can't join me, please consider taking the Walk on your own, the sooner the better. Whatever you do, please ask your friends and, especially, your children to walk with you. They have a lot of questions right now.

    We all do.




    Enjoy everyone!!!!! much dung, so little time...

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