Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Nobody Knows It But Me

There’s a place that I travel

when I want to roam

and nobody knows it but me.

The roads don’t go there

and the signs stay home

and nobody knows it but me.

It’s far far away and way way afar.

It’s over the moon and the sea.

And wherever you’re going

that’s wherever you are

and nobody knows it but me.

-Patrick O'Leary

The Story behind the poem-

The director was Eric Saarinen. The actress was photographer Sally Gall. James Garner recited the poem. Art Director Brad Neeley had the idea. We shot it in the Yukon and British Columbia. I’m the poet. Yes, it was the poem on that Chevy Tahoe commercial that came out in the fall of 2002. No, you didn't hear it when you were a child. Your Grandmother didn't read it to you. Or your Grandpa or your Dad. But I know what you mean: it was written to capture that childlike carefree sense of wonder and adventure. And Mr. Garner gave it a soothing sitting-on-your-poppa's-lap sort of feeling. People loved the spot. They really loved the poem. They found it hauntingly familiar. Was is Robert Frost? Robert Louis Stevenson? Walt Whitman? They were amazed and skeptical to hear it was written by an advertising copywriter from Detroit. I got dozens of emails and letters and phone calls. So did GM. Newspapers were flooded with queries about the poem. Radio stations, too. For a few months it seemed that everyone in America was wondering about it. What happened next was weird in the extreme. People made Christmas cards of the poem. People put it on their office walls. Sent it as a valentine. Insisted on House Silence whenever the commercial played. It gave a unique comfort to people. Cancer patients read it in the hospital. Lonely people found great solace in the words. A middle-school class memorized it and recited it. Dozens of discussion groups online chatted it up. A grammy-award-winning composer wrote a song to the lyrics. So did a bluegrass band. One woman did a beautiful cross stitch of the poem. It is on my office wall. Today, some five years later I still get the occasional email about it. It’s strange to be swept up in such a cultural phenomenon. It's very humbling to have moved so many so deeply.

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