Pine nuts: Last hurrah (Opinion)

McAvoy Layne / Columnist
McAvoy Layne

On the September 30, trembling like an Aspen in Autumn, I stepped onto the stage at Piper’s Opera House in front of a packed house. What in tarnation was I about to say? I had two hours of information to cram into 90 minutes…somethings had to go, but what? I can’t remember now what I decided, but our trusted friends at PBS Reno will air a portion of it on October 15…

I remember tossing in a last-minute off-color piece that proved President Taft wrong: “Mark Twain never wrote a paragraph that a father could not read to his daughter.” That purple piece might have bombed in Hoboken, but happily, it took wings up on the Comstock Lode.

Fittingly, we ended where it all started 35 years and 4,000 programs ago for the Ghost of Mark Twain, crossing this great land of ours, across Germany, and yes, into Russia, where we got the warmest welcome outside of Missouri.

I do remember saying, “My friends, Artificial Intelligence is not going to do it for our kids. Our kids are going to need real people to teach them history, and it will be up to you to provide that living history. Get involved with Chautauqua, it will give you another life, and one life is not enough.” Then, before I knew it, it was time for my final remarks…

“It is with profound and heartfelt gratitude to Carol Piper Marshall, God rest her beautiful soul, that my time has come to sail my little sloop up onto dry land, and haul down my colors. A very smart lady once told me, ‘McAvoy, better to retire two years too early than two minutes too late.’

“Speaking metaphorically, I am but this this frivolous little captain of a coasting sloop in the dried-apple and kitchen-furniture trade, hailing every cargo ship that comes into sight, just to air my small grandeurs. ‘Ship Ahoy! What ship is that?’ “The answer comes thundering back through a speaking trumpet aboard a majestic Indiaman, with course on course of canvas towering into the sky, ‘The Begum of Bengal, one hundred and twenty-three days out from Canton -homeward bound! What ship is that?’

“My vanity is crushed out of me, and humbly I squeak back: ‘Only the Mary Ann -fourteen hours out from Boston, bound for Kittery Point with -with nothing to speak of!’

“You see, during one hour in the day, I stop to reflect. Then I am humble, then I am properly meek, then I am only the Mary Ann, cargoed with vegetables and tinware.

But tonight, tonight, my vain self-satisfaction rides high, and I am the stately Indiaman, plowing the great seas under a cloud of sail, laden with a rich freightage of kind words from you, my friends and fellow travelers. Yes tonight, this final night, I am the Begum of Bengal, one hundred twenty-three days out from Canton -homeward bound!”

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