Pine Nuts: March Madness 2020 |

Pine Nuts: March Madness 2020

McAvoy Layne

A gifted poet friend of mine, Jack Wright, penned a verse to welcome a flattening of the Covid-19 curve …

Spring is upon us, the warm breezes beckon

To lift every spirit, to chase clouds away

In endless profusion new life emerges

The final contest of the Big Dance 2020 came down to Thoreau and Twain.

Humanity triumphs, Death’s specter at bay

Jack is the Walt Whitman of our day, and his sentiments prompt me to wonder which sport we might first welcome back to the public sphere, and I think I’ve hit upon it … skipping flat rocks. Yes, skipping flat rocks!

I would offer to host the initial competition myself here at Lake Tahoe, but all the flat rocks have already been skipped. I know because I skipped the last one back in 1956 from a beach at Homewood. You might be impressed to learn that my flat rock, that last flat Tahoe rock, skipped 13 times, setting a record for 1956, before sinking to the bottom of the Lake of the Sky.

Another good friend tells us they have plenty of flat rocks up on Whidbey Island, so that might be the best place to welcome sports back into our lives.

March Madness had a much different feel this year here at Layne Haven. While home alone I made up a literary bracket and read my way through it. Here’s how it went. Bear with me …

In the Northwest, J.D. Salinger went down in the first round to Harper Lee, who in turn was routed by Maya Angelou to celebrate Maya’s arrival to the Sweet Sixteen.

The Southwest was even more hotly contested. Mark Twain eliminated Cormac McCarthy in overtime and advanced to take on J.K. Rowling. Well one could not buy a ticket to that contest. Twain’s Huckleberries outlasted Rowland’s Hogwarts in double overtime. The final shot, at the buzzer, was a perfect jump-shot by Joan of Arc’s body guard, the “Dwarf,” and my invisible friends, the imaginary Francophiles in the house, took to blowing kisses and throwing high elbow hugs …

Maya Angelou slipped the rug out from under Roald Dahl to make the Final Four in the West.

In the Northeast, Stephen King stormed into the elite eight with a victory over Cheryl Strayed, only to lose to Henry David Thoreau, first in the East to make the Final Four. Thoreau was soon joined by J.R.R. Tolkien, who blew George Orwell out of the water.

The final contest of the Big Dance 2020 came down to Thoreau and Twain. Smart money was on Thoreau, as he wrote about the timely topic of constructive solitude, “We must first succeed alone, that we may enjoy our success together.”

I called my poet friend in New Jersey, and he told me I should name my next born “Thoreau,” regardless of sex. Then I called my flat rock skipping pal up on Whidbey Island, and he told me to take out a second mortgage on Layne Haven and put it on Thoreau.

But guess what? That game was never played. A few librarian friends of mine lodged a complaint that Jane Austen was not given a rightful birth, and got no show. I objected that I could read Sir Walter Scott on salary, even in lockdown, but not Jane Austen.

In the end, I confess, the librarians won the day. And that’s where my history of March Madness 2020 ends. I, for one, if lucky to be alive, cannot wait to get back to basketball in 2021 …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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