Pine Nuts: 30 years of being somebody else |

Pine Nuts: 30 years of being somebody else

Thirty years ago, Oct. 19, 1987, my life as it was, ended, and I was given a new life. But allow me to back up and try to explain this minor miracle. It involves a father, Dr. R.M. Layne, and a father figure, Mark Twain. They were destined to collide on Oct. 19, 1987, and I would be the lucky beneficiary. Here’s how it happened.

Like many of us, I desired my father’s approval and was falling short. The job I held at the time he thought should be illegal, that of hosting a morning radio show on Maui, signing off the air at 10 a.m. and diving into the surf at 10:10 a.m. My father was probably not the only person who resented the fact that I had the most idle life in America, and was as happy as an opihi at high tide. Nobody, I confess now, should ever have the luxury of such an indolent life for very long. But here’s the unbelievable ne — it got better.

I booked a ski trip for Lake Tahoe, and while snowbound alone for five days in a cabin, and cursing my unbelievably bad luck, I discovered on the coffee table, “The Complete Essays of Mark Twain.” Well, my brain was soft from cabin fever, so that seed was planted in fertile ground, and I walked out of that cabin a mini-Mark Twain.

I had a white suit made, purchased some white hair spray, and planned to crash my father’s 75th birthday party at La Playa in Carmel on Oct. 19.

Nervous? I’ve never been so nervous. During dinner, I excused myself, donned the white suit, sprayed my hair white, and reentered that dining room older than my father. (His jaw dropped to where you could of stuck a ham in his mouth without his noticing.)

I recited a little Twain for him that was probably weak as rooster soup, but I saw something in my father’s eye that I had never seen before, and found myself in possession of something I had never had before, my father’s approval. He would soon thereafter endorse my taking the works of Mark Twain into schools to inspire young people to get their stories out.

Well, it was within the comfort of that white suit on that fateful night that I was able to gather my courage and tell my father I loved him, which I had never done before, and I thank Mark Twain for that courage, as I would not get to see our father’s 76th birthday.

This Oct. 19, we shall celebrate Mark Twain’s 182nd birthday (a bit early) at Tunnel Creek Lodge, 30 years to the day following that memorable moment of time travel when Dr. Layne met Mark Twain, and I got to go to work as an educator in a white suit. I hope to have another 30 years, though they tell me I might need a personal trainer.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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