< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS: Useful Quotes to Brighten One’s Day – Continued

September 18, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Continuing from last week…over the years I’ve contented myself in collecting poignant quotes that I thought might shed some light upon a long and winding road toward old age. Recently I opened that file and was astonished to discover it had grown to thirty pages in length. So I thought for fun I might like to select my next eleven favorite non-Twainian quotes, and share them with you here in this fine family journal…

We pick it up here with number eleven from Quincy Jones: “No matter how much you feel, you have to have your science and craft together to express it.  Otherwise you are in deep doo-doo.” Mr. Jones still has it all together at ninety years young and going strong. 

Number twelve? Douglas Casey, while at Georgetown University, shared this satirical observation: “Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.”

Robert Frost gives us number thirteen with his astute definition of freedom, “You have freedom when you are easy in your harness.” 

For number fourteen we turn to Kahlil Gibran, “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

At number fifteen Mike Caro weighs in on gambling: “Every conscious act requires risk. Every conscious act requires decision. Put these two facts together and you realize that the secret to life is not to avoid gambling, but to gamble well.”

Moving right along, Erich Fromm asserts “Giving is the highest expression of your aliveness.” 

Marcus Aurelius checks in with number seventeen, “Waste no time debating what a good man should be.  Be one.”

A short list of useful quotes would not be complete without one from H.L. Mencken: “Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

We miss you, George Burns: “Happiness?  A good cigar, and a good woman -or a bad woman.  It depends on how much happiness you can handle.” 

Number twenty brings us closer to home. Las Vegas is not renowned as a literary town. In truth, Las Vegas, literally translated from its original Spanish means, “place of general inebriation.” Deke Castleman tells us, “The word ‘book’ around town, 90% of the time is a verb.”     Finally we shall culminate this short list with a manifesto from Bertrand Russell & Albert Einstein: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

Those two very smart men leave us on page 15 of 30 pages of useful quotes that I’d like to share, but the remaining 15 pages will have to wait for another day. Meanwhile, I hope these eleven might give you a lift as they did me…

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS- Useful Quotes to Brighten One’s Day

September 8, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Over the years I’ve contented myself by collecting poignant quotes that I thought might shed some light upon a long and winding road toward old age. Today I opened that file and was astonished to discover it had grown to thirty pages in length. So I thought for fun I might like to select my ten favorite non-Twainian quotes, and share them with you here in this fine family journal… 

The first comes to us from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Thank you, Mr. Emerson.

Number two comes from a man who lived for a hundred years, George Burns: “Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.” We miss you, George.

Number three is a lasting proverb from Mexico: “Eyes that see do not grow old.”

Number four comes from the pen of Luciano de Crescenzo: “We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly embracing each other.”
             For number five we call on Oscar Wilde: “The future is what artists are.  Art is what makes the life of each citizen a sacrament and not a speculation.”

Number six flows from the founder of our nation, George Washington: “To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country.” As an aside, Mark Twain proffered, “George Washington could not tell a lie. I can but choose not to.”

Number seven is a welcome to the world from Kurt Vonnegut; “Hello, babies, welcome to Earth.  It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  It’s round and wet and crowded.  At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here.  There’s only one rule that I know of, babies -God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” Vonnegut, as you know, loved Mark Twain.

Number eight goes to Florence Kennedy, who told it like it is: “The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.”

For number nine we call on Henry David Thoreau: “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” Should you happen to live near Tahoe or Donner Lake, you might want to add: “Amen.”

 Finally at number ten we return to Mr. Emerson, who reminds us, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

But I see I am running out of space and am only on page ten of thirty pages of my favorite quotes, so I shall have to continue this chronicle next week… 

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Embarrassing Moment

September 1, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

During a recent interview, I was asked about my impending retirement from 35 years of pretending to be Mark Twain and was probed about embarrassing moments. That was propitious, as I had just experienced two embarrassing moments in the same day, which was above my average. I was to speak to a room full of California sign language folks at Harvey’s, at least I thought that’s who I was going to be seeing.

As I walked into Harvey’s I was greeted by a warmhearted lady who rushed over and gave me a hearty hug. Wanting to put a little sign language into my program I asked her if she could tell me how to say, “I (and I pointed to my eye) love (and I pointed to my heart) you (and I pointed to her.)

She looked at me like I had just escaped from the Tahoe insane asylum, then started laughing, and it occurred to me with great force, that I was somewhere out in left field. When she stopped laughing, she half-covered her mouth, and shared with me out of the other side of her mouth, “We make signs, billboard signs.”

So, no wonder she thought I had fallen in love with her at first sight, and wanted her to show me how I could tell her I loved her in sign language -embarrassing moment number one.

Moving right along, I entered their exhibit hall and became interested in a gentleman standing beneath a sign that indicated he was in the tombstone business. He looked like he had been carving tombstones for quite a while, as he had the most stone-serious face I ever saw on a man. Well, never being one to relinquish my first impulse, I walked over to that sober looking gentleman and professed, “I have a confession to make.”

“And what could that be?” he asked in a voice common to tombstoners and coroners.

“I must confess to you that I have no formal education. In truth, I am as unlettered as the backside of a tombstone.”

He stared at me with his stone-cold face, and uttered without the slightest hint of a smile, “That’s a good one.”

I wanted to ask him how much he would charge me to put, “I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” on my tombstone, but suspecting that he might not be any more receptive to W.C Fields than Mark Twain, I bit my lip, held my tongue, and let it slide.

There have been so many embarrassing moments in my wild ride as Mark Twain, too many to list here, but perhaps I shall write a book of some 300 pages someday to chronicle that amusing aspect of a gratifying career.

In closing I would ask that you consider Chautauqua as a pursuit for yourself. It will give you a second life, and one life is not enough. Bring history to life and live twice, you won’t regret it… 

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Relationship Rekindled

August 29, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

In this unsettling world we live in, it feels good to have a relationship from a more predictable time, rekindled. That happened for me this summer when my high school sweetheart came to visit with two of her lady friends, and I got to sleep on a futon on the floor for a couple nights. Was there lively conversation? I sat in quiet awe, smiling, and oftentimes laughing out loud. It was nonstop entertainment at its finest.

But this time she might be coming back to visit alone, and I am frozen in fear, for my cooking has been known to leave people confused and disoriented for days. Then there is my daily Happy Hour with my pet jay, Huckleberry, during which time we talk and whistle and chortle back and forth for the longest time, while she will not understand a word we’re saying.

I’m reading Cervantes’s, Don Quixote de la Mancha, but don’t know how she will feel about my reading it out loud in its original Spanish. (I speak Spanish but don’t understand it.)

There is a good chance that she will start to cry while I’m reading this touching novel from 1605  out loud, as by her own admission, her tear ducts are connected somehow to her urinary tract, and she would shed copious and bountiful tears were I to accidentally step on a caterpillar.

Then there is the delicate matter of the bathroom, where I hang up my workout clothes in a maze that will require careful navigation on her part to locate the sink. I have been known to get lost in there myself during the night.

Driving in the car could be a challenge. I remember her chastising me while I was driving my ’55 Chevy in high school, “You’re awfully quiet today.”

“Quiet? Why would you say that?”

She smiled that sweet smile of hers and admonished, “‘Turn green, dammit, turn green!’ does not count as talk.” She was always good at correcting me like that.

I suppose I shall have to stop slurping water out of the tap, and drinking beer out of a bottle, then burping loud enough to wake General Grant and his wife in their tomb in New York. And I will definitely have to refrain from waking her in the morning by tickling her bare foot with an ostrich feather duster, because when I did that earlier this summer, she let out a squeal that could be heard in Albuquerque, told me I was immature, and would not talk to me for an hour.

Well, I shouldn’t get up-tight about how I’m supposed to act, because her relaxing presence will divine a path of behavior strewn with rose pedals, and I will naturally fall into a gallant mode of behavior that will warm her heart, and swell that forgiving heart of hers with pride that she could tame such a knight-errant as Don Quixote de la McAvoy.

Wish me luck, and keep your fingers crossed, unless you go bowling…

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – The Return of Lahaina Town

August 19, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

The intrepid Kathy Collins, who has always been Maui personified, recommended “The Hawaii Community Foundation Maui Strong Fund,” for much needed Maui relief. So with a lump in my throat, and a heavy heart for Lahaina I sent my heartfelt support. 

I was granted a stroll through history while living on Maui from 1973-83 and hosting a morning radio show that included remote broadcasts from iconic Lahaina Town. To benefit the Maui United Way, I published a paperback book, Zowie It’s Maui, the Halcyon years ’73-’83.  

Mark Twain told us back in 1866, “The Sandwich Islands are one long slumbering Sabbath. The good who die there experience no change, for they fall asleep in one heaven and wake up in another.” Our hearts and dollars go out to those who lost a loved one, a pet, a home, a place of business, and for some, all of the above…

It will take years, but Lahaina will come back faster than any other town its size could ever muster. The society I knew there was composed of wild, free, unspeakably happy souls, who laughed at poverty while having a noble good time in all weathers, though they never expected a fire. And why would they? Lahaina was lush and green until climate change, sugar, and the tourist industry sucked up the water, and Maui was transmogrified from sacred pools to savanna, from mangos to matchsticks. How tragic.

Among the things I carried with me when I moved to Tahoe in ’83 was a listing of early house rules at the Pioneer Inn…

How ironic…

There was always something distinct about Lahaina, as if they had a sign at the town border, “Check your cares and inhibitions here, and fill-up your heart with cheer & charity.”

With her noble spirit of Ohana, Lahaina will be back better than ever, and I’m making it a goal to live long enough to bear witness to that heroic return…

                                                        Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Seeking a Ceasefire

August 8, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Kathryn Kelly, founder, and executive director of Carson City’s I-School, brought a Russian family by for An Evening with Mark Twain, and I fell in love with them. So the following morning, hoping Nikolai might be willing to translate into Russian, I penned letters to Presidents Putin & Zelensky asking for an audience, and yes, Nikolai is in fact translating as we speak. I thought too, I had better check in with the DOJ and State Department to be sure I’m following protocol, should I actually receive that invitation…

Email Subject: Wanting to do the Right Thing

Dear friends at DOJ,

As a 35-year impressionist of Mark Twain, and about to retire, I thought I should reach out to Russia and Ukraine as a private citizen and goodwill ambassador. So, I composed the following letter to Presidents Putin & Zelensky…

Dear Presidents Putin & Zelensky,

As a private citizen, and 35-year impressionist of Mark Twain, I do hereby request an invitation to Moscow and Kiev, to abet the implementation of a ceasefire in Ukraine, and, the erecting of a Mark Twain statue in Odessa. My bags are packed with two roses, and two copies of The Innocents Abroad

It is with utmost sincerity and regard that I remain, Your friend in finding and maintaining peace,

McAvoy Layne


The Russian people love Mark Twain, as I found out years ago with a visit there to lecture at Leningrad University in Saint Petersburg. They even issued a domestic Twain postage stamp in 1960…

I feel a little like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but if I do receive that invitation, I want to be sure I am following State Department and DOJ guidelines and protocol…

Please instruct…

Your friend in peace,

McAvoy Layne as Mark Twain

PS: A six-month ceasefire will not be used as a subterfuge to provide combatants an opportunity to better position themselves for a moment when hostilities might resume. No, this ceasefire will be predicated on producing a lasting truce to recognize the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, while protecting speech, religion, and press.

And, I shall remain eager to assist in the erection of a Mark Twain statue in Odessa once the ceasefire becomes a lasting truce… 

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Bless the Hospice Folks

August 4, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Like you, I’ve always thought the world of Hospice folks, though my high regard was boosted higher yet when I received an email from a cousin of mine whose birthday it was yesterday. I had sent her customary well wishes and was eagerly opening her reply when her words sent my heart leaping into my throat…

“I’m sorry to tell you this, Cousin, but I’m with Hospice and going to be leaving today to cross over and join my loving Bobby and your dear mother Barbara.  My cancer has spread to my liver and skull.  I’m so awfully tired. Hospice is here, bless them, and I’m taking some comfort in thinking of all the fun we had as kids together. I hope this finds you well, as I send bushels of love.”

My legs almost buckled under me, but I stood the gravity and finality of her words. Why did she not tell me when she entered Hospice care, back when she had six months or six weeks or six days to live? All I can guess is she must have rested assured I would contact her on her birthday, so she would let me know then, not suspecting her birthday would be her last day. Oh my…

Losing a family member is always hard, but harder yet when they are younger than you. We ought to be allowed to get promoted to glory in chronological order, but then I am not the superintendent.

My thoughts drifted back to our childhood days when she would beat me down the slopes, and wait patiently for me to arrive, never bragging about how good a skier she was. In showing-off to her I once swam two lengths of the pool underwater. When I surfaced she gave me a standing ovation, dived in, and swam three lengths underwater. When I threw a front somersault off the diving board, she followed me with a one and a half, and landed it without a splash. That was just the grand & glorious, magnificent but modest, person she was.

She would send me an edible number on my birthday, made out of sticky Rice Krispies cakes that were delicious. What could I possibly say to her on her last day on this Earth? There are no words, but when there are no words, we must find words…

“My heart is in my throat, Cousin. Be brave -you always are. In one big air-hug I’m sending my love to you. I’m so looking forward to your greeting me on the other side, and welcoming me with a solid shot to my shoulder like you always do. You can teach me how to fly. I don’t know if I can beat you in a race around a billowy white thunderhead, but I’m going to try.”

I had to stop writing just there, as my eyes were clouding up, and I could no longer find nor see the words…

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Sleepin’ on a Futon

July 27, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

I’m practicing sleeping on a futon in anticipation of my high school sweetheart visiting with two of her lady friends. Well, I slept in the ground for a year in Vietnam while in the Marine Corps, so my futon is like a DreamCloud Mattress by comparison. I actually had a dream last night that I was Tom Sawyer, meeting up with Becky Thatcher, and Becky was saying…

  “Oh, I know you. I remember you from church. You’re Thomas Sawyer.”
     “They only call me that when I’m bad, you can call me Tom.”
     Tom wrote some words on his slate, and hid them from Becky. She begged to see 
them. Tom whispered: “Promise you won’t tell.”
     “I promise,” said Becky. Tom moved his hand, and Becky read the words: “‘I love you.’ Oh, 
you’re bad!” She blushed and turned away, but Tom saw her smiling, and he knew she was 
     At lunch Tom and Becky met behind the schoolhouse, and Tom asked Becky a question. 
“Have you ever been engaged?”
     “No,” replied Becky.
     “Would you like to be?” asked Tom.
     “Maybe. What’s special about it?”
     “Well,” said Tom, “first we kiss, and then you like only me, and I like only you. And we 
walk to and from school together.”
     Becky thought it sounded nice, so she said, “I love you,” in Tom’s ear. 

Then I woke up…

So, the girls will have the upstairs to themselves, while I can help myself to a midnight snack downstairs without waking anybody. Nervous? As Huckleberry might like to say, “I reckon not!” The fact that we have not seen each other in thirty years will not prevent us from remembering that we used to be as close as a couple coffee filters. And we can always reintroduce ourselves…

I might want to say, “Hi, I’m Tom Sawyer, Black Avenger of the Spanish Main, and you?

She might like to answer…

“Pleased to meet you, my name’s Tina, Tina Bo Bina, banana fana fo fina, fee fie mo mina, Tina!” 

The gentle reader is much too young to remember, “The Name Game,” and I caution you, do not try it, for it will ransack your brain before you know what you’re about.

We’ll have Happy Hour with some friends, and take in some music on the beach before dining out. A short hike is on the agenda, along with a swim in the Lake of the Sky. I just hope I can find my mask, my snorkel, my fins and my noodle, for without my noodle, I could find myself on the bottom of the lake alongside some gangsters I don’t even know.

Well, please hope me luck in this encounter of the ages. All I can say in advance is that I know I will see her as the wonderful creature she has always been, composed entirely of watch springs and happiness, while I, meanwhile, shall try my level best to not be an ass…

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Glad to be Here to Bear Witness

July 20, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Residing in the 19th century has long been a convenient and comfortable escape for me. But I’m starting to feel a little cramped now, as I’m not always able to escape 21st century assaults of internecine war, climate catastrophe, and the advance of artificial intelligence.Not being a poet, it is not possible for me to wax melancholy, but the country I love and call home is no longer seen by the rest of the world as a shining beacon of hope and happiness. We are regarded more today as a well-armed failed state. A 19-year-old French citizen, in referring to the teenage driver whose killing at a traffic stop prompted recent unrest in France, is quoted as asking, “How can someone be killed for refusing a traffic stop? Are we in America or what?”

Our sending cluster munitions to Ukraine could come back to bite us in the asparagus, as mission creep morphs into morals creep. We’ve seen how preparation for war begets war, and escalation is usually the tripwire. Robert Oppenheimer cautioned us, “If there is another world war, this civilization may go under.” Scarily, we accept that genocidal weapons are now in the hands of persons of questionable character.

Comparable dangers lurk in the arrival of artificial intelligence, where danger and solutions to danger are mixed together. Here again, if mission drift wafts into mission creep, well, we could be toast. 

Our little skulls are Davids compared to the Goliath skull of AI, and while the intelligence of AI expands exponentially, our intelligence seems to be on hold. There doesn’t appear to be anything about us that cannot be surpassed by AI, and surpassed in a New York minute. Mitigations must be put in place to control this colossus before it controls us…

I used to escape to Mark Twain’s home…  

“To us, our house was not unsentient matter – it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals, and solicitudes, and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.” 

But now the very thought of matter being sentient is somewhat unsettling to me…

As for climate, when I was a kid, we used to say it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Today in Las Vegas it is too hot to get to the sidewalk, for your brain might get fried before you arrive. The two hardest things to find in Las Vegas today are designated shade and a designated driver.

Know what keeps me almost sane? The arrival of a good friend, sharing a couple cold Icky IPA’s, smoking a couple Cohibas, and engaging in some vigorous conversation, this is what keeps me almost sane in this troubled 21st century. Hell, I’m just glad to be here to bear witness…

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

< Back to Community News

PINE NUTS – Mark Twain in Ukraine

July 14, 2023 | McAvoy Lane

Just prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine there was a movement afoot to erect a statue of Mark Twain in Odessa. But why, you might want to ask as I did. Well, the short answer is, “To promote goodwill and tourism.” Isn’t it a twist of fate that what we are sending them today is cluster munitions to protect themselves.

In 1867 Samuel Clemens booked himself aboard the Quaker City pleasure excursion from America to Europe and the Holy Land. It was billed as, “A picnic at Sea.” In truth it was more like a funeral procession without a corps, so Sam had to embroider his letters to the Alta California, that would later go into his first full-length book, The Innocents Abroad.” By the way, The Innocents Abroad served to sever America’s literary umbilical cord to the petrified opinions of Europe and the Holy Land, to become America’s literary Declaration of Independence.

In that epic book, Mark Twain envisions a glorious future for Odessa…

“Odessa is about twenty hours’ run from Sebastopol and is the most northerly port in the Black Sea. We came here to get coal, principally. The city has a population of one hundred and thirty-three thousand and is growing faster than any other small city out of America. It is a free port; and is the great grain mart of this particular part of the world. Its roadstead is full of ships. Engineers are at work, now, turning the open roadstead into a spacious artificial harbor. It is to be almost enclosed by massive stone piers, one of which will extend into the sea over three thousand feet in a straight line.” Samuel must be spinning like a lathe today…

According to the Odessa Review: “At the time of Twain’s visit, Odessa was young, vibrant and in the midst of construction. It was the same exact age as the United States, and in a similar position as an industrious, dynamic, cultural melting pot. It was these qualities which reminded Twain of America – and endeared the city of Odessa to him greatly.”

And the Eurasia Review wrote, “Uplifting the cultural cooperation between the United States and Ukraine has historically been a rather timid component; however, Mark Twain’s legacy is always vivid and will serve as the niche of brotherhood for centuries to come. A Statue of Mark Twain in Odessa will eternally be considered as the symbol of brotherly ties between the United States and Ukraine; it will serve as an exceptional platform that will promote rural tourism in the Black Sea Region.”

In an earlier turn of events, Russia issued a Mark Twain domestic postage stamp back in 1960, to commemorate Mark Twain’s 125th birthday, and too, Russia gave me the warmest welcome I’ve had outside of Missouri, as an impressionist of Mark Twain. If only we could do that today, Sam Clemens, over there on the other side, would surely be smiling… 

Audio: https://anchor.fm/mcavoy-layne

Sign up for our weekly SnapShot newsletter