Friday, April 8, 2011


When you are around 60, there are certain things that are completely terrifying. One of them is that you have made the wrong choices in life, and now it’s too late to do anything about them.

- Henning Mankell

I'm painfully aware that I will never have another hit record ... Believe me, it took me years to get comfortable with that conclusion... But once I was comfortable, I could look around at my life and be pretty happy.

- Janis Ian

In April 1951 a woman probably thought, as her fourth child arrived, that he probably was as good a marker of her transition from Bohemian living to prosperous, suburban living as any. He was his grandfather's namesake due to his birthday being two days away, close enough under the circumstances.

In April 1961 the boy had left behind suburban living, that was gone as he entered fourth grade; the houses in his part of Tuolumne County were an acre or more apart, and the neighbors lived in a log cabin and brushed their teeth with salt and soda. The boy in that family, roughly the same age, was adept at catching rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the granite boulders in the fields. But the log cabin family seemed fairly stable; something was wrong in his own family. It was clear the marriage was in trouble, money was short, and his father had difficulty holding a job or sustaining a business.

In April 1971, the father had been dead for years, a casualty of bad habits. The boy had gone to college, and its fascination had been undercut by the erosion of the counterculture - higher education was just another means of co-opting some imagined natural state. The remnants of the Aquarian Age in Nixon's presidency appeared to be the results of the water-bearer dumping a huge vat of bleach over America, and for awhile most things seemed gray, desiccated bones were everywhere.

By April 1981, however, the thirty-year-old was still pursuing rock-n-roll dreams in Los Angeles. He was on the verge of a new career, though, and there was a girl...

April 1991 saw the man in a high-tech maelstrom, married and with a young daughter. Technical things made the day go quickly for a man well-established as a nerd in early life, but the singleminded ambition and acquisitiveness of his colleagues seemed oppressive.

Shortly before April 2001, his wife was diagnosed with cancer, and was undergoing aggressive treatment. The trio, happy and prosperous enough as the year began, faced an uncertain future.

April 2011 found the healthy couple with old friends exploring train cars a short distance from where the young rattlesnake hunter plied his skill. Their daughter was launching her career, making discoveries. It appeared that fate had conspired to smooth the rough edges, illuminate just enough the dark corners, and provide abundant entertainment along the way. And perhaps it wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine that each decade had its object lesson, its annealing factor. And perhaps that annealing is what keeps the terror at bay, but perhaps only for the fortunate.

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