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open a fine Chilean red and crank up the stereo with vintage rock and roll. Familiar gui-
tar riffs soar, the fireplace crackles, and an hour goes by. I maintain an absentminded
stare while dancing flames scour the darkness, as if they might vanquish some elusive
menace lurking in the shadows; shifting about on the couch, I imagine lions roaring out-
side a Pleistocene cave. Another hour passes. By now the wine has warmed me inside,
loosened my practiced grip, and Jackson Browne's “Barricades of Heaven” draws out
my reluctant emotions. Later still, when embers have waned and composure returns,
Riley puts his big yellow dog head in my lap and solicits a hug that I need far more than
he does.
There is an enormous maple tree outside our house in upstate New York, and tomor-
row morning, against a chilly sky, its shimmering orange leaves will be incandescent in
the predawn light. Soon enough I'll slide into silence with countless others who have
already come and gone, but for now we're riding high in this colorful earthly riot.
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