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Sonoma County residents reflect on the year ahead

The setting: A Railroad Square coffee shop strung with Christmas lights and humming with conversation.

The characters: Three people, alone at separate tables. A man in a black cowboy hat. Another with an armful of tattoos. A woman whose necklace was a polished abalone shell.

The plot: The year ending approaches the year beginning, and glances back blend with looks ahead.

Top Pressdemocrat.com Stories Of 2012

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"I never really thought about it, but now that it's coming up, it gets you thinking about stuff," said the woman, Ellen Atzilah Solot of Sebastopol.

"It" is her 60th birthday on Jan. 7, a week into the new year, and the stuff on her mind, as it turned out over the next half hour, is a lot.

But first turn to another table at the Aroma Roasters coffeehouse, where Andrew Kostelak, 56, cowboy hat on his head, is reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" on his iPad.

"I've had people say, &‘Wouldn't it be nice to have everything you wanted,'" said Kostelak of Santa Rosa, an AT&T customer service worker. "I do."

"I do" means no New Year's resolutions. "I do" means a new house and the ability, once thought lost to tendonitis, to play guitar again. It means indescribable memories.

But before those details, cross the crowded room to where Matty Mangone-Miranda, 35, sits by a window reading "The 12th Planet" by Zecharia Sitchin, an alternative explanation of human origins.

"I don't know if this is the truth, but it's interesting to read and it's kind of a new journey," said the Santa Rosa resident with Chinese characters that he declines to translate tattooed on his right bicep.


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