Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #37 – “Christmas Spirits”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Christmas was lonely for me this year. Here I was, in Paradise, on the ranch with the dogs and the cats and the horses and the chickens. And there Gwen the Beautiful was, in San Francisco, with Youngest Daughter Amber. Last year Amber came here to be with us. This year she had too much to do at school. And I had so much to do that I couldn’t leave.

So off went Gwen without me, and we both learned a very important lesson. “Merry Christmas” just doesn’t cut it over the phone.

Some men I know can’t wait for their wives to go off on a trip. That’s when these boys come alive. But when I’m alone I shut down. It’s as though I’m on “pause,” waiting for the “on” button to be pushed. I mean, why knock myself out being me when the person I most want to impress with myself isn’t around?

Luckily, the love of my life made it safely back home before New Year’s, and I was able to come back to life for 2006. I picked her up at the airport last Thursday, and by mid-afternoon we were in the door, where we found a holiday gift waiting.

A magical one, of course. Would Paradise give us any other kind?

What happened was that when Gwen and I entered the house we found ourselves greeted by the most perfect of Christmas tree smells. A green, crackly scent, sharp and tangy.

Gwen smiled. Went to the Christmas tree alongside the stairs. Sniffed at it. Smiled again. She touched the tree and shook her head. Turned to me.

“How’d you do it?” she said.

“Do what?”

“This is the same tree we put up before I left, isn’t it?” said Gwen. “The artificial one we decided to use because there wasn’t any point in going through the hassle of a real tree when I wasn’t going to be here?”

“Sure,” I said. “That’s the Wal-Mart special. Why?”

Another Gwen smile. “That’s my question. Why the scent? What I don’t like about artificial trees is that no matter how real they look you know they’re fake because you don’t get the smell of pine. Except we’re getting that smell right now, right here. I love it, and I’m thrilled. So c’mon, sweetie, tell me – how’d you do this?”

I thought about it. Realized that the pine aroma hadn’t been there while Gwen was gone. Hadn’t been there when I’d left to pick her up in the morning. Had no reason to be there then. Or now. I sure hadn’t done anything to bring it about. No room freshener. No scented spray.

“Seems to me like the house missed you as much as I did,” I said. “Everything around here missed you. You’re being given a gift. It’s time to give thanks and enjoy.”

Gwen laughed. She turned her head up toward the ceiling, where we always hear the various ghosts I’ve written about before.

“Thanks,” she said, meaning it. “I’m definitely enjoying.”

We waited until New Year’s Eve to exchange Christmas gifts, turning back the clock a full week.

I did all my shopping online this year, and everything arrived wrapped and ready. One of the gifts, however, turned out to be as unexpected as the scent of the tree.

When Gwen opened a small box that was supposed to contain a silver necklace I saw immediately that it was the wrong one. Instead of a pendant, attached to the chain was a small, graceful, sweetly tinkling silver bell.

About five years ago Gwen and I had talked about getting her something very much like this, but we’d never found the right one. Now it was here, unbidden. But not unwanted, nor unloved.

“You got me the bell!” Gwen said.

“Um…well, something did,” was all I could say.

“Bells help the universe keep track of our spirits,” said Gwen. “They announce our souls.” She wrapped her arms around me, and we kissed…to the tinkling of the little bell.

As I write this I can still smell the pine and hear the silver bell. And all I can think is:

Gwen the Beautiful is home. All’s right with the universe. I know because it’s telling me.

Happy New Year, y’all! May this one be the absolute best. (And the next ones be better still.)

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #36 – “Small Pleasures”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

We live in an age of extravagance, but small pleasures do it for me.

As far as I’m concerned, the Donald Trumps, Paris Hiltons, and Martha Stewarts can have their opulent lifestyles of international travel, bad hair (Trump), ridiculous clothes (Hilton), and world class tantrums (Stewart).

Just give me a day in Paradise and I’m happy as a pig wallerin’ in a new pond.

Yesterday’s an example. One of our dogs, Tiger, who we always thought was “the dim one,” has turned into a dog run escape artist, so Chet the Unhandyman and I went into town to get the makings of a gate she couldn’t bend back and crawl under.

In Paradise, just about any outing is a ceremony. A visit to the hardware store is no exception.

Phase one is Jawing. That’s where you greet everybody and find out how things’re going. Yesterday I learned that Frank the Manager had just returned from visiting his grown son in Dayton, Ohio. And that Joey the Counterman had quit to go to work for the local gravel company. Being groomed to take over the business, he is, or so they say.

After twenty minutes of Jawing Frank moved me into phase two: Business. “What do you need today?” he said. I told him I wanted a genuine, suburban chain link gate. Frank took out his price book and added up the parts. “Gate like that with posts and cement’ll run you about $125.”

“$125! That’s more than the whole fence! What’ve you got that’s a little less suburban?”

Frank took me out to the yard. “Steel stock panel. It’s a lot stiffer than what you’ve got. Yours for $11.99.”

“Sold.”

“Anything else?”

Which is, of course, phase three. Anything Else is where you walk all around the store, looking at everything on every shelf trying to find something you really need. The ache of wanting’s not enough.

An hour and a half later I was at the counter for phase four, Paying. For the stock panel, a two-way spigot divider, and a straw cowboy hat. This could’ve taken about two minutes. All I needed to say was, “Put ‘er on my tab.” But I wanted to hear the old cash register ding! So I ate up some time paying cash.

On our way home we stopped at the Paradise Mini-Mart & Gas Station for a couple of slices of pizza.

Chet the Unhandyman and I sat down in the eating area where Tommy from St. Louis holds court. Tommy’s in his forties, pony-tailed, and so fast-talking you’d swear he was breaking the sound barrier every time he says, “Hey.” Another city boy who’s learned to love the country.

Yesterday he was talking to a couple of old boys I hadn’t seen before, debating lawn tractors versus bush hogs on our local terrain. (It was no contest. Everyone agreed that bush hogs were the only way to go…perfect not only for cutting grass but also for harvesting the rocks that, when you get right down to it, are Paradise’s main local crop.)

As I finished my pizza and went to throw away the box I bumped into one of Tommy’s friends who was doing the same.

“Sorry,” I said. “Maybe I should get myself a Seeing Eye Dog. Or at least a cane.”

The old boy grinned. “Don’t bother,” he said. “If you got a dog it’d probably bite you. And if you got a cane you’d probably just whack yourself in the shin.” He took my garbage from my hand and tossed it into the bin.

Chet and I went out to my truck. Suddenly Chet frowned. Turned to me. “Did you hear what that old boy said? He insulted you!”

I thought about it. “Yep. He sure did. But did you hear how he did it? It was absolutely painless.”

And beautiful too, in a way, the words rolling off the old boy’s lips like country poetry. A turn or two of phrase I never could’ve come up with. A rhythm I couldn’t match.

“How can a man get mad at that?” I said.

Small pleasures. They beat anything Trump or Hilton or Stewart will ever find wherever they may roam.

The Perils, Pitfalls, and Cool Stuff That Come with Living in L.A.

Life in L.A. may not be a cabaret, but it IS a studio tour

LB’S NOTE: Speaking of where I live now that I’m, erm, sort of retired, here’s another perspective on the city where I abided for about 30 years (with, I admit, a few breaks in places like Santa Fe, NM and – God help me – Orlando, FLA.

by Larry Brody

Throughout my career, one of the most asked questions, usually uttered in a voice so filled with resentment and contempt that makes me want to pull out the AK I don’t (and never will) have and start blasting always has been:

“If I want to write for film or television, do I have to live in L.A.?”

And my answer, with the sweetest smile and mildest tone of voice I can muster, always has been

“Yep.”

After which, complete with gasps and looks of anguish the response always has been:

“Ohmigod! No! NO! NO!!!”

Followed most of the time by the questioner taking quick look around for the nearest exit and then, as though propelled by the biggest booster rocket in the U.S. or Chinese or Tesla – excuse me – SpaceX storehouse a run for that very door.

I’ve lived with this for years. But why? What’s the reason for all this hoohah? Why the horror at not being able to write, say, The Good Place, from Iowa City or Oshkosh? I mean, c’mon, what’s the problem?

Maybe we can figure it out by first going through the reason for my answer. Instead of smacking our collective head against the wall in dismay, let’s just ask another question:

“Why? Why do screen and TV writers have to live in L.A.?”

This is a legitimate line of inquiry, to be sure, and there are all kinds of legitimate answers. It boils down to the fact that L.A. is a company town and even now, with the rise of online platforms of all kinds and sizes, showbiz still is the company. If you want to work here, then you have to live here. This is where you make the friends and contacts who will help you make your career.

Simple, no? So why does that seem so horrific to the wannabes at the writers conferences? Why do they react so violently? What do they have against moving to L.A.? Is it the uprooting? Is it the city? Is it the fact that they’ve always had the idea that as writers they are above and beyond the shmoozing engaged in by mere mortal men?

Hey, friends, shmoozing’s the name of the game – just about every game. Let’s face it. No matter what our job titles, we’re all salesmen, selling ourselves. If you want to live the life of the hermit writer, if your heart goes pitter-patter at the thought of staying all alone in your attic ala Emily Dickinson, then TV and screenwriting ain’t for you.

A poem, after all, is an end in itself. Ditto a short story, a novel…anything written to be read. But scripts are written to be performed. Scripts don’t exist all alone. They’re the foundation of a production involving one Acme Ton O’People. So you have to be the kind of person who can stand all those people, who can get along with producers and directors and crew members and even…shudder…actors.

More than get along. To succeed in showbiz you have to actively like all those folks. In fact, it goes further than that. In my experience, the writers who succeed in television and on screen do so because they love the whole package. They don’t merely want to be writers, they WANT TO BE IN SHOWBIZ. They love the whole lifestyle.

The writers who make it are the men and women who grew up as the most frantic of fans. While they were living in Dubuque their bodies tingled at the very words, “Sunset Boulevard,” and “Hollywood and Vine.”

They’re the men and women who read every entertainment column in every local newspaper and magazine, who dreamed of the day their pictures would be in “People” and their privacy invaded on Access Hollywood.

They’re the men and women who love driving down the freeway and looking at the car beside them and seeing that it’s driven by Denzel Washington. The men and women who think that Denzel should be just as thrilled to turn and see them.

The writers who make it love the sun and the surf and the smog, the bikinis and the beautiful people. To them, plastic surgery is a sign of success.

They think a day without a meeting is a day that never was, and the first thing they do when they get a deal is pop for the down payment on a new Porsche. When they get another deal they buy a house in the hills, with a black bottom swimming pool and a coke dealer living next door.

They look at the blacked-out windows of a passing limo and wonder who’s inside and pray to God On High that someday soon others will wonder the same thing as their limos roll by.

They know that regardless of how overpriced and under-tasty the food may be there’s no better restaurant in the world than whichever one is today’s darling. Because they’re there to see who else is there, and to feel fuzzy all over because across from them a middle-aged guy is saying, “Option…” and behind them a bare midriffed babe is saying, “Gross receipts.”

The writers who make it are the men and women who live for the day that their names will be in the gossip columns and they’ll be interviewed on the red carpet at every premiere. They’ll do anything for the time when they can make an Oscar or Emmy acceptance speech, and wave and say, “Thanks, Ma.” They are driven by demons that demand fame and fortune and won’t take anything else. They need more than a blank page to fill, they need glamor and glitz.

Need it.

Need it.

NEED!

Showbiz life is harsh. The Money Gods are impatient, and the rivalry is intense. What makes all the long nights of work and the kissing up worthwhile is the Hollywood Lifestyle, because thatÕs the drug the successful ones crave.

Believe me, I’ve been there, I know. Wives, kids, love, loyalty…those things don’t mean a thing next to getting that great showrunner job.

So, to all of you who keep asking me, “Do I have to live in L.A.?” I say the real question should be:

“Why would you want it any other way?”


If you’re reading this, you probably already know who Larry Brody is. If you need to know more, a good place to start would be HERE. Or HERE. This post is an adaptation of an article on one of TVWriter™’s very own Writers’ Bulletins Resource Pages, which are laid out for all to see, free of charge and/or obligation, HERE.

Seeya in L.A.!

Why I Live in Port Townsend, WA

LB’S NOTE: People keep asking why Gwen the Beautiful and I moved all the way up to the Northwestern Tip of the United States after so many years in L.A. Mainly, it’s because both of the following articles are true:

Full of Wander: Small-town bliss in Port Townsend
by Clara Yardley

You and I both know that city life can be tiring. Whether you were raised in a big city or are a small-town transplant who came to Seattle for college, we all get annoyed with certain aspects of city life: incessant traffic, tiny but outrageously priced apartments, the lack of familiar faces in the grocery store.

For me, the light pollution in cities is another downfall. Even on the rare, clear days, you can’t really see the stars in Seattle.

One thing that I do really appreciate about Seattle, however, is how it is relatively easy to get out of the city. Sure, you have urban sprawl for about an hour toward the north, south, and east, but west of Seattle is an entirely different story. You can hop on a ferry and within two hours be in the type of small town where you can’t avoid seeing familiar faces at the grocery store.

Port Townsend is just a couple of hours northwest of Seattle, has all the charms of a small town, and is surrounded by amazing scenery and recreation.

There are a couple of ways to get to Port Townsend from Seattle. All of them require a car, so rope in a friend who can double as a chauffeur. You can take one of two routes: the Edmonds to Kingston ferry or the Seattle to Bainbridge Ferry. They have comparable amounts of car time, and are priced the same — $12.05 for a car and driver and $8.50 for each additional adult — so base your decision off northbound (Edmonds) or southbound (Seattle) traffic reports. As per any day trip, try to get an early start.

If you get into town in time for a late breakfast — or lunch or maybe even dinner, for that matter —  check out Better Living through Coffee. Yes, it’s really called that; and yes, coffee really can lead to a better life. This place is amazing. Some other great food options are Khu Larb Thai and Howell’s Sandwich Co….

Read it all at DAILYUW.COM

And here’s another perspective:

Port Townsend ‘Most Boring’ Town In Washington: Report
by Travis Loose

PORT TOWNSEND, WA – Without offering much in the way of an explanation, BestLifeOnline.com last week identified Jefferson County’s Port Townsend as the “most boring town” in Washington State.

Reportedly using data on “the highest median ages, the fewest number of things to do, and the lowest population density,” BestLifeOnline.com editors selected the most boring towns in all 50 states. However, BestLifeOnline.com — a men’s lifestyle and entertainment publication — only offered basic statistics on Port Townsend to justify its assertion.

Noting Port Townsend’s population of 9,315 residents, BestLifeOnline.com suggested the city’s meager offering of only eight “entertainment spots” and 74 hotels and restaurants are what makes it such a lackluster place in the Pacific Northwest.

Conversely, the city of Port Townsend’s tourism website, EnjoyPT.com, refers to the city as “one of the coolest small towns in America.”

“With its maritime heritage, artist spirit, and a touch of urban chic, Port Townsend is an easily accessible base camp to the Olympic Peninsula and beyond,” the website asserts. “Whether on land or sea; indoors or outdoors — Port Townsend has activities for every taste.”

Likewise, the website referenced a 2010 National Geographic blurb that called Port Townsend “one of the most sophisticated places west of Seattle,” thanks in large part to its “Victorian architecture, art galleries, and wine bars,” the author noted.

The variance in entirely subjective opinions has been nothing short of comical to Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson, who on Wednesday called Patch to discuss the city’s latest claim to fame….

Read it all at PATCH.COM

 

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #35 – “The True Meaning of ‘Paradise'”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

City folks don’t get it.

I had an enjoyable lunch at the Chicago Hot Dog Stand yesterday. The place that used to be the Greyhound Bus station until Greyhound called it a day.

While I was savoring my Chicago dog another lover of fine dining recognized me from the picture that sometimes accompanies this column.

He had a question, he said. “What’s with the name?” he asked. “Why do you call this place Paradise?”

A fair question. That immediately brought up another. Why did Greyhound close its station?

Because the people who live here stay here, that’s why.

Because in many ways it is Paradise.

The first time I remember the “P” word coming up was in an e-mail from my friend Lucy in L.A.

She’d been complaining about how much she had to pay her attorney, and I’d written—truthfully—“What? You pay your lawyer money? I trade stories for services with almost everyone here. When T.R. the Lawyer wrote a letter for me, I paid by telling him how Arnold Schwarzenegger and I first met.”

“How wonderful!” Lucy wrote back. “You must be living in Paradise!”

My Daughter Who Lives in London said the same thing as I described the beauty and relative warmth of autumn to her over the phone. “It sounds like Paradise!”

Then there was the time last summer when I went to the feed store on a 100 plus degree day, with humidity so high I felt like I was drowning just walking to my truck.

The air conditioner in the store was broken, and, dripping with sweat, Sam the Feed Man was smacking it with every tool he could find. When he heard the door open he turned and smiled.

“Just another day in Paradise,” he said.

And even though he was uncomfortable and upset, he meant it. I could see that in Sam’s eyes.

A wonderful thing about the so-called hinterlands is that just about everyone who’s here is here because he or she wants to be.

It’s not for the jobs. Not when good jobs are so scarce in these parts. It’s not because only one member of a couple—the other member—wants to live here. Not when most husbands and wives have known each other since kindergarten and share every interest, belief, and value.

And it’s not because they can’t afford to leave. Not when heading out is as simple as throwing a few possessions into the back of a pickup and taking off.

Other big pluses for this particular slice of Paradise are mild weather in the eight months a year that aren’t summer. Beautiful scenery. A cost of living that is—literally—one-tenth of the cost of, say, L.A.

Folks here are as “You don’t say nothing about how I’m living and I won’t say nothing about how you are” as they can possibly be.

Their big concern is survival, which means they’re not wasting energy competing with neighbors to see who has the better car or bigger house but instead are busy squaring off against the environmental and economic factors that make earning a living so rough.

There’s no time to show off when having a good year means, “I didn’t lose the farm.”

Years ago, when I was writing and producing television shows like The Fall Guy and Mike Hammer and Walker Texas Ranger I was late for a meeting at MGM. My next job, and in my mind my whole future, depended on making a good impression, but I couldn’t find the office I was looking for.

Finally, I rushed up to a guard who looked like blues singer John Lee Hooker. “You know where Dean Hargrove is at?”

“I know where he be,” the guard answered. “But only he knows where he’s at.”

So, yes, I told the old boy at the hot dog stand that this column is called Live! From Paradise! because that’s the truth, plain and simple. My life here in the Ozarks often feels like I’m in Paradise.

But as I look back I recognize that I’ve always appreciated wherever I was. Nashville. Chicago. Los Angeles. Santa Fe.

And that’s the bigger truth. If we open our eyes wide we can see that happiness, satisfaction, success—they’re not about where we live. They’re about what’s inside us.

Without meaning to, the guard at MGM taught me the most valuable of lessons:

The most important thing in life isn’t where we be.

It’s where we’re at.