Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #103 “Cats, Cats, Cats!”

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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

Our nearest neighbors, Buck the Ex-Navy Seal and Delly the Interstate Truck Driver have eight cats. All with complete freedom to roam indoors and out.

Cloud Creek Ranch has cats as well. Two. With not-quite-complete freedom to roam around the back of the main house and the back porch.

Our two cats are named Baggy and Bob. I don’t know the names of any of the members of Buck’s and Delly’s feline assortment. But although our cats are right downstairs and those of our neighbors are half a mile away, in many ways I know what I think of as “The Buck-And-Delly 8” better than I know the “Cloud Creek 2.”

Because I interact with them more.

Hard to believe but true.

When Gwen the Beautiful and I are over at the neighbors’ the Buck-And-Delly 8 are part of the event as well. They interact. Rub against my legs. Jump on Gwen’s lap. Look us in the eyes and curl up, and purr.

Just like—you know—cats.

Baggy and Bob, on the other hand, are like roomers in the Brody Cat Boarding House. Their lives are completely separate from ours.

A few of our friends have met Baggy, but only if they’ve had occasion to look into her favorite hideaway, the guest room closet.

None of our friends have seen Bob.

And how could they? The only way to have any kind of face to face with this ole boy is by grabbing a flashlight and shining it behind that pile of old fabric located to the rear of Baggy’s rear.

Because she’s Bob’s protector, pure and simple.

Baggy didn’t start out as a cat bodyguard. For the first couple of years of her life she was lively and lithe and fun-loving, Youngest Daughter Amber’s beloved calico pet.

Then along came Bob.

We were living in L.A. then. I remember the day Gwen and then 10-year-old Amber came home with a big cardboard box. Amber presented the box to me with a flourish.

“Stand back!” she said as she dragged it into the living room. “Everybody back!”

“What’s going on?” I asked innocently.

“We were driving on the freeway when we saw a couple of kittens on the shoulder,” Gwen said. “So I stopped to investigate. Someone had left a whole litter in a box on the embankment.”

“But we got out of the car and saved the day!” Amber added triumphantly.

I looked at the box. Baggy was nosing it curiously. “So there’s a whole litter of quiet kittens in there?”

“Not exactly,” said Amber. “Most of the kittens ran away from the freeway toward Taco Bell.”

“There’s one quiet kitten in the box,” Gwen said. “I had to grab it because it was headed the wrong way.

“Mom kept it from getting killed!” Amber said. “Now stand back, I say!”

She reached over, pulled apart the flaps at the top of the box—

And immediately, accompanied by a loud, screeching yowl, something leapt straight up—at least six feet—just missing Amber’s face and arcing onto the floor.

A tiny, black and white tuxedo kitten.

“Duck!” I said. Too late, of course. But that didn’t keep me from following up with more lame advice. “Bob and weave.”

“That’s a funny name for a cat,” Amber said. “How about just Bob?”

She bent down to pick Bob up, and, with another, even louder, yowl, the kitten whirled, leapt, dived—and vanished behind the oven.

He lived behind that oven, with Baggy keeping watch in front of it, for the rest of the time we lived in that house, emerging just often enough for us humans to know he was alive, and to enable Gwen to put him into a crate for our big move to Paradise…and the closet the two pals now call “Home Sweet Home.”

Ten years have passed since Bob jumped into my life like a booby-trapped jack-in-the-box.

He’s a good mouser, and sometimes, late at night, he’ll stop and let me see him as he slinks out of the guest room on patrol with Baggy. Or, if I’m not around, he’ll go to Gwen and let her pet him. But at the slightest sign of a threat—zoom!—he’s back in the closet.

I understand that Bob had a rough start in this world. He’s lucky to be alive, and he knows it.

But is this really living? When your life is completely ruled by fear?

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #102 “Looking Forward to the Past”

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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

Usually, I keep my professional life in the education and television businesses out of this space, but I’m so excited about new developments that I’ve got to share my feelings.

The old order of the TV business is passing, reflecting changes in our entire society.

Remember that scene in the old film The Graduate where someone turns to Dustin Hoffman and gives him the keys to the future the way you’d give your teenager the keys to the truck with just one word?

“Plastics.”

Well, the key phrase here is “web video.”

Thanks to web sites like YouTube, Google Video, Revver, and a host of others, the formerly closed doors of network and cable television production now are wide open. Anyone who wants to can create and deliver a video about anything to an eager internet audience of hundreds of millions of people who are sick of the sameness they’ve been seeing for all too long on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and the rest.

The concept is called peer production by some. User-generated content by others. Whatever you call it, what we’re talking about is the fact that with an inexpensive camcorder or digital still camera or cell phone camera or home computer webcam, a computer with video-editing software (standard with Windows XP and Vista, and Mac OS X), and—maybe—a couple of friends, everyone reading this can make a video and put it on the web, where it can be seen by hundreds of millions of viewers.

It doesn’t matter who you are. Where you live. Who your family is. Whether you know the “right people” or no one at all. It doesn’t even matter if you’re the kind of man, woman, or child everyone adores or a wild-haired, wild-eyed, wild-willed rebel who makes passersby cringes wherever you go.

You’ve got access. As in being just a few mouse clicks away from an upload that can make viewers laugh or cry or cheer or boo. You can ease people’s pain. Give them new hope. Take them to a fantasy place where they can hide. Teach them the things that didn’t come across in school, or are so new they haven’t yet made it into the curriculum.

“Progress” is a funny thing. Once upon a time, art was part of everyone’s daily life. Cave painters recorded news of the hunt on their walls whenever they felt like it. Tribe members told stories, true or exaggerated, at community campfires. Worshippers sang and danced or acted out stories about their beliefs in all kinds of rituals.

But, slowly, the “everyone” part of the equation got written out. It started with written language. Only the educated knew enough to make those marks on clay tablets, animal hides, or bark scrolls.

Then came the printing press. We had books! Except you not only had to be educated to write them you had to be wealthy enough to hire a printer.

Then came films, and radio, and TV. “Mere” wealth wasn’t enough anymore. You had to get past the people who owned the film studios and the radio and television stations (and the publishing companies too) to get to an audience for your story.

Different “gatekeepers” had different criteria. Some people got through the gate on their talent. Others made it through via connections. Sometimes both were needed. Sometimes none of the above did the job.

Storytelling became the business of “experts.” Self-expression, or just plain artistic creation, lost its place as part of daily life. Deserving voices were stilled.

Until now.

Personal web sites, online message boards, and blogs have paved the way for wide open online video sites that not only want but need the contributions of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the door.

These sites charge advertisers but not those they call “content creators.” And often they share their advertising income with those same creators.

With us.

For storytellers this is a dream come true. We’re free, every single one of us, to spin our tales and share our dreams with the larger audience in human history. We’ve gone from being powerless to being totally empowered, a condition that will effect every element of our lives.

Progress has played a wonderful joke on the gatekeepers. Modern technology has succeeded in a way no one ever could’ve predicted.

Instead of going “back to the future” like Michael J. Fox, we’re rushing forward into the wide-open past.

I love it!

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #101 “High School Blues”

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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

I went back to high school last week, and it was just like I remembered it.

It was Hell.

Some kind folks at Paradise High asked me to speak on Career Day. Say a little something about my life in Hollywood that would let the students know that big things are possible in this world…if you plan right and work hard.

Brimming with confidence, I walked into the auditorium for my moment. I knew exactly what I was going to say.

I was going to talk about the importance of education, of developing good study and work habits. Of setting goals and learning what it takes to reach them. About how good it feels to say, “I did it!”

Then I saw those faces before me. Maybe a hundred teenagers. Fidgeting, frowning, as miserable as could be.

A girl right in front of me was playing with her long hair. Sweeping it up off the back of her neck, twirling it overhead, then dropping it back down with a headshake from a thousand Clairol commercials.

A boy a couple of seats west of her was dozing, his head on his chest. No, wait. He wasn’t dozing. He was faking it, lowered eyes darting all around. He looked like an old man on a train ride to the cemetery for his own funeral.

Behind him a girl glared. I knew what she was thinking as clearly as if I’d heard the words. “You think you know something I care about? Show me. If you dare.”

Eastward of her a group of guys leaned in at each other. Laughing. They glanced up at me and the teachers at my side. Shook their heads. Laughed some more.

“Simmer down, everybody!” said Mrs. Evans the Guidance Counselor. “Mr. Brody has a lot to say.”

She was right. I did have a lot to say.

But not what I’d planned.

Being there in that room, seeing those teenagers, feeling their restlessness and resentment, I found myself reliving my own high school days. High School Larry B! Lean and sneering and—lost.

“This place creeps me out,” I said to the group. “Being in high school after so many years reminds me of how I felt the whole time I was there.

“Reminds me of how terrified I was.”

The group of guys stopped laughing. They looked at me out of the corners of their eyes.

“I was terrified a teacher would call on me. I was terrified a teacher would talk to me. I was terrified a teacher would look at me.

“And I was just as terrified that the other kids wouldn’t talk to me. That I’d have no one to eat lunch with. And that I’d say something really stupid and everyone—all the teachers and all the kids—would laugh.”

The glaring girl’s face softened. Was that an involuntary nod?

“I went through high school daydreaming. I pretended that everything was happening not in real life but on TV. I watched my own version of ‘High School Hi-jinks’ and tried to stay safe. Tried as hard as I could not to call attention to myself and be the guest star.”

The boy who’d been pretending to sleep pretended to wake up. He looked around the room, but his ears were cocked toward me.

“There’s one inescapable thing about life,” I said. “Everything ends. Even high school. I made it out of there—alive—in spite of a close call with the Assistant Principal right before graduation.

And I used the daydreaming skill I’d developed to get me someplace I loved. To make TV my real life as a writer and producer.

“I know it seems impossible now. I know you feel like you’re serving four years to life, but you can do it. You can survive this. You can go out into the world and succeed.”

There was more, much more. A lot of questions from the audience. (My favorite: “Do you know any stars?”) A lot of smiles. Even some “Thanks, dood”s that made my week.

And a realization I’ll have forever.

I’ve been in the middle of divorce, fire, earthquake. I’ve been sued, swindled, robbed. Swung at and shot at and stabbed.

But the one thing I could never, ever go through again is high school.

It takes real courage to walk through those doors and face P.E. class and pop quizzes and girls who just can’t stop playing with their hair.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #100 “Gurus”

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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

Recently I wrote about an encounter with the Old Billionaire, during which he asked me some questions about life and I answered them.

A little less recently I wrote about an experience with Burl Jr., where he asked me some questions about life and I answered them too.

Time now for a confession.

That writing was very, very hard for me to do.

And living through those events was even more difficult.

Especially the answering part.

The giving of advice.

The pontificating as though I actually knew something that could be of value to someone else.

Who am I to set myself up as an authority on how to better anyone else’s life?

Who, for that matter, is anyone to set themselves up that way?

The only guy I know whose wisdom I would follow is whoever said, “We’re all snowflakes.” Actually, I know that comedian Louis Black said it once during an appearance on HBO. But he’s such a sarcastic, ironic grouch of an observer of humanity that I figure what I heard probably was intended as caustic commentary to needle the true originator of the phrase.

As witty and funny and often correct as Louis Black may be, my hat’s off to the original dude who really meant those words. Because just like snowflakes, human beings are different, each and every one of us.

Which is why I’m so leery of saying that anything I know to be true about myself ever will be equally true about this old boy, or that one, or any of those sweet sisters over there.

Let’s face it. Who am I most intimate with? Whose daily life have I lived from birth on? Whose
head, heart, and soul have I been inside?

Just mine, that’s whose.

Larry B.

So I search and I struggle to discover what works for me—and sometimes I even find it. But can I say it’ll work for the Old Billionaire? Or Burl Jr.? Or Jack the Ex-Navy Seal?

Sweet Jane? Lorna at the Bank? Karen the Post Lady?

Or even Gwen the Beautiful?

Answers about life that are right for me could be so very wrong for them.

And yet my friends do ask for my opinion from time to time, hoping that somehow they’ll find a way to put themselves on the road to happiness or success…or maybe even just find a little bit of peace.

They’re not the only ones who look for answers elsewhere, of course. And I’m far from the only one who gets questioned.

Gwen’s Paradise friend Dorrie calls once a week to rave about some new psychic or spiritual counselor or energy healer she’s found.

My Hollywood friend Lew e-mails me monthly to talk about the same kind of thing. The teacher he’s given literally millions of dollars to over the years. A guy we’ve all heard of who goes by the moniker, “Dalai Lama.”

Gurus.

Some of them small potatoes. Some big-time. And, for all I know, all of them are sincere.

But how can any of us hope to find peace and satisfaction by following directions given by someone else? Did you ever change your way of life because your parents told you what you what you were doing was going to blow up in your face?

No way. You had to wait for the explosion—and if you were lucky, with that big bang came some inner light that kept you safe next time around.

My own trick for getting to the bottom of what ails me is to open myself up. To throw away any formula or expectation and pay attention to—

Ah…to what? Is it the world around me I’m tuning in on? Is it the Wind, or the Universe, as I like to write in this space? Is it my own inner voice?

Is it God?

I can’t say. I don’t know.

But I do know it’s not just some other guy. I’m much too stubborn to get anything anywhere near enlightenment out of even my best friend.

Which brings me back to the beginning of my musing.

And to the realization that by writing this once again I’m telling others what to do.

So I ask the Old Billionaire and Burl Jr. and everyone else to please forgive my presumption.

Ignore my pronouncements and look for answers that are entirely your own. Go with the flow of true wisdom—

Oh, hell. I’m doing it again!

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #99 “Contentment”

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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

The Old Billionaire’s been thinking about buying property near our Mountain, and a few days ago I went with him while he looked the place over.

And what a place! Four hundred acres, mostly rolling pasture, with a mile of river frontage. Stock ponds, a humongous horse barn, and two relatively new houses thrown in for good measure.

The Old Billionaire and I stood in a light rain near the smaller of the houses and took it all in. My thoughts were sharp and clear: What a beautiful place.

His words were just as sharp and even more clear: “It’ll do.”

“’It’ll do?’ It’s sensational. I could be very happy here,” I said.

“You’re already happy where you are,” said the Old Billionaire. He walked over to the front porch. Pointed up the outside wall. “See where the flashing’s gone? That’s going to be a bad leak. Your house doesn’t leak, does it?”

“Not anymore,” I said. “We had some water coming in through the west wall of the cabin, but we finally got that fixed.”

He turned back to me. “When I look at you I see a man who’s got everything, Larry B. You saying I’m wrong? You saying you’re another victim of the curse of ‘I Want More?’”

I laughed. “I don’t think it’s a matter of wanting. I think it’s a matter of wishing I could afford to make a change to someplace like this if the time came when I did want to.”

“So it’s a money thing. Aha! Want to know the secret of making money? Big money? Very Big Money? I can give it to you in a word. “Misery.”

The Old Billionaire’s face took on a haunted look. “Or maybe it’s anger. Fury! Yep, that’s it. Misery and fury caused by living in the past instead of the present.

The Old Billionaire was on a roll now. “Misery and fury are closer to me than brothers. Because no matter what I do I can’t escape a time when I had nothing. When my daddy rode a neighbor’s fence line because we didn’t have any land of our own. And my mamma took in mending from all the better off people in town. Which was everybody.

“The way I succeed,” he continued, “is I find openings and I push at ‘em and make things happen for me,” the Old Billionaire went on. “Because no matter how much money I’ve got I’m still starving inside. Fighting with the dogs over pork rind.”

The rain stopped. We headed back to the Old Billionaire’s truck. “Now I want you to tell me your secret,” he said. “The secret of being content.”

I wasn’t sure I was up to answering that question, but I thought about it. “I think it’s living in the present. Not comparing what’s going on here and now to what was, or will be. It’s knowing who you really are and what you’re worth.”

The Old Billionaire didn’t say anything. We got into the truck and drove along the river, then out a back gate to the main road. We were going at a pretty good clip until we rounded a curve and found ourselves behind a slow moving dump truck.

The truck was loaded with gravel and surrounded by a cloud of rock dust that billowed back at us and clung to the wet windshield. The Old Billionaire slowed and muttered what sounded like a curse. He saw my surprise.

“My daddy used to tell me there was no point in complaining about slow drivers,” he said. “He told me nobody could ever pass ‘em all because there’d always be somebody else in the way.

“He was thirty-five when he died. Couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, let alone the hospital he needed. So I keep complainin’.”

And then the Old Billionaire surprised me again. “What you said before, about knowing what you’re worth. Worth to who? To your neighbors?” He squinted at the road. “To God?”

“I don’t know what anyone else values,” I said. “And I leave it to the preachers to speak for God. I only know what I’m worth to myself.”

The Old Billionaire stayed quiet.

“You going to buy that farm?” I said.

“What for?” He let out a long sigh. “I’ve already gotten everything I ever will out of being on that land. Got it from you.”

We dropped back farther behind the dump truck and drove on. The Old Billionaire looked…relaxed.

I didn’t have the courage to tell him how much I ached – right here and right now – from wanting that farm.