Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #57 – “Proving You’re the Best”

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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

After every music awards show I surf around on the web for samples of work by any winners I don’t know. Sometimes I “discover” someone who really moves me, and whose work becomes part of my life from then on.

Yet many of the best performers I’ve ever heard are unknown. Very unknown. As in, “Ain’t nobody heard of them but their mamas.”

There’s a ton of talent in and around Paradise. Like the Rock Star Telephone Repairman. I met him when he came out fix a problem with the line. As he checked out the wiring inside the house he saw my old drum kit.

“You play drums?” he said.

“Used to,” I told him. “A long time ago.”

“I play guitar,” the RSTR said. “My wife says I’m good.”

“You play someplace where I can hear you?” I said.

“No,” he said. “I don’t play in any bands. But I can bring you a tape.”

A couple of days later he did just that. Gwen the Beautiful popped it into our stereo system—and out came riffs and licks that rocked like you wouldn’t believe. The shy old boy who’d fixed the phone was a genuine rock music phenom.

The RSTR hadn’t stayed to listen. I ran outside and caught up with him as he started his truck.

“You make me want to get back on the drums,” I said. “Want to come over some evening and jam?”

His face looked kind of green. “I can’t,” he said. “Just thinking about playing in front of anybody makes me feel real sick.” And he pulled away.

Then there’s the Young Folk Singer, the only person who came to an audition we held for my old local television show. We wanted someone to “sing the news like it’s the blues” and Folkie gave those of us who heard him a meaty lesson in writing meaningful lyrics.

“That’s it! You’re our guy!” I said when he finished. “We’ll have you on every week.”

“Oh, I won’t be here much longer,” Folkie said. “I’m a rambler, just hitchin’ around the country and payin’ my way with the songs I make up as I go.”

“How about if you come back here tomorrow and we videotape you singing all the songs you can come up with?”

“I’d like that. But you can’t pay me. That’d ruin my cred. I’d like a CD of everything I sing, though, to kinda remember myself by.”

“We’ll give you a dozen CDs,” I said.

Folkie grinned. “Great. See ya tomorrow.”

But we didn’t see him tomorrow. We never saw him again. A few weeks later I ran into the old boy who’d given Folkie a ride to the station. “He hit the road right after he played for you,” the old boy said. “Said he was headed for Jonesborough.”

The most talented of all is Paula the Plumber. She came over to our ranch to fix one of the sinks. When she saw my drums she laughed. “Man, those’re almost as old as me!” Then she went right to the heart of the matter. “I’m the greatest girl singer in the world. Toured for twenty years. Got a voice that’d make Trisha Yearwood quit the business!”

I didn’t believe her. How could I? She also said she was the greatest plumber in the world, but when she left the sink still leaked.

A week later, though, I was at Paula’s place about forty miles south of Paradise. I had to go by on my way to Little Rock and figured I’d stop in and settle the bill.

From her storefront I heard a country band playing, fronted by the best gal singer this side of—well, Trisha Yearwood for sure. And when I went inside there she was, Paula the Plumber, rehearsing with some friends.

“Need somebody to sing at a wedding?” she said with a wink. “I’m your gal.”

Except that whenever I recommend her band to anyone who needs a great gal singer they always report to me that she won’t return their calls. And when I call to tell her about a gig she says, “Sorry, lost the signal,” and hangs up.

So what’s the real difference between the award-winners and those no one knows? I think it boils down to this:

It’s great to be the best at what you do. But first you’ve got to show up for the gig.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #56 – “Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang”

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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

Living in Paradise offers a variety of sobering experiences. It’s like the farmers say. “The land is beautiful, and the land is hard.” Beauty and suffering come hand in hand. I make new discoveries everywhere I turn. Whether I want to or not.

Last week I made a discovery I wish I never had. The good news is that I know something I didn’t know before. The bad news is that what I know ain’t good.

It’s got to do with Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang. She’s a rescue we snatched away from a dog good company by outbidding them at the auction block after she was caught in a round-up.

The reason Elaine was caught is that she’s crippled. Her front legs are bowed and knock-kneed and very weak. It looks like rickets, although I’ve never met a horse person who would say, “Yep, horses get rickets.”

Whatever the cause, the effect is that Elaine’s movements are slow and stumbling. She becomes less awkward when an expert trims her hooves just right. Luckily, here in Paradise we’ve got such an expert, Dan the Farrier, a third generation blacksmith who gets along better with horses than Barry Bonds does with a baseball bat.

Dan last trimmed Elaine’s hooves about a month ago. But this time it didn’t help. She continued stumbling. Since then, she’s gotten slower and slower. One morning I awoke to find Burl Jr. the New Caretaker shooing away the dogs because Elaine was lying on the ground, trapped in the fence, and couldn’t get up.

All the activity got the mare so riled that a burst of adrenalin set her free, but now she’s so frightened she never goes more than two steps away from her man, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa. Huck’s usually a pretty impatient cuss, but he waits for her uncomplainingly.

As though he knows that without him Elaine won’t survive.

Over the last few days Elaine’s gotten much worse. Her left leg is rigid and can’t support any weight. The only way she can walk is to extend it slowly, then pull her right leg up even with it, and then hop forward so her rear catches up. It takes about thirty seconds per step. Thirty exhausting seconds.

When I first arrived in Paradise vets specializing in horses and cows and other “big animals” were the rule. Now they’re exceptions. Our dog vet, Sarah Bailey, has recommended someone new, recently arrived from Texas. He’s due over this afternoon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been buying horse pain meds at the feed store and getting advice from Dan the farrier and my neighbors who raise horses. Neighbors who look at Elaine and shake their heads, mumble a few platitudes about what a good life Gwen the Beautiful and I have given her up to now…and then try to sell me a filly they’ve bred.

Me, I’m no doctor of animals or men, although I‘ve got a few tricks I picked up back around Santa Fe. And Burl Jr.’s been following his farmer father’s instructions faithfully as we fight for Elaine’s life. We’re doing our best, and hoping our best as well.

For years I’ve tried to be the kind of person Elaine would want to be around. One of the ways I judge myself is by her response to me. It’s a good day and I’m a good man—better than I once was—when Elaine lets me touch her.

At least that’s how it was. Now Elaine acts like she’s tame. She flinches but doesn’t shy away from my hand. She responds warmly to soft voices and kind words, and especially to carrots and apples.

But that’s not really her choice. It’s just that she no longer is able to pull off her escapes.

This morning when I went outside to feed the horses I watched Elaine inch painfully to the hay, and I patted her neck and untangled her mane.

She stood quietly as I did it, and all I could think of at a moment I once would’ve considered a triumph was, “Please, sweetheart! Run! Run away!”

Postscript: The New Vet From Texas just left. Elaine had an abscess in her hoof caused by a stone lodged there. He scraped it out, applied heavy duty disinfectant and a stronger painkiller, and she’s already putting her weight on that leg.

Ah, Burl Jr. just hollered, “She’s running into the trees!

All’s right with the world.

The Latest WGA-ATA Weekly Report

by Larry Brody

After a couple of weeks of relative quiet, the WGA-ATV Battle of the Writing & Writers’ Agent Stars got pretty loud last week.

Over all, it was the same old, same old about fiduciary duty and how much power the Writers Guild of America legally has when it comes to client-agent relationships, but with one crucial difference.

It’s election season for the WGA West, with Board of Directors seats and Guild officers chairs up for grabs. As I write this I see three different groups  vying for power.

They are the incumbent power group (which I mean in an absolutely non-derogatory way) that created the current WGA-ATA conflict (which I also mean in a non-derogatory way), an opposition group that’s against the current conflict, and another opposition group that’s not really a group per se but independent candidates who might have had other issues to talk about if the WGA-ATA thing wasn’t a thing.

Will the election change the, um, “conversation” between the WGA and the ATA? Seems to me there’s a pretty good chance of that happening. And that’s something we all need to keep in mind as we consider these examples of last week’s battlefield news.

From most recent to, in today’s news cycles, almost oldies-but-goodies, here it is:

CAA Now Strapped To Packaging War In Writer’s Rip-Off Lawsuit Over ‘Main Justice’ Pilot

WGA Launches Staffing And Development Platform For Agentless Writers

Abrams Artists Lit Agents Brad Rosenfeld, Paul Weitzman & Karen Kirkland Exit to Launch New WGA Signatory Agency

WGA’s Deal With Kaplan Stahler Could Entice Other Mid-Tier Agencies To Sign Its New Franchise Agreement

WGA War With Talent Agents Hits Milestone: Now Longer Than Its Bitter 100-Day Strike Against Studios In 2007-08

More to come, of course. Seeya next week.

In Solidarity,

LB

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #55 – “Return of the Ghost Dog”

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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

Ever since I mentioned the Ghost Dog, readers have been asking to know more about it. So here’s the latest update.

It begins, as does so much here on the Mountain, with the Big Red Chow Dude. He paid us a visit last Tuesday afternoon and looks in good shape. No new wounds or scars, and his coat is thick and lustrous.

Emmy the Pit Mom’s M.O. when her True Love comes calling has been to race to the front door so I’ll open it, and then, when the Dude pops up onto the front porch ignore him the way a wasp ignores Gwen the Beautiful’s flailing arms.

We’re talking cutting the poor guy dead. He stays with us for however long it takes for Emmy to at last welcome his presence with some fancy bowing and wrestling. Then, as soon as he feels certain she still loves him off he goes.

Usually in the dead of night.

This time, though, Emmy made no pretense of not loving him. She barked so I’d do my doorman act, and then, lo and behold, she went right into the jumping and dancing.

Pure joy is what I saw, with no ego protection. A beautiful sight.

The kids weren’t as happy to see their old man as Mom was. Which didn’t bother Dude in the least. He doesn’t demand love, just respect.

As usual, Decker gave his daddy a wide birth, even though he’s bigger than the Dude and quite a fearsome country warrior himself. As for Belle the Skittish, she put up with the Dude’s sniffing and sighed with relief when he turned away.

Now’s where the Ghost Dog comes in. Our experience with the Ghost Dog began several months ago when Chet the No Longer Unhandyman told me how some nights when he looked out from the Annex he’d see another dog the general size and shape of Emmy’s pups lying asleep in the clearing.

The other dogs never barked at that one, and no one ever saw it but Chet, although I tried to stay up and take pictures one night. But the night after the Dude arrived, it made its presence known.

Gwen was upstairs in bed, and I was downstairs at the computer. Decker and Belle were locked in the dog yard for the night, and Emmy and the Dude lay together on the front porch.

Suddenly Decker and Belle began barking, and Emmy and the Dude joined in. Emmy ran full-out into the woods, hind legs flapping out from her body like Dumbo’s ears. The Dude, being—after all—a “dude,” and very, very cool, loped after her.

None of this was any big deal. Happens all the time. But then, from inside the house, right in front of the kitchen table, came more barking, deep and gruff, and the sound of dog claws scrabbling on our cedar floor. Like another dog eager to join the chase.

Except there was no other dog.

The barking and scrabbling hurried past me, to the front door.

And nothing, absolutely nothing, was there to cause it.

I went to the door. Opened it. Out went whatever presence had honored us, joining the rest of the chorus, and the chase.

“I didn’t know Emmy was in the house,” Gwen called down.

“She wasn’t,” I said.

Gwen came to the railing.

Peered down.

“Oh,” she said quietly. Just “Oh…”

A couple of hours later Emmy returned alone. The next morning as I fed the horses I saw the tail of a large, reddish-tan dog wagging in the air out of the corner of my eye. When I turned to look at it, the tail was gone.

That evening, when I prepared the dogs’ dinner, I saw the same tail wagging at another place in the clearing. And again it vanished when I tried a direct look.

The Ghost Dog?

What else? No one’s ever gonna convince me otherwise.

Only problem is, although this sounds like an answer it’s really another question. Because I’m still clueless about what—or who—the Ghost Dog is.

There’s one thing I do know, though. Whatever was here barks like a dog. Scrambles and gives chase like a dog. Wags its tail like one too.

Reacts like a dog in all ways.

I’m thinking it must love like a dog too.

So how I can do anything other than love our Ghost Dog in return?

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #54 – “Things Change”

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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

Last night brought Paradise its wildest thunderstorm of the season. Thunder roared, lightning crashed, wind and rain assaulted the earth.

It was glorious.

The aftermath, however, was a whole other thing.

This morning Burl Jr. the New Caretaker and I left the Mountain at eight o’clock on a quick run to Paradise Feed. The electricity was out, but the sun never lies. (Neither do the battery powered atomic clocks conveniently located in both the main house and the Annex.)

On our way we passed toppled trees, downed fences, and an aggravated power company crew. “Too bad we don’t have any traffic signals in Paradise,” Burl Jr. said.

“Why’s that?”

“Because it’d be so much fun to see how people react when they go out.”

“I’m missing something,” I said. “But it’s not the traffic signals.”

At the feed store we were greeted by the biggest damage yet. Everyone who worked there was standing by the big forty-foot hay barn, staring in disbelief.

Burl Jr. and I stared too. Last night’s wind had picked up the whole structure, carried it about twenty feet, and then dropped it back onto the ground, shattering every support. It squatted where it hit, caved-in like a barrel with crushed staves.

Burl Jr. whistled. I shook my head. We were in the presence of the true power of the storm.
Phyllis, who pretty much runs the place, came over to the truck.

“You came for hay, didn’t you?” she said.

“I’m not going to get any, am I?” I said.

“We can’t go in there,” Phyllis said. “Only thing keeping the roof up is the twenty foot pile of Bermuda at the back.”

“We wanted alfalfa,” said Burl Jr.

Phyllis looked relieved. “Oh, then you would’ve been out of luck anyway.”

“When will you have any hay?” I said. “Alfalfa or otherwise?”

“When we get ourselves a new barn.”

“When’ll that be?” Burl Jr. said.

“Oh, I imagine sometime after the insurance company finishes roasting us over a hot fire.”

Phyllis went back to the barn. Burl Jr. and I went back on the road. Our destination—the next town, about ten miles away, and its County Farm and Feed.

A long, tall drink of water wearing a nametag that identified him as Albert the Manager greeted us with a grin.

“Why, we’ve got plenty of alfalfa!” he said. “No problem. Only eight dollars a bale.”

“Eight dollars!” Burl Jr. looked like he was about to choke. “That’s two dollars more than
Paradise Feed.”

“That’s not how I see it,” said Albert the Manager. “How I see it is that Paradise Feed doesn’t have any alfalfa for sale. That makes what we’re asking the going rate. That’s business.”

“That’s robbery!” Burl Jr. said. “You’re buying it from the same farmers Paradise Feed bought it from and paying the same price. Can’t be more than three dollars a bale.”

Albert looked thoughtful. “I guess you could wait for Paradise’s new barn,” he said. “Or you could lease yourself a big rig and drive 500 miles to Iowa City, Iowa where the farmers with the alfalfa are. You licensed for that?”

“We’ll take eight bales of alfalfa right here,” I said.

Albert was already writing up the sale. “Thank you kindly. Just bring this ticket to the big trailer outside.”

He gave me a familiar “Hey-We’re-All-Hard-Working-Men-Trying-To-Make-Our-Way-Through-This-World” kind of gaze. Turned back to Burl Jr. “Things change, son,” he said. “That’s how life is.”

Burl Jr. didn’t say anything. Not until he and I were out in the parking lot. “What was that old boy doing,” he demanded, “telling me ‘things change?’”

“Believe it or not, Burl,” I said, “he was trying to keep everything cool. And maybe teach you something about life.”

“I’m not a kid. I know how life is! That’s why I’m so mad.”

“That’ll change too.”

“I don’t want it to. I want to be me, fighting and kicking to the end!”

Burl Jr. wore a look I’ve seen in my mirror many times. I thought about all the changes I’ve gone through in my life. Who I was. Who I am. Who I’ll be.

I started chuckling.

Burl Jr. stared. “Why are you laughing?”

“Oh, I guess because it’s so much fun to see how people react when the traffic signals go out.”

By the time Burl Jr.’s seat hit the seat of the truck, he was laughing too.