Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #59 – “Blind Eye Circus”

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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

About two years ago, at the age of 48, my wife Gwen the Beautiful was blinded by a stroke. She sees something, but only to the left in each eye. The right half of what should be her field of vision is inky blackness.

Or, on days of beauty and wonder, a sight that’s not there. Images of gardens. People. Animals. Plugged directly into (and by) her brain.

I’ve written about all the medical rounds we’ve made, trying to learn what caused the stroke so we can take the right steps to make sure it doesn’t happen, and what we can do to help her see completely once more.

Until yesterday no doctor anywhere, no matter how highly regarded, ever had said anything about the cause but, “We’ll probably never know,” and, about the possibility of a return of Gwen’s vision, “Very unlikely. The brain cells that interpret the right side of your vision are dead.” Both statements followed by, “Take these blood thinners and try to adjust.”

A couple of months ago Gwen left Paradise and went to Robert Superko, a San Francisco area doctor who’s an expert in “cardiac risk.” She spent half a day giving blood for a series of tests, including DNA tests no one else had given her.

Yesterday we got the results. They’re complicated, and neither of us understands them well enough to go into detail, but the gist is that Gwen’s DNA has an extra molecule on its strand that has caused the level of a cholesterol lipid called “El Pea Little A” and spelled “Lp(a)” to be three times what’s considered normal.

What does this do? Why, it throws a whole mess of stuff out of whack—and causes blood clots. Like the one that smacked Gwen on the back of the head one December evening and dropped her to her knees with half her lights out.

Wait, the news gets better. Not only do we now know what we also know how to prevent another stroke. Dr. Superko’s able nurse practitioner, Pam McDonald has a designed a program for Gwen to follow right here in Paradise. And which can be supervised by Dr. Ted, her Paradise M.D.

Three elements are involved. Regular cardiovascular and strength-building exercise. A balanced diet. And laboratory quality niacin, a thousand mgs. a day.

That’s right. No drugs. No stents. No shunts. None of the usual medical marvels. Instead, a big-time cardiovascular doc has recommended—

Homeopathy.

A dash of common sense. A sprinkle of knowledge. Stirred by experience and wisdom. Based on a recipe that’s totally high tech.

Who says the new and the old can’t co-exist?

That times can’t change in a way that lets today and yesterday embrace?

At first it seemed too easy to Gwen.

“Are you sure I can do the exercise?” she said. “It’s not going to hurt me? And that kind of food…it’s all right for my body?”

Pam told Gwen to take a good look at the page after page of test results she’d already sent. “You’ve had the most complete physical exam anybody can have anywhere. See those numbers? What they add up to is that you’re as healthy as they come. One genetic defect, that’s all you’ve got. And after six months of taking care of yourself you’ll have kicked that defect’s butt.”

“You mean I’m a healthy woman?” Gwen said.

“You’re a healthy woman,” Pam said.

Over the next several hours Gwen said it again herself.

And again. And again.

And as she checked the tomatoes in our garden yesterday afternoon something wonderful happened. She stopped questioning and instead asserted, as strongly as anyone can:

“I’m a healthy woman!”

And, after more than two years, she felt healthy at last.

This isn’t the story of a miracle. Gwen’s sight hasn’t returned. But she’s already started her new regimen, and is looking at life a new way.

Today when we woke up and kissed good morning she greeted me with a smile. “Wow,” I said. “Haven’t seen one of those this early in a long time.”

“There’s no reason for me not to smile,” Gwen said. “After all, I’m a healthy woman.”

“Yes. Yes, you are.”

“And,” she said, “do you know why?”

“Why?” I said.

“Because I’ve got hope.”

We kissed again. It was everything any couple could hope for.

LB: New Shows I’m Never Going to Watch This Fall No Matter How Much Other People Love Them

by Larry Brody

I started off the week here by talking just a bit about the upcoming Fall TV shows I’m excited about watching. Doing that has gotten me so carried away that I can’t resist saying a few words in the opposite direction.

So here they are. Upcoming series I’m so certain I can’t possibly like that I’m not even tempted to give them a look, with a few comments on why.

    • Almost Family – Fox. Here’s the logline that’s keeping me from coming within 100 yards of this show. “Heartwarming comedy-drama about a fertility doctor uses his own sperm without his clients’ knowledge to father countless children.” Sorry, but there’s no such thing as heartwarming comedy about an act that is for all practical purposes rape.
    • Nancy Drew – The CW. This one has three big negatives going for it. 1) It’s based on the inane Nancy Drew book series that no child I knew could ever bring him/her self to read. 2) In keeping with the tenor of the times, it’s “dark and dirty.” 3) It’s a John Schwartz-Stephanie Savage production whose previous crowning glory was The O.C.which I spent a few minutes rolling my eyes at uncontrollably back in 2003.
    • Batwoman – The CW.  As a comic book fan for over half a century, I’ve made it a point to watch, or try to watch, at least one episode each of The  C.W.’s various superhero shows and have found even the ones some critics admire to be horrendously written, with an exaggeratedly simplistic view that makes my brain burn. Nothing I’ve heard has suggested this series will be any different.
    • Dangerous Liaisons – Starz. With my old friend (and former agent) Chris Albrecht no longer running Starz, I have no confidence in the quality control there. And in this day and age, who in the audience could possibly be shocked by, or even care about, a couple of Jeffrey Epstein wannabes who get their kicks by seducing other men and women and ruining their lives.
    • Snowpiercer – TBS. The film was a horrendous and incoherent stinker that even the gloriously freaky Tilda Swinton couldn’t save, and she’s positioning herself even further from the series than I am, so what’s to watch?
    • The Man Who Fell To Earth – CBS All Access. Two words – Alex Kurtzman. I mean, c’mon!
    • Wu Assassins – Netflix. I love me a good martial arts film as much as the next kid, but my kids outgrew Power Rangers years ago so why would I watch a pretentious imitation?
    • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Disney Plus. Marvel, Disney, and even Netflix  have never gotten any of the Marvel characters right on TV, mainly because with the exception of Jennifer Jones they’ve always opted for action choreography over writing. Put Melissa Rosenberg in charge, people and maybe then I’ll watch. Maybe.

That’s it for my future TV non-watching. What about yours?

Seeya!

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #58 – “Billionaires in 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

There are billionaires among us.

I first found out about some of my more better off neighbors shortly after I moved to Paradise. My old acquaintance Phil the Film Financier called me excitedly.

“Whoa!” he said. “Did you ever score!”

“I know,” I said. “It’s beautiful here.”

“I’m not talking about beauty,” Phil said. “I’m talking about money. Did you know that five of the ten richest people in the world live within forty minutes of you? You’ve got it made.”

Since then, no matter how much I say I’m not interested, Phil has called regularly with updates on the fortunes of those he calls “The Paradise Five.”

Last week he was pushier than ever. “This Old Billionaire who practically lives around the corner from you just made a deal that puts him in striking distance of Bill Gates. Call him right now and make something happen.”

After Phil hung up I looked at the name and number he’d given me, and the local area code kicked my indifference in the pants.

I called and talked to the Old Billionaire, a soft-spoken man with a slight drawl, and could hardly believe it when he said, “When do you want to get together?”

I came up with a time and place. The Old Billionaire countered with another. Finally we agreed. “I’m happy with this if you are,” the Old Billionaire said. “One thing I’ve learned about life is that both sides always have to be satisfied with the deal.”

Yesterday the two of us sat down together in the Mexican Restaurant across from the Paradise County courthouse.

With his short gray hair, rumpled jeans, and “Go Razorbacks!” T-Shirt, the Old Billionaire looked like just about every man over fifty out here. But I spotted him immediately—because he was the one person in the place I’d never seen before.

As we sat down together he looked me over.

“You look okay to me,” he said. “I was a little worried about you being a friend of Phil’s. But when I heard that you live here I knew you couldn’t be all bad.”

He smiled and picked up the menu. “What’s good?”

Lyndie the Waitress came over and suggested the lunch special. “Twenty-five cents less than if you order everything separate,” she said. “Plus rice and beans.”

The Old Billionaire nodded his approval. After Lyndie left the table, he turned back to me. “What can I do for you? I’m happy to help however I can, but tell me now so we can get it out of the way and go on to other things.”

“There’s nothing you can do for me,” I said.

“Nothing?”

“Well, you can enjoy the lunch. And maybe we can swap a story or two.”

“I don’t have much to say,” he said. “I was born in the next county. Started my first little business there. Watched it get lucky. Put some money into another business. Saw that get lucky too.”

“You sure it’s that easy? There’s nothing else that you did?”

He started to shake his head, then stopped. “Well, maybe one thing. Not only have I been lucky, I’ve been able to recognize my luck. I can tell when the good things are happening. And go wherever they lead.”

An hour and a half—and about a hundred stories—later, the Old Billionaire and I shook hands again out on the street.

“I want you and your wife to come over to our place sometime soon,” he said as he got into his mud-spattered panel truck. “We’ll take my plane to Tunica and let the ladies pull the levers on some slots. My wife’s lost so much money there I bought a casino just to stay in the game.”

The Old Billionaire pulled out onto the highway. Behind me I heard a familiar voice. “Man! I didn’t know you had such rich friends!”

I turned and saw Brannigan the Contractor walking toward me from the barbershop. “How do you know he’s rich?” I said.

“I was up at the Chevy dealer last week. Saw that old boy’s truck get towed in. Sucker needed a whole new suspension! Five hundred bucks! When they told him he just nodded and said, ‘If that’s how it is, reckon you’d better go ahead.’”

Brannigan put an arm around my shoulder. “Between you and me, bud, if anybody around here can afford to repair his vehicle when he needs it – that’s rich!”

LB: New Shows I’m Looking Forward to This Fall

by Larry Brody

From where I sit as a guy who’s been playing the “Should I or Shouldn’t I Cut the Cord” game for about six years, the vast number of new series awaiting my eyeballs – and yours – has turned the much ballyhooed “Golden Age” contemporary TV into a “Time of Terror.”

In other words, there are so many possible new loves out there on so many delivery systems that I’m afraid to get my hopes up because:

  1. Like so many demanding lovers idealists, I’m afraid no show will meet my not exactly high but certainly demanding (and eccentric) standards
  2. Like everyone I know who has limited electronic means and/or a limited budget (which means everyone I know except, maybe, the Old Billionaire), I’m pretty sure that I won’t be able to watch all the shows I should because I either won’t be able to find them or I won’t be able to afford them, or both.

Eternal optimist that I am, I try to be pragmatic. (I was going to say “realistic,” but if you know me you also know that’s not possible with my brain) so here are several shows I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to both find  and ante-up for (unless I go bust) in the upcoming 2019-2020 Season.

    • Carnival Row – Amazon. This one combines two of my favorite genres, Victorian Supernatural and Political Metaphor (you know, like good ole 1984).  Plus the creators are René Echevarria? and ?Travis Beacham, and while I’m not sure who Mr. Beacham is (apologies, dood), everyone knows Mr. Echevarria was the real secret weapon in the Law & Order writers rooms.
    • Evil – CBS. The trailers tell me this is a Procedural/Supernatural combo, and that combined with creators Robert King and Michelle King makes this a must-try. Well, actually, the Kings are the real draw here, but the genre helps.
    • On Becoming a God in Central Florida – Showtime.  I love anything that plays with the concept of God or even “god,” and George Clooney once held an elevator for me, so I’m looking forward to this one…and hoping it’s even better than Clooney’s Catch-22.
    • Penny Dreadful – Showtime. Okay, this isn’t really a new series. It’s season two of an older one. Or is it? How can I resist the the chance to see more of John Logan’s writing…and the off-chance of seeing more Eva Green?
    • Picard – CBS All Access. Because Picard! The world’s best father figure rejuvenated into the best grandfather this side of, erm, well, me.
    • Sunnyside – NBC. Michael Schur, Kal Penn, the best serio-comedy writing staff this side of The Good Place. C’mon!
    • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – Netflix. I loved the film way back when. I still love everything that bears the slightest impression of Jim Henson’s stamp. And Javier-Grillo-Marxuach is one of the creator-writers. No way this can fail. You hear me? No damn way!
    • The Stand – CBS All Access. One of my favorite books, as in, yes, this baby is in my Top Ten. Adapters Josh Boone and Ben Cavell know what they’re doing, and this has to be better than the last couple of versions, right?
    • Watchmen – HBO. I’m not a big Damon Lindelof fan – neither Lost nor The Leftovers made much of an impression on me, but dammit, Jim, this is Watchmen and I’m just about positive that even if I hate it I’ll love it!

That’s it for my future TV watching. What about yours?

Oh, and coming later this week – maybe even tomorrow: New Shows I’m Never Going to Watch This Fall No Matter How Much Other People Love Them.

Seeya!

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.