Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #85 – “Nothing’s Over Unless You Give Up”

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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

Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang lives her life with the utmost care. She’s almost twenty years old, and moves slowly and stiffly most of the time. When she’s startled, though, Elaine moves like a streak. Her survival instinct kicks in, and she’s gone with the wind.

The two things sure to send her running are angry nips from her soul mate, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, and the sound of something heavy scraping along the ground. I always understood her reaction to the nips—even love bites from a 1400 pound Casanova hurt!—but it wasn’t until last winter that I learned the reason for her other big fear.

No, not from Elaine. Even after all these years she doesn’t talk much to people. It was Huck who explained things one day after she’d sprinted to the farthest corner of the corral while I dragged a garbage can full of firewood to the house.

Huck’s ears flicked toward the garbage can. “You’re bringing back bad memories,” he said. “Causing my girl pain.”

“How?” I said. “What happened?”

“The sound reminds her of when she was captured. A group of men dragged bales of hay into her herd’s territory, and the horses who went to eat it were roped and netted. They kicked and fought, but in the end all of them, including Elaine, got dragged away.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “If I could pick the can up and carry it to the house I would. But I’m just a human being—“

“And not strong, like a horse.” Huck nickered. It sounded like a laugh. “Maybe if you brought over some carrots she’d feel better. I know I would.” He laughed again.

I thought about that conversation this morning as I brought the horses their hay and saw only Huck, standing protectively in the wooded part of the corral. Looking closer, I saw that he was beside Elaine, who lay on her side.

I slipped through the wire fence and hurried through the cleared part of their area to the trees. Elaine’s head rested on the ground, her face angled toward me. I waited for her to blink. To lift her head. To get to her feet.

It didn’t happen.

Not even an ear twitch.

Nothing.

My chest started to tighten. A feeling of dread.

I slowed down. Moved closer.

Heard her ragged breathing. Still alive!

But in a mode I’ve seen before with animals. The Near-Death Mode. The peaceful acceptance thing where they’re not thinking about life anymore, just preparing for whatever comes after.

Looking past Elaine, I saw why. Sometime in the night she’d lain down at the back end of the corral. Probably she’d rolled around a little—a horse’s equivalent of a shower is to roll in the dirt—and then tried to get up.

Except that she couldn’t get up. Because her hind legs had gotten caught in the “barbless barbed wire” Gwen the Beautiful had insisted we put in. Because of this, Elaine wasn’t cut or torn, but she was trapped. Probably had been all night.

Long enough to make her give up.

I walked around her. I wanted to get outside the fence and see if I could move the wire, or her legs, or both, to free her. I worried that she’d panic and kick at me and twist or break a leg.

Maybe her leg. Maybe mine. But she wasn’t going to make it unless I did something.

Huck watched me closely. Blew softly. Seemed to nod.

Suddenly I heard barking. Two of our dogs, Decker and Belle, had been in the trailer with Burl Jr. The New Groundskeeper. Now they were out…and running into the corral.

Huck reared.

Elaine squealed—

And in a burst of adrenaline forgot all about the fence and the reason she was down. I threw myself to the side just in time as Elaine rolled and leapt and kicked and pushed and—

Yes!—made it to her feet and ran, ran, ran as though she was young again, and sound.

Huck charged at the dogs. They’ve never read Shakespeare, but are smart enough to know when the better part of valor definitely is discretion. Off they scurried, back to the trailer.

When the dust settled, Elaine and Huck and the dogs and I, and even the fence, were safe. Intact. Doing fine.

A crippled old mare taught me a wonderful lesson today.

Nothing’s over unless you give up.

Remember the WGA – ATA Negotiation?

by Larry Brody

The War Between TV and Film Writers and the Association of Talent Agents has been going on for about a year now, and on Valentine’s Day the Writers Guild of America West emailed its members the latest status report.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a doozy. Because its unwritten premise is, “Hey, kids, we aren’t negotiating with the Association anymore because it’s no longer necessary. We’re dealing one on one with the various agencies, and we’re scaring the hell out of the big, obnoxious ones, the gangs that insist on doing the packaging fee thing.”

Here’s the precise text. How does the situation sound to you?


Dear Members,

It has been a while since we’ve given you an update on the agency campaign.  As you know, since the beginning of the year the remaining mid-level agencies have signed, which leaves us with five large agencies still without a franchise agreement.  The WGA has had substantive discussions with all but one.  Those we have spoken to have said directly to me they would like to make a deal.  We continue to place pressure on them, by pursuing the lawsuit, by negotiating with the smaller agencies, and by withholding their ability to represent writers.  The goal remains in sight: to realign all our representatives’ financial interests with their writer clients by ending packaging fees and curtailing agency ownership of production.

A number of the unsigned agencies, while professing to want a deal, continue to engage in misconduct. We know that some agents are harassing former clients to work with them in secret under the false premise that “everyone else has come back.”  These same unfranchised agents are inserting themselves into potential deals by calling executives and acting as if they still represent writers who fired them. This is itself an indication that the pressure is mounting on them.  We talked about this misconduct in a previous email, and there may be helpful information in it if you find yourself faced with this kind of pressure.

We’ve also heard the rumors that some writers have gone back to their unfranchised agents.  When we receive specific information the allegations are investigated, starting with outreach by the Guild’s Working Rule 23 Committee.  We have looked into a few reports that turned out to be without merit, which is why confidentiality is so important.  But we continue to investigate other reports, and for any writers breaking the rules there must and will be accountability.

Despite the challenges of this new landscape, writers continue to pursue their careers working with the help of a manager, a franchised agent or on their own, often utilizing Guild-provided tools.  The numbers speak for themselves: overall employment is up, compensation is higher, and writers are maintaining health benefits at higher levels than last year.  The Guild will continue to provide and improve the tools we’ve set up to help writers find work. If you have questions or concerns as always you can contact: Agency@wga.org.

As we head into MBA negotiations, some in the industry have pushed the narrative that the agency campaign has weakened us.  But it has had the opposite effect: we have taken on the status quo, challenged business practices that everyone hated but no one else would question, and, in doing so, changed the way the whole town does business.  The companies have seen another powerful example of the Guild’s unity and sense of purpose in protecting the well-being of writers.  There is no doubt it has made us stronger.

Invitations to the MBA member meetings will go out next week.

In Solidarity,

David A. Goodman

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #84 – “Tick Tick Love…”

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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

Awhile back I wrote about ticks and how they’ve developed super-itchy bites. For reasons too terrifying to contemplate, I’ve gotten more response on this subject than just about anything else I’ve written about here.

One reader wrote, “There is one natural and beautiful thing to use against all those…bloodsuckers: ethereal oils. Especially Lavender!…Try it. They won’t come near you.”

Another suggested, “You could try guinea fowl for the ticks.”

A third got right to the point: “Move to the city!”

A reader from Indiana came up with a reason why bug bites today bug us more than they did years ago:

“My belief is that this is connected to chem trails and their substances…Insects…pass these into a bite, as a mosquito does malaria.”

According to this reader all the environmental poisoning human beings have done over the years is coming back to haunt us as poisoned creepy crawlers inject the bad stuff right into our bloodstreams while they’re latching on.

All things considered, that sounds like as credible an explanation as any to me. The preventatives sound good too, but none of them have worked so far.

Splashing lavender all over my body didn’t work for me because guess what? Turns out I’m allergic to it. Which means thate ven a more conservative dabbing of it on my wrists and behind my ears didn’t fit me any better.

On the guinea fowl front, my farmer neighbors tell me that guinea hens are wanderers, just as likely to roam over to someone else’s property and eat his ticks as mine, and that giving the chickens we’ve already got here at The Mountain free range would work better.

That may well be, but our dogs, Emmy the Bold, Decker the Giant-Hearted, and Belle the Wary, have another use for free range chickens, and in spite of our best efforts at mediation (and more aggressive forms of peace-keeping) letting the Cloud Creek flock out for only a couple of hours a day didn’t do much but whittle it down from a dozen to—gulp—three.

As for moving to the city—I’ll take our country menaces over the city ones any time.

Most readers were too sensible and polite to comment on another part of the column, my discovery that vultures are nature’s ultimate get-along-guys, and my decision to ask the next one that flew by for advice. A wiser man would’ve taken the hint. But I went out and waved the long vulture feather I’d found at the pond at the biggest carrion-eater I’ve ever seen—

And got a reply, which as per the non-sensible promise I made, I’m now passing on:

“I see you, My Brother,” the vulture said, “waving a lost piece of myself at me. I see you and recognize kin.

“This secret of vulture life I pass on to you. It’s about searching, and finding the strongest current, and using that current to take you where you need to go. It’s about adapting and changing and making friend out of foe. The outside world is our challenge, not our enemy. The enemy is within.”

The vulture made a big circle over the sparsely populated chicken yard and flew on, leaving me to figure out what it meant.

I think it boils down to this:

The itching is what bothers me, and my body’s auto-immune system is responsible for that, not the ticks. The trick is to get my body to cool it.

A psychologist friend of mine believes that the way we control our emotions (and therefore our bodies) is to say them out loud. Native People all over the world believe similarly and make that the basis for their ceremonies. And all the great religions and philosophies of the world advocate, “Love your enemy!” in one form or another.

So what I’ve been doing whenever I get something new to scratch is talk to my body instead. To thank it for fighting off the intruder. To love the fact that I’m so uncomfortable because I know that someday I won’t have a body and be able to feel anything, good or bad.

And guess what? It’s been just like talking to my kids when they were young. I tell my body to do something—“Keep itching!”—and it responds with, “Aw, this is no fun anymore” and within a few minutes the itching stops.

Go on. Love your enemy. Love yourself.

Works for me.

Let me know what it does for you.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #83 – “The Brodys Go Batty”

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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

In all the time Gwen the Beautiful and I have lived in Paradise neither one of us has ever had a mosquito bite.

For awhile we thought it was because of the bats who live in the caves in the ridge above the Original Settlers’ Cabins, but last summer we discovered we were only half right.

Yes, bats consider a mouthful of mosquitoes to be haute cuisine, but no, the bats who’ve been dining on the skeeters on our Mountain aren’t just living in the caves. They’re also right here in the house. In the space between the gable venting and the inside wall.

It was the chittering and fluttering that gave them away.

The noise started in late summer. One afternoon Gwen went upstairs and stopped dead in her tracks.

“Rats!” she shouted. “I hear rats. Or squirrels. Rustling and scraping in the wall.” She stopped, listening. “Uh-oh. Now I hear fluttering. Like wings.”

“Must be birds,” I said.

“Do birds chitter?” Gwen said. “I hear chittering too.”

Bats chitter, and they flutter too. I went on the alert and, sure enough, I spotted ‘em a couple of weeks later, flying out of the venting before dusk. In principle, neither Gwen nor I minded sharing the place with bats, but their activities grew louder day by day.

There was only one explanation for it. The bats were multiplying at an unusual pace. We had no choice but to take action. This was a job for Brannigan the Contractor.

“Get those things out of there and seal it up so they can’t get back in,” I told him over the phone, and after a week had passed Brannigan and his Bat Removal Ladder arrived.

He backed his pickup as close to the house as he could get. Set the ladder up on the bed. Offered Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper a handful of cash to climb up and nail some wire mesh to the open slats in the vent.

“I’m paying my own guy to go up there while you watch?” I said.

“Absolutely not!” roared Brannigan. “You’re paying your guy to go up there while I supervise. And you’re paying me too—“

He broke off as Burl Jr. cried out and hand-over-handed himself down the ladder. “There’s a ton of bats up there!” he said. “Big, mean, brown ones. They growled at me!”

“They won’t hurt you!” Brannigan said.

“That’s for sure. Because I’m not going up there again. I’m late for my day job.”

Off Burl Jr. went. Brannigan looked disgusted. “Kids!”

But he climbed up the ladder, and an hour and a half later pronounced all the bats gone and the venting sealed.

“Problem solved.”

Or so we thought.

Until the chittering and flapping resumed.

“Brannigan didn’t get all the bats,” Gwen said. “Who knows how many are in there, starving to death because we sealed them up?”

“Not ‘we,’” I said. “Brannigan did the sealing.”

“Because we told him to. You’ve got to get him back here to let the poor things out.”

“You mean take down the screening he just put up?”

Gwen’s nostrils flared. “We can’t let them die!”

It took another week for Brannigan to get the time to come back. This time he didn’t bring the ladder.

“Those bats really do growl,” he said. “Go up there again? Not me.”

He took a long pole with a macheté duct-taped to it from the back of his truck, started jumping and poking and swiping…until, with a CRACK!, not just the mesh but the whole venting hit the ground.

The wall was wide open. A couple of fuzzy, brown, bat-faced peeked out.

“There you go, bud!” Brannigan said. “They’re free now.”

“What about the hole in my wall?”

“Nothing to worry about. Since we’re friends, you can have that for free! I’ll have to charge you to fix it though. We’re talking time, labor….”

If you’re a homeowner you know where I’m headed. Operation Bat Removal is over. New venting is in place, uncovered and awaiting the bats’ return from their annual migration. Everything’s just as it was when Gwen first heard the chittering and fluttering.

Well, not quite everything. Three hundred dollars flew from my pocket into Brannigan’s, and all I’ve gotten in return is this fair ole country tale.

There better not be one single, solitary, uneaten mosquito on this property come spring.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #82 – “Gwen’s Resurrection”

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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

Everything about life fascinates me, but one of the most intriguing aspects is the way its little ironies work.

Good somehow produces Bad. Bad miraculously creates Good.

And we mortals experience both.

Case in point:

Since we discovered the cause of Gwen the Beautiful’s stroke and how to overcome it her health has been getting better and better. She’s well. She’s whole. She’s happy.

But just a few days ago out of all that improvement came a crisis of the first magnitude.

Last Monday night I was awakened from sleep by a loud crash. Followed by a series of thumps as though someone was falling down the stairs. But the sound wasn’t’ coming from the stairway. It came from the bathroom. Groggily, I reached out for Gwen.

She wasn’t there.

My grogginess vanished.

“Gwen? Gwen? What’s going on?”

Even as I said it I was getting out of bed. From the bathroom, Gwen called out weakly. “I think I need you,” she said.

I flicked on the lamp on my nightstand. Hurried across the room to the bathroom doorway.

And found Gwen lying on the floor, surrounded by cosmetics that had fallen from a big, old, wooden rack we use for storage in there. Gwen lay on her back beside the rack, arms straight at her sides, legs extended perfectly straight as well.

Gwen’s head was twisted against the wall. Her tongue was out. Her eyes wide open.

She wasn’t moving.

Not a twitch.

Not an eye flutter.

Not a breath.

I knelt down and put my hand on her neck. No pulse.

The only positive thing about what I was looking at was that there was no blood.

I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of person who performs best under pressure. “Crises ‘R Us.’” In an emergency the world around me slows to a crawl, time seeming to stop while I become aware of what’s happening, figure out what to do…and then do it.

Not Monday night.

Monday night I stared at the face of the person I love most in the world, and it was the face of death. Gwen and I both have taken CPR, but did I tilt back her head, clean Gwen’s airway, and start compressions?

I did not.

Training went right out the window.

Did I do the practical thing and run to the phone to call 911?

Nope. Practicality was wiped from my mind.

What about the spiritual route? Did I pray? Or try to contact the Universe in any other way?

Not by a long shot. I was way too overwhelmed.

Instead, I wrapped my arms around her head and cradled her and howled, as loudly as I could, “Gwen! Gwen! I love you!”

Gwen’s eyelids fluttered. I said it again. “Gwen! Gwen!”

She took a shallow, ragged breath. Another. Her eyes moved. Focused.

On me.

“What’re you doing?” she said. “Is something wrong?”

“I said, “Do you know where you are?”

She looked around, puzzled. “What am I doing on the floor…?”

“I don’t know. Let’s put you in bed.”

I raised her to her feet, half-carried her to the bed. The next morning she was fine, as though nothing had happened. But something had. And we needed to get to the bottom of it.

We went to Paradise’s favorite doctor, Dr. Max. Dr. Max is old school, more Marcus Welby than Gregory House, with maybe a little touch of Hawkeye or Trapper John. He took one look at Gwen’s blood pressure and knew what’d happened.

“Your blood pressure’s too low,” he said. “You probably stood up too quickly in the night and fainted. It’s not uncommon.”

“But my blood pressure’s always been high. I’ve been taking medication for it for years.”

“Time to stop,” Dr. Mack said. “All that work you’ve been doing to make sure you don’t have another stroke has solved your blood pressure problem for you.” He rubbed his forehead thoughtfully. “You might say it made you so well it almost killed you.”

So that’s where we are. Did I mistake my wife’s unconsciousness for something worse? Or did she die a couple of nights ago and then return?

I’ll never know. I don’t think it matters. What I do know, and what does matter, is Gwen survived and is better than ever.

But, Universe—whatever you are—although I appreciate the lesson, next time you want to demonstrate one of the ironies of creation—

Can’t you please do it a little more gently, and make it just a little bit less life or death?