Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #107 “We’ve Got to Talk”

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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

Just about every man I know agrees that the four most terrifying words in the English language are, “We’ve got to talk.”

Invariably, they are uttered by a woman we love. And, just as invariably, they mean, “You’re bugging the teeth right out of my mouth and I want you to stop.”

To the women we love this is a simple statement of a need to communicate in order to keep the relationship on track.

To men it’s a declaration that means, “Get ready, boy, ‘cuz I’m about to make your soul bleed.”

I don’t think anyone’s going to deny the importance of making our needs, desires, and intentions clear to each other. But I worry about how difficult it is. How many of us really understand what the next person is trying to say?

Take this “We’ve got to talk” situation.

The other day as I stepped out of the shower Gwen the Beautiful greeted me with those very words. Immediately, my body tensed. My chest tightened. My pulse raced. I came up with a quick list of a hundred and fifty things I’ve done wrong lately, ranging from working too hard and not giving her all the attention I should to still not turning up the heat although she’d asked me to an hour ago.

I expected—make that assumed—the worst.

“It’s the new filing cabinet you bought” Gwen went on. “The one that’s supposed to look like an old trunk. It’s acting like an old trunk too. The bottom drawer sticks, and I can’t find the WD 40. When you get a chance can you give it a spritz?”

My budding fear and building anger retreated. My body relaxed. I wrapped my towel around me securely and went downstairs to get the WD 40…and turn up the head.

All was right with our world after all. But it sure was a close call.

Later that day I saw another example of two people just not getting each other. Gwen and I were walking through the Paradise Town Square when we heard raised voices.

“I’m just saying, ‘here’s how you do it!”

“And I’m saying I’m tired of you telling me to do things your way all the time!”

We turned to see Uncle Ernie and his cousin Jimmy Blue sharing a bench. Jimmy Blue was carving what looked to be a walking stick. Uncle Ernie was, well, here’s how he put it:

“I’m not telling you to do it my way. I’m saying that’s the way to do it!”

“A way, maybe. Not the way!” said Jimmy Blue.

“Ain’t that what I said?”

I took a couple of steps toward them. About to say, “Um…not really….” But Gwen took a firm grip on my arm.

“Burl Jr.’s waiting for us at the music store,” she said.

When we got home another failure to communicate stared me in the face. Huck the Spotless Appaloosa was digging around the corral for some spilled grain. He had a rhythm going, digging with his front hooves, then lowering his head to the ground to pick up what he’d loosened with those amazingly sensitive horse lips.

At the front door, Emmy the Bold spotted him and took off, barking and leaping at the big guy.

Because in dog language Huck was performing the “bow” that dogs do when they want to play, and she was happy to oblige.

But Huck didn’t see it that way. In horse language Emmy’s behavior was an attack. He reared up and galloped away. Emmy gave chase. So did I. As we passed Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang she shook her head. This wasn’t the first time she’d seen this particular scene.

I’ll spare you the details of what came next, except to say that this morning as I contemplate my new bruises and aches I’m thinking about how much better off dogs and horses would be if they could learn not to jump the gun. If they could watch each other, and listen, and try to understand what’s really going down before they react.

Which brings me to where I am now. Trying to teach myself to slow down and do the same.

So that someday when Gwen says, “We’ve got to talk,” I’ll be able to relax and listen with pleasure to what she’s really got to say.

Who knows? Maybe I could even pass the trick on to Uncle Ernie and Jimmy Blue.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #106 “The Mound”

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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 my never ending search for a reason behind the mysterious goings-on here at Cloud Creek Ranch, I’ve been taking a long, hard look at the land itself.

Especially at The Mound.

That’s the little rise in the clearing in front of our main house that’s the highest spot on The Mountain. It looks very much like the mounds marking windswept areas of earth over ancient ruins that I’ve seen at sites in Arizona and Utah.

My neighbors tell me this area always has been a great spot for amateur archeologists to explore, and you know what that means.

Yep, I’ve begun looking in earnest for signs of a lost past.

And I’ve found them too.

My first discoveries were stone arrowheads. Then I found a large axe head and a stone carving of a turtle that’s an excellent likeness of the snapping turtle that brings so much excitement into our dogs’ lives whenever they go down to the pond.

But what cinched the conclusion that The Mound is more than a hump in the earth was when Doug the Dog Breeder came over and his GPS unit gave me The Mound’s precise latitude and longitude.

I ran that by some researchers who correlated the location with what’s already known about ancient civilizations all over the world, and our Mountain fitted right into the distribution pattern.

According to cutting edge scholarship, whatever’s below The Mound is exactly where the spiritual center of a long lost city should be.

Although it sounds impossible, everything I know about Cloud Creek Ranch says the spiritual center theory is true.

The way I hear it, strange things often happen at such locations, and a pattern of inexplicable sounds and sights was established here long before Gwen the Beautiful and I arrived:

Voices from nowhere—

Wispy critters tantalizingly appearing just at the edge of view—

Unexplained singing and drumming—

That’s what ran off the previous owners, who created this clearing and built the house.

Shortly after I got this information I was contacted by the Paradise Historical Society. Miz Jayne, the Secretary of the PHS, asked me to speak to the group, and I was delighted to do so because it gave me the chance to share what I’d learned.

A couple of weeks ago I presented myself at PHS headquarters, received a warm greeting from the wizened Miz Jayne, and told the dozen or so members in attendance what I’ve written here.

I figured that at worst they’d laugh at my speech as more crazy fiction from Larry B. And at best they’d be astounded and delighted and give me some clues about what to do next.

But in a universe where the Unexpected rules, the reception my words received was one I’d never anticipated.

Utter silence.

No one spoke. No one asked a question. No one responded in any way.

“Dude, you are so bombing here,” one part of my mind said to the other.

To which the other could only reply, “Not only don’t they believe you, they don’t care.”

As a public speaker I was a dead man. Time to creep out gently, into the good night…

As soon as the meeting was over, I bolted for the door. Felt like I was barely escaping with my life.

In my disappointment with myself I started thinking about ways to find out for certain whether the Sacred Center theory was right, and decided to call Dwayne the Earthmover about the availability of his backhoe.

But before I made it out to the parking lot Miz Jayne stopped me. “Hope you’ll join us for refreshments,” she said. “Don’t those cakes smell good?”

I mumbled something about having to go. Miz Jayne looked at me closely. “How old did your experts say the civilization on your mountain was?” she said.

“Um…8000 years,” I replied.

“They might be a little off,” said Miz Jayne. “We’ve got some of our own artifacts in the back room. Archaeologists told us they date back 10,000 years.”

“Why didn’t you say something about this while I was speaking?” I said.

“We didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You were so proud of your discovery.”

“Then why’re you telling me now?”

“I may be a hillbilly, but I know that look on your face,” Miz Jayne said. “Can’t let you go out and do something as dumb as excavating your whole front yard.”

And at that moment the cakes smelled very good indeed.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #105 “Birthday Boy”

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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

Big doings up here on The Mountain last weekend.

It was Burl Jr. the New Caretaker’s 23rd birthday, and everyone gathered in the Annex for some whoop-de-do.

We had Burl Jr., Tera (his Twin Flame), Burl Jr.’s parents, Burl Sr. the All-Time Best Farmer in Paradise County and his wife Margie, and a couple dozen of Burl Jr.s’ friends and cousins.

Gwen the Beautiful and I were there too, of course. Her contribution to the festivities was a chocolate layer cake with a plastic Elvis on top of it in honor of Burl Jr.’s ambition to become the next big Rock God.

Burl Jr. sang and played the guitar. I joined in on drums. Tera made like Linda McCartney on the keyboard. A good time was had by all.
Well, almost all.

What Burl Sr. had was a problem.

He spent almost the whole time on his cell phone. Listening to someone who wouldn’t stop talking. Toward the end of the celebration I found him sitting outside at a picnic table. A frowning Margie sat nearby.

“I don’t know, Bobby,” Burl Sr. said into the phone. “I just don’t know.” And he shut it with a sigh.

“Well, I know,” said Margie. “He ain’t staying with us, no matter how much he cries.”

Then she saw me, and her voice grew less harsh. “Larry B’s a man of the world. Tell him what’s going on.”

Burl Sr. was uncomfortable. But he also needed to have his say.

“That was Bobby, my old high school best friend. Fifty years ago, understand? We did everything together, him and me. But after graduation we took different roads.”

“Bobby was always restless,” Margie went on. “Paradise wasn’t big enough for him. He had to go to the city. Be a hotshot in Little Rock.”

“Little Rock didn’t agree with Bobby,” Burl Sr. said. “He picked up and went west to Oklahoma City. Then Albuquerque. Then some skiing place in Colorado. Made a lot of other stops in between.

“No matter where he went and what job he got, Bobby stayed restless. Every once in awhile he’d wake up, decide he hated his life, and move on. Leavin’ wives and kids and homes and bank accounts behind.

“Bobby started with some promise,” Burl Sr. went on. “He was the smartest boy in school. His first job was managing a Greyhound bus station. Twenty-five years ago when he called me to shoot the breeze he was being paid by the hour to pump septic tanks.”

“And this time? Tell Larry B about this time,” Margie said.

“Now he’s calling from Springfield, Missouri. Saying he ain’t worked in three years. He’s got diabetes and they just cut off one of his legs. They’re taking the other one next week. He’s married again, to an ole gal who’s been supporting them by working at the Waffle House. She doesn’t want to do it any more. She wants him out”

Burl Sr. paused unhappily. Margie filled the gap. “Bobby’s calling because after he gets out of the hospital he’ll be nothin’ but a homeless cripple, with no love and no money and no friends to coddle him. He’s lookin’ for someplace to land.”

“Us taking him in would be the right thing to do,” Burl Sr. said. “The charitable thing.”

“It’d also be the biggest chore I ever took on,” said Margie. “Me taking care of a man I never even liked. Mr. ‘I am the Smartest’ Bobby and his ‘nuthin’ here is good enough’ ways!”

She looked straight at me. “You’re a man of the world, Larry B. What would you do? Would you take him in?”

I looked at the two of them. Thought about the consequences. Saw the pain in the faces of Burl Sr. and Margie. Considered the pain Bobby, who I don’t know, had to be feeling as well.

I thought about times when I’d been in their position, and what I’d done…and what I might’ve done instead. About what was right in the eyes of the universe. And what was wrong when you had to live with it in the world.

And all I could say was, “I want to help you. I’d love to help you. But I can’t.”

“See?” Margie said. “Those’re the words. Those’re the words you say to Bobby next time he calls!”

That wasn’t what I’d meant. Not at all.

But as they say about the weather in these parts: “Guess it’ll have to do.”

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #104 “Gym Dandy”

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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’s sane news and insane news here on The Mountain this week.

The sane news is that I let the brown hair dye Gwen the Beautiful used on me several months ago
grow out and have no intention whatsoever of trying that trick again.

The insane news is that I’m still not fully reconciled to growing old gracefully and have started fighting it in another, probably even more ridiculous way.

Exercise.

Weight training, to be precise.

Although I can think of another term for it:

Self-torture.

Yep, there’s nothing like taking that desperate desire to regain lost youth and putting it face to face with a multi-station professional gym set, a few dumbbells, and a leftover Inquisition device called a “neck strap” to bring out the inner masochist in a man.

Everyday, it’s Larry B’s fantasy perfect physical self versus Larry B’s all too real imperfect physical self in the storage shed we’ve renamed “The Gym.”

I train in the morning, before distractions (formerly known as “real life duties and recreation”) get in the way.

That means waking up, pulling on my official gym outfit of sweatpants, sweat socks, and the tattered blue-and-gold P.E. sweatshirt I’ve kept since high school, downing a cup of coffee, letting out the dogs, feeding the horses, and positioning myself at the various stations of the apparatus Wanda the Arkansas Angel supplied for the express purpose of Gwen’s rehab from her stroke.

It means grunting and groaning and pushing and pulling and sweating and shaking and watching my life pass before my eyes with each agonizing rep.

It means reminding myself to breathe and cursing myself for panting and remembering how much easier it was to recover from this kind of exertion back in the day.

Accompanied by the following refrain:

“One…never…two…again…three…never, never…four…again….”

And on and on for what seems ad infinitum even though the number seldom gets past ten.

After which I make my wobbly-legged way back into the house, scarf down my breakfast of one slice of toast and more coffee, wait for various body parts to stop spasming, and get back into bed.

Know what happens then? Well, four mornings out of five Gwen turns toward me, opens her innocent hazel eyes, and says, in a voice still all whispery from sleep, “Did you take a shower?”

Which (and it took me way too long to figure this out) really means, “Take a shower before you get into this bed!”

In other words, no matter how early it is, or how much I’ve exhausted myself, there ain’t gonna be no goin’ back to sleep. Because who ever felt anything but revived after a good shower? It’s a temporary feeling to be sure, but for me it lasts just long enough to fool me into thinking I’m ready for the day.

Notice, by the way, what I said I’ve been having for breakfast. A single slice of toast. That’s because in order to encourage the hands of the Larry B body clock to spin backwards I’m also employing the dread “D” word.

As in “Diet.”

And not just any diet, no sir. I’ve put myself on the same diet that got me into shape back when Gerry Ford was President of these United States. It’s a diet I got from Lou (the Incredible Hulk) Ferrigno when he was a champion bodybuilder and a good friend.

I don’t remember what Lou called it, but in my mind it’s always been the “If You Like It You Can’t Eat It” diet. For reasons way too obvious to anyone who’s ever eaten anything they’ve liked.

Like the exercise, the diet worked pretty well once upon a time—except for that heart attack I had in the gym—which is why I’m punishing myself with it now.

So am I feeling younger? Stronger? More fit? Let me put it this way. I’ve lost a pound a week over the last three months, and I’m this close to wearing the same size I did twenty-five years ago. My heart rate is down. My blood pressure too.

But everywhere I go people say, “You okay? Your face is drawn. You look so tired.”

And every night I think, “Ah, blessed sleep…” followed by, “Oh no! When I wake up tomorrow I’ve got to hit the gym…!”

And I keep wondering how many people end up old before their time…because of the very means they’ve chosen to return to their youth.

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?