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 Saturday night, as my beautiful wife and I were having a romantic candlelight dinner of chicken pot pie and white wine in a box, Gwen gazed at me dreamily and said:
“Know what I’d really like to do tomorrow? I’d like to go out. I’d like to spend our Sunday afternoon the way other people do.”
Now I’m a romantic guy, so I leaned forward and said, “Whatever you want, my love. Would you like to have a nice brunch? Go out on the lake?”
“I was thinking of something we used to do in L.A.,” Gwen said.
“Yes! I want to go to Home Depot! I want to buy some gardening supplies!”
And so, Sunday became a very Big Day. It’d been almost four years since the last time we cruised through a Home Depot, back in L.A. Until Gwen mentioned it I didn’t realize how much I too wanted something from our former lives.
When Home Depot opened in Mountain Home it hadn’t meant much to me. We already had a lumberyard and hardware store just a few miles away, and whenever we needed seeds or plants our neighbors were always happy to bring some over and grab a shovel. One of the highlights of our second summer here was when we gave a two-day party where the main activity was building a couple of raised beds for our vegetable garden.
Our Sunday excursion wasn’t just an afternoon away from the ranch. It was a tribute to the past, and we treated it that way.
Gwen put on an outfit she hadn’t worn since our big move and brushed her hair big. I wore clean jeans and trimmed my stubble. As we drove into the Home Depot parking lot we both were excited.
“Look!” I said. “It looks just like every Home Depot everywhere!”
After we got out of the truck Gwen gripped an orange lumber cart. “And it feels like every Home Depot too!”
Hand in hand, we raced inside like kids, joining the other customers wheeling their carts through the store. We headed down a random aisle, passing a little TV set that automatically came to life when we reached it, going into a spiel about “A new kind of lighting, just for you—“
Gwen hugged me and sighed. “It’s just like being home again,” she said. “Like we went through a space warp.”
“What if we really have left the Ozarks and are back in L.A.?” I wondered.
Gwen put her finger on my lips. “I know a surefire way to find out.” She looked around. Pointed. “There! Pergo!”
“Pergo!? Nobody local has Pergo flooring. They make you buy real wood!” I wrapped my arms around her, started dancing down the aisle. “We’ve been transported back to our old life of high tech and fake floors—”
“May I be of assistance?” We were interrupted by a distinguished, white-bearded man with the highly trained voice of a radio announcer. I recognized him immediately as someone I’d seen before— on TV.
“And actors!” Gwen said. “With day jobs as salespeople. We must be in L.A.!”
“Uh, Larry, Gwen?” The white-bearded actor and Home Depot Sales Associate shook his head. “It’s me.” He pointed to the badge on his orange vest. “Jim Smith. Boy, Gwen looks fantastic. What’d you do to your hair, Gwen?”
It was like waking from an especially vivid dream. Jim Smith is an actor. I’d seen him on TV because he was a regular panelist on the Mountain Home public affairs show I’d produced. We weren’t in L.A. We were in a big warehouse that only seemed beyond time and space because it was part of the wave of big companies changing the face of commerce in both the North and the South.
Was that really what we’d wanted? Was that what we’d missed?
When we got home Gwen and I tried to sort it out. And realized that the high point of our day hadn’t been the shopping but talking with Jim. “That’s what we came here for, isn’t it?” Gwen said. “The people.”
I held up a glass of box wine. “To the people!”
We clicked glasses. Gwen smiled. “I love the people,” she said. “But I still reserve the right, if I start missing things again, to spend a day shopping in fake L.A.”