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
Burl Jr., Cloud Creek’s New Caretaker, has himself a new ride. He’s standing in the middle of the clearing now, hose in hand, washing it for the fifteenth time in the last four days.
New ride it may be, but not a new vehicle. Burl Jr. bought Sweet Jane’s sister Celia’s Chevy pickup. He’d been eyeing it for years, and she gave him a deal he couldn’t refuse.
“This is going to cut into your ‘leaving home to strike it rich in the music business’ money,” I pointed out as Burl Jr. demonstrated the adjustable shocks.
“It’s worth it,” he said. “I’ll hit the Big Time in style. Look here, we’re talking about chrome headers!”
How could I argue? After all, once upon a time ole Larry B didn’t just love cars, I defined myself by what I drove.
In college I was the guy with the old ’59 Corvette. The new Stingray had replaced this model in the showroom, but driving it still made me cool…and a little eccentric. A pretty solid description of whom I wanted to be.
When I first moved to Los Angeles I drove a Mustang. The color code said it was “bronze,” but parking lot attendants said, “Pull that brown car in over there.”
The color alone made me an outta tune in a city where cars are icons that identify their drivers just as the symbols painted on their shields I.D.’d medieval knights.
So, beginning a pattern that lasted for thirty years, as soon as I got a little money I traded in the Mustang for a brand new, bright red Alfa Romeo. The Alfa was rear-ended the second day I had it, and then had its front smashed in by someone demonstrating his new power garage door the day after the rear was fixed.
Someone was telling me something, but I didn’t listen. Driving such a rare and fragile Italian car didn’t just make me cool, it announced that I was a budding Fellini. A television auteur!
In the years that followed I drove a succession of foreign cars, showing off for every traffic cop in L.A., culminating in a brand new Porsche. This silver bullet was my ride for fifteen years.
Impatience was the hallmark of my career and my life, and the Porsche suited me so well that it showed up in all my dreams as a kind of stand-in for me.
When things went well, my dream Porsche roared down the road like thunder. When I had a heart attack I dreamed that a hole opened up on the street where the Porsche was parked and swallowed it whole.
And when the show business thing wore off and I grew heartsick and tired of my life of flash I finally sold it and bought a series of more practical vehicles. A Montero SUV. A GMC pick-up. A couple of Ford F150s. If you live anywhere near rural America you know the drill.
Even then, the only vehicle that made it into my dreams was the silver Porsche. Any time the dream LB went anywhere I did it in that car. The personality traits that had made the Porsche me and me the Porsche still ran my personal show.
Until I moved to Paradise and learned what life really was all about. Until I learned what it was like to work from sunrise to sunset just to survive. And how fine it felt to get through the year with my land still mine. And to have my neighbors wave and talk to me simply because I was one of the guys.
I stopped dreaming about the silver Porsche. About any car.
Until Burl Jr. proclaimed his love for that Chevy.
That night I dreamed I was in an underground parking structure. A middle-aged farmer in overalls walked me to the only vehicle there.
“She’s all fixed up,” he said. “Better than when it was new ‘cause I gave it the Paradise spin. Go on. Get in. Drive.”
In my dream, I got into the car—a better than new ’59 ‘Vette—and headed out to the world.
I was twenty-one again, cool but eccentric, beginning a new life that could go in any direction I chose.
Every night since then I’ve dreamed I’m in that car. Driving the blacktop and gravel of Paradise.
No side trips. No crashes.
I’m one lucky man.
How many people get to start all over again…on the right road?