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
I used to be a cool guy.
I wore sunglasses twenty-four hours a day, and was the second-in-command to one of the most famous Monster Producers in TV. He already had Yes Men. My job was to say No. And then hang around and party.
I even went to Las Vegas now and then, on the boss’s private jet. I didn’t gamble, but was always ready for dinner, a show and some backstage conversation. Witty conversation, we called it.
But until last weekend it’d been twelve years since I’d been in Vegas. I work for myself now, and never wear shades because I can’t abide the thought of anything clouding my view. As for witty conversation—these days I talk mostly about the weather, and my listeners are likely to be my dogs, horses, or trees.
Still, I was looking forward to a few days with old friends now living in America’s Playground even if this time around Gwen the Beautiful and I had to fly east from Little Rock to Memphis in order to get the best price going west. I expected a big contrast with life in Paradise, and I got it, all right.
The first thing I noticed when we got off the plane was all the plastic surgery on the folks in the airport. Men as well as women with facelifts and not a down-turned nose in sight.
The women were perfectly made-up, and both they and the men wore the hippest of fashions. We don’t see designer bags and flashing jewelry much in Paradise, but we sure saw it now. And after we got out on the street was saw another big difference. Ferraris, BMWs, and Lincoln SUVs like the one in which our friends picked us up.
Then there was their home. 3500 square feet under a red tile roof in a gated community with a vaguely Spanish name. A backyard the size of a dog run. “Low maintenance,” Mr. Vegas Friend grinned.
“No chiggers or ticks,” Mrs. Vegas Friend added. “Don’t you love cement?”
That night they took us to a French restaurant at the Wynn Hotel. I can still taste my entrée—a steak so rare it could only be described as singed, with a sauce that made my lips tingle. I like fried chicken as much as the next man, but this was beyond compare. And the mind-blowing light show that went with it wasn’t bad either.
The next day our foursome caught up on all that’s been happening in our lives in a marathon conversation with more laughs than words. And that night we saw Celine Dion’s show. The lady works hard for the money. Last time I saw that much sweat on a person was last August, when I walked from our front porch to the chicken coop.
Soon, though, we were back at the Little Rock airport, where our friend Celia, Sweet Jane The Realtor’s sister, picked us up. Celia wore faded jeans and had a smudge of grease on her cheek, and drove her old Chevy pickup, apologizing because her teenage son had added headers and ‘glas packs loud enough to out-call a mating bull elephant.
As Celia drove us home she brought us up to date on local events. The deputies were still looking for a robbery suspect they couldn’t seem to catch, “mostly because he’s six foot six and a former Marine and they don’t want to know how hard he’ll fight back.”
And, she said, her neighbor, Rita, “has been making a fool of herself, bringing home men at night who she’d never look at twice if it was day.”
Another neighbor, Tommy from Chicago, has been calling and asking Celia to “come over—please—and kick out the space aliens camped on my porch!”
Tommy even sent her a bottle of Paris Hilton perfume to sweeten the pot, but it didn’t work. “My word! Like I’d ever have a place to wear something as fancy as that!”
And I sat there in the back seat while, beside her, Gwen smiled and said, “Thanks, Celia, for such a wonderful welcome home,” and I thought: Gwen’s right. It really is a wonderful welcome.
Because the way I see it is this.
I used to be a cool guy. Yep, I was.
But now—my word! Who cares?
I’m grateful to both Las Vegas and Paradise. Just for being two of the many places I can go.