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’m in Amber mode today.
As in Youngest Daughter Amber, the dangerously beautiful young woman who more than any of our other kids reminds me of—well, of me.
We think alike. We aspire alike. We rant and rave alike. Most of the time the similarities make for a lot of fun. But they can be frightening as well
The reason Amber’s on my mind today is that she’s transferring colleges. Leaving the Art Institute of San Francisco, where she’s been majoring in creating video games, and entering the San Francisco Art Institute, where she’ll be part of the world of what academicians call “fine art.”
Gwen the Beautiful, Amber, and I talked about it over the phone last week. “The two schools only sound the same,” Amber said. The old one’s all about making a living. But I’ve got to be creative. I’ve got to be free!”
This was upsetting because I was very proud of Amber when she started on her video game road. It seemed made for her not only because she’s brilliant and talented (if I do say so myself), with the potential to raise this new playing field to new heights, but also because the school flat-out guarantees every graduate a job.
Not that it was the first time we’d ever disagreed. We had a similar situation when we moved to Paradise.
We arrived here during the summer. Amber was only seventeen and had been raised in Southern California for most of her life. Still, she tried her best to fit in here. She loved the property. The animals. The sky. She found a place that was hers down at our pond and spent hours there talking to the cedars.
Amber made friends. Went to parties. Appreciated that they were just like parties back in L.A., celebrations of music and bravado and, yes, teenage pain.
She saw the truth: Teenagers are the same everywhere.
And the greater truth: All people are the same.
A few things put her off. First was when a group of girls told her she shouldn’t dress the way she did. “You’re wearing bright colors. We never do that. It’s so tacky, the way the boys are looking at you.”
The second troublesome thing was the chawing. The teenage boy who was Paradise’s hot catch at the time came by thinking he’d impress her with how far he could spit. Funny thing. Eight feet of brown tobacco slime didn’t push the right buttons. Amber got him back into his truck—fast.
The third strike came when she was talking to another boy getting ready to leave for college.
“What’s your major?” Amber said.
“Metal work,” he told her.
“Like sculpture? What a great thing to do!”
The boy looked puzzled. “Metal sculpture? Why would I do that? I’ve got the talent to do something important. I can build fences strong enough to hold the biggest bull—“
And that was it. Paradise’s fate was sealed.
“Can you believe that? He blew off art!” Amber told us.
“He’s got other things to worry about,” I said. “Survival…”
“Human beings need art in order to survive,” Amber said. Art takes us away from the bad parts of reality. It lets us heal and helps us grow.”
“I know, baby. What I’m saying is—“
“What I’m saying is I’m so out of here!”
Off Amber went, back to L.A. to live with relatives and finish out her senior year. We missed her like crazy. You wouldn’t believe the phone bills.
Now she’s in San Francisco, making another move that causes me concern.
On the one hand Amber’s twenty-one and on her own, learning exactly what she wants to learn, the way she wants to learn it.
On the other hand she’s taking a big risk, gambling on her future in a way that doesn’t pay off for most people.
“Meh!” she said over the phone when I pointed that out. “It paid off for you.”
I love my dangerously beautiful daughter and am even prouder of her now than I was before. Through Amber I’ve come to understand that one person’s paradise can be another’s middle of nowhere. And vice versa, of course.
And that to live a good life what you’ve got to be best at is being yourself.
Especially when—even when we think we’re on opposite sides—she’s still being just like me.