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
When it comes to real life, I’m late to the party.
I lived the first part of my life—my childhood—with books. Well, mostly in them. And in television and films, losing myself in the fantasies and paying little to no attention to what went on around me.
I lived the second part of my life—most of my adult years—with books and television and film too, but by this point I no longer was the audience. I was a creator.
This was a stranger existence than it may seem. Because as a union card-carrying member of show business, I lived in what was, for all practical purposes, a bubble. I was in the in-crowd, and, as the old song says, “We got our own way of walkin’, yeah, yeah. Our own way of talkin’, yeah, yeah.”
In fact, show business is its own world, with its own leaders to please, peers to hang with, and subordinates to scream at. It’s own values and beliefs.
(Such as: “It’s okay for me to ignore my family and make them miserable. There’re only four of them, and I’m bringing happiness to millions!”)
Even the dark side of showbiz is unique. Men and women in the showbiz world aren’t punished by being slapped upside the head but by being harangued.
It’s all about hurt feelings, not flesh. And instead of ambushing enemies and killing them, the bad guys get together and fire ‘em. “You’ll never get a phone call in this town again!”
You know, like being thrown out of cult. It seems like death, but that’s only because you’ve never experienced the real thing.
In the early 1990s, after many years of showbiz-bubble-cult life, I knew I had to get out. That if I didn’t I’d forever be part of a community where a plastic surgeon who could give a tight tummy tuck was more highly respected than a researcher closing in on the cure for the big C.
Off I went, driving to I wasn’t sure where, with my dog (I called her the Navajo Dog because I’d found her on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona) and my drums and my comic book collection.
Forty-five years old and bringing Captain America and Spider-Man with me wherever I went. And never thinking about it twice. I didn’t have to worry about letting out my “inner child.” My problem was finding a way to put him back in his place.
Amazingly, I’d never before been alone. As in responsible for myself with no support troops nearby. No agent. No assistant. No wife. No one to lean on or consult with. Or hide behind.
Oh, and no job. No investments.
As I barreled down the I-40 I saw a hawk soar through the sky after another, smaller bird. The hawk dove directly at its prey…and missed. I couldn’t hear anything but the radio playing inside the car, but I knew the hawk was screeching its frustration.
And its message as well: To live free means risk. You’re free to celebrate…or to starve.
Sure, you already know that. Everyone knows that. It’s part of life.
But all I knew was fantasy. Pretend. The moment that hawk missed its meal—that was the true moment of my birth.
My initiation into the truth of real life.
Its uncertainty. Its risk.
I loved it! Couldn’t imagine why I’d spent so long hiding.
I love being out here in the real world, where the fight for survival never ends. Where moments of triumph and joy go hand in hand, where being kicked in the teeth is its own reason to pick yourself up off the ground and get back in the game.
I bring all this up because recently I received an e-mail from a reader whose work and life I respect. And who seems to understand what I’m doing writing this column better than I do. She wrote:
“By focusing on the Luminous Ordinary, you are able to craft Extraordinary tales of wisdom and grace.”
I’m grateful for the praise, but it embarrasses me.
Yes, I do believe the “ordinary” is luminous, as in filled with meaning and light. But I’ll go to my death clueless about any wisdom or grace attached to the stories I tell.
All I know about them is they come straight from my heart.
And are aimed—sometimes with more certainty or skill and sometimes with less—straight at yours.