LB: Live! From Paradise #243 – “Drummer Man”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

Like most people, I live a life where if anything can go wrong, it does.

Several months ago, though, the Universe took pity on this obscure inhabitant of the Milky Way, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened.

Gwen the Beautiful and I were in China when creation itself seemed to reach out and touch me and say, “This is your moment, Larry B!”

What a moment it was! Far from cosmic. Not especially significant in any broad sense. But oh-so satisfying.

Gwen and I were at a showbiz party. Surrounded by stars of the Chinese stage and screen. Our Generous Hostess asked if I played any musical instrument, and I’d had just enough wine to say, “I play the drums.”

At that, our Hostess grinned and clapped her hands together. Immediately, her Major Domo rushed to my side.

“You will like this,” he said and ushered me into the next room, which was set up like a bandstand, complete with instruments. Behind a line-up of guitars and keyboards was the drum kit of any drummer’s dreams. Drums, drums, and more drums. Big cymbals. Little cymbals. Everything and anything that went crash, bam, or boom.

“Music is Madame’s passion,” the Major Domo said. He pulled the drum “throne” out for me. “Please—rock on.”

I’ve played the drums for over fifty years. Started in the Junior High band. My parents got me my own drum kit, a Ludwig Buddy Rich Super Classic in “black diamond pearl” in 1958.

My high school buddy, tenor sax man Ron Tiersky (now an eminent political scientist teaching at Amherst), and I started a band that played at all the school events and gigged around locally as well.

For awhile I thought I’d make drumming my life’s work. Except that I wasn’t quite good enough for that. Had one tiny little weakness—keeping a steady beat.

I turned to the typewriter, and later the computer, for my livelihood. Still, over the years I’ve played with a great many musicians, both minor and major. I love doing it, but every session has been stressful at best…and a few have been outright terrifying.

For some reason, however, that night in China I wasn’t at all frightened or even tense.

I sat down, picked up the sticks, and started wailing.

And as I played, party guests who were musicians made their way into the room, grabbed guitars, began playing. Guests who were singers joined in. We played together in various combinations, and as though we’d known each other for years, traveling a rocking road from ’50s rockabilly through ’70s psychedelia to 21st Century pop.

We jammed for hours, and everything I did sounded…well, to my ear I sounded the way I’d always wanted to, for the first time in my drumming life. I was wild, but my beat was steady. I hit the heights I’d always aimed for but never came even close to before.

When it was over, and we’d all crashed from exhaustion, I looked around at the happy faces of my One Night Band Mates, and then I looked up at the ceiling, trying to see beyond it, to the stars.

Two thoughts leapt into my mind.

The first one was, “Thanks.”

The second was, “Why?”

Since that night, I’ve often relived the exhilaration I felt when, for a few hours, I got a taste of being someone I’d so much wanted to be when I was young.

And, each time, my gratitude immediately is followed by a search for the cause. Finally, I decided it had to be the drum kit. The quality of its components. The way they were set up.

If those drums were mine….

I checked out the price online and found that it was way out of my reach. But I saw another kit, similar but way more affordable. And so, after fifty-plus years with my original Ludwigs, I finally bought new drums.

They arrived a few days ago, and I spent the next several hours setting them up, tuning the heads, doing the things drummers do. I’ve been playing constantly ever since.

Do I sound the way I did that night in China?

Gwen says, “Of course you do.”

But my ear tells me something different.

I need to make sure. To know, absolutely, whether the Universe handed me a one-nighter or intends for Larry B to rock on.

Anyone out there have a band that needs a drummer? Or want to jam?

Give me a call.

LB: Live! From Paradise #242 – “New Year’s Dream – 2009”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

Every night for the last three weeks I’ve had the same dream.

More than every night, in fact, because it comes back to me any time I relax or close my eyes.

For someone like me, who’s been trying to figure out the meaning of life ever since I can remember, this is a wonderful dream. A dream that comes thisclose to answering my questions.

And then—but of course—turns around and gives me about fifty thousand new questions to ask. In the dream, I live in a small town. Like Paradise, it has two main streets. Unlike Paradise, the architecture of all the buildings is Victorian. Also unlike Paradise, the town is along a sea coast. What sea, I don’t know. What coast—east, west, north, south—I don’t know either.

I do know that it’s a beautiful place. One where, along with a Partner I can’t see and don’t really know, I run a business out of one of the buildings closest to the sea. I don’t know the name of the business, but its purpose is crystal clear. I—make that “we”—teach people of all ages how to live.

Specifically, we teach them how to live proudly and openly and with as much style and excitement they can. In this dream Shakespeare was dead right when he said in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” (Except I’d drop the “merely” because I don’t see anything “mere” about this.)

That’s right. Everything we do is part of a show, designed for the entertainment and enlightenment of both an unseen audience of who knows who or what and also one consisting of ourselves. The school I share with my unknown Partner teaches everything you need to put on a show to everyone else in the world.

Now that’s cool.

In the dream, I divide my time between sitting in an office and working with other writers to write scenes for the actors to play as part of their lives (including scenes about writing scenes) and stalking through the halls helping younger students—children—and their parents grasp the general point of everything.

The writing part is a snap. I do it well and love every instant. But helping the kids and their folks grasp the general point is tough. Because I don’t know the general point. I’m clueless as to why everyone in the world is living this show business life. And totally in the dark about who the unseen audience is.

Because of my ignorance, I find myself turning more and more to the unknown Partner for help. Which isn’t so easy when you don’t know what he looks like, or even where she is.

It takes work, but I always manage to find him when I need to. Sometimes she’s able to help me. Most of the time, though, he’s as bewildered as I and the two of us just mush on as best we can.

But every time we “mush” we succeed.

When I was writing and producing television I learned that both jobs were about making decisions. It didn’t matter what you decided, just that you decided something. Making a decision, even the wrong one, meant the show could go on. Not making one brought things to a shuddering halt.

The dream reaffirms that. The dream tells me that it’s the mushing—the trying—that counts, and not whether what we try is right or wrong.

For three weeks now, I’ve been trying to dig down to a deeper interpretation of this dream. One of the main ways I interpret thoughts and feelings and dreams and events is to write them down and see what the act of writing turns them into, which is why I’m writing this.

And in the course of this writing I’m starting to understand that one of the points of the dream is that we’re not going to get any grand meaning out of life as a concept…because the meaning is in the actual living of the life. It’s in going onstage and doing our best. Getting totally involved in putting on that great, big, wonderful show.

I could’ve written this just for myself and then put it away. Instead, I’m throwing it out to everyone who comes to this space. To do otherwise would be to betray my part of the Partnership. To abdicate the teaching thing.

So that’s it, today’s class. The last class of 2009.

On to 2010 and the next awesomely mystifying Dream.

LB: Live! From Paradise #241 – “Christmas Thoughts – 2009”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

There’s something about December…

How can I not love the month that gives us:

My birthday! (Chocolate cake every year I can remember. And, this year, genuine Chicago deep dish pizza, from the loving arms of UPS.)

Hanukkah! (Eight nights of gifts every year of my childhood, from the loving arms of my parents. And, this year, more Chicago pizza.)

Christmas! (The tree, the caroling, eggnog every year since I became an adult. And, this year, no pizza but the wonderful opportunity to communicate via this space.)

Cold weather! (Colder than any month but February at the least. Icy nasal passage cold in years my shiver-friendly self gets lucky.)

And, this year, an added bonus in the form of a healthy Gwen the Beautiful.

I haven’t written about Gwen’s problems for awhile, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t had them. Especially over the last six months, when she was wracked with stomach pain that got so bad it was impossible for her to eat.

Lost 20 pounds the last two weeks of November, my wife did, and no one could figure out what was going on until a terrific M.D. named Simmy Goyle, currently residing in L.A. but formerly of London, New Delhi, and St. Louis, put us in touch with another terrific M.D by the name of Peter Warner, who practices within two hours of Paradise in Springfield, MO.

Shortly after my birthday, Gwen was hospitalized and Peter put her through a battery of tests showing that even though Gwen’s specific symptoms were unusual, the cause was an underachieving gall bladder, swollen, and up to no good.

Out came the insidious organ, and in came the December—Larry B’s Birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas, cold weather—miracle of no pain and edible meals for Ms. The Beautiful.

To misquote a Disney song I used to hate, “It’s a whole new world” for the Brodys.

And we’re not the only ones here on The Mountain affected that way.

One of the lowlights of this past year was the sudden and unexpected death of one of our horses, Rosie the Romantic Arabian, while Gwen and I were away on the other side of the world.

For weeks, my horse brother, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, was deep in mourning. How bad was his depression? Well, from the looks of him he lost a lot more weight than Gwen did. I’d estimate about ten times as much.

He’d been alone in the corral—with a few side trips into our backyard and some “interesting” attempts to climb onto the porch—since mid-October, and a Huck who’s alone is a very noisy Appaloosa indeed. He would complain loudly and angrily, and then stop to listen oh-so-closely for a reply he’s clearly been hoping will come from the distance, from Rosie his late mate.

So when Gwen and I drove back up to Cloud Creek Ranch after her surgery we were surprised to see the big guy standing calmly in the center of his area instead of galloping straight to the fence to horse-yodel his usual welcoming demand.

We were used to, “You’re home! It’s about time! Rub me! Nuzzle me! Brush me! Okay, yeah, you can feed me too!”

Instead, we got a little nod and a flick of the lips that I know (because Huck and I have been together for almost all of his life) is a smile.

“Look at that!” Gwen said. “Look at them all!”

I stopped our pickup at the top of the trail we call a driveway. Counted not one, not two, not three or four, but five truly beautiful women standing behind my favorite equine.

No, not human women.

Nor horse-type women either.


Five full grown does.

Their eyes as big and as round and as sensitive as Huck’s.

The does’ posture shifted to that of wary attention, directed at us. Huck turned his head toward each doe, one after the other, and nodded again.

Then bucked, kicking out with his rear legs.

“Bye, ladies,” he called out. And, “Thanks for the fun!”

The deer scattered, leaping over the fence on the woodsy side of the corral, and Huck ran to the gate closest to where the truck was idling.

With a truly merry horse laugh, he greeted our return.

“You’re home! It’s about time! Rub me! Nuzzle me! Brush me! Okay, yeah, you can feed me too!”

Should’ve known a cool guy like Huck wouldn’t be alone for very long.

Merry Christmas, y’all, from all of us here at Cloud Creek.

LB: Live! From Paradise #240 – “Thoughts on Turning 65”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

I’m not the first person to observe with a feeling (probably inflated) of wisdom that as our lives amble, zip, and sometimes sputter along paths we’ve chosen—or had chosen for us—many different milestones measure our passage.

First day of school.

First communion.

Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

High school or college (and, these days, junior high and preschool) graduation.


The birth of a child or two, or more.



The deaths of our parents.

The death of our mate.

A host of others, some intensely personal, others appropriate for us all.
Obviously, many of these moments are wonderful. And, just as obviously, many are 180 degrees in the other direction.

But just a few weeks ago I encountered the most terrifying and, yep, depressing milestone of all.

Like a whole lot of bad news, it came in the mail.

I’m talking about my Medicare card.

I’m not talking political-socio-economic philosophy here, I’m talking psychological reality.

Staring at that little card waiting to be separated at its perforations and slipped into my wallet, I could think of only one thing:

In less than one month—under 30 days!—I’ll be 65.


Was that for real? Could it possibly be true? Once upon a time various of my grandparents were 65. I remember them well. Doddering, deaf, terrifying when they were behind the wheel of any vehicle on any public, or for that matter private, thoroughfare.

And my parents. They both reach 65 too. Shriveled. Barely able to see. Terrifyingly driving each other to doctors and hospitals as bouts of illness became more and more frequent…and severe.

But those old codgers were from other generations. Immigrant oldsters born in Europe at the turn of the 20th Century. Generation Gapped adults of what Time Magazine called “the best generation,” born in the Good Ole USA just in time for the Great Depression.

That’s not me.

It can’t be.

I’m a young, vital, physically fit baby boomer. I’ve trained with weights for over 50 years. Worked at a gig that demands the utmost in concentration and creativity for 40—


There are things, some important, some not-so, that I’ve done for 40 or 50 years?

Friends I’ve had for that same length of time?

Stories I tell that begin not with “Once upon a time” but “Back in the day…?”

I am so…so…what’s the word? Back in the day I never had trouble picking the exact one I needed, but now….

Now I’m old.

Medicare old.

Social Security benefits old.

“Grampa Larry” old.

I may not be doddering—yet—but when I stand beside my children I feel nowhere near as tall as I used to be. My doctor recently recommended a good hearing aid so I could appreciate all the now-missing “sha-bop-sha-bops” on oldies radio. The prescription that just a year ago covered the farthest distance of my “progressive lenses” now is too weak for even the middle…

And, difficult as this is for me to admit, I wouldn’t want to be in another car driving on the same road Grampa Larry was on, nosirree. In fact, just yesterday a neighbor young enough to be my son posted these much-too-true words to me on Facebook:

“Hey, Brody, stay on your side of the road!”

He added an “LOL,” but that was just an act of mercy, after a surprisingly close call.

“I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

So wrote T.S. Elliot back in the day long before the day I go back to. He was referring to fashion, a teacher of mine who had heard him speak about his poetry told a lit class I was in.

“At the time Eliot wrote this,” she said, “the style was for young men to wear straight bottoms and for older ones to fold their pants into cuffs.”

I’m still wearing straight bottoms on my jeans, but even though I’ve beaten Fashion, Time’s got me on the ropes.

Having become a grandparent several times over has been wonderful, but what comes next doesn’t seem nearly so good. I’ve spent much of my life throwing myself at the future but fear that the best I can hope for next time I do that is that I’ll be bounced groggily back.

What bothers me most is that after all these years I still haven’t figured out what the Universe is all about.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the Universe hasn’t figured me out either.

Hmm, whaddaya know?

Gotcha, U-dude.