LB: Live! From Paradise – “Speaking of the Not-So-Good”

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

by Larry Brody

Last week’s column differed a bit from the original one written in 2010, in that I deliberately omitted the last couple of paragraphs.

I did that because in the course of transferring it over to WordPress I discovered that I just plain couldn’t face the words there, which were about the fact that because of my heart surgery and the need for special care, Gwen and I were reluctantly planning to leave Paradise and relocate closer to family in Washington State.

We were, of course, taking the dogs with us, but there would be no room for Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, so the end of the column was an inquiry for someone to come on over and take him home to continue the care and love we’d given him since he was a colt.

In my mind, I relived the events of that time and was overwhelmed by the feelings I’d had, and since those feelings were deep, deep sorrow I didn’t want to inflict on my writers as well as myself I just XXXXed them out of the column. Yep, I exercised my right as the writer of my life to make that whole part not happen.

Except, of course, it did.

My heart is fine these days, but I still have trouble with the emotions (Men!, right?), so although there are nine or ten columns to go to complete the original run I’m going to stop now, while my brain is more balanced than it would be if I continued. The day may come when I can face the good-byes we had to make, and if it does, I may be able to post the finale.

Or not. Who the hell knows?

Bottom Line: Today is the last post of Live! From Paradise! for at least awhile. I apologize to those I’ve let down and thank all of you who have followed Gwen the Beautiful and me and our menagerie through the Ozarkian (yes, I made that word up) period of our lives. It’s been a joy and a privilege to bring the daily wonders of our time at Cloud Creek Ranch to you.

And, as a TV producer I once worked with once said, I look forward to dancing if not this dance then another equally wonderful one with all of you again.

And now, on with the rest of the show! In other words, yes, Larry Brody’s Blog is continuing because I…



LB: Live! From Paradise #246 – “The Good from the Not-So-Good”

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

by Larry Brody

And now it’s time for a little self-aggrandizement.

I mean, if a 65 year old man who’s just had a heart attack and bypass surgery can’t show off a little of what’s helped him feel better and stronger every day, who can?

Here, then, is a brief sampling of the astounding number of emails, letters, and even postcards I’ve gotten since first revealing what happened:

From Aebeth, here in Paradise: “I for one hope you’re around to report on Paradise for a long time to come. I am truly sorry for what you have gone through; but I feel quite confident you will only allow the slow down to help you ponder life and share your thoughts with the wind, and the rest of your loyal listeners. Get strong Larry!! And get well SOON!!”

R.D., in Arkansas: “My prayers and best wishes for a quick, strong, high energy level to come to [Larry B]…very quickly. He still has some things to do that call for passion. So recover quickly, kind man.”

D.Q., in Australia: “I just wanted to say I am sorry to hear about your health and wish you a speedy and full recovery. I am sure all out there wish you the same and all understand that you need to heal. Having given so much of yourself to us, it is now time to give to yourself and grow stronger again. All the very best, mate, and positive vibes coming at you from down here.

J.T., in Wisconsin: “Take good care and glad you are still with us…Thank you for being you, giving back, and sharing your journey with the rest of us. Best to you…in the next stage of your many-faceted wanderings….”

C.C., somewhere on the web: “I was very saddened to hear of your recent heart attack. But I’m glad you’ll be surrounded by friends and family during your recovery. I’ll send a wish out to the universe for your continued and rapid recovery. (That’s as close as an on-the-fence agnostic like me can get to saying a prayer.)”

Loyal Reader D.C. Rowlett: “Dad was 59 years old when his heart attack came…It was late October 1966 and bypass surgery had not been thought of…so recovery was a very slow process. Dad spent the greater part of the upcoming winter in the house, pacing the floor and looking out the screen door across the Ashley farm just to the north of us.

“As soon as the grass began to turn green in the early spring his demeanor changed. ‘Gotta get my boat out and see if it still floats.’ ‘Gotta get my shotgun and rifle cleaned up. I ain’t sitting in this house anymore.’ He didn’t either. He stayed active till he was almost 80 years old. Hang in there Larry B. this is just a bump in the road.”

Of course, not all has been sweetness and light. A lawyer-reader had this interesting take: “Do you know whose dog went through your trash? A case could be made that its owner is responsible for your heart attack…and liable for considerable damages….”

I do know whose dog it was. But to me this hardly seems the time for mean-spiritedness. I doubt that the Universe has hit me with what another reader called “this wake-up call” for reasons other than to urge me to be more generous than I’ve been. More open. More giving.

After all, what does the planet need me around for if I can’t help make it a better place?

Here’s hoping that my heart’s misadventures will open new doors for me and mine and all of you who have taken the time to read about Gwen’s and my days and weeks, months and years, here in Paradise.

Did I start this column talking about my own self-aggrandizement? How ridiculous. What I really want to do here and now is express my gratitude for all the good wishes I’ve received, not only now but during all the time Gwen and our menagerie have lived here. I’m truly overwhelmed.

Thank you. Thank you all.


LB: Live! From Paradise #245 – “My Clockwork Heart”

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

by Larry Brody

One of the most reassuring aspects of life is its regularity. Regularly recurring events like the phases of the moon, the seasons, and, in Paradise, the cresting of the Buffalo National River give me feelings of dependability and reliability. Kind of a, “Hey! The chiggers are back! All’s right with the world!”

Turns out that my life also has its recurring events. In fact, one of them raised its not-insignificant head just three weeks ago.

Not, however, in what I think of as a reassuring way.

32 and a half years ago, when I was just a tad, I had the massive heart attack I’ve written about in this space before.

And in mid-January of this year I had another one.

32 and a half years after the first, give or take a few weeks.

On one hand, this is horrifying. On the other it’s just plain cool. If not for the pain and other consequences I’d be spending delightful hour upon hour analyzing and puzzling and trying every which way to figure out why I’m getting these regularly scheduled wake-up calls.

Who or what has set up the timer?



That kind of thing.

All right, I admit it. I am putting in those hours. Can’t help myself. It’s how I’m wired. I’ve gotten some answers to my questions too. Mostly in dream time, where I’ve found myself confronting my past, present, and future, my dead parents and former friends and lovers, my enemies too.

The result of all this introspection is that I have a whole new outlook on life and reality…and what may be a genuine inkling of the true nature of the Secret of the Universe itself.

Or not.

Doesn’t matter, not really. What matters is that I’m alive to throw myself into the search.

My heart attack occurred over a period of four days. Started when I was picking up trash some not-so-friendly neighborhood dog or coyote or bear or whatever had strewn all over the Cloud Creek driveway. Chest pain for 20 minutes, then the all-clear. Then pain again, until at last I wised up and told Gwen the Beautiful what was going on.

Gwen made the right call, and soon I was in an ambulance, heading for the ER, receiving a life-saving supply of oxygen and morphine and nitro pills. Two days after this particular race for life, I underwent quintuple bypass surgery.

Four days after that I was home.

Two days later, I was in front of the computer, trying—and failing—to work.

The aftermath of the surgery has been “interesting,” ala ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

Some of the time has been horrific, infused not only with pain but also with a sense of helplessness that has left me afraid to take the next breath.

But some of the time has been wonderful too. Peaceful. Filled with powerful emotions…and with a true awareness of the old saw about wherever there’s life there’s hope. I find myself more hopeful than ever, and filled with excitement about facing the challenge of recovery and the re-assumption of the mantle of ambition/aspiration that has always been my defining characteristic.

This time around, I find my surgery more meaningful than the heart attack itself. My moment to moment activity is, for all practical purposes, a response to having been cut open, messed around with, and then closed up again.

For example, I’m now terrified of lying on my back. Because it’s unsafe to use my hands to pull or push myself up (might strain my carved-up breastbone and keep it from healing properly, as well as hurt like hell), I’ve got to struggle into the next position using only my abs.

And you’re not going to catch me using a knife for awhile. Because I keep thinking I won’t be able to control it and, snick!, it’ll end up in my chest.

I’m not too keen on showering or bathing either. Because, “Aargh! The water, it’s beating on my chest wounds! And on my torn-up left leg, where they took out veins to make into arteries replacing those that were blocked!”

But this will pass. Each day gets exponentially better. Today, so far, has been pain free. And Gwen and Burl Jr. are taking good care of me and the ranch.

Even as I get better I ponder about the future and what’s in store 32 and a half years from now.

Wonder if I’ll be able to report on it here.

LB: Live! From Paradise #244 – “Emmy the Triumphant”

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

by Larry Brody

I’ve written before about our dog, Emmy the Bold, Queen of the Cloud Creek Ranch pack.

Her puppy adventures running up mountains and merrily crashing down have left her with bone spurs, arthritis, and pain.

For awhile, Emmy’s condition slowed her down, but meds and her own internal fire have combined to keep her alive and continuing to play-play-play till she drops.

Most of that play is with the other dogs in the big yard behind the main house, but each dog also gets some alone time with Gwen the Beautiful or me.

For Emmy, that means playing football. Actually, it’s more of a game of Keep-Away with an under-inflated youth football. I take Emmy and the ball outside. Emmy allows me to punt it…and then she runs, catches the ball in her mouth, and prances around, daring me to snatch it away:

“C’mon! Yank this out of my mouth!” Followed by her battle cry, “I dare ya!”

I always do my best, but the only time I get the ball is when the dog gives me a break so I’ll keep playing. And after one kick she catches it and starts teasing all over again.

If you’re a dog person, you understand: This is fun.

Especially for Emmy.

Last week, though, I made a big mistake.

On one of her catches, Emmy punctured the ball. I couldn’t kick an empty rubber bladder very far, so I tossed it in the garbage and drove to Walmart, where I found something I couldn’t resist.

A pro, regulation model. On sale.

Its hide was much thicker than our old football’s, and it was filled solidly. And when I took it home and kicked it—wow!

I watched excitedly as the ball flew higher and farther than I’d ever kicked before. Emmy ran, leapt up for the catch—

And yelped as the football bounced from her grip.

Filled with her usual fire, Emmy pounced.

The ball squirted away.

Emmy circled, rushed from another angle—

And plain couldn’t hold on. The new ball was too big, too strong, for her to keep in her mouth.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Delightful Dixie, our youngest dog and the omega to Emmy’s alpha, picked that moment to pounce on the porch gate, jar it open, and rush out to join us—

Scooping up the football effortlessly and racing around the yard with her trophy.

Emmy sagged. Her ears drooped. For the first time in her life, she’d been defeated. I’ve seen her posture on humans. It said, “I’m not who I thought I was. I’m not me anymore.”

For the rest of the day, Emmy moped and slunk. “You started this,” Gwen said. “Now you’ve got to fix it.”

My first attempt was a washout. I let some air out of the ball and went outside with Emmy. I punted…and watched as she ran to catch it.

And failed once more. She still couldn’t wrap her mouth around it.

I let out more air. Kicked again. This time Emmy didn’t even try to catch the ball. She just watched it, and whimpered.

The next day I went back to Walmart and bought exactly the model we’d played with before. Let out enough air so that it was as soft and manageable as Ole Number One had been.

Emmy the No-Longer-So-Bold, the ball, and I went out to the yard. I kicked.

And Emmy ignored it.

I mean, she ignored everything:

The kick.

The ball.

Larry B.

Instead of trying to play, Emmy just turned her back and sat down.

“Nothing going on here,” she said with a yawn.

And went back into the house to sleep for 24 hours.

The following morning, Gwen woke me way too early. “Garbage pick-up today.”


“So don’t you have something to do?”

I groaned.

But I knew what she meant.

I got out of bed, pulled on a pair of pants and three warm bathrobes. Drove down to the bottom of The Mountain, where I’d left the trash cans last night.

Twenty slimy minutes later I dug out what I was after, and that afternoon I took Emmy outside and showed it to her:

A punctured, empty, rubber bladder.

Emmy sniffed at it, watched as I kicked…

With a happy woof, she raced after her old pal. Plucked it out of the air. Ran off with a quick look my way.

“C’mon! Yank this bad boy out of my mouth! I dare ya!” she yelped.

Just a small victory, but that’s what she needed.

Emmy the Bold is back!