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!

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.