LB: Live! From Paradise #216 “The Old Billionaire’s Prognosis”

(Image from the intro to this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

A few weeks ago I filled this space with the joyous news that the Old Billionaire was back among what he himself would call “those passing for sane.”

He was taking meds that eased his anger and made it possible for him to communicate with the rest of us without going ballistic about something that seemed like nothing to anyone else.

Since then the two of us have spent time together almost every day, immersing ourselves in friendship “before,” as the O.B. put it, “I lose myself again.”

We’ve talked more than a little about his condition, which may not in fact be dementia but, in his words, “just plain, old-fashioned bi-polar disorder, according to some of the big shots I’ve been flying around to be prodded and poked by.

“Then there’s still other fancy MDs who say that what I am is schizophrenic. One shrink said that in front of another who was part of the Bi-Polar Posse, and Dr. Bi-Polar got so red in the face that he looked like the crazy one. Except then Dr. Schizzy started ranting and it was pretty clear that he wasn’t exactly your normal human being either.

“If I was still running my company,” the Old Billionaire continued, “you can bet that neither one of those geniuses would’ve gotten on, or stayed on, the payroll. And one of ’em wanted me to build him his own hospital wing!”

“You’ve always got a theory about things, O.B.,” I said. “What’s your theory about yourself now?”

He regarded me mischievously. “Well, I like the point of view that this kid from Hollywood gave me. The idea that as lost as I am about what’s real and what’s not, this is how lost I’ve always been.”

“I said that?”

“Sure you did,” said the O.B. “Because you’re as nuts as I am. When you look at me, you see your own future, and because you’re just about the most optimistic, hopeful person that ever waltzed obliviously across this infuriating and mortally dangerous planet, you’ll probably get to where I am and go, ‘Wow! I’m so out of it I can’t even remember what to use toilet paper for! Isn’t that grand?!'”

I started to protest. The Old Billionaire held up his hand.

“No point in arguing about it,” he said. “Now that the meds take away my deepest downs, I kind of get into that place too once in awhile. And it’s not a bad place at all.

“But sure, I’ve got a theory about all this. My theory is that anybody who says, ‘Life is an illusion’ is somebody who’s never lived. Life is real as can be. But it’s subject to interpretation.

“When we’re babies we’re closer to what’s ‘really real.’ As we get older everybody around us teaches us the common, accepted version of ‘real.’ But when we get still older our brains start hitting on different cylinders and we’re back to the beginning again. We have to reinterpret and find new ways to understand what’s going on.”

“So when you said you remembered two different pasts, one where you had an affair with your assistant and one where you didn’t, you meant that literally?”

“Ah! I knew you’d find a way to get to that!” He laughed. “Some reality this is, where my marital fidelity—or not—has become the most interesting part of my life!

“Have to admit, though, that it’s the most important thing to Nettie and me too. I’ve been trying to explain to her that all of us go traipsing around through thousands of realities everyday. Making every decision possible. So the likelihood is that I actually have gone both ways. I’ve been loyal and…not.”

“What’s she say to that?”

“My wife’s a wonderful woman, Larry B. She started out fighting me, but lately she’s been wrapping her head around this whole situation, and it’s a mightily capable head, yessiree. Came up with her own theory, that the cheating O.B.’s in another dimension, and me, I’m the one who stayed true. And now we’re getting along almost as good as ever.”

“You’re a lucky man, O.B.,” I said.

“Absolutely,” he said.

Then his smile faded.

“Now all I’ve got to do is keep her away from the shrinks who say my problems come from being angry at myself. Because Nettie’ll know better than anybody that the only thing could make me that furious would be if I really did betray us both.”

LB: Live! From Paradise #215 “Love is in the Air”

(Image from the intro to this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

Maybe it’s the summer weather, but as I look around I see love everywhere.

Huck and Rosie nibbling each other’s lips.

Belle the Wary and Ditsy Dixie curling up together to share a stuffed pad.

Larry B and Gwen the Beautiful, holding each other and marveling at all we’ve through together.

And, now, Uncle Ernie’s widow, Edda, and Her New Man.

This latest coupling came as quite a shock.

Jimmy Blue and I were at Paradise Pharmacy, where he was picking up a tote bag full of prescription meds. Half of the meds were for the various conditions aging brings on in almost everyone. The other half were for the conditions caused by the meds. As we turned from the counter there she was, the wife of Jimmy Blue’s late and still highly lamented best friend.

She was coming in to pick up her own stack of prescription. And she was beaming.

“Yo, Jimmy Blue!” Edda said with a big smile.

“Edda!”

The two of them hugged. Then, still smiling, Edda gave me her cheek. “‘Afternoon, Larry B.”

“You’re looking great,” I said to Edda because it was true. “Best I’ve ever seen.”

Even though she’s close to 70, Edda blushed. “I’ve been having quite a time,” she said.

“Something wrong?” Jimmy Blue had his Concerned Old Pal face on.

Edda shook her head. “Not at all.” More blushing. Edda was embarrassed about something. I was amazed.

“Out with it, Edda,” I said. “If you don’t tell us what’s going on I’ll get Gwen to call you and call you and call you some more until you ‘fess up.”

“I—I think I’m in love.”

“Love?!” The sound that came out of Jimmy Blue was the sound a kid makes when he’s taken by surprise at the lunch table and milk goes flying out of not only his mouth but his nose.

Edda moved back into one of the aisles so no one else would hear. “I met somebody at church. Well, I didn’t really just meet him, I’ve known him most of my life. But never paid attention. You know how that is. He’s a widower, and the both of us were so lonely….”

She trailed off as though stopping to remember. Smiled again. “It’s so strange, feeling like this now. Makes me think of what it was like when Ernie and I were kids. All those moments we were having for the first time. Those, ‘I never felt like this before,’ ‘I’ve never done this before’ times that make everything seem like magic.'”

“You’re feeling things you never felt with Uncle Ernie?” Jimmy Blue said. “You’re doing things you never did with him?”

“Not really, no. Neither me or my man. I always thought that falling in love again would be a big letdown. All ‘same-old, same-old.’

“But even though if either of us said, ‘I’ve never loved like this before’ we’d be lying, when we’re together, everything feels new anyway. ‘Cause the love is new. There’s no letdown at all.

“There you are. Been looking all through the store for you, Edda.”

It was Calcy the Preacher. “Good to see you, boys,” he said to us, and gave Edda his arm. Edda tossed back her head like a 16-year-old, and they headed up the aisle.

“The preacher! She’s with the preacher! And Uncle Earl ain’t even been dead a year!” This time Jimmy Blue’s voice was a strangled hiss.

We watched Edda and Calcy move around the aisle and out of sight. Which was a much bigger move than it sounds because Edda’s no teeny girl, but a very grown woman with a butt wider than Lou Ferrigno’s shoulders, and Calcy’s a man who if he was driving one of those King Kong trucks with the six foot wheels would still end up scraping the chassis along the ground.

“That’s one big loving couple,” I said. “I understand how you feel, Jimmy Blue. But maybe they’re perfect for each other.”

“Hope so,” Jimmy Blue said grudgingly. “I’d hate to think it’s all just because Edda’s blinded by something new.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” I said. “I think she’s overcome with a kind of wonderful magic. What else can you call it when the old becomes new again?”

“I’m thinking ‘randiness’ might be a good word,” said Jimmy Blue. And the best and most loving friend of the late lamented Uncle Earl shook his head…and laughed so hard that the sound filled the store.