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Larry’s great mistake was leaving Paradise

After Larry left Crested Butte, his constant refrain was he wished he had never left. He made many friends here and he loved them all. Of course, seeing more of his family back east warmed his heart, and they were good to him. But Crested Butte doesn’t call itself Paradise for nothing. Larry was in Paradise here from the moment he and his dogs arrived in South Crested Butte beside the Slate River. Then on to Teocali Ave. downtown, where he celebrated his 80th birthday, followed by #15 Glacier Lily Road, the grand finale to a life of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Crested Butte was Paradise for Larry on many levels. He was a spontaneous force of nature who belonged in the wide-open spaces. One of many qualities that endeared him to me, because I came to associate him with its playfulness, a role that he took on with his characteristic humor and gusto. He delighted in recognizing possibilities, turning them into good works. He was unstoppable, particularly if the good in any of his works was justice.

His Public Affairs Forum wasn’t for distraction. He meant business, the disciplined man and journalist confronting issues that matter with facts and fairness. Bring up the Middle East and this former reporter for the National Observer, based in Beirut, would go off on a tear. Passionate about presenting a view of Israeli-Palestinian relations that wasn’t rendered insensible by lobbyists. So principled and passionate that lobbyists lobbied him out of a job at the National Journal. He was right and he wouldn’t back down.

Who the heck was Simon Pierchek?

Understand this about the often riotously funny character we’re celebrating. His was an unprecedented life, in my experience, for serving causes that need serious attention. A life exceptional because so few have the time and inclination to act. If a cause got Larry’s attention, he acted. Acted to good effect well into a time of life when others would rather let go.

Our last phone conversation was an energetic two hours, and even with his comprehension impaired he gave it everything he had – concentration, intelligence, and abundant patience and good will. It’s what he brought to protect Paradise from the depredations of molybdenum mining and other foolishness. The story of the High Country Conservation Advocates – then the Citizens Alliance – was Before Larry and After Larry.
David, that’s enough.
What? Who said that?
It’s me, Larry. I appreciate your kindness, but “before Larry and after Larry?” Really!
He put life and good will into anything he joined, including the performing arts. Who can forget Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard, at CB’s Performing Arts Center, after seeing Simon Pierchek, a marginal character played by Larry, steal the show? How? By not blowing his lines! OK, I’m getting off track here. But his performance did prove that our guy was game for anything – anything that would uphold the ideals of civil society. Ideals that couldn’t be taken for granted then or now.

He couldn’t be there with empathy

This avid fan of Amy Goodman, whose heart bled for every victim of injustice, could “feel the Bern.” But he couldn’t feel your pain. The child of a grande dame performer who hogged the spotlight, he grew up in her image. A narcissist born without the empathy gene. And he paid for it. In relationships that couldn’t sustain the promise of intimacy. His character and values attracted his equals who expected intimacy with empathy, and he couldn’t deliver. Couldn’t be there for family, friends, or intimate partners. Couldn’t be there for me. Hearts were broken including his. When I received the call to join him in Crested Butte, seven years ago, it was to help heal a broken heart.

Why then, didn’t he leave behind a trail of bitterness? He did, to some extent, and he regretted it. Yet what he inspired, for the most part, was remarkable loyalty and affection. The reason, I believe, was what love meant to him and the effort he made in good faith to learn and earn it. To take a mind conditioned to look without for affirmation and attention and turn within for understanding. To understand empathy even if he couldn’t feel it. Because it genuinely mattered to him.

If he loved you, yes, he cared for you in his own way, as best he could, but it was the real thing. It was love worth having. Never mind if he couldn’t remember birthdays, you were important. Family, friends, colleagues. He wasn’t a careerist building a network of connections for personal advancement. Larry had no use for superficiality. He did it for love.

But he couldn’t be there with retribution either

Injustice driving Larry up the wall wasn’t all that set him apart. The usual response, even by loving hearts, is a will, a temptation, and sometimes an act that evens the score. Retribution. Punishment. The same genetics that deprived Larry of the empathy gene somehow left out this gene as well. The soul that was incapable of empathy was also incapable of retribution. Of targeting anyone personally with sustained anger, hatred, or condemnation.

The narcissist lacking empathy was a risk for intimacy, but missing the retribution gene made up for it. It made him exceptionally safe to be close to if you could accept that love was there even if empathy wasn’t. If you were satisfied with what was there and ignored what wasn’t. Maybe he couldn’t feel your pain, but he wouldn’t cause it either. And if he did, know that it bothered him greatly. What he wanted was the opposite. And if you had earned his trust and affection, he never stopped trying to accomplish it.
David, you’re done. Nobody is listening. They just want you to stop talking.
Larry, if you don’t mind. It’s my turn to get some attention.
I can feel others’ pain now, and I can feel your audience’s pain all the way to Heaven.
My favorite nickname: “Waterman”

Until I met Larry, I knew I wanted friends, but I hadn’t learned how to be a friend. I was a hardass missing the empathy gene too. Over the course of our four decades of friendship Larry didn’t teach me empathy but he opened the door to a virtual paradise of friendship. John Milton’s Paradise Lost describes what life might have been for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Life for me before Larry felt like exclusion. Life after felt like inclusion. Like a kind of Garden of Eden where everything I’d ever dreamed of became possible.

He promoted my work in the National Journal with two major stories. Doors were opened. My insights into national water policy got a real-world test in the Red River Valley of the North. A success that extended my career into the Monongahela River Valley another nine years.

Why did this prominent journalist choose to make a nobody with ideas worth listening to? To gamble on a long shot and put his professional credentials at risk. Because national water policy was to him an incoherent mess. Nobody seemed to be dealing with it, and my ideas were worth a try. I had serious experience and knew what I was talking about. His journalistic instinct was right on, and I didn’t let him down.

And because of where our minds met: If something isn’t working you act to fix it. You get involved. And if Larry Mosher’s life role-modeled anything, it was involvement. Citizenship and commitment. You walk the talk. He was a professional of consequence and a person of conscience.

Face to face with fear: treading the rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Larry welcomed me into his vibrant social and professional life, rented me a room in his N Street townhouse and welcomed me into his family. His gifts never stopped giving. We socialized back and forth on his turf and mine, in different parts of the country, until, one magical July 4th weekend, 28 years ago. Where, at his ranch in Crawford, he and his companion Mary introduced me to Needle Rock and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. To the West Elk Wilderness and to Crested Butte. And to my future wife. To many years of glorious marital bliss in Boulder.

He had already introduced me to Mary and her adorable daughters six years before, yet another family to be cherished for life. And now I was to have a family of my own, the first in 16 years, and the warmth of an extended family that lives on in Mary. Mary – a best friend who deserves a testimonial of her own. My cup runneth over, all thanks to Larry.
Is that the best you can do, after all I’ve done for you?
It’s what you get for not letting me win at horseshoes.
Long, long ago, far, far away, in La Jolla

What more could this good man possibly do for me? How about a year sharing his home and life in Paradise, a great blessing while I found a room to rent in LA near my granddaughters and saved money to pay for it. How about hosting my granddaughters and their parents for a holiday season in Crested Butte, where the tree tops glisten and children listen to live the magic of Christmas. An experience my granddaughters, born and bred in southern California, will never forget. How about sailing the Gulf on his 40-foot Island Packet sailboat, the same one that took him and his last great love to the Bahamas. All great blessings.

But the times now were different. Larry’s years were running out and so were his faculties. His last great love was to be the last. This fun-loving great spirit wasn’t looking for partnership in fun. His spirit just wanted the healing love of a friend. And that was what I was able to give back.

After I left, Larry visited Joany at her home in La Jolla -- his brother Robert’s widow. I came down from LA and got a memorable tour of Larry’s childhood haunts: the cove where he frolicked in the ocean; the family home on the bluff above; the fabled beachfront property that paid for his retirement; and the proper church close by where he and his wife were married. Where they had to get married, and Larry’s story took its first major turn.

Still, all of it witness to beauty, perfection, and abundance. If I were a biographer covering a legend, this was where it began. The key that unlocked its mystery, the yearnings that were almost palpable. I got a sense of a life full of promise that more than delivered yet could never be enough. His life, my life, any life.

What “Holy Spirit?”

Larry and I maintained close contact until the end, but with a difference. While his life that had kept me in its orbit was winding down, mine was expanding. With a steady stream of insights that I tried to share, to keep him going with purpose and meaning, safe from the isolation and despair of impaired memory and comprehension. I bombarded him with lengthy expositions on the Holy Spirit, an intimate Friend radiating the light and force of the Now, Mind and Love brought together in the moment, making the most of Life eternal. Did my rhapsodizing do any good?

The attention of a friend was always welcome. So, too, the love to which he was dedicated. But despite my best efforts, this gregarious realist, wedded to the great outdoors, who loved the fellowship of his church, never got its idealism. Never got the word. Intent on sharing my gift, I sent him to his minister for help discovering the Holy Spirit’s presence within. What did he learn? That the Holy Spirit is “energy.” A sure sign that the seeker prefers to search without. That my gift within can’t be his gift. A lesson for me to learn.
By the way, you were wrong.
Wrong about what?
I don’t see any Holy Spirit. Everyone here has wings. We’re all wearing white robes, fiddling on harps, standing on little clouds. God is an old guy with a beard. You should have listened to me.
All the same, Larry’s life was an expression of this inner Logic. He lived it. He did put it all together. Larry, if you’re listening, you transformed.

I’m off track again. Larry thought would yield more goodies if he could fool naïve females into believing that he was a guy “transformed.” A sensitive hunk who could bawl his eyes out with the girls. And he did bawl his eyes out. But, ever the narcissist, it was over his pain, not theirs. Larry, if you’re listening, forget about “transforming.” Forget about the Holy Spirit and just be yourself!

The touching trait of a playful child

It's a measure of the fulness of this man that I don’t want to stop there. I could go on for a lot longer.

Then let me close with this. To understand Larry Mosher is to understand that he needed your love and attention. And even though he knew he lacked empathy and couldn’t fully reciprocate, he would work to earn it. Whatever the obstacles, the love of friendship was so important to him that he would find workarounds. He would make sure you got from him what you needed. It was the touching trait of a playful child determined to share Love rather than deny it. That made him my benefactor, my cherished friend.

Goodbye Larry. Thank you and God bless.
Thank you, David. Now, if you’ll let me have the floor, your audience needs to hear the truth. Remember that sign, “The reason I’m smiling is I haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on?” Well, you’ve just earned it. It’s yours now. Just kidding. OK, everybody, enjoy your freedom. See you in a bit. Ha ha.