Two Separate Paths

R. Brady FrostCommentary, Writing Process1 Comment

A small image of a trolley streetcar.
Two paths and a looking glass.

A response to a post.

Ben Marble and I met when I was still in Junior High. He was a year older than me, and while we knew each other from school, our friendship really began at Lagoon, a theme park nestled at the base of the mountains in Farmington, Utah.

Some time ago, Ben posted about me on his blog.

Before I can talk about where we’ve gone, it might be helpful to tell you more about where we came from. My only caveat is that all of this is being filtered through the cloudy haze of memory. Please keep that in mind if you know I’ve flubbed some of the intricate Lagoon employment details.

It was early 1995 and I was fourteen years old. Ninth grade. I can almost remember the way the crisp spring air smelled. The snow on the mountains was beginning to creep back toward the white-capped peaks, revealing new patches of green on the mountainside. Life was fresh and new and filled with possibilities.

I waited with my best friend, Justin, for word from Lagoon. We’d just applied and interviewed for our first jobs at the theme park. We were both fourteen at the time, but since we had birthdays coming up before the end of the season, we could apply as red-badges, the designation reserved for employees who were younger than sixteen. The name tags looked just like the others, but the white laminate was affixed to red plastic instead of black (or some of the less common colors). We wouldn’t be able to work the night shift and red-badges were limited to part time. There were other rules and less perks, namely lower pay, but we were still eager for the chance at an awesome summer adventure. Of course, the pay was some serious icing on the cake.

I can’t remember who got the call first, but we were so excited to find out we both made the cut. If I remember right, and it’s changed since then, the available departments for red-badges were Food Services, Merch, Grounds, and Games. Since we weren’t sixteen, Rides was out of the question. That department was reserved for those illustrious black-badges and up.

The scene that happened next reminded me of that 1986 movie, Space Camp, where a bunch of teenagers are eagerly awaiting to find out what team they’ll end up on. It was so nerve wracking. After orientation and department assignment, Justin and I both considered ourselves lucky to be wearing the teal. We were GAMES!

If you knew me as a kid, you’d know how this was such a perfect fit. It was a high-energy job, and it was something I did very well at.

That spring, and the summer months that followed, was a time of great self-discovery and independence for me. After getting my summer bus pass, I felt like I could do anything. Even though I had this new sense of endless freedom, I lived out in the boonies. Just getting to Lagoon for each shift was an adventure. Depending on the bus schedule and the time I was supposed to clock in, my day usually started about two hours before I walked through the employee entrance each day. The first part of my journey was riding my bike about five miles to Justin’s house and then grabbing a ride on a Utah Transit Authority bus. A couple transfers later, I’d end up at the last leg of the trip.

From the final bus stop in Farmington, kids from any number of local towns would board the trolley streetcar for the final stretch to Lagoon. By that time, we had our colors and it was easy to start grouping up by department, the colors of our shirts formed a sort of silent bond. It wasn’t set in stone, of course. Some people are annoying no matter what color shirt they wear, and some draw others to them like a magnet.

It was on the trolley that Ben and I really started our friendship. Even though he sported different colors, and easily could have looked down on me as being a member of Games instead of Rides, we got along well. It was a friendship that lasted longer than just that one epic summer.

Trolley Streetcar, similar to the one we rode on to get to Lagoon.
Colossus the Fire Dragon @ Lagoon | https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoologist/

Colossus the Fire Dragon @ Lagoon | Brandy Berthelson Creative Commons License

And trust me. That summer was epic.

For me, that trolley ride toward the park was usually synonymous with psyching myself up and shaking off over two hours of public transit and the mixed bag that can be.

That ride was about getting in the zone, preparing myself to be outgoing and getting ready to yell and egg on perfect strangers in attempt after attempt to get them to spend their money on silly carnival games.

Time and time again, Ben and I would sit together on the trolley and be as looney, as crazy, and as weird as we wanted to be.

All summers come to an end and I never went back to work at Lagoon after that. I had my reasons, but mostly, life had moved on. Justin and I had talked about it, going back as black-badges. But high school happened and we started drifting apart. He made other friends and before we knew it we were headed in different directions.

Lagoon was nothing more than a memory.

The Looking Glass

In his post, Ben explained where his writing journey has taken him and what his path looks like. But more than that, he also showed us what it’s like to look at someone else’s path and compare it to your own. We’ve all been there.

This reply has been a long time coming. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a bit of a hard time finding words lately.
This is my attempt to remedy that and finally respond to what amounted to some very kind words from an old friend and a fellow writer, someone whom I respect.

Ben’s post was, for me, and interesting look at my life from the outside in. Since quite some time has passed, it’s easy to dissect some of his observations.

First, since you’re already here: my once “great website” is now a lot different than it used to be. Of course, I’m working on that, but it will take time. I do still have the Prologue of Coma: The Cataclysm posted here for people to read. I have more that I need to edit and post, when I have more time. (And hopefully more interest, if you’ve read the prologue and liked it, be sure to leave me some feedback and let me know you’d like more! The old comments were destroyed in the site move, so you might need to go back and post again if you already did.)

Ben also mentioned my creative writing podcast, which I did for a grand total of 11 episodes. It was a lot of work and I really enjoyed doing it, but I eventually started to wonder if taking all that time away from my writing was really worth it. I didn’t have many, if any, regular listeners (which I know would come with time, but how long would I have to pour hours into something that was taking me down a different path before it started to pay off?). Besides, I told myself, I can always record more episodes later…

I, too, have a Facebook group for writers. It’s small enough to be somewhat intimate, but it’s floundering. Are people too busy? Are they giving up? I know I haven’t engaged them as much as I should have. I’m stuck wondering if it’s me. Am I not successful enough? So far, we’re a group of small-timers, small-times who have let life step on our dreams. I’m one of them, so how can I hope to inspire them to better? I can only assume from being… better.

The Truth

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate something. Time passes faster than we’d like. The kids are growing up. The ink is drying. So many things compete for our time. As a father, as a husband, as a man with a career trying to support his family, the time I have to dedicate toward my dreams is precious.

I think this is a truth that Ben also knows.

I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t just aspire for greatness. If possible, I want to lift those around me to great heights as well. I think it’s just one of those core parts of who I am. So, to me, it isn’t about looking at someone and comparing. We can’t ever possibly know everything about the circumstances that lead to failure or defeat. We just have to keep trying, to keep bolstering one another and cheering for those around us.

I suppose… we can’t stop believing
In them.
In ourselves.
In our dreams.