“You know ….you have to fail your way to success,“ my wife says to me.
“I’m getting a lot of practice these days,” I reply.
My wife loves self-help books and all those catchy little aphorisms she finds in them.
The phrases she likes are “positive”….. not “negative” (like her husband).
I suppose I’ve learned to accept these self-help aphorisms or at least tolerate them, however, my mind continually asks this question:
“ If I stood this on its head would it still make sense?”
If failure leads to success, can one “succeed their way to failure “? Perhaps my logic has been corrupted over the years, but it seems to me that both possibilities need to work for an idea to be truthful……... but maybe not.
When I look back on it all, the many questions of success and failure in my life are intertwined and stuck together like burned chicken that is stuck to a grill.
But then we did start at the top….at least I thought it was the top.
When you are young you don’t really question very much or very deeply.
The top might be the pinnacle of success or it could simply be a rise on the rolling plains.
The top of our world was a hill in Texas. It was composed of dirt and rock and not much else…..and now that I think of it there wasn’t even much dirt. They had to haul it in so my mother could plant something.
We were in an area of west Ft Worth called Ridglea Hills. My father was one of the first to buy a lot there and build a house. When I was little you could look out and see what would become the golf course and a lot of empty fields.
You could even see Western Hills Motel on Camp Bowie, which was in itself a very unique world. This was soon after the war and in rapid order Ridglea Hills was filled and overfilled with houses and parents and kids. You couldn’t spit without hitting another baby boomer.
At the time, however I was blissfully unaware of just how vast our army was. All I could concentrate on was the hill that we were on top of and the half a dozen or so kids on either side of us.
Soon all manner of stuff was being flung off that hill:
wagons, sleds, roller skates, bicycles, go carts, motorcycles, running and not, unicycles, random wheels nailed wildly to boards, and God know what else all went down that hill.
And with each voyage from the top of the hill down came an exhilarating abandonment to the fates and a inexorable trudge back up the hill.
As with all hills there were two sides to it.
One side arced more gently and gracefully, fast enough for mild thrills…. yet tame, its final safe uncoiling came in a slow even leisurely pace, which allowed for both contemplation of the ride and a refocusing on what came next. Bill McDonald lived on that side, on my left as I hurtled down, his father was a doctor and a much-coveted go cart was sitting in their carport awaiting my glance.
At the bottom of that side of the hill, again on the left, a beautiful and mysterious girl could be seen moving swiftly from car into house…. car into house. The tantalizing silent scene replayed itself daily as I passed by.
The other side of the hill however, what would have been the north side, must have been created by men still angry after the war. Maniacal 1950s asphalt laying, road building, engineers of death…..surely they must of known what a monster they had created for me and the other kids to conquer.
That side of hill crashed suddenly at its base with a cross street. A poignant yet fruitless stop sign stood menacingly on the right.
It was only for the older wizened child, the child who sought the sickening sensations felt on roller coasters and tilt- a-whirls, the dreamer of bigger more dangerous dreams.
Richard Ellwell lived on that side and soon became emblematic for the danger that was embodied there.
Success and failure was inherent in that world built into that hill as deep as the rocks that lay beneath.
In time the world would open up but for then its deceptive simplicity was all I could and would be aware of.