Chapter 33 2011 - What’s My Name?

I’s failure to complete his Rock Opera left him, the eternal optimist, in a dark funk. “I was the greatest of all time! I ruled the charts. I was instantly recognizable. Now I wonder to myself ‘What’s my name? Who am I?” Angela had not seen him this way since before they were married.

“It’s just some songs. You’ll pick it up again someday. Maybe with a different premise.”

“A different premise? That was my dream, my gift to the world. To show them how to combat the pain in their lives, to turn it around, to live life with full relief! Now all I have is the pain of failure. Everything is worse!” He hung his head in shame.

“I’m fifty-seven years old. My life is officially half over. I’ve reached my peak, and the rest is downhill from here. I can’t take it anymore.”

“You’re overreacting a bit, don’t you think? Live is not over. You’ve got fifty-six years to continue to make a difference. Look what you’ve accomplished in the first half. Number one, you had a holiday declared in your honor for the day you were born, by the President of the United States, no less. You were visited by a renowned scientist and a musician that set you on the road to a career that no other musician has matched. You have two loving parents that supported you through your early years, you have me who supported you through other dark times. You have fans that have documented your life, you have three wonderful children, two wonderful grandchildren. You have two dogs you adore. You’ve set up charities, and given away more money than a normal person would ever hope to earn. You’ve seen the country, you seen most of the world. You’ve earned your privacy and the right to be just an ordinary citizen. That’s a life worth celebrating.”

I considered the good points, but continued his own litany “Friends have died, scandal followed us, I was sued…”

“That was a hoax.”

“I was sued as a hoax, but never found the perpetrator. I broke my daughter’s arm. I had to hide from the world. I failed in my first production attempt. What’s my name? Nobody McNobody, that’s who.”

“You’re only focusing on the bad things. Everybody has a little bad luck in their lives, many more than any you’ve had. It’s only temporary, nothing that has happened left you any worse. They were just bumps in the road.”

“But I’ve reached the peak, and it’s all downhill from here.”

“Ok, I’ll agree with you. It is downhill. But look at it in a different way.”

“How? Down is down. There’s nothing but the bottom. And once you get there, where do you go?”

“No where else but up. See? There a positive waiting for you there.”

“At the bottom is the end. There’s no up. It’s just oblivion for the rest of my non-life.”

“You don’t expect to be in Heaven?”

“What will Heaven ever get me but more heartache?”

“Most would disagree with you on that. Consider this.”

I waited for a positive sign, but Angela fell silent.

“Consider what?”

“Consider this. Look at your life as a journey by car, around the state, across the country, throughout the world. You don’t just drive to where you’re going. You experience the trip for all it offers. You climb a hill, you struggle, you get to the top and you see the view and all that the world has to offer. You smell the fresh air, you see beautiful sunrises and sunsets. You feel accomplishment in your little victory. Then you head downhill. But downhill is only another direction. It’s not a state of life. You come off that peak, and see the whole world below, all that it offers, the vast array of possibilities. You’re coasting, you’re accelerating. You’re getting great mileage. Downhill is the thrill of a lifetime. It’s like the roller coaster. Up the hill is the anticipation, but down the hill is what you’ve been anticipating. It’s the most thrilling part.”

I considered her words. “I like roller coasters,” he admitted. His mood brightened. “I love roller coasters! We’re building a roller coaster!”

Angela did not expect this change in direction, but was relieved to see I’s mood improve. For her, though, another bump in the road.

I’s desire to build a roller coaster was not short lived like some of his other ideas. He really knew that he wanted to succeed on this one.

“Not only a roller coaster. I’m going to build our own private amusement park!”

As usual, he solicited the help of his father and father-in-law. Both were now over eighty, but both also had great insights and ideas when it came to seeing a job though. They might not be able to swing a hammer with as much intensity as when they were young, but they still had a lot to offer.

Together they considered the layout of the park. Looking at the area where the impromptu concert for Chrissy’s sixteenth birthday had taken place, they agreed that it was an ideal location.

Angela’s concern, however, continued to mount. “To what end will this park be? Are we going to run a business?”

“No business here. This will be a labor of love.” Which to Angela only meant he hadn’t really thought this one through.

For weeks they drew up plans, met with contractors, laid out physical boundaries on the actual grounds. “I want the roller coaster to be the central piece. But I also don’t want it to be the only piece. There will be a fun house, a drop zone, even a merry-go-round for the little ones.” The twins were nearing their fifth birthday.

Angela couldn’t help herself, feeding from I’s own excitement. “I like bumper cars.”

“Then we’ll add bumper cars as well. It will teach the kids to drive.”

“The kids are in their twenties. They already drive. And I certainly wouldn’t want to get behind the wheel of anyone whose sole experience is in a bumper car.”

“We’ll put in a shooting gallery, a ring toss, even some refreshment stands. It will be a real fair!”

“Can’t we just go to the fair instead? Wouldn’t that be easier?”

“This will be better!”

Angela was beginning to regret giving I the pep talk.

Construction began, and crews of workers were brought in to create I’s new dream. The basic infrastructure of electrical work, water supply, sanitary facilities, all went in first. Then the gaming area, then the food concessions, finally the rides. The fun house was the first to be erected. I’s preference was to have everything built to his own specifications, but not being an engineer, cooler heads prevailed, and most of the amusements were purchased as completed units, ready for assembly. It proved to be a much faster way of establishing the festive atmosphere and in a short time, the park was taking shape. The roller coaster was the biggest project, and it had to be one of the best, in I’s opinion. He called in a local expert on roller coasters, someone who had ridden many throughout the world, and who had personally designed them as a hobby. I’s grand vision of the world’s largest roller coaster was a bit extreme, even in the eyes of the expert, and he was able to talk him into a more manageable model. He assured him that although it wouldn’t be the biggest, it would provide just as many thrills.

The time for the grand opening was nearing, and a vital, final detail had yet to be determined. “What’s my name?” I pondered allowed.

Angela told him, “You’re I Mall. Builder of dreams!”

“I know who I am. I was asking on behalf of the park. A good park needs a good name. I think I’ll call it Mallywood!”



“Sounds stupid. Let run it past the kids, first. You want to attract the younger generation, don’t you. Find something that appeals to them.”

I thought a bit more, “Mall World?” he asked tentatively.

“Better, but not great.”

“Mall of America?”

“They already have one.”

“Mall Zone?”

“Must everything have your name attached? Explore the possibilities, make it a name for the ages. Something simple. Something direct. Something without confusion. Like ‘The Park’.”

“The Park?”

“The Park. Simple. To the point. When people ask, ‘Where are you going?’’ they will say ‘To The Park’ and everyone will know. It will be an institution.”

“The Park…. The Park… I continued to let the words roll off his tongue. The Park…”

“Don’t wear it out before we even open.”

“OK, park, what’s your name? The Park!”

Opening day arrived, and thousands were lined up for entry. But this time, it was expected.

“I never thought we would be doing this type of thing all over again,” Angela said. “But I think this will be a great adventure. And look,” she said as she indicated the crowd. “Very little is your own family.”

I had arranged for bands to be playing throughout The Park. He asked Reginald Von Happenstein to perform a set, and surprisingly, his music from thirty years earlier, sounded more contemporary in today’s music scene. Reginald handled most of the instruments, Cory took care of the drums, and I even sat in on bass for a few songs. In a crowded, festive atmosphere, the music did not engender the raw emotions that it once did in more intimate surroundings, but it did captivate the audience, and many that day signed up for downloads of the albums originally released in the late seventies. Reginald had finally discovered a new fan base, and his life was re-energized as a result.

The roller coaster was ready for its premier. The bright lights were visible even in the day’s sunshine, and I and Angela took the first car. It climbed to the top of the first hill, and at the peak, I caught a glimpse of the park. Still, they had not yet reached the final peak. The thrill of the short ride down was interrupted by a sudden upward swing again, only to be followed by another down. Then, suddenly, they were pinned to the back of the card as the coaster head uphill at a seventy degree angle. Higher and higher they climbed, I wondered how high it could go. Was the air getting thinner, was that deep space he was seeing? Finally, the peak arrived, and the car stopped momentarily, as if taking a rest. The view from there was magnificent, they could see the crowds already in The Park. The crowds waiting to come in. The crowds enjoying food, games, rides, music. “This it it! We’ve arrived!” The remainder of the coaster pulled up behind at the lead car headed over the top, heading downhill. It picked up speed, the air rushed past their faces. Just as they thought it could not get more intense, it moved into a loop, and the world spun, seemingly out of control. Coming out of the loop, the coaster began to slow, and came to a rest.

“Downhill is the best part,” I exclaimed. “Let’s do it again.”