Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Open a can of worms

3/28/07 Wednesday
If you’re going to open a can of worms you might as well make it a big one. Yesterday I started putting the various boxes and things we probably won’t have an immediate use for if ever into the trailer that has now become our storage unit. One of the boxes was marked “Business records recovered from River East”. What a heavy box that was. No, it didn’t weigh much but the contents of the box weighed heavily on my mind.

To help you understand this I must explain the history of this box and how I was able to obtain it. As the title on the box suggests the box contains some of the business records for two of the companies I had founded along with a few other bits and pieces of my life.

These records are keys that help unlock the memories hidden deep inside my mind and thus help me remember and understand them. When I made it back to Toledo a year after I woke from the coma I was able to remember I had owned these businesses so I walked to where they had been located. What a heart wrenching time that was, to look at the remains of the once successful enterprises and understand I had destroyed them. Walking into the building, which was a business incubator and houses many companies, I ran into Mary Ellen who was at the time an employee of River East whom I rented from.

All the pictures of this stuff is in the area that had been my 8,000 sq. foot woodshop. The other eighty thousand square feet I had rented has long since been cleaned out and the remnants thrown up here

Talk about shock, I was supposed to be dead yet here I stand. There was some definite panic involved at this moment. The maintenance guy, Joe Pena, tried to start a fight, telling me to walk out back with him. Why all this emotion? Because when they heard I was dead they were quick to loot what was in this warehouse I had once called home. Joe had been stealing out of here even before this happened. I was quickly told that I was not allowed in the building and that there was a restraining order against me to that effect. I later learned that was not true, just another in a long list of lies. This was part of their scrambling to cover up the thefts and the possibility of criminal charges being filed.

I would occasionally sneak up there to look at the mess left behind by the many people who took what they wanted and threw the rest where ever it was convenient. As I did this I would see how things would continue to be looted. The whole area had been left wide open since I had been gonev`, allowing everyone who wished to take what they wanted. I could do nothing about this as I watched this stuff disappear.

This was when I was homeless and living on the street. Actually I snuck in the building and slept there for a few days till I was discovered. Here I carried everything I owned in a garbage bag. That was another pair of jeans and a couple of T shirts and underwear and I was watching what remained of my former possessions steadily walking out the door. I legally owned this stuff but was powerless to do anything about it. Even if they said I could have it I had no place to put these items.

Then came the time I was featured on the local ABC television station as Toledo’s John Doe. That changed everything. Now I started trying in earnest to gain access to these remains so I could recover what I could find. River East resisted this in every way they could, ignoring the letters I sent and repeatedly threatening me with jail if I was caught on the property. That continued till I contacted another TV station that had one of those programs that exposes wrongs, especially if the offending party resisted making things right. That worked. Woke them right up. Even then I was only allowed to go through this stuff with one of their employees supervising. Cherie and I went up there together to go through these things. Cherie always went with me on anything that was stressful to protect me. I needed her support for at this time I was still in pretty bad shape and under stress would either freeze up or lose emotional control, which is a fancy way of saying I would either explode in anger or cry.

There wasn’t much left of any value, in fact pretty much everything of value had long since disappeared with the exception of what was too heavy to move or some of the wood, such as that plank I just made a table top out of, because they didn’t have a clue what was beneath the weather beaten surface. What was there were some personal mementos that no one cared to steal. In that Cherie found many old pictures of our wedding twenty years before and some other things related to that time we were together. Despite having gotten remarried I kept all this stuff for I never stopped loving or thinking about Cherie. It was a sad and happy thing for Cherie and I to discover these memories together.

So here is this box. I have not gone through it at all and didn’t know what it contained. We had just hastily thrown everything into boxes for there was a time constraint on our access of these things. Now I had to look so I took a break from loading the trailer and opened it up. That break lasted the rest of the day.

Who I was, that’s what the box contained, glimpses of the person I was before the coma. There was a lot more these documents unlocked, tons more. As I went through the stacks of checks and other records I would see names of people who had worked for me and with many of them would come memories.

These records go back to 1991 though the earlier ones are sparse. Here was another part of my history where I destroyed everything because of foolishness and drinking. I had just signed a contract with Owens Illinois for a hundred thousand dollars so took my employees out to the bar to celebrate. After spending eight hours in the bar I was obviously sloshed but drove anyway like I always did drunk back then. I didn’t have a wreck, at least not with the car. In a celebratory drunk stupor I broke into the fireworks stand a block from my house and piling up cases of fireworks in the parking lot passed out before I could light them. For this I was sentenced for two to ten years in prison. I had been offered probation but it came with 90 days in jail so I turned down the deal and decided to fight. Stupid. I lost and paid for making the court go through the expense and hassle of a jury trial. The judge gave me the maximum sentence allowed under Michigan law.

So I put the second wife, Barb, in charge of my two companies and we were going to keep things running. She was going to be there to run things and I would be involved from prison, writing proposals and giving instructions where needed. That didn’t last long. The bank records I was looking at that revived the memories of this unpleasant showed clearly how bad this worked. I was sent to prison in early 1992 and the February bank statement for Westbrook Marketing showed sometimes twenty five thousand dollars a week coming in and going out for payroll. By December the months receipts were $3700 and part of that was borrowed from Corporate Liquidation, my other company. By this time Barb had long since stopped taking calls from me in prison and had been in a relationship with some guy she met in the building. I could see the money she took out of the company for this and Eileen, my former secretary, filled me in on many of the details. No need to go into that now. It’ll be in the book, maybe. Haven’t decided yet. Regardless, when I got out there was nothing left but the files she had dumped on the floor in her spiteful anger when she shut everything down. I got a job to provide some income and started both companies up from scratch again. It didn’t take long as I had developed an excellent business reputation in the years before this. Besides that few folks knew I had been sent to prison.

Such memories, such sadness and so many regrets lie here in this box. I told Cherie that I would be a while as I delved into what these pieces of paper revealed. I was, hours worth of a while. This was coupled with periods where I would go to the back and, sitting in a chair that faced the eighty acre back yard, just process what was going through my mind and think. In fact that is how I ended the day, watching the sun set as I pondered these things and savoring the peace that this setting helps impart.

“Oh, How you have fallen, bright and morning star” are the words that run through my head as I contemplate this portion of my past. They come from the Biblical passage in Isaiah Chapter 14 and in that instance were referring to Lucifer but the concept holds true for me. Daniel chapter four contains another story I can relate to. It is the story of how Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, got proud of his accomplishments and was struck down so to speak because of it. He just lost his mind and was out in the fields eating grass and whatever as he lived in the wild like an animal. Here I was, king of my world and seemingly on top of it and the next thing you know I’m living on the streets and wandering in a sort of daze as I struggled to understand and remember.

I have no one to blame but myself. My life is the result of the decisions I make and the saying “You reap what you sow” is a truth no one can escape from.

So on to today. I will be working on cleaning things up to make it look better here when Joe, the guy coming to interview Cherie for the job, comes here. The wind is whipping out there.

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