It's 6:48 AM and I'm sitting in the Arabica Coffee shop on E.185th St. and LaSalle Ave. on the eastern perimeter of Cleveland, Ohio. The last time I was here was a Thursday, five years and four months ago, the day after my father died in 2005.
I'm here for basically the same reason I was here on that dreary March day five years ago, free wifi - I needed to connect to the Internet.
In 2005 I was falling from the pinnacle of my life. My wife of nine years had left me in February. Our advertising agency that we operated from our home, Blazic Design, was going to be mine in the divorce. However, my wife - a graphic designer - was the source of our signature look. At the time, I thought I could replace her with freelance talent. I couldn't have been more wrong.
My father died on Wednesday of Holy Week, right before Easter. Ten days prior, he had suffered a massive stroke and the doctors said he was terminal. I left my home in Las Vegas and brought my five year old daughter to accompany me during the deathwatch.
The day after my father passed, I had three ads due for my long-time client, Memphis Championship Barbecue. Each print ad had to be written and produced and delivered into the hands of three different publications by the end of business Pacific time - around 9 PM Cleveland time.
I remember arriving here at the Arabica Coffee Shop around 11 AM ET, 8 AM Vegas time. I was armed with my silver Mac PowerBook, my cell phone, a small portable printer and a box of files.
As soon as I arrived, I got to work writing copy for the ads. I was scheduled to connect with my artist, Annie, around 9 o'clock Vegas time. We were going to have to bang out the three ads, mainly communicating via iChat.
My daughter was staying with my sister for the day. I needed all the concentration I could muster to get these ads produced. Failure, missing the deadlines, was not an option.
Annie and I hooked up as scheduled. I feverishly typed instructions to her in the iChat window, then she went to work on the designs. While I was waiting for her to send me proofs, a couple of my old high school buddies dropped by to see how I was doing.
When Paul arrived, I was in a frenzy of activity. He could see that I was harried and his visit was brief. Later, Jim showed up. Jim decided to stand by and help me any way he could.
I'm so thankful he was there. Along with producing the ads, there were insertion orders that had to be overnighted to the publishers. Jim became my runner, hustling papers to the nearby post office, packing and labeling Express Mail envelopes.
Oddly, during high school, Jim and I were mortal enemies. However, we bumped into each other at Cleveland State University around 1976 one frigid January afternoon. We chatted for a bit, before we headed to the frozen parking lot to catch a buzz. Every since then, Jim has been my rock. He's had a better handle on the person I am and aspire to be than any other person I've ever met - including both of my wives.
Jim hung with me through the afternoon, then left me to grind out the final details of the ads. I was back and forth with Carlos at Memphis Barbecue on the cell phone, while simultaneously sending instructions to Annie from my laptop. We worked non-stop throughout the day and into the evening. By 10:30 PM ET the dust had settled and all three ads were at their final destinations. I was ready to pack up and pick up my daughter at my sister's house.
When I arrived at my sister's, she was visibly miffed that I had left my daughter in her charge the entire day. Sis was busy making funeral arrangements and was under as much stress as I was. She began with soft rebukes regarding my absence for the day. I replied by telling her, "We won't be back tomorrow."
That comment sent my sister into a tirade. She began swinging at me and cursing at me, "You only care about your goddamn business."
She couldn't grasp how desperate I was. Since my wife left, I had been fighting for my advertising survival. The day before my father died, my number one client, the Bank of Nevada, called and fired me. In recent weeks I had missed a few deadlines and there was an embarrassing ad mix-up with the newspaper in Mesquite, Nevada. The timing couldn't have been worse.
My sister's explosion escalated and carried out into the driveway, where she told me that I wasn't welcome at my father's funeral. I snapped and said, "I won't be there." I took my daughter back to my father's house, packed our stuff and headed to a hotel. We couldn't get a flight out of town on the next day, Good Friday, so we had to spend an extra day in Cleveland. My daughter and I spent the day living it up at the Ritz Carlton. That was the last time I was in Cleveland until the summer of 2007.
From there, things only got worse. The business floundered as I churned through freelance artists that were either too expensive for my budgets or incapable of doing the work correctly. It was a disaster.
What happened through the balance of 2005 and beyond will be saved for another entry. It was a wild ride of excess, partying, Dom Perignon, candles, poverty and crazy people.
A year ago, my world was crashing in Las Vegas. I found myself popping with the housing bubble and my home was heading into foreclosure. The end result was that my family had to ship me back to Cleveland in March of 2010, broke, deeply in debt and shattered.
So here I am, starting over from where it all began to crash.
The first 90 days of 2005 were horrendous. In those three months, my wife left me, leaving a Titanic-sized hole in Blazic Design, my dad died and my cousin, Jim, died.
One day at the very end of March 2005, I got a flat tire. I was so thrilled because I could call AAA and fix it. It was the only thing I could fix. I had a beer and watched the repairman change the tire. I never rested much after that.