I didn’t set out in life to be a driver but I’ll admit I enjoy it. I remember the day I learned to ride a bike. Suddenly my world multiplied. I was seven. I rode that bike all the way past two friends’ houses and back. What liberation! And I had a meaning of life moment. I theorized at that young age that every seven years there would be a total break through. That bike was a symbol of breaking on through to the other side. I don’t know why my mind thinks on profound things when my body is in motion. It just does. From the age of seven this has held true. Somewhere in the wings there may have been someone who gave me the idea that every seven years a human person will experience some major mind and life shift that elevates them to a new plateau. But I don’t remember them saying it. This thought may have been entirely my own.
Driving cars didn’t happen until I was fifteen, so the seven year theory had to be stretched, unless we include non-driving type changes like … puberty. Yes, discovering sexuality. That can change a life view. Who would question it? Mom’s Cougar was the first car I drove. It turned out to be a miracle car. She survived a horrible accident taking Valium when she was going through menopause. My search for ladies would have to start in my Dad’s Cadillac, before I wrecked it. Sorry Dad. The hormones did it. It was New Years. I was the classic inexperienced driver out on Amateur Night. It’s a good thing nobody was killed. But no. That was just a driving lesson in the School of Hard Knocks. Puberty began a journey of imagination that couldn’t help but disappoint. Dad’s ever visible magazine rack of Playboy and Hustler made that a certainty. It also left me clueless as to what the female gender actually was. My sister wasn’t telling me. She had her own problems. My mother waited way too long to talk about it and her only words of advice were issued at the worst time, with her head popping in the door during an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Wait until I’m married to have sex? Yeah, right mom. Can I please watch the show. MaryAnn’s about to come on.
Every seven years … let me think back. At twenty one I graduated from college. I often think back on that day as the day my song started. I had been a music composition major. My “song” was my life and it was being composed by God. It was fitting somehow, that my parents had come up to South Carolina to hear my my greatest accomplishment – trombone sonata, only to have two major mishaps happen simultaneously. First, in the business of packing, I had somehow lost my music portfolio. Not only did this contain all the music I had written while at college; it also contained the conductor part for the trio that needed to be performed that day. Second, none of the other musicians showed up for the performance, which then had to be canceled. College kids these days. Imagine them skipping out on something they’d get no credit for during exam week while everyone was packing up and going home. My parents, who maintained the belief that I had never practiced with these musicians in the first place and that I was a liar, had to hear a different tune entirely and thus my song began. And it seems to have been some tune about a career search, but I can’t tell you for sure at this point because it hasn’t been performed in its entirety yet.
A career search began and it was a humbling one. I parked cars, and delivered news papers but my first real job was at a bank. If it weren’t for the women there, I would have hated that job. It was at that time that I realized I wasn’t producing any real goods and services. As I saw it, forty hours out of every week, plus an hour to and from work daily, were being completely wasted, just so I could earn $5/hour. There was no way I was going to stay in such an industry for life. I reflected on what an incredible waste of human effort the entire banking industry was – all the saving of money: its little deposits and withdrawals and switching accounts. Not one good or service was made by them. I considered the number of buildings in the world that were dedicated to doing nothing more than exchanging values – the stock market, the insurance business, the entire financial sector – all a waste of human effort.
And then there was the unnecessary stuff associated with our financial system that made life very annoying – sales, advertising, commercials. Every human effort dedicated to all this nonsense could be re-purposed into something that directly created some widget or food item or service, or clothing that actually made life nicer for people. It was the stuff money buys and is used for. It was part of Marx’s theory but I knew nothing of it. I’d never read the Communist Manifesto. I wasn’t feeling like an exploited worker. That wasn’t it. And when I gradually learned about it, there were good reasons I found not to embrace Communism so I never did. We were in the middle of a cold war at the time. Reagan was on the rise. Communism only meant one thing to me – war. I invented the HAND System instead. No labor tension or revolution was required but I had no inclination to start it at the time. I was just figuring out who I was and what I believed in and I didn’t have a computer science degree. I believed in God and just years after that I became a Christian, allowing that Jesus could have been God incarnate. The first church actually used something like the HAND System. Then I started to learn who I was but it was a long road. My conversion from monotheism to Jesus follower didn’t occur at one of those pivotal 7 year marks. What landed there was a new song, a song that led to the revelation of a new economic paradigm – maybe something we’ll see after Jesus returns.
At twenty eight, I had been kicked out of the Catholic seminary I’d been attending at night while working as a letter carrier by day. Did I say “kicked out”? Not exactly. I had an A average but had no intention of becoming a priest and had enrolled in their lay program. I suspect the problem was that I had become privy to some corruption of a political nature behind the scenes. I disapproved of the support I was finding for liberation theology there and I let my Social Justice teacher know about it. I was also critical of the bishops’ statement on the economy. Except for abortion, the Catholic Church was starting to seem like a wing of the Democratic Party.
It wasn’t just that I was a politically moderate man who was easily influenced by a conservative father who had supported Ronald Reagan before it was popular to do so. Dad’s opinions were to be considered. He was a smart man and I respected him but he didn’t dictate what I thought. The problem at the seminary was that sometimes I was confrontational. I was received with open arms when I first entered the seminary and spoke idealistically of asynalagonomy, a thing Dad strongly opposed, but when I exposed the Mary Knoll nuns for shipping guns to the Sandinistas out loud in class one day, it became clear I could be trouble. Suddenly, no courses were available to fill in the last few hours I needed to complete my post graduate degree. A course in Marriage and Sexuality did become available a year later but my final exam was lost by the teacher after I placed it on his desk with his other papers. When I noticed the incomplete after getting my report card in the mail, my guidance counselor told me I had taken too long to complete my matriculation and no longer qualified as a student. That is to say, I was forced out. That was a hard year. It was the year I broke up with my second fiancee. The content of the course as I lost my place at the seminary and lost my fiancee at the same time was painful but started a new chapter of my life. In my mind the next major breakthrough was going to be matrimony. But marriage was eluding me. I consoled myself through service in ministry as I went through a waiting period. I acquired more equipment for my music studio and for my library of theology with the money I saved by not getting married and in my enthusiasm, took on a bit of credit card debt – not smart.
Despite some financial handicaps, by the age of thirty five I had found the wife I had been looking for and was on my way to having my first child. The wedding had been quite the theological statement on the meaning of the sacrament, which was all the more powerful, as I saw it, due to the fact that we had diverse religious backgrounds. We thought a lot about unity and the meaning of different people coming together to love one another until death. A Catholic priest came, thanks to a dispensation from the bishop, to a wedding held at Maranatha Church of God. A charismatic Southern Baptist pastor who’d lived with me for a time led the ceremony with the other two. Because it was ecumenical, we didn’t have mass – just the wedding. But none of that was on the seven year mark. What landed on thirty five was the birth of my son, Jonathan. To come up with a solution between Catholicism and Pentecostal Protestantism, we’d found Orthodoxy and indeed, when we married yet again in the Eastern Orthodox Church, I was thirty five years of age.
But our first encounter with Orthodox Christianity was unusual. We connected with a Ukrainian group, under a bishop that thought he had the spirit of Elijah, as one of the two end time witnesses. It wasn’t exactly your standard fare Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Reports of miracles were continuous there. If I were to describe my thirty fifth year in just one word, it wouldn’t just be “matrimony.” It would be “Elijah.” I took an intense interest in eschatology. I completed my degree and taught at this self-proclaimed Elijah’s College of Eschatology, St. Michael Academy.
At the age of thirty five, I left the college with a degree and a mission, which I could only ponder the meaning of. Just about the time I was married yet again in the Orthodox Church through a less controversial jurisdiction of it, the Antiochian, the Ukranian autocephalous bishop (don’t ask me what that means; it’s complicated) sent me out, granting me my Masters Degree in Eschatology, saying it would be my mission to preach in the spirit of Elijah – not to the Orthodox but to the Protestants. His seminary had been perceived as a diploma mill. Its accreditation was with the Kentucky School of Accreditation, or something like that. He didn’t think highly of academia. He just wanted to raise up prophets and send them out, who would carry with them what the Lord had shared with him. As I saw it it was all a very tragic irony. The sectarianism of the Orthodox generally, which I oppose, was epitomized in this Elijah bishop who broke all the rules. But it wasn’t the same sectarianism as the “legitimate” Orthodox. Instead of saying anyone who wasn’t Eastern Orthodox was outside of the body of Christ as the more traditional would often say, he had been “playing nice” with the popes and the Anglicans. His sectarianism was spelled out in coming against any Protestants who didn’t recognize the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and “hated Mary.” He had all sorts of medals and knighthoods and letters from popes. But it seemed like he was the more hateful one.
I was commissioned to broadcast his message but I wasn’t buying it. The only part I was sold on was Elijah. Not that he was Elijah but that he wasn’t Elijah. What fascinated me was belief in the actual Elijah. I wanted to know who who Elijah really was. I really wanted to know what was going to take place before the Lord returns. And I really believed that the role of Elijah, as described in the Bible, was that of restoring the church in preparation for the Lord’s return. To my mind, anyone who was not a part of that ministry or movement, was not listening to God because they were not working for the restoration of the church. Now, of course, restoration is not a concept that works well with the Orthodox any more than it does with the Roman Catholics. They’re convinced in their own minds that the gates of hell can’t prevail against the church. So therefore, the church can never stand in need of restoration. It’s a matter that we should all consider very carefully if we care to be prepared when the Lord returns. The real message of Elijah, whatever that actually ultimately would be – this was something I would gladly take to the Protestants, or anywhere else it might be received – if only I could fully grasp what it was myself. So I prayed on it. And I have never stopped asking to receive it. So should we all. So that’s what came down at the age of thirty five.
At forty two I became an Internet superstar but it was short lived. My father and oldest brother, Chickie, had died shortly after I was sent away by the bishop. After his death, I heard in a vision my father saying, “total marketing.” Dad had been the author of the “total marketing concept” (TMC), at the Allied Chemical Corporation, where he was a VP of Sales for their Chemstrand division. In this very vivid vision that I had while standing in prayer he was telling me to market totally. I knew he would have wanted me to preach the Gospel on the Internet. Dad and I were very close. And it fit in with the bishop’s command to broadcast the message of Elijah. I still wasn’t sure what that message was but the vision was accompanied by certain unusual events at the music studio-library, where I kept his ashes with Chickie’s on a filing cabinet, that had become a very sacred place for prayer and where I had been praying at the time that the vision occurred. I won’t go into what the unusual events were here. It deserves a whole chapter all by itself. But there was a mysterious fire that emblazoned what appeared to be an image of the Virgin Mary into my wall. And I was listening carefully to what the Lord might be saying at that time. I wanted to understand.
It was in the midst of much intensive prayer for wisdom and discernment at that time, that the Ghost Machine concept was born. It was conceived as a web site that would become a better search engine and morph one day, when mobile technology became available, for playing a game that would reward users with Ghost Bucks if they “found ghosts.” It would be set up in a way where the “ghosts” would be real historical people – icons. We’d call them “ghosticons.” It would be educational and entertaining – “edutainment.”
People would learn about history as they hunted for ghosts and got paid for doing it. It was an elaborate plan. The more they gave to charity, the more Ghost Bucks they could earn as they found ghosts planted in places of business for them to find. The businesses would pay for extra customers at specified, usually slow hours. I would hyperlink from the ghosts to their browser to a world of information that was entertaining. The Ghost Bucks would be redeemable for US dollars for anyone who wanted to cash them out at any time. But mobile technology was a long way off and the search engine was enough of a hurdle to get over for a man without a budget or career experience or a team of helpers. The miracles though … the fire … the dreams … the prayer. These were enough to push me to take a leap of faith. It was premature leap, but it started an important chapter of my life. It made me know loss. The initial 5% reach of all Internet users we found out about through Web Trends in July 2000 had been encouraging but without money, there was no way to buy equipment to keep it going. We were getting more than four hits per second but couldn’t sustain it.
That was forty two. I was working from home in my pajamas. If only I had money. If only I had a team. I didn’t just learn loss that year. I learned what entrepreneurs need to turn visions into reality. It was an expensive education. I don’t regret it though. I just want to make the vision a reality. So I’m still looking for help. As the years passed, mobile technology became an increasing reality and I started to design for it. I continued to build up the Ghostidex full of potential Ghosticons. In my search for help, I revealed as much as I could without spoiling the surprise. We focused on celebrities that had recently passed away so we could introduce the concept of icons. I wrote letters to Rome and Constantinople hoping I could get the church’s support to popularize the saints that would be included in the Ghostidex. I haven’t given up but I do understand that churches tend to be set in their ways. Did I mention that I had a business plan? But a plan is nothing without a team. And without a team angels take no interest. The value is in the execution of an idea. Not in the concept. Who is on your team? And who will be on your team if you have no angel dollars to attract them with? There is a certain miracle that has to happen that brings everyone to the table at the same time. And it doesn’t cut out the founder. Remember me?
At the age of forty two, 5% of of all Internet users had visited the ghostsurfers.com web site. At the age of forty nine, I was still trying to figure out how to attract both a team and angel dollars to a polished concept. It was horribly disappointing but I knew that it wasn’t failing because it was the wrong idea. What I had seen with so much clarity in the ghost machine was something that was just too far ahead of its time. God was using that time to prepare me for leadership. He was using my pain.
This isn’t hard to understand. Think of what year I’m talking about. I was forty nine in 2007. Pokemon Go and Bitcoin were words people had still never heard of. Imagine trying to explain these things before they existed. Giving an elevator pitch was no easy task. Facebook was just starting to take the place of MySpace. Google had just put the final nails on the coffin of Yahoo and AOL. Me, I was driving for Yellow Cab and then I ran into a guy who saw the entrepreneurial spirit in me. He promised he would invest in the Ghost Machine if I would help him with his own invention – a shopping cart washing machine. I got to know him as a full time driver when he was doing well with his own company. Unfortunately, he had lost his license due to drunk driving. That’s why he needed a driver. But worse, he drove with a suspended license. And a wily character who wanted to steel his technology had a policeman stop him while he was moving his car in the parking lot one day. After postponing his hearing as long as he could, his poor judgment earned him some time in jail and just enough time away from his company to ultimately lose control of it.
But I was in his office at that time, in addition to driving for him, helping him build traffic to his web site through a news magazine for the supermarket industry I had created called Supermarket Green News. Back in those days, web sites were easier to get attention for without much investment and what I was doing for him was helping him attract industry executives so he kept paying me even after he was in jail. But the money ran out. His BOD had a coup d’ etat, which I was well aware of. And as a witness, when he returned from jail after three months to find his company was no longer his, stolen by henchmen of the famous ponzi schemer, Scott Rothstein, he was left standing in a long line of people that Rothstein, now in protective custody, was being sued by. I knew my cart washer friend would never get justice but I couldn’t just abandon him, knowing he had been robbed. Even if he wasn’t the most likable character, he was still in the right. And he surrounded himself daily with people who promised to invest in his company. But they led him around. It was always, if they will, I will too. Nobody wanted to jump in first to actually invest.
They dicked him around. This is something not many understand. CEOs for start ups get dicked around. They are always told they need just one more thing. There’s always just one more thing. And then it’s another. Who the hell cuts a check for a start up? So at forty nine, the new threshold was … the big dick. You can’t really start anything new. It was like satan himself was sticking his tongue out at me.
And with satan, when one thing goes wrong, everything must go wrong. Not getting paid left me hunting for other revenue. It was a great time to get back together again with the Elijah bishop and offer to put his college’s web courses online. Back on the road again for Yellow Cab as well, my usual taxi clients – addicts, strippers, prostitutes – were carrying on. Lisa was not happy as I confessed some of what happened. It was a mistake to be so open but I didn’t like secrets. I’d overcome porn addiction years back. I wanted accountability. If somebody took their clothes off in the cab I was able to act professionally thanks to that commitment but when she got a call to come pick me up on Blue Heron Blvd because my Yellow Cab van had been completely shot up by bullets in a drug deal gone badly, she was fed up. And then there was her own struggle with her stroke affected sexuality. Really any of it served as an excuse to drink what little money we had away and leave me for another man she had loved before we ever met. Yeah, that was forty nine. That was the 2007’s. It wasn’t enough to lose a fortune. I had to lose everything, even her.
Maybe that was the thread that ties all this together – matrimony, or the struggle thereof. It would be a very sad and pointless story but then another miracle happened. She came back. She came back and I forgave her. She was repentant. I’ve put some thought into it and do you want to know what I think? I think that matrimony and the message of Elijah are one and the same. Preparing the way of the Lord … what is that? It’s preparation of the bride of Christ in repentance. Matrimony is a shadow of that union. It strips both the husband and wife of all pretension. And when the two witnesses preach in the last days, aren’t they dressed in sackcloth and ashes? Aren’t they repentant as they measure the temple? Look it up and see. It’s in the eleventh chapter of Revelation.
So let’s wrap this up. I’ll admit that I can be naive enough to dick around but I believed her. I know repentance when I see it. I could sense the miracle happening and I wasn’t going to stifle it by ending the marriage even if there was valid reason. My only doubts were about me. Could I be strong enough to forgive? Theory is one thing. Practice is another. And try as we did, reconciliation didn’t make life wonderful again. The hurt needed healing and we were just as broke as ever – even more so. Life’s stresses continued. Lisa had been paralyzed from a stroke in 2003, no special seven year time, a year after losing her job at the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She started drinking afterwards, spending money we didn’t have and then the cheating. A year after her stroke, my sister was also paralyzed from a stroke, still in that same difficult stretch of time. But we reconciled. And that was that. It was a rough patch and there was nothing easy about it – just that long hard part there in the middle of yet another seven year stretch. So what about my seven year theory? Forty nine passed. What about fifty six? Did anything new happen? Or did it just keep raining?
Maybe there’s nothing to it. What happened at fifty six is I moved to Tallahassee because my sister’s husband abandoned her because he couldn’t take the celibacy that came with having a wife who was paralyzed from a stroke even worse than Lisa’s. At least my sister, Corinne, hadn’t cheated on my brother-in-law. But she was in a nursing home, alone, abandoned. At fifty six I became a caregiver. I knew I had to move to Tallahassee and focus on my family. I put all my entrepreneurial ideas on a low burner and closed the distance between us all – my wife, my sister and my older brother too. He’d become a recovering crack addict. I knew I wouldn’t have many more years to see him. And it wasn’t easy. I was dying financially until Uber became a reality in Florida. If you are going to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to have some form of income while you work your concept. Uber was perfect for that. And it didn’t involve friending people of the night just to get regular clientele. The passenger prospects were out at night, alright. But the system’s dispatch actually provided a fair volume of trips and I didn’t have to pay rent for a cab every week. I could drive my personal car. I could make my own hours.
But Tallahassee is seasonal. It’s a college town. So in the summer time, I was left scurrying for income. That’s why I took the lending job I hated so much. Uber made it possible for me to quit in the fall. But it wasn’t enough. Summer of 2016 was really hard and summer of 2017 was even harder. I looked for jobs I could do and still take care of my family but wasn’t finding anything that made sense except driving jobs and the ones that paid most were those that required a CDL. 7×9 anyone?
So in the summer of 2017, I went to a CDL school and now I’m driving an eighteen wheeler – something I couldn’t do while my brother and my sister were still alive – something that doesn’t work very well nevertheless because Lisa is still very high maintenance. But within another year, my initial contract will be up and I should be able to find a daily route to run. And in the meantime, I’m going to drive and I’m going to think a lot while I drive. Because that’s what I do. I’ve been shut up. But I won’t be silenced. I’ve thought long and hard about what it is and the message of Elijah will be broadcast. Maybe it will happen when I’m sixty three. Maybe it’s already happening. Would you like to hear some “ghost stories”?