Dale’s Story

A former head of a multi-million dollar company struggles to survive.

“I mean, I’ve died on the streets so many times.”

[Intro noise, crowd talking, fades out]

I mean I’ve died on the street so many times. I mean I’ve crawled underneath a fir tree as far as I could, with low-hanging branches because I knew that there was more coverage. And I’d crawl under, and I basically wonder, you know, how many days it would be before anyone would see my feet sticking out. I mean I’ve slept on the bare ground, you know, on the snow. And so from January until April 30 – April 30 was when I got into the city mission. And the first night I was there everything got stolen. See, there’s my original card. Everything got stolen the first night and since then everything’s been stolen six times. And then I stopped being in the mission when I got lice and they had a problem with that for a while. 

Now I – at the senior center – call over to the mission and the mission said that they would reserve a bed for me out at Holly Shelter on a permanent basis near the bathroom. And I didn’t take them up on that because I had a lot of stuff and it was so hard to – but not I’m down to this small pile I might take them up on it because Holly Shelter is a lot nicer 

Originally I was born in Atlanta and then we lived in the South. We lived at Fort Walton Beach in the Cuban Missile Crisis. That’s Eglin Air Force Base. And every 15 minutes, to the second, four F-15s flew 150 feet over our house. You’d wake up in the middle of the night, just wide awake, and the jets were like ten seconds late, and your body was so acclimated to that schedule that you didn’t even heard them anymore. But if they were late it was like, “What’s going on?”

And so from there we moved to Pensacola and I had first grade in Pensacola and then we moved from there to Maine, and all over the Eastern Seaboard. When we got to Lincoln, Nebraska, I lived in 46 houses. My parents were teachers. My mom was an RN as well, and she was actually a nursing instructor. But they were teachers in a parochial school systems that were emergency teachers. If a teacher got pregnant in the middle of the year we’d move. And in second grade I was in three schools. 

I took on this coin route in Norridgewock, Maine that – and it was a coin route because no one else wanted this newspaper route because it was like nine miles, and I had to do this thing on my bicycle. And it’s very hilly country. And I did that one time, and I went through and I said, “I’ll do –” you know, people knew that – no one wanted this route, so people gave us like 11 papers in nine miles. And I said, “I’ll do this if you pay me in old coins.”

And so they would pay me like in Liberty half dollars, Standing Liberties, sometimes you’d get Indian Head cents. A few times around Christmas they’d hand me a bunch of large cents, 1841, 1844. And so by the time – and then I cashed that into a white metal detector; I got permission to all go around these buildings. And by the time I moved in ’69 from Maine I had a coin collection that was worth about $8,000

And so then I cashed that in and started an audio store called Lincoln Audio in Lincoln in my sophomore year. And I sold high-end audio equipment, I mean Crown, Face, Linear, Quad, Stacks. I mean those Tannoy – I mean even now those are all really, really high-end lines. 

But my senior year I sold out of that and then I started a company called Essence. When I got into the audio world basically very little else existed. I had – my first speaker was 20 – I got a big plastic ball and another plastic ball and I made a hollow, concrete box with a ten-inch coaxial Tannoy speaker in it. And that was my first speaker; I did that actually between my sophomore and junior years. And then my senior year I sold Lincoln Audio and I started Essence, and that grew to 28 employees. And at one point at the peak we were doing about $3 million a year.

I mean I had 300 clients. And Louisville, Kentucky was our primary market, and we developed this marketing program. So on bank cards we’d get like $20,000 a month from four clients and we were all building amps and speakers for them. It was great. I mean it’s a lot of fun building shit like that. 

My big speakers are – the subwoofers are 6-1/2 feet high, 24 inches deep, 18 inches wide and they are into their cast and they weigh 420 pounds and they’re flat to 14 Hertz. The subwoofers, we had them set up on engine stands. We’d take two engine stands and screw them to the end, and then you’d build the entire internal structure. And that was – it was a transmission line and a horn, both, at the same and it was continuous. On a lateral plane it would be a horn and on a horizontal plane it would be a transmission line. And then when it went over the top that would reverse.. I mean I’ll – I don’t want to –I’m really smart [laughs] – I mean I’m sorry, I don’t want to sound arrogant but I mean when I was a junior in Academy my phone bill was $1,400 a month.

So anyway, I had a different life at one time entirely.

But we had just gotten this niche, and we called it lunatic fringe because I mean somebody who spends $400,000 on a stereo is crazy. And like Joe Maziati in Louisville was the first one that broke the $300,000 barrier: a $340,000 home theater system, and it had $168,000 speakers with the six-and-a-half foot high subwoofers, and the first thing we stuck on that thing was this pressing, a two-disk 45 RPM pressing, of Holst’s “The Planets: Mars, Bringer of War,” and it’s got these kettle drums that come in. 

But get this:  my dad was a sculptor, right? And I had developed a friendship with a client in Louisville, Kentucky, Tom Marsh, and he had a system of mine, and it’s a really good system. It was a $60,000 speaker. 

Well see, the only reason they had electricity in the house was for him to run that stereo because in their house, which is all open, they had a huge loom, and they made their own clothes. And he dug the cloy on the ground on their 300 acre property, and he made the dyes out of the iron and everything else. And he studied in Japan for seven years and with Hopi Indians for seven years, and basically he was going to teach me everything that I could learn in a couple months. And I was trying to find a block of time that I would get together with him. 

And in his house he had this piece that was just beautiful. I mean it was basically folded clay, and he folded it up into this vase with three compartments. I mean some people might think it looked like junk. I mean it was a gorgeous piece of work. He had stuff in the Smithsonian.

And so I’m leaving for Marshfield Clinic, right, the UPS comes and there’s a box and this is in it. And there’s not even a note. And I’m thinking I should call – I had a spinal tap that went bad, and so I was seven days in Marshfield with a really bad infection, like red-not nails all the way up your neck and the back of your head for days. I got back and found out that he had committed suicide.

And so I called the store in Louisville to find out if they knew anything about what was going on. And he had gone in the – and see they made their own clothes, they grew their own food. The only thing that they had that was extravagant was the stereo. And I’d sit there with him and he’s put on Schubert and tears would just be rolling down his face. He’d just get so emotionally involved in the music. He was a wonderful person. 

And so Tom and Ginny, the dealer that I had, Larry Staples, turned out to have a really major gambling problem and he was very – he had a lot of – he was a wicked man. And he went to Ginny after Tom died and he said, “Look, I know that you’re actually thinking that you might lose your 300-acre property and I will take Tom’s stereo and sell it and give you everything and I won’t take a penny of it.”  He took Tom’s stereo and sold it, and he kept it all.

And I called up Gary Vitale and I said, “Could you run by the store? I’m not getting an answer.” And he called me back on his cell phone and his voice was just empty. He said, “The store is empty. There’s nothing there.” And Larry Staples had taken everything and put it into storage, and over the years he sold everything off. And so he stole $160,000 from me. I got Lyme’s and Tom Marsh died, all known in a three-day period. And Tom was like the person that could have been like one of my very best friends. I love Tom. I mean it was just wonderful being there. I mean they’re always making their own clothes on this huge loom. And so basically I went from 18 employees three months earlier, it’s been 28, to a single employee turning on the light in six months and lost my American Express Platinum Card. 

Well what happened is I got – I was on a backpack trip and I picked up a tick and got Lyme. And so once I got Lyme’s disease all of a sudden everything started dissolving because I couldn’t get out of bed for two years. I had arthritis so bad that basically I’d start moving a finger and it’d take me an hour to be moving my hand. And so in three hours I could get up. 

And I went to my doctor and I’d been putting tea tree oil on it, and my doctor in Lincoln, who owns my pre-amp speakers, you know, he’s got a vested interest in it, he said, “Well that’s just irritation from your tea tree oil.” And he was busy, and he just kind of blew me off. 

And a week later I was not feeling well, and I went back and I said, “I want a blood test.” And he came back – he called me up, called up down to the office and said, “Is Dale there?” And he came down and he went to the cooler and he got a glass of water and he got antibiotics out and put them in my hand, and said, “I’m not leaving until you take those.” 

And I went up to Marshfield in Wisconsin, which is kind of like the Mayo for Lyme’s. And I was treated with rocephin, which is a fluid antibiotic, and they just – I caught it too late. And if you don’t – at that point in time – and I don’t think it’s really changed – if you don’t get treatment with antibiotics within a ten-day window the spirochetes get into your tissues and you can never get them out. And since then I’ve done hyperbaric treatments, where you go into a hyperbaric chamber at two atmospheres of oxygen with IV antibiotics, and you do that for like three days a week for two weeks and you feel like absolute crap. But then you go into remission for like eight, nine months. And then I went and did the thermal treatment where they raise your body temperature up to 106 for as long as you can stand it, and they pack your chest and your head in ice, and you can’t even imagine how miserable that is. I mean as soon as that – you get up to 103 you want it to stop. But that’s what – the temperature kills the spirochetes. And then you might get another six to eight months.

And so about three days a month I have an enormous reduction in cognizance. I mean it’s like an eight-foot wall of water. I mean that’s the way I describe it. It’s like voices come echoing through, and you’re trying to decipher what it is. It’s an eight-foot wall of water, and you can’t hear. I mean I’ve dealt with that. The first two years I couldn’t complete a sentence.

And then over the years I found – and I’d bought, in a school campus in Torrington, Wyoming – I had put a $5,000 deposit down on this campus, and we were going to bring all of our business in, and there was a $200 million fund to bring high-tech businesses. And it was going – but my wife was bipolar and like we’d go through three office managers in a weeks; 15 minutes everything could be absolutely normal, and then 15 minutes later everybody’d be driving away because there’s absolutely hell. And when she got pregnant she said, “You’ve got to be –” and I was driving from Lincoln all the way to Torrington, Wyoming, as many times as twice a week, you know, all night long. And I’d be out in Torrington for three days and then all night long and then I’d be in Lincoln. It’s killing me, right? And I was trying to resurrect the business and I had gotten it back up to about five employees and it was showing hope. And then when that happened I just sold – I gave the entire business to Tom for $1. 

When my wife got pregnant, and that would have been 18 years ago. I seen my son – she abducted my son from her mom’s wedding. Her mom asked me to compose and play at her wedding; Caleb was released to me from Cleo Wallace Institute. Caleb was in therapy at three-and-a-half. I mean Sharon would pull him into the middle of every bipolar episode, and have him play out the middle. But Caleb, my son, made the mistake of stealing a wallet, and unfortunately the wallet had over $100 in hit and it was in a mail truck. Federal felony: breaking in a mail truck. You know, and so he ended up – and he needed therapy so bad. I mean Sharon would – every single time he got into therapy it would get sabotaged by Sharon, and so he was a mess. He’s a mess now. And she’s got him. 

In Columbus, Ohio we had a seminar with Wadia, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra was invited over after a concert they did, and Art Delorenzo was good friends with the conductor. And so all of these people show up, and several people in the string section were just blown away. I mean the Gem – I have never seen a Gem for sale. We built over 400 of them, and I’m not aware of a single person that has ever sold one of them because at $1,200 it was a monster. I could bring that speaker out again. I could get a life again. I’ve got to get off the damn streets.

There’s no path. I’ve been trying for a year. I fell into a culvert six weeks ago. I wasn’t found for three days. The first night I decided I would die. I just said – I fell two feet and I fell on rocks and I had my neck all screwed up and tore my groin out where I had – I have surgery for that because that was where they did the incision for the catheter when I had three holes in my side. 

And the first night I decided I’d just let it go. I said, “I’m not going to make it through the night. It’s cold.” And I said, “I’m just crushed here. I’m just going to let it go.” And frankly it was just amazing; everything started feeling good. And then I got really scared. I said, “Well I am going to die.”

And so basically somebody gave me a bus ticket to Denver and then I build everything back up to the place where I had a lease on this building, and all I needed was $5,500 and $2,000 was going for first and last month’s rent. I had a guy in Lincoln that was going to go to Des Moines with a trailer and pick up all of the stuff out of the airplane hangar that was there and bring it out here and I was going to have a lab. And then this happened to me in Greeley on my hand. 

And I’ve been on the street with this hand; this happened January 16th of last year. And so I mean I want to get off the street. I want to get back; I want a life again. I mean right now Danai at the senior center is really trying to help me out. And I finally got my birth certificate. I mean that took months because my Wyoming driver’s license was a temporary license and then the hospital lost my wallet. And then I couldn’t get another license within a birth certificate. My license in Wyoming goes – I think it’s good for another three months. I mean if I took my birth certificate up to Torrington, Wyoming they’d just hand me another driver’s license. 

I mean but I can’t get to Torrington, Wyoming to do it. That’s two-and-a-half hours north. I have no transportation, I have no money. I had to become a Colorado resident before I get any health care at all. I mean Stout Street Clinic would essentially give me aspirin. I mean I couldn’t even get anything. I mean I was sleeping up in the park, this guy came up in a police car, and it’s cold outside and I actually have a decent sleeping bag, which I lost now. And he just pulls up to me and drives right up to me and just blares his horn. I said, “This is really fucked,” and so I just ignored him. And I’m almost deaf so that’s easier to do. And after about five minutes he got out and kicked my feet and said, “Move.” 

But anyway, I mean there is no reason – I’ve died on the street over and over. I mean I’ve crawled underneath fir trees, knowing that my chance of surviving the night was almost zero. I had a crate – I had pallets set up into a tent-like structure, lined with cardboard halfway and it protected me from the wind. And last February it started to rain in the middle of the night and it took me three hours to get underneath a bridge, and I sat there, thinking, “I will not make it.” I was soaked.

How is it that they could leave somebody out – like me, out on the street? Everybody in the system knows about me. And yet six weeks ago I was moved two nights in a row by the police. And so I got no sleep. And then the following night I was so exhausted that I couldn’t see a culvert and I fell in it. I mean that’s fucked. 

So anyway, I’m trying to figure out what to do. I have a wood shop that’s interested in working with me, and I’m thinking that basically I’m just going to see if I can’t take a bunch of street people and make a company out of it. I mean I was doing $3 million a year; I know how to run a company. I know how to run a company real well. I mean basically I want to see if I can’t – I would love to basically take 20 street people and within six months have them making $20 an hour. I’d have them make – I have a speaker design that – and then, get this, we would send the metal – we had – in Wyoming I had cryo tanks. You would not believe the difference between a record after it’s been cryoed. You take a record that’s warped and when that metal mother comes down and it stamps the vinyl and it squeezes that glob of vinyl out, when that press releases that record is dead flat. But when it’s popped out of the mold it starts to warp. 

And so I mean I have all of this shit going on and I have to compartmentalize that my son is turning 18 – he can do anything he damn well pleases at this point in time. And that includes coming to Denver and hang out with me. But I just have to have a place for them to hang out with me. I don’t want them hanging out with me on the street. And nobody – I was in Morrison for five months and the center there, Bear Creek Center, after the hospitalization, they dumped me on the street cold when I was doing ten milligrams of oxycodone every three hours. And so I had to deal with the oxycodone withdrawal.

And so what I want to do, I’ve got a wood shop that will work with me. And so basically this little speaker – you know, there’s a dozen ways to do it, but you could bring out a speaker for $1,500 a pair that will blow people’s minds that you’d be building for $300 a pair. And then you pay street people 20 bucks an hour to build it and you basically –well, I mean here’s – you structure it so that they’re not employees. They’re one percent owners in the company because in a sub S company if you own one percent you take owner draws, rather than being paid and having any withdrawals done.

Well, an owner draw is not taxable. So if we make the company so that all the money dumps forward, which is what everybody that’s smart does, then at the end of the year there’s no profit, even though the company is in a far better position. And so these people have been taking $400 a week every single week, and they can get it in cash. You’d have to write a receipt out. And they could change their lives, and the company could take 22 percent of the profits and dump that back down onto the street. 

I mean if I’m dumped here, you know, I have to say that if I’m dumped here it may or may not be for any reason, but I see shit on the street that makes me sick. I see a pile of stuff on the sidewalk that obviously belonged to a girl, that might have been 18 or 20 with a bag that says “Personal belongings” that you see probably came from a hospital, and all of her stuff is strewn out on the street, and you think somebody probably just came by in a car and grabbed her and took her away. And here’s this pile of this girl’s belongings and she’s probably dead. 

And you don’t have to go very long on the streets before you see those piles. You don’t have to – you find three of them a week, easy enough. Those people don’t belong on the streets – and neither do I. What I see is – you know, I had two sleeping bags – and I was put in an impossible position of having to move stuff. With my groin I don’t walk very fast. I use a crutch; I can’t lift anything with this hand. And if I’ve got a big pile of stuff on the street I’m dragging it down a third of the block; another pile a third of the block; another pile a third of the block. So nine times in a block to move this damn pile. And people are going behind me and just stealing my stuff. 

And the first thing that I lost was the zero-degree sleeping bag. And I look at it and I say, “Okay, somebody stole my sleeping bag. They’re no different than me. They’re freezing to death on the street.” I mean it’s like did you ever read Grapes of Wrath? Where the guy is walking away with the chickens and he gets shot in the back and he just sinks in the ground, just totally sinks. I mean I understand that exactly. I just – you know, but in all of this time –

I mean I remember going to a Hi-V store because I needed to use the bathroom, and they directed me in the back, and right behind the bathroom there was a big crate of fruit that it looked like they were going to throw away. And I said, “You know, they’re just going to toss that banana. I think I’ll eat it.” And then I said, “You know, I just can’t do that.” I just can’t take something that’s not mine. I just can’t.

You live out an experience, and you live out an experience, and you can’t imagine what the experience is until you go through it. You know, freezing on the street, you know, I mean many nights – a lady named Cynthia Rogers, a good friend of mine in Plymouth, Minnesota. She came and visited me when I was out in Morrison. I went up to the library, and it was taking me – I was at Samaritan – or Salvation Army sick room; it would take me all day to get up to the library, and if the library closed at 4:00 I’d have a five-minute window. And I sent her – the computers were about to shut down and I said, “Send me hope and warmth,” and then the computer shut down because the library was closing. 

And so basically I walked – I knew that it was going to take me at least four hours in the cold to get back. And I got to the 16th Street shuttle and I sat – I have it here someplace – I got to the 16th Street shuttle and I sat down on the seat, and next to me there was a purple, 5×7 index card, and I turned it over and it said, “Hope.” What do you do with that? I mean the odds of that happening are one in ten trillion, and I had that here in my pocket until the card was so ragged that I just put it in a plastic bag and set it aside because it was – but I lived off of that. I’ve taken that card out many times. 

People everywhere are becoming more of what they actually are. That’s what I see. And I see – and it’s easier to see it in street people. I mean there was – you know, and it’s so easy to make judgments on people when you don’t know them. And I mean obviously you’re down in city mission you don’t know any of these people, right? 

But there was a lady that was trying to walk, and she kept falling down. And this lady that I knew remotely just came over and just wrapped her arms around her and said, “It’s going to be okay,” and stayed with her for like probably 45 minutes before the paramedics. And she tried to walk a couple more times. 

And I see – you know, it’s not an inherent goodness it’s a developed goodness. It’s people deciding that they’re going to exercise empathy and kindness. And then on the opposite side –I mean I was upstairs in the chapel sleeping, and someone just started shouting on the other side, and there were two people that were holding knives, which that doesn’t go over real well in the mission – knife fights really don’t fly. But I would say that there’s an enormous, higher degree of transparency on people that are on the street. 

So no, I think – I mean if you live in a place where you’re eating well and you’ve got a good place to live and you drive a nice car basically you have a wall of your vested interest where you don’t even see people that are on the street. 

I’ll give you an example – get this:  I had some people – I was in real trouble – and I said, “I need to get taken to Porter Hospital.” I was at St. Francis Center and I said, “I will be right out, sitting by the door.” These people came down and looked for me for over two hours and they couldn’t even see me. They couldn’t even see me. And I was sitting right there. I think that tells you a little bit — 

[fade back to crowd noises]