Career Coaching Backstory #5: Cleveland – The Script, Song & Show

Career Coaching Backstory #4: Catching The Social Media Bug
November 5, 2015
Career Coaching Backstory #6: The Big 2008 Crash
November 9, 2015
“cleveland, i gave you
the poems that no one ever
wrote about you
and you gave me
NOTHING” – d.a.levi

In 2007, life was great. I found my groove within the company that hired me. The cash was good. I lived downtown in a swanky 2-bedroom, 2-bath crib. My passport took me overseas. And just four years into living in the 216 I made some truly fantastic friends. And, oh, the Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the playoffs.


My one neighbor Miguelle and I attended a few key Cavs games, including the Cavs/Pistons conference final. And because we lived so close, we’d just walk to the games. The two of us felt like we owned the city. And everywhere we went, we met more cool people doing more cool things. By that point I had befriended additional building neighbors. We branded ourselves The Statler 7. People had just started to move into the city, and here we were, already living downtown, watching it evolve. We weren’t some sort of drinking buddies or casual social acquaintances. We became best friends. And living where we did? We were pioneers.


The night of the last Cavs/Spurs game of the season played here and that day my neighbor Sonia texted me asking if we can do dinner. She had a rough day at her healthcare job and needed to clear the mind. So she knocked on my door, we took the elevator down, made a right on Euclid and walked over to East 4th Street. The once desolate block with only Pickwick and a shut down corner Wendy’s had just begun to prosper.


After dinner el fresco, Sonia and I decided to take a walk by the stadium. She and I had mastered the art of the downtown walk, complete with cameras and water bottles in hand. We loved exploring the city. We’d sneak into buildings we weren’t supposed to, defy the weather during the Midwest winter and have some of the most meaningful conversations on these excursions. So the night when all the world’s eyeballs were on our newly adopted city, we headed right towards the stadium.


As we approached Quicken Loans Arena (aka The Q), I noticed something wild happening. “Sonia,” I said, “Do you see what I see? Every cop – in car, on horse, on motorcycle – is here right now. Do you know what that means? There’s places in Cleveland right now where there no cops. It’s a perfect night for a crime to be committed.” Without blinking an eye, Sonia looked at me and said, “And you go write that story.”


Taking her advice to heart, I tapped into Evan Lieberman, another Statlerite, the one with with the PhD in film, and asked him to help me get a script ready. Ever the storyteller, the screenplay format would be a very new medium for me. “Go get Syd Field’s Screenplay,” Evan said. And so I did. And began to learn the structure and formatting. Evan reviewed some of my initial pages and also spent some time looking over all my 216 photos, teaching me how to edit them.


Then one fall evening, after reading about the late Cleveland poet d.a. levi, I woke up in the middle of the night, in cold sweat, grabbed the notebook on my nightstand and started writing words. I didn’t know where they came from. I simply felt like the medium thru which they took life. When I woke up in the morning, I felt exhausted. No, I felt sick. And when I looked at my notebook, I saw I had written a long poem.


Tapping into my coworker Vanessa Daffron, a trained musician, Statlerite Daniel and, once more, Evan, we produced the poem into a song, took it to a recording studio and even put together a music video. The latter was a simple slide show of all the photos I’ve taken of Cleveland, and the rehearsals, and with the help of a my new friend friend Glenn, it made it to YouTube. Meanwhile, on coordination with the script and the song, the company where I worked hosted my photography exhibit.


I called the exhibit and the song “Cleveland Rising,” seven years before C-Town made it a hashtag. And the script? Well, in it a murder takes place by an MLK bridge. That ended up happening. Also, in the pages of my story, two nemesis battle over our first casino. The Horseshoe opened its doors in 2012.


And, so the roots that planted themselves on that fateful summer day in 2007, when the Cavs lost to the Spurs, all blossomed into a screenplay, a song and a photography exhibit in 2008.


In early November 2008, a fellow Simon Alum and local friend Jeff emailed me and said, “There’s an event at the Maltz Museum. The new Cleveland Film Commissioner will be there. You need to go and introduce yourself.” And so I did. After brief formalities, we had this exchange:


“I have a script. Can I send it to you?”

“Here’s my card,” he replied. “Give me a call.”

“How about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving?”

“That works.”


The winds of life – the weather, the economy and the energy at my job had all shifted. Something was up in the air. I just didn’t know how serendipitous the timing of my completed script was.


Next month I would.



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