The Eye of the Storm
My career as a late artist began innocently enough some years ago shortly after Hurricane Andrew. Vivian the person and Vivian Greene, Inc., both survived the storm. The company where I stored my business's archives, Goldcoast Graphics, did not.
The work of 18 years of my life—the plates and negatives for more than 500 designs—was gone with the wind. Fortunately, we still had our current inventory and work in progress safely stored in the undamaged part of my 15,000 square foot warehouse. And we were offered a tremendous opportunity by Hawaii publisher Island Heritage to emerge from the rubble of Andrew stronger than ever.
Island Heritage was like a twin of my company, except they only sold in Hawaii. Working together, I could expand their distribution on the mainland and they could print my products in their Hong Kong and Nevada facilities. It would be a nice marriage—of skills, expertise, and connections. I would have to relocate to Hawaii and ship my inventory, but the potential for success far outweighed any inconvenience.
It looked as if my life was getting even better when the then-president of the local franchise of Allied Van Lines, Wayne Alden Barnett, answered a classified ad to rent my Miami waterfront home. I needed to rent out my house and ship my life to the other side of the country, and here was someone who could do both. We agreed to both deals. However, he wanted to move into my house sooner than I was ready to leave. His family of five, like so many in post-Andrew Miami, was crammed into one hotel room.
Mr. Barnett was very obliging. To help expedite my departure, he asked to rent my furnishings, too, even my artwork on the walls. He and his bookkeeper offered to help me pack. I wanted to help him and his family, so I moved out early and stayed with friends for a few weeks during the time my company's inventory was to be in transit. I had plans to arrive in Hawaii at the same time as my belongings and stay in the home of my friend Dr. Daniel Susott, the founder of World Family Foundation.
I arrived in Hawaii on schedule. My
belongings and inventory never did. Nothing, nada, not one thing.
I scrambled to do what I could. We had orders to fill from stores, charities, and even our debut on the Home Shopping Network. With no original artwork, negatives or plates, I had to purchase my own cards from the store shelves just to recreate a handful of our hundreds of designs.
Mr. Barnett did leave me a few things to remember him by - a basketball hoop inside my beautiful white on white bedroom and a gaping burn hole in my patio awning directly above the burnt pit on my broken white tiles. My giant gold veiled angel fish were still in my 90 gallon tank - but the water and filter system were gone, and the angel fish I had raised from babies were indeed angels now, floating dead in the remaining nine inches of mosquito-infested water. A poor, emaciated kitten I had never seen before was left behind, too.
Nothing but destruction was left
For the first time in 18 years, I had to let go of my employees. These weren't just my workers—they were my friends, people who had built Kisses from the ground up into a multi-million dollar company and made the Kisses brand a household name.
My home and business had made it through Hurricane Andrew, but they were decimated by Hurricane Allied.
Death Becomes Her?
Yes, we sued. Yes, we won. No, we still haven't collected on the judgment. While it's true that justice is only as good as you can afford, perhaps it's also because while I was passing through the court system, parts of the federal government decided I had passed from this world. (I know the court system can be slow, but I hoped to live long enough to see the end of this case.)
Maybe they thought I died because Kisses quit appearing. Or maybe it was because I was hit by other drivers in three different car accidents, which GEICO generously reported as six. (They even declared me at fault for one of them, even though I was a passenger.) Or perhaps it was because the debts I incurred when my ID was stolen could kill anyone.
To replace my stolen ID I was required to get a physical social security card at the office in Honolulu. The supervisor told me I was dead. Later I was also told that I had stolen my own car. No one explained how a dead person could do that. Then my car in Miami got a ticket, which was a neat trick as I was in Hawaii and the car was in storage. Maybe it was the Ghost of Success Past at the wheel.