"The Downfall"

I first met Arnold professionally. He was advertising manager for a national brewer and I met him while he was in Los Angeles on a marketing survey. At that time I would say he was in his late 40s, articulate, knowledgeable, serious minded and seemingly with all the marks of a successful career.

We became well acquainted and thereafter he would call me for lunch or dinner whenever he was in Southern California. I did not know much of his personal life except that he was married, lived in a Midwestern city, belonged to a country club and seemed secure in his position and life-style.

Somehow all of this changed rapidly and I never did discover why. First he called one day to say that he has lost his position as advertising manager but that he wanted us to keep in touch. A few months later we met in Los Angeles and he said he was moving to Palm Springs. At this meeting he casually stated that his wife had left him..

Losing both an excellent position and a wife seemed enough distress for anyone but it continued. Once in Palm Springs he dropped me a note with his address and phone number and asked to drop by if I was in the area.

As it happened shortly thereafter I was in Palm Springs to cover a convention of retail liquor dealers. I called Arnold and suggested he join me at a social event of the meeting. He asked me to come by and pick him up and I did so. I was shocked to see he was living in a small two room apartment that looked like it had been furnished from a thrift store. He did not have a car.

We went to the cocktail party and then dinner and had a nice visit. I made sure to pick up the tab. While I knew him and liked him I could not bring myself to comment on his present situation or how it had come about. And he volunteered nothing on the subject. I never discovered the reason for his so dramatic decline in fortune. I knew he did not have a drinking problem.

Sometimes in the course of my duties I went years without going to Palm Springs. However at this particular period of time it just happened that I was there for several different meetings and events and I always called him and we would have a short visit together. He was not working and I have no idea on how he spent his time. He always seemed grateful for our visits generally over lunch or dinner.

The last time I saw him proved terribly embarrassing for both of us and it was mostly my fault. It was a liquor industry convention and I invited Arnold to accompany me to one of the social events. Here I met a distillery executive who I knew very well. In fact we often played golf together.

He invited me up to his suite where he would be entertaining some special guests. When I did go Arnold followed along with me. I did not object. Generally at these functions the hospitality was so generous and expansive one more person seemed unimportant. In this premise, at least in this instance, I was wrong. There were probably a dozen people in the suite , most of them I knew at least slightly.

But when Arnold followed me into the room the host stepped up and told him coldly that this party was for his friends. I was taken aback and did not know what to do. But the Host grabbed my arm and said, "get in here you old hacker." Arnold never said a word but just literally slunk away down the hotel corridor, a more beaten man would have been hard to find. It was some time before I again got to the desert but I did not try to contact Arnold, nor he me. For me it was too painful to see his plight. In all my years in Journalism I never knew anyone who went from what appeared to be a successful business career to a lonely dismal existence in such a short time.

Last Update:9/1/12

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