Cliffhanger Research and Development: Doing the right thing even when it hurts

As I was writing The Curse of Fort Seven Mile there was an unusual opportunity to make mention of Cliffhanger Research and Development which is a name directly from my past. I Googled the name and found nothing, primarily because it was so long ago that the Internet had not yet been offered to the public, so it never had a webpage or online presence. But it did exist in reality once, and now it is still deep within me and will carry on in the story of Cliffhanger. But I thought the company deserved an online presence and an explanation for my readers which will inevitably be desired later.

I had a history all through my youth of telling those in authority how they should conduct their lives. I was bored to death in school and had no interest in it outside of the 2nd grade. Everything after that was simply a gradual withdrawal from a sick and twisted system. Occasionally I would tell a teacher how they should teach better—and I would do so just to try to stay engaged—but it never worked. So I tuned those education elements out of my life completely. I deemed them completely worthless and wasteful. The moment I could escape from them, I did and I never looked back with an ounce of regret.


Right out of high school I made more money as a car salesman than any of the adults I knew at the time so their constant uttering’s about college made no sense to me. I did attend the higher institution several times, but it was just as ridiculously stupid as public school was, so I eventually left to start my own company. Back then, even at 22 years of age I had a history of telling the presidents and owners of the companies I worked for how they should conduct their business. Some of these were big companies with very wealthy and arrogant owners and the last thing they wanted to hear was some young kid telling them how they could maximize their profits, and create new product lines for their future. It was a kind of running joke among the work forces that were around me at the time that I would produce these lengthy, extravagant letters telling company owners how to do their job—and I often let them have it heavily when I did such a thing. One company I had worked at for a number of years (19 to 22 years old)—was good honest factory work, but was a hard place filled with hard people. It had a terrible morale problem. I wrote the president a letter telling him that he could solve the problem by coming down out of his office and shaking hands with the people who made him money. I told him such actions were free and that he could wash his hands off when he was done—and it would do wonders for his productivity. I sent the letter through my floor supervisor who thought I was out of my mind. But he couldn’t disagree with a thing I said, just that the letter was harsh.

The president took the letter hard, and became very angry but did the things I told him to do. He thanked me a year later for an increase in profit of nearly 10%. This was a combination of a lot of things—most of which was directly attributed to decreased employee turnover. So that president sought me out often to help make key decisions in the future. This is a relationship that I would take with me at virtually every place I was ever employed in the future.

I was bold with my words because I have never in my life feared losing a job. I have always viewed employment as a kind of consultation job where my real passions resided in my personal endeavors. I never intended to hold a traditional job, so I had no concern about pissing off my bosses, just as I never cared to piss off my teachers. Compliance to authority figures is just never something I had a desire to do at any point in my life. Maybe as a small child I wanted to make my parents happy during the learning stages of reading, identifying colors, and walking, but this quickly went away. I always did intend to be self-employed as my mind was an idea factory that never shut off. And I was tapped into it 24/7.


At the age of 19 I filed for my first patent, a new kind of tool called a torque socket extension. I had a very negative experience working with a company that markets new inventions determining it to be a complete scam. So I started my own company called Cliffhanger Research and Development. It was to be an R&D company that would do everything from advanced machining to advanced medical breakthroughs. Instead of telling other companies how to conduct their lives and businesses, I would just let them follow the lead of Cliffhanger Research and Development. It was called Cliffhanger because the ideas were from the cutting edge of reality.

I had a whole list of projects to develop under Cliffhanger Research and Development and the start of them took me on quite an adventure. I ended up in court many times, speaking to the mayors of cities often, and running up against a lot of resistance primarily due to my age. I wasn’t yet 25 years old, so there were always mountains of skepticism that had to be overcome just in the perception of other people’s realities. I was friends with people who took $10,000 lunches daily and had many of them eager to listen to my advice. They didn’t discriminate against me for my age; they just listened as they were always on the look-out for a competitive edge.


One of my Cliffhanger projects took me to a trade show at the McCormick Center in Chicago. It was a funding mechanism intended to drive revenue to all the other projects on the table, so it was a big deal to me. I risked everything to show up for this convention as it was one of those pinnacle life moments. I had quit my good job in Ohio and sent my family down to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to purchase property for the move of our company headquarters there. To cover income in the mean time I picked up two jobs until revenue from the McCormick convention started paying off—I was set to be a roller coaster operator at Dollywood, and at night I was going to be a waiter at the Pigeon Forge Shoney’s. That would cover the loss in income from my day job in Cincinnati.


While in Chicago I learned several harsh realities that were life-changing. Even though many of the rich friends that I had warned me, I hoped that my ideas would punch through their skepticism. But youth in this case worked against me, because what worked in my mind could not be applied to a society not functioning from the same illumination. What I learned at the McCormick Center in the summer of 1994 was that what mattered more than what you knew and could invent was who you knew and what they could do for you. That was a concept that I simply rejected, and it cost me a lot of money to walk away from. I would not allow Cliffhanger Research and Development to become hen-pecked by lecherous governments, corrupt deal makers, and barnacle like lawyers. So I walked away from a deal in Chicago that could have set me up for life, but destroyed my company with an infusion of influences that were not unlike the many company presidents whom I had insulted for being complete idiots. It became clear to me that what made those company presidents idiots was their allowance of these influences into their life and biting on the temptation to sell-out their origin ideals in trade for financial security. I did not have the money to take Cliffhanger Research and Development to the next level without help, and I couldn’t accept the type of help being offered because the conditions allowed for complete louses to piggy-back off my efforts for no other reason than they brought money to the table—money obtained through political maneuvers that were very disingenuous.


I knew a scam when I saw it. As a car salesman right out of high school there was money laundering going on at the highest level of that company meant to disguise drug sales. I learned a lot by watching that place operate from behind the scenes and would listen with interest how the local police were all in on the deal. Most of the money being made was not through cars, it was in the sale of drugs. I saw as a very young man how the top and bottom of society fed off each other. So I quit that job in favor of an honest factory job—there I saw much the same type of thing between the company president and the local political establishment. He’d often take politicians out onto his boat on the Ohio River to schmooze for tax breaks and shelters. He wrecked that boat and got into a lot of trouble with a young woman who wasn’t much older than I was at the time causing me to loose much disrespect for the guy. And even when I wanted to file a patent for new inventions, the leeches were there to suck off the top of other people’s ideas and water them down with their infusion. Now in Chicago the deals were epic—to get the money you’d have to sign away your rights essentially to the creative process—and this was the reason I created Cliffhanger Research and Development in the first place.

My wife and I had a hard discussion in a Gatlinburg restaurant to make. Our entire lives were at risk. We had sold our house; our realtor had screwed up that deal as well leaving us in a world of hurt. To make the deal in Chicago would essentially kill the other purposes I had for Cliffhanger Research and Development. It would be absorbed by a larger conglomerate not yet even arriving to an age of its own maturity. It was like feeding a child of mine to a dirty old sex pervert for their temporary gratification and it hurt.   So we decided to abandon the Chicago deal, abandon the Gatlinburg headquarters, and go back to Cincinnati to fight it out to keep our home. That’s what we did for the next several years.


Coming back to Cincinnati I served as my own attorney in challenging our realtor. I served as our own attorney in covering several law suits which tried to prevent our exodus from the type of consumption being set up in Chicago and nobody understood why my wife and I were upset. All we had to do was take the money, and we’d be wealthy—which is why people went to college, built careers, and sold themselves out politically to others—was to get money.   People in the know thought that my desire to preserve my intentions for Cliffhanger Research and Development was youthful naïveté and simply didn’t understand what drove our intellectual decisions. In the realtor case and the Cliffhanger case it was ownership that I was after, the ability to retain my rights so that I could navigate them to success. And in that process were hordes of second handers who simply existed as barnacles—parasites to creative thought.


There hasn’t been a good second opportunity to put the name of Cliffhanger Research and Development back into the competitive marketplace. As my wife and I discussed at the Gatlinburg restaurant many years ago, I had other things I could do so I was never desperate for the money—and was never in a strategic position where I had to sell out Cliffhanger Research and Development to lesser minds. So I turned to writing because it allowed an author to make the world not necessarily as it is, but as it should be. Making Cliffhanger the main character of these future stories about a vigilante who used to be a CEO of Cliffhanger Research and Development allows me to paint the world as I think it should have been that day at the McCormick Center. It allows me to correct the mistakes that humanity has made and to put the world as it should be within the context of Cliffhanger.


Needless to say, there is an edge to Cliffhanger that is uncompromising. I write things there that few publishers would allow today in our politically correct world. I write Cliffhanger with the same spirit that I operated Cliffhanger Research and Development under. My wife likes that character because he is uncompromisingly good—like herself. And when we talked about what to do about the R&D company while in Gatlinburg it was her idea to put all these stories into a fictional context so people might learn from them. It has taken a while to put the proper emotional distance behind me to deal with the type of plot lines that are involved in the Cliffhanger stories—and this is what has lead to these present decisions.

Now you know a bit about my past dear reader, that I have not previously revealed. It is the reason that I write so much on this blog and elsewhere, and why there is an uncompromising approach to the material. Much stronger forces have tried to quell that self-assuredness when I was much, much, younger, so there isn’t any chance now of reaching through to my sensitivities and con me into a lighter approach.


As I made the decision to preserve Cliffhanger Research and Development within my own heart and soul by turning down significant amounts of money to retain my intellectual property, I will do the same with Cliffhanger and all the stories that follow—because I can. I don’t need to bend myself to the shape-shifters of the times. I think it is ironic that H.P. Lovecraft the pulp writer from the 1920s is just now obtaining a marketplace respect. He died extremely poverty stricken because there was no value for his stories in the roaring twenties by an industry concerned about other types of things. Now it is impossible to go to a Barnes and Noble book store and not see some reference to H.P. Lovecraft. I suspect that Cliffhanger will have the same type of transition—the immediacy of the political moment will find him reprehensible. But history will come to love him long after our days have extinguished. And that will be fine with me. The reason to do anything is because it’s the right thing to do, and as often has been proven—the masses do not have a clue as to what that is. I use Cliffhanger to articulate that righteousness through the hazes of confusion that have been purposely placed to consume our thoughts toward irrationality. Some things are more important than social acceptance and it is in that long view that Cliffhanger Research and Development will exist in immortality.

Rich Hoffman