Archive

Monthly Archives: October 2015

By Tom Demerly.

coldwar10

“Our greatest calling as soldiers is to create a world that is secure for all mankind. Free of war, tyranny and oppression. Equitable and tolerant. If we do our jobs we render ourselves obsolete, so we are remembered in museums and quiet parks by regal memorials.”

I wrote that for the graduating class of the U.S. Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, Cycle C-6-1 in 1982. I was the honor graduate of my first military school, a combined course of instruction for new soldiers called “OSUT” or “One Station Unit Training”. It was an efficient factory that turned out good soldiers. We were supposed to stem the tide of the red menace we feared would blow through the Iron Curtain like a steel hurricane and storm across Europe to push liberty and democracy into the Atlantic under the crushing torrent of Communism.

We were ready to fight. We just never knew what war we would be fighting. “A war with no battles, no monuments… only casualties” as Tom Clancy wrote in The Hunt for Red October.

This week two incredible monuments of this Cold War were consigned to museums and displays. And their internment is symbolic of the end of this terrible era.

coldwar50

The last flying Avro Vulcan, XH558, at an airshow appearance earlier this year.

The only flyable Avro Vulcan Bomber, aircraft number XH558 made her final flight this week. The four jet engines that power the massive, bat-like bomber have been declared too old to fly safely so she returns to the surly bonds of earth as a relic.

The day before the only surviving North American XB-70 Valkyrie was wheeled to a new and permanent indoor display facility at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

1948176_10153777466714309_4764320602961335253_n

The only remaining North American XB-70 Valkyrie being towed to its final exhibition building at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

These two giant bombers were designed to deliver nuclear mega-death in an atomic slugfest that thankfully never came. Some strategists who espouse the deterrent theory suggest that it is because these bombers flew that the Cold War never got hot.

The two aircraft are quite different. The Avro Vulcan was an operational jet bomber used by Britain’s Royal Air Force. She wore a huge cloak of camouflage and the red/blue roundels of The Empire. The Vulcan saw combat in the 1982 Falklands war when she launched long-range bombing raids on Argentinean positions in Port Stanley in support of a British invasion. Vulcans flew a complex 3,914-mile transit one-way to their targets after leaving an airbase on Ascension Island. They relied on a relay system of aerial tankers to refuel them. The Vulcan was also a star of the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball in which a nuclear-armed Vulcan is hijacked to the Caribbean and its atomic bombs ransomed by an evil network.

The Rockwell XB-70 Valkyrie’s lineage is less illustrious but no less sensational. The XB-70 was a massive, six-engine supersonic jet bomber intended to penetrate Soviet airspace over the arctic at three times the speed of sound. Then it would level Russian cities with nuclear megadeath. The Valkyrie wasn’t a total disaster, but very close to it. One of the two prototypes crashed in an ill-fated publicity photo shoot in the California desert, killing two test pilots. The single remaining Valkyrie was subsequently grounded. The program cancelled. It became an elephant as white as its gleaming, heat resistant paint. An impossible fist of an airplane for a conflict decided in whispers.

And so the big cold war bombers are consigned to the ground. To the museums. Their stories will be told and retold. They will be cleaned and preserved and shined and photographed. Boy Scouts and school children and old men will visit them.

While the internment of these two massive Cold War relics signals the passage of a dangerous era it is an irony that a new mega-bomber project, the “LRS-B” or Long Range Strike Bomber was awarded to Northrup Grumman this same week.

On Wednesday Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the U.S. Air Force announced that Northrop Grumman won the development contract over competitors Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The program is expected to generate $55 billion in revenue for Northrup Grumman over its life making it one of the largest defense acquisition programs in history.

coldwar30

Artist’s concept of the LRS-B bomber project awarded this week to Northrup Grumman.

Some believe the next secret stealth bomber has already been seen, and photographed, over the American southwest when photographers got long range photos of a mysterious flying triangle.

One member of the mega-bomber club absent from the party due to work obligations is the venerable Boeing B-52. The B-52 still flies operationally. It is 52 years old this year. The aircraft is much older than the crews who fly it, and there is no end in sight for the giant, eight-engine “BUFF”. In fact one B-52 stored at the Aviation Maintenance and Restoration Group facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona for eight years was actually returned to service after being refurbished.

While the consignment of the Vulcan and the XB-70 to static displays signify the end of the Cold War they don’t signal the end of conflict I hoped for back at Fort Benning. The conflict between ideologies continues, in some ways more like ancient war than modern conflict. While it is solemn and peaceful to say goodbye to these graceful leviathans it is also worth reflecting on the fact that their replacements have likely long been in the air, veiled in secrecy and flying from remote desert runways. For, as the often misattributed but entirely accurate quote goes, and contrary to my flowery and hopeful speech as a young soldier, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”.

Advertisements

By Tom Demerly.

LiamMcMahon

Years ago when I had a bike shop on Mason street in West Dearborn a young lad of about twelve came in with his BMX bike. He was a tall, thin, quiet kid. He wheeled the bike in the small store and waited patiently while we finished up with other customers and our important conversations. Then we got to him.

“My bike makes a noise.”

I rode his BMX bike a few pedal strokes outside, it indeed made a noise. We tightened something. It stopped.

“Thank you.”

He left.

The next day he was back.

“My bike makes another noise.”

I rode it again but could hear no noise. I went over the various components of the bike that could make noise and demonstrated they were in good adjustment. He said, “Thank you” and left.

This process repeated every day for about two weeks. Finally I said, “Hey, would you have any interest in working here at the bike shop after school or on the weekends sometimes? I’d have to talk to your Mom but if it is OK with her it would be fine with us. You seem to like to hang out here.”

He said, “Thank you” and left.

The next day he came up to the shop with his Mom, a delightful woman whom June Cleaver could have taken tips from. She was the archetypical perfect mother.

Colin McMahon, then a young lad, started working for us that week. He was good. Quiet and focused, his shyness hid an analytical brilliance and wry wit that exceeded his young age. He was a problem solver, and he had a moral compass that locked unswervingly onto true north. He also seemed to have special reverence for our tight community of cyclists.

A man named Michael R. Rabe was working with us then, and if you don’t recognize that name I’m afraid I don’t have space here to tell you what a remarkable person he was. He is the subject of many other stories. Michael R. Rabe, or just “Rabe” for short, sort of adopted Colin as his cause in life. Rabe was a habitual bachelor and an eccentric. He was also a coach and genius having served on nuclear submarines and then writing code for a computer company. The two were perfect friends for each other. They hit it off, mentor and student, master and prodigy.

We had something rare. A community of like-minded people. People who rode bikes for fun and sport and people who shared life and friendship off the bike.

We honored the same values of friendship, sportsmanship, work and a reverence for an undefined code that goes something like, “I will always watch out for you, you will always watch out for me, we will remain friends during sunny afternoon rides and late night personal crisis. We shall always remain friends, no matter what the rigors of time may bring us.” That was our unspoken code.

Rabe was killed by a drunk driver on his bike riding home from my bike shop on the night of May 2nd, 2003.

I don’t remember much about the immediate aftermath. Zoloft does that. But I do know nothing was ever the same. Or so I thought.

Fast forward 12 years. It’s today. The wounds have scared over. They never heal. It’s been more than a decade. The worst recession in history, two wars, more people lost to the ether of time, moves across the country (twice) and around the world. I never wanted the changes thrust on us during the last 12 years. Never wanted to lose my best friend, my house, my business, my health, every cent, my belongings and even more. When people tell me they “lost everything” in the recession I silently nod. They lost their job for a while and their house in Lake of the Woods, from the $170’s, in Northville. They didn’t lose the people they loved most. They don’t have a hole in their heart closed with wire and plastic by a surgeon from Baghdad. When they look in the mirror they see about the same guy they did 12 years ago. I see his ghost.

And then I get the photo you see at the top of the page here in my Facebook feed. He is Liam Mitchell McMahon, and he was born yesterday to Colin McMahon and Bridgett McMahon. They were married a little more than a year ago. They live five blocks from me. And then I realize that after all this time, all this strife, all this distance, that I have finally found home again. Community again. Family again. This is where I started. The wound has closed. The scar is fading. Life is, as they say, going on.

Now, I am not all gushy about babies. I’ve never had kids, never yearned for them myself. But the continuation of the things that make this city, this culture, this circle of friends complete lives on, and that I am gushy about.

Liam McMahon will grow up with good parents, good grandparents, in a good neighborhood with good friends. He will continue this. It goes on.

And when I saw his photo on Facebook this morning It suddenly occurred to me, maybe everything I thought I lost isn’t really gone. It’s just reborn.

 

 

 

By Tom Demerly.

Malcomathome10800

Meet Vice-Admiral Malcom Frederick Davis III.

Call him Vice-Admiral Davis, “Sir” or, on a first-name basis, Malcom.

Vice-Admiral Davis is a survivor of Detroit’s collapse, and a product of its renewal. Local animal welfare organization Providing for Paws rescued Vice-Admiral Davis when he was only 5 months old living in the ruins of Detroit. He survived in a dangerous neighborhood filled with stray dogs. Winter was coming. He lived in abandoned houses.

Once The Vice-Admiral was rescued he established a basecamp at a volunteer rescue house for cats, dogs and raccoons. A born leader, young Malcom liaised between the animals to create a peaceful and cooperative society. He is a feline Sir Lawrence of Arabia.

For his exceptional survival skills, outstanding humanitarian efforts, valor in the face of adversity and his infectious positive outlook, then-Lieutenant Davis was advanced to the honorary rank of Vice-Admiral. He owns the name of Malcom and takes the given name Frederick from the late, great Frederick the Cat, who was also a white Prince of a cat. His Surname, “Davis”, emanates from a secret origin that cannot be disclosed, and he is the third in line of male cats, hence “III”.

Vice-Admiral Davis is, as you can see, skilled in appearing as two cats at once: a striped tiger cat and a pure white cat. This belies his background in espionage and subterfuge, tradecraft he learned well in the rough and tumble survival world of the Detroit ruins. Despite his martial skills Vice-Admiral Malcom Frederick Davis III is primarily a bon vivant and man of peace. He enjoys good food, exercise, friends and sleep. His character was forged in the cauldron of economic collapse but his intellect is sharp and his disposition as warm as a benevolent Sultan.

The Vice-Admiral has agreed to take up permanent residence at our home along with MiMi the Cat, who is 2 years and 4 months his senior.

By Tom Demerly.

MiMimourns

MiMi the Cat looks out the window at Mia’s grave in our backyard.

 

My friends know my cat named Mia died last week from a 2-year battle with heart disease. She was only 7. I wrote about her loss here. 

During the ordeal with Mia being sick my girlfriend Jan and my friend Sue shuttled Mia from one specialist doctor to another in an attempt to save her life. 

Losing Mia hurt. That’s an understatement. Her gentle presence, kind personality and soft, graceful beauty made her a wonderful companion. She was a stray rescued from a dumpster who grew into a beautiful cat despite a rough beginning and a difficult feline cardiac condition.  

Loss leaves a hollowness, a dark void that produces physical pain in your chest. A vacuum. And in that vacuum hope and light seems to disappear into the deep shadow of fear and uncertainty. And there is that familiar dread of never being able to get back what you have lost and the choking sense that you lost it too soon.

Then something quite remarkable happened.

People sent MiMi, my surviving cat and my girlfriend Jan Mack and I cards. My friend Mark from Arizona sent a card. My friends Glenn and Rasa from here in Michigan sent one. The hospital staff where Mia went when she was sick all signed a card and mailed it to us. People sent cards to my work. My friends Yanti and Kingsley sent a card all the way from Indonesia. More people sent cards. My good friend Mary, whom I’ve known since we were kids and whose dad ran a local bookstore for years, made a donation to our local animal shelter in Mia’s name and so did my friend from Ann Arbor, Wen N. My buddy Ira, who also knows cats well, stopped by to say he was sorry about Mia. My friends Paul, Sue, Lance and Connor came to my house and helped dig Mia’s resting place in my back yard while a man in Pennsylvania made a beautiful casket for her by hand from wood harvested from the forest near there.

And in all these cards and messages and help one thing emerged; we do not not suffer loss alone. Everyone around us bears the weight of our despair. Author Sylvia Boorstein wrote, in the book In The Face of Fear, “We take pain very personally. As if it is happening to us as individuals. The Buddha’s foremost teaching says that life is difficult and each of share the losses of others. That we do not despair and suffer alone.” And in that company of compassion and care, there is an uplifting sense of warmth that chases the shivering chill of loss away. It is replaced by a sense of support and community. Of kindness and empathy. And even in loss, loss that we will never recover, something good and warm is born.

We learn that we are not alone.

 

 

By Tom Demerly.

burger10

Brome Burgers & Shakes opened this week at 22064 Michigan Ave. in Downtown West Dearborn in the former jewelry store building that sat vacant for over a decade. It is near the corner of Mason and Michigan Ave. next to the BP Gas Station at the corner. The opening follows a major refurbishment of the building and continues the growth of new businesses along Michigan Ave. between Oakwood and Military.

The entire Oakwood/Military stretch of Michigan Ave. was hit hard by the automotive recession five years ago and by a poorly timed move to paid parking in the area The paid parking has since been removed and returned to free public parking in lots north and south of Michigan Ave. in this now thriving restaurant district.

burger20

Brome Burgers & Shakes brings the East and West coast gourmet hamburger trend to West Dearborn. The execution of this popular theme, from menu to decor to service and most importantly, food, is truly exceptional.

A menu of at least ten sandwiches including vegan, candied turkey, brisket sliders and a nicely varied specialty hamburger list also includes Hot dogs, salads, gourmet sides including delightful fries and truly remarkable shakes. Ever had a cornflake shake?

burger60

The open, airy and bright decor give the restaurant a fresh, modern feeling while the wall of natural foliage softens the feel and freshens the room, also serving to make the noise level in the restaurant pleasant for conversation even when packed. The owners get high marks for providing a perfect setting marvelously themed to go with the menu.

Staff is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as they check in on guests to be sure burgers are cooked to order. An impressive feature of the restaurant we noted while visiting during the first few days it was open is that the operation ran flawlessly, with ordering done at the counter, the short line moving quickly, the menu placed far enough away from the ordering counter to facilitate good flow. This will become a hotspot for Ford Motor Company lunches, especially for out of town vendors looking for an afternoon gem. It is a well engineered lay-out that feeds smoothly through the experience.

burger50

A beautiful outdoor dining patio accompanies the dining room.

We sampled the Original Burger, the top item on the menu at $10.50 ordered in a combination with Kennebec fries and a drink, standard burger joint fare interpreted at Brome Burgers & Shakes with meticulous attention to detail. The meat is excellent, grilled to medium-well per their recommendation, juicy and lightly seasoned for a memorable smokey finish that hints at sweetness. Red onion, fresh tomato, mcclure pickles, fresh romaine lettuce and a respectfully mild Brome sauce finishes the standard topping. The bun is brown-crusted and flavorful, perfectly fitted to the patty so the hamburgers even handle well. Fries are perhaps the best ever, with the ones we sampled wearing a sea salt and cracked pepper accent.

All meat is Halal and organically grown along with a natural theme of incredible quality that runs through the entire menu. Even the soft drink selection is massive and dispensed from the most advanced mixing machines.

burger40

Brome Burgers & Shakes helps recalibrate the Downtown West Dearborn dining experience with a fresh flavor and experience common to the big cities now but new to Dearborn. It’s a mother sign of the strong comeback the Downtown West Dearborn Business District is making and a truly gem-like surprise for Downtown Dearborn. Don’t miss it.

Brome Burgers & Shakes is at 22064 Michigan Ave, on the north side of Michigan next to Om! Spa. Parking is free and open in the back of the restaurant. Hours are 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Phone number is (313) 996-5050. Dine-in and carry out available.

www.bromeburger.com

burger30

 

 

 

MiaObituary20

Mia Demerly died on Sunday morning, October 11, at 4:27 AM after a three-year battle with Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Mia was a ragdoll mix found as an abandoned stray in a litter of cats inside a dumpster near Wyandotte, Michigan in 2007. She was 7 years old.

Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is a chronic heart condition inherited from parents and present especially in the ragdoll breed. She died peacefully at home early Sunday morning from complications related to her cardiac condition after being seen by feline cardiac specialists and emergency veterinarians on Friday and Saturday.

MiaObituary10

During her life Mia was junior to the late Fred the Cat and senior to MiMi the Cat, whom she leaves behind. Mia was a clever, calm and industrious cat who enjoyed food, bird watching, collecting cat furniture, beds and cardboard boxes. Mia also had an extensive collection of toy mice. Her favorite pastime was chasing a length of bright orange .550 parachute cord. Mia also enjoy being brushed and read to and kept a regular night/day schedule, sleeping with her human guardian (me) and most recently in her life, Ms. Jan Mack, whom she particularly loved.

Mia Demerly was native to Wyandotte, Michigan but also lived in Tucson, Arizona and Mission Viejo, California until she returned to Michigan three years ago. Her current home was in Dearborn.

Funeral for Mia will be in Dearborn, Michigan later this week. In memory of Mia you may want to make a donation to The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, Arizona, Emerson and the Gang at Miller’s Safe Haven or the Dearborn Animal Shelter.

 

MiaObituary30

By Tom Demerly.

konablog10

When the top pros line up with wide-eyed age groupers in Kona it gets serious. People get nervous. They don’t sleep the night before. They throw-up the morning of. For us, it doesn’t get any bigger than Kona.

So it is worth de-pressurizing before race day. There is no better way to take the pressure off than poke good-natured fun at ourselves and lift some of the weight off our shoulders. After all, triathlons are like fun, but different. And by the way, I’ve been guilty of every one of these.

Here are 8 things we believe as triathletes. When you think about them for even a moment, well… it all becomes less serious.

1. We believe there actually is a tangible difference in bike aerodynamics. Every modern triathlon bike is fast. All of them are aerodynamic. The largest determining factor in our bike performance is our physical fitness. Every bike company claims their bike was developed in the wind tunnel and is the fastest. They can’t all be right. Ultimately it comes down to having the miles in your legs and a good bike position. Contrary to what the marketing guys would have us believe, Kona isn’t won in the wind tunnel. It’s won with your legs. And your guts.

2. We Believe We Are Awesome. Triathletes in general, especially in Kona, think we’re awesome. We are our own biggest fans. Look at our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during Kona week. And here is a reality check: We’re right. No other sporting event is like the Ironman World Championships. You can be the biggest football fan in the world, but you’ll never snap the ball at the 50-yard line during the Superbowl. You’ll never start from the grid in a Formula 1 race in Monaco. But at Kona, you and I do the exact same course, in the exact same conditions, on the same day as the top pros. I don’t know of another major sport (and yes, we’re “major” now) where this is possible. Author Arthur C. Clarke once said, “We each create our own reality.” In Kona, the only thing required for you to be awesome, is for you to believe it.

3. We think our stomachs are “special”. I can’t drink what is in the aid stations, I can’t eat chocolate after mile 40 (exactly mile 40), I need a special drink, in a special container, in my special needs bag. It has to be a special temperature. Nothing else works. I can eat only Hershey bars, tuna (packed in spring water), free-range, gluten-free figs and drink only Di-Hydro Zullified Endurospritz sports drink, a special sports drink made in Uzbekistan for Olympic curlers. It’s the only sports drink that works for me. Ever. Everything else makes me sick. The truth is you can train your stomach to use almost anything as fuel. It takes time and adaptation, and it’s too late for that now. So enjoy your tuna and figs, and don’t forget, there are Porta-Jons every mile on the run. That might even make you run faster.

4. We spent $20,000 to get to Ironman, but may not be able to change our own $10 inner tube. It’s too late to do anything about that tonight, so I hope you have fresh tires and good karma. And by the way, the reason they call it “Neutral Support” is because when you get a flat on the bike course, they may as well be in Switzerland.

5. We know best. What? “Nothing new on race day?” Phooey. After traveling half way around the world it makes perfect sense to buy a new saddle, cycling shoes, triathlon clothes, energy gel and sunscreen at the expo two days before race day, then use them all in the race. When our crotch is numb, our eyes are burning, the contents of our stomachs are in our tri shorts and our feet are on fire it is the manufacturers’ fault. Because we are Ironmen, and we know best. Oh, and don’t forget, nothing new on race day.

6. I research my equipment, and buy with empirical logic that would be the envy of a NASA engineer. We read, obsess, post on forums, make spread sheets, read some more, obsess a lot more, then buy the coolest looking thing. See #5 above.

7. We don’t care about bike weight. Even though the aid stations are 5 miles apart on the bike course, we have five full waterbottles, 20 gels, eight powerbars, 30 salt tablets with dispenser and sunscreen. We also carry an iPhone, power meter, two spare tires, four CO2’s, a Garmin and deep section aero wheels. But since #5, and even though #4, and understanding #3, our bike weighs… 31 pounds on race day. But since #2, this doesn’t bother us much.

konablog20

8. Triathlon didn’t exist before us. Dave who? Scott what? And who is this “Paula” girl anyway? This is a participant sport. We don’t put our stars on very high pedestals. We’d rather be there ourselves. And besides, after you’ve peed your tri shorts for the fourth time on the way out of the Energy Lab and the sun is beginning to set over Kailua-Kona, who cares who won?

If you are racing tomorrow in Kona, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, know that you are in the big arena. The big show. Your face will be covered by dust and sweat, but hopefully no blood (depending on the swim…). You will know the great exertions, the great devotions, and you will spend yourself in a worthy cause. So that your place shall never be with those cold and timid souls following you on the live feed who know neither victory nor defeat.

Most importantly of all, have a great race. I wish I were there with you to share the greatest race on earth.