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By Tom Demerly for Tom Demerly.com

Only a mile and half at its widest, The Detroit River has been a geographical barrier between opposing tribes, rum runners and nations. Few rivers hold this much history. Globally, the Detroit River shares its historical relevance with the Mississippi in the United States, the Bosphorus in Turkey, the Rhine in Germany, the Ganges in India, the Volga in Russia, Paris’ Seine River, Egypt’s Nile, China’s Yangtze and other globally significant waterways like Iraq’s Tigris and Vietnam’s Mekong.

Last Wednesday, as members of the Detroit History Club, my girlfriend Jan Mack and I sailed the historic Detroit River on the 85-foot long Appledore IV two-masted schooner. Appledore IV transports its crew and passengers back in time as soon as they step on board. It is a fitting vessel for a trip back into the remarkable history of Detroit and its unique river.

Our guide on board Appledore IV was Miss Bailey of the Detroit Historical Club. Her encyclopedic knowledge of Detroit history was matched only by her wit and talent. She delivered a fascinating running narration of Detroit’s sensational history from Native conflicts to daring rum-runners driving modified Ford Model-T’s across the frozen river in an occasionally unsuccessful attempt at defying prohibition.

After casting off from the dock in front of Detroit’s Renaissance Center and General Motors headquarters we set sail on moderate winds and calm waters north and east toward Belle Isle and the Hiram Walker distillery. As we sailed across the Detroit River the strong and delicious scent of baking bread drifts off the Windsor shore from the Hiram Walker complex. The yeast processing for spirits production at the distillery produces the delightful aroma, lost on powerboats to their exhaust smell but blissfully preserved onboard the sail-driven Appledore IV.

Once at the top of the river we reversed course under jibbing canvas sails, ducking under swinging booms and picking up winds that brought us downriver toward the majestic Ambassador Bridge. We sailed under, marveling at the incredible volume of truck traffic engaging in the free exchange of goods between Canada and the U.S. that typifies the relationship between the two countries.

To the south we saw the dark silhouette of the industrial monolith of Zug Island, formerly one of the most polluted places on earth, now in the midst of reform into at least a slightly less toxic habitat. Today foxes, peregrine falcons, feral cats and other unusual species share the island with its heavy industrial tenants like steel mills and coke ovens. A rare species of sturgeon lives on one side of the island because of the deposits of coal cinders that collect on the bottom of the river from the industrial activity.

Mystery surrounds much of Zug Island, a private, manmade industrial otherworld that has produced an undefined loud humming sound to the distress of residents as far as ten miles away. Some say it is the sound of wind through industrial structures on the island. Over a million dollars has been spent on studies to find the source of the bizarre sound but the maker of the mechanical music remains a mystery.

Shipping traffic is a huge part of the Detroit River. During our cruise we saw two passages, one a massive ore freighter and the other a smaller cargo vessel, our radios crackling to life with instructions from the river traffic control as Customs and Border Patrol vessels zipped back and forth. The Detroit River is one of the busiest commercial rivers on earth, and ship spotting along its banks is a popular pastime.

This cruise aboard Appledore IV with the Detroit History Club is a rare and intrinsic perspective on Detroit, and one all Detroiters ought imbibe in. People who live in Detroit and its suburbs often have a deep affection for something undefinable about the city that makes it unique. An intrinsic authenticity and resilience belonging to a place that survived riots, wars, fires and economic collapse. Detroit has produced iron and steel, innovation and art. But few people own the deep historical context of Detroit’s remarkable and repetitive penchant for survival and prosperity.

To join the Detroit History Club and enjoy their many fascinating and varied events follow this link:

 

http://www.detroithistoryclub.com

Media Release, April 1, 2017: “Depends” Brand to Become Official Ironman On-Course Adult Diaper.

International personal health product conglomerate Kimberly-Clark today announced a new strategic partnership with Ironman World Triathlon Corporation. The five-year title sponsorship will feature a new version of the world’s best selling adult diaper, “Depend”, called “Depend Endurance 140.6”.

“This new partnership benefits every participant at Ironman events” Said Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Falk. “From elite athletes who don’t have time to stop for natural breaks to back-of-the-pack athletes for whom on-course restroom facilities may be inadequate.”

Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman/WTC told media at the launch event on Friday, “The Ironman participant demographic is shifting. Ironman triathletes are graduating to older age categories and creating a new demographic of super-active geriatric participants. This partnership with Kimberly-Clark and the industry leading Depends brand is a natural evolution of the sport. It serves all parties now, and into the future of Ironman.”

World Triathlon Corporation, the parent company of the Ironman brand, is rumored to have sought the co-branding deal as a way to further reduce on-course race production costs at events by reducing the number of portable restrooms, or “porta-johns” that must be rented for each event.

“Our lead portable, on-course restroom vendors are charging from $150-225 per porta-john for single day rental. Those costs add up over the distance of an Ironman event. We typically serve over 150 portable restrooms on-course for the run portion of Ironman alone. If you do the math, allowing participants to manage restroom needs where and when they want to adds convenience, performance and efficiency. This partnership is the definition of win-win for participants, event managers and Kimberly-Clark” said Ironman officials.

As an additional benefit to Ironman participants, the new Depends Endurance 140.6 will be included in entrant goodie-bags and available for sale at race expos, online and from select specialty triathlon retailers. “Athletes will have advanced access to the new, aerodynamic, lightweight Endurance 140.6 version of Depends prior to race day” Depends project managers told media assembled at the launch event.

Along with the new partnership Kimberly-Clark and WTC/Ironman have announced several sponsored pros who will compete wearing the new Depends Endurance 140.6 on-course sanitary garment. Julie Moss has been named official spokesperson for the brand and the captain of the new Ironman/Depends S.H.A.R.T. sports marketing initiative.

At the release event Ironman Hall of Famer and SHART team captain Julie Moss told media, “S.H.A.R.T. stands for ‘Sponsored High-performance Adult Race Team’ and is all about blowing out the personal limitations of aging. The Ironman/Depend SHART athletes will redefine what it means to age in America and participate in endurance sports.”

Ironman athlete Moss, WTC President Messick and Kimberly-Clark CEO Thomas Clark all quipped, “The Ironman motto is, ‘Anything Is Possible’, and when athletes are wearing Depend 140.6 Endurance, an athlete is ready for anything, and stops for nothing. It equips our participants for a new level of performance.”

 

 

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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According to an e-mail sent to sponsored athletes last night and reports on social media, Computrainer, the innovator of the computerized indoor ride simulator, is closing.

Reports indicate an e-mail was sent to sponsored athletes late last night. Phone calls to the company, Racermate, and its sister company, Floscan, were not returned as of this hour. In a phone call with a representative from sister company Floscan, who asked not to be named, early Tuesday, February 28, this reporter was told “I don’t know what is going on over there [at Computrainer].”

A copy of the e-mail received by tomdemerly.com via social media reads:

“It is with a heavy heart that those of us here at RacerMate must tell you that we are closing the doors on CompuTrainer. Technology and competition from larger companies have both eaten into the marketplace. As a small company with the premier indoor trainer in terms of performance and durability, we have found ourselves in a place where we cannot continue. It has been a marvelous 40+ years and we have enjoyed sharing in the victories and friendships we have made along the way.” [signed]

Chuck Wurster, Vice President

RacerMate Inc.

Seattle, WA

Voice mails left at Computrainer’s extension contained the message, “Please don’t be surprised if it takes several days to return your message.”

Computrainer is related to Floscan, a company that provides aviation and maritime fuel flow monitoring equipment.

The Computrainer indoor ride simulator revolutionized bicycle training by projecting performance telemetry on a screen in front of riders while a load generator varied resistance creating a realistic ride simulation indoors. The system also enabled riders to “compete” with each other in a virtual environment and to ride against themselves from previous performances saved on a computer that controlled the Computrainer.

If reports are accurate, contributing factors may include an unusual, non-retail sales model, low profit margins, service intensive products and the introduction of other computer controlled ride-simulation “smart” trainers into the competitive space from companies like Tacx and Wahoo Fitness who have a dealer network and existing distribution at the consumer level from brick and mortar retailers.

While this report remains unconfirmed from Computrainer as of this hour, the inability to receive or return sales and service inquiries throughout the first half of Tuesday, and reports of the e-mail announcement sent to sponsored athletes have surfaced on social media.

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When I was a kid, about 8, a neighbor took me to an airshow. It was 1970.

There were Army Rangers there with a giant boa constrictor. You could put the snake around your neck and have a photo taken. Famous test pilot Bob Hoover, who flew with Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier in 1947, flew a Rockwell Aero Commander prop plane with both engines shut off. There was a real P-51 Mustang there too.

For the finale of the airshow the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds would fly in their supersonic Phantom jets.

After the Thunderbirds landed the father of the kid I went to the airshow with, Alan Larraza, decided we might as well wait there instead of sitting in a hot car in a big traffic jam. Al’s dad heard a rumor that the Thunderbird pilots would sign autographs after the show if you waited. Of course, a rumor like that could never be true.

We waited on the wide expanse of the open airfield. There was smoke in the air and the smell of jet fuel. A fence separated us from the important men who got to walk close to the airplanes and actually touch them. The fence also separated us from the tall, thin men with sharp chins and crisp uniforms who looked like statues and wore their hair stubble short in perfect haircuts that looked like they were done this morning. Everything about these men was perfect- how they stood, the sunglasses they wore, the places they were from, the angle of their jaw.

These men were pilots.

I waited on the other side of the fence, where the regular people had to stay. I came from a single parent home where my Mom barely made ends meet. I wasn’t a great student in any subject except English, which wasn’t really even a subject since it was so easy. I knew, even at 8 years old, that I would always have to stand on this side of the fence at an air show. Only the tall men with the perfect haircuts, patches on their crisp uniforms and polished flight boots got to go on The Other Side Of The Fence.

The Thunderbirds were the biggest, most incredible, most important, loudest thing I had seen in my life. The sound, the smell of jet fuel, the incredible speed of their planes and the giant crowd that came to see them, even at the height of the Vietnam war protests (some hippies were kept outside the gate because they were protesting the “war show”). It was boggling to me that something could be so… big, so serious, so vast, so important.

Men on the other side of the fence in uniforms handed out a free pamphlet with photos of the Thunderbird pilots on the front. The photo on the front showed six men kneeling, one knee up, the other knee down, with big smiles and thin pilot hats. Every man was positioned identically in front of a giant, red, white and blue Phantom jet. These men were the actual Thunderbirds. And I got a free picture of them.

“If ya’ll stick around son, the Thunderbirds’ll be sign’n autographs soon e’nuff”, said a tall man with a cowboy accent in an Air Force uniform from the other side of the fence. He handed out the free pamphlets. Inside the pamphlet were diagrams showing maneuvers the Thunderbirds did, the “Diamond Roll”, the “Knife Edge Pass” and the “Roll Back to Arrowhead Formation” were some of them. On the last page was a photo of a real F-4 Phantom jet with all the numbers about it; how wide its wings were, how fast it went, how far it could fly. Everything you needed to know.

The crowd got thicker at the fence. Six tall men in blue jumpsuits and thin pilot hats were standing out on the concrete near the actual Thunderbird planes. All at once the men began walking up to the fence. The crowd pushed forward. People started holding out their pamphlets as the men got closer to the fence. When they got to the fence, people started snapping photos on their Kodak Instamatics and holding up pens.

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In a tradition that dates back to the first airshows, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels pilots sign autographs at the fence line after their flight demonstration at the Cleveland Airshow this summer.

The men in the blue jumpsuits shook hands, leaned over and let people take photos with them, smiling wide grins with their special sunglasses and shaking hands like they knew each other or came from the same town. The men would sign their autographs next to a photo of themselves with the number of plane they flew on the free pamphlet.

I held out my pamphlet. “You gonna be a jet pilot someday son?” One of the Thunderbirds asked me when he signed my pamphlet. He took a pen out of a special pocket on the shoulder of his jumpsuit. I was too stunned to answer. He was very tall. Every part of him seemed… sharp. Perfect. His life must be the opposite of mine, everything in order, everything decided, everything perfect. Everything sharp and perfect and clean

I wanted that. But I never got it.

I joined the Army and did minor work in a special operations unit that gathered intelligence. I wound up with the guys who had the snake at the airshow. It was good, great even. We won a war, spied on the enemy and knew secret things.

But it was never- perfect. Not like the clean, crisp tall men with the red, white and blue Phantom jets at that first airshow.

A month or so ago I found out the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the “Phantom jet”, would fly its last flight with the Air Force at the Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB in Nevada. My girlfriend asked me what I wanted for my 55th birthday. I told her, not entirely seriously since it was such a big thing, that I wanted to see the F-4 fly for the last time. It was 47 years after that first airshow with the Thunderbirds and their Phantom jets.

In the way she works her magic my girlfriend, Jan Mack, got us to Las Vegas just a few miles from Nellis for the airshow. I write for an aviation website called http://www.tacairnet.com and wanted to do a story on the final flight of the F-4 Phantom II.

Jan and I meet co-contributors to TACAIRNET (Tactical Air Network) Melanie Mann and Ethan Garrity, both pilots from Texas. We’re sitting up front in the VIP area with catered food, our own bathrooms and chairs on the flightline and about 50 cameras.

There are two McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II’s here at Nellis AFB for its last official airshow. These last surviving two of only about seven left in the U.S Air Force, are called QF-4E’s. They have been modified to be flown by remote control without a pilot or with pilots. When they are unmanned other planes can practice shooting them down. Some of the QF-4E’s will die a fiery death, shot down by live missiles fired from brand new F-35 Lightning II’s out over the open ocean in tests.

One of the QF-4E’s here today is on static display so we can touch it and see it up close, the other will be flown in the final airshow demo by Lt. Col. Ron “Elvis” King and retired Lt. Col. Jim “Wam” Harkins of Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

I get to see the last F-4, touch it, look at how it has aged and weathered. I wonder where this aircraft has flown, when it was built, about what happened to the pilots who flew it and where they are today. There are old men here wearing F-4 Phantom hats. They’ve come from around the world to see it fly and touch it one last time. Some of them flew the Phantom a long time ago. One of them may have flown in that first airshow I was at 47 years ago.

There’s a convention that a pilot always says whatever aircraft she or he is flying is the absolute best. Pilots pick careful language to describe a plane they fly, and if you listen closely enough, you get a feel for what it must really be like.

I meet Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Harkins and Lt. Col. Ron King near the QF-4E they will fly today. A bunch of maintenance guys are tending to the tired old plane. Like an old person with difficulty controlling their body, she is leaking everything- fuel, hydraulic fluid. She needs a lot of maintenance to keep her in the air now.

“She’s old, but she still flies good.” Lt. Col. Harkins tells me. “We’ll be taking her home after this, then… that’s about it…” He signs prints of these two QF-4E’s I brought to the show with me. He writes the date of the last flight on the posters. I get a few signed, including one for my friend Lance who is back in Michigan taking care of Jan and my cats while we’re gone.

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I shake the pilots’ hands. Thank them for bringing the F-4 out one last time. “You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure”, he tells me. We pose for a photo that Jan Mack takes of us.

And that is it.

The QF-4E flies its last demo. I’m focused on getting good photos of her but during one of the passes I lower my camera and just watch. The smoke and smell and sound are exactly like 1970. It’s 47 years ago and I’m a kid at that first airshow all over again. There’s a new plane here, the F-35 Lightning II, and pretty soon we’ll get a chance to see it fly, talk to the pilot, maybe even touch it if we’re lucky…

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Photos and story by Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com.

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I didn’t move to Tucson, Arizona by choice. I was a refugee of the American Recession.

In a migration that mimicked a modern day “Grapes of Wrath” I took a job with the world’s largest triathlon retailer in Tucson and moved there after losing my own business in Detroit.

TriSports.com flew me to Tucson for an interview. Following the interview I was convinced I was finished in this business. The founder, Seton Claggett, asked some tough questions. I left with my head down.

But I got the job.

I did a little of everything at TriSports.com’s massive headquarters. Marketing, sales, promotion, writing, photography, video commentary, employee training, managing, sweeping floors, bike fitting, driving stakes in the desert and cleaning up trash by the roadside. Working there was immersive. The H.R. director counseled me that I couldn’t work as many hours as I did because it wasn’t good for me. But in reality, it was exactly what I needed: self imposed exile to the desert gulag.

Today we’re on a photo shoot.

I saw a road headed south from Mt. Lemmon, Freeman Road, that makes a lumpy black beeline toward the Mexican border. It looks like a black snake laid across washboard desert sand. It will be perfect for a photo shoot.

There are a few problems. Firstly, it is beastly hot in Tucson. Shooting in natural light with the sun overhead means working in the open desert at noon. Temperatures are well over 100 degrees. There are rattlesnakes, ill-tempered desert pig-bears called “javalina”. Every plant on the shoulder of the road is wearing knife-like thorns that pierce clothing and implant flesh with barbed needles.

Secondly, I have a clear vision of what I want the photo to look like, but without an aerial camera platform that shot is impossible. I want to show a cyclist riding south on the oddly rolling black road set against the desert backdrop. I chat with a couple local private pilots about the possibility of flying me over this road for the shoot, but the logistics and expense of getting a small aircraft over the road while coordinating with the cyclist/model on the ground make that impossible. We don’t have camera drones yet, and even if we do, getting the resolution and type of image I want would be tough from a small drone.

So, we load up the tallest stepladder from the warehouse, grab one of the big company trucks and recruit Debbie Claggett, a founder of the company, as fashion/action model for the day and head into the desert.

Debbie is a dream to work with. She is pretty, fit and knows how to ride. But it is a little awkward giving photo direction to one of the founders of the company you work for.

I describe the photo I want. We set up the stepladder on firm enough sand to keep me from falling into a prickly cholla cactus, and Debbie sets off south on her bike.

“Ride for about thirty seconds past those lumps in the road then do a U-turn and come back toward me. Keep doing those loops.”

Debbie does a few out and back circuits. I shoot a few frames. It looks pretty darn good. I’m careful to frame the photo so there is space to drop text in the upper left corner. It is a lot of work for a pretty simple photo. That said, the weird looking lumpy road is kind of cool, but it could be anywhere. Something is missing.

We need something that defines this photo as being distinctly Arizona. Distinctly Tucson.

We need a cowboy.

On queue a man who looks like he dropped out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western rides a beautiful horse onto the road. We could have spent hours in wardrobe and costume and not done as well. When you look up “Cowboy” in the dictionary, there is a photo of this guy. He is John Wayne, The Marlboro Man and Clint Eastwood all rolled into one with a dash of Boss Hoss for good measure.

Jackpot.

Debbie recognizes the opportunity instantly. Without a word she wheels around, glances over her shoulder to check if I am getting this (I am…) and she makes a few riding passes by the cowboy. Smoke is coming off my cameras this is so good.

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She stops and pets the horse. More incredible images that say, without a word, “Cycling in Tucson is extraordinary, there is no place like it in the world.”

We thank the cowboy and horse, load up our gear; brush off the dust and race back to the warehouse to see the photos.

This one photo describes riding a bike in Tucson, Arizona better than any single image I’ve seen, thanks to Debbie and the mid-day rider of Freeman Road in Saguaro East.

Photo and Story by Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com.

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It’s less than a month from a divisive Presidential election that has drawn dark lines between Americans.

This is Detroit, Michigan, a city in the midst of reinventing itself after devastation by the longest recession in U.S. history. We’re rebuilding by improvisation and inspiration. We’re making it up as we go along. It’s the rise of a fallen empire to a new beginning, a new ethic. Young, questioning, unconventional, accepting and experimental.

And it is time to party.

This is the annual masquerade sensation “Theatre Bizarre”, a performance art celebration and costume party held in the remarkable Masonic Temple built in 1920. The monolithic concrete building is one of few to survive the destruction of Detroit in the automotive collapse. It’s a natural location to raise the dead, celebrate the living and push the boundaries of acceptance toward a new norm that is anything but normal.

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The event is maze-like and massive. There are 1037 rooms here, from closet-like secret offices to massive, high-gabled ballrooms, theatres and galleries. Tonight almost every one of these hosts some type of act, display, or performance. They range from people suspended by hooks piercing their skin to mime-acrobats delicately negotiating a suspended steel gantry in an aerial ballet with no safety net. There are people twirling flaming torches, contortionists defying physiology and performances bending gender well past the breaking point. A nude performer produces an effigy of tonight’s mascot, “Zombo”, a mad clown icon, from her vagina during an exotic dance. Red light and smoky fog pervades the passageways. Centerpieces of taxidermic goats and candelabras garnished in candy corn are everywhere.

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Because this is a costume affair it eliminates the distinction between spectators and performers. Everyone here is performing. And while some of the performances and exhibitions initially smack of disgust or revulsion, the line between fear and prejudice breaks across the anvil of amazement. Like it or not, you are drawn in to worship the formerly bizarre, and now remarkable.

I am here mostly to see one performer: Roxi Dlite.

Roxi Dlite is a performance artist and burlesque performer from across the Detroit River, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She is also an icon, an unlikely hero who has revived the old art form of burlesque using the new medium of multi-media with a purity and elegance that won her the World Championship of Exotic Dance.

But more than anything else, Roxi is a knock-out.

Jet black volumes of curls like shiny black lava erupting from a volcano over a liltingly seductive innocent round face that transitions to guilty inference with her trademark smirk. And from there, an opulent shape like luxury itself, round and perfect in defiance of gravity at every turn, and there are a lot of turns…

We’ve secured a high balcony opera box to view Roxi’s performance tonight as the headliner of the event. Following a litany of musicians, performers and curiosities Roxi will do one of her trademark dance recitals in homage to the event’s icon, Zombo, a kind of horrific clown figure.

Finally it is time, and Roxi emerges in a black satin ball gown soon to be removed. Her apparel, first layer formal and subsequent layers increasingly intimate, are discarded in a cyclone of dance and centrifugal force, garments being flung from her opulent body in time to the music as she whirls. Her energy and force are breathtaking.

I suddenly realize that, while Roxi Dlite is a physically beautiful woman beyond measure, it is her incendiary vitality that makes her so beautiful and desirable. She gives off heat, and this city is drawn to her flame.

Her performance is… well, you get the idea. And I am breathing harder now. I note my wristwatch heart monitor recorded a spike at the exact time of her recital. Now we walk down from the balcony through dark, misty passages crowded with masked voodoo priestesses in repurposed wedding gowns and men clad in leather harnesses like roman gladiators. There are more exhibits to see, more oddities to ponder, more unique talent to remark at.

One of the downstairs medium sized rooms is packed with people. Negotiating the crowd is tricky because some of the costumes are so elaborate. And then suddenly, next to one of the tables, holding court with fans, is Roxi herself, in the flesh. Mostly flesh.

Roxi wields around, and in an instant, despite my mask, recognizes the stunned stupor induced by her charisma (and curves). She is accustomed to seeing it from little boy-men like me. She subtly juts out a pouty lower lip as she sees me, dark eyes like tractor beams. She takes a sauntering step, wraps her arm around me, presses boobs to my body and then skillfully uses her opera-gloved right hand to clear away a trove of encroaching fans so Jan Mack, my girlfriend, can get a photo of Roxi and I intertwined as such.

You won’t see that photo here, as it is an honest depiction of a star-struck 55-year old little boy who grew up socially awkward and remains so. I look like an idiot. Roxy, well, Roxi looks like a star with enough poise and confidence to fill a city.

This is my one chance to say something feigning intelligence to her. One instant to thank her for bringing all of us together, for challenging us, shocking us, uniting us, inspiring us, turning the bright lights back on in Detroit when they had been dark for so long.

But all I can get out of my mouth after releasing my delicate grasp of her corseted waist is, “….Thank you….”

And she is gone. Off to work the room in a flurry of selfies and fan photos and winks and curtsies with men and women wishing a brief audience with the new Queen of Detroit’s comeback.

While this divisive political season has torn us apart, Roxy Dlite and her exotic, erotic circus have brought us back together in a new era of tolerance, acceptance, understanding and amazement.

 

Photo and Story by Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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I lost everything.

House, business, car, belongings, every cent. Then I lost my health to a stroke and heart surgery. The Great Recession of 2008 gutted the United States’ economy and Detroit in particular. I owned a successful small business there for 17 years. When the General Motors bankruptcy and the banking collapse hit they devastated businesses in the Detroit area. Nearly every business on the road I was on closed. Mine was one.

After the economic collapse I took a job in Tucson, Arizona. I had nothing when I moved there. I was barely able to arrange to get my two cats from my abandoned house in Dearborn, Michigan to Tucson. Then one of them died.

It was as though the entire world was collapsing. The ominous weight of what felt like an endless succession of gut-wrenching losses weighed on my soul. I was calling on survival instincts I had not used in years. The world was dark, and all that ugly darkness had come home.

Then a co-worker told me about a kitten he rescued near the Air Force base.

The kitten’s eye was hanging out of its head. It was dying in the desert next to the airbase. My friend told me he found it while he was running. I went to the vet where the little cat was being fostered. A veterinary student had practiced surgery while removing the little cat’s infected eye. He hadn’t expected her to live at first.

But she did live.

When I met the little cat she was initially shy. The vet student left the room. It was just me and the little one-eyed kitten. So I started talking to the baby cat. Clearly I had hit some kind of bottom, sitting in a room in a run-down veterinary clinic on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona having a conversation with a one-eyed kitten.

But as I talked the kitten crossed the exam table, climbed into my lap and laid down, looking up at me as if listening intently to my story. I asked the little cat, “So, what’s your story?” She rolled over in my lap, started purring, and went to sleep.

I took her home that day.

MiMi the Cat has been with me every since. She is the kindest, sweetest, most loving little girl I have ever known. Every night, like clockwork, she climbs into bed with me. In the morning she jumps out of bed for breakfast, waiting patiently as second in line behind our other cats for her breakfast. In the evening if I get a chance to sit down, she is in my lap. At night sometimes she puts her paw in my hand when we sleep.

When I brought MiMi home she was fascinated with the sink and with running water. What cat who grew up in the desert wouldn’t be? When I ran water in the sink she would jump up on the counter to see the magical liquid flow, then stick her little head under it.

I shot this photo at my house in Tucson the week MiMi moved in with me. She loved to sit in the sink while the water trickled, and she seemed to enjoy to the water on her fur. It made sense since she had never experienced running water in the desert.

MiMi restored hope and faith in me. She showed that things like running water in the Arizona desert were a miracle, and her story reminds me every day the truly valuable things to be thankful for, and, whether you are dying inside from losing everything or dying in the desert with your eye hanging out of your head, there is always an opportunity for a new beginning.