A Pony Named Tony

Question: Who was one of your most memorable pets?

Over the years I’ve enjoyed communing with many animals, a cat named Carol, a dog named Bootsie, a dog named Dust-Buster [Buster for short], another dog named Sam, a cow named Isabelle [named after my paternal grandmother], but I guess my favorite pet was my white Shetland pony named Tony. We grew up together. We played a fun game much like Cato and Clouseau of Pink Panther fame.

Tony tried to throw me when I least expected it. I always rode barefoot and bareback in those days. Tony would gallop as fast as he could and then put his head down between his front feet and stop abruptly. Other times he tried to rub me off by scrubbing the trees with his sides. Once he threw me off his back onto a rock the size of my Harley. That one put me off my feet for a couple of weeks.  I remember a particular time when Tony made a sharp left turn at full gallop. Horses can’t really do that and neither can Shetland ponies.  Tony fell, rolled, and slid until the inertia brought everything to a halt. Fortunately for me, I did not stay on Tony’s back that time. I could read his emotions and many of his thoughts by looking into his eyes. That escapade scared him. What a great pony. I still miss him.



A good Day

Another excessive post.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you still imprisoned by your circumstances, or are you freed by your choices?
  • Were you able to use downward momentum to propel yourself in the opposite direction?
  • Have you chosen an optimistic explanatory style?

My Story

For those of you that know me, you know that I love riding two-wheelers.  I have a comfort bike that I pedal the dirt trials on, a road bike that I pedal on paved trails and roadways, and a Harley Touring bike that I ride to work every day and all across this country and Canada.  I love riding my motorcycle in to work in all-weather except ice and snow.

This morning, as usual, I rode my motorcycle in to work, listening to an audio book, feeling the breeze on my face, enjoying the delicious odors of the countryside, and sipping on my coffee.  However, unlike most days, my beloved Harley Ultra Limited motorcycle stopped shifting.  I’m half-way to work, and realize that no up-shifting is happening.  I limp it to Wolverine Harley and walk the rest of the way to work.  I could have been very unhappy about this event, but I am glad my shifter broke.

My optimistic style:

  1. I didn’t a crash because of this malfunction.
  2. I am not injured.
  3. I was able to still get to work, albeit slowly, but still on time.
  4. My motorcycle is at the dealership, so those two recalls can be completed.  They were minor, so I haven’t taken the bike out of service for them. Now that the bike is out of service the recalls are getting done.
  5. My front tire recently developed a bad spot caused by road hazard, and needed to be taken care of anyway.
  6. My motorcycle did not have to be towed.
  7. The repairs are still covered by the warranty, yeah. J
  8. In a day or two, I’ll have a new front tire and new shifter mechanism, and the recalls will be complete all without costing me much.

A positive way of looking at this situation made my day.

Have a fabulous day everyone.

A Technical Genius

Charlene, my boss said, “It’s virtuous to be able to control oneself and not necessarily speak badly of our clients.”  Charlene always used words like virtuous and stupendous.

“Super,” I said half-heartedly.  This is not the sort of thing I like to hear during my annual review.  Right now, I especially didn’t want to hear it because I deal almost daily with a dolt from another company.  Apparently, someone must have tipped off Charlene that I somewhat affectionately call Mr. Smith, our client; Mr. P-brain. I know that’s not right and I’ve tried to stop, but I’ve only succeeded in cutting down a bit.

I said, “That is a very tough thing to do on this particular project.”

“Why?” Charlene asked, “You’re a technical guy. Our client is a technical guy. Aren’t all technical guys alike?”

“No,” I protested, “Our client’s a perfect idiot.”

“Nobody’s perfect; especially an idiot,” said Charlene.

That’s how my review went last month, December 17th, to be exact.  So, I decided for one of my New Year’s resolutions; I will not be snarky to clients.

Today is January 15th and it started when Mr. Smith opened his laptop to look at his notes before screening the video.

“I can’t get my computer to connect to your WIFI,” said Mr. Smith.  “My computer screen goes blank when I try.”

I thought, your mental screen is blank.  Out loud I said, “I’ll get our tech support to give us a hand.”

Tech support found no issues; they just helped Mr. Smith log on.  We watched the videos to be sure they met our client’s expectations..

Mr. Smith stood up, and looked me in the eye.  I’m not saying he is short, because that is insensitive, but the top of his head was level with the top of my head ….while I was sitting.

“I like the videos you made, but we need to change a few things,” said Mr. Smith

“Sure, what do you want to change?”

“The part about the headlights,” said Mr. Smith “I don’t like the way the headlight switch rotates.”

I looked Mr. Smith in the eyes, but, there was nobody home. “That‘s how the headlights turn on,” I said in my best I don’t think you’re an idiot voice.  And then I mumbled, “Ignoramus.”

Mr. Smith said, “What did you say?”

I recovered quickly and said, “the switch is STAINLESS.”

“I know it’s stainless, and I know it works by rotating, but I don’t like it,” said Mr. Smith.

“Okay, I said,” still holding back. “We’ll give you a still shot of the headlight switch.”

“But,” said Mr. Smith “You have to show how it turns on.”

I asked for clarification, “So you want a video to show how to turn the headlight switch on by rotating the switch, without rotating the switch?”

“Now you got it.”

I wondered how to show how to operate a headlight switch without rotating the switch, when that is the only way it works. Reflecting on the conversation I had earlier with Charlene, I bit my tongue, but apparently not hard enough.

I said just a little too loud, “IMBECILE.”

Mr. Smith’s face turned red and he heatedly asked, “WHAT did you say?”

Nut’s I thought, in spite of my attempts to silence myself, everyone heard me call our client an imbecile. I hurriedly stated, “I said the switch is INTEGRAL.  Did you think I said something else?”

“Forget it,” said Mr. Smith, “I must be hearing things.”

“Okay,” I said, “I’d be happy to have the voice over talent rerecord and our video editors reedit the video, but I’m not sure exactly what you want.”

“You’ll think of something,” said Mr. Smith, “Oh, and I don’t like that car you used.”

My hands started to shake, my stomach felt queasy, and I’m sure my voice didn’t sound quite right, but I still didn’t call Mr. Smith an idiot. It was hard, but I refrained.

“You were on location when we shot this scene,” I said. “You picked out the car to shoot, and you watched us the whole time. What don’t you like about this car?”

“It’s the wrong car,” stated Mr. Smith.

At that point, in spite of my New Year’s resolution to be silent, and my duty to our client to be silent, I didn’t have the ability to remain silent and said, “The wrong car. REALLY? You had us shoot the wrong car? You IDIOT.”

The next day, during my exit interview, Shelly, our human resources gal asked, “Do you know why your employment with us is being terminated?”

“Yes,” I said, “It’s because I couldn’t think of a word that rhymed with idiot.”

Personal Stupidity

“You’re moving into a house with four women,” asked my brother? His eyebrow’s arched and met his receding, grey hair right at the widow’s peak.  Skeptical questions are his specialty.  He spent 25 years; working first as a narcotics cop, then as a motorcycle cop, a detective, and finally chief of police before he retired.  Now he’s a high school superintendent.  So, skeptical questions really are his specialty.

Obviously, I thought, his 25 years of apprehending the lowest dregs of humanity; drug dealers, murderer’s, and people stealing fast-food ketchup packages, hadn’t prepared him for the intense personal bravery needed to voluntarily move into a house inhabited by four women, and two neutered Norwegian forest cats.

My arm, wrapped around the waist of the friendly one, my fiancée named Terri, tightened and she slid a bit closer to me.  I wasn’t too worried, only three of the four women were hostile; but the cats were cool and didn’t say too much.

In spite of my brother’s reaction, I thought about how lucky I was.  My lovely fiancée, Terri, had brains and personality; albeit with three daughters, two neutered cats and a dilapidated house falling down around her ears.  Terri’s first husband, a brilliant architect with a license to build, had allowed the house to run down for a couple of decades, after, not quite finishing up building it in the first place. The inside trim for the round window on the backside of the house is still MIA.

This beige and white “elephant” at 639 Hickory Street, with the red and brown rotting trim, large holes in the siding, and a 6/12 roof with 612 holes allowing tsunamis inside whenever a cloud passed by, was habitable. I had FEMA’s word on that.  And we all know how dependable FEMA is.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m moving in with Terri.”

Terri’s reaction to my brother’s incredulity was laughable.  She smiled. She laughed.  She moved closer to me.

Andy said in a strained voice, just before he passed out, “Doug, you’ve done stupid things before, but that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done or will ever do. What were you thinking?”

I placed smelling salts under Andy’s nose. After a while he regained his mind and we grilled a fabulous dinner of Salmon, fingerling potatoes, asparagus and onions.

The years passed, the step-daughters became friendly, the house became habitable, and the cats are still cool; albeit a bit hairy.

Terri and I smile as we look into each other’s eyes, grasp each other’s hands, and remember that day.

“So, maybe it wasn’t stupid after all,” said Terri sweetly, “to move into a dilapidated house with four women and two neutered Norwegian forest cats.”

“I agree completely,” I said.



The secret to being boring is to say everything. – Voltaire

This is also true when reading everything out loud. – Doug’s kids


My wife Terri and I noticed a strange thing walking through Times Square during one of my frequent visits to see my son Dan. My son Dan, and step-daughter Jilly, are at least ten paces ahead of us and accelerated away at an alarming speed.

Moments ago, they were in front of us, leading the way to the evening’s venue.  I still get lost, frequently; and more often when I’m in NYC. My grandpa Nichols always told me, “You’re never lost if you still have a tank full of gas.”

I’ve found this to be good advice generally, but not in NYC when I’m using mass transit, which is not as fast as Hermes, and doesn’t need me to put gas in the tank of…anything.  So, naturally, I’m lost in NYC more often than in metro Detroit.  I attribute it to not putting gas in the tank.

I continued walking, turned my head up for a moment and said, “Broadway’s biggest new hit!”

As my head went up to read the sign, I bumped into someone, heard them mutter under their breath in a sour voice, “Damn tourists.”

This interaction knocked my head in a new direction and I blurted with enthusiasm, “The Crowd goes wild–Jersey boys.”

At that point several things happened. First, the sour voice, a bit louder said, “Damn tourists, don’t even know how to walk down a sidewalk.”  For a moment I thought about retorting with some witty response to the leather-clad, pale-faced Goth-looking character; but that moment passed while I could think of nothing witty. Probably just as well. I’m pretty sure the hand signals he flashed me, indicated his compromised sense of humor due to the collision of my shoulder into his…elbow.

One of the signals the Goth proudly showed me, looked like a fist closed for punching, but with the middle finger raised.  I’m glad of that, much better than a closed fist. And then, the middle finger went down and his fist jabbed at me.

I’m a big guy, and tough, or so I thought.  I remember playing football, knocking the other players over, and having them bounce off me when they tried to knock me down.  That’s what I remember, at least. My mind still thinks that way, forty years later.  Apparently, forty years slows a fellow down, and makes him a lot less tough.  I jerked my head to the side, the jab missed, but that placed my chin in the perfect place to stop his left uppercut. The left uppercut placed my head in the perfect place to block his right cross. After that, from my vantage point of lying directly on the sidewalk, I saw mostly sky, with a few stars near my eyes.  I remember saying out loud, “Sunglass Hut, Tory Burch.”

The devilish Goth signaled his pleasure by raising his index finger and pinky as he walked down Broadway.  I let him go, not because I couldn’t have taken him, but because the sidewalk was just so damn comfortable, that I decided to lay there for a few more minutes. After a few moments, I stood up and noticed Jilly and Dan down the street about 20 paces ahead.

I ask myself, “How’d they get down there without me noticing?”  I’d turned my head for only a minute. Of course I did lie down on the sidewalk for a few minutes.

Then, I smelled chicken Teriyaki, got up off the sidewalk, and remarked, “20 years anniversary special chicken teriyaki platter, three ninety-nine.”  The relative distance between my kids and me increased like a Lamborghini dusting a smart car in a street race.  A few seconds later, Jill and Dan rounded a corner.

I fully expected to see them waiting for me when I rounded the corner a few minutes later, but they had escaped.

I never saw them again that night.

I still read signs out loud as I pass, but only when I’m alone.

To Tribeca or not to Tribeca – That is the Question

Terri and I live in the Detroit metro area, an hour away from the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, in a small town named Milford.  Our six kids live in five different states, ranging from Arizona to New York. As you may guess, we accrue frequent flyer miles.

On this trip, my son residing in Tribeca, arranged for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park with John Lithgow playing King Lear.  Terri and I planned to enjoy a very nice free trip, which included free airline tickets and free tickets to see the show. Great news, ‘cause we have no money.  We attended six weddings so far this year with one more to go.  Two of the weddings were daughters.

The time came to exercise our electrons and book our free flight using an old laptop PC.

Sitting in the comfort of our double Lazy-boy chair, with Henry the cat snuggled near my feet, a large glass of vodka with ice near my side, a nice sweet white Michigan wine in a decorative wineglass next to Terri; we settle into picking the best flight from Detroit to New York.

So far the evening could not be better.  Terri and I just returned from SmokeStreet, our favorite barbeque joint three blocks from our house, and I can still smell the wood smoke on our clothes.  Heavenly aroma…someone really should make a perfume of pig ribs and wood smoke.

Terri sips her wine and finds the perfect plane fare for us.  We can leave Detroit at eight AM, fly non-stop and arrive at LaGuardia in plenty of time to have lunch in New York City with my son. My mouth waters, Momofuku noodle bar for lunch. Yea.  As these thoughts travel through my grey matter, Terri clicks the mouse.  But wait!  That fare is no longer available for the mileage points we have, the number of miles needed for the trip just went up.  Point requirements for free tickets, like taxes; always go up at the worst of times.

Not all was lost, though, we still could book a flight from Detroit Metro to LaGuardia, but now we leave at four AM and travel to Atlanta before going to NYC.  We pack for the three day trip and decided to get a couple hours sleep, overslept, and overran our blood pressure getting to the airport.

We park the car and walk into the terminal and realize that apparently, most Detroiters prefer to travel at an ungodly hour of the day.  The terminal is packed and the baggage check-in line is out the door of a very large terminal.

As, Terri and I get in line, she says in a frustrated voice as her arms jerk slightly and her face contorts, “We aren’t going to make it.” Terri’s shoulders sag slightly.

Just then, a very large, very bald, very tough looking National Security Agent, clothed in the obligatory rent-a-cop clothes walked directly toward us, looked me in the eye and said, “If your ticket has Pre-TSA in the upper left corner, go over there.  He pointed to an area with another TSA agent and two other travelers in line.

Being singled out for the short line by a TSA agent is like being singled out to ride on the prisoner transport vehicle of Cuyahoga County, or the bus used by the Hong Kong correctional services.  In other words, it could be a problem.

My hands started trembling slightly, and not only could I see agitation on Terri’s face, her brow furrowed, her lips drawn tight, and her eyes started dripping slightly. The smell of fear wafted up from her every pore, surrounded her, and appeared to be a living thing.  Yes, officer, Terri’s fear is right over there, standing next to her, see how overwhelming it is?

Naturally, that had a bad effect on Terri’s hairdo.

Well, I checked my ticket and it had the Pre-TSA designation on it, and I looked at Terri’s ticket, it did not have the Pre-TSA.  Good for her, I thought. And then I found out that Pre-TSA is a good thing.

Pre-TSA meant pre-screened and safe, so the short line was good.  I could walk right through security in about a minute.


So, a thought entered my mind about the same time that Terri said, “I can’t get through the long line in time to board our plane, and I can’t go with you to the short line.”

I boldly asked the very large, very bald, very tough looking National Security Agent, “What do we do?”  I showed him our tickets, mine with the Pre-TSA and hers without the Pre-TSA in the upper left-hand corner.

The very large, very bald, very tough looking National Security Agent, asked in a voice as natural as if he were ordering coffee, “Do you want to travel with your wife?”

I thought for a minute and said, “Yes, of course.”  I received a piercing and not altogether loving look from my wife.  Apparently, my slight hesitation was not a good thing.  Really dear, it’s the early hour; my biological clock hadn’t awakened my brain yet.  It was set for waking up at eight or nine, not 3:30.  You’ve heard of the expression, “her eyes shot daggers.” Terri’s very blue eyes appeared to shoot out swords.  Long, nasty, deadly, swords, and I knew that hesitating this early in the morning was a bad thing.  I love my wife, and she knows it, but apparently sleep deprivation and slow-answering husbands don’t go together well.

Actually, the fact that the TSA agent felt it necessary to even ask that question implies that not all husband and wives like to travel together.  Kind of like my second wife, I guess.  She and I traveled extensively after she insisted that she liked to travel. We traveled by plane, car, ship, motorcycle, motorhome, and train.  She had a miserable time, every time, and then again said to me, “I like to travel.”  Taken aback completely, I realized that apparently, it was not the mode of transport that made each trip as miserable as being crowned with thorns and crucified; it was me.

I divorced her a few months after coming to that conclusion.  I spoke with her a few months ago in the normal course of business. She still travels frequently, and still insists she likes to travel; but can’t relate a single instance on any trip that wasn’t miserable.  I guess it wasn’t me after all.

After confirming again that I indeed wanted to travel with my wife, the TSA agent put both of us in the short line; which was a good thing. We were sent through the metal detector. After gathering our shoes and belts, Terri and I made our way to the gate hand-in-hand.

Moments later Terri and I boarded Southwest and flew south east, to Atlanta, Georgia.  Apparently, that’s why our ticket price went up while we were booking the flight from Detroit metro airport to LaGuardia; the airline didn’t own a globe.  Since when is Atlanta located between Detroit and NYC?  A straight line indicates, NOT.

The layover in Atlanta wasn’t bad, only about 30 minutes. The bad part of traveling to Atlanta, was the distance.  Atlanta is almost exactly the same distance away from Detroit as Detroit is from NYC.  The flight from Atlanta to NYC is almost the same distance as Detroit to NYC.  So, we flew a triangle pattern and twice as far as necessary.  We also spent twice as much time as necessary on the plane, and didn’t even get mileage points because it was a trip booked with mileage points. I’m starting to get too old for these free trips.

Although we had a great time with my son Dan and his partner Juan, we didn’t make it to NYC in time to go to Momofuku’s noodle bar for lunch. We did, however, eat dinner at a very nice Indian restaurant; the Tamarind – Tribeca.  We gorged ourselves on lamb, chicken, fried cauliflower, and numerous other delicacies with names I can’t spell or pronounce. Suffice it to say that their preparation of food, with those most interesting of spices, proved to me that civilization began in the Indus valley.

The flight home took us to Chicago before arriving at Detroit.  This confirms my belief that airline tickets could be much cheaper if the airlines understood geography, or invested in a globe so they could get from point A, to point B, without going through point C.