Oh, Oh, Oakland! And that’s just the beginning of the idiosyncraticity that is Detroit. (I made up one of those words.)

This TDH was a little longer than usual (as I remember, about 40 miles), but it repaid itself over and over again in maybe-only-in-Detroit visual thrills. Get ready, there are a lot of photos in this post. The Legal Eagle has been threatening to garnish my pay check if I don’t get a post up. He’s found some archaic Michigan law that he believes applies to overdue blog posts, so I could be on the verge of some time in the clink if I don’t get something up on the intertubeswebthing pronto. Which raises the question – do you actually read this blog, or just look at the photos? It’d be a lot easier if I just threw up some photos and let you have at it, so: First poll of the post:

On the way to Oakland, we passed this tagged building on Milwaukee. That’s nothing unusual for my fair city, but I was struck by the verve of the taggers who manage to make their marks on what appear to be relatively inaccessible portions of the building.

Perhaps the “n” is backwards because the painter was disoriented

The recently reopened Tangent Gallery and Hastings Ballroom (now featuring Booze!) was where we right handed onto Oakland. If you were paying attention in math class, you’ll recognize the significance of the sculpture that adorns its exterior

Please note the intersection of the line and the circle. It’s called a ______?

Directly across the street is a sort of homage to a venerable printing facility. The facility itself appears to have disappeared, unfortunately.******

Any backstory, Night Train: Detroit?

**** I was misinformed about Rusas Printing.  I received a very nice note from Mr. Rusas himself “I was contacted by a friend to check out your site and found that you have a photo of my sign posted. You mentioned in your post that the printing facility has disappeared. Although the buildings surrounding me have been abandoned and completely covered in tags, We continue to operate out of the hood & have for over 40 years! The blight of our city has been wide spread throughout, there are still companies doing our best to battle the elements without the help of the city or the police. Recently, I was contacted by the “Better Block” organization & they choose our city block out of all the city blocks in Detroit for a beautification push to be spotlightedduring the Detroit Design Festival Sept. 22 & 23. After 2 30 yard & 1, 10 yard dumpster along with the help of multiple volunteers. Joe at the Tangent Gallery, the Better Block Organization and myself have managed to clear the debris and clean up the abandoned buildings and clear the empty lots that have been left by their careless owners of the abandoned properties.

I think I’ve found my new pied a terre in the city. Looks comfy, n’est-ce pas?

Just right for the single man on the go

Once on Oakland, a veritable yellow brick road of unusual sights began to unfold before us.

Here’s a cool building that clearly has a commissioned exterior decoration (it’s signed by the artists)

Dig it? I do

Someone has re-imagined the City of Detroit flag on another building. For reference, here’s the “official” version:

The flag of our fair city

The version on Oakland has additional built-in Detroitness: For one, our motto is actually in English, and there’s a nice nod to the Tigers. (The Old English “D” for those of you not from around here.) And a reminder that we’re not all white.

Dig that Caddy in the upper right quadrant

A little further up, we cycled past a building I should’ve heard or read about before. Alas, I hadn’t. It’s a retail/educational facility the likes of which I’ve never run across before. Voila:

Jazz+Shoe+Shine+Art=Legendary

Other artwork abounds on Oakland. Should your interests lie in the plastic arts, there’s this triptych:

I wish I could give you more details about this, but I’m drawing a blank

Ride around Detroit a while (or even for a short spin), and you’re pretty much guaranteed to pass by some spell fails: Like so:

I like the $ at the end of “Dollar Items”

Did you notice anything special about the bricks on the top of the building? This used to be “Charlie The Pencilman’s” {sic}, which according to some cursory searching online used to sell incense and dream books. This whole block was populated in the 1930’s by European Jews, which explains the location of Detroit’s Russian Banya, or as we’ve always called it around it around here: The Schvitz. It’s still open.

For Men Only

It’s no secret that there are many many many abandoned homes in Detroit. This building’s owners made their feelings pretty clear:

And you’re probably never coming back

Not to worry, as this building will provide you with some reassurance about outcomes, if not word spacing:

God decided not to open the store today

Next up, a building with a certain amount of panache, of braggadoccio, if you will. There are innumerable buildings in Detroit, but this one is the one according to its owners:

Accept no substitutes. This is the real deal

I am not blessed with a thick, rich head of hair, so the possibility of it actually “breaking” is something beyond my imagination. It must be an issue amongst others, as evidenced by this beauty salon’s promise:

What can you do if it’s all falling out?

This next sign will probably only make sense to a real Detroiter, as it makes reference to our very own wacky billionaire.

Maybe he’ll swing by after he straightens out his issue with the new bridge

One of the things I enjoy most about cycling around Detroit (particularly on Sunday mornings) is the virtual lack of automotive traffic. It’s just a great place to ride along and enjoy the scenery. Like so:

Every wall’s an easel

Someone went to a great deal of trouble to paint the 10 Commandments on side of a building on the corner of Manchester. Wish they’d gone to the trouble of bringing a dictionary along with them.

The Sabeth? Adultry? And, what, exactly, am I not supposed to covet? Anything?

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Satan’s Sidekicks M/C. But I neglected to show you a photo of the mother chapter: Here it is, over on Fenkell.

Don’t know if they still sport red helmets with devil’s horns

Back in Detroit’s early days, the St. Francis Home for Orphan Boys was founded. At one point in time, it must’ve been a beautiful building. It’s just tragic that it’s fallen apart, with no evident sign that it’s going anywhere but further down. Here’s the cornerstone, still intact:

9 years in the making

And here’s the building, in its current sad state

What a disaster

My spirits soon picked up after I passed a very special car wash.

I can only imagine how clean my car would be

For those with a less spiritual bent, just down the road is a more civic-oriented car wash:

President vs The Lord for top car wash

I have no idea what this business is (or was), or what it does (or did). All I know is that it’s got a pretty bad ass logo:

Panther _________

This company:

Back when I was wee lad, the two great jazz clubs in Detroit were Baker’s and Watt’s Club Mozambique. Clearly the jazz road didn’t work out for the owners of Watt’s, which is bad news for jazz lovers, but potentially good news for those of you looking for some exotic manliness

Only the finest in exotic male dancers

As mentioned above, I am somewhat follicly challenged, so I have almost no need for this salon’s speciality:

I’m more in need of a slim fade

As we got nearer to our turn around point (Schaefer Highway) I heard “Jesus Loves the Little Children” being played on a saxophone. The player turned out to be an affable gentleman named “Jack”. “Black Jack”. Being just down the street from Watt’s, we reminisced about the olden days when it was a jazz club. (Black Jack talked about seeing Roy Ayers there). When I asked him which Alto players he admired, he said: “Me”. Then he launched into a very nice version of “Satin Doll”. Thank you, Jack. Nice to meet you.

“Black Jack” Alto player supreme

There was still a lot more to unfold along Fenkell. (BTW, Fenkell is not, I think it’s fair to say, the best place to show off our city to out-of-towners). I passed one of my side businesses; I just added the tattoo sign to try and snag some hipsters. (That’s not actually true. I don’t own this place.)

My attempt to get some street cred (that part is true)

This establishment will try anything to make sure you come in and shop; even pointing out which door you’re supposed to use to get in, in case you’re confused.

Neither a side door nor a back door be

If you’re a regular Tour De Hood reader (see poll above), you’ll remember that I’ve noted a number of hair-type stores I’ve passed on my rides. This seems to be the place to get the best bargains. Either that, or something that must smell truly disgusting.

Liquid Hair: The greatest invention since sliced bread

There wasn’t a whole lot to see on Schaefer Highway, though I did dig the wheel setup on the car featured here, at yet another car wash.

Caprice Classics rule the road in Motown

Grand River presented us with a plethora of interesting things to view. There is a lot of nicely-executed curated street art along its length. For example, this exuberant celebration of dedication to the Queen of England (I think)

Perhaps it’s dedication to the King of Belgium

A bit further along, there was a lot more to see – but first, I wanted to point out a nicely recycled gas station, taking on new life as yet another beauty salon. (Detroit’s gas station architecture is pretty recognizable. I think it’s safe to say this actually was a gas station at one point.)

Change the oil, and just a little off the top, please

As for the aforementioned street art, there’s a super nice cluster on Grand River and Vermont. Example #1:

Dude

Example #2: (This is actually part of the signage for a barber shop)

And perhaps my favorite of the bunch: a trenchant observation on the general flabbiness of our nation, as well as our indefatigable dedication to eat anything that comes in an extra-large size, example #3:

Sad but true. We’re a flabby old bunch, aren’t we?

Before we stopped for some nourishment, we passed yet another motorcycle club. I don’t know if they’re a “good” motorcycle club or a “bad” motorcycle club. Do you?

A suggestion for Mr. Toro (Or is that Toros?) A little more consistency with the ‘s (or not) would help give your brand some added punch

We repaired to the Lafayette Coney Island for a richly deserved brunch, Motown-Style.

If you’d like to duplicate this tour yourself, here’s a Google® Map to show you where we went.

Back to my question at the beginning: did you read this, just look at the pictures, or both?

A circle of Detroitly delights

You just never know what you’re going to ride by on the Tour De Hood. Case in point, the ride the Legal and Eagle and I did the other day.

Here’s a link to our ride: (Thanks to Legal Eagle) LINK TO ROUTE

Mack Avenue is looking both up and down. While there’s some new signage, other buildings are still decomposing at various rates.

Alley Scratchers looks pretty new-ish, if you’re on the look for a new tat or some piercings. (Note: They don’t appear to be open in the morning)

$20 seems like a deal to me

Mountain Tire, on the other hand, appears to be permanently shut. (I’m not certain, but I think I can state that with some authority based on the price for that tire).

I’d say 90% of the tire stores in Detroit are painted yellow (or yellowish)

The Peace Lutheran School is, I think, similarly shut down.  Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good Cliff Notes version of building conctruction, as you can easily see the layers that make up its facade and structure.

Not too many Lutherans left on this part of Mack, I guess

Here’s an interesting retail “outlet”. You are offered the possibility to buy “Bank Foreclosures”.  Given the arcane means banks have been devising to artificially inflate their bottom lines (See: Barclays Libor Scandal), I doubt this is an opportunity to buy a foreclosed bank at a bargain price.

Get ‘em while they’re hot

I’m reasonably positive this is NOT a retail establishment. And I’m not sure if it’s dissing or supporting our local Crip Club.

Yep,that about sums it up

If I had the time, I’d do a post that only had photos of barber shop/hair stylist establishments I’ve ridden by. Here’s one with a spiritual dimension

Better a Fade of God than the alternative

There’s a curious sign in the nail shop next door.  It probably violates a number of federal statutes (ask the Legal Eagle for details, if you must), but I can see the validity of its message.

Sorry boys, gotta stay outta here

Things were looking a little more upbeat a bit further towards downtown. An ice cream shop looked pretty spruced up. (With a nod to Albus Dumbledore?)

I confess: I’ve never actually purchased snow before

The Legal Eagle wanted to try and check out a former interurban train station (or it may be a bus station; I can’t remember which), so we turned onto Gratiot.  The building is still there (more or less), but we couldn’t figure a way in through the fencing. However, we did spot another interesting shop.  It makes a rather grandiose claim about itself on one of its signs:

Here, it claims to be “Michigan’s Best Kept Secret”

The next version of the claim is a little more toned down, perhaps on advice of counsel:

O.K., maybe we’re only “Gratiot’s Best Kept Secret!” 

There wasn’t much worth noting on Conner over by the Detroit City Airport, but new delights awaited us a bit further on:  To wit: A motorcycle club headquarters.

Any guesses what The “FW” stands for? I know MC = Motorcycle Club

 

There’s a semi-open (I honestly couldn’t tell) Chrysler axle plant over on Lynch Road. At one point, the parking lot must’ve been pretty crowded.  Here’s a photo of one of the turnstiles to enter the lot.

We also passed turnstiles 5, 6, and 7

Our ride came to an unplanned halt, as a very very long train had stopped (literally) in its tracks.  It sat there for a while, which gave us the opportunity to examine some of the mysterious signage on the car carrier cars: Here’s another quiz for you all

What the heck does this mean?

As I said, the train stopped for a very long time, which gave me the opportunity to snap a somewhat oxymoronic photo:

 Please note: While Union Pacific is building America, it’s falling apart at the same time. (See power line/phone pole in rear)

Once the train finally got moving, (It did make a really cool sound as the cars started dragging each other forward) we trundled onto Caniff. (Hi Tim Suliman!) We passed a video store with all your international needs covered.

Shouldn’t that read Bosnian?
Here’s something you probably didn’t know about Detroit. Just across I-75 is what is claimed to be something way better than “Michigan’s best kept secret”.  I present to you “The Nation’s 1st ISO 9002 Registered Boiler Rental Company”. Ta da!
Don’t go renting a boiler from anywhere else. Or else
We decided we’d gone far enough down Caniff, so we took 14th Street towards the center of the city.  (As it were). Along the way, I have to report that it’s probably not a good idea to have your out-of-town guests try an book a room at the Pink Inn. Once again, I’m guessing, but I don’t think they’re taking reservations any more.
The light is on (look carefully), but I don’t think anyone’s home
There is some glorious street art on Michigan Avenue and Vermont (I’m saving that for another post), but here’s some words to the wise in the meantime:
Neither a gossiper or a gossipee be
And a hint of what’s to come in a future post
Thank you, Lush, whoever you are
I need some help here, friends.  There’s a headquarters (I think) of a club (I think) that may have something to do with motorcycles (maybe) or ice making (could be).  The whole thing is so complicated, I can’t even invent a poll to help you help me decide. (Please feel free to throw in your suggestions via a comment).
Here’s the building:
Manse of Mystery
Perhaps you can help me decipher this.  Reading from left to right, we have: 1) “Headquarters President Nephew” 2) “Grand National President Mista Sonny Day Founder est 1969″ and 3) (Least comprehensible) “Icicles”.
If it helps you, there are also a couple of images of very fierce looking dogs.
Example one:
Mean dog
Example two (as if a stop sign isn’t enough):
Maybe even meaner dog
Oddly enough, we didn’t hear (or see any actual dogs). Maybe they were licking some icicles in the shade.
We also decided to check out Detroit’s now-year-old hostel, which has some newly decorated features painted on its outside.  On the way there, we passed a house that looked as though it had been plucked from the Heidelberg Project.
Very inviting!
We also rode up and down a street that has its original brick pavers.  It’s only for a couple of blocks, but a nice reminder of Detroit’s past.
I’m a sucker for brick roads, even though they don’t make for smooth bike riding
We also spotted a nifty welding shop.  Check out the steel work here. Nice!
I don’t know if “Joe’s” is the real name. But it’s cool.
Before we made our way back home, we stopped at the Astro Coffee shop.  (It’s on the same block as Slow’s.)  I had the best egg sandwich I have ever eaten in my life. (Honest!) And a scrumptious cappuccino.  Definitely give it a try some time.
Here’s the nicely finished-off cappuccino:
Made by hand by someone who cares about what they’re doing
Finallly, someone had added a nice thought to the typical “Employees must wash hands” signs you see in every restroom these days.
Pretty good advice for everyone, I think
That was it for the day. As I remember, we had a nice tailwind back home, so all ended well.

Nerd Tastic!

The Tour De Hood is an informal affair. Usually, the Legal Eagle tries to find a road or street we haven’t visited, figures out an interesting way to get there, and we’re off!  Over Memorial Day weekend, we engaged our inner nerd-selves and picked a destination (actually two) and rode there, not particularly caring about how we got there.  (In short, we rode down some streets we’ve been down many times before).

Greyhound (I believe) used to claim that “getting there is half the fun”, and that’s always true riding around Detroit, because you never know what new delights await you. It’s certainly tons more entertaining than a bus ride.

To wit, I’ve ridden down Mack Avenue many times, but saw some new things I hadn’t seen before.

Hoods {sic} Tire Service has an eye-catching new sign.  Scroll through the back pages of the Tour De Hood, and you’ll find the old one, which promised that they wouldn’t buy stolen rims.  The new one is very nice.

Been in business since the days of bias-ply tires

I don’t remember there even being a “Kita Pita” before – but that could be because I hadn’t noticed it before it had this swanky paint job.

I don’t know what a “Kita Kream” is or what it tastes like

A new food shop/car wash/auto sales retailer was celebrating its grand opening. But it wasn’t open when we rode by; nor were there any cars on offer in its lot.

Maybe I’ll try to get lunch there some day

Next up, a religious sect or local version of Mary Baker Eddy’s church of Christian Science.  This was founded by Ann Ryan back in ’47.

Mental Science: Didn’t catch on quite as widely as Sigmund Freud

After the “Dew Drop Inn”, the Elbow Room/Lounge has to be one of the most popular bar names in America.  This particular iteration of same has a nice new sign.

Nice new signage; same old paint job

Public art always brightens a neighborhood. A local metal fabricating company has pitched in with this outdoor sculpture.

Sturdy, recycled materials, What’s not to like?

Still on Mack, we passed an auto repair emporium that’s new to me. Pretty butch name, eh?

Better check out the availability of that URL, stat!

Mack Avenue behind us, we veered left onto Gratiot, where more discoveries awaited.

Sad to say, Jimmie’s bicycle repair shop is closed.

I love ghost signs.  A little snooping around online turned up a couple of interesting things about Laurel Stoves. They were made by Detroit’s own Art Stove company, and had the kind of advertising tchotchkes (If you prefer, tshatshketchachketchotchkatchatchkachachketsotchkechotski, or chochke; the standard Yiddish transliteration is tsatske or tshatshke) they just don’t make any more.

Here’s an ad for Laurel Stoves from a Cass City dealer in 1912:

Be Sure To Show Up At Two To Win A Free Stove

As for the advertising giveaway, I’m not sure why you’d want to attach your brand to a potentially lethal weapon, but I guess things were different back then.

Maybe it’s for making “Chop Suey” (ha!)

Jimmie’s Bike shop may be on the move closer to downtown, judging by the sign on this defunct small-engine repair shop.

Motown/Mowtown. Get it?

They’ve recently spruced up Capitol Park.  While the buildings surrounding the plaza are in various states of renovation (or non-renovation), the park is very nice, and has a nice scale model of Michigan’s first Capitol.

n.b.: Approximately 1/75 scale. SIgnage honesty rules!

Our destination was nearing. The Legal Eagle wanted to visit a couple of rail marshaling yards. (See title of this post).  So did I.  (See title of this post). Look at all those non-moving trains. You can’t beat that for a great time.

Lots of trains. Little movement

I only managed to snag a couple of photos before a very nice gentleman arrived and urged us to leave the premises.  He did admit we didn’t look like scrap metal thieves, but we’d been caught on the railroad’s CCTV system, and got the boot.

All that riding, only to be escorted from the yard. (We tried another location, but got tossed from there, too).  Anyway, before we headed home I did get a snap of this somewhat mysterious sign on a freight car.

I don’t know how or why you’d want to hump a freight car

Anyway, we had a great time while it lasted, and as we headed back north, we passed under I-75, where I noticed this piece of graffiti on a supporting column.

Copyrighted and trademarked. To what end?

A Nerd Tastic time was had by all. And Greyhound was almost right. Getting there was even more than half the fun.

If you’d like to re-create this ride, the Legal Eagle has provided this handy map of our route.

Boating Season in the Hood

I’m the first to admit that I’ve let much too much time elapse since I’ve updated the blog. Sorry about that. Anyway, Memorial weekend came, family gathered, and in what’s becoming (if you can count two holidays a trend) a kith ‘n’ kin tradition, we went on a group spin ’round the hood.

It also happened to coincide with Michigan’s traditional boating season – which is celebrated in its own peculiar way in the hood, too.  I don’t know about other cities, but there seems to be a trend of sorts of “storing” your boat in an empty lot, or trailering it where it’s difficult to extract it.

To wit: On the corner of Kercheval and (I swear) Lakeview (!) we spotted this lovely day cruiser

Ahoy, Mateys! Smooth seas ahead.

A bit further downtown I espied this little runabout in a back yard.  Don’t know how long it’s been there, or where it’s headed.

Land yacht

This isn’t just an east side thing.  Down ’round the edges of the Dearborn a “parking lot” was home to this previously-sea-worthy craft:

Yearning for open waters

In a much earlier post, I recorded what I believed (and still believe) is the shortest bike lane in the world, but since then, Detroit has become a veritable Disneyworld(r) of bike lanes. That, coupled with the paucity of vehicular traffic on the weekends makes Detroit more of a cycling heaven.  Voila! The St. Jean Cycling Lane, ready for your delectation.

Smooth riding ahead! (Note family member’s calves)

Even though bike lanes are sprouting, so is the “grass” in the vacant lots.  The city is seriously strapped for cash (again), and is cutting back on services (again), and has been remiss in tending to its greenery.  Note to self: This is what happens if you never cut your lawn.

 Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of neglected grass

Along with grass growing, I discovered a new record pothole. (I think this one’s an 8 on the misterarthur scale).  Unfortunately, my photographic ineptitude doesn’t show it off to full advantage.  Trust me, it’s a big ‘un.

The Bike-Swallowing Pothole: Not just deep, but long and wide, too. 

Ossian Sweet’s Home (see this post for details), has a nice rose bush in full bloom.

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell so Ossian Sweet

The Detroit Waldorf School (building designed by Albert Kahn) is a wonderful institution (depending upon how much you buy into Rudolph Steiner’s er, somewhat oddball philosophy/religion/farming technique beliefs).  Truth is, my son had a wonderful experience there.  It’s a lovely building.  (Mr. Kahn also designed the Belle Isle Conservatory, the former GM building, Detroit’s crowning glory of ruin porn, the Packard plant, and many other famous edifices around our fair burg.)

The inside is beautiful, as well

The Waldorf School is on Burns and Mack, in Indian Village, and a block from a new-to-me-and quite-lovely garden.

The Indian VIllage Centennial Garden. Lovely

A bit further down Mack, things were a little more dodgy. The great Spanish poet, Garcia Lorca wrote: “La vida es sueño”. So is el former ice cream shop, now but a memory of frosty treats.

I don’t think Garcia Lorca ever saw the Dream Twist

We pressed forward to our destination (the Avalon Bakery), diverting through the Eastern Market to get there.  Along the way, I spotted two customized stop signs:  I guess both are warnings of sorts. The first suggests we keep our eyes lowered.

Roger that

The second, put there by either a philistine or an über-ironic urban hipster:

Oh, the irony. (Note family members in background)

Following some tasty treats and cappucini  at the Avalon, we meandered our way back home again.

I saw this nice typography on an electric substation.  I miss the days when cities used real designers to select municipal fonts. These days they just seem to slap Helvetica on everything and call it a day.

Note: Nothing to do with Submarines or the U.S. Navy

It was the day before Memorial Day, but we got a head start on matters by visiting the Elmwood cemetery, and more particularly the section honoring the soldiers who fought in the Civil War.  There’s a section of the cemetery dedicated to them; you ought to visit it some time.  One of the soldiers buried there was an adjutant on the staff of Ulysses S. Grant.

Some group or group of people had taken the trouble to mark the section with American flags.  If there can be beauty in a cemetery, it was on full display here in 2012.

Civil War Memorial Section, Elmwood Cemetery

All in all, a lovely family tradition continued, and a great day in the hood.

Mini Tour (Tourette?) De Hood – The 2012 Début

Spring hit us early this year – it’s been unseasonably warm for a couple of weeks. Unbelievably temperate weather, and great news for everyone around here except skiers. Anyway, I decided I was overdue to work the kinks out of my legs and take a jaunt ’round the hood.  It was such a short ride, it doesn’t even deserve a map. I basically wanted to get moving again, and see what had changed since last fall.

First up, the most excellent Good Girls Go To Paris has opened a suburban location.  It’s half-block from Detroit in Grosse Pointe Park.  It’s been open for about four months, but new to me. Here’s one of the great French movie posters that decorate the interior.

English translation: “Magnet of Doom”

It’s on the border of Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, so I guess it’s Kosher to include it here. Do stop by. I recommend, as usual, the “Good Girls” crepe. (Nutella and Banana).

See how close it is to our fair city?

Note the clean street and sidewalk 

Once in Detroit proper, (I was on Charlevoix), I noticed some new (to me) graffiti. I think this guy has been trying to determine his nickname. Otherwise, I’m pretty stumped trying to decipher this:

Lush, You Rant Junk Tweak Ranger?

The next tag I rode by made more sense, I guess, but I’m not sure of the starting date, or whatever the countdown refers to:

Maybe it’s a Mayan Calendar Thing

A bit further along, a nicely-done new (to me) urban garden has been created by the Northeast Guidance center. I’ll try and check on its progress as the year moves along.

Don’t know if vegetables or flowers are in its future

Over on Lycaste, I spotted a wheel cover that both looks new, and newly abandoned. It definitely wasn’t there last fall.

New plastic wheel cover looking for good home

Something that definitely wasn’t there last year was my own “tag” (actually drawn with a piece of mortar I found on the sidewalk) on the former AT&T building on Lycaste and Kercheval.

Non-permanent proof that misterarthur was here

On the way back, I noticed a couple of developments I had either missed before or were new.

This tree (part of the Greening of Detroit project to re-tree Jefferson) seems to be alive, but is missing some sort of ingredient

Meet the tree that has no “G”

When we planted trees along Jefferson, someone specified, purchased, and volunteers planted the wrong species, one that can’t make it through Michigan winters.  That’s why there’s a burnt orange dot on this specimen.  It has to be re-planted.

This is a defunct tree

Part of the sidewalk along  the road has erupted or collapsed over the winter. (Depends if you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person).

Maybe someone was looking for buried treasure

In the same optimist/pessimist mode, the holding lot across the street from Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly was empty, which means that either the Jeeps they’re making there are selling like hotcakes, or they’ve temporarily shut down the line. (I’m hoping for the former).  There may be some other reason, of course, as I’ve seen everything from Fords of various types to Volkswagens waiting here to be delivered to dealerships.

A very exciting photo of an empty parking lot

 The Redyns Co building has finally given up the ghost.  To be honest, I haven’t seen much activity here for a while.  Here’s what information I can glean about Redyns online: “Redyns CO in Detroit, MI is a private company categorized under Tonics, Hair. Our records show it was established in 1946 and incorporated in Michigan. Products or Services: Natural Hair Tonic, Kreml Hair Tonic, Black Lily Hair Tonic, Herbal Hair Tonic and Hair Growing Tonic.”

Farewell, maker of hair tonics of all sorts

A couple of blocks further along, a housing auction sign caught my attention, though the “house” in question was a little, uh, “questionable”.  Maybe it’ll be of interest to an antique brick collector.

The auction is next Saturday, if you’re interested

Anyway, every Spring, I try to be optimistic, following the lead of Alexander Pope, who wrote: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never Is, but always To be blest:”  

To that end, I also rode by something more uplifting than falling-down buildings.  So I leave you with something that made me feel great. A bunch of young men having a great time playing basketball, shirtless, outside enjoying the marvelous March weather.

March Madness: Playing outside, shirtless, in the middle of March in Michigan

Amazing Downhill Bike Race, Valparaiso, Chile. This year’s race is Sunday, February 19.

 Image from last year’s race

While it’s quite chilly here, it’s summer in Chile. So take a break inside and enjoy some fun bike stuff. Like the Cerro Abajo in Valparaiso, Chile. Here’s a link to a video from an amazing downhill urban bike race  (It’s from last year). They’re doing it again on February 19.  Here’s a link to the official site of the race. http://www.valparaisocerroabajo.cl/

There’s also a Facebook Page, and there are, apparently, plans to stream the race live via the Facebook page. Check it out. Looks like fun!

A Perplexing Paucity of Purveyors of Prurient Pleasures

If there are two streets in Detroit an outsider can name, they’re likely to be Woodward Ave and Eight Mile Road. Woodward from the olden days (think baby boomers and Dream cruisers), and Eight Mile from that rapper fella.  Locally, Eight Mile has the reputation of being Detroit’s Strip Club headquarters.

Eight Mile: The farthest edge of Detroit, shining its adult entertainment lights north towards the suburbs.

We could hardly wait to get there. Even if it was daylight.

The Legal Eagle and I’ve been up ‘n’ down Woodward a lot – but have, heretofore, skipped Eight Mile. Not because we’re prudes, but because Eight Mile isn’t the greatest road for cyclists – fast cars, right turn lanes, pavement eruptions near the side of the road, etc.  However, to celebrate Independence Day weekend, we decided to give it a go, as they our former colonizers put it.

We took the Cadieux/Morang/Hayes route to get there, (map here, courtesy the Legal Eagle) and espied some prototypical Detroit retail establishments along the way.

The Religious-Themed Barber Shop

The one and only Billy Shears’ Brother, Hallelujah

Then there’s the religious-themed car repair/tire store/towing service:

I guess I should get my car towed before the world ends

We also passed Monti E Spank’s barber shop/clothes store. It’s one of the few retail establishments I know of that has both dual functions and two names.

Representing the Area Code 313

I’ve never heard of Mr. Spank before – and oddly enough, neither has Google®.  Here is the result I got when I entered his name into that famous search engine:

Monti e Spank: Internet privacy expert and barber

Fatu’s Hair Braiding has a very nice mural. It’s very wide.

Half the Mural

Aside from its width, there’s something else that’s quite extraordinary about the mural, and that’s the map of Africa depicted on the left side. I blew up the photo a bit so you can see what I mean.

Africa: The Colonial Years

Nyasaland? (Now Malawi) German Southwest Africa? (Now Namibia) Belgian Congo? (Now Democratic Republic of the Congo) Anglo-Egyptian Sudan? (Now Sudan and, on July 9, 2011, the newly-independent Republic of South Sudan). Various Rhodesias, French West Africa, etc. etc.  Quite a history lesson, considering German West Africa ceased to be in 1915.

Visuals soon reverted to type. For some reason, Detroit tire stores have a fondness for flames.  Here’s an example. (You can find more by visiting some of my older posts.)

Vroomy!

We saw another (unfortunately defunct) towing service before we hit Eight Mile road. Not what I’d name my towing company, but what do I know?

I guess it’s a better promise than “demure towing”

Sure enough, before we hit the Eight, we saw another tire store. (What a surprise!)

Rainbow’s the name, rainbow-ish color’s the game

If I owned a jewelry store, and stated so proudly on my sign, you’d think I’d spell it correctly. Sure the big version’s correct, but that doesn’t excuse the slipshod execution of the word on its lower left:

Jewely repair. Eally?

By now, we’d made it to Eight Mile, and were prepared for a veritable parade of merchants of fleshly delights. Alas, such was not to be the case. There were only three adult entertainment establishments from Hayes to Livernois.

1) The Colosseum. Detroit’s Egypto-Roman palace of pleasure.

Strippimus Maximus

2). Trumpp’s.  Or maybe not Trumpp’s.  I’m not sure, as it was undergoing cosmetic enhancement surgery.

This might be called “All-Stars”. I’m not sure

3) Tycoons. Where Trumpp-like people hang out, I imagine.

Where the elite meet

That was it.

What a catastrophe!. (To quote Hans Rosling). I thought it would be more like Detroit’s own version of the Vegas “Strip” (figurative meaning of the word). One Exotic Entertainment Venue cheek by jowl with another. What happened? Did they all move to Dearborn or Michigan Avenue? Was there some sort of anti-strip-club-spotting veil over my eyes?

While we were saddened by only riding by three clubs, we perked up at some other retail establishments.  The way-over-the-top rim shop, Hot Wheel City:

No flames, but torrid nonetheless

Riding by Hot Wheel City, you could be in many places in the United States; but the next couple of stores had a certain home-grown quality about them. Like this place, which appears to be trading on a certain Swiss Watch manufacturer’s aura of excellence.

Don’t just repair your whip, rolex it!

The Legal Eagle proved his disclaimer chops when he noted the escape clause built into the sign in Rolexus’ window.

Please note: Not all

I think I discovered the source of Marshall Bruce Mather III’s stage name. You might think Slim Shady’s other name came from his first and last names’ initials, but I think he was really inspired by Cathy’s Appliance, and its misspelled slogan. That, or a former printer who can’t get em and en spaces out of his head.

Stacking em and selling en, Marshall

Up where Eight Mile (the road, not the movie) crosses I-75, the cyclist faces a choice: Take the fearsome climb, or skirt it and stay on the flats. As prudent tourers, we chose the easy way.

The Hors Categorie Col de Tourmaleight mile (a Tour De France Joke)

We could’ve ridden Eight Mile further west, but decided, given other weekendly obligations, to take a turn on Livernois. Right on the corner is the (claimed to be, and I have no reason to doubt it) oldest Jazz Club in the World, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.  I used to go there when I was in high school.  A great club with great music, and, according to the reviews online, still a great place to go.  You can read the upcoming schedule, and more about the club, right here. So do so.

Everybody who’s anybody in Jazz has played here

The section of Livernois we found ourselves on has been known for a long while as “The Avenue of  Fashion”, and there are still banners stating that assertion hung from street lamps in the area. What caught my eye, however, was the unintended humor of the name of this, um, medical facility:

How apt, if you’re having a colonoscopy

We then swung homeward on 7 mile – which, if you’re on a bicycle, is a much better place to ride than Eight Mile.  Less traffic, fewer “I hate bicycles” vibe, more fun sights.

We stopped at a fire station to see if the firefighters who work there have a nickname, as is the case with most fire stations in Detroit.  Sure enough, they do: The Seven Mile All-Stars.

18 + 44 = All Stars!

A special shout out goes to Lieutenant Dexter Dixon, who not only told us the nickname, but turned out to be a real deal cyclist, and former racer, who not only knows how to lace up wheels, but also raced on a track bike with tied and soldered spokes. (You old-timers will know what I’m talking about). Anyone else wishing to find out what the heck that means can find out more here.  Lieutenant Dixon currently rides two Cannondales and a Klein.  And he’s a really cool guy, too. Stop by and say misterarthur said hi.

Back across I-75, a welcome sight for Rastafarians everywhere –  or, I guess, anyone with a valid Michigan Medical Marijuana license. Need some pot? Go here:

Meds, dude

Just don’t go wandering in without the necessary forms and documents. Or you could wind up in the clink;

For “Alternative Health Wellness Center”, read: Marijuana store

We didn’t stop in, as neither of us had the necessary paperwork, and, anyway, it was closed.  As was an, ahem, interestingly named dual purpose shop.

Pharty Hard? There’s a med for that. Or go to Cheeks Colon Care over on Livernois

Even though we saw very few strip clubs on Eight Mile, one hove into view just up Seven Mile.  At least it could be a strip club. With a name like this, who’s to say?

I’m guessing it doesn’t cater to women

Over on Harper, you can find the “Anointed Hands Christian Hair Temple”. Over here, the reigning middleweight champ:

Check those pecs! Blessed hands, indeed. 

Sorry about the off-angle photo. The sun was coming up behind the building, and shooting straight at the sign, all I could get was a giant lens flare.

Over on Conner and I-94, there’s a small triangle of grass and trees, a tiny fence, and a very small plaque. The plaque memorializes the Detroit City Cemetery, which may or may not have been here for a while, after the original Detroit Cemetery was displaced by the Eastern Market (!). If you’re confused, ask the Legal Eagle. He can explain.  Anyway, here’s the plaque:

Only problem: No Cemetery here. We looked

Closer to home, we took a spin down Manistique Street, which, sadly, is looking pretty grim.  There’s a fire station near Manistique and Warren, where we found a friendly firefighter cleaning his personal rig.

Engine 52. Home of the “Manistique Madmen”

In a land of oddball barber shop names, you can add one more to the list.  I present to you:

No small-timers need apply

Aside from the strip club fail, it was a great ride, on a beautiful day, and we met a great firefighter.  There’s always something worth seeing on the Tour De Hood. Ride a bike in Detroit some time. It’s fun!