This is a pretty long post. I won’t be able to post next weekend, so this’ll have to tide you over.
Summer has finally hit Detroit. Following a monsoonish rainfall yesterday, Sunday was hot ‘n’ humid out on the pavement. There’s a “Heat Advisory” in effect until 10 pm tonight.
To help you follow my peregrinations, I made a simple Google Map to show the route Paul and I took today. Last week, I rode up Grand River, but only as far as Grand Blvd. This week, we decided to go farther up the road, to cover some fire stations Paul hadn’t photographed yet, and to see what other interesting sights might unveil themsleves.
First, we had to get to Grand River itself. We decided to ride down Charlevoix, mostly because I had just watched Gran Torino, which was filmed in Detroit. I thought I recognized one of the locations, where Clint’s Hmong neighbors’ daughter gets hassled by some punks:
Gran Torino Location (I think)
There are two other Gran Torino locations I’m sure of. One is Pointe Hardware & Lumber, (my hardware store) which sells a “Gran Torino” tool kit consisting of a can of WD-40, a roll of duct tape, and a pair of Vise-Grips. (See the movie, and you’ll understand). Also “my” tailor, Vince of Artona, plays himself assisting Clint in buying a suit. (Vince does a great job playing himself, by the way).
A bit further along, we passed the Ossian Sweet house. You can read more about him at the link. It was a tragedy set off when Dr. Sweet, an African-American, moved into an all white neighborhood. A mob gathered outside his house, threw rocks and bricks, and shots were fired from the house, killing one of the people in the street. Clarence Darrow wound up successfully defending Dr. Sweet. Here’s his home, on Garland and Charlevoix
The Ossian Sweet home
I’m guessing he and my grandfather knew each other. My grandfather was a physician as well, and lived and practiced a couple of blocks away. He also treated African-Americans. I have a notebook of birth records he kept; while most of his patients were listed as “white”, he had African-American obstetric patients, as well as (as he wrote) “Syrian”, “Indian”, and “Finnish”. I have no idea why he specified “Finnish”, but the entries date from 1915, so who knows?
I spotted a piece of graffiti, and asked a gentleman on the porch of the house next door if I could take its picture. “Sure”, he said, and I did. I can’t figure this out, and neither could the gentleman with whom I spoke. “Used to be, graffiti made sense,” he said, “I don’t get this new stuff.”
Anyone help me out here? Casey?
There are tons and tons of places to get your car repaired in Detroit. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can take your vehicle to “Jalloppy’s” anymore for its maintenance needs.
Where am I going to find Genuine Red’s Hydraulic Products?
Our local public radio station, WDET, used to have the longest-running blues program in the country, hosted by the estimable, but also difficult-to-understand at times Famous Coachman. He also had a record store. Mr. Gasm, one of Detroit’s most prolific taggers, (along with Mr. Porab) has claimed the territory, but you can see that at one point, you could even buy vacuum tubes chez Monsieur Coachman.
The one and only Coachman’s Records
Once on Grand River itself, we stopped to see the inside of the Michigan Theatre. This was one of those movie-palace places. Right now, it’s being used as a parking garage (!). As the Tigers were going to take the field today, it was open, so we ducked in for a couple of shots.
Park your whip in style
The most impressive window is blocked by a wall, but incredibly (this, in a city where copper gutters have a life span of about a day) some original marble is still in place.
Is your parking garage graced by marble?
Here’s a place to get fit for you Tour De Hood wannabees. (That, or for people who are all agog over just sitting on the couch.)
Get going! Sit There!
Next up, the remains of one of Detroit’s most historied (yes, that’s a real word) locations, The Grande Ballroom.
Not so Grande any more
Do visit the website, particularly the “Gigology” page to get a sense of the great acts that played there. (My sister saw The Who there.) I’m going to take a quick detour here to give some props to two of the people who made the Grande Famous – Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren. Most people think “psychedelic” art comes from San Francisco. That’s because of the “summer of love” blah blah. But it can be safely said that Grimshaw and Lundgren were among the true originators of the genre. To give you a flavor of their style, here’s a Cream poster by Grimshaw
Cream at the Grande, poster by Grimshaw
Here’s a sample of Carl Lundgren’s work:
The Who & Joe Cocker on the same bill
Back on Grand River, I passed a number of interesting retail establishments. One of the places offered “reconditioned” – well, I’m not sure, but it looks like “reconditioned” “reconditioneds”.
No unreconditioned reconditioned for me
We all need to look our best, and here’s a place that promises the coldest cuts in the city – if you think I’m talking about deli meats, move to Indiana.
Not sure what’s going on in that “O”
Then there’s the mysteriously-named but tempting club on the east side of the street:
It’s RED, get it?
One of the establishments has rather sneakily renamed itself. I would wager large amounts of money that this collision shop didn’t have this name in 2008. (I’m just guessing).
Same great Service. Same great people
There are plenty of hand wash car washes in Detroit. But really, how do you know if the hand wash you’re promised is really a hand wash? This place wants you to understand, when they say hand wash, they mean hand wash, dang it.
Ladies, put Wednesday & Sunday in your PDA
I know that retailers have succeeded in malls by specializing in selling things you wouldn’t think warrant a whole store dedicated to them, like “Sunglass Hut”, but this place seems a little too finely focussed to me. How many saws & files do people need, anyway?
Not just saws. Saws and files
I love barbeque. Not “barbequed” meats. Barbeque. There’s a difference. And if you don’t believe me, ask someone from Texas or Kansas City, or North Carolina. I was both thrilled and perplexed by this restaurant. (Well, the name is odd):
Pronunciation? Your guess is as good as mine
What leaves me scratching my head is the claim that Ippissee was voted number one bar-b-q “In the State of Tennessee”. Is that a plus? I thought Tennessee was more famous for things like Jimmie Dean Sausage, or biscuits and gravy. I don’t remember reading anything about great Tennessee bar-b-q and, by the way, voted by whom?
Up at the top of our ride, we stopped at a beautiful fire station: Engine 54.
Yes, this is Engine 54
A delightful sergeant invited us in to take a look around. It’s a beautifully kept station. One of the firefighters took it upon himself to shine up the original brass in the station. Check out this door handle, from back in the day when Detroit had money, and every city took pride in its public buildings.
Beautiful door handle
We decided to take McNichols back. It was a good choice, as we had a really nice tailwind, which took the edge off the now blistering heat. We also passed a tax return place with the simplest and best promise possible:
That’s what I want
If you’re looking for a used vehicle, you might try this establishment:
Mr. Lucky’s was open today, but be careful. He has a very, very, large dog. The dog appears to not like either intruders, or people, in general.
OK, readers, I need some help here. I passed what used to be a bank, and all that’s left of the original signage is this logo. Neither Paul (who knows these kinds of things) nor I (who wan’t much help) could identify it. Anyone know what bank this might have been?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
McNichols is supposed to dead end at Detroit City Airport, but some hooligans knocked down large sections of the fence, giving access to the airport. Enquiring minds like mine see that as an opportunity explore new territories, and the runway beckoned. (There’s actually a little sidewalk that skirts the runway proper, so we weren’t actually in anyone’s flight path).
Airport with ‘bike path’
The only problem was that hooligans have left all the other fences intact, so we were, in effect, trapped inside. We spoke with two nice airplane-owning gentlemen, one of whom volunteered to let us out through the electronically controlled gate, as he was about to leave. However, on the way to said gate, we were intercepted by a security type, who had failed to see us riding around on the tarmac. He was rather nonplussed at our presence. He asked how we had gained access to the airport, which we told him was through a large, missing chunk of fence. That didn’t seem to concern him as much as us actually being on the airport grounds, and threatened us with a $10,000 fine. I guess maybe they needed the money to actually repair the fence we rode through.
Detroit City Airport Hangars
One thing about this airport is that there’s no sign flashing the current TSA Security level. Last I looked at Detroit Metro, it was orange; I hope our little detour on City Airport’s property didn’t raise it to red.