Blessed Elephants, Polar Bears, and Atomic Dogs – TDH visits Wyoming, Tireman, Harper, and more

Took a rather extended loop on the Tour De Hood today. It was the same day as the Tour De Troit – which we intersected on our end stretch near Indian Village. Went our own way, as the legal eagle and I  didn’t want to follow 2,000 cyclists around a path we already know well.

Here’s a Google Map of Saturday’s Route of the Tour De Hood if you’d like to see the route. We did go through Hamtramck & Highland Park, so some of it wasn’t, technically, Detroit proper, though let’s not quibble, ok?

The Tour started on Harper, where I encountered my first Lash Parlor. (Not an S & M facility, even though it was across the street from Harper News, “An Adult Fantasy to Experience”.)

1noexcusesNo excuses not to look your best, Ladies (dig the scissors in the “X”)

So far, nothing out of the ordinary, just typically exuberant Detroit retail design. Here’s the  relatively subdued adult video emporium (I didn’t know these still existed) which offers titillation for a mere 25 cents.

2adultvideosLooking for a lottery tip sheet to go with your porn?

I am as much for keeping your car clean as the next guy, so I’m thinking that my anodyne sedan might need a trip to the following locale:

3mrheavySalon + Mr. Heavy = iron fist in velvet glove

We passed an unfortunately defunct appliance repair facility. While the english-ness of its name (World Tomorrow) is a bit questionable, the application of a real washing machine to its signage deserves inclusion into the Detroit pantheon of retail peculiarity.

4worldtomorrowFollow the arrow to tomorrow

As should be obvious to any one who has followed my peregrinations, it wasn’t long before I passed by a strip club:

7chichisTime to celebrate National Hispanic Month

It’s September, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Flowers are always appropriate.

5loveoneAt least there’s no unnecessary apostrophe, but that dash! Oh, dear

There’s a fascinating (though unfortunately faded-by-weather) mural where Harper crosses Gratiot. (Which I now automatically pronounce Gra-toit – per the misspelled sign from last week.) Among the portraits you can spot Malcolm X, former Mayor Coleman Young, the People Mover (?), Nelson Mandela, a young Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, and, I think, Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution in the late 18th Century. The mural’s title confounds me:

6aaubiquityAmalgamation of Ubiquity? Fusion of Everywhere?

Shantinique Music is bucking the trend of highly-focussed retailers, like Michigan Saw & File, and has (successfully?) cobbled together the only Music/sportswear/footwear shop I’ve ever seen.

8shantinitqueMusic, and the outfit to go with it

A delightfully-named car wash, “Bubble Time”, was the next sight to behold, which wouldn’t normally merit inclusion here, but I was struck by the inequality of the time devoted to painting the bubbles, and the slapdash execution of the name itself.

9bubbletimeTime to get down with your foamy self

Shortly thereafter, things soon descended (or arose, I guess) into one of the most memorable rides I’ve taken in Detroit, a surreal combination of misspellings, oddball graphics, stolen logos, religious “iconography”, and just plain weirdness that is probably unmatched by any other city in America.

Behold: The Harper/Mt. Elliot/Conant/Oakland/Wyoming/Tireman acid trip on two wheels.

There’s a lonely chimney, which reminded me of the photos of Atlanta following Sherman’s March to the Sea.

10chimneyFormer site of _________?

I know the English language has certain peculiarities which make spelling correctly kind of difficult – but the person in charge of this sign appears to have not even bothered trying to get it right.

11frigiratorsHot ‘n’ Kold, I guess

Given that our native tongue has (according to the O.E.D., which ought to know) over 170,000 words in current use, it’s surprising that the owners of this facility couldn’t drag up a better adjective to describe their wares:

12ampleDig those “Roman” Ds

Consider yourself a sign painter. You have a project. Your assignment is to paint the name of a store and its goods on a rather large blank wall. Given the space you’re given on which to apply your art, wouldn’t you think about that door before you realized that you’d have to split “gro” and “ceries” to maintain your sort-of centered type format?

13newpolkaNo more Frankie Yankovic? That’s Old Polka

Last week, I mused on the absence of a mountain on Mt. Elliot street, but I think I found a lump that could be the missing mountain after all. It’s a geological oddity, as it’s made primarily of crushed concrete, unlike the Alps or the Himalayas.

14mtelliotBehold Detroit’s highest mountain

The Highland Park High School Varsity football team was playing an away game against Country Day on Saturday. As predicted by some of the people we met, they stomped all over the Country Day Yellow Jackets, 36 to 3.  But here’s the question:  What on earth possessed the school board to name the team “The Polar Bears”?

16polarbearsPolar Bears in Highland Park? Reminds me of the first two seasons of Lost

A temporarily permanent “restaurant” beckoned on McNichols, and while the art work featured enticing renderings of  various comestibles, the sign (with a surprisingly accurate use of an apostrophe) promised Nothin’ but Love” [sic]. I don’t know what the end quotation mark is for.

17nothin'butloveI want some fries with that love

Co-winner of this week’s Pro-Am competition, this professionally painted but amateurishly spelled appliance repair store:

18proffessionalsGreat at ffixing frigirators.

Tied for first with the proffessionals is a furniture repair shop, that promises all kinds of furniture repair.

19dinningroomQuality work; bad spelling

Here’s this week’s stump the misterarthur winner. I’m willing to go with blessed money plants (sure to generate wealth) and blessed thinking caps (we could all use one of those), but the blessed elephant thing totally confounds me. Do you have to bring your own elephant to be blessed?  Is this a combo candle store/pet store that only sells elephants? Is it legal to own an elephant, blessed or not, within the Detroit City limits? Does this Mayor know about this possibly illegal trade in elephants?

20blessedelephantsI’ll take one thinking cap, please

We try to support Detroit Car makers as much as we can; but even if your car comes from elsewhere, we’re happy to repair it. That doesn’t mean we have to spell its origin correctly.

21foriegnI promise to defend the constitution against all enemies, foriegn or domestic

I’m not sure if a Moabite Body is something I’d like to have. According to Wikipedia, the ancestor of the Moabites was Lot himself, via incest with his oldest daughter. Whether that contributes to physical perfection is not within my area of expertise.

22moabitesThere’s a town in Utah called Moab, maybe they’re Mormons

Next up, Detroit’s version of fusion cuisine. Not quite what you’d expect from a Spa experience in California, but what the hell, it might be tasty after all.

23asiancornedbeefWTF? Irish Sushi?

This week’s TDH winner of the Amateur Retail Decor Award is a sort of one-man Home Depot.

Here’s a wide view. Note the care with which the sign painter avoided the shutter on the left hand side


It’s a medical building, too. See above the door

My favorite part is the full Detroit rendering of Doors, Lumber, and Window$ [sic], especially the random use of upper and lower case letters.


A fellow walking by said “That building’s all F’d up. Ain’t got no floor. Ain’t got no roof”.  I take that to mean we’ll have to look for our new KiTCHEN CABINET elsewhere.

Detroit has been a Democratic Party stronghold for years and years, and, as a whole, has embraced our new President. That said, no one appears to have taken it as far as the proprietors of this service station, who’ve violated every copyright law in Amercica to proclaim their allegiance to Mr. Obama.

27obamagasIn case you don’t know which Obama they’re referring to, there’s a photo for your assistance

Even the pumps carry the full Obama Campaign graphics.

28obamapumpDoes Hugo Chavez have anything to do with this?

David Mackenzie High School was erected in 1931 – hence the glorious Deco tile work. I don’t know when it was abandoned; it still has some unbroken windows.  What a shame.

29highschoolNo child left inside

God, as I generally understand it, is all-seeing, and all-powerful – at least as defined by Judeo-Christians everywhere. You can imagine, then, that I was nonplussed by the re-definition of God’s will over here at Cliff’s Family. I think it’s a barber shop – the signage behind the white Ford Explorer says “regular haircuts”. No tyzillions here, I guess.

30godspecializeGod Specialize in what?

This small restaurant on Tireman was new to me – I don’t remember it being listed in one of the hot Detroit nightspots directories.  Irradiated food! It’s the next big thing!

31atomicdogsNote: Whole Chicken Wings

The sign painter has either inadvertently left a space between “cat” and “fish”, or is, instead, promising something I’ve never seen on a menu before; your choice of cat or fish.  I’ll take the Atomic Dog.

We ran across another spelling fail before we got home. I hate insurance deductibles (like everyone else). As for deductibales, I’ve never had to pay one. Special Shout Out to the estimable Ed Dilworth, who pointed out that Jay’s phone number has an extra digit.

32deductibalesIt appears as though they demolished their dictionary, too.

The ride ended, not with a bang, but a hiss. A piece of glass, too big to be a shard and too small to be a chunk whacked my rear tire. Two patches later, the tube was still not holding air. My wife had to come and pick me up. Thus an ignominious end to a glorious and enlightening day. Such is life on the Tour De Hood.

Addendum: Forgot to include this impressively named and fantastically decorated hair salon:

anointedhands“A woman’s hair is her glory”


13 thoughts on “Blessed Elephants, Polar Bears, and Atomic Dogs – TDH visits Wyoming, Tireman, Harper, and more

  1. I’ve read your latest entry and I really like what you’re doing. I just started my blog a few months ago. Although I work during the weekend, I try to tour around metro Detroit when I can. I ride as an alternative to city buses.

    Feel free to look at my blog and leave any comments.

  2. lol Arthur, I was trying to be funny. I wonder if it is secured well or if it would blow off in a storm? Also love the Obama gas station, only in the heart of a forgotten city could you find such blatant use of copyrighted material.

  3. I ride through Detroit regularly albeit in a car. The places I love best are downtown, and Brush Park where the vines grow through the roofs of mansions.

  4. I used to work in Detroit, and would always enjoy seeing the home-made signs and slogans for small businesses whenever I drove through the city. Many small businesses in the D cannot afford graphical designers to make professional signs, so they go ahead and design it themselves. Sure, some of them are pretty sad (like the obama gas station, or ‘Asian Corn Beef’)–but others are extremely creative and incredibly funny!

    A fantastic photo essay, thanks for sharing.

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