How The Tour De Hood got its name

Last winter, I was interviewed as part of a series called “Detroit Stories”.  (I had gone to a gallery opening of photographs taken by a friend of mine.)  They wound up making 9 short videos of me, which you can find at http://detroitstoriesproject.com/arthur-mitchell

Here’s one of me talking about cycling in Detroit.

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?

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Bicycles

The Tigers have announced a special “Bike to the Ballpark” event on April 22.  Here’s what they say: “For just $14, bicycle riding fans may receive an Upper Reserved ticket to the 1:05 p.m. game vs the Texas Rangers and a ticket for a one-day-only bicycle valet to be located on Columbia Plaza in front of Comerica Park’s Gate A entrance. Bicycle valet tickets are only available through this special offer, and will not be available for purchase on the day of the game.”  Click on link for more information. Thanks to Wettham for the tip.

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!

Recharge your phone with your bicycle

Fenix International makes a battery charging system that can be powered by your bike. Not for sale in the U.S. yet – you can sign up for info at their web site. They also make a universal Li-Ion USB camera battery charger.  Here’s the bike version

Pedal Power