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?

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

Obscura Day Video

The people behind Atlas Obscura Day have released a video commemorating last April’s event. The Tour De Hood’s Detroit tour is featured prominently. Take a look here.  We had a great time. Thanks to the people at Atlas Obscura, and who knows, maybe we’ll do it again in 2012.

There’s no little hotel called “The Shady Rest” on the Junction (street)

Looking for long-ish roads to cover on my rides, I decided to ride Junction Street from its foot to its head, mostly to discover the Junction for which I assumed the street was named.

(BTW, the title of this post will probably mystify anyone younger than a baby boomer – it’s a reference to one part of the “Hooterville” trilogy – “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “Petticoat Junction”, and “Green Acres”.)  All TeeVee Klassics.

On the way down to the start of Junction, I passed a “coming soon” sign for what I can only imagine is a motorcycle club:

Brick City? A nickname for Detroit that’s new to me

“Brick City”, according to Wikipedia, is the nickname of Newark New Jersey. Maybe this is a franchise of some kind.  Over at the Urban Dictionary, the claim is made that the nickname “is derived from the large amount of crack bricks that can be purchased” [there].  Your guess is as good as mine as to the truthiness of that claim.

The Mies Van Der Rohe memorial on Lafayette is looking pretty sharp, though I can’t tell for sure whether the foliage is on purpose or is just weeds.

Sadly, “Less is More” appears to refer to the number of empty shops in the plaza

To get to Junction, I rode down Fort Street.  Along the way, I passed McCarthy’s Pub. From what I can tell, via a cursory internet hunt, it’s open for business.

Free Poo

More incendiary delights awaited, as further along, I spotted a plume of smoke to my right.  It so happened that I rode past a fire station shortly after I saw the smoke, and spoke to a firefighter who informed me it was a car fire.  Sure enough, on Military & The Fisher Freeway service drive, a Mustang GT convertible was being doused with water.

Move along folks, nothing to see here

Making a detour onto Military turned out to be a good thing.  I spotted this nice sign for a defunct appliance dealer:

Does a happy owner make for happy customers?

I also pedaled by an interesting metals provider.  Devoted readers of this site will know that I have a particular fondness for misspelled signage.  In this case, however, I suspect the word in question (you’ll spot it) is probably not a mistake as much as it is some nomenclature peculiar to that industry. You decide.

How much is that fine, anyway?

Back at the junction of Junction and West Jefferson, I began my trek up the street. I wouldn’t call this intersection a junction.

Riding in the Shadows of Mistersky

I began the hunt for whichever junction that was the inspiration for the street’s name. The junction of what. I don’t think a railroad crossing qualifies.

Not exactly a junction

Nor does a Mexican seafood restaurant.

Mmmm. Seafood. Not a junction

A bit further up, I passed one of two beautiful churches on Junction.  This is Holy Redeemer.

A junction betwixt heaven and earth?

At the intersection of Junction and Vernor, I spotted some tracks in the pavement – but I think these were street car tracks, and, since they’re curved, seemed like an oxymoronic junction anyway.

Tour De Hood philosophical question: Can a curve without a stop be a junction?

At the same intersection, I spotted this nice Coney Sign. Not a junction.

Duly noted

Crossing under 4 railroad tracks near Junction and McGregor was the closest thing yet to a junction – but even they didn’t seem to be the inspiration for the street name.

Not a junction. Maybe an intersection

The second beautiful church I passed is St. Hedwig. Saint Hedwig, the Duchess of Silesia, was married at the age of 12(!) to Henry I “The Bearded”, had seven children, then took a vow of chastity. She’s the patron saint of brides and Bavaria (among other things).

Two towers do not a junction make

While junctions were difficult to find, riding up Junction Street led me past another great ghost sign.  This one’s for Finck’s Overalls.  I’m going to post a couple of photos.  One of the sign itself,

Always look for the Union Label

the other, a close-up of Finck’s great advertising slogan:

“They wear like a Pig’s nose”. That’s a good thing

As usual, the superb blog Sweet Juniper got there first, and researched the company. Please pay the site a visit to read more.

Still, a mighty ghost sign is not a junction.

I was beginning to believe that there was no junction to be found on Junction Street.  Detroit did have a Milwaukee Junction (about which you can read here), and there is a West Vernor-Junction historical district, but no actual junction that I could see.  And I was running out of Junction Street.

Before its terminus, I cycled by this place for tots:

Nothing up my sleeve. Including a junction

The Kronk Community Center (on Junction & McGraw), looks as if it hasn’t been open since our former Mayor,  Kwame “The Disreputable” Kilpatrick was in office.

Kwame Kilpatrick, jailbird

At Warren, Junction Street ends. Across Warren you’ll find Hazlett Street. But at the end of the road, no Junction. No Shady Rest.  Just a do-it-all auto repair store.

Virtually no spelling errors! (Maybe there should be an “s” on “hose”)

Riding down Warren, I passed this nice community billboard

Look closely – there are ghosts on the swing set

Another sign attracted my attention. Simple and to the point.

I’ve heard of Parker House rolls, but not the sausage to go in them

I stopped, as is my wont, for refreshment and sustenance at the Avalon International Bakery.  I had, unfortunately, missed their anniversary party.  My cinnamon roll (with pecans), and a double short cappuccino were delicious, as always.  I did espy this mysterious tag on the Avalon’s wall.

Paging Dr. Brule

Junctionless, but sated, the rest of the ride was over grounds that I’ve covered before, so I won’t bore you with repetition.

Afterword.  Douglas Grant was kind enough to send me “The list of streets in Detroit, the names of which have been changed, with the dates of city ordinances changing the same”, published in 1891.  Until March 19, 1887, Junction Avenue was named “Lover’s Lane”.  Awww.

Boats, Guns, Trains, Tanks and Produce

June 19, (Father’s Day) was a lovely summerish day. While The Legal Eagle and I hadn’t planned to visit any particularly manly sights on our ride, it turned out that way after all.

For our route, click here.

Along the way to our quarry, Delray Park, we passed the apparently soon-to-be rehabbed Globe Building on Atwater. Don’t know if it’s going to be residential or commercial, but either way, prime location.

Spanning the Globe, to bring you the constant variety of broken windows

We opted to ride as much along W. Jefferson as possible, even though the street dead ends. We walked our bikes along some railroad tracks owned by our very own oddball billionaire, Matty Maroun, He owns the Ambassador Bridge (seen in the background), as well as the Michigan Central Ruin Icon.

The end of the line for the Maroun RR

Traipsing along the track ballast (that’s the stuff onto which the ties and tracks are laid) we came upon a consist (that’s the name for a bunch of rail cars hooked together with a purpose).  One had some interesting 21st Century hobo chalking:

Maybe that’s the Denver hobo sign for an Arriflex camera

Another of the cars came complete with a swanky slogan.

We Are Tank Car People (sung to the tune of  Kraftwerk’s “We are Showroom Dummies”

Among many warnings, cautions, and instructions listed on the car, one was up for mis-interpretation:

Is the rubber-soled shoes rule for your protection or the car’s?

A fenced-off area under the Ambassador Bridge looked inviting, but we couldn’t go in. Blame it, like back-scatter x-ray machines, on the all-powerful “Homeland Security” clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Due to?

Our off-roading trek continued until Jefferson started up again, where we came upon a migrating radial.

Tire in the road alert. Oh, never mind

Delray Park is pretty nice. There’s a boat launching ramp, plenty of room for fishing, nice sign out front.

Open for your parking pleasure

If you peer closely at the sign, you’ll note that it is made possible, in part, by DTE, which makes sense, as there’s an enormous DTE facility next door.  Not to mention a giant power line that delivers electricity to our Canadian friends across the Detroit River.

Is electricity included in NAFTA ?

On to the park itself. The water at the boat loading ramp wasn’t the most inviting.

There’s water under there somewhere

Nevertheless, the Detroit River itself looked quite picturesque. As you can see, the park is designed with fishing in mind: There are handy rod holders (and that pylon, again), with a nice view of Detroit.

Plenty of space for your rod

In case you’re wondering whether you can actually eat the fish you catch, well, that depends entirely on the species you happen to hook.

Steer clear of catfish and carp. And remember, cutting off the fat and skin can reduce the number of hazardous chemicals you eat by nearly 50%

The park’s fishing theme was due, in large part to the unsung hero Dave Dorrell, who gets his props on a little memorial marker.

All hail the Urban Recreation Visionary

Fort Wayne (named for “Mad” Anthony Wayne) has, sadly, seen better days.  And, apparently, ghosts. We had missed the TAPS tour from the night before.

Who ‘ya gonna call?

While we didn’t see any apparitions, we did take in some manly sights, viz.:

A Sherman Tank

A Tank-Like Object

A rather large piece of Artillery

We rode ’round the fort. It is star shaped, as was the thinking behind fort design back in the day.

The Star of Downriver

We even ran across an historical marker that is in and of itself historic, given that the presenter of the marker is now just a vague memory.

J.L. Hudson Company R.I.P.

Shortly after leaving Fort Wayne, we passed a small tentacle of the mighty misterarthur enterprises, my bait shop.

Don’t know if that fish is safe to eat or not (see above)

Truth be told, there is no mighty misterarthur empire, and some other Arthur-come-lately owns this fine retail establishment.

L’aigle jurisdique et moi are never slowed by what was, because, as is typical on the TDH, something interesting popped up just down the road.  And I mean popped up in the most literal sense. The drawbridge on Jefferson and the Rouge River had opened to allow passage of a real, live freighter.

Bridge up = Excitement ahead

It turns out the Algomarine was making its way into the Detroit River.

The Algomarine – headed for open waters

The Algomarine was launched in 1968 as The Lake Manitoba. She was refurbed in 1988. You can read all about her here at the most-aptly named boatnerd.com  There’s a boatnerd cruise in August, if you are interested.  The Algomarine’s home base is  Sault Ste. Marie, but today’s voyage consisted of a short hike over to Canada.

Yooper Vessel

According to the boatnerd page, the Algomarine  has an 800 horsepower bow thruster, but to aid its passage down the Rouge, a tug was being used to keep her steady as she goes, avast, landlubber, hard a lee you scurvy dog. (End of nautical jibberish).

Small but Mighty

That tug is owned by Great Lakes Towing, and looks much like one of the ships featured in this video, though I can’t say for sure if she’s The Idaho, The Wyoming, or some other ship. This is the first time either the Legal Eagle or I have been stopped by an up drawbridge, let alone get the chance to see a freighter exit the Rouge.

Next up on our agenda (the Legal Eagle likes to keep things organized) was Belanger Park (in River Rouge City).  A very nice park indeed, and we arrived just in time to see the Algomarine entering the Detroit River proper.

Note the rod holders here, too

Belanger Park has a great view of the water but doesn’t leap to mind has having the most salubrious location on the planet.  To your immediate left (facing the river) is another power plant:

Park with smokestack background

On the other side is a giant Great Lakes Steel facility. (I think they make steel coils there).

Park with Steel Mill background

So my advice is, skip looking to either side, and take in the phony lighthouse. It’s cute, but not a working facility. It’s a memorial.

Ceci n’est pas une phare

And be careful where you sit. Legal Eagle said the bench was quite comfortable, but I’m not quite sure I’m in full agreement.

Planking. It’s all the rage with hipsters these days. So come fill a real need here.

On the way back home, we tried to get to Fort Street directly  but were stymied by road construction, and had to wind our way to that fine road.  Along the way, we passed the International Ice Company – a victim of NAFTA?

Ice unfettered by international borders

We also saw a grim miniature mini putting golf course.

Must’ve been very tiny

The concession area didn’t look too inviting, either.

Bottle Water

We also spun by a former Hungarian [Magyar] Catholic [Kath.] Church [Templom].

Szent Janos’ [Saint John] Saint Day is June 24

Back on Fort Street, we rode by the one, the only Detroit Produce Terminal. (Bet you didn’t know we had one, did you?) Chances are, if you’ve got produce, it passed through here.

No retail sales, I’m afraid

It wouldn’t be a real Tour De Hood without a misspelled sign or two.  This store, (which never actually seems to have arrived), got a double. One word. Twice wrong.  Here’s the perp on one side of the store:

I donn’t think so

And the miscreant appears again over here.

I think Collision House would be a good name for the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland

I spotted a final piece of eye candy a bit closer to downtown.  Don’t know the history of, reason for, or painter of, this mural:

Mermaid? I’m looking for answers here.

That was it for the photo taking – and the rest of our route covered turf I’ve written about before. Anyway, as I mentioned at the intro, it was Father’s day, so we celebrated our ride with a congratulatory Coney at the Lafayette. A nice ride, but a little longer (45 miles) than we’d anticipated.

June 4/5 2011. A spin past some familiar sites plus12th Street (Rosa Parks Blvd) from the river to McNichols.

Saturday, June 4, was a lovely day in the hood, and we went on a ride past some familiar sites. The Legal Eaglet (who was in town for a wedding) and my cousin (who photographed the “Phearty Hearty” store and graciously passed it along to me) along with the Legal Eagle spun through some 313 streets.  Needless to say, there were plenty of things to see:  For one, this mobile, self-styled “style center”.

The Speed Demon Barber of St. Paul Street

The roving barber’s not far from both a stationary (and, sadly, looks-to-be-stuck-a-fork-in-it) corner store.

Don’t know when it’s going to be open

It’s also just down the street from the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, an exceedingly worthy Detroit charity that serves basic human needs for those who need it most.  It’s also a drug-free zone, as indicated by this sort-of oddball sign.

No Drugs accepted

Things soon looked cheerier.  Iron Street has a wonderful collection of street murals. I don’t know who (or which organization) set this up, but there’s clearly some collective action happening here.  Nice use of a corner of an abandoned building for this Egyptian Motif:

Sphinx on the corner

Some positive vibrations:

Nowhere to go but up!

Another very colorful addition is even more inspired – and inspiring.

Brick by Brick By Brick

Finally, a reminder (as if you needed one) about where you are.  Gotta love the smoke from the front wheels correctly illustrating the powertrain of the Caddy in the mural.

Detroit Muscle

Should you be inclined to pedal down Iron Street, take it to its terminus (at the Coast Guard Station), and get thee onto the lovely Detroit Riverwalk – which is also cycling friendly. We had a lovely ride along the Detroit River, turned right onto the Dequindre Cut, and rode up Gratiot – where I spotted a couple of Detroit’s steam vents. The city (via our public utility) actually heats a number of buildings through a maze of tunnels. I guess this is a place where excess steam is vented.

Thar she blows!

I’ve visited the Heidelberg Project a number of times. You should too – either if you’ve never seen it – or if it’s been a while since you’ve been there. Tyree Guyton is always adding something new.  The first couple of shots were snapped by the Legal Eaglet®, who has permitted me to post them here:

The Piano of Hope

Mr. Guyton has repurposed some ad-like-objects (in bulk) and added his own slogans. He is clearly opposed to smoking.

Cancer and Poopy Breath

He has also found a Steven Colbert-ish character to which he has added some, uh, interesting messages:

War! (Good God!) What is it good for?

This next one plays a bit with WWJD.

Sacré Bleu!

We spun gently home, gently guided by a tailwind zephyr.

Sunday, the Legal Eagle and I decided to check off another street to our  “I rode the whole length of…” list.  On the 5th, it was Rosa Parks Blvd. (Formerly Twelfth Street).  For those of you who want to follow along, here’s a link.  The relevant parts are the parallel-ish lines on the left of your screen.

Here’s a scintillating view of the foot of the St./Blvd. (That’s the Detroit river in the background.) Don’t expect to see my work gracing the cover of National Geographic any time soon.

Hey! That’s Canada over there!

The Legal Eagle is a brainiac in many fields – including the History Of Detroit, (he’s always throwing in an interesting tidbit or two), Fire Stations, and Railroads. To wit, an unassuming concrete block festooned with contemporary street art.

Hunk o’ concrete with a purpose

This quotidian admixture of cement and sand used to be one end of an elevated rail track that ran toward where is now the GM building, hung a left, and ended at the Michigan Central Station. Yes, indeed, we had elevated rail tracks in the Motor City once upon a time.

Up a bit (across 1-75, actually) we rode past an apartment “complex” that appears to have been designed by a former penitentiary architect. Not the most welcoming of building materials, I’d have to say.

A stone for my bedroom

Update: A reader gave me some new information about this place. It’s called “Spaulding Court”, and is being rehabbed by a non-profit organization. Please hop over here to see what’s up. The work inside is really cool.

By the way, these abodes are at the intersection of Spruce Street and Rosa Parks.  One block over, on Vermont, is the newly-opened Corktown Youth Hostel, which is actually not quite in Corktown – nevertheless, it’s a great project for which the indefatigable Emily Doerr deserves a great deal of credit.

At the intersection of Rosa Parks and Grand River is a building which the Legal Eagle believes was, at one, time, a Detroit Police Precinct Headquarters of some sort. Being a prudent fellow, he won’t swear to the veracity of that claim.

Could’ve been a cop shop at one point

Up at 5141 Rosa Parks is one outpost of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit.  (It also has a location on Hubbard). It appears to be closed on Sunday Mornings.

One of the committee members is Detroit Lives founder and all-around good guy, Philip Lauri

Had it been a little later, I’m hoping that Papa’s Soul Food & Grill might’ve been open. (I think it was around 9:00 am when I snapped this shot). I can’t find any information about it online, so I’m assuming it is no longer a going concern. (If I’m wrong, please let me know).

Is Papa’s still open for grillin’?

The Detroit Riot of 1967 started following a police raid on a blind pig on 12th Street and Claremount Avenue. It’s such a sad story.  You can read more about it at this link.  The Legal Eagle also recommends The Algiers Motel Incident by John Hersey. That is, if you can find a copy. It appears to be out of print.  Anyway, there’s a small, somewhat unkempt park that memorializes the location.

12th and Claremount Park

Here’s a tighter shot of the purple sculpture.

If I read correctly, the artist is J.A. Ward

Further up the road, someone has turned a store front into a church of sorts. I thought the juxtaposition of the message and the left-over promise on the right side of the building’s top was interesting.  If you can’t read it, click on the photo.

Refreshing Spiritually and Physically

Next up, an ex-bank-now-church-with-many-colors-including-eagle-or-bird-of-some-kind.

The Apostolic Faith Church of Love (Hood Rat)

Perhaps not coincidentally, a sign of warning to the tagger is just across the street.

Quit your tagging, heathen!

The Legal Eagle has, as I’ve mentioned before, has visited every Detroit Fire Station (open or shut). There’s a closed one on Rosa Parks.  I love the care with which these buildings were originally erected.

I believe this was a flagpole support. Love the stone work

We passed a really cool Metal Fabrication shop near where the street veers slightly to the right. (About which more later).  Its name is a little mysterious:

Weldments?

Judging by the ornamental work, it looks as if they do really fantastic work.  Approaching from the South, (as we did), you might be put off by the first sign for the company you see.  I think the official name for this font is “Impenetrable Peeling Bold”.

D-Style Hieroglyphics

The shop is also protected by (almost) every protection device known to man:

Now, all they need is a guard vegetable

I mentioned above that Rosa Parks/12th Street veers a little to the right as it crosses the John Lodge Expressway.  If you continue slightly to the left, you’ll find yourself on Fenkel. As I looked up the street, I noticed a Motorcycle club with bikes parked in the front. So I rode up and chatted with a couple of the members. It turns out, it was the headquarters of Satan’s Sidekicks, getting ready for a memorial ride. I wrote in an earlier post about the club – with whom I worked during college at a Dodge assembly plant. They used to sport red helmets with devil’s horns. (They’re wearing more normal helmets now.  Two things of note.  1) Whilst searching for information about the club online, I noted there’s a Facebook® page dedicated to the location of the club headquarters. It’s here, described as a “local business”.  2) While engaged in conversation with a member, one of his colleagues went into the club house and got a camera and took my picture. I asked him if it was because I was the only white guy who’d stopped by the club on a bicycle. “Yep”, he replied.

After dead-ending at McNichols, we returned back downtown via one of the saddest streets in America; Hamilton in Highland Park. I’m sorry to report that it is so ruined that it seems virtually irreparable. I can’t see how it could possibly come back to life. There’s simply no money – either in the hands of the inhabitants, or the city, or the state, or the Federal Government. It’s the kind of desolation that seriously makes me worry about the future of the U.S.A.

Being a glass half-full kind of guy, though, I was perked up by the best ghost sign I’ve seen in the city.  Voila: Honor Bright. The perfect garments for every boy:

Real Boys wear Honor Bright playsuits and blouses

Judging by the style, I can only surmise that this was painted in the ’20 or ’30s. What I also liked was the ad for the Square Deal Hardware store – and its phone number: HEmlock 5896.  I can remember when my phone number was a TUxedo.  The Honor Brite sign is right next to an ad for Black Beauty Triple-Stitched work shirts.

A real thoro-bred (sic.)

The children in the Honor Brite ad seem unusually pleased with their new blouses; a simpler time, I guess.

Nice to see another cyclist in the Hood

The rest of the ride was S.O.P. on the TDH. Back downtown, a stop at the Avalon for (in my case) a Pecan roll and a cappuccino. The Legal Eagle stuck with a healthy slice of foccacia. Then a quick spin through the Dequindre Cut, up Lafayette to Burns, Burns to Kercheval, Kercheval to Lycaste, Lycaste to Jefferson, Jefferson to Conner, Conner to Kercheval, and so back home.  Lovely morning of cycling and history.

ADDENDUM: Sweet Juniper (a really excellent blog you should read) has more backstory on the Honor Bright sign and company.

A Delray Kind of Day. Plus some questions that need answering

What a superb fall morning for cycling in Detroit. Glorious skies, (I spotted one cloud formation that looked just like a Mercator projection of the earth), little or no wind, unseasonably warm temperatures, and the ever-delightful companionship of the learned hand himself, the Legal Eagle. Here’s a map he made of our route.

Fort Street is one of the smoothest pieces of pavement in the City, and nearly deserted on Sundays. It also has a lot of abandoned buildings, like this “warehouse”, which was erected in 1897. Seems a shame someone can’t repurpose it into something usable.

It looks like a warehouse for air

Detroit and its environs likes ham. There are ham restaurants all over the place. Lile’s, in Dearborn, may be the most famous ham sandwich place in the area, but I’m partial to the Ham Center in Warren.  Johnny’s Ham King on Fort gets all kind of love on Yelp, but I haven’t eaten there myself.

Is Johnny the King of Ham? Or is Johnny the Ham King’s subject?

Further along, we rode past a ghost sign for a business that started in 1947, and lasted until (I don’t know, but the building looks as if it’s been empty for a while).

I come from the Motor City with a Banjo Housing on my knee

Cheek by jowl with the erstwhile Bond & Bailey, Inc., is a going concern, which specializes in similar automotive type gear. Its mascot features, among other bits ‘n’ pieces, a leaf spring, clutch housing, and, I believe, parts of a banjo housing.

 

The real man of steel

It really was a beautiful morning – and the Legal Eagle showed off his Great Lakes Shipping nerd mad skillz by identifying the 1,000 footer even before it had glided by.

The white smoke is the signal that they’ve picked a new pope over at Great Lakes Steel

We had to take a quick detour, as Jefferson dead ends into what looks like an abandoned lot. While riding up Scotten, the railroad signal went off, and the barriers dropped. We couldn’t see a train coming (and there’s no worry about getting hit by a TGV on these tracks), so I decided to find out if it’s actually possible to hear a train coming by putting one’s ear on the tracks.

Professional at work: Don’t try this at home, kids.

The answer is, I couldn’t hear anything. (Maybe the asynchronous clanging of the warning bells overpowered the ‘singing of the rails’).  Eventually, a CSX locomotive & cars slowly rumbled by. I liked the mobile street art on this unit:

I cannot say which part of this car is the “anti-pilferage device”

I know of a couple of phony “Yacht Clubs” in Detroit; the Polish Yacht Club on Joseph Campau, and the Motor City Yacht Club on Jefferson, but until today was not aware of this place. Nor do I know its membership requirements and fees. That said, it looks like it’s mostly for sailors.

No young nice people allowed

There was a big Motorcycle Club Rally/Chili contest in Plymouth, Michigan today. (The Legal Eagle and I had seen an inordinate number of leather clad Harley Riders on the road this morning, and my Llama Loving Leatherneck Belonging friend clued me in about the rally).  I guess that’s why the Iron Coffins headquarters was closed.

13 69 is not the address. 1369 (U.S. Code Title 28, Chapter IV) has something to do with multiparty multiforum jurisdiction, and 13 69 also means something rude, according to the Urban Dictionary

I don’t know what the entrance to your home looks like, but I’m guessing you probably don’t have two delivery areas clearly delineated for the benefit of your letter carrier or UPS delivery person.  It also gives me the opportunity to importune you to answer some nagging questions the stencils raise. First, the manse in question:

Delray’s self-proclaimed Crib in the Hood

So, here’s the question. Where do packages from the USPS, FedEx, or DHL go?

Attached to a utility pole in front of the house was a shrine-like compendium of plastic flowers and a bowl, into which had been inserted a clothed Barbie® doll.

I don’t know if this is a Malibu® Barbie®

n.b.: Joe, perceptive as always, has suggested this may be a rare Poconos® Barbie®

Over on Wyoming (BTW, I have now ridden the entire length of Wyoming), we came upon a lunchery. The Mustang Inn offers XX Servers.  I’m familiar with X, and XXX, but XX is news to me.

1/2 pound of ?

OK, so what do you think XX stands for?

More perplexing and important issues awaited farther up the road.

Here is a self-service car and truck wash.  It is, as the sign says, “Under New Management”.

Come on in. The water’s fine.

Here are the philosophical conundrums (conundra?) I’m wrestling with. The first is, since it’s self-serve, how can you actually tell it’s under new management? The second is: What happens if you try it and don’t like it?

The Topless Club Venus probably has the same sorts of amenities as others of its ilk.  The va-va-voomy neon sign is quite nice.

She’s not topless in public

The sign on the side of the building was a little puzzling to me.

Is that all day Tuesday, and until 7 on Wednesday?

Here’s the question. What’s the $5 Kitchen Special? Something to eat or a $10 dance that’s cheaper because it’s in the kitchen instead of the regular $10 dance area?

The Venus is hiring, by the way.

Looking for someone to bounce the bar staff

For some reason, the back gate to the Ford Drive-In was open, so we took a spin in to look around.  Lo and behold, it’s an outdoor Multiplex®! Beyond that, it’s the self-proclaimed largest drive-in theatre IN THE WORLD!  Here’s screen three:

Is this the last drive-in in Detroit?

Spell fail time on the TDH. If you were on Jeopardy, and the answer was “the amount for which the insured is liable on each loss, injury, etc., before an insurance company will make payment”, the correct question would be “what is deductible?”  Like “available”, “deductible” is one of the most misspelled words in Motown.  I see deductable a lot.  On one side of the Eureka Auto Glass building, not only do they spell it deductable, they also promise to “wave” it.

Well, howdy, deductable

Curiously, on another side of the building, they spell deductible correctly, but still misconstrue “wave” for “waive”. See?

Still waving at that part of your policy

However, in a Solomonic display of I-can’t-make-up-my mind-which-way-to-spell-deductible, in yet another location the Eureka Auto Glass company goes both ways at once, and dispenses with the wave entirely: (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Deductible, deductable, whatever, they’ll pay it.

As long as we’re in the covering your bases mode, the nicely named “Holla Dollar” store sort of kind of promises that everything in the store is a dollar. Except for the things that aren’t.

I don’t know if  hair is a dollar or a dollar & more

Finally, a nihilist pov in the street art category. Note to the squeamish: May be NSFW.

Don’t sugar coat it, dude.

But even that downer sentiment couldn’t put a damper on a very nice ride, indeed. I am glad to report that the Lafayette Coney Island whupped the American on last week’s poll, and to celebrate its victory, the Legal Eagle and I brunched at the winner’s location.  (Three on two).

Up Woodward, Down John R, plus the first TDH quiz evar!

Whilst I’ve ridden on Woodward Avenue many times, I thought it might be useful and fun to deliberately ride its whole length – from Jefferson to 8 Mile. For the return, rather than ride back down the Avenue, the Legal Eagle and I thought we’d take John R.

I don’t think you need a map to follow along. Go up Woodward, turn right at 8 Mile, ride past the “State Fairgrounds & Exposition Center”, turn right on John R. until it dead ends, turn left to Oakland, pass the Polar Bears’ football field and the giant pallet cemetery, turn right on Manchester, then left back onto John R. Continue until you hit Tiger Stadium.

Just to prove that we did the whole ride, here’s a view of the base of Woodward:

Don’t let that sign confuse you

On our way north, we did take a little detour to Capitol Park to see the “set” of Transformers 3, which is being filmed in our fair city.  We encountered a fervid rent-a-cop who blew a gasket when he saw me taking a photo while touching a barricade with my toe. “That’s Private Property!” he yelled, to which I responded that I was on a public thoroughfare and I could do whatever I wanted. He kept yelling at me. I yelled back at him. The Legal Eagle, as is his wont, kept his mouth shut.

Nevertheless, I was able to take some photos which led me to create the following series of questions.  You must decide whether the scene I photographed is Detroit in its usual state of disrepair, or made to look disrepaired by highly skilled set decorators.  You get to choose. City, or Set.  Ready?  Here’s visual number one. This one’s easy – to give you an initial burst of self confidence.

Just another Sunday morning in Detroit or Transformers 3?

This one’s a little tougher

Deliberate or Accidental?

Did this façade look like this on purpose, or is it just from the patina of disuse?

Crummy or made to look crummy?

We don’t treat our history with kid gloves here in the Motor City (about which, read more when I get to the Model T Plant, below). That said, was this knocked over for a movie or did it fall over from neglect?

Art or Vandalism?

A small amount of Federal Stimulus money is appearing in and around Detroit (mostly for street repair). Is this asphalt eruption on purpose because we need better streets, or because Transformers 3 needed extra destroyed city optics?

City Improvement or Movie Improvement?

Bonus question one: Is this store front on Woodward part of the movie, an art project, or a remnant of our Potemkin Village “Spruce up Detroit for the Super Bowl” festival?

Shades of Dharma Brand Instant Potatoes

Bonus question number two. Is the club below still the Eros club, which I’ve written about before, or was it renamed Cobra’s for the movie?

Eros v. Cobra

Ok, you can put your pencils down now.  Back to more typical Detroit scenes. A small business is going under on Woodward. Just as unsurprising, the misspelled sign to announce the news.

Hurrey Down for Saveings

I do not know what “Detroit Revolution” is, but whenever it does arrive, I want to be there. This alluring sign is near midtown, on what looks like the site of a former theatre or burlesque house.  If someone knows more about this, please let me know via comments or email. (It reads “Without you I am a battery without a charge”)

Who doesn’t love a rebus?

The next sight is not really Detroit-specific, as the half life of a fully outfitted bike left on the street in any major city is very short. I was struck by the thoroughness with which the parts of the bike were removed.

Need pedals or an alloy crankset?

More typical of Detroit is the site of the former American Beauty Electric Iron Company.

Irons and Art

We tried to guess what kinds of irons they made there. While the name suggests curling irons or the Grateful Dead, a bit of internet snooping around seems to indicate they made irons for ironing your clothes.

Farther up Woodward, in a splendid building, is the Detroit International Academy for Young Women. (Evidently, part of the DPS).

Rawr!

I just wish the sign was connected a little more to the school design, which reeks of “when Detroit was a great city with some money to spend on civic institutions”.

Lovely institution of pedagoguery (which may not be a word)

Assiduous readers of the Tour De Hood Blog will remember my reference to an old-school gang, The “Coney Oneys” in an earlier post. (The gang thought they were naming themselves after those feared mafiosi, The Corleones).  Anyway, some 80’s nostalgia for you.

The “Earl Flynn’s” {sic} gang failed to spell Errol Flynn properly.

nb: BK does not stand for Burger King

I’m sure Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Fudge is a wonderful person. That said, I’m not sure you should always use your name for your business. Something just doesn’t seem right about this:

Maybe they’re from Mackinac Island (Michigan insider joke)

Someone else spent a great deal of time illustrating the exterior of this shop. Considering how many words they had to include, the lack of spell fails is pretty astonishing. (I’ll cut them some slack for EQT). I’ve heard of Odds and Ends. I’ve hear of Odds and Evens. But not this combo:

Odds & Ins? WTF?

The ex McGregor Public Library is a really beautiful building. Der Rechtliche Adler said there is periodic noise about trying to reopen the place, but judging by what I saw on Sunday, it looks like it’s still shut down. I’m dying to see the interior.

“Books Are The Doors to Wide New Ways”

Poor, poor Highland park.  Woodward in Highland Park is truly one of the most depressing parts of our city. Financial ruin forced the elimination of its police department (though it was re-established in 2007), and I’m not sure if the fire department still exists.  It’s a self-contained city that’s virtually completely surrounded by Detroit. (I’ll explain why it even exists below).   It had beautiful municipal buildings. This was the police headquarters:

The roof is mostly missing

Here’s the former parking spot that was reserved for the “Officer of the Month”.

Now reserved for tree of the year

This was the headquarters of the Fire Department. I don’t know where they’re headquartered now.  They have 16 firefighters in the city.

At its peak, Highland Park had 84 Firefighters

This was the Municipal Building. Again, I have no idea where it’s located now.

Sorry. All gone now

Here’s why there even is a Highland Park:  Henry Ford. As you know, since you’ve ready every word of the Tour De Hood, Henry Ford’s original factory was on Piquette. (The building’s still there).  However, that’s not the factory that made Ford Ford. This one is. Right here on Woodward in Highland Park is where Henry Ford revolutionized the United States, and the world, by mass-producing the Model T.

Home of a Revolution

Here’s why it’s in Highland Park.  Detroit was expanding, rapidly (imagine that!), but Henry didn’t want to pay Detroit Taxes on a new factory, so he built this one beyond the city limits, and incorporated a town around it, called Highland Park, where the tax rates would be much more affordable.  Chrysler used to be headquartered in Highland Park, too.

You’d think the location of the factory that literally changed our lives would get a little more TLC, wouldn’t you? After all, as the sign above states, it “set the pattern of abundance for 20th Century living”.  But no.  The front view is blocked by weed trees. The rest looks just like an abandoned factory. (Albeit adorned with what appear to be Pewabic Tiles.) Why do we treat our past with such indignity?

Building with enormous historical signifance? We don’t care

Back on the road, I saw a nice ghost sign. I’m surprised the owner limited himself to Canis Lupus Familiaris patients:

Goodbye, Kitty

I’m sure you can’t wait for this week’s Sign Fail.  At first, you could think I didn’t actually find one, and made this up by holding my camera upside down.

Nice sign if you’re standing on your head

“Oh, Mister Arthur”, you think, “you’re trying to be funny by rotating a photograph so we’ll think someone was dumb enough to go to trouble of making a sign and firmly affixing it to a wall without ever realizing it was upside down.”  Wrong.  It really was put up upside down. See?

What’s the excuse this time?

WTF?  Did they think no one would notice??

We noticed, just past this misery and incompetence, a delightful patio behind a wrought iron fence.  There’s no sign on the building, but riding around the back, we discovered that we had come upon a restaurant called “La Dolce Vita.” I haven’t been there before (duh), but have subsequently found out it’s been around for a while (if my math is correct, about 16 years). L’aigle jurisdique has a partner who really likes it, a friend of mine recommends the patio during our warmer months, and Metro Times gave it a good review back in ’03.  Looks inviting from the outside.

The Perfect Place to Valet Park my Lancia Flaminia Supersport Zagato

By now, we’d nearly reached the city limits. After a right turn onto 8 Mile, we soon came upon a place all too happy to advertise its presence: The Detroit Renegades M/C.

Panhead or Shovelhead?

Truth be told, John R., while a nice place to ride, doesn’t have a lot of visual impact. There was a nondescript strip club, with a terribly uncreative name:

Staple-Free, one would hope

That aside, I was taken by the homey ambience of Advance Steering Column Repair.

Nothing says “picnic” like Ignition Theft Repair

We ultimately had brunch chez The Lafayette Coney Island.  Here’s a photo of the chili cheese fries we ate to toast our successful ride.  It’s also an opportunity to vote for your favorite Coney  Island locale.

Brunch, Detroit Style