A circle of Detroitly delights

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

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

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

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

$20 seems like a deal to me

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

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

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

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

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

Get ’em while they’re hot

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

Yep,that about sums it up

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

Better a Fade of God than the alternative

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

Sorry boys, gotta stay outta here

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

I confess: I’ve never actually purchased snow before

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

We also passed turnstiles 5, 6, and 7

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

What the heck does this mean?

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

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

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

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

Fundraiser for a worthy cause: And you get to ride a bike, too!

I’ve mentioned the Hub of Detroit before on this blog. They teach kids about bicycle repair and maintenance, rehab bikes to give to disadvantaged youth, and generally brighten up an otherwise rather dismal section of Cass Avenue. They’re great people.

They’re holding a fundraiser/bike ride/progressive dinner on May 20th.  It sounds like a lot of fun, and it’s in support of a good cause.

You can read all about it HereOr here: http://thehubofdetroit.org/?p=1327

In either case, check it out, and try to participate. Thank you.

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:


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.

Back in the Saddle Again

We have had a really cold, wet, dismal “spring” this year in the “D”. This weekend was among the first nice ones we’ve had in a while – so the Legal Eagle and I rode through the hood today.

But first, a nod to my new sadddle, a Gilles Berthoud “Aspin”, which my wife found at Peter White Cycles.  La voila:

A birthday gift from the lovely Jennifer

Très jolie, n’est-ce pas? And very comfortable, particularly since I’ve done just about everything but ride my bike this spring. It’s worth considering if you’ve got a Brooks in mind and want to try something different. I have a few other Berthoud items – panniers, front bag, etc., and am really pleased by their quality. Like  Henry Royce said: “The quality will be remembered, long after the price is forgotten”.

Our journey today took us down Kercheval to Van Dyke, up Van Dyke to Nevada (also known as 6-1/2 mile road), over to Woodward, down to the Avalon on Cass, a quick traverse of the Eastern Market and the Dequindre Cut, back up Larned, left on Iroquois, right on Kercheval, and back to our respective homes.

It was a beautiful day in the hood. The Fire Station on Crane near Kercheval has reopened. We spoke to a nice firefighter who was actually on his first day of work.  The station was built in 1900:

Back in Business – serving the neighborhood for 111 years.

Oh, and if you’re wondering (or not, because I’m going to show the photo anyway), this is the home of Engine 14

Engine 14, soaking up the sunlight

A short while later, the Legal Eagle stopped to adjust his front derailleur, as it was rubbing against the chain enough to make us both crazy.  Here he is, ready to repair the faulty component.

The Legal Eagle about to apply his mad mechanical arts skillz

 I thought I had captured most of the photo ops on Van Dyke, but actually saw a couple of visuals that struck my fancy:

No relation to mister arthur, I’m afraid. I dig the crown – but I think “Car Wash” is two words

Mister Splash appears to be quite new, (or at least has a new sign), which is nice, since, sadly, most of the neighborhood is going in the opposite direction.

Here’s a church (there are A LOT of churches on Van Dyke) that uses glass blocks to advertise itself.  It seemed appropriate to snap a photo of this, given that we escaped the Rapture predicted by that nut job from Oakland, California.

Stained glass “window”,  D style.

It wouldn’t be a proper Tour De Hood without a mystery sign or two. A bit farther along, we pedaled by a place for aficionados of previously-ruined vehicles:

I think the font they used for “Cars” is “Junk Regular”.  Please note the star bursts.

The “Tippin Inn” has tipped out, I’m sad to say.  It has a very mysterious message on its sign board, which looks like an especially bad rack of Scrabble® tiles.

I don’t know where to begin.

If you have any idea what the sign said, please send me a note. BWIG BORD UTE TE!

Further down Nevada, (but before the intersection of Nevada and Lumpkin Street), we passed a repurposed small manufactory. It may not be readable in the amateurish photo below, but the building was a temporary  haunted house. Hence the skeleton on the front door.

I guess the market for recaps isn’t what it used to be

There’s a police department building next door. Not that that explains the buoy on the lawn.

Avast, scurvy gangsters!

Across the street is an easier to understand ad for an attorney that gets right to the point:

Everything spelled correctly, except perhaps the name of the artist: Gallary?

The Legal Eagle has a theory that if you see a yellow building, chances are it’s a tire shop. Case in point, this retail establishment that has no evident name, unless it’s owned by Overstock.com.

Open Days. Not sure which ones, or whether that means they’re closed at night.

We also passed a private club that may also be a motorcycle club. Whatever the truth, the Legal Eagle was pleased to note that the Wild Dawgs are (is?) an LLC.

I wonder if Deputy Dawg is a member

That’s all the photos for this week. We did stop for comestibles at the Avalon Bakery, and we had a nice tailwind back up Kercheval.  Lovely day.

Here’s a map of our route for your delectation.

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).

Remembering the New Hellas Cafe

The New Hellas Cafe was my favorite restaurant in Greektown, (which is less and less “Greek” every day, unfortunately).  Tassia Russell was kind enough to send me this photo of where it used to be, along with an anecdote and request.

Where The New Hellas Cafe once stood

More importantly, Tassia’s father owned the restaurant. Here’s a story she passes along:

My grandfather, prior to his untimely death at 65 years old, was the butcher in the back of the kitchen. My Aunt Mary, who passed away recently was the ONLY afternoon female server there …EVER! I tried to be a waitress but it only lasted two weeks. I was completely sabotaged by the kitchen and other servers!

Funny story…one day when I ordered a saganaki or “flaming cheese” during the lunch rush-hour, the kitchen thought it funny-as did all the male servers-to fill the shot glass with brandy for the “flame”. Mind you, it was probably my second or third attempt to light a saganaki by myself. Well, I poured and lit it, suddenly the flame engulfed not only me but surrounding patrons. One man laughed and yelled…”LAWSUIT!” (the patrons were mostly attorneys at the time). Suffice to say my eyebrows were singed, my arm hair was completely burned off and I shook uncontrollably for thirty minutes following this “practical”-nearly-an-emergency-room-joke! I never lit a saganaki again. It took me at least a few months to talk with the staff involved or even consume another saganaki!

Tassia’s request, which I hope you can help her fulfill, is this:  If you have any memories please pass them along to her via the blog comments here. As she says, if you remember the New Hellas, and write a comment,

“I’d love to share them with Dad as he still mourns the loss of his past and over 40 years of incredible memories.”

Intro to the Tour De Hood for a relative Detroit Newbie

The Legal Eagle and I hosted a guest on the Tour De Hood on the 19th of August, whom I will henceforth refer to as WCC(B). You’ll have to ask the Legal Eagle to explain the name; just remember, he’s a Legal EAGLE, and is not likely to say much.

The Tour covered some ground we’ve seen before on the TDH, offering up a simple ride round Detroit’s inner ring of beauty, Grand Blvd. We started off heading past John King Books, a great place for bibliophiles.

Used book-a-rama

We then continued down Fort Street and took a slight detour to introduce the WCC(B) to Le Petit Zinc. The misterarthurs, en famille, had eaten there the night before. (I enjoyed a toothsome Salade Nicoise). Here’s a shot of LPZ  from the inside.

Le Petit Zinc. From the inside. Friday evening

Need something shredded? What better place to go than “Shred Me”?

Me Shred Good. You call. Me Shred

We introduced her to St. Anne’s (our most venerable Catholic parish), which I’ve written about before, but, fortunately, it being a Sunday, we were able to go in and look around before services started.  Here’s a shot toward the altar:

Our very own Pillar of the Earth

Here’s a tighter shot of one of the stained glass windows. It’s really a superb church.

Stained glass windows illuminating the story of ___________

Our next stop was the Detroit River end of Grand Blvd., at, appropriately enough, a less-than tidy park called, in a fit of civic inspiration, “Riverside Park”. We went there, not for the litter, but to show WCC(B) Detroit’s two unique bateaux (wait, I’m not at Le Petit Zinc anymore, make that boats): Our very own fireboat, (yes, it’s part of the Detroit Fire Department) as well as the JW Wescott II, the only mailboat in the country that delivers mails to passing ships. Isn’t that cool?

The Wescott II even has its own zip code

I believe the Fireboat is named the Curtis Randolph

Along the way up Grand Blvd., we rode under this gaily (original definition) decorated underpass. If you’ve got anything taller than a van (like a car with a bike rack on the roof), I’d consider a detour. While perky, it’s very low.

The little underpass that couldn’t

I hate to bore my readers with yet another photo of the African Bead Museum, but it is an essential part of any Tour De Hood. We had to show it to the WCC(B) to make her initial ride complete. Here’s an effigy (scarecrow?) I haven’t shown before:

Welcome to the intersection of Grand Blvd and Grand River

There are many experts in the fields of urban planning and people friendly architecture. I wish someone in either field would weigh in on the relative goodness of welcoming you to high school (Northwestern) with what appears to be an antique example of Naval weaponry.

Damn the No Child Left Behind! Full class schedule ahead!

The Legal Eagle showed the WCC(B) the interior of the Fisher Building. (Another do not miss part of Detroitdom), and we passed by some interesting street art (I’m going to use that phrase now to avoid misspelling grafitti er, graffitti, um graffiti any longer) en route to the Mother of All Ruin Porn, the Packard Plant. (Always guaranteed to blow an out-of-towner’s mind). Here you go: Word and Pictures:

It’s a limb! Nice toenail polish, too.

Here, someone is irritated with cyclists (can’t imagine why), and encourages racy behavior:

Any bike shop owners care to tell me exactly which part of my bike that is?

We made our mandatory stop at the Avalon Bakery, which was crowded with a clot of Wolverine club cyclists. This led the  WCC(B) to observe that road cycling appears to be the only amateur sport wherein the participants deem it necessary to kit themselves out with gear loaded with sponsor logos. Do runners do that? No. Golfers? No. And let’s not get into the it-seems-to-be-a-rule-that-you-have-to-wear-Spandex(r). (Well, she didn’t say all that, but the gist is accurate).

After a brief inside tour of the Guardian building, we went our separate ways. Back on Jefferson, I had to get a photo of another of Detroit’s sui generis fusion cuisine establishments. Scroll down through the past posts, and you’ll catch a shot of the “Asian Corn Beef” restaurant over on Wyoming.  Dr. Dre’s combo takes it to a whole other level. I leave you with this combo for your imagination to consider:

mmmmmmmmm. Now that’s eatin’

Map of the ride: Courtesy of Der Legal Eagle. Click here

Warren and Michigan Avenues: Meat City, Hair for Sale, Palindrome Fail, and more

What a glorious day on the Tour de Hood. Not only was the weather just spectacular, the sights to behold were equally inspiring.  After all, who wouldn’t be thrilled by a giant cow head (complete with its own reading light)?

cowBessie with a headlamp

On the way to East Warren Avenue, I passed an extraordinarily bad painting of President Obama.  The building on which he’s painted also poses a mystery. The establishment promises “Seeded” and “Seedless” Watermelons, and the neither-of-the-above “& more”. More what? Semi-seeded? Sorta-Seeded? Seems like seeded and seedless covers just about all the possibilities to me.

worst-painting-of-obamaPresident Obama, more or less

I know Mies Van Der Rohe famously said “Less is More”, but if I ever open a nightclub, I hope I can come up with a better name than this:

club-clubClub Club (Private Club Club)

You can spot a newcomer to Detroit by his or her non-Detroit-pronunciation of street names like Schoenherr (Shay-ner) and Goethe (Go-thee – soft th), and famously, Gratiot.  We pronounce it “Gra-shut” where the Gra rhymes with laugh. While on the way to Michigan Avenue, (on Gratiot) we passed a monumental misspelling. (And no, I’m not referring to the misplaced possessive). What’s most mind-blowing about this is that the sign painter could’ve checked the correct spelling just by, oh, looking at the street sign. Voila: Gratoit Tires and Service. (Maybe it rhymes with Detroit?)

GratoitNeed yoru cra fexid?

I am somewhat follically-challenged, so I was quite thrilled to find a shop that, oddly, sells hair. I’ll admit, I have never seen a hair shop before.

hair-sold-hereHow do they charge for it? By the inch? The pound?

I am also a fan of wordplay – puns, palindromes, crossword puzzles, etc., so imagine my pleasure at finding this tax preparation company which has the two ends of a palindrome, but forgot about the middle part.

xat-taxPalindrome Fail: Xat’s what I’m talking about

Once on Michigan Avenue proper, we passed the mighty Slow’s restaurant, one of my all-time favorite places to eat anywhere. It has only one problem – it’s too popular, and the wait to get seated can be excruciating, particularly when you are being assaulted by the tempting aroma of slowly barbequing pork.  I’ll bet you’ve never eaten across the street from a speedometer repair shop, either.

slowsEven the wait to eat is Slow

The sights on Michigan began to unveil themselves. We may call ourselves Motown, but what the heck, Meat City sounds good, too.

meat-cityWait until PETA hears about this

Across the street is another motorcycle – er, social club – no doubt populated by very friendly members.

highwaymenI wonder if there’s an initiation rite?

There was a decidedly non-pc vehicle for sale next door. I think it would be a great commuter car for Michigan winters.

non-pc-vehicleIngress and egress will be tough

Looking for some dubs for your whip? Rim City might be able to help you out – and perhaps can explain the whatever-that-thing-is on the roof is.

rim-cityJust down the road from Meat City

There are quite a few adult entertainment establishments on Michigan Avenue – (reasonably typical of Detroit’s major thoroughfares). Take your pick:

Club 4 Play

4-PlayHamburgers are only $4.00. With fries

Starvin’ Marvin’s – amazingly accurate use of the possessive, and so, perfect for grammar police stripper fans.

starvin-marvin'sExclusive? Oh yeah.

Next, a place that’s either an adult entertainment facility or a post-exercise hangout.  I’m betting on the former.

hard-bodyDouble extra-hot no foam latte with that lap dance, please

Finally, close to Dearborn, The Crazy Horse. (We left Michigan at Lonyo, so as to stay within the city limits.) Looks nice from here:


Talent agency, too

Perhaps because of its proximity to Dearborn, the Crazy Horse has a neon sign which I can only assume is Arabic.  Translation, anyone?

arabic-neonDoes this translate as “Adult Entertainment” or “Talent Agency”?

Naming streets for a big city must be an exhausting job.  So I guess I understand that the person responsible for this street simply ran out of gas one day, and gave up trying to be inventive:

JoeI live on Joe. Just Joe.

There’s an auto repair facility on the corner of Joe and Michigan, whose sign appears to have been painted by the same firm responsible for “Gratoit”.  Here, you can get your front end aliged.

aligmentI always wanted my wheels aliged

This sign was clearly not painted by the company whose sign you’ll see below.  I want to meet the fellow illustrated thereon, whom I’ve dubbed the King of Detroit.

King-of-DetroitI need a logo for the Tour De Hood – I may call this guy up

Yet another very narrowly-focused retail outlet. Not just socks. Sporting socks. American sporting socks.

american-sporting-socksLooks like you can buy them singly or in pairs

After the string of strip clubs, it was somewhat of a relief to find a church to keep things in balance. If you need deliverance from fire, now you know where to go. This is on West Warren – near Lonyo.

fire-and-deliveranceChurch-cum-Fire Station?

I’ve seen plenty of great store fronts here in the Paris of the Midwest. Mr. Fix It is simply a Masterpiece of retail art. So much so, I didn’t think one photo would do it justice.

Here’s one side (the one that faces Warren Ave.).

mr-fix-it-1Odd jobs

The front – one part of which I can’t quite figure out. Can you find it?

mr-fix-it-2aAn adventure in Auto care. (And other things, too!)

Here’s the part I can’t decipher:

mr-fix-it-3Guess the object next to the Bible. Please submit answers in the comment section

Side three. Not a wasted inch of space. And, perhaps, a way to help you keep your hubcaps in place.

mr-fix-it-4Peculiarly-shaped phone, no?

The United Sates is supposedly a class-free society, so I’m not sure how I feel about the regal claim made by the owner of this liquor store. (Maybe Elvis is still alive, and works here?)

king-of-warrenDetroit Royalty, with his subjects, alcohol and the lottery

Identifying the King of Warren will have to wait a while – in the meantime, I can tell you he’s probably not named Jason.  Here’s an awfully blunt piece of invective I spotted on the side of a truck.

jason-reichAm not responsible for the veracity of this statement.

All in all, a beautiful day in the Hood, including a live love song in front of the Avalon Bakery. (It’s a long story).

Van Dyke Avenue, The Atmospheric Training Academy, and the world’s best name for a barber shop

Saturday’s ride took me the length of Van Dyke Avenue; actually its length within the Detroit City limits. (We turned around at 8 mile, not wanting to venture into the wilds of Center Line.) Van Dyke is named for a former mayor of Detroit, James A. Van Dyke. Were the world a perfect place, the street name would be kept the same, but to honor the great Earl Van Dyke, keyboardist and bandleader of the Funk Brothers, the great Motown house band.

erlvandkNot the eponymic Van Dyke, but the Van Dyke

First up on view, Michigan’s Oldest Bank. Until recently, it was a Domino’s Pizza outlet (hence the busted sign).  You know it’s the oldest bank in Michigan because it says so, right on the edifice itself. (You won’t be able to make it out in the photo, but should you want to verify the claim, it’s on the corner of Kercheval and … yes, that’s correct, Van Dyke.)

oldestbankNo money, no pizzas, no buyers

Until you cross Gratiot, Van Dyke is mostly residential.  Like a number of severely depressed parts of the City, this section of Van Dyke it trying to drag itself up by its bootstraps.  Here’s an exhortation to the locals:

self-helpWork, Earn Money, Spend Money

There’s a nicely painted bench near the sign – I think it’s a bus stop, but these days it’s hard to say for sure, because the city is cutting back services left, right, and center, including bus services.

benchFor your own safety and comfort, please hold the hand rail

I passed a boarded up theatre – I’m positive I saw a King Crimson/Procol Harum concert here when I was a tadpole, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the venue. UPDATE: It was the Eastown Theatre.

theatrewideMystery Theatre

There’s a wonderful detail above the former Marquee – something you don’t see at today’s octoplexes.

theatretightShakespeare subservient to comedy. Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of humor

I asked a local passerby if he remembered what the theatre used to be called, but all he could recollect was that the last time the building was open, it was a methadone clinic.

Detroit seems to have more than its fair share of tire stores (could be related to our giant potholes), but perhaps no other has a paint job to match that of D.O.T. tires

nousedtireguaranteeMonsieur Michelin meets Mister Sponge Bob

Once again, my photo doesn’t do it justice.  It’s an honest shop.  As it says above “Blow Horn”:   “What’s up Doc?  YOU KNOW there’s NO guarantee on Used Tires.”

Cooley’s Lounge, is, as far as I could see, shut down. But after looking around on the internets, crazily enough, there’s a web listing for Cooley’s Lounge online. While the building promises Blues & Dancing, the web site I linked to claims “Gay/Lesbian Lounge Music”.  I like the guitar, which looks like the ill-begotten love child of a Gibson Explorer and a Super 400.

cooleysloungeLooks closed to me, but who knows?

There’s a schizophrenic (or is that multiple personality disorder?) quality to many of Detroit’s main streets, and you’re apt to see strip clubs right next door to day care centers. True! Continuing the trend, the next thing I noticed after passing Cooley’s was this reminder:

salvationfreeHurry Up!

Every city has cranky citizens; Detroit is no exception.  We do need help here, so the sentiments behind these signs aren’t completely unwarranted.

sqrewedWhere’s that stimulus money, any way?

I like the novel spelling of “sqrewed” and “communiies”, but I still miss the possessive in “wheres”. After all, I am still a member in good standing of the grammar police.

Stroh’s was our local beer. The Stroh family owned and made Detroit’s “Fire Brewed” beer, but then sold out to some faceless conglomerate that ran the brand into the ground. A note of interest:  Stroh started making ice cream during Prohibition, as means of keeping the company running during the dry years. (p.s.: You know the song “Jailhouse Rock”? There’s a lyric in it: “The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang”. That was a Detroit gang of bootleggers.)

strohsAmerica’s “Favorite”

Back when I was in college, I worked at Dodge Main, the original Dodge Brothers’ factory in Hamtramck.  Just down the line from me were some members of a motorcycle gang named “Satan’s Sidekicks”.  They had red helmets with attached red Devil’s horns. As a young naif, I thought they’d be meanies and try to thrash me. I was wrong, of course. Satan’s Sidekicks was really just a social club.  That said, I’m not sure about the socialness of a motorcycle club with the following motto:

libertyfreedomdeathCognitive Dissonance, anyone?

Sir Mix-A-Lot had a boffo hit a while back: “Baby Got Back”.  I’m sure you remember it. If you got back, and you’re looking for a place to shop, you may want to check this place out.

biggirlsYes, indeed, they do

OK. Next up, the best-named barber shop anywhere in the English-speaking world, and singularly à propos for my fair city.

illcutyaThe Demon Barber of  Van Dyke?

Continuing the tradition of misspelled Detroit signage, I present to you “Pittbull” (sic) Tattoo’s (sic) & Body Piercing.  I noticed a number of lawn-sign type ads for the Pittbull company along my ride. Business is either slow, or they’re making enough profit for marketing. The painting that is the focal point of the shop mystifies me to some degree, it looks (to me) like a combination of a V-8 engine cutaway (I think those are pistons), a heart pierced by thorns, flames (hell?) and a bunch of skulls.  It’s like Hieronymus Bosch meets Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. You decide.

pittbullTats ‘n’ Holes

More of the piston motif can be found by carefully scrutinizing the Mojo Auto Parts sign. I believe that’s a piston behind the wheel. And there’s a Jolly Roger in there for good measure.

mojoautopartsHope this mojo works on you

Next, another strip club. It was called (The) Duchess Lounge – here’s the old sign. The thong is for the prudes in the area, I guess.

duchesssideDon’t know why there’s a 2 x 4 nailed across her head

Either it’s under new management, or the name wasn’t packing them in like it used to, as the club is now partially renamed Minx, or if  you take the uncovered part of the old name and combine it with the new, “DucMinx”.

duschessminxOpen for your pleasure

Once again, and true to form, the next thing I ran across was a church with a fantastic message board. I’d love to meet the pastor, who clearly has a sense of humor.

signbrokenAll are welcome to…find out inside

The uplifting spirit continued on to the impossibly-optimistic towing service next door. I guess if you’re sitting in your car while it’s being towed, all you could see is up.

upwardvisiontowingEver-alert auto towing service

Scroll back through my older posts, and you’ll soon discover that much about Detroit mystifies me. I have another piece to add to my collection of establishments whose purpose is not quite clear to me. I guess the Atmospheric Training Academy could train you for lots of things. But what, exactly?  Pilot’s license? Weatherman? EPA Air Quality Monitor? Just thinking karmic thoughts? I honestly don’t know. Please feel free to add your guesses to the comments. Anyway, here it is.

atmospherictrainingStump the misterarthur winner for this week

By now, I had just about run out of Van Dyke, and it was time to head home. Not too far from the ATA is the famous (I hear) 007 Gentlemen’s Club. No question about its purpose.

007RAWR, as my friend Mandy would say

If you decide this might be a place worth visiting, you should know that there are some things you cannot bring along with you for your evening’s fun:

noweaponsTrès Civilized

While weapons and guns are not permitted, everything else appears not just to be accepted, but encouraged.

007poster8 p.m. ’till you drop

A couple more interesting sights presented themselves before I got home. There’s the flaming tire tire shop (which also, curiously, has a rainbow in its logo, though you can’t see it from this angle.)

flamingtiresHot Tires, anyone?

There was the almost-correctly spelled Jamaican Restaurant, which may or may not be open for business. (Looks like a new paint job, so I’m betting on the former.)

trippleII, eye, aye

Back in the olden days, there was an “adult entertainment” establishment called, with a full sense of the irony implied in its name, “The Grosse Pointe Athletic Club”.  It went out of business, but was reborn as “Cover Girls”.

covergirlsDig that dated art style

Judging by the style of the art, I’m guessing Cover Girls closed its doors before the turn of the century.

Then it was time to grab something for lunch. Three options presented themselves:

oxtailporkchopfishOne of each, please

As the establishment was closed, I went home and ate a hot dog. Dearborn brand natural casing,  if you must know. Gotta help the local economy any way I can.