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?

Avant le déluge, moi, monsieur arthur.

Short TDH today, I’m sorry to say.  I don’t like riding in the rain, much less thunderstorms.  Here’s what greeted me on Wunderground’s radar this morning.

radartwoColor = Bad Weather

Fortunately, I got a short ride in and got home before the big weather (and predicted thunderstorms) hit.

menacingcloudsNo tanning opportunities today

I have some advice for Dish Network or Direct TV. You have a lot of unused dishes you should probably collect.  I see them all over the TDH, and a largish number of them are on houses that are (or at least appear to be) completely uninhabited.  To wit:

dishone

dishtwoWorking Dishes. Unworking houses.

I am happy to report that one of my sinkholes now comes complete with its own body guard. The City of Detroit’s Water & Sewerage Department put up a couple of saw horses to protect it from vehicular traffic.

bodyguard

Sinkhole: Now with personal bodyguard

The City of Detroit’s concern for its citizens doesn’t seem to extend to protecting them from electric shock. Below, for example, is an unfortunately typical Detroit streetlight base. Seems to me it would be easy to electrocute yourself. On the other hand, if you’ve got the right Leatherman tool, this could also be seen as a source of free electricity.  If you’re not worried about frying yourself it might even be a way to hook up your computer AC adapter if you’re caught on the east side with a dead battery and have to finish a Powerpoint presentation.

freeelectricityRaw power. Detroit style.

Not all was bleak and cloudy on the TDH this morning. I think the people of Detroit have come to the conclusion that no outside agency at the local, regional, state or federal level is going to do anything to help improve the city, so we’ll have to take matters into our own hands.  The citizens of Shipherd Street have planted a community garden on an abandoned corner, and invite all to come visit.

gardenCome visit any time

A Detroit “Renaissance” has been attempted many times before. Perhaps it will come back, but at least for the nonce, it is still, as this local tagger seems to have put it, in its embryonic stage.

embryoRight to choose?

The rain is now coming down. I hope things let up enough to get in a spin tomorrow. Happy cycling, wherever you are.

Gold vs. God

No big discoveries on the TDH today. A great day out on the road, though it was a bit breezy headed downtown. (Plus half my back is seized up). That said, I did run by some points of interest.

First, the house that comes with its own graveyard (see prior post, please) is no more. I don’t know if they plan on pushing all the debris into the big hole – but maybe next week I’ll be able to report back to you if that turns out to be the case. Voila: The ex-house.

knockeddowonhouseNewly-dead house

The owners of said house had a clearly non-effective sign trying to keep the area tidy:

nodumpingCareful! Security Camera is watching!

A couple of weeks ago, I pointed out a couple of sinkholes. The lesser of the two appears to be destined for repair. (At least that’s what I think, judging by the paint. It could also be an alert to walkers, riders, and drivers).  If you’re on Kercheval, and you see it, you can tell your friends you saw one of the Tour De Hood landmarks. Gives you instant street cred.

fixsinkholeFamous sinkhole

I think Detroit has general issues with its sewage system. While I’m not a civil engineer, I believe most of the sinkholes and enormous potholes I see are because of busted sewer lines and/or water lines leaking into the ground and eroding support for the pavement.  On the opposite side of leaking is clogging, as demonstrated by this sewer, which by my lights is a seweren’t. (I had to put this picture in just so I could include that jeux de mots). Or, if you prefer, it’s a Storm Drain that Drain’t working.

sewern'tStorm Drain’t.

You’ll notice it’s lost its ability to actually drain water.  A bit further along I rode by the erstwhile “Peace in Heart Crusade Church of God”.  Looks like the neighbors prefer lucre to the promise of eternal happiness.

goldoneThere’s Gold in that there Hood.

I may be wrong, as I passed another building (a former restaurant supply shop) that is much more blinged out.

gold2Gold, Cutlery, Scales and Meat Hooks

You’ll notice on the upper left “MOCAD 3/29”.  MOCAD stands for Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit. So this Gold stuff may actually be some kind of conceptual art that I’m too much of a philistine to appreciate.

Until today, I hadn’t known there was a downtown Synagogue. Here it is, or was. I can’t really tell if it’s still in use for that purpose.

synagogueThe Downtown Synagogue – must be the only one

I love the door handle.

mogendavidMagen David

Right across the street is a new (to me – I don’t spend much of my time looking for, or frequenting, adult entertainment enterprises) place to spend some time and money.

erosGenerous drinks for fat white guys

Looks new to me. Maybe this is the result of the Stimulus Money Detroit is supposed to be receiving from the Federal Government. If anyone knows if this place has been around for a while, and I’m just ignorant, please weigh in.

That said, there’s one thing for sure. The Tour De Hood is always filled with interesting things.  This graffiti just about sums it up.wackshit

No kidding

Girls, please don’t hand your hair to each other + sinkholes!

I’m really glad everyone has given up trying to spell correctly. Otherwise, I’d never run across gems like the sign I passed this morning.

tress

Leave that hair alone!

How does one pass tresses? Does this refer to human hair, or are wigs included? Can we pass clippings? Is there a maximum length of clip before it becomes a tress, and therefore not passable? Is there an NGO in charge of the no hair passing rule? Are there more precise instructions somewhere on the internets?

My regular readers know that I periodically show off Detroit’s bad ass potholes. Today, I encountered two “potholes” that really deserve their own category.

Sinkholes.

Here’s the first one I spotted today:

potholeone

Sinkhole One

This one’s on Kercheval, near Fischer. It also serves as a sort of ad hoc recycling bin.

potholeonedepthone

Sinkhole One – demonstration of depth

Since I don’t carry a yardstick with me, I used my leg for reference. About 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile farther along, I pulled up next to this beauty.

potholetwo

Sinkhole Two

There’s a good reason you can’t see how deep it is.  I put my foot into it, then calf, thigh, hip and never hit bottom.  The following photo isn’t the greatest, but you’ll have to cut me some slack, as I was in the middle of a road with my leg stuck in a hole, and didn’t want to get run over. Voila:  Sinkhole Two.

potholetwodepth

My foot never touched bottom.

An early entry, but clearly a contender for the TDH sinkhole of the year award.

Don’t get the wrong impression. Today was a lovely day in the Hood, and I enjoyed a wonderful cappuccino at the  Avalon Bakery, as is my wont. I also had a nice chat with the effervescent Joe Posch, who, since he shaved off his moustache and got a haircut, now looks like Matthew Fox, instead of Errol Flynn.