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.

Up Down Hoe, Along Grand River, Across McNichols, + Avoiding a $10,000 fine.

This is a pretty long post. I won’t be able to post next weekend, so this’ll have to tide you over.

Summer has finally hit Detroit. Following a monsoonish rainfall yesterday, Sunday was hot ‘n’ humid out on the pavement.  There’s a “Heat Advisory” in effect until 10 pm tonight.

To help you follow my peregrinations, I made a simple Google Map to show the route Paul and I took today.  Last week, I rode up Grand River, but only as far as Grand Blvd. This week, we decided to go farther up the road, to cover some fire stations Paul hadn’t photographed yet, and to see what other interesting sights might unveil themsleves.

First, we had to get to Grand River itself. We decided to ride down Charlevoix, mostly because I had just watched Gran Torino, which was filmed in Detroit. I thought I recognized one of the locations, where Clint’s Hmong neighbors’ daughter gets hassled by some punks:

GranTorinoGran Torino Location (I think)

There are two other Gran Torino locations I’m sure of. One is Pointe Hardware & Lumber, (my hardware store) which sells a “Gran Torino” tool kit consisting of a can of WD-40, a roll of duct tape, and a pair of Vise-Grips. (See the movie, and you’ll understand). Also “my” tailor, Vince of Artona, plays himself assisting Clint in buying a suit. (Vince does a great job playing himself, by the way).

A bit further along, we passed the Ossian Sweet house. You can read more about him at the link. It was a tragedy set off when Dr. Sweet, an African-American, moved into an all white neighborhood. A mob gathered outside his house, threw rocks and bricks, and shots were fired from the house, killing one of the people in the street. Clarence Darrow wound up successfully defending Dr. Sweet. Here’s his home, on Garland and Charlevoix

ossiansweetThe Ossian Sweet home

I’m guessing he and my grandfather knew each other.  My grandfather was a physician as well, and lived and practiced a couple of blocks away. He also treated African-Americans. I have a notebook of birth records he kept; while most of his patients were listed as “white”, he had African-American obstetric patients, as well as (as he wrote) “Syrian”, “Indian”, and “Finnish”. I have no idea why he specified “Finnish”, but the entries date from 1915, so who knows?

I spotted a piece of graffiti, and asked a gentleman on the porch of the house next door if I could take its picture. “Sure”, he said, and I did. I can’t figure this out, and neither could the gentleman with whom I spoke. “Used to be, graffiti made sense,” he said, “I don’t get this new stuff.”

updownhoeAnyone help me out here? Casey?

There are tons and tons of places to get your car repaired in Detroit. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can take your vehicle to “Jalloppy’s” anymore for its maintenance needs.

jalloppy'sWhere am I going to find Genuine Red’s Hydraulic Products?

Our local public radio station, WDET, used to have the longest-running blues program in the country, hosted by the estimable, but also difficult-to-understand at times Famous Coachman.  He also had a record store. Mr. Gasm, one of Detroit’s most prolific taggers, (along with Mr. Porab) has claimed the territory, but you can see that at one point, you could even buy vacuum tubes chez Monsieur Coachman.

famouscoachmanThe one and only Coachman’s Records

Once on Grand River itself, we stopped to see the inside of the Michigan Theatre. This was one of those movie-palace places. Right now, it’s being used as a parking garage (!). As the Tigers were going to take the field today, it was open, so we ducked in for a couple of shots.

michigantheatrePark your whip in style

The most impressive window is blocked by a wall, but incredibly (this, in a city where copper gutters have a life span of about a day) some original marble is still in place.

michtheatre2Is your parking garage graced by marble?

Here’s a place to get fit for you Tour De Hood wannabees. (That, or for people who are all agog over just sitting on the couch.)

couchpotatoesGet going! Sit There!

Next up, the remains of one of Detroit’s most historied (yes, that’s a real word) locations, The Grande Ballroom.

grandeNot so Grande any more

Do visit the website, particularly the “Gigology” page to get a sense of the great acts that played there. (My sister saw The Who there.) I’m going to take a quick detour here to give some props to two of the people who made the Grande Famous – Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren. Most people think “psychedelic” art comes from San Francisco. That’s because of the “summer of love” blah blah. But it can be safely said that Grimshaw and Lundgren were among the true originators of the genre. To give you a flavor of their style, here’s a Cream poster by GrimshawD-004

Cream at the Grande, poster by Grimshaw

Here’s a sample of Carl Lundgren’s work:

_pogb_whoThe Who & Joe Cocker on the same bill

Back on Grand River, I passed a number of interesting retail establishments. One of the places offered “reconditioned” – well, I’m not sure, but it looks like “reconditioned” “reconditioneds”.

reconditionedNo unreconditioned reconditioned for me

We all need to look our best, and here’s a place that promises the coldest cuts in the city – if you think I’m  talking about deli meats, move to Indiana.

coldestcutsNot sure what’s going on in that “O”

Then there’s the mysteriously-named but tempting club on the east side of the street:

clubredfloorIt’s RED, get it?

One of the establishments has rather sneakily renamed itself. I would wager large amounts of money that this collision shop didn’t have this name in 2008. (I’m just guessing).

obama-auto-collisionSame great Service. Same great people

There are plenty of hand wash car washes in Detroit.  But really, how do you know if the hand wash you’re promised is really a hand wash?  This place wants you to understand, when they say hand wash, they mean hand wash, dang it.

handsonhandsLadies, put Wednesday & Sunday in your PDA

I know that retailers have succeeded in malls by specializing in selling things you wouldn’t think warrant a whole store dedicated to them, like “Sunglass Hut”, but this place seems a little too finely focussed to me. How many saws & files do people need, anyway?

sawnfileNot just saws. Saws and files

I love barbeque. Not “barbequed” meats. Barbeque. There’s a difference. And if you don’t believe me, ask someone from Texas or Kansas City, or North Carolina. I was both thrilled and perplexed by this restaurant.  (Well, the name is odd):

ippiseePronunciation? Your guess is as good as mine

What leaves me scratching my head is the claim that Ippissee was voted number one bar-b-q “In the State of Tennessee”.  Is that a plus?  I thought Tennessee was more famous for things like Jimmie Dean Sausage, or biscuits and gravy. I don’t remember reading anything about great Tennessee bar-b-q and, by the way, voted by whom?

Up at the top of our ride, we stopped at a beautiful fire station: Engine 54.

engine54Yes, this is Engine 54

A delightful sergeant invited us in to take a look around.  It’s a beautifully kept station.  One of the firefighters took it upon himself to shine up the original brass in the station.  Check out this door handle, from back in the day when Detroit had money, and every city took pride in its public buildings.

engine54handleBeautiful door handle

We decided to take McNichols back. It was a good choice, as we had a really nice tailwind, which took the edge off the now blistering heat. We also passed a tax return place with the simplest and best promise possible:

That’s what I want

If you’re looking for a used vehicle, you might try this establishment:

mrluckyFeeling lucky?

Mr. Lucky’s was open today, but be careful. He has a very, very, large dog. The dog appears to not like either intruders, or people, in general.

OK, readers, I need some help here. I passed what used to be a bank, and all that’s left of the original signage is this logo.  Neither Paul (who knows these kinds of things) nor I (who wan’t much help) could identify it. Anyone know what bank this might have been?

mysterybanklogoAnyone? Anyone? Bueller?

McNichols is supposed to dead end at Detroit City Airport, but some hooligans knocked down large sections of the fence, giving access to the airport. Enquiring minds like mine see that as an opportunity explore new territories, and the runway beckoned. (There’s actually a little sidewalk that skirts the runway proper, so we weren’t actually in anyone’s flight path).

cityairportrunwayAirport with ‘bike path’

The only problem was that hooligans have left all the other fences intact, so we were, in effect, trapped inside. We spoke with two nice airplane-owning gentlemen, one of whom volunteered to let us out through the electronically controlled gate, as he was about to leave. However, on the way to said gate, we were intercepted by a security type, who had failed to see us riding around on the tarmac.  He was rather nonplussed at our presence.  He asked how we had gained access to the airport, which we told him was through a large, missing chunk of fence. That didn’t seem to concern him as much as us actually being on the airport grounds, and threatened us with a $10,000 fine. I guess maybe they needed the money to actually repair the fence we rode through.

cityairportDetroit City Airport Hangars

One thing about this airport is that there’s no sign flashing the current TSA Security level. Last I looked at Detroit Metro, it was orange; I hope our little detour on City Airport’s property didn’t raise it to red.

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:


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.


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.