Spring, Sprang, Sprocket.

Spring brings out the optimist in all of us, right? With that in mind, I set out on today’s Tour De Hood, looking for the best in all I rode by. (That’s the Sprocket to which this blog post refers.)

Herewith, some of the treats that  I took as signs of Detroit’s revivification. (By the way, the Detroit Free Press had a lengthy article detailing big plans for returning Detroit to its rightful spot as the Paris of the Midwest.)

I noticed a number of new tags on various buildings, abutments, and other objects. This wall, for example, was tag-free last year.

Hi-ho, Paid AAwaaaaaay. (Thanks to Kae V for the deciphering)

“Away” made a return visit (though in a much less artistic form) next to his or her new pals, EP & KBT.

Don’t know if “Away” means “Go Away” or not.

Part of what used to be/is still a residential neighborhood seems to have rezoned itself as a truck stop. Last year there was only one truck here. The family’s growing.

No homes on the block = more space for your semi

I also cycled by a formerly-standing abandoned house. It has dedicated itself to a new Detroit by ceasing to be.

All-new destruction for 2010

For those of you familiar with my end-of 2009 post, I discovered a 23-hour tire(s) repair shop on Kercheval. The owner has spruced up the storefront by painting it a lovely shade of purple. (The sign itself could still use some fixing, if you ask me.)

Perhaps Easter Sunday is included in the hours it’s closed

The following photo may not look like “new” to the casual viewer, but last year, it didn’t have a roof, so we’re moving forward with purpose and vigor.

Still looking for tenants

New to me, but not to Detroit, a coaling (?) stop on the Grand Trunk Railroad. (Information, courtesy the Legal Eagle).

Here’s the abutment:

The coal started here

There’s a little bit left of the track that marked the coaling station itself. There’s nearly a foot left of old track.

Former rail line: Not part of America’s new high-speed rail project

For those of you looking to increase your carbon footprint, there are chunks of the actual carboniferous object itself for your personal collection:

What naughty children used to get for Christmas

The Dequindre cut has a number of actual, new new features for 2010. First, it now extends all the way to Atwater Street – which is nice. It’s currently “blocked” by orange-and-white barrels and some kind of plastic netting, but no one appears to be letting that slow them down. There are also some new examples of street art over which to marvel. One, a more traditional language-based style:

The Dequindre Codex?

The other is of the figurative variety.  I don’t know if this is a “curated” example, or some interloper’s work.

Ferngully meets Detroit Gully

There’s a wall standing alone in a field off of Grand River.  I could’ve ridden past many places today; but coincidentally, (it being Easter Sunday), I happened upon this mural.It has been newly-decorated with a bunch of bunnies. Awww.

Suspicious-looking “bunny” on the right, no?

The Michigan Central Station is one of Detroit’s most iconic ruins. There seems to be some noise about turning it into something – I have no idea what – but I think my Tour De Hood Chronicles wouldn’t be complete without tossing in a photo of one set of its broken windows. (That makes this photo new to the Tour De Hood archives:)

Maybe someone recycled that glass

In a plea for government help, someone has painted the President’s name on the curb outside the razor wire. (I haven’t heard whether it’s had its intended effect or not).

Dear Mr. President: Help!

A venerable pawn shop has given up the ghost. (The license is available). So if you’re looking for a rifle or diamonds to pawn, you may have to search elsewhere.

Four score and six years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new pawn shop. Now it’s no more

Directly across the street, I spotted a mural “advertising” Corktown, an historically Irish neighborhood. Nothing about the mural strikes me as redolent of Eire, but it could be because I’m ignorant of Celctic traditions. Or something. Judge for yourself.

Forward, diverse robots!

One thing about Detroit businesses, when they fail, they fail. Here, a formerly going concern of some kind that is definitively done. Put a fork in it.

I’m sorry, too

Anyway, this being Easter and all, perhaps a benevolent higher being will resurrect the establishment to the wonder and delight of all. Here’s hoping.

Thanks to The Legal Eagle for the History Lesson, and for Spencer’s accompaniment. Yo! Spencer! 28 miles!

A little poem to celebrate the arrival of spring:

“when faces called flowers float out of the groundand breathing is wishing and wishing is having-

but keeping is downward and doubting and never

-it’s april (yes,april;my darling)it’s spring!

ee cummings.

Blessed Elephants, Polar Bears, and Atomic Dogs – TDH visits Wyoming, Tireman, Harper, and more

Took a rather extended loop on the Tour De Hood today. It was the same day as the Tour De Troit – which we intersected on our end stretch near Indian Village. Went our own way, as the legal eagle and I  didn’t want to follow 2,000 cyclists around a path we already know well.

Here’s a Google Map of Saturday’s Route of the Tour De Hood if you’d like to see the route. We did go through Hamtramck & Highland Park, so some of it wasn’t, technically, Detroit proper, though let’s not quibble, ok?

The Tour started on Harper, where I encountered my first Lash Parlor. (Not an S & M facility, even though it was across the street from Harper News, “An Adult Fantasy to Experience”.)

1noexcusesNo excuses not to look your best, Ladies (dig the scissors in the “X”)

So far, nothing out of the ordinary, just typically exuberant Detroit retail design. Here’s the  relatively subdued adult video emporium (I didn’t know these still existed) which offers titillation for a mere 25 cents.

2adultvideosLooking for a lottery tip sheet to go with your porn?

I am as much for keeping your car clean as the next guy, so I’m thinking that my anodyne sedan might need a trip to the following locale:

3mrheavySalon + Mr. Heavy = iron fist in velvet glove

We passed an unfortunately defunct appliance repair facility. While the english-ness of its name (World Tomorrow) is a bit questionable, the application of a real washing machine to its signage deserves inclusion into the Detroit pantheon of retail peculiarity.

4worldtomorrowFollow the arrow to tomorrow

As should be obvious to any one who has followed my peregrinations, it wasn’t long before I passed by a strip club:

7chichisTime to celebrate National Hispanic Month

It’s September, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Flowers are always appropriate.

5loveoneAt least there’s no unnecessary apostrophe, but that dash! Oh, dear

There’s a fascinating (though unfortunately faded-by-weather) mural where Harper crosses Gratiot. (Which I now automatically pronounce Gra-toit – per the misspelled sign from last week.) Among the portraits you can spot Malcolm X, former Mayor Coleman Young, the People Mover (?), Nelson Mandela, a young Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, and, I think, Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution in the late 18th Century. The mural’s title confounds me:

6aaubiquityAmalgamation of Ubiquity? Fusion of Everywhere?

Shantinique Music is bucking the trend of highly-focussed retailers, like Michigan Saw & File, and has (successfully?) cobbled together the only Music/sportswear/footwear shop I’ve ever seen.

8shantinitqueMusic, and the outfit to go with it

A delightfully-named car wash, “Bubble Time”, was the next sight to behold, which wouldn’t normally merit inclusion here, but I was struck by the inequality of the time devoted to painting the bubbles, and the slapdash execution of the name itself.

9bubbletimeTime to get down with your foamy self

Shortly thereafter, things soon descended (or arose, I guess) into one of the most memorable rides I’ve taken in Detroit, a surreal combination of misspellings, oddball graphics, stolen logos, religious “iconography”, and just plain weirdness that is probably unmatched by any other city in America.

Behold: The Harper/Mt. Elliot/Conant/Oakland/Wyoming/Tireman acid trip on two wheels.

There’s a lonely chimney, which reminded me of the photos of Atlanta following Sherman’s March to the Sea.

10chimneyFormer site of _________?

I know the English language has certain peculiarities which make spelling correctly kind of difficult – but the person in charge of this sign appears to have not even bothered trying to get it right.

11frigiratorsHot ‘n’ Kold, I guess

Given that our native tongue has (according to the O.E.D., which ought to know) over 170,000 words in current use, it’s surprising that the owners of this facility couldn’t drag up a better adjective to describe their wares:

12ampleDig those “Roman” Ds

Consider yourself a sign painter. You have a project. Your assignment is to paint the name of a store and its goods on a rather large blank wall. Given the space you’re given on which to apply your art, wouldn’t you think about that door before you realized that you’d have to split “gro” and “ceries” to maintain your sort-of centered type format?

13newpolkaNo more Frankie Yankovic? That’s Old Polka

Last week, I mused on the absence of a mountain on Mt. Elliot street, but I think I found a lump that could be the missing mountain after all. It’s a geological oddity, as it’s made primarily of crushed concrete, unlike the Alps or the Himalayas.

14mtelliotBehold Detroit’s highest mountain

The Highland Park High School Varsity football team was playing an away game against Country Day on Saturday. As predicted by some of the people we met, they stomped all over the Country Day Yellow Jackets, 36 to 3.  But here’s the question:  What on earth possessed the school board to name the team “The Polar Bears”?

16polarbearsPolar Bears in Highland Park? Reminds me of the first two seasons of Lost

A temporarily permanent “restaurant” beckoned on McNichols, and while the art work featured enticing renderings of  various comestibles, the sign (with a surprisingly accurate use of an apostrophe) promised Nothin’ but Love” [sic]. I don’t know what the end quotation mark is for.

17nothin'butloveI want some fries with that love

Co-winner of this week’s Pro-Am competition, this professionally painted but amateurishly spelled appliance repair store:

18proffessionalsGreat at ffixing frigirators.

Tied for first with the proffessionals is a furniture repair shop, that promises all kinds of furniture repair.

19dinningroomQuality work; bad spelling

Here’s this week’s stump the misterarthur winner. I’m willing to go with blessed money plants (sure to generate wealth) and blessed thinking caps (we could all use one of those), but the blessed elephant thing totally confounds me. Do you have to bring your own elephant to be blessed?  Is this a combo candle store/pet store that only sells elephants? Is it legal to own an elephant, blessed or not, within the Detroit City limits? Does this Mayor know about this possibly illegal trade in elephants?

20blessedelephantsI’ll take one thinking cap, please

We try to support Detroit Car makers as much as we can; but even if your car comes from elsewhere, we’re happy to repair it. That doesn’t mean we have to spell its origin correctly.

21foriegnI promise to defend the constitution against all enemies, foriegn or domestic

I’m not sure if a Moabite Body is something I’d like to have. According to Wikipedia, the ancestor of the Moabites was Lot himself, via incest with his oldest daughter. Whether that contributes to physical perfection is not within my area of expertise.

22moabitesThere’s a town in Utah called Moab, maybe they’re Mormons

Next up, Detroit’s version of fusion cuisine. Not quite what you’d expect from a Spa experience in California, but what the hell, it might be tasty after all.

23asiancornedbeefWTF? Irish Sushi?

This week’s TDH winner of the Amateur Retail Decor Award is a sort of one-man Home Depot.

Here’s a wide view. Note the care with which the sign painter avoided the shutter on the left hand side


It’s a medical building, too. See above the door

My favorite part is the full Detroit rendering of Doors, Lumber, and Window$ [sic], especially the random use of upper and lower case letters.


A fellow walking by said “That building’s all F’d up. Ain’t got no floor. Ain’t got no roof”.  I take that to mean we’ll have to look for our new KiTCHEN CABINET elsewhere.

Detroit has been a Democratic Party stronghold for years and years, and, as a whole, has embraced our new President. That said, no one appears to have taken it as far as the proprietors of this service station, who’ve violated every copyright law in Amercica to proclaim their allegiance to Mr. Obama.

27obamagasIn case you don’t know which Obama they’re referring to, there’s a photo for your assistance

Even the pumps carry the full Obama Campaign graphics.

28obamapumpDoes Hugo Chavez have anything to do with this?

David Mackenzie High School was erected in 1931 – hence the glorious Deco tile work. I don’t know when it was abandoned; it still has some unbroken windows.  What a shame.

29highschoolNo child left inside

God, as I generally understand it, is all-seeing, and all-powerful – at least as defined by Judeo-Christians everywhere. You can imagine, then, that I was nonplussed by the re-definition of God’s will over here at Cliff’s Family. I think it’s a barber shop – the signage behind the white Ford Explorer says “regular haircuts”. No tyzillions here, I guess.

30godspecializeGod Specialize in what?

This small restaurant on Tireman was new to me – I don’t remember it being listed in one of the hot Detroit nightspots directories.  Irradiated food! It’s the next big thing!

31atomicdogsNote: Whole Chicken Wings

The sign painter has either inadvertently left a space between “cat” and “fish”, or is, instead, promising something I’ve never seen on a menu before; your choice of cat or fish.  I’ll take the Atomic Dog.

We ran across another spelling fail before we got home. I hate insurance deductibles (like everyone else). As for deductibales, I’ve never had to pay one. Special Shout Out to the estimable Ed Dilworth, who pointed out that Jay’s phone number has an extra digit.

32deductibalesIt appears as though they demolished their dictionary, too.

The ride ended, not with a bang, but a hiss. A piece of glass, too big to be a shard and too small to be a chunk whacked my rear tire. Two patches later, the tube was still not holding air. My wife had to come and pick me up. Thus an ignominious end to a glorious and enlightening day. Such is life on the Tour De Hood.

Addendum: Forgot to include this impressively named and fantastically decorated hair salon:

anointedhands“A woman’s hair is her glory”

Aretha’s Hat

Think back to last January, when President Obama was inaugurated. Aretha Franklin made a lot of noise by sporting a unique chapeau, designed and built by Detroit’s own Mr. Song. Here’s Aretha in said hat, in case you’ve forgotten what it looked like:

aretha-franklins-hat-1532-1232472744-2The Queen of Soul

Here’s where she got it: Mr. Song Millinery on Woodward near Grand Blvd. Detroit fashion rules. And don’t forget it.

arethahatWorld famous hats from the Motor City

I ‘discovered’ a truly unique building today. It’s on Baltimore near John R. It must’ve been a restaurant or something. A club? Meeting hall? Scientology testing lab? Whatever, it probably gets great mobile phone reception.

It’s for sale, but it’s been on the market so long the phone number on the “for sale” sign has been washed away, so I can’t hook you up with the seller. (You know you want to live here).

wackbuildingPotential Jetson bachelor pad?

More typical of Detroit’s abandoned properties is this trashed apartment building near Wayne State University, which is named for “Mad Anthony” Wayne, a brigadier General under George Washington. (He died of gout, by the way).

forestNo spaces available for rent

I’ve mentioned the Avalon Bakery many times before, but haven’t actually shown why I stop there regularly. Since you’ve all seen a cappuccino before, I thought I’d feature some of the baked treats on offer instead. Amazingly enough, I didn’t indulge today.

stickybunCarb-loading opportunity

For reasons that escape me at present, I took Geology 101 whilst at University. I can’t remember much about it, except for plate tectonics and the shape of the silicon tetrahedron, basic building block of everything geological. (I think). After seeing this graffiti, I thought that perhaps one of my classmates tagged this wall:

tetrahedronGeologists in the hood?

I wish he or she had managed to not upend the Mercedes logo, and I’m not sure what the letters stand for, but I didn’t take any geology courses beyond that intro class.

More mysterious than the tetrahedron was this post-modern sentence I spotted on John R. Help me out folks, I don’t know what this means.

mysterygraffitiAuoto? I’m stumped

Maybe it’s some super-secret Masonic code.

Back on earth, I also passed this temptingly-named restaurant:

firewaterCan’t identify the “Fire” and “Water” fonts. Sorry

The II in the name suggests there’s another Fire Water somewhere else in the city. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Maybe it’s the beginning of a new “casual dining” chain to take on Chili’s and Applebees.

Enjoy your weekend!

The return of Detroit’s Mounted Police

Nice news. I took a day off from work today – mostly to catch up on trying to make my yard less of an eyesore. Had to spin through the hood, though, as it was a beautiful day.  For those of you who missed it, Detroit’s own Toby Barlow had a piece in the New York Times on Sunday about biking in Motown.  Here’s the article, if you haven’t seen it yet. I think the only things that keep Detroit from being a cycle friendly city are a) Winter, and b) the complete and utter antipathy of Detroit motorists for bicyclists.

If you want to buy an abandoned small animal hospital, there’s one for sale on Kercheval.

small-animal____________ Small Animal Hospital

I took a little detour through the Detroit’s Eastern Market, and passed by this interesting mural. About-to-be-dead chicken (I think that’s what it is) dreaming of the Detroit Pistons. Don’t know why the pig ‘n’ cow don’t share the reverie.

ftoniDreams of another championship

By the way,  Ftoni is the # 1,095,198 ranked last name in the United States.

I’ve saved the best news for last. I saw a Detroit Officer on horseback this morning.  Our chief of police just got fired, but before he packed up his office, he re-instituted the Mounted Police. I’m glad they’re back. Here’s an officer patrolling the Dequindre cut.

mountedpolicemanOfficer on Patrol on Horseback

If you are happy the mounted police are back, too, here’s a suggestion:  Write the new Detroit Chief of Police, Warren Evans, and let him know that you support their return.  Click here for the address

Pimp your Pontiac

It started out cloudy on the TDH this morning, but a brisk breeze from the SSW has blown them away.  While it was still cloudy, this pimped out Pontiac brightened my morning.


Pontiac Sunfire: Non-standard paint color.

There’s an abandoned building on Agnes near Townsend I’ve always wanted. I don’t know why, as it is not a spectacular architectural achievement. Here’s a photo of it. (I have no explanation for the weird distortion)


Abandoned Building

It’s a former Detroit Public Library building.  Don’t know the exact age it was erected, but it was during a period of time when spelling “Public” “Pvblic” must’ve given it some kind of extra intellectual heft.


Detroit Pvblic Library

Should I find out if the city wants to sell it? Then restore it?  Someone should take the advice of the graffiti on the back of the building.


Go ahead. Take the plunge

Once I got all the way downtown, I passed this pimped out trailer.


Steve’s Transportable Restaurant

I was lucky enough to spend a moment with Steve himself.  I asked him what occasioned his mobile restaurant to be parked on Broadway. “It’s for a white party,” he said, and quickly added, laughing,  “I don’t mean white people. Everyone dresses in white.” I figured as much.

In case you were wondering about what to do the next time you’re bored, come downtown! Everything’s great!


A promise of a bright tomorrow

That’s it until next week.  I’ll be on the lookout for more sinkholes. If you spot one, please let me know.

“You can lead a horticulture…

…but you can’t make her think.” So said Dorothy Parker, when challenged to use horticulture in a sentence. I guess people were wittier then than they are now.

I present to you one of the things I find very interesting on the TDH. As you know by now, much of my route passes by abandoned buildings, wrecked homes, and empty lots. These blocks used to have alleys, and way back when (say, about the 1920s or 1930s) many people planted roses along their back fences. Those roses, unlike their surroundings, have continued to thrive. It makes for an interesting scene later in the summer, when all of those magnificent roses are in bloom amidst the wreckage.

Here’s the first group of said roses I’ve seen in flower this year. Lovely, no? The rusted garage door sets them off quite nicely.


Roses in Hell, ver. 1


Roses from Hell, ver. 2

And all this time, I thought roses were hard to grow.

Couldn’t ride this weekend, but here’s a pothole for your amusement.

I had to work this weekend, and couldn’t get in a ride. To keep your appetite for exciting TDH news at bay, here’s a 2009 contender for pothole of the year.


Pothole cum crime scene cum tire recycling center.

Back soon with more exciting photos of my fair city.

The Fine Art of Deconstruction

It started out a little damp on the TDH this morning, but ended up breezy and unseasonably chilly for a Memorial Day weekend. (It seems to me we always used to be swimming by Memorial Day).

Detroit is cursed by failed attempts at renaissance-ing itself.  Here, in a microcosm, a demonstration of “we were that close to getting it right this time” Detroit.

First, a concavity in the road. This isn’t unusual, most cities have them.


Depression in the road that needs fixing

As part of the City’s Department of Public Works, you dutifully note the need to fill the concavity and order up some cold patch asphalt to take care of the problem. Good so far.  But in only-in-Detroit style, the asphalt deliverers fail to spot the concavity that needs filling and put their asphalt load close to where it’s supposed to be.


Asphalt delivery location

If only, if only, if only the deliverers of asphalt had dumped their product about twelve feet further south, everything would have worked out fine. But they didn’t. So now we have a concavity and asphalt on the sidewalk keeping each other company.


Road Fix Fail

A piece of graffiti I saw further along the TDH today (on Second) seemed to summarize the issue quite nicely.  Quel coincidence, as they say in Paris.


My sentiments, exactly

Not all was woeful this morning.  Here’s a beautiful building facade – appropriately so, given that the building’s front was, in effect, an advertisement for the company’s products and services.


Detroit Cornice And Slate 1897

Here’s the cool part. The facade is actually galvanized steel.  (It’s a Michigan Historic Site. I got this info from a sign on the building).  This technique evolved from New York’s cast iron structures, and was developed because of a lack of quarries in the Detroit area. It was also fast and inexpensive.

We seem to specialize in deconstruction these days. In fact, I think it’s fair we’ve raised the abandoned building to some kind of art form.  See?


Fine Arts (sic)

I also spotted a clever piece of typography.  The name of this bar is probably not, as you might think, an invitation to worship at the altar of alcohol. Its name derives from its proximity to the Masonic Temple. (Where I saw Elvis Costello and The Clash perform).  What I like is the T.


Come in, all ye faithful

That’s it for today. Remember to remember why we celebrate Memorial Day, and try to thank those who gave their lives so we can live ours.

High Speed Rail + Big Three = opportunity for Detroit?

The economic situation as I see it: On the one hand, US Automakers are teetering (save Ford, which, miraculously, appears to be doing pretty well).  On the other, there is a push to finally get High-Speed Rail going in the United States. We (collectively) want to save manufacturing jobs, right?  How about if the Federal Government helps  about-to-be-shuttered auto plants and make GM, Ford, and maybe Chrysler the makers of the soon-to-be needed high speed rail stock? Wouldn’t that help Detroit? Wouldn’t that help blue-collar workers? Wouldn’t that help the rust belt? Wouldn’t that keep the United States in the manufacturing business?  Is there a piece of logic I’m missing?  Please weigh in with your opinions. Is this a good idea? If not, what’s wrong with it?