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?

Sunday and all is well

I think maybe the spectacular weather today acted like a hallucinogen on Mister Arthur’s old bean. Despite the poverty, abandonment, ruins, burned down houses, weeds, broken glass, giant (and growing!) potholes etc., etc., I was in a very good mood – and actually saw some nice things.  First, a little glimpse of the townhomes designed by Mies Van Der Rohe – really ultra cool modern living in the heart of the hood. Toby Barlow wrote about his place in the New York Times, and Keira Alexander’s place was featured on the January cover of Dwell magazine.  Here’s a lousy shot of some of them. If I were single, I’d live in one of these in a heartbeat.

img_0453Mies Van Der Rohe-designed Townhouse

Detroit actually looked almost like a real city this morning, as there were live human beings gathering together to watch the Tigers play the Cleveland Indians. See? A “crowd” of people!

img_0457Detroit – Now with People!

Detroit is famous (or infamous) for its statue of Joe Louis’ fist.  I like it, though it appears to frighten out-of-towners.  It is less famous for this sculpture thing, which, until today, I had assumed to be a salute to the Carp, the fish that defines the Detroit River and adjacent Lake St Clair.

img_0456Fish Sculpture?

It turns out it’s The Millennium Bell. I’ve never heard it being rung, so I stepped under it and struck the hanging-down bit with my knuckles.  It does ring.  In my book, though, it makes a better fish tribute.

I also rode by this lovely building, which, despite its exterior attractiveness, appears to be unleased.  That’s too bad.

img_0458Beautiful Building, No Tenants.

An amiable fellow who looked as if he lives on the street across from it told me it’s being torn down. “To make room,” he said.  “For what?”, I asked, as there was nothing that appeared to be headed in its direction. “Room for nothing”, he said, “It’s those idiots on the City Council.”  Ah, Detroit, when will be bad juju be gone?

Five Minute Freak Out

I had an unsettling experience on the TDH this morning. I had stopped at Good Girls go to Paris for what is becoming a habit on my rides, a banana-and-Nutella crepe and a cup of coffee. (That particular option is called a “Good Girl” on the menu, but it seems kind of odd for me to ask for a good girl. It turns out the young woman I asked for my crepe is  the daughter of someone I went to high school with.

That, clearly is not the freak out bit. This is:  (I just removed the photo. Seemed unduly invasive of the poor man’s privacy)

I was walking down an alley near GGgtP whilst devouring my crepe, and saw some feet sticking up. Upon approaching him, I freaked out because he was so still. I was convinced he had passed away. Anyway, I leaned over as close as I could to him and noticed he was breathing. (Very shallowly). So that’s good. Anyway, I was pretty rattled by it.

Other things were a bit cheerier. It was a beautiful day, even though Wunderground had predicted Southerly or Southeasterly winds, which would have meant a tailwind all the way home. That did not turn out to be the case.

The former Panther Club, on Kercheval betwixt Algonquin and Connor, has a new name and owner. It is now called Jimmy’s (or Jimmies, depending on which sign you read) Lounge, and promises the “Best Burger in Town”.  Except on Sundays, it would appear, as it was closed.

img_0442Jimmies (or Jimmy’s) Lounge

I also noticed a rusty chassis with an equally rusty “Power Dome” straight-six motor, which must’ve originally come from a Hudson of some kind.  (Oddly, if you Google powerdome straight six, you get a lot of BMW hits.  I think it’s safe to say this is not a BMW motor.)

img_0437The Mighty Power Dome

I also saw a shoe.

img_0439A shoe.

But that was it for today. The trees are just coming into flower here, I suspect I’ll get some prettier shots next week.

Tour de Hood Pothole Archaeology

Yogi Berra once said: “You can observe a lot just by watching”.  Or, in my case, by riding by it.  Today’s lesson: Every pothole tells a story, don’t it?

These two sister potholes are on Lycaste between Jefferson & Kercheval.


Pothole one


Pothole two

You see? Tracks upon which wheeled vehicles can travel.  There used to be trolley lines up and down Jefferson, so these could be part of our former trolley system. Or they could be a spur from the train tracks that still cross Kercheval and Jefferson just north of St. Jean.  Any railroad/trolley/Detroit history buffs want to weigh in with an opinion?

Closer to downtown, I noted this road hiccup, (on Concord near Lafayette) which reveals Detroit just as removed layers of ash reveal Pompeii.


History of road construction, exhibit one.

Looks like Concord Street used to be paved with what we call “Belgian Blocks” around these parts. Then they were patched with concrete, and finally, smothered in asphalt. I like the original better, myself. And you?

It was a beautiful day on the TDH.  Downtown was calmer, as the Michigan State Spartan Fans are gearing up for the Final Four Final Two. The NCAA needs a catchy phrase for the championship game: Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four….and then? Tremendous Two? Totally Awesome Two? Someone help me out here.

Enjoy your week. It’s supposed to snow here (4-6 inches) on Monday.

As someone (wish I could remember so I could give proper attribution) wrote recently, our State Motto ought to be “What did we do wrong?”  Indeed.

Spring can really hang you up the most.*

Back on the Tour De Hood. It’s officially Spring, and Detroit is awakening from its gentle winter slumber. Let’s see what’s happened over the winter.  

I noticed some newly burned-out houses this morning. (That is to say, I don’t remember them being burned out last year). Here’s a sample of what I found.


This charming barn-ish fixer-upper has a mostly intact roof, some paint left on the outside, and part of a fence.  Ready to re-make into a Tribeca-Style loft for the right buyer. Church & schools nearby. Some streetlights.


This two-tone, two-story beauty has room for your growing family! Set in a park-like atmosphere, it has beautiful original landscaping. Hole in the peak of the roof could mark the beginning of a very nice skylight. Owner motivated!


Real rental possibilities abound in this semi-not-destroyed duplex.  Live downstairs while you clear out the fire damage up top. Most windows are still intact. Plywood covers can be re-purposed to help mend second floor. Nice big yard for cookouts and entertaining. Recent price re-adjustment.


Retail, retail, retail. Think of the opportunities to establish a luxe, upscale retailer here! No competition of any kind. Plenty of free parking. Start from scratch to build your dream store. Roof a problem. 

I’ve decided there are 7 life stages of Tour De Hood homes.  1) Inhabited, well-kept.  2) Inhabited, not well-kept. 3) For sale, well-kept. 4) For sale, not well-kept. 5) For sale, looks abandoned.  6) Abandoned. 7) Collapsed.

Ah well.  Just to keep myself from breaking into tears, I stopped at Good Girls Go To Paris and had a super yummy banana and Nutella crepe.  Here’s proof.


That’s all for now. I hope that next week some spring weeds will begin to show their pretty little heads in some of the abandoned lots along the TDH route.

* Props to composer and lyricist, Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman