Nerd Tastic!

The Tour De Hood is an informal affair. Usually, the Legal Eagle tries to find a road or street we haven’t visited, figures out an interesting way to get there, and we’re off!  Over Memorial Day weekend, we engaged our inner nerd-selves and picked a destination (actually two) and rode there, not particularly caring about how we got there.  (In short, we rode down some streets we’ve been down many times before).

Greyhound (I believe) used to claim that “getting there is half the fun”, and that’s always true riding around Detroit, because you never know what new delights await you. It’s certainly tons more entertaining than a bus ride.

To wit, I’ve ridden down Mack Avenue many times, but saw some new things I hadn’t seen before.

Hoods {sic} Tire Service has an eye-catching new sign.  Scroll through the back pages of the Tour De Hood, and you’ll find the old one, which promised that they wouldn’t buy stolen rims.  The new one is very nice.

Been in business since the days of bias-ply tires

I don’t remember there even being a “Kita Pita” before – but that could be because I hadn’t noticed it before it had this swanky paint job.

I don’t know what a “Kita Kream” is or what it tastes like

A new food shop/car wash/auto sales retailer was celebrating its grand opening. But it wasn’t open when we rode by; nor were there any cars on offer in its lot.

Maybe I’ll try to get lunch there some day

Next up, a religious sect or local version of Mary Baker Eddy’s church of Christian Science.  This was founded by Ann Ryan back in ’47.

Mental Science: Didn’t catch on quite as widely as Sigmund Freud

After the “Dew Drop Inn”, the Elbow Room/Lounge has to be one of the most popular bar names in America.  This particular iteration of same has a nice new sign.

Nice new signage; same old paint job

Public art always brightens a neighborhood. A local metal fabricating company has pitched in with this outdoor sculpture.

Sturdy, recycled materials, What’s not to like?

Still on Mack, we passed an auto repair emporium that’s new to me. Pretty butch name, eh?

Better check out the availability of that URL, stat!

Mack Avenue behind us, we veered left onto Gratiot, where more discoveries awaited.

Sad to say, Jimmie’s bicycle repair shop is closed.

I love ghost signs.  A little snooping around online turned up a couple of interesting things about Laurel Stoves. They were made by Detroit’s own Art Stove company, and had the kind of advertising tchotchkes (If you prefer, tshatshketchachketchotchkatchatchkachachketsotchkechotski, or chochke; the standard Yiddish transliteration is tsatske or tshatshke) they just don’t make any more.

Here’s an ad for Laurel Stoves from a Cass City dealer in 1912:

Be Sure To Show Up At Two To Win A Free Stove

As for the advertising giveaway, I’m not sure why you’d want to attach your brand to a potentially lethal weapon, but I guess things were different back then.

Maybe it’s for making “Chop Suey” (ha!)

Jimmie’s Bike shop may be on the move closer to downtown, judging by the sign on this defunct small-engine repair shop.

Motown/Mowtown. Get it?

They’ve recently spruced up Capitol Park.  While the buildings surrounding the plaza are in various states of renovation (or non-renovation), the park is very nice, and has a nice scale model of Michigan’s first Capitol.

n.b.: Approximately 1/75 scale. SIgnage honesty rules!

Our destination was nearing. The Legal Eagle wanted to visit a couple of rail marshaling yards. (See title of this post).  So did I.  (See title of this post). Look at all those non-moving trains. You can’t beat that for a great time.

Lots of trains. Little movement

I only managed to snag a couple of photos before a very nice gentleman arrived and urged us to leave the premises.  He did admit we didn’t look like scrap metal thieves, but we’d been caught on the railroad’s CCTV system, and got the boot.

All that riding, only to be escorted from the yard. (We tried another location, but got tossed from there, too).  Anyway, before we headed home I did get a snap of this somewhat mysterious sign on a freight car.

I don’t know how or why you’d want to hump a freight car

Anyway, we had a great time while it lasted, and as we headed back north, we passed under I-75, where I noticed this piece of graffiti on a supporting column.

Copyrighted and trademarked. To what end?

A Nerd Tastic time was had by all. And Greyhound was almost right. Getting there was even more than half the fun.

If you’d like to re-create this ride, the Legal Eagle has provided this handy map of our route.

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:

Weldments?

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.