Out-of-Season TDH: First dual-citizenship TDH ride: The Packard Plant

Back in the fall, I took some visitors from out of town and out of the country (plus a newbie from the area), on a Tour De Hood ride. Being from Switzerland and Boston via Seattle, they wanted to see one of Detroit’s iconic ruins – The Packard Plant. I’m not usually into ruin porn, and lord knows there are enough photos of that collapsing disaster available for your delectation, but the ride turned out to be more interesting than I had thought at its onset.  Here we are, prepping for the ride.

From left to right: The Geomaster, misterarthur, Topsider, The Boston Bomber, and Monsieur Tonton

It was a really windy day – not the best of cycling conditions, and getting to the Packard Plant meant heading right into the gusts. So we zig-zagged towards it.

Thar she blows, matey

The zig-zaginess of our travels were not for naught, as we, typically, passed a couple of interesting TDH-like spots along the way.

There was a (defunct?) motorcycle club headquarters:

“BFF” is not something I usually associate with MCs, but what do I know?

We also passed the Husky Fence Co., which, along with fencing, sells Gates, Guards, and, rather unexpectedly, Dirt.

Topsoil’s for sissies. In Detroit, we prefer plain old dirt

Another motorcycle club soon came into view. This example is clearly going for a more butch motif than the scrambled consonants club noted above. They are also fighting a losing battle to have Detroit take away the title of “Sin City” from Las Vegas. (And by the by, doesn’t that “C” look like a Pac Man ghost?

They’re tough. On the English Language. Deciples? Decipies? Decibels?

I hope they didn’t have the spelling error tattooed all over their arms and chests.

Much of the artwork I encounter on my rides is unsigned or unclaimed by its creator. This fella, however, seems to have spent as much time advertising himself as he did creating the dancing machine he painted.

Area Code 313, if you need to contact Bird

Over on Goss, we passed the Houston Grill, which has what appears to be its whole menu painted on its exterior.  I’ll admit, Ham Hocks and Tomales (sic) are a type of fusion cuisine I had hitherto been unaware of .

You say Tomale, and I say Tamale

Does any city in North America have more tire stores per capita than the Motor City?  I’d wager not.  Van Dyke Tire does other work, too: mufflers and brakes.

Guess they specialize in drum brakes: Those are brake shoes, not disc pads

Should you be interested, Van Dyke Tire seems to have pretty reasonable prices on oil changes and hand car washes. They will also clean your vehicle “In 3out” for $60.

I wonder if yellow used tires carry a premium price

On we went to the Packard plant.  We had a very fortuitous meet-up with a group of fellows who live in one of the abandoned garages across the alley from the ruins of the plant itself.  They know everything about the place. What’s safe. What isn’t. Who put the tvs on the roof. They’ve sort of taken on the role of Packard Plant Docents for visitors. Naturally, they gave us a guided tour. The fellow on the left with the brown hat is a reporter who also happened to be there that day.

Meet the Packard boys. And scribe

The Packard Plant has plenty o’ street art festooning its exterior: Here’s a sample you may not have caught elsewhere:

Comely Graffiti, indeed

I stayed outside to keep an eye on our bicycle collection, while Tonton, the Bomber, the Geomaster and Topsider went in for a look-see.  We happened to be outside the section of the factory where Banksy’s artwork had been “curated” (read: Stolen)  either by Gallery 555 or the mysterious owners of the plant itself.  You can read more about Banksy’s visit to Detroit on the excellent Detroit Funk site. There’s still plenty of stuff to see:

A tree

Trash ‘n’ water

There’s also graffiti er, street art, that isn’t done by Bansky. Like this, mmm fish?

This is for you, Al!

And this somnolent looking guy:

There’s a very alert man to our right (his left).

Tour over, we headed back, our fingers numbed and our faces chafed. The out-of-towners were delighted. I got to see my first Dirt Store. All was well in the hood.

Utopia is right around you. All you have to do is look.

I promise to be a little more regular in my “off season” posts. I’ll try and get in some winter tours soon. Until then, best wishes for a great 2011!



A gallimaufry of visual delights: mostly on Conant and Outer Drive.

The Legal Eagle and I had a wonderful ride last Sunday. The layout was pretty simple: Mt Elliot (with a slight detour to Lucky Place), which turns into Conant. Left on Outer Drive, left again through Palmer Park, down Second, over to Cass, through the Eastern Market and down the Dequindre Cut to Larned. At some point, I’ll make a map of the route. – nb: The Legal Eagle has graciously made a map of our ride. Google Maps has a new feature that is supposed to help you draw lines down streets. Every time I use it, the line snaps and jerks onto streets where I haven’t been, and stubbornly refuses to stay on the streets I where I have. Or it draws a loop around a block I never rode around. Too much gnashing of teeth, I’m afraid. Perhaps it’s not designed for trackpads.

There wasn’t a lot worth photographing on Mt Elliot. We did think, as a public service, that it would be good to introduce you to “Lucky Place”. Lucky Place is an overpass on I-94. Here’s a service drive view of the sign:

No need to keep your fingers crossed here

Here’s a view of the overpass under which you drive on the Nine Four.

Nothing remarkable here (save a glimpse of the Legal Eagle)

And here’s Lucky Place itself. It’s actually a dead end, but calling it Lucky Cul De Sac sounds kind of snobby. I’d have named it Lucky Lane, if only for the alliteration.

Nothing to see here, folks, just move along.

So, misterarthur, why are you showing me three boring photos in a row? Because the name Lucky Place has a very interesting history. A couple of blocks over is a “party store” that has, for some reason, sold a disproportionately high number of winning Lottery tickets.  To celebrate, the overpass (which I believe was built around the same time as GM Detroit Hamtramck Assembly) was named “Lucky Place”. Nifty, eh?

On to more typically TDH sights to see.

There’s the “Club Coyotes”.  Don’t know if it’s a strip club or a club club. But I’ll bet the name post-dates “Coyote Ugly”, a movie I never saw, but had something to do with Piper Perabo moving to the big city to realize her dreams of becoming something or someone, but wound up dancing on a bar and finding happiness when she met the richest man in the world, who moved her to a private island with lots of pool boys to keep her happy. (I made that last part up)

True fact: There are real coyotes in every county in Michigan

I’m more confident that the following is a bar or club club, not a strip club.

Maybe it’s the Christmas Star. It’s big and low.

As you may already know, Hamtramck has a very large South Asian population. In fact, Conant has street signs along part of its length proclaiming it to be Bangladesh Street. Many South Asians are Muslim;  Ramadan (the holiest of Islamic months) runs from the 11th of August to the 9th of September in 2010. (The Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar). Hence, it makes sense that this shopkeeper is running a Ramadan sale.

Buy a fish, win a laptop!(?)

I get the Kala Chana (chickpeas), the Masoor Dal (red lentils), and the egg roll. I was stumped by Boal Fish and Rui Fish. At first I thought Boal Fish was a horribly misspelled Gold Fish(r), like the snack, and Rui Fish could’ve been anything from a Manta Ray to a Gorton’s Fish Stick, but I was wrong wrong wrong.

Turns out Boal fish looks like this:

Boaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllll! * *World Cup Announcer pronunciation

Here’s another nifty thing about Boal Fish, direct from Wikipedia: “Its {sic} common to find huge frogs and fishes inside its stomach, when cut for cooking. It has been claimed that in some areas of Thailand the natives fear the species because of its believed habit of eating small ducks, dogs, and small children. (My emphasis) It is thought the Tapah (another name for the fish -ed.) became this aggressive due to natives laying to rest their dead in the water. The catfish would then see this as a ready supply of food.”  Good holiday eating, I say.

As for the Rui fish, (I’m sure you’re dying to see one) it looks like this:

A carp by any other name would smell so fishy

A little more info about Mr. Rui, and we’ll continue up Conant. (Rui is the Bengali name for our piscine friend).  I copied and pasted this from Wikipedia:

Labeo rohita is a fish of the carp family Cyprinidae, found commonly in rivers and freshwater lakes in and around South Asia and South-East Asia. It is a herbivore. It is treated as a delicacy in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West BengalOrissaBihar and Uttar Pradesh[citation needed]. The Kayastha community of Uttar Pradesh treats it as one of their most sacred foods: to be eaten on all auspicious occasions[citation needed].

Now that’s more festive.

Detroit’s pretty inventive at re-purposing buildings. Here’s a bank/mosque.

Home of the mini minarets

Strip Clubs pop up next to the most unlikely establishments.  I’m boggled by how many of them are next to day care centers, for example. Here’s a Starvin Marvin’s (a “Platinum VIP Gentlemen’s Club”) smack dab next to The Full Gospel Church of the Sons of God. Starvin Marvin’s is a chain, by the way. Its web site, such as it is, is pretty weird. It’s full of press releases about things like its entanglements with the City Council’s forbidding of lap dances.

Part of the Starvin Marvin’s Empire

Should Starvin Marvin’s not suffice to fulfill your prurient interests, another fine establishment a little way up the street may interest you.

I’m pretty sure this is a strip club

Chubby’s Car Care may well provide the highest quality car service around. That said, the Chubby probably should’ve modeled for the sign painter before he went on the South Beach Diet:

I’m not sure if he’s toting a turbo charger or a hair dryer

A hardware store we passed had a hard working plumber to advertise its wares, though he seemed to be suffering from a slight case of amblyopia.

Watch out for that falling faucet!

Faithful readers of the Tour De Hood will, no doubt, remember the “I’ll Cut ‘Ya” barber shop. This appears to be its ecclesiastical twin.

Yow! I’ll be there next Sunday

The next oddly-named item was on the next block. It too, shared a similar theme. How’d you like to have this company manage your apartment?

The legacy of Robespierre writ large

While the name may be threatening, their spelling capabilities are probably not going to qualify them for the next Scripps National Spelling Bee. Here, along with what I can best describe as semi-justified type, is proof that “available” must be one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language.

What do you think they blanked out on that door?

That spelling error was pretty trivial. The next one, however, may rank very high in the badly-misspelled-yet-professionally-executed Tour De Hood Signs Hall of Fame:

Pronounced heavin’ lay’s place? WTF?

Over on Outer Drive (called State Fair Ave for a short distance), a different issue with the language appeared – though I think this is caused more by omission than commission.

I’d like to buy a vowel, please

I have to believe more than one black-owned Coney Dog place exists in Detroit. Willie Bee’s, however, lays claim to being the only one with soul. That seems awfully presumptuous to me. Then again, it wasn’t open when we rode by, so I can’t give you my personal perspective on the relative level of its soulness.

Home of the soul dog. (Maybe)

Directly across from the ex State Fairgrounds (no deep fried butter for us Michiganders this year) is a place that, at first, I took to be just another example of local strangeness. There was something about this sign, though that raised my suspicions.

It’s a fake!

While you may think you have stumbled into someone’s unorthodox back yard, this isn’t innocent strangeness.  It’s planned. By Artists! With its own web site. (Well, place on MySpace). I guess you’ll have to look for a real Larva Girl somewhere else.

We had a very very pleasant spin through the always-delightful Palmer Park, past the Detroit Golf Club, and down Hamilton (in Highland Park). I found this building’s sign reasonably amusing. What do you do when the word you’re painting won’t fit into the space where you want to put it? You could a) paint it in a slightly smaller size, or b) what the heck, just leave off the letter that doesn’t fit.

Big Pop’s missing part of his rear-en

You know how SOHO stands for SOuth of HOston, and Tribeca is the TRiangle BElow CAnal street, right? Well, there’s an irregular, tiny neighborhood on 4th Street. It doesn’t do it justice to call it the block of Fourth Street. It’s nestled in the elbow where I-94 meets the Lodge,  so I’ve dubbed it: NINEFOLO. Here’s the deal. It’s one (1) block long. There are some nice wooden houses, an old car with chrome teeth welded onto the grille, a hearse, and this sign:

4th Street? Positively. (That’s a Bob Dylan song reference for you young ‘uns)

It turns out there used to be (and may still be) a Positively 4th Street Fair every July. The chrome-fanged car breathed fire; hippies said OMMMMM. Here’s an article from a 2005 issue of the Metro Times, if you’re interested.

Finally, the self-proclaimed “Big Book Store”. While the visuals are a little, um, different,  I can’t argue with the sentiment.

Read, everyone. Read

That was it for last week. I hope to find something interesting to pass along over the Labor Day Weekend. Enjoy yourselves, ok?