Oh, Oh, Oakland! And that’s just the beginning of the idiosyncraticity that is Detroit. (I made up one of those words.)

This TDH was a little longer than usual (as I remember, about 40 miles), but it repaid itself over and over again in maybe-only-in-Detroit visual thrills. Get ready, there are a lot of photos in this post. The Legal Eagle has been threatening to garnish my pay check if I don’t get a post up. He’s found some archaic Michigan law that he believes applies to overdue blog posts, so I could be on the verge of some time in the clink if I don’t get something up on the intertubeswebthing pronto. Which raises the question – do you actually read this blog, or just look at the photos? It’d be a lot easier if I just threw up some photos and let you have at it, so: First poll of the post:

On the way to Oakland, we passed this tagged building on Milwaukee. That’s nothing unusual for my fair city, but I was struck by the verve of the taggers who manage to make their marks on what appear to be relatively inaccessible portions of the building.

Perhaps the “n” is backwards because the painter was disoriented

The recently reopened Tangent Gallery and Hastings Ballroom (now featuring Booze!) was where we right handed onto Oakland. If you were paying attention in math class, you’ll recognize the significance of the sculpture that adorns its exterior

Please note the intersection of the line and the circle. It’s called a ______?

Directly across the street is a sort of homage to a venerable printing facility. The facility itself appears to have disappeared, unfortunately.******

Any backstory, Night Train: Detroit?

**** I was misinformed about Rusas Printing.  I received a very nice note from Mr. Rusas himself “I was contacted by a friend to check out your site and found that you have a photo of my sign posted. You mentioned in your post that the printing facility has disappeared. Although the buildings surrounding me have been abandoned and completely covered in tags, We continue to operate out of the hood & have for over 40 years! The blight of our city has been wide spread throughout, there are still companies doing our best to battle the elements without the help of the city or the police. Recently, I was contacted by the “Better Block” organization & they choose our city block out of all the city blocks in Detroit for a beautification push to be spotlightedduring the Detroit Design Festival Sept. 22 & 23. After 2 30 yard & 1, 10 yard dumpster along with the help of multiple volunteers. Joe at the Tangent Gallery, the Better Block Organization and myself have managed to clear the debris and clean up the abandoned buildings and clear the empty lots that have been left by their careless owners of the abandoned properties.

I think I’ve found my new pied a terre in the city. Looks comfy, n’est-ce pas?

Just right for the single man on the go

Once on Oakland, a veritable yellow brick road of unusual sights began to unfold before us.

Here’s a cool building that clearly has a commissioned exterior decoration (it’s signed by the artists)

Dig it? I do

Someone has re-imagined the City of Detroit flag on another building. For reference, here’s the “official” version:

The flag of our fair city

The version on Oakland has additional built-in Detroitness: For one, our motto is actually in English, and there’s a nice nod to the Tigers. (The Old English “D” for those of you not from around here.) And a reminder that we’re not all white.

Dig that Caddy in the upper right quadrant

A little further up, we cycled past a building I should’ve heard or read about before. Alas, I hadn’t. It’s a retail/educational facility the likes of which I’ve never run across before. Voila:

Jazz+Shoe+Shine+Art=Legendary

Other artwork abounds on Oakland. Should your interests lie in the plastic arts, there’s this triptych:

I wish I could give you more details about this, but I’m drawing a blank

Ride around Detroit a while (or even for a short spin), and you’re pretty much guaranteed to pass by some spell fails: Like so:

I like the $ at the end of “Dollar Items”

Did you notice anything special about the bricks on the top of the building? This used to be “Charlie The Pencilman’s” {sic}, which according to some cursory searching online used to sell incense and dream books. This whole block was populated in the 1930’s by European Jews, which explains the location of Detroit’s Russian Banya, or as we’ve always called it around it around here: The Schvitz. It’s still open.

For Men Only

It’s no secret that there are many many many abandoned homes in Detroit. This building’s owners made their feelings pretty clear:

And you’re probably never coming back

Not to worry, as this building will provide you with some reassurance about outcomes, if not word spacing:

God decided not to open the store today

Next up, a building with a certain amount of panache, of braggadoccio, if you will. There are innumerable buildings in Detroit, but this one is the one according to its owners:

Accept no substitutes. This is the real deal

I am not blessed with a thick, rich head of hair, so the possibility of it actually “breaking” is something beyond my imagination. It must be an issue amongst others, as evidenced by this beauty salon’s promise:

What can you do if it’s all falling out?

This next sign will probably only make sense to a real Detroiter, as it makes reference to our very own wacky billionaire.

Maybe he’ll swing by after he straightens out his issue with the new bridge

One of the things I enjoy most about cycling around Detroit (particularly on Sunday mornings) is the virtual lack of automotive traffic. It’s just a great place to ride along and enjoy the scenery. Like so:

Every wall’s an easel

Someone went to a great deal of trouble to paint the 10 Commandments on side of a building on the corner of Manchester. Wish they’d gone to the trouble of bringing a dictionary along with them.

The Sabeth? Adultry? And, what, exactly, am I not supposed to covet? Anything?

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Satan’s Sidekicks M/C. But I neglected to show you a photo of the mother chapter: Here it is, over on Fenkell.

Don’t know if they still sport red helmets with devil’s horns

Back in Detroit’s early days, the St. Francis Home for Orphan Boys was founded. At one point in time, it must’ve been a beautiful building. It’s just tragic that it’s fallen apart, with no evident sign that it’s going anywhere but further down. Here’s the cornerstone, still intact:

9 years in the making

And here’s the building, in its current sad state

What a disaster

My spirits soon picked up after I passed a very special car wash.

I can only imagine how clean my car would be

For those with a less spiritual bent, just down the road is a more civic-oriented car wash:

President vs The Lord for top car wash

I have no idea what this business is (or was), or what it does (or did). All I know is that it’s got a pretty bad ass logo:

Panther _________

This company:

Back when I was wee lad, the two great jazz clubs in Detroit were Baker’s and Watt’s Club Mozambique. Clearly the jazz road didn’t work out for the owners of Watt’s, which is bad news for jazz lovers, but potentially good news for those of you looking for some exotic manliness

Only the finest in exotic male dancers

As mentioned above, I am somewhat follicly challenged, so I have almost no need for this salon’s speciality:

I’m more in need of a slim fade

As we got nearer to our turn around point (Schaefer Highway) I heard “Jesus Loves the Little Children” being played on a saxophone. The player turned out to be an affable gentleman named “Jack”. “Black Jack”. Being just down the street from Watt’s, we reminisced about the olden days when it was a jazz club. (Black Jack talked about seeing Roy Ayers there). When I asked him which Alto players he admired, he said: “Me”. Then he launched into a very nice version of “Satin Doll”. Thank you, Jack. Nice to meet you.

“Black Jack” Alto player supreme

There was still a lot more to unfold along Fenkell. (BTW, Fenkell is not, I think it’s fair to say, the best place to show off our city to out-of-towners). I passed one of my side businesses; I just added the tattoo sign to try and snag some hipsters. (That’s not actually true. I don’t own this place.)

My attempt to get some street cred (that part is true)

This establishment will try anything to make sure you come in and shop; even pointing out which door you’re supposed to use to get in, in case you’re confused.

Neither a side door nor a back door be

If you’re a regular Tour De Hood reader (see poll above), you’ll remember that I’ve noted a number of hair-type stores I’ve passed on my rides. This seems to be the place to get the best bargains. Either that, or something that must smell truly disgusting.

Liquid Hair: The greatest invention since sliced bread

There wasn’t a whole lot to see on Schaefer Highway, though I did dig the wheel setup on the car featured here, at yet another car wash.

Caprice Classics rule the road in Motown

Grand River presented us with a plethora of interesting things to view. There is a lot of nicely-executed curated street art along its length. For example, this exuberant celebration of dedication to the Queen of England (I think)

Perhaps it’s dedication to the King of Belgium

A bit further along, there was a lot more to see – but first, I wanted to point out a nicely recycled gas station, taking on new life as yet another beauty salon. (Detroit’s gas station architecture is pretty recognizable. I think it’s safe to say this actually was a gas station at one point.)

Change the oil, and just a little off the top, please

As for the aforementioned street art, there’s a super nice cluster on Grand River and Vermont. Example #1:

Dude

Example #2: (This is actually part of the signage for a barber shop)

And perhaps my favorite of the bunch: a trenchant observation on the general flabbiness of our nation, as well as our indefatigable dedication to eat anything that comes in an extra-large size, example #3:

Sad but true. We’re a flabby old bunch, aren’t we?

Before we stopped for some nourishment, we passed yet another motorcycle club. I don’t know if they’re a “good” motorcycle club or a “bad” motorcycle club. Do you?

A suggestion for Mr. Toro (Or is that Toros?) A little more consistency with the ‘s (or not) would help give your brand some added punch

We repaired to the Lafayette Coney Island for a richly deserved brunch, Motown-Style.

If you’d like to duplicate this tour yourself, here’s a Google® Map to show you where we went.

Back to my question at the beginning: did you read this, just look at the pictures, or both?

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!

 

Intro to the Tour De Hood for a relative Detroit Newbie

The Legal Eagle and I hosted a guest on the Tour De Hood on the 19th of August, whom I will henceforth refer to as WCC(B). You’ll have to ask the Legal Eagle to explain the name; just remember, he’s a Legal EAGLE, and is not likely to say much.

The Tour covered some ground we’ve seen before on the TDH, offering up a simple ride round Detroit’s inner ring of beauty, Grand Blvd. We started off heading past John King Books, a great place for bibliophiles.

Used book-a-rama

We then continued down Fort Street and took a slight detour to introduce the WCC(B) to Le Petit Zinc. The misterarthurs, en famille, had eaten there the night before. (I enjoyed a toothsome Salade Nicoise). Here’s a shot of LPZ  from the inside.

Le Petit Zinc. From the inside. Friday evening

Need something shredded? What better place to go than “Shred Me”?

Me Shred Good. You call. Me Shred

We introduced her to St. Anne’s (our most venerable Catholic parish), which I’ve written about before, but, fortunately, it being a Sunday, we were able to go in and look around before services started.  Here’s a shot toward the altar:

Our very own Pillar of the Earth

Here’s a tighter shot of one of the stained glass windows. It’s really a superb church.

Stained glass windows illuminating the story of ___________

Our next stop was the Detroit River end of Grand Blvd., at, appropriately enough, a less-than tidy park called, in a fit of civic inspiration, “Riverside Park”. We went there, not for the litter, but to show WCC(B) Detroit’s two unique bateaux (wait, I’m not at Le Petit Zinc anymore, make that boats): Our very own fireboat, (yes, it’s part of the Detroit Fire Department) as well as the JW Wescott II, the only mailboat in the country that delivers mails to passing ships. Isn’t that cool?

The Wescott II even has its own zip code

I believe the Fireboat is named the Curtis Randolph

Along the way up Grand Blvd., we rode under this gaily (original definition) decorated underpass. If you’ve got anything taller than a van (like a car with a bike rack on the roof), I’d consider a detour. While perky, it’s very low.

The little underpass that couldn’t

I hate to bore my readers with yet another photo of the African Bead Museum, but it is an essential part of any Tour De Hood. We had to show it to the WCC(B) to make her initial ride complete. Here’s an effigy (scarecrow?) I haven’t shown before:

Welcome to the intersection of Grand Blvd and Grand River

There are many experts in the fields of urban planning and people friendly architecture. I wish someone in either field would weigh in on the relative goodness of welcoming you to high school (Northwestern) with what appears to be an antique example of Naval weaponry.

Damn the No Child Left Behind! Full class schedule ahead!

The Legal Eagle showed the WCC(B) the interior of the Fisher Building. (Another do not miss part of Detroitdom), and we passed by some interesting street art (I’m going to use that phrase now to avoid misspelling grafitti er, graffitti, um graffiti any longer) en route to the Mother of All Ruin Porn, the Packard Plant. (Always guaranteed to blow an out-of-towner’s mind). Here you go: Word and Pictures:

It’s a limb! Nice toenail polish, too.

Here, someone is irritated with cyclists (can’t imagine why), and encourages racy behavior:

Any bike shop owners care to tell me exactly which part of my bike that is?

We made our mandatory stop at the Avalon Bakery, which was crowded with a clot of Wolverine club cyclists. This led the  WCC(B) to observe that road cycling appears to be the only amateur sport wherein the participants deem it necessary to kit themselves out with gear loaded with sponsor logos. Do runners do that? No. Golfers? No. And let’s not get into the it-seems-to-be-a-rule-that-you-have-to-wear-Spandex(r). (Well, she didn’t say all that, but the gist is accurate).

After a brief inside tour of the Guardian building, we went our separate ways. Back on Jefferson, I had to get a photo of another of Detroit’s sui generis fusion cuisine establishments. Scroll down through the past posts, and you’ll catch a shot of the “Asian Corn Beef” restaurant over on Wyoming.  Dr. Dre’s combo takes it to a whole other level. I leave you with this combo for your imagination to consider:

mmmmmmmmm. Now that’s eatin’

Map of the ride: Courtesy of Der Legal Eagle. Click here