A Delray Kind of Day. Plus some questions that need answering

What a superb fall morning for cycling in Detroit. Glorious skies, (I spotted one cloud formation that looked just like a Mercator projection of the earth), little or no wind, unseasonably warm temperatures, and the ever-delightful companionship of the learned hand himself, the Legal Eagle. Here’s a map he made of our route.

Fort Street is one of the smoothest pieces of pavement in the City, and nearly deserted on Sundays. It also has a lot of abandoned buildings, like this “warehouse”, which was erected in 1897. Seems a shame someone can’t repurpose it into something usable.

It looks like a warehouse for air

Detroit and its environs likes ham. There are ham restaurants all over the place. Lile’s, in Dearborn, may be the most famous ham sandwich place in the area, but I’m partial to the Ham Center in Warren.  Johnny’s Ham King on Fort gets all kind of love on Yelp, but I haven’t eaten there myself.

Is Johnny the King of Ham? Or is Johnny the Ham King’s subject?

Further along, we rode past a ghost sign for a business that started in 1947, and lasted until (I don’t know, but the building looks as if it’s been empty for a while).

I come from the Motor City with a Banjo Housing on my knee

Cheek by jowl with the erstwhile Bond & Bailey, Inc., is a going concern, which specializes in similar automotive type gear. Its mascot features, among other bits ‘n’ pieces, a leaf spring, clutch housing, and, I believe, parts of a banjo housing.


The real man of steel

It really was a beautiful morning – and the Legal Eagle showed off his Great Lakes Shipping nerd mad skillz by identifying the 1,000 footer even before it had glided by.

The white smoke is the signal that they’ve picked a new pope over at Great Lakes Steel

We had to take a quick detour, as Jefferson dead ends into what looks like an abandoned lot. While riding up Scotten, the railroad signal went off, and the barriers dropped. We couldn’t see a train coming (and there’s no worry about getting hit by a TGV on these tracks), so I decided to find out if it’s actually possible to hear a train coming by putting one’s ear on the tracks.

Professional at work: Don’t try this at home, kids.

The answer is, I couldn’t hear anything. (Maybe the asynchronous clanging of the warning bells overpowered the ‘singing of the rails’).  Eventually, a CSX locomotive & cars slowly rumbled by. I liked the mobile street art on this unit:

I cannot say which part of this car is the “anti-pilferage device”

I know of a couple of phony “Yacht Clubs” in Detroit; the Polish Yacht Club on Joseph Campau, and the Motor City Yacht Club on Jefferson, but until today was not aware of this place. Nor do I know its membership requirements and fees. That said, it looks like it’s mostly for sailors.

No young nice people allowed

There was a big Motorcycle Club Rally/Chili contest in Plymouth, Michigan today. (The Legal Eagle and I had seen an inordinate number of leather clad Harley Riders on the road this morning, and my Llama Loving Leatherneck Belonging friend clued me in about the rally).  I guess that’s why the Iron Coffins headquarters was closed.

13 69 is not the address. 1369 (U.S. Code Title 28, Chapter IV) has something to do with multiparty multiforum jurisdiction, and 13 69 also means something rude, according to the Urban Dictionary

I don’t know what the entrance to your home looks like, but I’m guessing you probably don’t have two delivery areas clearly delineated for the benefit of your letter carrier or UPS delivery person.  It also gives me the opportunity to importune you to answer some nagging questions the stencils raise. First, the manse in question:

Delray’s self-proclaimed Crib in the Hood

So, here’s the question. Where do packages from the USPS, FedEx, or DHL go?

Attached to a utility pole in front of the house was a shrine-like compendium of plastic flowers and a bowl, into which had been inserted a clothed Barbie® doll.

I don’t know if this is a Malibu® Barbie®

n.b.: Joe, perceptive as always, has suggested this may be a rare Poconos® Barbie®

Over on Wyoming (BTW, I have now ridden the entire length of Wyoming), we came upon a lunchery. The Mustang Inn offers XX Servers.  I’m familiar with X, and XXX, but XX is news to me.

1/2 pound of ?

OK, so what do you think XX stands for?

More perplexing and important issues awaited farther up the road.

Here is a self-service car and truck wash.  It is, as the sign says, “Under New Management”.

Come on in. The water’s fine.

Here are the philosophical conundrums (conundra?) I’m wrestling with. The first is, since it’s self-serve, how can you actually tell it’s under new management? The second is: What happens if you try it and don’t like it?

The Topless Club Venus probably has the same sorts of amenities as others of its ilk.  The va-va-voomy neon sign is quite nice.

She’s not topless in public

The sign on the side of the building was a little puzzling to me.

Is that all day Tuesday, and until 7 on Wednesday?

Here’s the question. What’s the $5 Kitchen Special? Something to eat or a $10 dance that’s cheaper because it’s in the kitchen instead of the regular $10 dance area?

The Venus is hiring, by the way.

Looking for someone to bounce the bar staff

For some reason, the back gate to the Ford Drive-In was open, so we took a spin in to look around.  Lo and behold, it’s an outdoor Multiplex®! Beyond that, it’s the self-proclaimed largest drive-in theatre IN THE WORLD!  Here’s screen three:

Is this the last drive-in in Detroit?

Spell fail time on the TDH. If you were on Jeopardy, and the answer was “the amount for which the insured is liable on each loss, injury, etc., before an insurance company will make payment”, the correct question would be “what is deductible?”  Like “available”, “deductible” is one of the most misspelled words in Motown.  I see deductable a lot.  On one side of the Eureka Auto Glass building, not only do they spell it deductable, they also promise to “wave” it.

Well, howdy, deductable

Curiously, on another side of the building, they spell deductible correctly, but still misconstrue “wave” for “waive”. See?

Still waving at that part of your policy

However, in a Solomonic display of I-can’t-make-up-my mind-which-way-to-spell-deductible, in yet another location the Eureka Auto Glass company goes both ways at once, and dispenses with the wave entirely: (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Deductible, deductable, whatever, they’ll pay it.

As long as we’re in the covering your bases mode, the nicely named “Holla Dollar” store sort of kind of promises that everything in the store is a dollar. Except for the things that aren’t.

I don’t know if  hair is a dollar or a dollar & more

Finally, a nihilist pov in the street art category. Note to the squeamish: May be NSFW.

Don’t sugar coat it, dude.

But even that downer sentiment couldn’t put a damper on a very nice ride, indeed. I am glad to report that the Lafayette Coney Island whupped the American on last week’s poll, and to celebrate its victory, the Legal Eagle and I brunched at the winner’s location.  (Three on two).

Labor Day weekend in the hood.

Ah, the prospect of a long weekend. Plenty of time for exploring and cardio stretching. But the weather didn’t fully cooperate.

Saturday was just plain too windy. You’ve heard of the Beaufort Scale, no doubt, but since that is based largely on observed conditions at sea, I’ve made my own, based on observed conditions around my house. Saturday was too gusty for an enjoyable ride. I rate it a B.O.T.P.F on the misterarthur scale of wind velocity. (B.O.T.P.F. = Blowing Over The Patio Furniture). My neighbor’s bench and etagere had already blown over when I got up. So I skipped a tour on Saturday.

Sunday was glorious. Our stated goal was to visit the abandoned Dorais Velodrome at Mound Road and Outer Drive. That said, there were plenty of unplanned delights en route. You can follow our passage here: (Map courtesy of the Legal Eagle, official TDH cartographer).

I got a hair cut on Friday, but, alas, it wasn’t here: Someone’s retail dreams shuttered and shattered.

Nails? Hair? East Side Madame de la Farge?

The next place I photographed seemed as likely to cause an accident as cure one.

Get injured by falling mortar, get cured inside?

Harrell’s could be many things. Furniture shop. Interior Design Firm. One of those people who figure out your personal color scheme. Wall-painting service. Set Design. I guess part of its charm is its mystery. It turns out that Harrell’s is a re-upholstery shop. Looks like color is one of their specialities.

I’m not sure how you reupholster a coffee table

Across the street and down a bit is the mighty Davezilla’s self-proclaimed favorite store sign.  I can see why he likes it. When you got roaches, the one thing you want is someone to get rid of them, stat! This place makes its expertise immediately known.

Wonder if they can do anything about Detroit’s recent plague of bedbugs?

The first mystery entry of the day appeared shortly thereafter.  Nice new paint, and the store’s purpose is abundantly clear. Pet Supplies. With an accent on dogs. I get that. I’m a little nervous, however, about the offering between “accessories” and “houses”. Look closely at the photo:

I’ll take an ulna, a kidney, and a pair of lungs

There has to be a good, legal reason they’re advertising the fact that they sell body parts. My question is, whose body? Which parts?

Got meat? Need a case? Here’s the place for you. Cases galore, both new and used.  It’s too bad it’s not closer to Shopping Cart World.

The perfect birthday gift: A used meat case

The Legal Eagle, as you well know, is a fan of Fire Stations. As the front door was open, we decided to stop in and say hi to the fire fighters from Engine 46, who were first responders to the unfortunate fire at the historic Eastown Theatre (which I have photographed pre-fire in an earlier post).

Engine 46 of the Engine 46 Station

The firefighters were a gracious, gregarious bunch, happy to invite us in for a cup of coffee.  They were also pleased to show off their self-made recreation area/garden, complete with pond & ice machine. (The two aren’t connected). Almost every fire station has a nickname. The “Double Deuces”. The “Lords of Livernois”. The “River Rats”. Engine 46 is no exception. Their nickname’s taken from decorative water feature mentioned above.

I am a friend of the pond with the cigar-smoking fish

Should you be interested, Engine 46 has t-shirts and patches for sale. I encourage you to support the station by getting one, or both, for yourself. They are truly nice guys.

Getting closer to our destination, we rode by an auto repair shop that may well be a superior fix-it place. Or not. But they will scane your auto.

I read a book called Flowers for Enginon in Middle School

This week’s recycler award goes to this fence builder on Mound Road. He has repurposed a tarp and a billboard into a delightful patio surround.

I hope this isn’t the future

The Dorais Velodrome was abandoned some time in the 1980s. We (the Detroit Metro Area) have a new velodrome,  but it’s way out in the burbs. The Detroit Velodrome, neglected for 30 years, is showing its age. But it could be worse. Detroit’s own “Mower Gang” has at least chopped the grass down in the area, so you can approach it on your bike. Here it is.

Ceci n’est pas le velodrome d’hiver

Even if you’ve ever seen a track race on television, you’re likely to be quite surprised at how steep the banking is in the flesh, as it were. (It reminded me of turn one at Daytona). Perhaps this will give you a clearer idea:

Take it to the bank

We took a lap, though our ferocious speed was limited by the cracks and potholes in the surface.  Here’s a shot I took riding on the flatter bits.

The pavement did not inspire the Santana song “Smooth”

The parade of misspelled retail establishments started up again once we hit 8 Mile Road. (There aren’t many photo ops on Mound, I’m sad to say).  Here’s a car parts joint.

Clearly suffering from an ED issue. Viva Viagris

I tried to take photos on the Detroit side of 8 Mile, but was drawn to this spot (which, technically, isn’t Detroit. I hope you’ll forgive me). This could be a sister company to the Anointed Hands Salon on the East Side, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately, the shadow across the window kept me from being able to get a clear shot of its slogan/promise.

I’ll spell it out for you: “Where Dance is in God’s Hands”

While I have photographed a number of strip – er – Gentlemen’s clubs on my tours, 8 Mile is the reputed king o’ the strip clubs street in Detroit. I’d have to say, given the front deck of the Colosseum, the rep is right.  Behold the mighty entry way to the splendors of Roman Sybarites, D – style.

Veni, Vidi, I was stunned

Now that’s a Gentlemen’s Club. Upon closer inspection, it seems clear that the owners of the Colosseum care not a whit for historic accuracy. The Colosseum (the real one) was Roman, no? And even though there was that Marc Antony/Cleopatra thing happening, the reign of the Pharaohs had nothing to do with Caesar, et. al., did it? So then why were these Egyptian maidens decorating the facade of a romanesque building? I don’t know.

That column looks Egyptian to me

Around back, we espied more day-to-day splendor, like these ( lap dance?) chairs being chastised for their impertinence.

Have a seat, make it rain

Best of all were the signs in the parking lot. The Colosseum owners have installed devices to slow vehicular traffic. In every case I have ever seen, they’re called “speed bumps”. Not at the Colosseum. Perhaps they refer more precisely to the services you can look forward to within its walls of temptation. Your guess is as good as mine.

Your headquarters for Speed Humps

Anyone caring to invest in Detroit’s future should know there’s a building for sale on 8 Mile. Use it for a business, or for your new home. Evidently, it’s zoned, (but not spelled) for both.

I also dig the random capitalization

Over on Gratiot, an insurance firm seemed to be preternaturally optimistic.  What happens to you or your car, though you may think is bad news, could well be cause for rejoicing.

Everything’s dandy

The other side of the sign, while carefully painted, is yet another example of professional-painter-without-a-dictionary. 6 letters, and two of them are artfully transposed.

Qiute the misspelling. And you can qoute me on that

I don’t know why this street name made me laugh. It isn’t intrinsically funny. But it seemed to fit with the neighborhood.

We went down Pfent

50 cent is a famous fellow. His little brother may be the owner of the now-defunct establishment we spotted below. However, if you’re being technical about it, the decimal point intimates that this is a rare 1/4 cent and up store.

Gods Seven, misterarthur Zero

The weather was more like fall than Labor Day, so an ice cream cone wasn’t something I was hankering for. Should you be in the mood for one, you could stop by here:

Careful! That ice cream’s driping on me

This week’s “Stump the misterarthur winner” is a beauty supply store.  I leave it to you to decipher what, exactly, you get for your $5.99 or $7.99. Nor do I have any sense of whether those are good prices or not. You decide. And decipher.

I prefer chicken Teriyaki, myself

There was more to see, of course. A couple of splendid murals; one of Captain Metro Man knocking out his competition, AT&T, Verizon, Nextel, and T-Mobile.

Nextel’s in the trash heap!

Another, a luxurious and enticing display of beauty products.

Those eyes follow you as you move around

Finally, a store with a very uninhibited selection in stock. Everything from Toys to Jewelry to Coach Purses, no less, to Nacho’s. {sic}

I wonder if Slush is only available in the winter.

On Monday, Labor Day, we attempted to have a family tour. First we had to pump up the Legal Eagle’s brother’s tires. Then the Legal Eagle’s sister-in-law had a brake pad rubbing on the rim issue. (This was within .2 miles of departure.) Once under way, all seemed to be going well.  The Geomaster was having fun, as you can see. (That’s the Legal Eaglet behind him.)

The Geomaster, racing up Grand Blvd.

Then things kind of fell apart. The Geomaster picked up a shard of glass. I patched the hole, but tore another one in the tube putting the tire back on the rim. Then the pump didn’t work. So we rode the wheel over to a gas station on Mack and pumped it up. By the time we got to the ex-Pfeiffer brewery, it was clear the fix wouldn’t hold. While the rest of the party continued on, Geomaster and I walked/rode down Beaufait, where we were lucky enough to spot this altered signage. (I can’t believe it’s accidental)

What the eff do you want polished, anyway?

The Geomaster and I made it (mostly on foot) to the Tim Horton’s on Grand Blvd. His rear tire was officially kaput.

Well, at least we enjoyed a donut

Mademoiselle misterarthur was gracious enough to pick up the Geomaster while I continued home on my bike.  Halfway back, I saw the Legal Eagle and Eaglet by the side of the road. Poor little Eaglet had run over a safety pin, and the Legal Eagle’s pump was totally kaput, too. Fortunately, L.E. (bro) and L.E. (S.I-L) continued on and came back to pick them up.

Ah, well. Sunday made up for it all. I hope you had a great weekend, too.

Mondegreen, Overly zealous security guards, Chix on Dix – 2009 Tour De Hood Grand Finale

This post is way overdue. The legal eagle was threatening to arrest me under some abstruse infraction of the law if I didn’t write something, so here goes: the description of 2009’s last official Tour De Hood ride. The ride actually took place back in November. You can follow the route by clicking here.

We started off with a quick visit to misterarthur’s birthplace:

Birthplace of misterarthur

No, I wasn’t born in a field. That’s the former site of Detroit’s East Side General Hospital.  In lieu of a memorial to my birth, there’s an ice cream truck parked where I took my first breaths.

I had an uncle named Bob. (So this isn’t my uncle’s ice cream truck)

Directly across the street from the used-to-be-a-hospital site is an abandoned Masonic lodge. At least that’s what I think it is. No one ever asked me to be a Mason, so I can’t be sure.

Secret Handshake Headquarters

Enough of old memories.

The legal eagle and I have covered most of Detroit’s main thoroughfares this summer, but hadn’t officially ridden the Southeasternmost part of Detroit.  There are plenty of lovely sights to behold.

One is Ste. Anne’s Church.  Ste Anne’s is the second oldest operating parish in the United States. Wow! (It’s proper name is Ste. Anne De Detroit, after the patron Saint of France.) It’s a beautiful church, but one of its features leaves me a little puzzled.  Here’s the rose window. Anyone care to speculate on why it features a Star of David?

Maybe they put up a Kvetch at Christmas

There’s a beautiful though abandoned fire station right next to the Church. I don’t know who owns it now. The inside looks to be in pretty good shape.

Look closely. It was opened in 1897

The station has lovely brickwork detailing. See?

Public Building, built like they should be

I simply cannot think of one time in my adult life when I was happy to pay for parking; hence I was bemused by this cheerfully-named place to leave your car when you hand over cash:

If you don’t pay, you won’t be happy

The advertising business has been hit hard in Detroit, what with the troubles of our domestic automakers. The easy fix for companies in trouble is to blame their marketing firms.  I worry that in a couple of years, all the big names will be more like the shop below than the agencies glorified on “Mad Men”.

Advertising and Distributing: Take your pick

A bit further south, we came upon a city-owned property that is a Jimi Hendrix Mondegreen.  (A Mondegreen is a misheard/misinterpreted lyric to a piece of music, like “The Girl with Colitis Goes By” instead of “The Girl with Kaleidescope Eyes”).  Here’s what I mean: ‘Scuse me, while I Mistersky:

Look closely, you can see former Mayor Dennis Archer’s name under that tape

One of our main reasons for this trip route was to get a look at Zug Island, a real beauty of an industrial eyesore.  Zug Island is connected to the mainland by a railroad bridge. There are signs all over the place saying not to enter, and, more specifically, to NOT TRESPASS OR YOU WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW.

Zug Island Road (Private Road)

Curiously, the warning sign is only on one end of the street. We had entered at the other end. A sign there warned against taking photographs of Zug Island proper, but I thought that meant you couldn’t take pictures on Zug Island, not of Zug Island.  I was wrong. After popping a couple of snaps of a nondescript pile of coal and a smokestack, we rode away, only to be chased down by a US Steel Security Guard, who demanded that I erase any photos I had taken of the industrial complex. “Why can’t I take pictures?” I asked.  “Homeland Security,” he answered. Huh? Why a terrorist would target a heap of taconite and blight is beyond my ken.  Shortly after passing this neglected caution sign,

Perhaps it’s to confuse would-be terrorists

we were able to see the full beauty of Zug Island from a different, legal, not trespassing angle.

I ask you: Can your city boast of an eternal flame like this one?

Detroit has a Yeti-Sized Carbon Footprint

Does your city have a Homeland Security Protected Steel Mill that randomly spews out smoke and steam?  Well, mine does.

I’m sure it’s in full compliance with current EPA regulations

Zug Island abuts Delray, a Detroit neighborhood formerly populated largely by those of Hungarian descent.  They’ve all pretty much pulled up stakes and abandoned the old neighborhood.  In an effort to protect some of the buildings, someone has put angels on the structures.  More precisely, they’ve put paintings of angels on the buildings, but you get my drift. Here are three.

Perhaps they’re the patron saints of light beer.

This grocery store on Schaefer appears to urge the populace to eat more vegetables.

I’ll take two turnips and a head of lettuce, please

As we turned onto Dix, I was looking forward to crossing the Rouge River, not expecting to pass by the winner of the Tour De Hood “Best Named Strip Club” award.  It takes a great name to knock the “Please Station” off its pedestal, but how can you argue with the genius of this club’s name?

How could Chix on Dix not be an adult entertainment facility?

There was better news yet to come. Not only does the club have the best name ever, it’s affordable family fun, too!

Not just $2 Tuesdays; lap dances are only $10

Our elation was deflated a tad bit by this sad tire repair sign,

Poor little bias ply

But we perked up a bit at the National Geographic quality view from the bridge across the Rouge River.

Detroit: Vacation paradise

For an inexplicable reason, some passing adolescents yelled “Faggots” at us while I was taking this photograph. I guess they don’t like bicycles.

On the way back north, we passed an eatery that was, unfortunately, closed:

Dig those stylin’ shades on AD.

We also came across what I think was a broken water main just off Rosa Parks avenue.

The Plank and Tire are a nice touch

Our ride ended with a nice surprise. We intercepted Steve Coy and Dorota Billica as they were painting an “Hygienic Dress League” mural on Woodbridge.  That’s the second time I’ve run into Steve on one of my rides, and I encourage you to go downtown and check out the finished work.

Artists at Work

And that was that.  All in all, a great year on the TDH. I’m going to take a break while winter’s at its worst, but will be back like the swallows to Capistrano come Spring.

I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays, and best wishes for a fantastic 2010.

Warren and Michigan Avenues: Meat City, Hair for Sale, Palindrome Fail, and more

What a glorious day on the Tour de Hood. Not only was the weather just spectacular, the sights to behold were equally inspiring.  After all, who wouldn’t be thrilled by a giant cow head (complete with its own reading light)?

cowBessie with a headlamp

On the way to East Warren Avenue, I passed an extraordinarily bad painting of President Obama.  The building on which he’s painted also poses a mystery. The establishment promises “Seeded” and “Seedless” Watermelons, and the neither-of-the-above “& more”. More what? Semi-seeded? Sorta-Seeded? Seems like seeded and seedless covers just about all the possibilities to me.

worst-painting-of-obamaPresident Obama, more or less

I know Mies Van Der Rohe famously said “Less is More”, but if I ever open a nightclub, I hope I can come up with a better name than this:

club-clubClub Club (Private Club Club)

You can spot a newcomer to Detroit by his or her non-Detroit-pronunciation of street names like Schoenherr (Shay-ner) and Goethe (Go-thee – soft th), and famously, Gratiot.  We pronounce it “Gra-shut” where the Gra rhymes with laugh. While on the way to Michigan Avenue, (on Gratiot) we passed a monumental misspelling. (And no, I’m not referring to the misplaced possessive). What’s most mind-blowing about this is that the sign painter could’ve checked the correct spelling just by, oh, looking at the street sign. Voila: Gratoit Tires and Service. (Maybe it rhymes with Detroit?)

GratoitNeed yoru cra fexid?

I am somewhat follically-challenged, so I was quite thrilled to find a shop that, oddly, sells hair. I’ll admit, I have never seen a hair shop before.

hair-sold-hereHow do they charge for it? By the inch? The pound?

I am also a fan of wordplay – puns, palindromes, crossword puzzles, etc., so imagine my pleasure at finding this tax preparation company which has the two ends of a palindrome, but forgot about the middle part.

xat-taxPalindrome Fail: Xat’s what I’m talking about

Once on Michigan Avenue proper, we passed the mighty Slow’s restaurant, one of my all-time favorite places to eat anywhere. It has only one problem – it’s too popular, and the wait to get seated can be excruciating, particularly when you are being assaulted by the tempting aroma of slowly barbequing pork.  I’ll bet you’ve never eaten across the street from a speedometer repair shop, either.

slowsEven the wait to eat is Slow

The sights on Michigan began to unveil themselves. We may call ourselves Motown, but what the heck, Meat City sounds good, too.

meat-cityWait until PETA hears about this

Across the street is another motorcycle – er, social club – no doubt populated by very friendly members.

highwaymenI wonder if there’s an initiation rite?

There was a decidedly non-pc vehicle for sale next door. I think it would be a great commuter car for Michigan winters.

non-pc-vehicleIngress and egress will be tough

Looking for some dubs for your whip? Rim City might be able to help you out – and perhaps can explain the whatever-that-thing-is on the roof is.

rim-cityJust down the road from Meat City

There are quite a few adult entertainment establishments on Michigan Avenue – (reasonably typical of Detroit’s major thoroughfares). Take your pick:

Club 4 Play

4-PlayHamburgers are only $4.00. With fries

Starvin’ Marvin’s – amazingly accurate use of the possessive, and so, perfect for grammar police stripper fans.

starvin-marvin'sExclusive? Oh yeah.

Next, a place that’s either an adult entertainment facility or a post-exercise hangout.  I’m betting on the former.

hard-bodyDouble extra-hot no foam latte with that lap dance, please

Finally, close to Dearborn, The Crazy Horse. (We left Michigan at Lonyo, so as to stay within the city limits.) Looks nice from here:


Talent agency, too

Perhaps because of its proximity to Dearborn, the Crazy Horse has a neon sign which I can only assume is Arabic.  Translation, anyone?

arabic-neonDoes this translate as “Adult Entertainment” or “Talent Agency”?

Naming streets for a big city must be an exhausting job.  So I guess I understand that the person responsible for this street simply ran out of gas one day, and gave up trying to be inventive:

JoeI live on Joe. Just Joe.

There’s an auto repair facility on the corner of Joe and Michigan, whose sign appears to have been painted by the same firm responsible for “Gratoit”.  Here, you can get your front end aliged.

aligmentI always wanted my wheels aliged

This sign was clearly not painted by the company whose sign you’ll see below.  I want to meet the fellow illustrated thereon, whom I’ve dubbed the King of Detroit.

King-of-DetroitI need a logo for the Tour De Hood – I may call this guy up

Yet another very narrowly-focused retail outlet. Not just socks. Sporting socks. American sporting socks.

american-sporting-socksLooks like you can buy them singly or in pairs

After the string of strip clubs, it was somewhat of a relief to find a church to keep things in balance. If you need deliverance from fire, now you know where to go. This is on West Warren – near Lonyo.

fire-and-deliveranceChurch-cum-Fire Station?

I’ve seen plenty of great store fronts here in the Paris of the Midwest. Mr. Fix It is simply a Masterpiece of retail art. So much so, I didn’t think one photo would do it justice.

Here’s one side (the one that faces Warren Ave.).

mr-fix-it-1Odd jobs

The front – one part of which I can’t quite figure out. Can you find it?

mr-fix-it-2aAn adventure in Auto care. (And other things, too!)

Here’s the part I can’t decipher:

mr-fix-it-3Guess the object next to the Bible. Please submit answers in the comment section

Side three. Not a wasted inch of space. And, perhaps, a way to help you keep your hubcaps in place.

mr-fix-it-4Peculiarly-shaped phone, no?

The United Sates is supposedly a class-free society, so I’m not sure how I feel about the regal claim made by the owner of this liquor store. (Maybe Elvis is still alive, and works here?)

king-of-warrenDetroit Royalty, with his subjects, alcohol and the lottery

Identifying the King of Warren will have to wait a while – in the meantime, I can tell you he’s probably not named Jason.  Here’s an awfully blunt piece of invective I spotted on the side of a truck.

jason-reichAm not responsible for the veracity of this statement.

All in all, a beautiful day in the Hood, including a live love song in front of the Avalon Bakery. (It’s a long story).

Van Dyke Avenue, The Atmospheric Training Academy, and the world’s best name for a barber shop

Saturday’s ride took me the length of Van Dyke Avenue; actually its length within the Detroit City limits. (We turned around at 8 mile, not wanting to venture into the wilds of Center Line.) Van Dyke is named for a former mayor of Detroit, James A. Van Dyke. Were the world a perfect place, the street name would be kept the same, but to honor the great Earl Van Dyke, keyboardist and bandleader of the Funk Brothers, the great Motown house band.

erlvandkNot the eponymic Van Dyke, but the Van Dyke

First up on view, Michigan’s Oldest Bank. Until recently, it was a Domino’s Pizza outlet (hence the busted sign).  You know it’s the oldest bank in Michigan because it says so, right on the edifice itself. (You won’t be able to make it out in the photo, but should you want to verify the claim, it’s on the corner of Kercheval and … yes, that’s correct, Van Dyke.)

oldestbankNo money, no pizzas, no buyers

Until you cross Gratiot, Van Dyke is mostly residential.  Like a number of severely depressed parts of the City, this section of Van Dyke it trying to drag itself up by its bootstraps.  Here’s an exhortation to the locals:

self-helpWork, Earn Money, Spend Money

There’s a nicely painted bench near the sign – I think it’s a bus stop, but these days it’s hard to say for sure, because the city is cutting back services left, right, and center, including bus services.

benchFor your own safety and comfort, please hold the hand rail

I passed a boarded up theatre – I’m positive I saw a King Crimson/Procol Harum concert here when I was a tadpole, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the venue. UPDATE: It was the Eastown Theatre.

theatrewideMystery Theatre

There’s a wonderful detail above the former Marquee – something you don’t see at today’s octoplexes.

theatretightShakespeare subservient to comedy. Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of humor

I asked a local passerby if he remembered what the theatre used to be called, but all he could recollect was that the last time the building was open, it was a methadone clinic.

Detroit seems to have more than its fair share of tire stores (could be related to our giant potholes), but perhaps no other has a paint job to match that of D.O.T. tires

nousedtireguaranteeMonsieur Michelin meets Mister Sponge Bob

Once again, my photo doesn’t do it justice.  It’s an honest shop.  As it says above “Blow Horn”:   “What’s up Doc?  YOU KNOW there’s NO guarantee on Used Tires.”

Cooley’s Lounge, is, as far as I could see, shut down. But after looking around on the internets, crazily enough, there’s a web listing for Cooley’s Lounge online. While the building promises Blues & Dancing, the web site I linked to claims “Gay/Lesbian Lounge Music”.  I like the guitar, which looks like the ill-begotten love child of a Gibson Explorer and a Super 400.

cooleysloungeLooks closed to me, but who knows?

There’s a schizophrenic (or is that multiple personality disorder?) quality to many of Detroit’s main streets, and you’re apt to see strip clubs right next door to day care centers. True! Continuing the trend, the next thing I noticed after passing Cooley’s was this reminder:

salvationfreeHurry Up!

Every city has cranky citizens; Detroit is no exception.  We do need help here, so the sentiments behind these signs aren’t completely unwarranted.

sqrewedWhere’s that stimulus money, any way?

I like the novel spelling of “sqrewed” and “communiies”, but I still miss the possessive in “wheres”. After all, I am still a member in good standing of the grammar police.

Stroh’s was our local beer. The Stroh family owned and made Detroit’s “Fire Brewed” beer, but then sold out to some faceless conglomerate that ran the brand into the ground. A note of interest:  Stroh started making ice cream during Prohibition, as means of keeping the company running during the dry years. (p.s.: You know the song “Jailhouse Rock”? There’s a lyric in it: “The whole rhythm section was the Purple Gang”. That was a Detroit gang of bootleggers.)

strohsAmerica’s “Favorite”

Back when I was in college, I worked at Dodge Main, the original Dodge Brothers’ factory in Hamtramck.  Just down the line from me were some members of a motorcycle gang named “Satan’s Sidekicks”.  They had red helmets with attached red Devil’s horns. As a young naif, I thought they’d be meanies and try to thrash me. I was wrong, of course. Satan’s Sidekicks was really just a social club.  That said, I’m not sure about the socialness of a motorcycle club with the following motto:

libertyfreedomdeathCognitive Dissonance, anyone?

Sir Mix-A-Lot had a boffo hit a while back: “Baby Got Back”.  I’m sure you remember it. If you got back, and you’re looking for a place to shop, you may want to check this place out.

biggirlsYes, indeed, they do

OK. Next up, the best-named barber shop anywhere in the English-speaking world, and singularly à propos for my fair city.

illcutyaThe Demon Barber of  Van Dyke?

Continuing the tradition of misspelled Detroit signage, I present to you “Pittbull” (sic) Tattoo’s (sic) & Body Piercing.  I noticed a number of lawn-sign type ads for the Pittbull company along my ride. Business is either slow, or they’re making enough profit for marketing. The painting that is the focal point of the shop mystifies me to some degree, it looks (to me) like a combination of a V-8 engine cutaway (I think those are pistons), a heart pierced by thorns, flames (hell?) and a bunch of skulls.  It’s like Hieronymus Bosch meets Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. You decide.

pittbullTats ‘n’ Holes

More of the piston motif can be found by carefully scrutinizing the Mojo Auto Parts sign. I believe that’s a piston behind the wheel. And there’s a Jolly Roger in there for good measure.

mojoautopartsHope this mojo works on you

Next, another strip club. It was called (The) Duchess Lounge – here’s the old sign. The thong is for the prudes in the area, I guess.

duchesssideDon’t know why there’s a 2 x 4 nailed across her head

Either it’s under new management, or the name wasn’t packing them in like it used to, as the club is now partially renamed Minx, or if  you take the uncovered part of the old name and combine it with the new, “DucMinx”.

duschessminxOpen for your pleasure

Once again, and true to form, the next thing I ran across was a church with a fantastic message board. I’d love to meet the pastor, who clearly has a sense of humor.

signbrokenAll are welcome to…find out inside

The uplifting spirit continued on to the impossibly-optimistic towing service next door. I guess if you’re sitting in your car while it’s being towed, all you could see is up.

upwardvisiontowingEver-alert auto towing service

Scroll back through my older posts, and you’ll soon discover that much about Detroit mystifies me. I have another piece to add to my collection of establishments whose purpose is not quite clear to me. I guess the Atmospheric Training Academy could train you for lots of things. But what, exactly?  Pilot’s license? Weatherman? EPA Air Quality Monitor? Just thinking karmic thoughts? I honestly don’t know. Please feel free to add your guesses to the comments. Anyway, here it is.

atmospherictrainingStump the misterarthur winner for this week

By now, I had just about run out of Van Dyke, and it was time to head home. Not too far from the ATA is the famous (I hear) 007 Gentlemen’s Club. No question about its purpose.

007RAWR, as my friend Mandy would say

If you decide this might be a place worth visiting, you should know that there are some things you cannot bring along with you for your evening’s fun:

noweaponsTrès Civilized

While weapons and guns are not permitted, everything else appears not just to be accepted, but encouraged.

007poster8 p.m. ’till you drop

A couple more interesting sights presented themselves before I got home. There’s the flaming tire tire shop (which also, curiously, has a rainbow in its logo, though you can’t see it from this angle.)

flamingtiresHot Tires, anyone?

There was the almost-correctly spelled Jamaican Restaurant, which may or may not be open for business. (Looks like a new paint job, so I’m betting on the former.)

trippleII, eye, aye

Back in the olden days, there was an “adult entertainment” establishment called, with a full sense of the irony implied in its name, “The Grosse Pointe Athletic Club”.  It went out of business, but was reborn as “Cover Girls”.

covergirlsDig that dated art style

Judging by the style of the art, I’m guessing Cover Girls closed its doors before the turn of the century.

Then it was time to grab something for lunch. Three options presented themselves:

oxtailporkchopfishOne of each, please

As the establishment was closed, I went home and ate a hot dog. Dearborn brand natural casing,  if you must know. Gotta help the local economy any way I can.

Tire-biting dog to Pleasantville and back

Today’s ride was a veritable photo-opportunity-fest. I accompanied my cousin Paul as he continued his epic quest to photograph every fire station in Detroit. (By the way, all the firefighters we’ve met are really nice – and happy to talk about their particular fire station.) Aside from his FS knowledge, Paul knows all sorts of cool history of Detroit. (Like identifying an abandoned building as a former Detroit Bank & Trust building from the “1849” on the facade – the year DB&T was incorporated).

Look at the wonderful Detroitest things I spotted today.

There was the tire-biting dog:


There was the hood’s most honest tire and rim shop:

nostolenNo hot goods here

There was the graphic that pointed out the financial advantages of trading trash for cash at City Recycling. (I particularly like the way they used that protective grillwork as part of the art).

cityrecyclingI-beams for ingots

There was the misspelled store name:

varityVerily, I shall name thee Varity

There was the legendary, but now shuttered Gospel Hands car wash:

gospelhandsThey even used to get your car’s soul clean

I even saw a box of shotgun shells in a gas station’s restroom. (The restroom was not really for public use, as the guy behind the three-inch thick plexiglass had to let us into the inner sanctum of the station to use it).


I think “game load” means to maim, not kill, humans

I spent a fair amount of time on Livernois Avenue  today. The avenue is named for the descendents of Paul Benoist dit Le Nivernais.   It’s a long story, which I found summarized in an article in the Monterey County Herald, of all places.

Livernois Avenue’s pleasures and perils abound. There’s a strip club (of course):

brasskeywide“Adult Entertainment” is code for strip club, I think

An unremarkable name, particularly compared to the “Please Station” (see below), but its logo is a real charmer: (And the model has unusually long & thick hair, in addition to a booty to die for).

brasskeylogoPossibly NSFW logo (though it is on a public thoroughfare)

In case you get too revved up over the entertainment at the Brass Key (they’re looking for waitresses, if you’re interested), a bit further up the road you’re reminded to keep things on the up and up:

godseeyouDon’t be messing around

Near Livernois on McGraw, we stopped at “Double Deuce”, the Detroit Fire Department’s Ladder 22:

l-22McGraw Street’s Finest

The fire station’s logo is the best part. It’s painted on a window on the second floor – and unfortunately, it’s partially blocked by a flagpole.


Ladder 22 Does Not Mess Around

We also met the “Lords of Livernois” – the firefighters of Engine 34.  They have really cool T-shirts, but the firefighter we spoke to who was wearing one said they hadn’t printed any in a long time. Dang. Who wouldn’t want to be a Lord of Livernois?

I got a little depressed at the unfortunately-named “Last Chance Academy”. Here’s a photo, lest you think I’m making that up:

lastchanceWhat happens after this?

My glass was only temporarily half-empty, as the fellows at the Detroit Fire Deparment Engine 42 have taken it upon themselves to rename the area “Pleasantville”. (It’s right next to the LC Academy)

pleasantvilleHappy to be here

Then there was the reminder that no matter how dismal things are, they’re not always going to stay that way.

troubleThings will get better. Some day.

That made me feel a little more cheerful.

But what made my day was riding by what I think has to be the best intersection in America. Who wouldn’t want to be able to give the pizza guy directions to this address?


Freeway of Love meets Psychedelic Shack
There are also streets named after the Four Tops, The Miracles, and the Marvelettes.  You gotta love Detroit, if only for that.
Finally, advice we should all take to heart:



All in all, a 38 mile TDH to remember. I hope tomorrow brings more unexpected gifts from the hood.

P.S.: Thanks to Paul for the tighter shot of the Double Deuces logo.

Hindu, Egyptian, and Christian Deities, Strip Clubs, plus the Pot of Gold at the End of The Rainbow

A potpourri of sights to see on the Tour De Hood today – coincidentally, the same day the Tour De France finishes in my sister’s delightful hometown, Verbier, Switzerland.  That’s not to say, of course, that there’s any resemblance between a fab ski resort and Detroit. (Well, they’re both on same planet, but that’s about it.)

First, the Deities:  I passed many places of worship today, among them a Detroit classic: The Storefront Church.  This one is the Martin Evans Missionary Baptist Church on Gratiot & Outer Drive.

churchcornerStore + Steeple = Church

It was a bit early for services, so I can’t comment on the number of parishioners at this church, but I’m guessing it’s a bit more popular than the Hindu spot I rode by later. The Durga Temple appears to have seen better days. Durga means ‘invincible’ in Hindi, but I guess that power doesn’t cover weeds and awnings.

durgaDurga-philes: This is for you

It’s kind of hard to figure out what the next place is (or was, I can’t tell). Amen Ra’s Place seems a little casual for the God of Creation, but as my son would say, “I’m no expert”.

amenraIt goes without saying, the area code is 313

On to more earthly pleasures. I should probably schedule a Tour De Strip Clubs, as Detroit is chock-a-block full of them, two of which I passed today. One open, one closed. Here’s the open one.

boxxxx means xxtra pleasure

The next appears to be shuttered, I’m sad to say, as it is most excellently named:

pleasestationPlease please, me, oh yeah, like I please you

Today’s Tour De Hood route was at the behest of my cousin Paul. He’s on a mission to photograph every Detroit Fire Station. I don’t want to spoil his party, so I’m only going to show you a couple of photographs of the stations we visited today.  One was Engine Company 60, at Hoover and Manning.

engine60Building started 1931, finished 1936

There’s a plaque inside honoring Roland Martin, a fire fighter killed in the line of duty.


Engine 60 hero

There were, of course, more typically Detroit-like sights to see.

Detroit may be the only city in America that advertises its murders. Here’s a billboard for an unsolved case:


Anonymous tips requested

The appropriately-named Mystik Gas Station seems to have mysteriously fallen down upon itself:

mystikcollapseNo gas today

Detroit has a sui generis style of signage that has, it is claimed, helped turn (a) “typical urban landscape into a canvas for some of the city’s most vibrant folk art.”

While the next photo may not capture the pure Detroitness of “Murder Burger” or “Mr. Foote’s Hand Car Wash”,  I was confused for a moment by the portrait on this tire store – not sure if it was of Frank himself or President Obama.

franknobamaFrank or Obama

Here’s a home-made call to action: we come 2 you hair styling. I don’t know if these are reasonable prices or not.


Lest you get the wrong impression, not everything in Detroit is hand made or collapsed or out of business. One going concern is the superbly named Eutectic Engineering, with this fabulous logo:

eutecticGrain by grain excellence

As Eutectic’s workman-like web site says, apropos of its investment casting capabilities,”When a part’s math data is to (sic) complex for most manufacturing methods, or the parts (sic) harsh operating environment requires it to be made from one of the toughest alloys, investment casting offers the benefit of near set shape (? – I don’t know if that’s a mistake or not) resulting in superior strength vs. weight characteristics.”

Got that? Good.  Back to English.

Here’s a gathering space for Good Humor-ish trucks. Business probably isn’t the greatest this year, what with the City of Detroit’s unreal 22.5% unemployment rate, and colder-than-I-can-remember July temperatures, but we’re all optimists, right? Nose to the grindstone, hand in the freezer, and it’ll all be right in the end. Just follow the rainbow.

potogoldGood Humor & Generic Ice Cream Trucks

What the photo doesn’t show is the proximity of Pot O’ Gold to Hamtramck, Detroit’s Polish, Arab, Bangladeshi, Hmong town.

Just imagine looking at this while listening to an amplified Muezzin, and you’ll get a small idea of what Detroit is like.