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!

 

Advertisements

Up Woodward, Down John R, plus the first TDH quiz evar!

Whilst I’ve ridden on Woodward Avenue many times, I thought it might be useful and fun to deliberately ride its whole length – from Jefferson to 8 Mile. For the return, rather than ride back down the Avenue, the Legal Eagle and I thought we’d take John R.

I don’t think you need a map to follow along. Go up Woodward, turn right at 8 Mile, ride past the “State Fairgrounds & Exposition Center”, turn right on John R. until it dead ends, turn left to Oakland, pass the Polar Bears’ football field and the giant pallet cemetery, turn right on Manchester, then left back onto John R. Continue until you hit Tiger Stadium.

Just to prove that we did the whole ride, here’s a view of the base of Woodward:

Don’t let that sign confuse you

On our way north, we did take a little detour to Capitol Park to see the “set” of Transformers 3, which is being filmed in our fair city.  We encountered a fervid rent-a-cop who blew a gasket when he saw me taking a photo while touching a barricade with my toe. “That’s Private Property!” he yelled, to which I responded that I was on a public thoroughfare and I could do whatever I wanted. He kept yelling at me. I yelled back at him. The Legal Eagle, as is his wont, kept his mouth shut.

Nevertheless, I was able to take some photos which led me to create the following series of questions.  You must decide whether the scene I photographed is Detroit in its usual state of disrepair, or made to look disrepaired by highly skilled set decorators.  You get to choose. City, or Set.  Ready?  Here’s visual number one. This one’s easy – to give you an initial burst of self confidence.

Just another Sunday morning in Detroit or Transformers 3?

This one’s a little tougher

Deliberate or Accidental?

Did this façade look like this on purpose, or is it just from the patina of disuse?

Crummy or made to look crummy?

We don’t treat our history with kid gloves here in the Motor City (about which, read more when I get to the Model T Plant, below). That said, was this knocked over for a movie or did it fall over from neglect?

Art or Vandalism?

A small amount of Federal Stimulus money is appearing in and around Detroit (mostly for street repair). Is this asphalt eruption on purpose because we need better streets, or because Transformers 3 needed extra destroyed city optics?

City Improvement or Movie Improvement?

Bonus question one: Is this store front on Woodward part of the movie, an art project, or a remnant of our Potemkin Village “Spruce up Detroit for the Super Bowl” festival?

Shades of Dharma Brand Instant Potatoes

Bonus question number two. Is the club below still the Eros club, which I’ve written about before, or was it renamed Cobra’s for the movie?

Eros v. Cobra

Ok, you can put your pencils down now.  Back to more typical Detroit scenes. A small business is going under on Woodward. Just as unsurprising, the misspelled sign to announce the news.

Hurrey Down for Saveings

I do not know what “Detroit Revolution” is, but whenever it does arrive, I want to be there. This alluring sign is near midtown, on what looks like the site of a former theatre or burlesque house.  If someone knows more about this, please let me know via comments or email. (It reads “Without you I am a battery without a charge”)

Who doesn’t love a rebus?

The next sight is not really Detroit-specific, as the half life of a fully outfitted bike left on the street in any major city is very short. I was struck by the thoroughness with which the parts of the bike were removed.

Need pedals or an alloy crankset?

More typical of Detroit is the site of the former American Beauty Electric Iron Company.

Irons and Art

We tried to guess what kinds of irons they made there. While the name suggests curling irons or the Grateful Dead, a bit of internet snooping around seems to indicate they made irons for ironing your clothes.

Farther up Woodward, in a splendid building, is the Detroit International Academy for Young Women. (Evidently, part of the DPS).

Rawr!

I just wish the sign was connected a little more to the school design, which reeks of “when Detroit was a great city with some money to spend on civic institutions”.

Lovely institution of pedagoguery (which may not be a word)

Assiduous readers of the Tour De Hood Blog will remember my reference to an old-school gang, The “Coney Oneys” in an earlier post. (The gang thought they were naming themselves after those feared mafiosi, The Corleones).  Anyway, some 80’s nostalgia for you.

The “Earl Flynn’s” {sic} gang failed to spell Errol Flynn properly.

nb: BK does not stand for Burger King

I’m sure Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Fudge is a wonderful person. That said, I’m not sure you should always use your name for your business. Something just doesn’t seem right about this:

Maybe they’re from Mackinac Island (Michigan insider joke)

Someone else spent a great deal of time illustrating the exterior of this shop. Considering how many words they had to include, the lack of spell fails is pretty astonishing. (I’ll cut them some slack for EQT). I’ve heard of Odds and Ends. I’ve hear of Odds and Evens. But not this combo:

Odds & Ins? WTF?

The ex McGregor Public Library is a really beautiful building. Der Rechtliche Adler said there is periodic noise about trying to reopen the place, but judging by what I saw on Sunday, it looks like it’s still shut down. I’m dying to see the interior.

“Books Are The Doors to Wide New Ways”

Poor, poor Highland park.  Woodward in Highland Park is truly one of the most depressing parts of our city. Financial ruin forced the elimination of its police department (though it was re-established in 2007), and I’m not sure if the fire department still exists.  It’s a self-contained city that’s virtually completely surrounded by Detroit. (I’ll explain why it even exists below).   It had beautiful municipal buildings. This was the police headquarters:

The roof is mostly missing

Here’s the former parking spot that was reserved for the “Officer of the Month”.

Now reserved for tree of the year

This was the headquarters of the Fire Department. I don’t know where they’re headquartered now.  They have 16 firefighters in the city.

At its peak, Highland Park had 84 Firefighters

This was the Municipal Building. Again, I have no idea where it’s located now.

Sorry. All gone now

Here’s why there even is a Highland Park:  Henry Ford. As you know, since you’ve ready every word of the Tour De Hood, Henry Ford’s original factory was on Piquette. (The building’s still there).  However, that’s not the factory that made Ford Ford. This one is. Right here on Woodward in Highland Park is where Henry Ford revolutionized the United States, and the world, by mass-producing the Model T.

Home of a Revolution

Here’s why it’s in Highland Park.  Detroit was expanding, rapidly (imagine that!), but Henry didn’t want to pay Detroit Taxes on a new factory, so he built this one beyond the city limits, and incorporated a town around it, called Highland Park, where the tax rates would be much more affordable.  Chrysler used to be headquartered in Highland Park, too.

You’d think the location of the factory that literally changed our lives would get a little more TLC, wouldn’t you? After all, as the sign above states, it “set the pattern of abundance for 20th Century living”.  But no.  The front view is blocked by weed trees. The rest looks just like an abandoned factory. (Albeit adorned with what appear to be Pewabic Tiles.) Why do we treat our past with such indignity?

Building with enormous historical signifance? We don’t care

Back on the road, I saw a nice ghost sign. I’m surprised the owner limited himself to Canis Lupus Familiaris patients:

Goodbye, Kitty

I’m sure you can’t wait for this week’s Sign Fail.  At first, you could think I didn’t actually find one, and made this up by holding my camera upside down.

Nice sign if you’re standing on your head

“Oh, Mister Arthur”, you think, “you’re trying to be funny by rotating a photograph so we’ll think someone was dumb enough to go to trouble of making a sign and firmly affixing it to a wall without ever realizing it was upside down.”  Wrong.  It really was put up upside down. See?

What’s the excuse this time?

WTF?  Did they think no one would notice??

We noticed, just past this misery and incompetence, a delightful patio behind a wrought iron fence.  There’s no sign on the building, but riding around the back, we discovered that we had come upon a restaurant called “La Dolce Vita.” I haven’t been there before (duh), but have subsequently found out it’s been around for a while (if my math is correct, about 16 years). L’aigle jurisdique has a partner who really likes it, a friend of mine recommends the patio during our warmer months, and Metro Times gave it a good review back in ’03.  Looks inviting from the outside.

The Perfect Place to Valet Park my Lancia Flaminia Supersport Zagato

By now, we’d nearly reached the city limits. After a right turn onto 8 Mile, we soon came upon a place all too happy to advertise its presence: The Detroit Renegades M/C.

Panhead or Shovelhead?

Truth be told, John R., while a nice place to ride, doesn’t have a lot of visual impact. There was a nondescript strip club, with a terribly uncreative name:

Staple-Free, one would hope

That aside, I was taken by the homey ambience of Advance Steering Column Repair.

Nothing says “picnic” like Ignition Theft Repair

We ultimately had brunch chez The Lafayette Coney Island.  Here’s a photo of the chili cheese fries we ate to toast our successful ride.  It’s also an opportunity to vote for your favorite Coney  Island locale.

Brunch, Detroit Style



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.

Spring, Sprang, Sprocket.

Spring brings out the optimist in all of us, right? With that in mind, I set out on today’s Tour De Hood, looking for the best in all I rode by. (That’s the Sprocket to which this blog post refers.)

Herewith, some of the treats that  I took as signs of Detroit’s revivification. (By the way, the Detroit Free Press had a lengthy article detailing big plans for returning Detroit to its rightful spot as the Paris of the Midwest.)

I noticed a number of new tags on various buildings, abutments, and other objects. This wall, for example, was tag-free last year.

Hi-ho, Paid AAwaaaaaay. (Thanks to Kae V for the deciphering)

“Away” made a return visit (though in a much less artistic form) next to his or her new pals, EP & KBT.

Don’t know if “Away” means “Go Away” or not.

Part of what used to be/is still a residential neighborhood seems to have rezoned itself as a truck stop. Last year there was only one truck here. The family’s growing.

No homes on the block = more space for your semi

I also cycled by a formerly-standing abandoned house. It has dedicated itself to a new Detroit by ceasing to be.

All-new destruction for 2010

For those of you familiar with my end-of 2009 post, I discovered a 23-hour tire(s) repair shop on Kercheval. The owner has spruced up the storefront by painting it a lovely shade of purple. (The sign itself could still use some fixing, if you ask me.)

Perhaps Easter Sunday is included in the hours it’s closed

The following photo may not look like “new” to the casual viewer, but last year, it didn’t have a roof, so we’re moving forward with purpose and vigor.

Still looking for tenants

New to me, but not to Detroit, a coaling (?) stop on the Grand Trunk Railroad. (Information, courtesy the Legal Eagle).

Here’s the abutment:

The coal started here

There’s a little bit left of the track that marked the coaling station itself. There’s nearly a foot left of old track.

Former rail line: Not part of America’s new high-speed rail project

For those of you looking to increase your carbon footprint, there are chunks of the actual carboniferous object itself for your personal collection:

What naughty children used to get for Christmas

The Dequindre cut has a number of actual, new new features for 2010. First, it now extends all the way to Atwater Street – which is nice. It’s currently “blocked” by orange-and-white barrels and some kind of plastic netting, but no one appears to be letting that slow them down. There are also some new examples of street art over which to marvel. One, a more traditional language-based style:

The Dequindre Codex?

The other is of the figurative variety.  I don’t know if this is a “curated” example, or some interloper’s work.

Ferngully meets Detroit Gully

There’s a wall standing alone in a field off of Grand River.  I could’ve ridden past many places today; but coincidentally, (it being Easter Sunday), I happened upon this mural.It has been newly-decorated with a bunch of bunnies. Awww.

Suspicious-looking “bunny” on the right, no?

The Michigan Central Station is one of Detroit’s most iconic ruins. There seems to be some noise about turning it into something – I have no idea what – but I think my Tour De Hood Chronicles wouldn’t be complete without tossing in a photo of one set of its broken windows. (That makes this photo new to the Tour De Hood archives:)

Maybe someone recycled that glass

In a plea for government help, someone has painted the President’s name on the curb outside the razor wire. (I haven’t heard whether it’s had its intended effect or not).

Dear Mr. President: Help!

A venerable pawn shop has given up the ghost. (The license is available). So if you’re looking for a rifle or diamonds to pawn, you may have to search elsewhere.

Four score and six years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new pawn shop. Now it’s no more

Directly across the street, I spotted a mural “advertising” Corktown, an historically Irish neighborhood. Nothing about the mural strikes me as redolent of Eire, but it could be because I’m ignorant of Celctic traditions. Or something. Judge for yourself.

Forward, diverse robots!

One thing about Detroit businesses, when they fail, they fail. Here, a formerly going concern of some kind that is definitively done. Put a fork in it.

I’m sorry, too

Anyway, this being Easter and all, perhaps a benevolent higher being will resurrect the establishment to the wonder and delight of all. Here’s hoping.

Thanks to The Legal Eagle for the History Lesson, and for Spencer’s accompaniment. Yo! Spencer! 28 miles!

A little poem to celebrate the arrival of spring:

“when faces called flowers float out of the groundand breathing is wishing and wishing is having-

but keeping is downward and doubting and never

-it’s april (yes,april;my darling)it’s spring!

ee cummings.

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.