Archive for November, 2012

Parade Night in Detroit

Woodward Avenue from mid-town Detroit to downtown was free of cars this past Wednesday night. The road was wide open, perfect for bike riding. Accommodating me and a few other cyclists wasn’t the reason the road was car free. It was free of cars because it was lined with parade floats. Yes, parade floats were parked on the avenue in preparation for Detroit’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The road was closed to car traffic. However, police and security guards, parade staff and various city, DTE and contract utility workers were there organizing the three-mile parade route for Thursday’s big event. The majority of the floats were parked end-to-end along the west side of Woodward between Warren and Mack Avenues, a distance of about a mile. There were a few others that were being staged along the side streets that cross Woodward.

Floats were lined up for blocks along Woodward Ave

There were quite a variety of floats lined up in the night. I saw a large bicycle, building blocks that toddlers would use to memorize the alphabet, and a community garden on wheels featuring cartoonish looking fruits and vegetables. Various other themed floats were also part of the vibrant mix, including Mother Goose and a small version of the Detroit skyline.

Check out the veggies

Colorful detail

Mammoth feet were part of one float

It was interesting to see the last-minute preparations first hand; not only for the floats themselves, but for the overall parade route arrangements. The Detroit Edison crews and electrical contractors were busy taking down traffic lights and raising wires from aerial buckets raised a couple of stories high.

Other preparations included paint touch up, general assembly and testing of the access doors to the interiors of the floats. All hook-ups were being completed. Staging and overall cleaning of the colorful floats was all taking place at once, without the workers missing a step.

Last minute paint touch-up

Many of the float heads were quite large

Although Woodward and many of the cross streets were closed to car traffic, surprisingly most of the bars and restaurants in the area were jammed with patrons. There were many families wandering around having their pictures taken in front of their favorite floats such as a large one featuring the Sesame Street characters, and of course, Santa’s sleigh with brightly painted reindeer leading the way.

Plenty of families were out taking pictures

As I rode south on Woodward below Mack to downtown, I was surprised at the many motor homes that had staked out their favorite parking spots in the vacant lots that line Woodward. In most cases their front bumpers were perfectly aligned, edging the sidewalks in front of them.

In other sections of Woodward, tents were set up, and lawn chairs were strategically placed along the avenue. The areas where the chairs were located were roped off to keep others from invading their unofficial property, much like prospectors claiming free, open land in the west.

The tall, multi-storied giant balloons and other parade favorites, such as the popular oversized paper-mache heads, and high school marching bands were not there yet. But they were on-hand early Thursday morning when I returned to check out the parade. People love a parade, and Detroit’s Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the best. It’s been drawing thousands of families and friends into Detroit for over 80 years, most standing 6 to 10 deep along Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main street.

The large balloons made it to the parade

Reindog was ready to lead the way

Read Full Post »

It’s already late November, and Thanksgiving is here. In Detroit, that means it is time to get up early and head over to Woodward Avenue to watch the 86th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade slide by. The Lions also play on Thanksgiving Day, a long-held traditional game they have played without interruption since 1946. It’s also time to be thankful for what we have and to remember the many people out of work, those dealing with foreclosures, and unfortunately the homeless people who I see wandering the streets.

Thanksgiving is also time for a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  So where does one buy turkeys in Detroit?  Eastern Market had fresh ones when I was there this past Saturday as did University Market near Wayne State University. The Honey Bee Market in the city’s Mexicantown neighborhood has them, and so does Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe in Mid-town. I’m sure many other independent markets scattered across the city have them ready to go too.

There’s one place you won’t be able to purchase a Thanksgiving turkey, and that’s the store where this wall sign appears. It is an unusually painted sign because at first glance, the six black images looked to me like turkeys all lined up in a row. But in reality, the images represent hands; hands that show unity and togetherness. Not a bad theme for Thanksgiving.

The six hands sure look like turkeys, but I believe they represent hands of unity

I’ve seen “neighborhood unity” type signs on my bike travels in Detroit, but never any like this, with hands that look much like turkeys. So don’t be confused if you see this.  It’s not about turkeys, it’s about togetherness. Happy Thanksgiving all!

Without the lettering, one could easily think these are painted turkeys

Read Full Post »

Holbrook Street between I-75 and Oakland Street is like many Detroit neighborhood streets. It is lined with open fields, a couple of graffiti covered abandoned commercial buildings and a few old homes that are in pretty good shape. There’s a Coney Island restaurant near I-75, and that’s about it for active businesses along that street. Essentially, there is nothing remarkable about that little stretch of Holbrook on the city’s near North End Neighborhood.

However, something curious in one of the fields did catch my eye while riding along the street a few weeks ago. It was a small stack of cubes or blocks that reminded me of a wedding cake or something similar. They were stacked four high, in a field on the south side of Holbrook, with the largest being on the bottom. All four were painted bright white and each featured a simple letter in various colors on each side, much like alphabet blocks that little kids used early on to build words. But these are a bit different from the traditional kid’s blocks.

AMOR is on both sides of the blocks in the same order

FATI are the other four letters found on the blocks

Only eight letters were used on two sides of each block: AMOR and FATI. Why those letters?  That’s the big unknown about this art project. In walking around the stack I saw no reference to its meaning, the artist, when it was installed, etc. While poking around the sculpture, I found it interesting that the blocks were set-up on what looked to be an aged terrazzo floor. The smooth floor must have been part of a store or business of some type and has now become part of the landscape.

Remnants of a once elegant floor is where the blocks rest

Like other mysterious art installations I’ve come across and blogged about such as “Painted Dirt” and the orange figures from the “Oakland North of Grand Boulevard” entry, the origin may never be known. If anyone has any information or insight into these unusual blocks or the outdoor art found in the two stories mentioned above (click on each to read the story), I would appreciate a posting about them in the comments section of this story.

Read Full Post »

I sold my 1,800 square foot Detroit home. A ‘for sale’ sign has been stuck in my front yard for the past few months and after many showings, I accepted an offer. I’ve lived there for over 25 years, and needless to say, I had heaps of stuff to go through and get rid of. Over the past couple of weeks, I spent loads of time sorting through boxes of old papers, books and other things. Much of it I haven’t looked at in years. Some of it I saved, but plenty of it I gave to family and friends. And needless to say, I made several trips to the local Salvation Army donation center.

It was a bit of a challenge because I moved to a 700 square foot loft unit in a former nail factory in Detroit. It is a vintage brick building that was built-in the early 1900’s. As you can imagine, there isn’t a lot of room for unnecessary things. One of the prized possessions I kept is my bicycle. After all, bicycling in Detroit is what I like to do, and that is what this blog is all about: bicycling in Detroit.

Luckily, bike storage wasn’t an issue at my new place. The building I moved to has a good-sized room dedicated to bicycle storage with plenty of space.  I didn’t have to deal with figuring out how or where to park my bike in my unit or somehow hang it from the ceiling, which would be a challenge since I have cement ceilings.  Having that dedicated bicycle space is great. All I have to do after my rides is wheel it into the storage space and forget about it.  Nice touch!

Read Full Post »