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Archive for March, 2013

Drawings of Nain_5541There’s an evil little red devil that has haunted Detroit for over 300 years. He’s known on the streets as the Nain Rouge. The dwarf-like creature lurks about the city spreading ill tidings and heartache upon the good residents of the city. He’s been doing his evil deeds since the days of Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. Legend has it that the red devil crossed paths with Cadillac and his wife while they were out walking one evening. Cadillac yelled at the dwarf to get out of his way and struck him with his walking stick. The little red monster vanished into the darkness with a wicked, evil laugh and placed a curse on the city. Since then he has rained down ill tidings and anguish upon Detroiters.

For the past few years, thousands of costumed revelers gathered and marched through the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit on the first Sunday of spring to drive the evil Nain Rouge out of the city for the upcoming year. This year’s Marche du Nain Rouge was held this past Sunday. Like past Marches, revelers dressed in colorful costumes to hide their identity, so when the evil red devil returns next year he won’t hunt them down and cause heartache in their lives for having him exiled.

Some costumes seemed surreal and bizarre

Some costumes were surreal and bizarre

This is great, I love it

Gotta love this plane costume

Probably the warmest marcher there

Probably the warmest marcher there

After opening ceremonies at the corner of Second Avenue and Canfield, the parade (led by the popular Detroit Party Marching Band) wound its way through the surrounding neighborhood streets to the cheers of those lining the parade route. The Mardi Gras style parade eventually ended at the Historic Masonic Temple where the evil Nain Rouge made his appearance on stage and was quickly banished from the city by merrymakers.

Participants sported an array of colorful costumes

Participants sported an array of colorful costumes

This lady took advantage of the large crowd to get her message out

This woman took advantage of the large crowd to get her political message out

An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 participants took part in the annual Marche and they included men and women of all ages, toddlers, older kids, and dogs. Most sported a variety of costumes, with red appearing to be the dominant color. Prior to the Marche, there was a 5K run appropriately named Run du Nain Rouge.

Thousands jammed the street in front of the Masonic Temple

Thousands jammed the street in front of the Masonic Temple to get a glimpse of the red devil

Afterglow party in the Fountain Room of the Masonic Temple

An afterglow party was held in the Fountain Room of the Masonic Temple

This annual lively event is always a blast and a great way to kick off spring-time in Detroit!

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Based on the crowd size from last weekend’s bicycle show, it’s evident that Detroiters love their bikes. For the second year in a row, Detroit Bike City held their bike Expo at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. Although the Metro Detroit area was covered in a fresh coating of snow and sleet, that didn’t seem to stop thousands of people from attending the annual bicycling event. Over fifty cycling related vendors were there offering a range of bicycles, accessories, and clothing. There were also a number of bicycle-related organizations on hand promoting greenways, organized rides, and special fundraising events.

A wide range of bike accessories were close at hand

A wide range of bike accessories were close at hand

All types of new bikes were on display and available for those wishing to buy a new bike for the upcoming riding season. They included tricycles for youngsters, sleek lightweight racing bicycles, bikes made from light-weight metals, and hand-made bicycles crafted from exotic woods. A number of rugged fat-tired mountain bikes were on display, as were various 1950s retro-looking single and multi-speed urban cruisers, trimmed in shiny chrome.

Rows of vendors offered a variety of bikes and accessories

Rows of vendors offered a variety of bikes and accessories

This beauty was made of wood

This beauty was made of wood

Also at the expo were a variety of throwback sting-rays; a classic American kid’s bike complete with high-rise handlebars, banana sets with tall sissy bars. The sting-rays also had gear shift levers (reminiscent of a floor shift found in a car) mounted to the crossbar. The bicycles on display ranged in cost from a few hundred dollars to well into the thousands.

All types of bikes were available to purchase

All types of bikes were available to purchase

In addition to new bikes and accessories, attendees were able buy used bikes, parts, and accessories in a special swap-meet section. A BMX demo was part of the event and they entertained the crowd by doing backflips, spins and other aerobatics while soaring off ramps.  Kudos to the organizers for pulling together this big-time event!

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As I’ve written in the past, Detroit has an abundance of unusual, grass-root level signs. They come in a variety of formats ranging from hand-painted business names with wobbly, dripping painted letters, to well-crafted professional signs littered with typos. There are also plenty in the city that offer simple services such as tire repairs or washes, written with chalk or crudely spray painted on a piece of scrap plywood or other found materials..

My favorites are the modest hand-painted versions I see on my bicycle rides in the city. Many look as if they were a quick after thought to running a business. The oddly constructed signs can be seen propped up against street sign supports, nailed to telephone poles, or spray painted to the side of a run-down building that houses the business or service the signs advertise. In a bizarre way, the crudely painted signs and those with typos, can be quite appealing and add to the overall grittiness of the city scape.

Take a look.

Check out the possessive apostrophe in brakes

Check out the spelling of brakes

A tire repair place on Detroit's eastside

A tire repair place on Detroit’s eastside

Now there's an inviting sign

Now there’s an inviting sign

Hand painted sign advertising a hand car wash

Hand painted sign advertising a hand car wash

I don't think a hyphen is needed

I don’t think a hyphen is needed

Not sure if it's literally his block or it refers to a city block

Is it literally his block or does it refers to a city block

This entry is the fifth of an occasional blog entry on the amusing signs. To view the other’s in this series, click on the headlines below.

Amusing Signs of Detroit

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 2

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 3

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 4

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There is a Detroit Graffiti artist that goes by the name of Malt. He is also known as “Brown Bag Detroit”. His work is colorfully distinct and somewhat eerie and moody. It consists of mind-blowing forest scenes, owlish characters and unusual birdlike heads with eyes that seem to follow our every move. He calls his vibrant work “The Acid Forest”. His recognizable work can be found in many of the city’s hot graffiti galleries along Grand River Avenue, downtown’s Dequindre Cut and midtown’s Lincoln Street Art Park.  Malt’s large scale wall paintings can also be seen on the “Recycle Here” building just around the corner from the Lincoln Street Art Park.

An owl in the Acid Forest on a wall in the Lincoln Street Art Prk

Acid Forest and owl on a wall in the Lincoln Street Art Park

Although I’ve seen his stylized, bubble-letter name spray painted along railroad tracks and elsewhere, his bird-like and owlish paintings are the pieces that really seem to stand out. The unusual oversized characters found in the series feature menacing looking big-eyed, hawkish faces on feathered bodies. They, along with his gnarly woodland murals, look like something from an unknown supernatural world, deep within the acid forest. In some cases, the bodies of the strange mythical-looking creatures are entwined in the dark, moody forest as if they’re one in the same, and feature course feathers which remind me of sharp-edged fish scales found on a freshwater carp.

On a building Grand River Avenue and Canfield Street

On Grand River Ave near Canfield St

This beauty covers the side of a truck trainer

This beauty covers the side of a truck trainer

The owls he paints are similar in style, and they too have a certain distinct edge to the feathers. The large nocturnal bird drawings are simple in design, yet engaging.  They are painted in earth tone shades with hints of pastel colors and seem to be at ease in their urban environment. They also appear to cast a calming, alluring effect as they look down on us through half-open eyes, much like a mysterious Egyptian cat.

Check out the eyes

Check out the eyes

An owl painted on a Recycle Here door

An owl painted on a Recycle Here door

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