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        May 29th, The fish are biting

At this time of year I'm told the silver bass come through the detroit river in their millions. A good job too, because if they came in any fewer numbers there'd be very few left that would complete the passage. Between Windsor and downtown a flotilla of small boats dodge the heavies to pull more fish out of the water than you'd believe possible. All the way down-river to Trenton the public parks and lots abutting the river are thick with Detroiters throwing lines into the river. Thronged along the side of Harbor park yesterday was a real party, stereos playing, cookouts going and fish after fish being pulled from the river. One guy had to have 30+ on his tie line, and he was still pulling them out at a rate of about one a minute. I put it to him that there was no way he was going hungry any time soon. In good humor he replied that he didn't eat the fish, "This shit is chock full of mercury" he said. When I asked what the hell he did with so much fish then, he replied "I weigh it, then I give it to my neighbors to eat"!! Now that's Detroit love for ya!

Fish weren't the only things biting yesterday. I did a brief once around belle isle to see if I could see any signs of camping (Saturday's Marathon was the only night of the year when Camping is allowed on Belle Isle). There was no sign of any, just the usual family groups starting up their cookouts. So I headed into the short trail that winds through the woods. By crossing the concrete bridge and turning right, you can actually follow a small unmettled trail that's very peaceful. No more than a few yards in I discovered very rapidly that the first round of serious mozzies have arrived. They desceneded in good numbers and before I knew it I have a half dozen on each arm and more heading for legs and neck. A very quick U-ey and rapid swotting wasn't enough. I took a hit to the left arm and at least four to the right, one of which started to inflame almost immediately. I don't know what that little gut had been eating but he sure hadn't brushed his teeth before sticking his straw into my arm. So this morning my right forarm is red and swollen and itching like crazy. That trail is now off-limits till the autumn frosts!

But a few bites aren't going to slow me down, it's off down to Trenton today for the leg-stretch run. Down Fort and Jefferson, once around gross-isle, over the toll bridge onto the island and off at the free bridge. Back through elizabeth park and a stop for a snack in Wyandotte. I'll leave you with a few pics from inside the conservatory. Laters.

Blue um ... thingy

Red um ... thingy (stop me if I'm getting too technical for you)

Cactus - at least I think so. Mr flora I'm not.

        May 28th, Get back in line

Another dismal failure to track down the BTT crew. I headed out at about 6.30 yesterday morning to try and intercept BTT on Belle Isle. But when I got there I found the place completely mucked about. There was yellow "do not cross" tape everywhere and large parts of the island were sealed off. After some wandering about I came across the reason. The first (annual) detroit inline skating marathon. Some pretty cool gear and these guys and gals were looking very fit.

Get inline
Hey, you with the camera, you're well out of line.[more, more, yet more]

So, come 7.30 when I still hadn't tracked down the BTT group I figured I missed them and wasn't up for a 4th lap of the island anyway. Knowing the crew head back to Fort Wayne after their ride I hit the road and made good time down to the fort, where I found their cars, but no BTT. So they must have been behind me ... I went back to Fort (the road) and spent a few minutes cruising around but had no luck. I guess the only time I'm destined to bump into these guys is by accident! After that I went up through MexicanTown to the corner of Grand river and Grand Boulivard to capture some shots of the Bead Museum. Great place, I'll post more tomorrow. Winging back downtown through the sidestreets I came across a guy looking in a bad way. Sweat was pouting off of him and he looked rough as hell. This was in an alley and I usually wouldn't stop in a place like that but he was asking where he cold find water or a drinking fountain. I gave him the bottle of coke I had but that stuff's crap if you're really thirsty so I headed for the nearest garage on Grand River and picked him up a couple of litre bottles of water. Good luck to the guy, he said he was out scavenging scrap metal but he didn't look up to hauling himself more than a few yards.

Back downtown I met the owner of the building that's getting some neat classical graffiti/street art. It turns out the stuff is being done by a friend of the owner which is great news, it means we'll have more of it, again I'll post shots tomorrow. Heading out for the electronic music festival ... laters.

ps. forget the flickr links below. I went to flickr to try and save time but ended up getting so tied up in it that I was spending twice the time I had been throwing this Blog together. So I've pulled the account and will decamp back to the blog from now on (or until some other airhead notion drags me to another corner of the net!).

Get inline
We're all on a journey ...

        May 26th. Tag in the dark
Bred from wolves
Art is not tag

        April 29th. Life in the slow lane

Perhaps I should explain that this blog is still going. Albeit at reduced speed. The main reason for the slowdown is work. We've got a lot going on in the lab right now and I need to clear the backlog a bit. Another reason is that this used to be a 50/50 photoblog-textblog, but now I've moved 90% of the image content over to Flickr. So what little time I've had to do stuff has been spent getting the Flickr bikeblog up to speed. If you don't know Flickr, check it out, it's a great way to meet people in the local area grabbing the same kind of shots.

Thanks for the feedback on previous posts. Wolf pointed out that the bullet looked severe, yup, someone out there is surely after werewolves, and if there's one city where they might find one... well.

UrbanTiki dropped a note to suggest that many of the neglected street corner chapels are in fact tax havens. He pblog'd a very similar shot to his flickr site last year.

On a final follow up to the last post, things aren't improving much, in the last few days we've had a spree of seemingly random killings. From an ex-cop car-jacked (for the second time) and repeatedly shot in the head to the guy who stabbed his 9 month old son to death to save him from the evils of the world. Difficult times.
What if god was one of us
This way lies peace folks

        April 22nd. lost?

Sometimes I think I know where I'm going. I've got this whole trip planned out. The path ahead is clear. I'd just passed woodward, coming out of Royal Oak. I'd slipped into the westside suburbs to avoid the saturday traffic down woodward. At this time of year the suburbs are a riot of blossom and blue sky. I was heading south stearing maybe a bit too far west but what a beautiful day, another few miles wouldn't be a killer. Then I came to cross a larger road. Which one? It was John R.

That's not going to mean a lot to you if you're not from round here. Anyone from detroit will be killing themselves laughing. Not only was I not heading south-west, I was heading due east, I'd also re-crossed woodward and a few major highways without noticing. Now in Europe's higgly piggledy street layouts such a fuck up would be understandable. But in Detroit's second-wave rectilinear street layout that's one hilarious cock-up of navigation.

Sometimes you think you know where you're going. But there were warning signs, I should have been passing mile-roads and wasn't. It was a beautiful day though and wandering nearly aimlessly was sweet. But I didn't want to hit John R. John R was the road I'd come out of Detroit on, I'd been there, didn't want to go back the same way. But here I was.

A few miles down JR I came across a complete bullet. This is an unusual find, shell casings sure ... plenty. The occasional bullet fired into the sidewalk ... not unusual. But an unfired bullet lying in the street to become a kid's toy? That's unusual. Maybe it's a good sign, maybe someone's throwing away their grown-up toy's. Or maybe it's a bad sign, maybe someone found they'd no friends and neighbours left to shoot anymore. I don't know which it was, I do know Detroit lost two intelligent respected and admired individuals recently. Detroit's been down that road, we were heading somewhere different. This is a moment to stop and figure the city maybe needs to take its bearings. As DSP would say, Peace.

Boy's toys
Seek help ... soon.

        April 17th. Suburbs v Detroit

OK, facing facts here, most of the people I work with live in the suburbs and uniformly dislike Detroit as a wasteland of blight. They're keen on persuading me to head out into the suburbs too. And I'll admit that parts of both the east and west sides could be called squalid. That violence and crime are endemic I'll own too, over 440 people the victims of Detroit's famed fireworks in the last three month. Too many. Over 100 of those ended up on the slow drive to Elmwood... far, far too many.

But there's a flip side to Detroit that I regularly get reminded of. On Saturday for example I went up to Mt Clemens and came back through the shores. On Sunday I went the other way and made for Trenton, coming back through Wyandotte, Ecorse and Rouge. Wyandotte is the only suburb I think I can say that I really like - mostly because it doesn't feel at all like a suburb. It has the spirit of a small self contained town. But, for the rest of them. Well, they were 99% pleasent. In places pristine. But invariably after a few miles I'd seen that white white pickett fence a dozen, more than a dozen times. The serial strip mall murder of commercial diversity. How does the song go, "Boxes little boxes ... and they're all made out of ticky tacky".

As soon as you enter Detroit again these rows of clone homes and copy cat malls fade away. Yes, the amount of garbage and derelict properties increases. But you also find a sudden onset of color, amazing amounts of it. Buildings painted bright red and blue. Instead of bland uniform advertising campaigns, you come across painted walls that colorfully advertise in the way that died out elsewhere decades ago the stores behind them. Then there's the street art. Nowhere in the suburbs do you get this kind of stuff. Creative, ubiquitous, sometimes challenging, but teaming with character. I've started to gather some of it here. A collection that will grow rapidly.

Of course there are other aspects of Detroit character that I find more disturbing. The proliferation of street-corner baptist cathedrals, chapels, holy mount/saint whatever churches. Many of them in very poor repair. For me they're one half snake-oil when it comes to community development. Places where people go to put their faith in an outside solution. The upkeep of many of these buildings tells its own tale of a dereliction of responsibility. I guess I'm kind of secular in view and maybe have too low opinion of the good these places do. But then again...
Holy heck, the word in the blue is BAR
Seek help ... soon.

        April 2006. Tabula Rasa

It's been a while since I've spent time on the west side of town. I think too long because I've kind of inflated my view of that area out West of Woodward. On Sunday I took Grand River up to Farmington Hills and got a good look again. Until then I'd have said the east side had way more problems, way more vacant lots, piles of garbage and burned out homes. But the West side is pulling its weight. Take away the party stores, the wig shops and the street corner baptist cathedrals and there wouldn't be a whole lot left. On a more upbeat note I'm seeing more and more people out on bikes. Not just the extremes, lycra clad on 5k+ road bikes, or street bikes that have done service since the war (... I don't know, you pick one), but people on Treks Specialised and Giants. It's good to see.

I took 9 mile from Farmington, well I meant to, but some weird street signage put me on a winding sideroad that dumped me whoa ... onto 8 mile. 8mile is not a good cycle route - it gets busy as hell and feels like a freeway around about Grand River. So I managed to get back onto 9 mile but only by doing a killer mile up Telegraph (lorries, 60 mph motors etc). And eventually came back through Southfield and Ferndale onto Woodward. About here another cyclist and I ran a few miles together. But maybe the combination of my stopping for red lights and his road tyres was too much, and we parted company after Highland Park. Then again maybe I'm just still really winter unfit.

As you'll have seen I've decided to split things up. The pictures were not so hot but were taking a load of time to resize and crop etc. So I've decided to refocus this blog back down to cycling and the tings to see around detroit. The photos of Detroit I'm slowly moving over to Flickr here wbere I'll try and theme them into specific areas of interest as well as into broader bins like street art. But I will be posting the odd shot here, when it illustrates something specific. Just not every day, OK...

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