Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jenemy #1: RenCen Guy

After only a smidgen of searching, we've tracked down the first member of the aforementioned group of people who dare leave their home wearing green and white. Meet Public Jenemy #1. Our founding inductee was found standing at the RenCen information desk, and we believe we overhead him asking, "Can you tell me which way I should go to get to East Lansing?" 

A quick word on the RenCen: To anybody who thinks it's difficult navigating the streets of downtown Detroit (what with the one-way streets and all those strange angles), I challenge you to get from one side of the RenCen to the other without feeling completely lost. Cool building, but very confusing.) 

JennFriend #3: People Mover Guy

The newest entry into the JennFriends club is this round-faced gentleman who probably didn't suspect that riding the People Mover while wearing a Wolverines cap was no reason to land him on the Internet. Surprise! And it was particularly generous of him to actually make eye contact for the photo! 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas in Detroit: Catch the sale at Fanatic U downtown

If there’s a sports fan on your holiday shopping list, you might want to check out a sweet little find I made yesterday over in Greektown. Fanatic U has temporarily set up shop in the building that used to be a bar, Marilyn's on Monroe. They’ve got some tasty deals on shirts, jerseys and all the usual Fanatic U stuff, but they're only going to be around until the merchandise is gone - probably right up until Christmas.

In the back of the store, you can find some pretty cool stocking stuffer type stuff from the dollar table. (I nabbed a couple of 2006 Fall Classic pins...nice!)

Plus, if you spend more than $30, you can take the cornhole challenge. Toss three bags, and if you make one in the hole you get a free baseball cap (and there are a ton to choose from.)

The store is located on (you guessed it) Monroe St., right across from Fishbone's. They don't stay open late, so you might want to get down there during the day. If you go, be sure to mention to the Kage. It won’t get you any kind of special discount, but the confused look on the guy’s face should be priceless.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dodge Fountain offers up an autumn rainbow

On account of it's 30 degrees lately, here's a warm weather photo to help forget about the long winter we're in for. I took this picture this fall. Notice the cool rainbow, which ended up as part of the photo purely by accident.

Obviously, this was taken down at Hart Plaza. It's called Dodge Fountain, named for the automobile mogul Horace E. Dodge. who died in 1920. Fifty-eight years later (that's 1978, for those of you who've been drinking), his late wife - she was still alive! - donated $2 million to help in the building of this statue.

JennFriend #2: CVS Guy

This poor sap was minding his own business, standing in line at CVS waiting to buy a pack of Basic Menthols, and I'm sure had no idea he'd wind up on a weblog that few people read. 

But here he is. 

What he failed to realize was that by electing to wear that U-M knit hat, he earned the right to become the second certified member of the JennFriends, an innocent group of people who did nothing more than wear Michigan stuff in public. 

Stay tuned to the Kage to meet members of another elite group of innocent people who do nothing more than wear Michigan State stuff in public. We call them Jenemies. (Note: Innocent people wearing Ohio State stuff in public will be considered for Jenemies club membership as well.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Big Bong! Millennium Bell ringing is a young Detroit tradition

I’ve heard people mention the Millennium Bell in downtown Detroit. And I’ve seen that big statue in Grand Circus Park across from Cheli’s that looks like an enormous steel fish head dangling from two arches. I just never knew – until now – that they are one and the same.

The Millenium Bell, I’ve come to learn, was commissioned by the City of Detroit for $330,000. It’s a 10-ton, stainless steel monster that hangs from arches that span 40 feet across and 26 feet high. Two local guys, artist Chris Turner and sculptor Matt Blake, designed it.

Unlike most of what you see downtown, nobody considers it an historical treasure because it was created less than 10 years ago. In fact, the city commissioned it in 1999 to ring in the new millennium. Now, they ring it every New Year’s Eve, which I think is one of the cooler “young” traditions downtown.

But I still think it looks like a big fish head.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas in Detroit: The Milner Hotel dons its holiday best

Walk around downtown Detroit, and every now and then you stumble across a little area that just feels like a different city. No freeways, no stadiums, just quiet little blocks that you didn’t know were there.

Found another one the other day.

I’ve been down Centre Street before, and I’ve seen the Milner Hotel many times. I even took D-Smack in one time to take a leak on the way to a Tiger game. But I spotted it again the other day all decked out for the holidays and it looked like something off a postcard, like there should be a 5-and-dime next door and guy ringing a bell out front.

So I put our crack research team on the case (thanks again to our friends at Google) and learned some interesting things about the Milner. One, it’s the oldest continuously operated hotel in Detroit, having opened in 1917 as the Henry Clay Hotel. And two, it bills itself as “America’s first hotel chain”, with buildings in Detroit, Boston, L.A. and Raleigh.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Harmonie Cafe: A guy and his grill

A guy named Mike stood behind the counter, talking to another guy about the latest scandal to hit Detroit. (It’s so new, I don’t think it’s been reported yet. If you hear something about a water department official, a prostitute, a crack house, and a city-owned vehicle, just remember that the Kage semi-reported it first.)

Anyway, Mike runs a little place not far from Comerica Park called the Harmonie Café, the only restaurant I’ve ever been in that’s smaller than my kitchen. Literally. I counted. It seats nine people – the counter seats five and two little tables by the window seat two apiece. But Mike makes a pretty good cheeseburger, and - if the signs are to be believed - Detroit’s most-wanted Philly cheese steak.

I was actually more entertained by the café’s other advertisements, like the one for “Chicken and Waffles” pictured here. There’s also one for “Jive Turkey Burgers” and another for “Kool-Aid”. (That’s the Kool-Aid jug on the left side of the photo.) 

(Editor's note: The information above is all true, and despite your suspicions, none of it was pulled from an old episode of "What's Happening?" The Harmonie Cafe is a real place. Seriously.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Washington Boulevard: This is the Street that Dave Built

Before he bolted for warmer air, Dave worked a construction job on Washington Boulevard downtown. Remember that huge, stupid-looking red thing that used to run up one side of the road? It looked like monkey bars for really big people. The city eventually realized it was silly and got rid of it; we can thank Dave, at least in part, for tidying up afterwards. 

Washington Boulevard is one of the nicest stretches downtown nowadays, home to the newly refurbished Book-Cadillac Hotel. If rumors have it right, other renovations are in the works, including the Book Tower on the other side of the street. (More on that building some time soon; it’s really cool looking. I saw them power-washing it the other day – and I thought doing my old deck was a pain!)

Anyway, as you can tell by the sign pictured here, many of the businesses lining Washington don’t cut any corners when it comes to marketing. I was over there a few weeks ago and when I saw this sign, I figured he would appreciate it. Dave likes himself some misspelled food as much as the next guy. In honor of that…

This is the Street that Dave Built

This is a sign

That hangs on the window

Of a store that sells “sanwiches”

That Dave would’ve bought

When he went to get chew

On a break from his backhoe

That he used to fix pipes

That run through the ground

Under the street that Dave built.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Detroit’s famous Eight Mile Road came to be

Jaybird asked me one time, “Hey Dad, why do they call it Eight Mile?” I don’t remember what I told him, but I guarantee it wasn’t helpful.

The other day, I stumbled across the answer.

Walking through Campus Martius Park to check out the skating rink and Christmas tree, I noticed some nice brickwork on the ground right in front of Au Bon Pain. A large medallion in a circle of concrete is set in the middle of what looks like compass points made of red brick. Words are engraved that explain the whole story.

“After the fire of 1805, Judge Augustus B. Woodward was appointed to lay out a new plan for the streets, squares and lots of Detroit. It is from here, at Judge Woodward’s survey point in the center of Campus Martius, that the City of Detroit’s street system originated. This spot is Detroit’s point of origin.”

And as a result, five miles north of Campus Martius they built a road and cleverly called it Five Mile Road. No word on why the "mile road" references don’t go below five, but those streets were included in the layout. “Four Mile” is Schoolcraft Road, “Three Mile” is Plymouth Road, “Two Mile” is Joy Road, and “One Mile” is Warren Avenue. Michigan Avenue, turning into Ford Road in Dearborn, is “Zero Mile”. By my estimation, West Road would be “Negative 14 Mile Road”.