Day 4: way too much Michigan

So much for my little “side trip” into Michigan.  It ended up taking pretty much the whole day.  But it was a great time — lots of photos, lots of traffic.  Glad I did it but now we’re definitely behind schedule.  Might mean Western Kansas has to get scrapped.  We shall see.

Not so great for the dogs who got a lot more sleeping & less exercise than usual.  But at Day 4, they didn’t seem to mind as much.  Tomorrow, we’ll be back in the middle of nowhere a lot where I can let ’em run.

Since it’s after 1:30am, let’s cut the chit-chat and get right to it.

Great signs at a Toledo barber shop:



I did a bit of posing with the dogs at the giant Uncle Sam at the Michigan/Ohio border.  I put a picture over at the agilitynut flickr account:

I was also trying to get a photo of Grem’s newest trick “Where’s Your Boyfriend” but unfortunately Nik insists on laying down everywhere on this trip — thinking that’s the code for “throw something”.  So instead of looking like she’s hugging him, she looks more like she’s humping him.  Damned cute anyway.


Here’s another shot where at least you can see the hugging aspect — but you also see Grem’s far-away look — like maybe she might just jump off the 50 foot tower and be free-FREE! at last.  And Nik anticipting the cheese for tolerating this nonsense.


Must include the rocket which is at the very same fireworks place as the Uncle Sam:


Today’s high calorie snack — hey, it’s vacation — leave me alone!  I posted photos of the sign & building over at the agilitynut flickr stream.  By the way, perhaps the best peanut donut I’ve ever had.  And I’ll admit to having had my share.   Roadside mavens, yes, that’s the Fisk Tire Boy in the background which is just down the road from this place.  If you can make him out through the passenger window’s nose schmear.


I believe this former station buried behind weeds and crap in Detroit was originally a Sinclair:


More Detroit stuff or more or less.  Could be some suburbs — too wiped out to verify — but I think technically all of these are within city limits.  Here’s an abandoned billboard that looks as old as time (1940s?):


Advertising for a store that doesn’t exist anymore:


A chop suey place that doesn’t exist anymore either:


And one across the street that sorta does.  I think.  Maybe.  Must have been quite nice looking in its day:


A Dairy Queen sign that’s had text removed & bulbs added:


I just love the urban-ness of Detroit & vicinity.  Very much like Chicago.  New York’s got none of this funky feel, no hidden treasures, no preservation through benign neglect.  I feel quite at home even in the skankiest of neighborhoods.  Everybody seems very nice to me — maybe I exude friendliness or confidence or craziness.  I am dressed about an inch above homelessness most of the time.  The dogs get me pretty dirty & I’m not changing clothes just to take pictures.

I had my first bad reaction, I think, to this very prominent new camera.  I asked at Elmer’s Hambugers if I could take a picture inside — very cute in there with lots of stainless steel (not the fake chromey type) and low stools.  The woman took one look at my camera and asked “what’s it for?” in the surliest tone.  I replied “oh, it’s just for me” which is my stock answer.  She said “No.”  Flat no.  No explanation — I was sort of shocked.  So I repeated “No?” like a confused, half-frightened kid.  And she flatly said again “No.”  What a conversation we had.   I don’t think my little Olympus would have been as unwelcome.  I think she thought I was the Detroit paper doing an expose on filthy restaurants or something. 

I assume the bulbs in this one had an animated flickering fountainy effect.  Still a nice sign even in this raunch condition:


And lastly, in no particular order or theme tonight, an apparently mid-century embossed plastic facade.  Love it.  This one’s in Flint, MI:


That’s that —  2:15am dammit.  Tomorrow’s goal is to wrap up by midnight & get more sleep.

17 thoughts on “Day 4: way too much Michigan

  1. I’m so glad you captured some of Detroit! The city is fascinating and so totally beat. What a great trip so far! Take care–

  2. I know someone in Kansas who is going to be disappointed if you don’t make it her way… great post today, I don’t know how you can do all you do in a day! The donut shot is amazing!

  3. Rick: Now, where is “she” in Kansas — Lucas? The donut was as amazing as it looked. Fluffy, crunchy, non-greasy. Though, don’t get me wrong — nothing bad about a greasy donut either!

    Gale: I love Detroit. Been many times but always new things I find out about that I want to see there. I could spend a whole summer shooting there easily.

  4. I recently had a “no” experience myself when asking if I could take a photo of the interior of a place, and was I surprised as well! I actually don’t ask too often because this is the answer I’m afraid to get, and well, I got it. The gentleman said that the owner had a bad experience with someone who used the place for a movie, and he didn’t want any photos taken. It was such a gem – maybe you’ve been there? and if not you should, the Dana Luncheonette in Lowell MA (I will be writing about it on Retro Roadmap very soon) – and I swear the next time I’m in the area I’m going there with a sketchpad and pencils to document the wonderfulness of the place!

  5. We all need to carry little spy cameras! Our DSLRs cause these people so much anxiety. Big camera = big trouble in their minds.

    • Yeah — big camera = reporter and most of the time, something nasty. Or they’re just afraid if the photo shows up someplace their boss / the owner will freak and fire them.

  6. Agreed: little spy cameras are key.

    Had a credit card sized digital that tho’ very lo-rez, few ever took seriously.

    Build some super cam inside an old Kodak 126 Instamatic body and let a smile be your umbrella . . .

    Thanks for all the cool pictures & stories.

    • Kevin</b: Hmm. Now there's a good idea — like a Porsche engine in a VW. And the way things are going, in 5 years cell phone/Ipod cameras will be as good as my new megamachine. And you'll be able to put every photo you've ever taken on a memory card the size of your small fingernail. Things CAN get too small fer chrissakes. I have to worry about how quickly my dogs can swallow. When they see me reaching rapidly for something they assume food has dropped & they don't bother with the sniff test.

      Glad you are enjoying my blog.

  7. It’s funny b/c one of the reasons I like my little Canon powershot is exactly because it doesn’t look intimidating to folks, but I’ve gotten some great photos out of it! Back when I used my 35mm I think people thought I was up to something when I was taking photos of old buildings, signs and randomness, but now with everyone blogging and snapping photos all over the place, I just kinda blend in.

    Ah, Kodak 126, my first camera!

    • modbetty: Me and Olympus go way back — my very first camera as a teen. Which I dropped in the Pacific. It was hard switching brands — I feel traitorous. But yeah, I think the thing to do is make-believe talk on the cell phone & wait til no one’s looking then snap-snap-snap. Then go get the big camera & see if they mind. I have learned not to ask banks if I can take a couple quick photos “just for me” — I get a big fat NO WAY. Don’t know if it’s 9-11 mentality or banking commission legislation or what. But now I just, well with my less conspicuous camera, I would just sort of carry it between my hand & leg and wait til everyone’s head is down & snap/snap (no flash of course) and leave just short of running. I feel like a sniper — but we gotta do what we gotta do. I don’t know if it’s an arrestable offense. Hope not! I would hope playing dumb would be enough since there aren’t any signs posted.

  8. No preservation through benign neglect. Love that use of words!…Canon G10 – fantastic results and doesn’t look like a scary camera. But not enough telephoto for you I know. Don’t think I took a snap for you of the G10’s pink flowered-covered cosmetic bag camera case. With that hanging round my neck no London mugger even thinks it’s worth stealing – another advantage. … Oh dear I didn’t know there WERE such things as peanut donuts. Didn’t have them in my U.S. childhood days. I will have to FIND one next time I go ‘home’ to viist my brother!

    • Our lousy economy might just preserve some old signs and buildings for a few more years. No money to replace them with plastic boxes or put up new condos. I don’t use telephoto that much — but once in a while for some building details. I priced them in the thousands for this camera so I’ll be waiting a few years for that. The 15-105mm gets me pretty much what I need. Peanut donuts are most of the time pretty awful — like the peanuts are old and not crunchy. But that one was perfect. Most of the time, donut places just stick the peanuts on chocolate or maple icing — which is fine, too. I like nuts in everything.

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