Posted by jdg | 1:07 PM | , , , , ,

At her own request, Juniper is a mermaid: the "Queen of the Sea." Her brother, also at her request, is a merman: Poseidon, the "King of the Sea." My wife made the costumes from scratch, including Juniper's shirt. I made him a beard, but it only made him angry. I don't have any long sea voyages coming up, but decided it was still unwise to anger King Poseidon. I managed to snap a couple pictures before he ripped it off, and I'll post those to the main site soon.

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Sunset at the Packard Plant, Part II

Posted by jdg | 10:50 AM

I just turned the camera away from yesterday's shot and caught this tree aflame with sunlight. Then, a minute later, everything on this side of the factory went dark.

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The former Packard automobile plant is Detroit's most vast abandonment, in some places stretching for over a mile of interconnected buildings. Here the sun sets through one of the many giant trees on its roof.

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If the angles in this photo seem a little weird, it's because they are. This is artist Allan Wexler's "hypar room," with a floor built to the shape of a "hyperbolic paraboloid" at the Unmuseum of the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center. It was a lot of fun watching the kids trying to navigate this space, particularly Mr. Confident Crawler here.

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Gram at eight months

Posted by jdg | 9:46 AM | , ,

Set this boy down in the center of any room and he will find the straightest and most economical path to any (1) power cord; (2) electrical outlet; (3) small choking hazard thrown on the floor by his sister (in that order).

I wish I could just attach a bungie cord to his belt and tie the other end to the ceiling. He'd still probably find a way to get into trouble.

He did eat an entire avocado the other day. I was proud of him. I didn't taste an avocado until I was in my twenties.

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High Life

Posted by jdg | 10:43 AM

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Wendell in the mud

Posted by jdg | 9:18 AM |

I really, really hate it when he does this. It wasn't even hot out this time.

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At this point I have a whole series of abandoned homes in Detroit being completely taken over by vegetation.

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Another boarded-up Boston Edison mansion

Posted by jdg | 11:05 AM

Just down the street from the mansion posted yesterday, this is a tudor-craftsman (I think) from the 1920s with VPS metal modular window coverings. Former home of Edward L. Baker, onetime Postmaster General of Detroit, the mansion is currently for sale for only $85,000.

More about the neighborhood here, including history of famous residents and current homes for sale. Just remember, you have to heat them in the winter (if they still have all their pipes).

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Vacant mansion, Boston Edison neighborhood

Posted by jdg | 10:08 AM

When we were first looking at neighborhoods in Detroit, my wife was kind of obsessed with the idea of buying an old mansion in Boston Edison, a neighborhood of stately homes built by the early auto barons and other Jazz Age tycoons. My wife has always wanted a "house with a name" and even at that time you could buy a 6,000 foot castle with a 3-bedroom carriage house for $270,000. Before we decided to leave San Francisco we hastily backed out of a contract on a $560,000 780-square-foot condo in the Lower Haight (a teenager was shot and killed on the same block the night we signed that contract!), so her thoughts on real estate were skewed a bit by that insane Bay Area market.

We still love the neighborhood and I really think it's amazing how the residents have banded together in the current crisis, mowing the lawns of foreclosed homes and parking their cars in other driveways to make vacant homes look occupied. Still, there are the tell-tale plywood and anti-scrapper windows on some of these beautiful old homes. Some of them, like this one on the edge of the neighborhood, are very Miss Havisham.

Some enterprising person should try to rent one of these and throw a kick-ass Grey Gardens party where no one is admitted without a head scarf.

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I woke up in a cold sweat the other day realizing that this baby boy is growing so big and I had yet to dress him in the lime-colored seersucker country & western leisure suit that I found at the thrift store a few months before he was born. I'll try to post a photo of the huge embroidered horse on the back of the jacket later today.

It's so weird having a child who actually grows out of its clothing.

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On Belle Isle

Posted by jdg | 9:44 AM | , , ,

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A New Horizon

Posted by jdg | 11:49 AM

I wonder if someone would call CPS if they saw me wearing a kid in a bjorn while picking through that rubble for the Pewabic tiles.

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I spent a few hours walking around the Palmer Park neighborhood, a large collection of extraordinary Moorish art deco and Bauhaus apartment buildings that were inhabited by a large gay population until the 1980s when most of them fled north of 8 Mile for the lovely bungalows of Ferndale. That's how bad the situation in Detroit is: even the gays live in the suburbs. The park itself straddles Woodward Avenue and the old neighborhood, and is apparently still a hangout for gay and transsexual prostitutes ("there was a lot of "Stay away fags!" graffiti). I spent a couple hours in the neighborhood without seeing any other white people, and most passerby looked at me like I had three heads. One little boy on a bike yelled at me that what I was doing (taking pictures of apartment buildings) was "illegal."

When I was taking pictures of the plants growing in the non-functioning Merrill Fountain, these girls asked if I would take their picture. I agreed and within 2 seconds they had positioned themselves in this wonderful pose on the fountain.

I promised to e-mail them a copy, but only one of them (the girl in the pink jacket) had an e-mail address. But nobody had a pen. "It's okay," she said. "You keep it. Someday it will be worth MONEY."

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Her castle

Posted by jdg | 9:22 AM | , ,

She's running through the main hall at the Detroit Institute of Arts. A couple months ago I let my membership to the museum lapse so we've been going on Fridays (when city residents get in free) but I just won a membership in a photo contest so we've been going on other days when the museum isn't as busy. I try to keep her quiet and respectful for the most part but when there is hardly anyone around I let her chase down echoes.

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Princess Party

Posted by jdg | 10:38 AM | ,

The neighbor girl had a princess party. With a pony.

We talked a lot all day before the party. "But what do princesses do?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't think princesses do anything. I think that's the whole point."

We went through her dress-up clothes and found whatever had the most tulle. I even painted her fingernails and toenails. As much as I've tried to distract her from the princess industrial complex, I don't have a heart of stone.

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The Quo Vadis was Detroit's premier suburban movie palace. Designed in the early 1960s by Detroit's own Minoru Yamasaki (the architect who created the World Trade Center), it had an amazing plush futuristic/Roman theme with a cocktail lounge where patrons were given headphones to watch movies at the drive-in theater next door (torn down in 1985 to build a shopping center that is now empty). SNWEB's photographs of the interior (taken either with permission or on an exploration trip) are sad and wonerful. The two-screen theater closed in 2002 and is scheduled to be demolished this year to build a strip-mall-style fitness center that will probably be abandoned and torn down within 20 years.

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The park in front of the long-abandoned Michigan Central Station serves as a rest stop for a few hundred Canadian geese. It was a sunless day and their coloring seemed as gloomy as the building behind them. If they head south from this point, they will cross the Detroit River right back into Canada.

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Smoke Break

Posted by jdg | 11:38 AM | , , ,

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Michigan News Agency

Posted by jdg | 10:34 AM | , ,

The Michigan News Agency opened its doors in 1947. Owner Vincent Malmstrom ran the store in downtown Kalamazoo for many years, and his daughter Dean Hauck took over the business and expanded the small store to sell over 6,000 magazine titles, a large selection of books (including anything published by local authors), cigarettes, candy, and soda. The store is open every day of the year from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It's the kind of place I'd love to take people who love strip malls and big box chain stores when I have trouble getting through to them with my latte-and-arugala-fueled yuppie rants about the joy of independent businesses.

I used to skip church as a kid and run across the street to spend all of Sunday morning looking at comic books and Mad Magazine here, picking out candy, and watching the creepy guys come in to peruse the porno mags. Ms. Hauck never yelled at me that this wasn't a library. I walked into this store the other day and the sound of her voice and the smell of fresh periodicals and pipe tobacco hit me like a Proustian madeleine.

Every month my dad would drive downtown to pick up his copy of Hemmings Motor News here. He insisted that they got it before anyone else, so he never subscribed. As I grew older I moved on from the comic books and Mad Magazine to the real books and the real magazines. I would go with my dad and sometimes he would let me add something to the bill. He would buy Necco Wafers and hand them to me and my sister one by one on the way home. I spent so many hours in this store. It is a fine place for anyone who loves to read.

Ms. Hauck has always hired college students to work in the store, young kids who play cool music on the stereo and bring home outdated magazines for their friends. She fired my friend Sebastian on the day he graduated, telling him she only employs college students. At the time we thought this was illegal, done only so she wouldn't have to pay him for full-time work. I have since wondered if she didn't do it as a gesture of love, a way of saying: "Get out of here. Go out in the world. You have a degree now. Loafing about a bookstore is no job for you."

But it sure is a great way to spend a chunk of your childhood.

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