J.J. Grandville

April 27, 2018

For the past few years, I’ve been doing some serious research into the life an work of  J.J. Grandville.  This post will be the first of several.  His work is amazing.  Animals take on human postures, movements and attire.  Plants grow faces.  It’s a pre-surrealist fantasia where everything often seems to be upside-down, inside-out and backwards.

J.J. Grandville was a pseudonym.   It was an abbreviation of Jean-Jacques Grandville.  His full name was Jean Ignace Isadore Gerard Grandville.







Some of my 1980’s New York City Photos

March 31, 2018

A mosaic designed by artist Edward Meshekoff.  This building was an information center.  Playland is in the background.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, from above.



The Apollo Theatre on 125th Street.


Broadway and 95th Street.


ATLAS Screws, Bolts and Nuts.


The Statue of Liberty, circa 1984.




Other Detroit Buildings Which Have Recently Been Torn Down

February 27, 2018

On Martin Luther King Boulevard, 2013


On Martin Luther King Boulevard, 2015


On Martin Luther King Boulevard, 2013. This was torn down in 2017.

This abandoned building (above) stood next door to a hotel.  It was always architecturally interesting to me.  It looked like it was built in the 1800’s and I’m sure that it was a grand building in its day.  It was probably so badly damaged that it couldn’t have been saved easily.


The Barat House, demolished in October 2017

The Barat House was in good shape and it went down with some clamor and controversy.  The problem was that the Detroit Institute of Arts underground parking garage is unusable.  Combined with that, they share their parking lot with visitors to other nearby venues.  Thus, it was often parked out.  Now and then, I’ve planned on attending an event but ended up not doing so because there was no parking anywhere.  That said, I’m sorry that this building went.



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Torn down in 2017, on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

This building was always covered with graffiti and, occasionally art.  Some one put a sign on the second floor saying “Phone Inside.”

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I believe this was a former children’s day care center.  I loved that it had a tree growing inside of a metal climbing toy.  It may not be good for the tree but it’s an unusual sight.  This was not a great loss and it was likely not easily renovated.  Still, it seemed like an interesting building.


Torn down in 2017, on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Besides the Dexter Bar, this interesting building was also demolished last year.  It had good tile work and detailing up on top.   I wonder what stores and restaurants were here?

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Torn down on April; 12, 2017.  This was on Dexter Boulevard.

Last but not least, this abandoned church was torn down to make way for a new structure for Henry Ford Hospital.  A curious old diner and a bank also were taken away.  They saved the KFC.

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On Grand Boulevard, November 2016.  This was torn down in June of 2017.  I liked the red vines and the mystery sign.

The Dexter Bar

December 29, 2017

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July 2016

In October of this year, they tore down the old Dexter Bar.  It’s hard to find very much information about it.  I’ll do another post about it eventually, if I manage to locate any information.

It seems like just another neighborhood bar.  I haven’t found any evidence of  there being live music there.

I shot the following sequence of photos in May of 2017.  It was the one time that I actually got out on the street, walked up to it and got some close-up shots.



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I loved the tile work on this building.

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The bird’s head had been knocked off.

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It Looked Good On Paper

November 30, 2017

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Here in Detroit, on Cass street, they’ve recently installed new bike lanes and middle-of-the-street-parking for the automobiles.  There are all these little green-striped poles everywhere, to guide people.  It’s confusing and dangerous.  Maybe someday they’ll dismantle this mess and redesign the street.

It’s horrible for the bus riders and, probably, for the bus drivers.  For one thing, there are only about two-thirds of the bus stops that there used to be.  It seems as if they’ve cut the amount nearly in half.  One bus driver told me “They did it for you.”

I don’t see how.  If there’s any increase in bus speed and efficiency, I’ve yet to see it.  I suppose they’re thinking that less bus stops will make the buses run better.  Yet that’s not the situation here on the ground.  After they got rid of my bus stop, I had to start using a new one.  On my very first trip, under the new system, I found the bus stop sign flattened.  This seemed to be an omen, not just a sign.

I used to be able to get to a mail box, mail my letters and still catch a bus.  I can’t do that anymore.  If I walk to the nearest mail box, the new system puts me at serious risk of missing my bus.  That’s just the half of it.  These so-called “little inconveniences” tend to pile up.

I recently saw a car stalled out in the street near Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.  A bus and about twenty cars had to go through a lot of fancy moves to get around it.  That car likely caused a few more traffic jams there, before it got moved.

The primary problems seem to be a sense of disorientation and the creation of many new blind spots.

The disorientation may be intentional.  Perhaps the designers thought that by creating confusion, they can get people to driver more slowly and more cautiously.

If this is so, I believe that any good effects are cancelled out by the blind spots.  As a pedestrian, I have to walk around a lot to see what’s coming.  It’s more difficult to see around corners.

They seem to have done it for the bicyclists.  Yet some of the bikers that I know, hate it. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that the bicyclists also suffer from serious blind spots which it harder to pedal through in safety.   If you use the Cass bike lanes, do you like it?

Maybe the planners designed it for the motorists, but I doubt it.  Parking in the middle of the street had to be unsafe.  I don’t drive, yet it seems obvious that when cars are parked in the middle of the street, it makes it harder to see around them in order to see the oncoming traffic.  There are likely other blind spots for motorists as well.  If you drive and park on Cass, do you like it?

I can only hope that not that many people are killed, seriously injured or merely hurt due to this strange design.  I bet that it looked  good on paper.


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A Tribute to Tuesday, the Peahen

October 17, 2017

Tuesday, the Peahen, 2016.

What happened to Tuesday the peahen?  I’ve not seen her in over two months now.

We hope that she was taken by peacock fanciers and is having a good time on some peacock farm somewhere.  There were other tribes of peafowl in Detroit, besides the one on my block.  Maybe there still are.

It’s doubtful that she died of natural causes.  The lifespan for peafowl ranges from 15 to 40 years.  I think that she was between 15 and 20 years old.

Hopefully, nothing bad happened to her.  Someone said that they saw a coyote.  There are also dogs, cats and other animals around.   She’d have given any attacker a good fight.  If they ganged up on her or caught her unawares, she may have lost the fight.  I hope not.  I also hope that no people had any part in her demise.

I remember when she was just a chick.  There was a flock of baby peafowl.  She was the one who survived.  This was likely due to a mix of toughness and of luck.  I saw her grow up and, eventually, she was the only one left.  Tuesday is the last of a curious and storied tribe of Detroit peacocks and peahens.

She had a lot of personality and was often very funny.  She had a nice gait and her head bobbed up and down as she walked.  She liked to sit on cars.  Sometimes I’d give her peanuts, which she especially enjoyed.   Sometimes she’d come running toward you, in hopes that you were giving out food and she could move pretty quickly.

She’d also prowl around, looking for bugs and other treats.  She roamed the whole area.  She’d turn up everywhere.

Sometimes she’d make a lot of noise.  She’d honk, whoop and holler some.  More rarely, I’d catch her nesting or spreading her tail feathers into a fan.

At night, she’d often sleep in her favorite spot in her favorite tree.  She had an elaborate means of getting there.  This included some climbing, some hopping and a little flying.  She used someone’s house as a sort of ladder.  We’d see her up there sleeping, rain or shine.  She’s even be there in some very cold weather.

I don’t know how she survived some of those rough Winters.  Maybe some of my neighbors helped her.  On hot Summer days I’d put out little trays of water for her.

I don’t really care about any of the other animals or pets that live on the block now.  She was the only one that I liked.  So long as my neighbor’s animals don’t attack me or keep me up at night with their noise, I can either take them or leave them.  It must be nice to have a pet, in ways.

The only animals around that I like are the wild ones, especially the migratory birds.  I like to see them bouncing around the trees and to hear their morning songs.

Some of the squirrels are pretty funny too, but I wouldn’t let one in my house.

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Tuesday, up sleeping in her tree.



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Have You Seen this Bird?

September 8, 2017

Tuesday, the peahen

Many strange birds end up on Fourth Street, here in Detroit.  I used to joke that they were flying by, stopped at the block and decided that they liked it!  Actually,  I think some of my neighbors and former neighbors are bringing them in.

Tuesday, the peahen, was born in my backyard.  She’s the last of a tribe of peafowl who once lorded over the block.  She’s named Tuesday because she was born on a Tuesday.  She’s very funny at times and has a lot of personality.

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In a rare pose with her tail-feathers fanned out.

She’s gone missing before, but there are usually some signs of her. So far it’s been close to three weeks since I last saw her, sometime in mid-August.

One possibility is that she’s hiding somewhere, nesting.  She’s done this occasionally. With no peacock around, the eggs are not going to hatch.

Hopefully, this is what’s happened.

The other possibilities include bird-napping.  She might have been stolen. If so, send us a ransom note, or let us know that she’s OK.

Then too, there’s a history of violence against birds on our block. They can make a lot of noise.  Some people get upset if a large bird is sitting on their car.

Several birds seem to have been killed outright.  One peacock was shown on the front page of a local paper, with an arrow through his neck. Amazingly, he survived.  The injury may have contributed to his death a year are two later.  Let’s hope that Tuesday, the peahen was not attacked.



Have you seen this bird?  If so, let me know.

I keep looking up at the tree she slept in, but she’s never there.

If it does prove that she’s gone, if she never returns then I’ll write a further remembrance of her.  Let’s hope that she turns up healthy and as strange as ever.

Update: Today, August 10th, one neighbor says that she’s seen her in the last ten days.  That’s good news.  Everyone else hasn’t seen Tuesday in 3 to 4 weeks.  Maybe she’s just being shy or reclusive.



Supplemental material, this bird is similar:





Tuesday the peahen’s footprints.


New York Fire Escapes, July 2017

September 7, 2017


I’ve always loved images of fire escapes and their shadows.  Once in awhile, the fire escape itself is especially interesting.  More often, it’s the play and position of the sun. This can create some lovely patterns and compositions.

New York City is full of great fire escapes.  Some of them, are quite old and have a lot of character and style.


If you click on a photo, and then backspace, you can enlarge them and then return to the page.









A previous and related post:


New York City, July 2017: Museums!

August 14, 2017

Last month, Jennifer Gariepy and I took the Greyhound bus from Detroit to New York City.  It’s always a long haul, but the return trip was nicer than the trip out.  Among other things, a belligerent drunk got kicked off of the bus (“I want my charger!  Who took my charger!”)

The New York Public Library

On Monday,  July 17, we started with the Main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, the Steven A. Swarzman Building.  It’s good to check your travel-bags for a while and to walk around, lighter. We spent a good while there.  It’s a lovely building.  There were displays on Love in Venice, Italy, and on old airline maps.  There was also a collection of vintage Winnie the Pooh dolls.  These were the actual stuffed toys owned by A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin.  After that, we walked around, ending up on 14th Street, then caught the subway to Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, July 18, we tried to find my grandfather’s old place on Baltic Street in Brooklyn.  It had been torn down to build a school. On the internet, it looked as  if it was still there.  Go see for yourself.

Then we got by the New York Transit Museum.  It’s in the same neighborhood.  It was pretty wonderful.  I’ll have to get by there again someday.  We were only there about half-hour and they closed for the day.  It’s built in an out-of-service subway station. There are old subway cars on the tracks.  You can go inside of them.  They also had vintage subway signs, ads and even a toll booth, as you can see. After that, we got back to Manhattan.  We wandered around, did this and that, and ended up at Canal Street.  We finished the day going through Chinatown and Little Italy.

At the New York Transit Museum

On Wednesday, July 19, we were mainly around the Chelsea and Meatpacking District areas.  A lot of galleries have moved there but we just got to one, to see a good  exhibit of work by Ray Johnson. He’s an interesting artist who was born and raised in Detroit.

Then we went  to the new Whitney Museum of American Art building. It was the first time I’ve been there.  There have open-air viewing decks where you can catch some breezes and see the city. Highlights included shows of work by Alexander Calder and Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica.  In the evening, we went and saw the band Les Sans Culottes play at the Footlight in the Ridgewood neighborhood in Queens. They played second as  part of a program with 4 bands.

At the Whitney Museum of American Art


Jennifer at the Whitney Museum of American Art


A Calder stabile at the Whitney Museum of American Art

On Thursday, July 20, we went to the Brooklyn museum we saw Infinite Blue, an exhibit related to the color blue.  Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party has been on display at this museum since 2007, so we saw that. There was also an excellent exhibit, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.  This show is strongly related to two exhibits currently on display here in Detroit, Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion at the Wright Museum and Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement at the DIA.

Then, we got to the Museum of Modern Art where we saw Making Space, Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction.  We were only there an hour or so, but we saw a lot.  The permanent collection is amazing. We also breezed through the Robert Rauschenberg show. The slurping mud pit and the robots were a surprise.  It included his work as a stage set designer, in collaboration with theatre and dance performances.  There were also films and posters related to New York City in the 1910’s.  It rained awhile, and the streets were shiny until it evaporated.  Speaking of the weather, it was a hot time in old New York.  Most days were in the mid to high 90’s.

The Brooklyn Museum


July 20, around 9pm

On Friday, July 21 we went to the Museum of the City of New York. There were good exhibits on salsa music in New York, protest and the 1980’s AIDS crisis.  To me, the most amazing show here was A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960.  I loved it.

We got to Central Park a bit, including the Conservatory Gardens, at around 105th street. Then we got to the  Metropolitan Museum of Art. We saw a lot of the permanent collection and the Irving Penn retrospective. We didn’t see as much as we wished because we had to catch the Greyhound back to Detroit.  After missing a year last year, it was good to be back.

It was nice to go around town with Jennifer.  Thanks too to New York friends, especially Bill Carney and Margie Catov.  It was great!

The Conservatory Gardens in Central Park

Monday,  July 17, the New York Public Library:





At  the New York Public Library, closes August 26:


the New York Public Library, closes September 11:


On Tuesday, July 18, the New York Transit Museum:



On Wednesday, July 19, a Ray Johnson exhibition and the Whitney:




Calder: Hypermobility, through October 23:


Hélio Oiticica, to Organize Delirium, through October 1:



On Thursday, July 20, the Brooklyn Museum and MOMA:


Infinite Blue:


The Dinner Party:


We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, Through September 27:



Making Space, Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction,  just closed:




Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends, through September 17:


On Friday, July 21, the Museum of the City of New York and the Met:

The Museum of the City of New York:


A City Seen: Todd Webb’s Postwar New York, 1945-1960, through September 4::



The Metropolitan Museum of Art:


Irving Penn centennial, closed:


The Conservatory Garden in Central Park:



A Celia Cruz Mural

If you click on a photo, and then backspace, you can enlarge them and then return to the page.

Detroit’s Fourth Street Fair 1969 (or so) to 2007

July 27, 2017

Ten years ago this month, Detroit’s Fourth Street held its final public block party.  That was in 2007.

I think that it started in 1969.  It could have been 1968 or 1970 though.  If I ever pin it down, I’ll note that here.

It was also known as the Positively Fourth Street Fair.  I never liked that because the Bob Dylan song Positively Fourth Street is pretty negative.  It’s a good song though.

I’ve performed there many times and helped with other things including planning and publicity.  There were plenty of other chores too, including 2 to 7 hours of clean-up on Sunday morning.  It wasn’t easy to put the fair on.

The fair ended for a number of reasons.  The same people put it on year after year and were getting burned out on the work.  The city was getting stricter that everything be authorized and licensed. They wanted us to dot every i and cross every T.  Then too, the character of the block was changing.  There’s a school on the block and another one nearby.  Some of the long-timers moved out and new people moved in.

I was sorry to see it go.  The fair was a unique and beautiful thing. If you never got to attend it, sorry.  If you did, you remember it.

From 2003 and 2005, from METRO TIMES archives and the late Sarah Klein:



From Detroit Yes:


There are a number of videos of the fair on youtube. If I find one that I especially like, I’ll post it.


My 2016 exhibition Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit included a section on the Fourth Street Fair: