Shabby Chic Karen

Shabby Chic Karen

Karen has owned Shabby Chic in Eastern Market for 16 years now. Her shop is one of those places you walk into and instantly want to move in. Style meets homeliness. The smell of a scented candle greeted us as we came in from the cold, making the whole experience even more delightful. The boutique sold everything from cushions, to carefully selected cards and ties. My favorite discovery was a pile of t-shirts which read “Detroit, the Paris of the Midwest.”

Beautiful Karen was surprisingly reluctant to have her photo taken.

Jon the Pointillist

Jon the Pointillist

I rode Blue Cindy, my fabulous turquoise-wheeled bike, across town to have tea with Jon Strand this afternoon.

Jon and I met a few weeks ago. He was walking Archie (pictured here looking up at his owner) and I was walking Alfie. Jon and I agreed that with such perfectly matching dogs, we’d better become friends.

Jon is a world-class pointillist. The pictures you see behind him are the result of thousands of hours spent meticulously painting dots. Local fans include the Detroit Institute of Arts, which owns two of his pieces.

Jon spent most of his childhood in Detroit and returned as a young man. He settled in the downtown area 37 years ago and has not moved away from it since. His stories, carefully recorded in over 90 volumes of diaries, are as vivid and colorful as his paintings.

Skating Dre

Skating Dre

Alfie and I were crossing a large abandoned lot when voices and laughter led us to a skatepark. One of those laughters belonged to Dre.

Dre has spent most of his last three years on a skateboard, he told me, and sometimes his skating has even led him to travel around the country.

Today, traveling for skating involved driving 45 minutes from Milford, Michigan, to come into the city. His three buddies came too.

Mary and Betty, my sources at the local retirement home, tell me the building behind Dre is set to be destroyed thanks to a new influx of federal funding.

Gill’s Paint Job

Gill's Paint Jon

Talk about having a paint job to do.

I think graffiti, murals and random messages tagged onto abandoned houses are some of my favorite things about Detroit. The city can feel quite empty when you are walking around and animated walls keep me smiling. Sometimes they even give me a sense of connection.

I took this picture on the way home from buying some ginger snap cookies this morning. Gill, the small figure on the left, is executing a master update of one of Eastern Market’s biggest facades. Vito and Will who are overseeing the process, were lurking in between cars, nearby. Funding for the update is coming all the way from the federal department of housing and urban development, they said.

Vito was walking around with a picture of what the original mural from 1970 looked like. He said they were going to go back to its original features, which were more cartoonish. Business pal Will nodded, but corrected Vito on the date.

“The original mural was done in 1969,” Will said.

“1970,” Vito retorted.

Nick in Denial at the Grand Trunk

Nick in Denial at the Grand Trunk

Perching atop a bar stool at the Grand Trunk in downtown Detroit, I leant across the counter and engaged my barman in conversation.

“So Nick, tell me what the deal is with Detroit men and all your beards?”

Don’t get me wrong. I am a great supporter of beards, it’s just I’ve noticed a solid three quarters of the men I meet here seem to have one. It’s become so normal, I’ve almost stopped noticing altogether.

Nick looked bashful. It only took him a moment to reply. “What do you mean all our beards?”

Batman of the Dequindre Cut

Batman of the Dequindre Cut

Tod is from Detroit, “born and raised,” he confirmed to me this morning. He has been doing security along the Dequindre Cut seven months now. “Trust me, I’m everywhere,” he told me when I asked about his patrolling techniques. “I’ll be here one minute, and the next thing you know, I’ll be over there.”

You could say he’s a bit like Batman in that way.

I am ashamed to say I met Tod pretty soon after my arrival. Alfie was illegally off leash and Tod rolled up and kindly asked me to put him back on. The same thing happened the next day. And the day after that. Eventually Tod made things clear, “you know I can see you on the security cameras, right?”

I blushed at my stupidity. He seemed forgiving. We’ve had good banter ever since.

Scott and the Spelt Bread

Scott and the Spelt Bread

Scott doesn’t just have an excellent beard. Scott also sells delicious bread. He sometimes eats it too. He got very excited when I took an interest in his spelt bread.

“The best way to have it is with melted cheese and fried up onions.” He paused before adding: “well that might be just me. I’m a bit different.”