The Gum Giant's Blog
The scourge of gum and graffiti on our buildings and sidewalks grows every day. But that doesn't mean humanity is doomed to a sticky, minty existence, covered in obnoxious scrawls. While I solve your property maintenance problems, enjoy some of these blog postings...

Vintage Bloggery - Issues 01-20

For a quick quote over the phone call (734) 255-6085 or email:


Blog Entry 036: Jan 5, 2016

Happy New Year

Thanks to everyone who supported blight removal, art, public service, ecological and planatary harmony and world peace this past year.

Keep up the good work. 2016 is a critical year of change. And Speaking of CHANGE...


TheGumGiant BLOG is on hiatus while being transferred to it's new home on Wordpress.

You may continue to send us your kind words and photos or inquire about services as usual!


Blog Entry 036: Nov 12, 2015

Citizen's Fight Back! With the A2FixIt App.

Here is a somewhat easy way to report graffiti, potholes and other quality of life issues around our city: The A2FixIt App.

For Apple iOS

There is also a place on the city's no-so-user-friendly website: here.

I don't like or use the app myself because it forces you to turn on your geo-location services which I do not normally do. If you choose not to, you can link directly to the SeeClickFix website and enter your complaint there. Many people I know who use it love it, and they use it frequently. Give it a try! You should know however that if you report graffiti on private property, it is likely that the building owner will receive a ticket from he city to clean it up. If the problem is not solved, and it is reported again, the city may fix it and bill the property owner. I don't think that it is fair to punish a building owner for being the victim of a crime. And yet, that is exactly where this leads. As if the cost of doing business in Ann Arbor is not already high enough. It has been my experience that the big chains are able to afford the repairs, while the small business owners are struggling to make it. Another instance of Ann Arbor City Policy leading to the homogenization of our city. It certainly is not helping to keep Ann Arbor Weird!

If you read that above Michigan Daily blurb about 2013's Prop B and are interested in Public Art and Public Weirdness, contact me and I will tell you all about my squashed appointment to the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission in 2013. It is all political, after all, because who knows more about public art than someone with a BFA degree, with 20 years design experience, who installs public art by day and prowls the streets by night removing unauthorized public "art"? I am talking about, of course...The Gum Giant.



Blog Entry 035: Nov 8, 2015

Quite the Before and After at Chartres Cathedral. Did they use a Magic Eraser or what?

As the above picture shows, the Before and After is a great way to see just how clean something can get. The people who are doing the restoration of Chartres cathedral in France are embroiled in a controversy over the radical cleaning, and painted surface restoration, that is designed to take the cathedral back to it's presumed original state, as built in 1225. Yes, that 1225, the Middle Ages. Now, there was no graffiti to remove that I was aware of, nor was there gum on the stone floors. There is however, 790 years of grimy buildup from candle smoke, incense smoke, oil-lamps, oil heaters, and several fires.

Famed for it's spectacular stained glass windows, it's labyrinth floor, and it's black Madonna, Chartres Cathedral is a major tourist destination, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the answer to many Art History 101 test questions. Known in France by it's proper name, Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, this magnificent structure was long overdue for a cleaning of some sort. Now, I am not a total neat freak outside of my work, in my own cathedral tours of Europe I was always amazed by the wear in the steps and floors, and moved by the spirit of so many who had passed the same way. I would even light a candle, watching my own earthly prayers rise up with the soot. But seeing the Black Madonna restored to middle-ages lilly-whiteness is a bit disturbing. Looks less like a venerated icon and more like a scary doll collection from Antiques Roadshow. That really takes the spirit out of things for me. Did they go too far with that one?

The arguments against the cleaning mostly fall along the line of "Time and the accretions of history should not be disturbed as it is an essential part of the structure.", "How do we know what it really looked like 800 years ago?", and "Those windows looked better when contrasted against the blackened walls". All good points. But you have to admit, that view of the vaulted ceiling is one heavenly Before and After shot. Much better than this:

Yet another decidedly earthly tag. That new anti-graffiti coating sure works great. That tag wiped right off the wall with a little mild cleaner and warm water. So respect the sanctity of the stage door, please, or risk being thrown into the Puits des Artistes-Faible. That is all.



Blog Entry 034: Nov 5, 2015

Graffiti Alley's foul twin about to get a long-overdue cleaning.

At long last the disgusting public spectacle of Seattle's GUM WALL is about to get a cleaning. In efforts that mirror owners concerns over Ann Arbor's Graffiti Alley, owners of the venerable Pikes Peak Marketplace in grungy Seattle, Washington are going to do the largest contiguous gum removal project in the history of the world.

copyright Seattle Times

The Seattle Times reports that the Gum Wall will be steam cleaned next Tuesday, November 10th, in an attempt to stop it's spread. Just as with Graffiti Alley, the gawkers, hipsters, tourists and curious in Seattle have carried the experiment in public expression a bit too far. The Gum Wall has spread far past it's origins, crawling out like a sticky Blob to envelope the surrounding buildings and walkways. Too much fame and too little respect for private property, to say nothing of hygiene, had led to this cleaning. The owners say they are worried about the effect of the synthetic gum buildup on the integrity of the brick. I don't think this is really a cause for concern. But I can only imagine the floors of the surrounding shops. To be sure, this germy attraction needs to be reined in.

While The Gum Giant recognizes the aesthetic appeal of surfaces that exhibit years of natural accretions, I also respect the property owners concerns with the space. I have no doubt that, like Graffiti Alley, this public space attracts the worst of public behaviors along with it's deposits of gum. Like graffit alley, Seattle's gum wall has it's share of followers on Instagram.

It's not the only place this happens. Graffiti Alley has it's own gum spot, but San Luis Obispo has a double sided gum alley. It seems that the city has "embraced" this as inevitable.

Now, what music would The Gum Giant listen to, to work on this horrible mess? How about something sticky, steamy and frustrated in it's rhythmic resolution, like Plastic People by Four Tet. Or maybe I should go to an old standby, and start out listening to the Atoms for Peace remix of Four Tets' Pyramid, then once I got behind the gum with my scrapers and steam and started to make real progress, I would get it on with this original mix of Pyramid. This was my 2012 pickup-the-groove track of the year and still holds up. Would you like a piece of Trident?


Blog Entry 033: Oct 17, 2015

MLive hypes vandalism, refuses to change headline.

In the flurry of articles leading up to the Michigan/Michigan State game MLive through in this one: some idiot from MSU spray painted on the Burton Memorial Tower - the Bell Tower for you old timers. I take offense with the headline "Michigan State graffiti spotted on U-M campus" That is not graffiti, it is vandalism.

As long as the media continues to call obnoxious tagging graffiti we will never be able to have a real dialog about the difference between Street Art/Graffiti and Tagging/vandalism. Regular Gum Giant Blog reader and MLive commentator JamesJefferson sums it up nicely in the comments:

"Please change the headline: this is not graffiti, it is vandalism, the same as any other juvenile tagger spraying their name on private property. There is a difference between graffiti/street art and vandalism, and proper reporting is needed to help establish that difference. Remove the MLive UM/MSU hype factor, and call it like it is: destruction of property; I hope that the University uses the right methods for removal and it does not do permanent damage to that historic structure.

I guess only someone from Michigan State would have the disregard for porous stone and history to do such a thing...oh, wait, some numbnuts from Ohio State's geology department did it to some 10,000 year old petroglyphs this summer...birds of a feather I guess.."

Wow - can you believe some geology students would do this? Even from OSU this is shocking. That shows you the uphill battle we face in eradicating tagging from the face of the planet. Unless the mainstream media and youth culture stops glorifying this destructive behavior there will always be a demand for...


Blog Entry 032: Oct 10, 2015

Made In Detroit: Stupidity

Holy cow. It seems a Detroit judge cannot tell the difference between Street Art that enhances and beautifies a city, and taggers. ArtNet News carries the story of Shepard Fairey's recent arraignment in court on vandalism charges. I can understand wanting to make an example of a high-profile tagger, but you have the wrong guy.

Felon...or Artist? We need more murals and Public Art, and less tagging and vandalism. Can you tell the difference? Can a judge Google a defendants name?

I would be surprised if they can get the affected building owners to file the necessary complaints. If the city hadn't acted so hastily on removing those posters those buildings would have doubled their property value. It's a fine line between art and vandalism. But the line exists, and I think that any moderately informed person can make the distinction. I am reminded of Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote regarding 1st amendment rights afforded to adult art films in Jacobellis v. Ohio:

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

We know it when we see it, too. But justice in Detroit is especially blind. Just ask all those people who have had their water shut off by Ann Arbor's former public services administrator Sue McCormick, even while giant corporations like Ford Field collectively owe millions in past due water bills. Seems we have exported our penchant for growing the wealth gap to Detroit along with our washed-up administrators.


Blog Entry 031: Sept 27, 2015

Music can keep the soul alive, after a day of looking down alleys filled with graffiti and big piles of dog crap.

Yes, it's true. It seems that last night the NOEM/WRC/HS Asshats were back, and while they were busy tagging this wall on Washington they let their disgusting dogs run free and crap all over the alley. When they are caught, I will see to it that they get a just penalty for continuing to foul our streets. And I imagine that while they are in jail, their dog will be put down, which shouldn't bother anyone. After all, deer don't crap in our alleys, and City Council is paying a bounty of $900/each to have them killed.



Say, have I even told you how great J. Mascis is? Well, hear for yourself. Amazing style and that loner voice I love. Probably why I like The Meat Puppets so much - it's just all so real, no auto tune or "feat." Also the Power Trio is the best format for bringing out the real dynamic of music. Dino Jr. Meat Puppets Jimi Hendrix Experience Big Black The Jam Rush Primus Husker Du The Police Sleater-Kinney heck even The Beastie Boys were three - it's a magic number...

I had the great pleasure of seeing Mr. Mascis (compliments of WCBN) at The Blind Pig a few years ago, which meant an evening of watching him in the mirror - which is a surreal experience but one I am used to. I have seen many a great act in those mirrors...the show I saw was just J. and a guitar and a music stand sort of like this:

Speaking of great acts at The Blind Pig, for sure I will be found at the Arbco Records Halloween Show which features two of my favorite Arbco Artists, Counter Cosby and Scissor Now! YES!



Blog Entry 030: Sept 12, 2015

Why do I show tags?

I have been asked by more than one person: why do I show tags on my site? The theory is that graffiti taggers feed on the notoriety and status they get when their tags are given broad media coverage. First of all, I certainly don't count The Gum Giant blog as having broad appeal. Heck, I don't even know if anyone looks at this. If you are reading this, send me an email.

Secondly, these taggers get more attention from Main Stream Media like MLive, mostly because MLive hopes that graffiti is click-bait, an emotional or hot-button issue. It certainly doesn't rise to the standard of the old standbys like gun control . If you check out this link you will see a familiar face in the video around 3:30...that's right, I am a CPL holder. Why would I consider carrying a weapon? Maybe it's because I work in abandoned buildings and alleyways late at night. Maybe it makes it easier and more above-the-law when transporting firearms to the range. Maybe I want to be sure that I protect my right to protect my life. Or maybe it's nobody's business but mine, and the state and county gun boards, why I was issued a CPL. But I will say this: the open carry people are unnerving to be around, and this even extends to Law Enforcement Officers. It's is simply dangerous to have a deadly weapon introduced in a public setting. If there are 50 people in a room and Zero guns, the chances of getting killed by a gun are 0%. If there are 50 people in a room and one gun, the chances of getting killed by a gun just went to 50%. I don't especially like those odds, and neither should the public schools.

But back to the tags - I show tags so I can show you how I obliterated them. Like this:

As to why the color in my iPhone camera is so off in three pictures taken over 20 minutes I have no idea. Maybe I should shoot my iPhone?


Blog Entry 029: Sept 9, 2015

Daddy, why is that man sleeping in the bushes?

Punks in parks, whaddya gonna do? Ann Arbor is too tolerant of graffiti, and waaay too tolerant of the travelers and street-types. I am not talking about genuine homeless here, for that discussion I refer you to Peter Bagge's excellent piece for Reason Magazine (adult topics and content). Even if you are not a fan of comix style, it is a must read. Anyway, the majority of our bums spend all day loitering downtown, where ogling and hassling women seems to be their big sport, when they are not getting into knife fights. They write graffiti on the sidewalks where they sit...

...and on the walls near their favorite begging sites. They sleep in these near downtown neighborhood "public" areas, and leave behind their filth, empty bottles, cans, wrappers and "medical" marijuana containers; to wit: seen here as found on the hill up from the Bach mural debacle:

blunt wrapper

Instead of complaining I should be positive and offer solutions. OK, here is one possible solution. Stop letting Medical Marijuana dispensaries proliferate and operate freely without restrictions in Ann Arbor, like CM Briere and her political donors from the Grow industry want. (Briere's big campaign donors are Medical Marijuana, Downtown Development, and Polluter Chuck Gelman) So much weed is slipping out the back doors of these places it's ridiculous. Why feed the lay-about drug habits of jobless losers? Stop pretending that the majority of buyers are there for actual medical reasons, when it is closer to 10%. It is almost purely recreational use being sold. Tax it, and fix the roads, but don't pretend you support medical marijuana for purely compassionate reasons.

Here is another possible solution. For YEARS the city council has been supposed to be in closer relations with the schools. In fact there is a city council/AAPS committee, which never meets. There should be a way for residents to get city resources and school resources towards maintaining these spaces, akin to the city's Adopt-A-Park system. This should cover graffiti removal tools, lighting, free brush drop-off and wood chips from the MRF, etc. to create park environments that are safer and more family-friendly. And free of noxious graffiti. It's The GUM GIANT way.


Blog Entry 028: Sept 7, 2015

Unexpected effort to demoralize an especially obnoxious tagger turns into act of community good will

As I mentioned below, it has been pretty busy here at Gum Giant headquarters as summer winds down. I have been getting a lot of use from my surfacing tools, which do an amazing job of general deep cleaning of horizontal surfaces. I can do sidewalks, patios, stamped concrete, wood decks, inside or out (provided proper drains). See for yourself a single pass on this gross outdoor patio:

Beyond that, I have been booking a lot of building maintenance, which are mostly small jobs, which sometimes leave me an hour or two at the end of the day. Friday was a day like this, so after I had completed my work, I took a glance at the local "paper" MLive. I was horrified to see this article about a mural in Bach School playground being entirely covered by an obnoxious tag. So I grabbed a 5er of ProBlock and went over to cover the tag. On my way across the bridge I thought maybe I should try to remove it so I went back for my gear. I did a few test patches and it looked like it was going to work.

Call the Gum Giant!

The rest of the story can be found in this follow-up article. But it goes like this - I worked until sundown Friday (about 4-8) and Saturday from about 10-3 using a kind neighbors water supply. I favored saving the mural over removing the graffiti paint, so it came out sort of spotty and could use some more detailed touch-up. I hope the artist can do that, because I did this for free and it also used 3 gallons of cleaner at $75/gallon. If th AAPS wants to pay for a more through cleaning they can hire me, otherwise, I think a touch-up or re-paint is in order. But at least the tag is gone.

...Softening.....going away...

...mostly gone, good enough I guess.

The best part of this job by far were the kind words the neighbors had for me, some kids even left this note on my windshield in a bag in the rain. How can one not help out a neighborhood some way? If everyone cared more for others than themselves, the world would be a better place.

...that's the mural, get it? No need to thank the always vigilant Gum Giant !


Blog Entry 027: Sept 5, 2015

Busy Busy

It has been a busy few days, but before I go into all of that, I want to show you this:

A few weeks ago I was cleaning the sidewalks downtown in preparation for gum removal - you can see in the photos they need it. I was using my new surfacing tool which works great, people would demand more sidewalk cleaning if they could see the dirt that flows off the sidewalks - for example:

Well the very next day after I cleaned the sidewalks some jerk from spray-painted a stencil advertisement in the middle of the sidewalk! Completely illegal, and pretty bold. They must think this location has the right kind of traffic for their business, and they might be right. But that does not excuse this defacing of public property. I contacted the 1-800 number associated with and spoke with a woman out of state, who had never heard of such a thing, but took my message. About an hour later I got a call from the "local rep" for the company, who told me he was "told by a judge" this was OK to do. "Was it Chris Easthope?" I shot back, only to be met with stammers. I assured this person that it was not acceptable, that it had been turned into Community Standards, and that they better clean it up. He told me he would send someone down to clean it off, but it stands to this day.

But not for long - I have been contacted by a building owner who requests this affront to the public-right-of-way be removed, and I will be honoring his request. And I will be sending my bill to



Blog Entry 026: Sept 4, 2015

Tear Down that Wall!

In an earlier blog post I spoke about my contempt for the city process that lets derelict buildings sit for so long. Well, I am back on that warpath with another building, this time in the heart of downtown. This building at 212 S. State...

...which is actually sort of closer to either Washington or Liberty... needs to go. I have been saying it for about a year, since the rest of the roof collapsed. Before that I thought maybe it was OK to have a bit of derelict space in the downtown, if only to lord it over people like certain DDA board members who have no idea it even exists; sort of a people's clubhouse. But now it has to go, as the graffiti is creeping out and onto adjacent buildings. So I sent these PDFs to city council, the City Attorney, the Assistant City Attorney, and the City Administrator. Happily for me, this email was preceded by my running into local power walker and Ann Arbor native Stephen Postema (the City Attorney) while I was cleaning up graffiti and gum on the public sidewalk for a customer, right across the street from said dump.

Well imagine my surprise when about a week later I saw this article in MLive - Praise Bob! they are forcing this developer to tear it down. I cannot take credit for this kill, but I will say my squeaky wheel approach to city governance seems to help.


Blog Entry 025: Sept 2, 2015

Free Press for Rebecca and a good idea to boot!

Happy to report that the mural project I helped with has received some free publicity courtesy of the MLive article. It's not the greatest article or even particularly well-researched, since Rebecca tells me that she never spoke to reporter Ryan Stanton about it before it went to press. Still, it answers the question what is up with all these trees? And it has more photos than I could be bothered to print, and a link to her website, which really does a great job of explaining the idea behind these murals. Nice to see her getting some press, I heard she got an "A" for the assignment, too.

My sour grapes? No mention of me at all, which makes me think my banning from MLive comments section extends to reporting, which is so rude.


Blog Entry 024: August 10, 2015

Up on the Rooftops Part 2

One great part of my job is being able to get up on roofs safely with the building owners permission. Ann Arbor used to have quite a view from downtown rooftops, now it is mostly blocked to the north by "student luxury high rises" and to the west by "yuppie luxury high-rises" and parking structures. We traded "progress" for blue skies. But what I think is really going on is the DDA's desire for more money to keep them from insolvency,. This type of large building is encouraged by the DDA because they get a large amount of revenue from the TIF scheme - the difference between a properties taxable value before and after it has been improved. Any increase is given to the DDA instead of the city's general fund - what a racket!


Blog Entry 023: August 3, 2015

Up on the Rooftops Part 1

I can get it off almost any surface, see? P.S. I also removed the service access ladder because it was not kept locked and allowed access to the roof. On roofs I usually find the same stuff; energy drinks, caps or cans, and booze bottles. This roof was no different.



Blog Entry 022: July 22, 2015

Pressing on with the Broken Windows Theory

Another wall paint out, this time a big one...these jobs are pretty interesting in that they address what is called the "Broken Windows" theory of policing. If you are unfamiliar with this term, read more about it here. Basically it says to get on minor civic-space problems like graffiti, broken windows ('natch) and litter right away, before they become major problems. I think we have seen that the city's failure, whether of will or means, to address graffiti head-on has caused it to become a major problem. I hope that the work that Rebecca and I are doing help but it is a big challenge.

So Rebecca finally got permission to paint out and "muralize" the oft-taged wall in the Tomukun Alley - off Liberty. We worked to get it done in time for art fair, I did some birds and stars late night - it's quiet work.

I also convinced the landlord to get rid of that old sign, a leftover from Thano's PIZZA days.
The take-out pizza window is still visible in the front glass of Orchid Lane, look next time you walk down there.


Blog Entry 021: July 12, 2015

Did a favor for the YMCA, unfortunately I couldn't get this obnoxious tag off because earlier attempts at removal sort of etched the stone, plus it's time spent baking in the sun. If you find graffiti call The Gum Giant right away! Time is of the essence. But I managed to fade it pretty well, it is hardly noticeable.




They have a real problem at the dumpsters over there due to their proximity to the tracks. In this case I am in agreement with Richard, the very kind property manager at the "Y", it is better to give the hoodlums a place to do it with the hope that it will keep them off the building. But I would love to do just a single clean stripe down the middle of these walls, as the tags represent a who's who of future felons.



Vintage Bloggery - Issues 01-20


The Gum Giant (734) 255-6085


The Gum Giant Home | Coupon | Pictures | Services | Blog | (734) 255-6085