Interim Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said a lot of things about healing the city and moving it forward last week after being sworn into office. In the middle of all that, he made an interesting personal revelation. He said, "It is important that you know this about your new mayor. The bottom line is: I'm a geek. I'm an action movie fan. I'm a big sci-fi movie fan."
Hmmm ... why is it so important that we know this? Does he expect that his fandom will impact the city? Will he be missing meetings while watching the latest action-packed thrillers on DVD? Could he harbor thoughts of himself as the hero of an action-packed sci-fi flick? Could it be that this mild-mannered mayor of Detroit is really the secret identity of a new urban hero? Let's look in now on the man known as Mayor Cockrel and his alter ego, the hero known as Special K:
Mayor Cockrel listens to the strains of Jimi Hendrix blasting from the speakers in his basement office. "I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand," he sings along with the record while whipping his hand up and down dramatically strumming his air guitar. "Ken, turn that music down!" his wife, Kimberly, calls from upstairs. "You're keeping the kids awake."
Cockrel grumbles a bit as he turns the volume knob. He glances at his watch: It's 11 p.m., time for Special K to prowl on his nightly patrol. Ducking into the secret passageway behind several shelves full of records, he sheds his nerdy attire and dons a black mask, baggy shorts and a T-shirt. It looks like everyday casual hip-hop gear, but the material is bulletproof and the many pockets contain gizmos that many a criminal has learned to fear. He hurries into his secret Fortress of the People hidden under a nondescript garage.
The garage door swings open and Special K rolls out in his Big 3-Mobile, a special vehicle using secret technology developed by engineers from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Its powerful engine fueled by rat droppings and pigeon feathers, the vehicle speeds silently into the velvety darkness, boldly going where no upright citizen dares to go after dark.
Spotting a pile of trash at curbside, Special K pushes one of the many buttons on his dashboard. A flash of red light shoots out from the vehicle and vaporizes the trash in seconds. As his eyes swing from side to side alert for any suspicious movement, Special K remembered his early days in office when he might spend most of his time zapping piles of trash, but the city had finally gotten cleaned up. It helped immensely when DJ Gratiot Street's "Clean it Up" mix became popular with the young people. The mayor sang the ditty softly to himself: "Come on, now, make your city pretty and don't drop that cup. Clean it up."
He swings the 3-Mobile toward Cobo Center to see how the expansion is going. Cleaning up the city was a cakewalk next to pulling, and keeping, that deal together. It's still a constant negotiation, he reminds himself. As Special K approaches the back of Cobo from Jefferson, he notices several people moving around two panel trucks backed up to loading docks behind Cobo. He pulls up quietly on the shadowy side of a truck and slips out into the night air. The men are loading the trucks with building materials from inside Cobo.
"We're gonna sabotage this project one way or the other," says a man between sips from a cup of coffee. "Once this deal falls apart, Mayor Cockrel's political coalition will weaken and the forces loyal to the old machine will coalesce around new leadership ... while the Pookie Dogss run things from behind the scenes."
The man slugs down the last of his coffee and throws the paper cup onto the ground. "Clean that up," he spits out to his partners.
Just as I suspected, thinks Special K, it's the minions of the evil Big Dog trying to undermine the city's interests yet again. The Big Dog had once worked for good but something had happened and he began using his powers in service to the dark side. His father had done the same. Our hero leaps out of the shadows.
"It's Special K! Get him!" yells one of the Pookies. A dozen men suddenly appear out of nowhere.
"We've been waiting for you," says the biggest, toughest-looking Pookie of them all. "We knew that if we made it pretty obvious here you would show up. Mike Cox calls you an urban legend, but we know what's real."
Special K feels something looming behind him — his 20 years of martial arts training and meditation have heightened his sensitivity to his surroundings. He leaps to the side just as a blast of energy blows by him and takes out three of the menacing gangsters.
"It's the evil Big Dog himself," says Special K to no one in particular.
"I've come back," snarls the Big Dog. "Bow wow."
Special K jumps onto the back of the truck and slams Big Dog into the wall. The Pookies rush in and pin Special K to the floor.
"We got him, boss," says one.
"Hold him down," says the Big Dog. He rushes through a door into the driving compartment, seats himself behind the wheel. "Let's get him back to the warehouse."
The truck screeches out onto the street. Special K strains to reach a switch on his belt. When he flips it his car swings out in pursuit of the truck. Both vehicles speed north on the nearly deserted Lodge expressway. When the truck hits a pothole, a few of the Pookies are thrown off the truck. Special K manages to push the others back and leaps off the back of the truck as the roof of the 3-Mobile opens. He lands inside and immediately fires a shock pulse at the truck. Just as it hits the truck, the cab separates from the rear and transforms into a small jet and soars into the air. Wings pop out from the sides of the 3-Mobile and it flies in pursuit.
The chase zips past the Renaissance Center and heads over the Detroit River, zipping along above the choppy water toward the Ambassador Bridge. A freighter is just about to go under the bridge. Big Dog slips through just before the boat. Special K has to pull off to avoid hitting it. When he comes up over the bridge he sees his nemesis disappearing downriver.
"That's it for tonight," he mutters to himself. "I know I haven't seen the last of him."
The 3-Moblie touches down headed north on Clark Street and zips back to the Fortress of the People. Special K rushes through the tunnel and changes back into his suit. He heads up to his bedroom as the clock display flashes 2 a.m. Kimberly rolls when the bedroom door squeaks open.
"Ken, I called down for you to come to bed two hours ago," she says sleepily.
"Uh, I had a lot of mayor work to do. So I just stayed down in my office," he replies.
"Well, get to sleep," she says. "You know you have an early meeting with the new Southeast Michigan Regional Director Monica Conyers. You know she's always a trip. But take a shower before you get in bed. You smell kind of sweaty."
"Yes, dear."Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]