He intruded on a conversation amongst coffee sippers. “It runs on gyroscopes and electric motors.” He was a Wayne State cop on a Segway, recently arrived at Avalon, leaning forward into everything. “We got a grant for these,” offering more of his unsolicited story as heads began to turn. He was definitely altering the mood on this pleasant late fall day.
About eight feet tall, he zipped around tables, nearly glancing blows on toes, and zoomed away for a lap up and down Willis. Protecting what and serving whom, it was unclear. The collection of young white people there to read, I suppose.
Then, “You’ll become the keeper of men,” shouted the apparently homeless man as from a cloud. He was down and out, leaning on someone’s car with a garbage bag full of bottles and cans over his shoulder. “Abraham said that to Isaac,” he exclaimed to no one in particular, and to everyone.
It was part of a pretty common scene outside everyone’s favorite bakery: the sparrows pestering your feet for muffin crumbs, Larry’s rhythmical stylings, the assorted undergrads and business casuals with laptops unfolded, the guy with those two amazingly large dreadlocks. There’s an odd coexistence here. Black folks and white, strollers and walkers, BO and GQ, Volvos and yellow band vans and bikes. Everyone can sort of hover.
Not everyone can afford the brioche, posting up outside for change instead. Relationships form from those interactions. You learn about the city, about the community of hustlers. You pick up a bible verse.
The apparently homeless man with his bag of soon-to-be dimes kept belting out verses when the Segway returned. “Hey, you’re bothering people,” said the gyroscopic mountie. “Go on, get out of here, you’re bothering everyone.” The man jived across Cass and jumbled down Willis to Midtown Liquor. Robocop was far more bothersome.
A woman running for 36th District judge came up, handed us her card and advised my friends to follow their hunches to law school. She said she wanted to “bring the court to the community,” in a way that was heartfelt.
“They’re trying to create a security perimeter around Wayne State,” said the former Black Panther, who walked up talking half on his cellphone, half to us. He mentioned a case they were pursuing: Wayne State cops had just beaten up a 21-year-old kid, a Black kid, over on Calumet. Beat him pretty good. “Looks like they got themselves a new toy to play with.”
The Segway cop rolled away, sensing he might be in over his head.