Mulenga Harangua requested that I meet him at Riverside Park near the Ambassador Bridge. The place was deserted on a cloudy, weekday afternoon, except for Mulenga, who was throwing himself into the air and tumbling to the ground again and again. It looked like he had wads of newspaper taped to his knees and elbows for padding.
"Mulenga, what the heck are you doing?"
He climbed up from the ground and gave me a determined look. "Man this flipping is tough," he said. "But if Trump thinks it should be illegal then I want to give it a try first."
"He wasn't talking about gymnastic flipping," I said. "He was talking about when criminals flip to the other side and cooperate with the police against their former partners in crime."
"You mean ratting your friends out to the police?" Mulenga exclaimed as he pulled the newspapers from his joints. "Oh hell no! That is one of the worst things you can do. I don't want to try that."
"But should it be illegal?" I asked coyly.
"It already is illegal in gangsta law," Mulenga said. "You rat out somebody then you get the death penalty. I ain't saying it's the right thing, but that's the gangsta law when it comes to something like this. I think that's the rule Putin plays by. Don't his opponents end up dead a lot?"
"Are you saying that Trump is a gangsta?"
"Gangsta to the core," Mulenga said. "Look at all the people he hangs out with. Like Grandma used to say, 'Birds of a feather flock together.' You know she used to warn me about hanging out with you."
I almost played the dozens on his grandma by reflex, but caught myself. Choosing to change the subject, I asked, "So what do you think of this Garlin Gilchrist that Whitmer picked for her running mate?"
Mulenga gazed out toward the river and rubbed his chin. "I think that his choice shuts up a lot of folks who want to complain that there's no black people on the statewide democratic ticket. It won't shut them all up because he's not ensconced in the Detroit political old guard, but politics in Detroit have evolved since the demise of the Kwame Kilpatrick era. Few names from generations past have survived."
"Well, Ian Conyers is in the state senate but he doesn't seem very formidable at the moment, having finished in fifth place trying to replace his great uncle," I said as we headed over to a bench to sit down. "There aren't any Conyers around, there aren't any Kilpatricks and there aren't any Cockrels. Coleman Young II is still rattling around. He's term limited in the state senate and came in fourth place, just ahead of Ian Conyers, in the recent primary. He's lost two elections in a row by large margins so it's hard to see what kind of political future he has around here."
"Well, this Gilchrist is a fairly new name," Mulenga said. "Too bad he's headed for the scrap heap of politics."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't nobody go on to bigger and better political office after being lieutenant governor in Michigan," Mulenga explained. "Look at Brian Calley; he just lost in the primary to replace the current administration that he's a member of. Where are John Cherry, Dick Posthumus, Connie Binsfield and Martha Griffiths now? Along with Calley, those are the backups for our last five governors. Where are they now? This could be Gilchrist's little flash in the pan."
"Maybe Gilchrist will be the next William Milliken," I argued. "Milliken was a lieutenant governor who became governor for four terms."
"Well, let's see if he can help Whitmer become governor before we give him four terms of his own," Mulenga countered. "Let's see if he can campaign and get lucky enough to disappear into the shadows of Lansing."
"Well, he's black and from Detroit," I said. "That's going to help Whitmer in the geography game. Her background is Lansing and Grand Rapids. He lost a close city clerk race to Janice Winfrey last year but outraised her financially. He's used to campaigning in Detroit and he knows how to raise money here. That's big."
"He looks kind of nerdy," Mulenga said. "I used to look like that in my former life."
"That's because he is a nerd," I said. "He managed social media for Obama's first presidential campaign and ran Detroit's Innovation & Emerging Technology department."
Mulenga kicked at the ground in front of our bench and made a growly noise in his throat. "I guess that means were really moving on to the next generation. Tech guy from Detroit running for office."
"That's about as good as most anybody else running for office," I said. "It's just that you don't think Detroiter and tech guy go together."
"May as well leave the past behind," Mulenga said. "Not much to hang onto. Even the Queen of Soul has passed on. That was an earth-shaking event. It may as well shake time too."
"Well you're certainly getting deep on me," I patted Mulenga on the shoulder. "You know, I played with Aretha Franklin once."
'No way." Mulenga's jaw dropped nearly to his belly.
"I did," I said. "It wasn't for a big show. I was in the band playing for Coleman Young's birthday party over at Fishbone's. When it got to be time to sing 'Happy Birthday,' Aretha got up and sang. So I backed her up playing for Mayor Young."
"Well that was nice," Mulenga said.
"Later in the evening I saw her standing over by the exit. I approached her and suddenly this huge man appeared from out of nowhere to stand between me and her. She told him to let me by and he disappeared. It was kind of like you."
Mulenga kind of puffed up at the mention. "Yeah, I could've been Aretha's bodyguard — appearing and disappearing on cue."
"Well, one thing you couldn't have done was be six foot six and somewhere around 300 pounds."
"That's true, but could he do this?" Mulenga said. He got off the bench, ran a few steps, leaped into the air, twirled over, and flopped onto the ground.
"What, flop on the ground?" I asked. "He could probably do that but I don't see why he would."
He laid on his back rubbing his head where he'd landed on it.
"I thought I could use that flip in my disappearing act," he said looking a bit disoriented. "I need to wear my pads until I get this down. But Trump might be right. Maybe flipping should be against the law."
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