DETROIT — Saturday, May 28 was a staggeringly hot day out along 8 Mile Road, where, just before three in the afternoon, a somewhat anomalous crowd of people began to gather. This stretch of road is a place people rarely visit without some purpose — getting an oil change, perhaps, or hitting up one of the many dispensaries that have sprung up in the short time since Michigan legalized medical marijuana — let alone a place where you see people congregate. Just a handful in front of the Fast Lane car wash and lube on the Ferndale side — Detroit’s closest northern suburb, divided from the city by eight lanes of traffic — and a somewhat larger crowd on the Detroit side. Both groups seemed gathered without much apparent purpose. Attention seemed to be focused on the wide, grassy median, dividing east- and west-bound traffic on 8 Mile, planted here and there with trees. One such tree, just east of the Mitchelldale intersection, had some unusually bright red objects cast about its foot. Just adjacent to that, a blue wrestling mat was barely visible in the grass. Otherwise, there was nothing to indicate anything out of the ordinary was about to take place.
However, this set of visitors was present to witness an event of great cosmic significance: performance artist and poet Billy Mark in his role as The Wrestler. Some 45 days previous, Mark announced his intention to face “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Mark draws his language directly from the Bible’s Ephesians 6:12: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”