As usual my pal Mulenga Harangua didn't answer the door when I tapped on it. I couldn't even peek in because a couple of boards covered up where the window used to be. I heard some noise from the back of the house, so I went around, and there he was enjoying some late-season sun and lounging on a duct tape-wrapped lounge chair that he had scavenged from somewhere. He wore a pair of blue skivvies and an old, gray football helmet. Flesh bulged out all around the tight briefs.
"Hey, Mulenga, wake up."
His eyes opened slowly and he scanned his surroundings before focusing on me. A smile drifted across his face as he arched his back and stretched like an oversized, self-satisfied feline.
"Hey, baby, what's happening?" he said in his high, slightly nasal tone. "Good thing it's you. I wouldn't want anybody else to catch me like this."
"What's with the getup? Are you auditioning for that Full Monty calendar?"
"The Full Monty calendar — some guys who belong to the Unitarian Church in Framingham, Mass., published a calendar with 12 of the church's oldest men, ages 64 to 87, posing nude, although their nasty parts were covered up, as a fundraiser. The 87-year-old retired minister said the 'older, aging body has its own elegance.'"
"Hmm, elegance," Mulenga said, standing up and doing a little twirl to show off his assets. "I need to get in line for that one. They could use a little of the Harangua vibe. I bet they don't have any brothas on that calendar do they?"
"Well, mmmm, they all seem to be white guys, but I don't think you're old enough to run with that crowd. And one of the pictures has a guy with a banjo covering up his crucial parts. I don't think it's your kind of thing."
"Banjo! That's why they needed me on that, so they could represent the banjo properly."
"What do you know about banjos? Nobody plays them except a bunch of bluegrass and country music players."
"See, they done pulled the wool over your eyes just like everybody else. The banjo is an African instrument." Mulenga twitched his fingers around as though picking the air banjo. "Well, not quite African. The first banjos were made by enslaved Africans in America as facsimiles of stringed instruments they played back home. They got a display about that over at the Carr Center in Harmonie Park. That's to inform wrong-headed brothas like you who don't know your own history and let whitey co-opt it."
"OK, so I don't know twang about banjos. But what's with your getup? It's a little racy."
"It's for a couple of things. One, it's in solidarity with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the guy they call the underwear bomber."
"I call him the panty bomber."
"Whatever you call him, the young brotha needs some solidarity. Ain't nobody standing with him. Especially that jury they got — 12 white people, three sistas and an Indian woman. Not one black man up there. Whatever happened to a jury of your peers? The one Nigerian woman among prospective jurors was dismissed."
"I'm not sure these people aren't reflective of the community or if that rule even applies to foreign combatants. The kid is Nigerian."
"Well, he's getting railroaded. Based on what I've heard, the kid ain't thinking straight and doesn't understand the legal system. Somebody filled his head with a bunch of crap."
"That may have been Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Queda guy they killed with a drone attack in Yemen a bit ago."
Mulenga tapped his helmet. "That's a good reason to wear protective headgear. You never know when explosives are going to rain out of the sky on you."
"And it's good protection for when I decide to smack you upside your hard head. But really, why are you wearing it. That helmet can't be comfortable."
"Well I found it lying in the alley the other day. Since the Lions are doing so well this year I thought I show a little Lions pride and wear it."
"It doesn't have a Lions logo on it."
"But it's football. I don't care what it's got on it. You should have seen all the people out there for the Monday night game. I wandered through the crowd and made a little money humming that 'are you ready for some football' song on a comb and paper kazoo I made."
"You know that song got kicked off 'Monday Night Football' because Hank Jr. compared President Obama to Hitler."
"Yep, and ESPN has every right in the world to have whoever they want on their broadcast. At the same time, Hank was way out there on that one, but he has a right to his opinion. I ain't mad at him. I think somebody should ask him in what way exactly Obama is like Hitler. I think the ensuing conversation would put that shit to rest pretty quickly. I mean, killing 6 million people is incomparable. It puts you in a class all to yourself."
"I can't believe you're defending the panty bomber in one breath and Hank Jr. in the next. That seems incongruous."
"No more incongruous than the Nation of Islam and the Ku Klux Klan coming together on an issue."
"Separation of the races, both the Klan and the Nation believed in that, for different reasons of course. It's like a Buddhist paradox, something that doesn't seem to make sense on the surface but should be contemplated."
"Anything else I should be contemplating these days?"
"There are plenty of things to contemplate out there, but I think one of them is this thing with Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Turkia Mullin, the development director who left the county to work for Metropolitan Airport. That whole thing is so stinky somebody's head should roll. Plus, I think Ficano is pretty highhanded with the way he refuses to answer questions about it. The $200,000 was paid to Mullin without knowledge of the County Commission and he refuses to answer their questions about it. First he lied and said the county was contractually obligated to pay the money; then he admitted there was no contract but won't talk about it. That sounds more like the attitude of a dictator rather than a public servant. Maybe the ghost of Ed McNamara still roams the halls of the Municipal Center."
"And the spirit of Bernard Kilpatrick."
"Another thing that seems pretty stinky is the Michigan Legislature deciding to cut off lifetime health insurance for future legislators but not for themselves. That was somehow supposed to show that our representatives are ready to take on the same sacrifices that public workers have had to shoulder. That's a pile of crap!"
"Mulenga, don't get too worked up, it's just you and me here."
"I guess I should relax. Maybe we should play a little football." He ducked his head and charged like he wanted to tackle me. I gave him a push and he went down. His legs flew apart and the skivvies ripped wide open. Maybe he could use a banjo to hide something.