Swing Through the Decades Dance

Swing Through the Decades Dance

“I’m young, I’m wild and I’m free I got the magic power of the music in me”


The last place you’d expect to have a musical epiphany is a elementary school dance, yet it happens.

Get back to the future

It’s Friday night. All you want to do is come home, kick off your shoes, bury the long work week in an unmarked grave and disappear beneath a blanket of peaceful inactivity. You’ve earned the right to chill on the couch and allow the television to lull you stupid as Friday lets Saturday have its way. Except that little voice that keeps you honest and in line speaks up and disrupts your best laid back plans. “Dad, tonight’s the school dance. You said we could go.”

This little voice isn’t your conscience, per say, but it might as well be. It’s your outer child, a product of your own DNA, shattering the tranquility and laziness of the moment with a left jab of reality and a right cross of parental responsibility.

You hear that infamous record scratch sound effect in your head. The one you thought only happened in corny teen movies. Suddenly, you’re floating above the room watching your body cowering helplessly on the couch.

Time warps and loses all meaning.

Do the time warp again

Fast forward and you find yourself at the Swing through the Decades elementary school dance. This is one in a long line of school events you’ve reluctantly attended over the years in an attempt to raise your parent report rating. However, when you get to the dance, dragging your feet all the way, it occurs to you it’s much more than just another parental obligation for you to fulfill. In the words of the Canadian rock trio Triumph,

 “Then you hear the music, and it all comes crystal clear. Music does the talking, says the things you want to hear.”

You find yourself having an epiphany – Time travel exists, and It’s called music.

You gaze across the comically tiny gymnasium (for adults anyway, who’ve been conditioned to the big bad world and its big scary spaces). Kindergarten through fifth grade kids are dressed as adults, sporting fashion anachronisms. Grown-ups are dressed as children dressed as adults in similar fashion relics. They’re all celebrating and reflecting on their decade of choice (1950s – 2000s) and dancing, or at least their best representation of dance as they understand it, to the music that defined their favorite decade and made it real.

Tragically, the kids have already stumbled into whichever social clique will have them, but at this age, the cliques are still mostly gender specific so the girls dance and fraternize with the girls. The boys don’t really dance, but the music sneaks inside their bodies and courses through them, a precursor to the hormones that will be in full attack mode not too far down the road. The music works them into a frenzy and they channel it the way boys channel everything, by horsing around. You might catch the boys subconsciously skipping to the beat as they dart across the dance floor chasing after friends. You see the boys spinning around in circles or knee sliding across the gym floor as the music takes hold. You know the music has really taken over when you hear the chorus of children’s voices, boys and girls, rising above the music and the din of the crowd, singing along to songs born decades before them. It’s both eerie and captivating to hear children of varying ages singing along to adult songs whether it’s a simple, frivolous tune like “Mickey” or a dark psychological dirge like “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2.” It’s a reminder of how music has the power to bring people together from differing eras, backgrounds, and circumstances and level the playing field, or the dance floor called life.

Tiny dancers

As the night waltzes on, you absorb the iconic reference points of time gone by – broken in and over sized letter jackets and leather jackets swallowing tiny frames but still imparting a mention of swagger, temporarily slicked back hair losing its hold as the night goes on and the music intensifies its dominance. Childhood inhibitions weaken, and the horsing around gets more rambunctious and even crosses genders. You see short, shimmering Tina Turner dresses and exaggerated Afro wigs, peace sign medallions and psychedelic patterns throbbing underneath the pulsating lights. There are flashes of leg warmers and fingerless gloves, skinny new wave ties and spiked hair with a suggestion of wannabe attitude.  However, more important than all of these cultural footprints in time is what you see in the faces and body language of the children dancing, oblivious to the doubts and responsibilities that come with age. You see a hint of the grown-ups they will become. You see children casually introduced to their adult selves by the common thread of music. In an effort to wrap your mind around this live action time travel epiphany you’ve stumbled upon, you wonder when the past and the present meet again in the not too distant future, will there be instant recognition or only a nagging impulse of a familiar face they can’t quite place. Most likely, music will reunite them and help them remember when that time comes.

In the expressions and the posture of the adults, even those blindsided by the parental obligation of yet another school event, you see a glimpse of the child they once were. You watch empathetically as they’re reacquainted with their past and you wonder if they are content with who they’ve become. However, you stop short of posing this same question to yourself. These are questions for another time. On a night like tonight, it’s the music that matters. Music speaks simultaneously to the child and the adult in everyone who listens. This is what give music its strength. It’s what gives it teeth to accommodate your hunger for more. Music transports you to where and when you’d rather be. Time travel is on your side and everything is good in the moment as long as the music plays.  

Click on the links below to travel through time and listen to a few songs that say the things you want to hear.







Click here to read more music related articles by Bob.

thinkI was reluctant to join Twitter at first because I truly believed my thoughts were too grand to be contained in 140 characters. Then I realized there was a skill, maybe even an art to getting your point across in fewer words. As a writer by profession, Twitter is a great disciplinary exercise in saying what you have to say in the least and the best chosen words possible.

Twitter is also the optimum venue for introverts who are better at articulating their thoughts in writing than they are at verbalizing their thoughts in person.

Most of my tweets aim for a humours spin on the things in life that are taken too seriously, including life itself, and its evil twin death. As a writer and a reader, I also like to play with words and their meanings and have fun with clichés, idioms, and language overall and how words are spoken, often without much thought at all.

These tweets come to me as snippets of overheard conversations, or as fallout from the constant barrage of our embarrassingly ridiculous 24/7 media culture. Although I strive to be funny, all of these tweets can’t be gold. They are merely drive-by thoughts, I hope will make you smirk or smile at the very least and at best you “laugh out loud” and share them with your Twitter followers.

You can follow me on Twitter @TheTweetOfBob and you can read some of my earlier twistory at the following links:

Random Thoughts – a Transcript of the Voices in My Head

More Random Thoughts – a Continuing Transcript of the Voices in My Head

Random Thoughts Part III – Even More Transcripts of the Voices in My Head


Below is a sample of some of my most recent tweets, my Twistory, if you will.


*Which demographic is the most prevalent and active when it comes to tweeting? – Birds, duh.

*When people ask me about my relationship with God, I tell them “it’s complicated” and leave it at that.

*You might say she has a bad temper, I say she has mad skills.

*Quit complaining. What did you expect from a cruise line run by carnies? #carnivalcruise

*At what point does “funny” cross the threshold and become “too funny”?

*I got screamed at by the squeegee guy who cleaned my windshield at the traffic light when I paid him with a free hug coupon. How ungrateful.

*Someday I’ll meet that lady who I don’t like, who shares none of my interests, and she’ll feel the same about me. One day I’ll find my so mate.

*It’s so hard to make friends… when you have a restraining order.

*Nothing diminishes the effect of a funny tweet quicker than a typo. Come on proofread your work paypal.

*The best way to stop people from using that “At the end of the day…” cliché is to quickly ask, “You go to bed?” every time they say it.

*“I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials” Is the new “I only read Playboy for the articles.”

*You got to think that Dick Van Dyke and Dick Van Patten get each other’s mail by mistake occasionally.

*If there’s an afterlife, I hope there’s good music. It’d be a tragedy to leave it all behind.

*I only have a few kids, so I consider myself an amateur not a procreator.

I didn’t choose my cell phone plan wisely. Now I think I have a textually transmitted disease.

*That kid’s mom is so hot. I haven’t seen her; I’m just going by word of MILF. #mlf

*I always wash my hands thoroughly after taking Scantron tests because no one can tell me why they are called “Number 2” pencils.

*If a redhead is causing you pain or discomfort, you may be suffering from Gingervitis.

*How cool is “that”? Not half as cool as “this”.

*Do postal workers still have to deliver the mail if it’s raining men?

*I don’t date janitors. They’re high maintenance.

*Don’t dismiss twitter so fast. It takes some mad skills to be clear AND funny in 140 characters.

*It’s only logical that David Blaine and David Copperfield eat more beans than the average person – since it’s the magical fruit and all.

*I love everything about U  (U-turns, U-verse, U-Haul, U-boats).

*During a near death experience when your life passes before your eyes, there’s a blooper reel at the end to lighten things up.

*When you start your sentence with “Can you do me a favor,” it gives me time to think of an excuse not to.

*Research shows that the word gullible used to mean extremely savvy until it was legally changed in the early 1900s.

*Lost parakeet – Huge cash reward – answers to the name “Gullible.”

*Are you saying you’re really good with numbers when you use them instead of words on your “Car 4 Sale Runs Gr8” sign?

*You think I’m big-city street smart since I’m always at the subway – 100% of the time it’s the sandwich place not the train thingy.

*Best thing about Twitter – u see thoughts that would’ve gone unheard b4 – Worst thing – u see thoughts that would’ve gone unheard b4.

*I think it’s odd that a Silver Alert has never been issued for Steve Perry. Don’t stop believing, maybe he’ll turn up.

*So is standing outside your bedroom window with a blaring boom box raised over my head still the proper response when someone favorites one of my tweets?

*Some men see things as they are and ask “why?” I see things that never were and ask “why am I seeing things?”

*This relationship isn’t going to work. You and me are bipolar opposites.

*How was I supposed to know she was a witch? I didn’t spell check.

*Shat happened.

*My favorite Marx Brother is the one with the poor writing skills – Typo.

*Fight only the battles you know you can win. Like with guys who use the word “fancy” as a verb.

*Twitter is the introvert Utopia. And that’s why I’m here.

*Your gold tooth cancels out any prestige you were hoping to get from your blue tooth.

*If I don’t like you and your name is Gina I will pronounce it with a long “I” so watch your “Ps” and “Qs.”

*The best way to get telephone solicitors to quit calling is to answer and talk like Gilbert Gottfried.

*What’s next for Lance Armstrong? A really grueling bicycle paper route.

*Less is more. More or less.

*She sells seashells down by the seashore. I’m going to need to see her Sales and Tax Permit.

*Only in America can you live in a house with 3 bathrooms but have to share the last roll of toilet paper between all 3 until payday.

*I guess I misunderstood how this worked. I thought a good safe word was 32 right-6 left-19 right.

*I’m writing a comprehensive dating manual tentatively titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Some.”

*Those are some load-bearing hips.

*I don’t think it’s wrong to treat objects as women.

*I can’t go to nude beaches because the ladies are always dressing me with their eyes.

* I’ve been on Twitter too long. I can only speak in 140 character sentences now.

*There’s more mention of genitalia on Twitter than at the AVN Awards Ceremony.

*Einstein’s lesser know Theory of Relativity:  Everyone has at least one weird uncle.

* Rosary beads are the most commonly used G-string. Hey, all of you pagans, the G stands for God.

Christian singles:  What the pious gentleman stuffs in G-strings.

*It was a difficult decision, but to show my commitment to her, I’ve agreed to join “Promise Breakers.”

*“Clothing Donation” keeps showing up on my caller ID. I never answer it. Like I really need more clothes.

*Pulled over for speeding on the way to pick up my date… Cop blocked again!

*You would have a lot fewer followers if you had to use your driver’s license photo as your twitter profile picture.

*Why is the #NRA so opposed to regulating #magazine sizes? Rolling Stone is so much easier to read in the bathtub now that it’s smaller.

*Hey Amazing Siding, you keep coming up on my caller ID. If it’s so amazing, why don’t you ever leave a message?

*“I put my wife’s pants on her one leg at a time. “ – Average guy who doesn’t wear the pants in the relationship.

*Honesty is the best policy-but not always immediately. Just told parents I broke garage window when I was 8. Conscience clear & not grounded.

*It’s surprising how fast a sign language argument can escalate into a slap fight.

*I’m not a vegetarian for the health benefits. It’s because the Chick-fil-A cows are such poor spellers.

*Laughter may be the best medicine, but it’s got a dark side too.  So many people have tripped over me as I ROFLMAO.

*A single discarded shoe lying in the road is no different than you and me. It’s just looking for its sole mate

*One small problem. For us to be soul mates, we both need to have a soul.

*I believe in the separation of church and me.

*I swore like a sailor when I dropped the swear jar. She lost her s*** and all hell broke loose.

*Sometimes I swear like a sailor, but you can’t tell because that sailor is Popeye.

*Post Christmas fact: If you try to return 2 turtle doves and 3 French hens at PetSmart, you can only get a store credit.

*Sadly, my life jumped the shark in its 20th season.

*Does anyone have the Fiscal CliffsNotes?

*You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I know people who decorate their car for Christmas with fuzzy antlers, a wreath, or a Rudolph nose, aren’t the same people with neck tattoos.

*Boy do I have egg on Mayan face.” – People who thought the world would end today.

*Alternate version: “Man, is Myan face red” – People who thought the world was going to end today #Mayans

*What annoys me most about my vegetarian friends is they are always saying “Hey, can you do me a salad?”

*Little known psychological term: Seussian Slip – The unintentional, awkward rhyming of words during normal conversation.  Ex.“I put my drink by the sink.”

*Mall security guards have less law enforcement authority than the policeman from the Village People.

*Febreze is good and all, but not even that can cover the smell of teen spirit.

*Speaking strictly from experience, a barrel of monkeys isn’t really that fun.

*Gay conversion therapy is a too pointless conversion.

*Hitler alienated a lot of people with his Hellier than thou attitude.

*I was a deadbeat slacker in June when my Christmas lights were still up. It’s early December, my lights are up and I’m a trend setter.

*I apologize for my mock outrage at about your mock turtleneck.

* The approval rating of Congress is lower than it is for adults who wear Santa hats in public. That’s sad. Adults shouldn’t wear Santa hats.

*The only way you’ll know I won the lottery is I’ll be wearing solid gold Crocs to work the next day.

*This is my favorite season. Of course I’m talking about McRib season.

*Be warned – If you wear a mock turtle neck, I will mock you without mercy.

*I rely on twitter for my funny, because I don’t know enough funny people in real life.

*I won’t be able to drain pasta anymore after December 21, because all I have is a Mayan colander.

*I’m working on my unauthorized autobiography. I can’t wait to expose this guy for who he really is.

*You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have any boots.

*Momma always said life was like a box of Chiclets. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up.

*What’s the maximum Godspeed allowed by law?

*War is not the answer. And quit cheating off me.

*Call me superficial, but I judge people by the way they pronounce library.

*I thought I was watching a really bad episode of  the walking dead – the zombies looked even less soulless than usual, but it was news coverage of Black Friday.

*The pen is mightier than the sword. This explains why nerds need pocket protectors.

*Sorry, I would have tweeted sooner but I was opening up all my free gifts.

*Things you never thought you’d hear: Abraham Lincoln is trending.

*What do you mean “when life gives you lemons”? I always have to pay for mine.

*Reality is a lot easier to face if you make your own.

*Dick Morris’ election predictions TOEtally Suck

*Some people believe the ends justify the mean.

*When someone says they always vote a straight ticket, I can’t help but think what a homophobe.

*Daylight savings time? I’ve been saving time for years and I just can’t get ahead.

*I can’t believe the size of the Occupy protests tonight. Oh, wait; those are trick or treaters.

*Trick or treat tip#1 – for the kids: if you dress up as a collections agent or a repo man, you can get alot more than candy.

*When fitness instructors start getting busted in prostitution rings, it’s a sign of the approaching Zumba apocalypse.

*It’s ok 2 trick or treat for candy, but give candy 2 trick or treaters who come 2 your house too. It’s HalloWEen not HallowMEen.

*When my tweets are politically ambiguous, I get bipartisan favorites and retweets.  I’m such a uniter.

*When I heard “binders of women,” I thought I had tuned into Dexter by mistake instead of the debate.

*Is it neurotic to be stressing about the possible looming Y3K crisis?

*Hope this election isn’t decided by the tire swing voters.

*Somewhere someone is getting really mitt-faced.

*How is it possible for so many to know so little about so much?

*So you have no money and can’t find a job but you can find and afford a squeegee and a bucket?

* I wonder if Bruce Springsteen gets a butt load of Starbucks gift cards on Boss’ Day.

*Life is death’s piñata.

*I think when Fox News has its strategy meeting for how they’ll frame the political narrative for the news cycle, the person in charge says, “Ok everybody put on your thinking crap.”

*If October is National Book Month, then February must be National SparkNotes Month.

You can’t deny that Romney scored higher at last night’s debate in Doucheness.

*I wear one contact lens because I only use a monocle to see better the rest of the time.

*If you’re mistreated every day, it is cruel and usual punishment.

*Don’t pity me for being behind bars for most of my adult life. I make great tips serving drinks to strangers.

*If I was al-Qaeda #2, I’d insist on being called al-Qaeda Jr. because that #2 crap is a death magnet.

*After a hard day at work, I wind down by sending and answering all of my texts. Message therapy is so relaxing.

*The world would be a much better place if people didn’t get fancy, but just got dancy instead.

What happens if an identity thief steals personal information from someone having an identity crisis?

*Don’t bring a beverage to a food fight.

*I went to such a strict high school, I was suspended for second-hand smoking.

*Life is like a box of chocolates. It’s overpriced and can get sticky at times.

*From my cold dead brain…

*He is a wolf in cheap clothing.

*He’s so dishonest, that when he talks it’s not just bull it’s Red Bull.

People in Utah, are running on MT (Mountain time).

*No Fox News is good news.

*It was supposed to pour down rain. There were dark clouds, strong winds, and thunder, but no rain. It was the imperfect storm.

*How do you know when God speaks to you that it isn’t really Morgan Freeman messing with you?

*Your inspiring Bible verses are so much more poignant when you tattoo them on your body.

*It pusses me off when I notice a typo in my tweet after I send it.

*I wasn’t a Latchkey kid but I wish I was a Latchkey adult.

*I must have been a canine in another life, because I always seem to be in the doghouse.

*Knowing that a cobbler is someone who makes shoes, I don’t think I’ll be having any of the peach cobbler today.

*A house divided is a duplex.

*So the band P**** Riot was charged with hooliganism?  A good lawyer can get that reduced to tomfoolery.

*He died doing what he enjoyed:  Living

*Sometimes I hear people say that God is their co-pilot. I’m just happy having Jesus as my yard guy.

*Even his pronunciation of the word cumbersome (clumbersome) was cumbersome.

*Coming face to face with a polar bear would be bad, but coming face to face with a bipolar bear would be much worse.

* The political candidate promised voters they too could have a piece of the pie. Obviously, he was running on wedge issues.

Well guys, just when you thought it was safe as long as you avoided the chick movies and films about dying athletes, rabid dogs, and departing aliens, for crying out loud, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Read more and hear the songs that can make a grown man cry.

He couldn’t sleep. The message light was blinking rapidly at almost strobe light speed with a red F for full. He jabbed the Delete button and the large white box made a lengthy squeak as the messages were discarded into that cosmic void where old electronic communications go to die. He didn’t know why he even bothered with this device. It wasn’t as if he listened to the messages with any urgency, if at all. As quickly as the messages were deleted, there was a long fluttering noise like playing cards shuffling as the device reloaded the next wave of messages and the red F flashed again as rapidly as before. He sighed and forced himself to walk away from the device. He could spend forever stuck in the endless loop of discarded and reloaded messages.

He was in one of those funks again. He hated feeling like this – when he started to question life and his own place in the world. He moped around his almost colorless loft high above it all, but still not high enough to distance himself from all of the troubles below. He hoped the mood would pass. He wasn’t really in a position to confide in anyone and talk through his feelings, so he had to work it out on his own.

Unfortunately, he was unable to shake the mood that hung heavily over him like a layer of Mt. St. Helens volcanic soot. He found himself in front of the huge wall-sized screen which served as his window to the world and gave his loft a tiny hint of blue color, rescuing the décor from full blown drab. Maybe a little mind candy would cheer him up and lift his spirits so he could go about his daily activity of running things. He had every channel in the world but he rarely could stay focused on one too long. There was never anything original.

The images on the screen flipped effortlessly and soundlessly from channel to channel as he watched.

Flip…A ginger-haired evangelist in a sky blue suit was blubbering in a glazed spectacle of tears, perspiration, and mucous, confessing his sins of the flesh, asking for his congregation’s forgiveness, and pleading for this media revelation of his indiscretions not to interrupt the generous pipeline of donations that had built his wonderful faith-based empire.

This had become an all too familiar occurrence on the large flickering screen. He thought he had blocked all of these channels, but apparently he had missed this one. One day there would be a 24 hour cable network devoted to tearful confessions of public figures that had been exposed.Flip…A politician stood cornered outside of his office by a ravenous press. He was apologizing and spinning his arrest in a gay prostitution sting, as a preposterous misunderstanding, and a case of entrapment, with a solemn, stone-like expression, not realizing the contradiction that his apology and his spin presented. He was professing his love for his wife and his family and adamantly denying that he was gay. He asked that he could put this nonsense behind him and do what the people had sent him here to do. He took no questions and made his way back to the chamber to argue against same sex marriage.

Flip…The image on the screen was grittier – it had the look of an undercover surveillance video. The priest, away from the trusting gaze of the congregation in his private quarters removed his silver framed glasses exposing his gentle brown eyes, and then removed his robe to expose even more. He loomed above the trembling blond young boy, who knew all too well what would happen next – something he couldn’t speak of – he had been warned of the fires of Hell and the angry hand of God by the man that was confidently approaching him…

A portly media pundit with deceptive, bright blue eyes buried in a pudgy pale face was fanning the fires of fear throughout his audience. He was working himself into a frenzy of spittle and high-pitched octaves to punctuate his message of doom. He was demonizing his perceived enemy – the non-Christian segment of society and claiming his monopoly on God in this battle for the souls of his audience.

Nothing betrayed a false profit quicker than the pronunciation of God as a two-syllable word, he thought.

Flip…A large church service was in progress, organ music played, baskets were passed around and filled to capacity with currency and checks from the bulging congregation – their down payment on salvation – or so they had been led to believe – the priest scanned the congregation, his gentle brown eyes busy behind his silver framed glasses as he watched the wave of baskets lap along the pews gobbling up the generous offerings.

Flip…Another screaming media talking head, ironically with a receding hairline. He was a spoiled little bully in an aging man’s body and skin. He barely hid a perpetual smirk underneath the surface of his sad clown face which subtly sneered at anyone not as fortunate as himself. His voice was raised even when he spoke in normal conversation, as if by making more noise he could drive away his fears and personal demons. He was preaching from his bully pulpit to his mindless choir of regular viewers about the War on Christmas that was raging and how it would end civilized society as we knew it. He cited an example of a department store greeter being asked to say “Happy Holidays” by management instead of “Merry Christmas.” This was the extent of his proof of the culture war that had been waged against Christianity but that was all he needed because he was talking loudly and enunciating with an authoritative voice deep from within his chest.

Flip…One of those “reality” shows – A corporate CEO had infiltrated the workers of his company in an undercover capacity and was playing the part of a new employee so as to fit in as a mere wage earner. A few of his unsuspecting underlings were not being very accepting of the big man. His performance thus far had been poor, they told him and he was not learning the ropes fast enough for the veteran wage earners. The CEO stood silently stone faced as his clueless minions berated him instead of teaching him. A subtle smirk flashed momentarily on the CEO’s face, as he quietly contemplated his handling of these wage earners when he returned to his boss position.

He felt the volcanic soot of his mood begin to dissipate. He was inspired. Why hadn’t he thought of this before? He guessed, maybe he did, depending upon where one came down on the notion of divine intervention and muses. He was most likely involved in the creation of the idea in some form. Regardless, the “reality” show that was on the huge screen convinced him that the way out of his funk was to pay a visit to the people. A road trip; wasn’t that always the answer to most of life’s problems? It got you out of your rut for a while and gave you a new perspective and a new set of eyes by mingling with people you didn’t normally interact with directly. He watched the undercover CEO on the screen immersing himself in his new role as one of the common men. He could do that – piece of cake. He just had to find the right look. He didn’t want to overdo it so as to call attention to his true self, or hold back and give himself away.

He came to the people as a stranger. His lengthy light brown hair, combed by the warm breeze hung in wisps around his pale weather hardened face and complemented the slightly darker shadow of stubble along his jawline and chin. He wore the no frills greenish brown polyester uniform shirt of a laborer punctuated only above his right chest pocket by a white name patch with embroidered cursive black letters spelling J-E-S-U-S. His shirt tail was untucked and flowed past his waist, stopping a few inches above the knees of the matching uniform pants. One pant leg was tucked into his worn brown boot, a detail of his disguise for which he had been quite proud.

He scanned the church parking lot as the people began to arrive in their oversized, overpriced cars and trucks adorned with messages and emblems serving as advertisements and testaments to their faith:

Jesus Saves, Keep the Christ in Christmas, there were Jesus fishes on license plate frames, crosses and crucifixes hanging from rearview mirrors, and plastic Jesuses and Virgin Marys, on dashboards.

The people slowly flocked from their vehicles, as if on cue. They filed into the church in an unthinking mass of designer clothes, garish jewelry, and pasted on smiles. Each of them wore disguises of their own ready to play their parts as well.

The stranger crossed beneath the shadow of the giant monstrosity of the lighted sign in the parking lot of the church with its bright neon letters displaying empty promises, and lifeless Bible verses in all of its blinking glory. Glowing quips interspersed with administrative information scrolled horizontally across the rectangular marquee of light and color:

Jesus is the answer…Sunday Morning Service 9:30 & 10:55…You become what you worship… Kids for Christ signup ends this Sunday…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23…When did I agree to play Vegas?” The stranger mumbled. “I’ll show them Vegas.”

He entered the church after everyone else. He was met by a cold rush of air and a chorus of cold stares as the collective gaze of the congregation swept across the room as if reacting for one creature and fixed upon him. He saw their appalled faces as they gazed at this stranger under dressed in his work clothes and obviously not a member, who had intruded into their church. He took a seat on the aisle of the last pew, isolated from the people but with an adequate vantage point of the spectacle before him.

He scanned the congregation. His head reverberated with their collective whispers of prayers. Most were requests for favors, let me win the lottery this weekend, heal my sick mother, let my child make the varsity team, and pleas for forgiveness for acts that had been committed the previous week, and would most likely be committed the following week and the week after that. The whispers quickly morphed into the familiar fluttering playing card shuffling sound that he knew all too well.

He glanced toward the elderly woman in the light blue floral dress hunched over the church organ keys as if worshipping the organ itself. She was obediently playing the obligatory church organ mood music with complete conviction. The priest in his garish robe draped loosely over his gangly frame, towered from his podium at the front of the congregation. He spoke without emotion into the microphone clipped to his chest while behind him a giant video monitor flashed bullet points of his sermon, driving home the key points of his message.

The stranger shook his head in disbelief. This was a clear case of technology compensating for a charismatic deficiency.The stranger observed the congregation. There was bowing and kneeling, and cross signing, splashes of special water and clasped hands all around him. There were chants of faith and worship and displays of religious symbols and icons and complete, unquestioning acceptance of the entire ritual. Everyone played their part. It had become so ingrained, passed down through the generations; they could do it in their sleep.

How could the people ruin something like this so badly? How could they turn worship into a Monty Python skit? At least, Monty Python played it for laughs. But these people were serious. If they could only see themselves as he saw them, they would have to realize how silly they looked, right? Probably not… The people weren’t as bright as he had originally planned.It was time to go to work. The stranger rose silently unnoticed and was up the aisle past the priest and behind Agnes Sweetwater, the elderly organ player in the blue floral dress. She didn’t rise from her crouch over the organ’s keys or even acknowledge the stranger that approached her. The lifeless church organ music ended abruptly and segued into a slow, creeping build up of individual notes that converged in a climax of emotion that this congregation desperately needed.

This quickly caught the attention of the priest and his congregation. Their heads swept simultaneously toward Agnes Sweetwater and the stranger standing before her conducting her play in cartoonish gestures. There were collective gasps and a growing murmur from the gawking collective face of the congregation at this intrusion. Could they do anything on their own, or did they always act as a group? The stranger wondered as he conducted Agnes’ musical performance.

A hiss of unintelligible whispers rolled across the congregation as they stared blankly at this disruption.

The stranger leapt effortlessly up to the top of the organ landing in a standing position, his back to Agnes who unconsciously played the slow rhythmic organ music the stranger was conducting. He bellowed out the words to accompany this peculiar musical score while he had the attention of the congregation:

“Cancel my subscription to the resurrection.
Send my credentials to the house of detention.
I got some friends inside.”

On the front row, Janis Trickle in her shiny, black clinging dress gasped in revulsion at this intrusion into her sanctuary. She punctuated her displeasure by bringing her hand with its glossy diamond ring to her mouth but it only made the stranger kick up his musical conducting and performance a few notches.

This was the same Mrs. Trickle who was cheating on Mr. Trickle and utilizing positions that the unsuspecting Mr. Trickle would never have dreamt of suggesting to the wholesome Mrs. Trickle. So naturally, Mr. Trickle was practicing said positions with Mandy Powers, a rather adventurous and limber neighbor, and soccer mom, he had come to know in the most intimate sense after spending many Saturdays on the sideline at his daughter’s soccer games.

Out of nowhere the stranger brandished a laser pointer and aimed it at Mrs. Trickle. The beam struck her between the eyes. She reflexively batted at it like it was a bothersome gnat. The video monitor image above and behind the priest flipped from the words of the sermon to a clear video of Mrs. Trickle naked and entwined with someone who obviously was not Mr. Trickle – Her face, a mosaic smear of ecstasy and emotion was reflected in rather revealing ceiling mirrors above her and her partner…

The stranger sang along accompanying the video and the continuous creep of organ music dutifully played by Agnes:

“The face in the mirror won’t stop…”*Agnes unconsciously jabbed two successive organ notes to punctuate the stranger’s words adding emphasis to the revelation he shared with the congregation.

The priest stood frozen, his mouth hanging open, unable to process the video image behind him, and the chaos occurring all around him.

Mr. Trickle sprang to his feet hoping just this mediocre show of force would bring an end to this commotion created by the stranger.

This gesture only intensified the rock and roll edge to the stranger’s voice as he belted out the song with more energy, and sped up the aged hands of Agnes Sweetwater as she banged her bony fingers down hard on the keys with more force than her frail body seemed to possess. The stranger cackled gleefully admiring his orchestration. Agnes Sweetwater’s rendition of this classic tune was so accurate you would have thought she had been replaced by Ray Manzarek in drag.

The stranger spun around on top of the organ and with a sweeping flourish zapped the laser pointer beam at Mr. Trickle, the pinpoint of light zeroed in on his crotch. Mr. Trickle instinctively dropped his clasped hands in a futile attempt to cover the red point of light, which elicited scattered giggles from the congregation. The video screen flipped to a new image – through her bedroom window you could see Mandy Power’s bare back and shoulders as she knelt down before a bare chested Mr. Trickle his eyes closed in a goofy expression of gratification.

The stranger sang along with the video image and the continuous pulse of the organ beneath him…

“The girl in the window won’t drop.
A feast of friends alive she cried,
waiting for me outside …”

The priest finally broke out of his frozen trance of disbelief. He turned and took a small step in the direction of Agnes and the stranger strutting and spinning on top of the church organ.

The stranger spun around and made a gesture with the palm of his hand as if pressing down the air in front of him. Agnes reacted by bringing the pulsing music down several notches, yet still audible to the congregation. The stranger whirled back around to face the congregation.

The priest’s jaw clenched tightly as he tucked his chin in toward his chest and barked into the microphone clipped on his robe. He pushed his silver framed glasses up the bridge of his nose closer to his delicate brown eyes as he squinted at the stranger.

“Excuse me, young man, is it Hay Seuss?

The organ music played a low, steady rhythm – a backbeat pulse to the interchange, giving it added weight.

The stranger chuckled.

“Do I look Hispanic to you Dude?” His voice carried easily throughout the congregation without the aid of a microphone.

“You can call me Father, thank you very much,” the priest said in a shaky voice made more obvious by his microphone.

The stranger leapt gracefully off the organ onto the stage and stepped slowly and casually toward the priest and the congregation. Agnes continued to bow over the organ, tapping the keys softly, repeatedly with conviction.

The priest took a clumsy step backward.

“Dude, you aren’t my father,” the stranger said.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave; this type of behavior in God’s house is not acceptable” The priest’s voice cracked nervously, inadvertently breaking the word “God” into two syllables.

“Acceptable behavior. What is that exactly?” The stranger nodded to the video screen above the priest.

The video screen flipped to a grainy video of the priest in his private quarters as he removed his robe to expose his pale, wrinkled flesh to an anonymous blond haired boy. The priest loomed above the trembling young boy as he approached him with authority and a look of bliss on his face.

The rhythmic organ pulse continued contributing to the seediness of the video.

The stranger swept his hand through the air, twirling the laser point between his fingers like rock and roll drummer. The red beam hit the hem of the priest’s robe. He flicked his hand in a quick flipping motion and the priest’s robe billowed upward and flew up over the priest’s head plastering itself tightly to his face and exposing his naked body below.

His pale, shriveled, uncovered body flailed uncontrollably trying to wrestle the robe back into place and regain his vision and his dignity. His microphone still on, amplified his helpless whimpering and muffled panting and broadcast it to the entire congregation. He lost his footing and stumbled backward crashing to the floor on his back with an audible grunt. His lower body still exposed, he writhed around on the floor, his arms now tangled up in the wire of his microphone, unable to break free.

There were shrieks and gasps, and there was fainting throughout the congregation caused by both the video and the real time exposure of the priest. Amid the confusion, several, hands dipped into the collection baskets having second thoughts about the generous offerings they had made shortly before. Mr. and Mrs. Trickle took this opportunity as their cue to slip separately out of the church unnoticed and duck into permanent hiding to nurse their shame and think about whether this church was really for them.

The stranger descended the stairs and advanced toward the chaotic congregation. The church members were still erupting in a collective frenzy of emotions; their rigid truths practiced for generations had been yanked out from under them like a tablecloth in a magician’s trick. Women were crying mascara tears, grown men were blubbering, slobbering messes, as they tried to reconcile what they had witnessed.

The stranger addressed the congregation.

“Our paths will probably cross again. I suggest you all behave until then. You’ll probably want to be on my good side. Right Dude?” The stranger said over his shoulder to the priest still floundering on his back trying to escape his entanglement. “I hope we all learned something here today.”

The stranger approached the young boy with the look of shame on his face cowering beside his mother in one of the center pews. The boy feared exposure but the stranger had been careful not to betray his identity. He patted the boy on his head tousling his blond hair and then casually made his way down the aisle and silently exited the church in a whisper of warm air.

To the traumatized congregation, the stranger’s last gesture toward the boy was merely a pat on the head, a gentle form of encouragement – from an adult to a child. To the young boy, it was much more, the secret he had been burdened with and any of its collateral baggage was permanently erased from the boy’s memory and mind. For the boy, it was as if it had never happened. The boy’s mother grabbed her son and pulled him close to her, a sour milk expression on her face. She cringed at the thought of the stranger laying his hands on her child.

Outside, on his way back home, the stranger crossed below, the church marquee, the scrolling electric neon letters on its screen bled into gibberish, and then shuffled forming a new series of messages which scrolled horizontally across the marquee in an electric explosion of colors:

People see God every day; they just don’t recognize HimGod specializes in happy endingsDon’t make me come down there

He had an endless supply of them.

He wandered into the church parking lot crammed with its rolling billboards of faith and disappeared, leaving the people to their own devices for the time being.

Back at home in his loft, he wisely chose not to turn on the huge video screen. He cleared the messages on the white device and heard the inevitable shuffling of them filling up again. His trip had cured the funk he had been in, a least for now. He just wanted to get some well deserved sleep. And that is what he did.

by Bob Langham

If you like this,  read more.

Sources: * When the Music’s Over – The Doors, Elektra Records 1967

“Twenty years now. Where’d they go? Twenty years. I don’t know. I sit and I wonder sometimes where they’ve gone…”

-Bob Seger, Like a Rock

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that time travel exists. The bad news is, contrary to science fiction, you can only travel in one direction and it’s mandatory… Read more 

– Bob Langham