Saturday, June 16, 2012

The man, out walking

The other day, I was out on my usual walk. From a distance, I saw a man, walking in the middle of the street. Something was odd about his gait, his carriage, some kind of combination of physical and mental limitation or condition. I'd seen him before, maybe once or twice, same thing, middle of the street, walking fast, and reciting, rhythmically as he walked, repeating the same phrase (or approximately the same phrase) again and again, completely in his own world. What was he saying?
     What he was saying seemed to be divided into two parts.
     I was quite certain I could hear the first part: "Thanks to God." But the second part I translated into "Bum-pa-bump." "Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump." I don't actually think he was saying "bum-pa-bump," but it was the closest I could figure.I thought that he was wearing earbuds, so perhaps he was listening to a tape and repeating as he went.
     At any rate, before I knew it, I had taken up the chant, became a hipster, walking to a rhythm, almost like John Travolta strutting down the street (Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump). I felt newly alive in my walking, more energetic. It wasn't the God part. It was the rhythm that was fueling me. And very quickly I was transported to two faraway memories. The first, from more than 35 years ago, and a summer night in Ann Arbor, at a party (Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump), out on a terrace, with some curly-haired young man I hardly knew, doing the bump. No strings attached, nothing at stake, a moment of pure summer (Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump).

The second memory (Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump) was about my daughter, from 10-15 years ago. One of the teachers at her school had started a gospel choir, and that music was so alive and so soulful, that gospel choir became one of the most popular after-school activities. The teacher/leader was black, but the students who came to sing were a diverse lot, including my daughter. When the group performed, the students wore long scarves draped over their shoulders--the colors of Africa--and came down the aisles, in long rows, stepping in a slow, rocking procession, up to the stage.
     One night, I took my daughter out to a local Thai place for dinner after gospel practice, and she was so jazzed up, she starting singing one of their songs, swaying and clapping "Jesus is Mine." This was somewhat astonishing, seeing her so loose and so free, but the most amusing part was when I noticed my daughter's Hebrew School teacher just a few tables down, looking at us oddly. We still laugh about that memory sometimes.
     I love the way a walk (Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump), and oddly crossing paths with another human can open up whole worlds. Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump. Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump. Thanks to God, bum-pa-bump.


Jim Poznak said...

I am sure God and all the Hosts of Heaven also chant "bump pa bump".

Susan Messer said...

Well, you certainly got the spirit of the post (bump pa bump).