Holy rollers

When I was young, my parents were only too happy to drop me off at the neighborhood roller rink for hours at a time. With a “no ins and outs” policy and paid referees, it was the cheapest babysitting going. I spent many happy afternoons rolling in circles, accompanied by the pop hits of the ’70s and ’80s, and I still find myself nostalgic for the experience.

Unfortunately, visiting a roller rink as an adult is a whole different flavor of Icee. First, it’s tough convincing your friends—the ones who need three Captain ’kazes to brave the dance floor—that an alcohol-free dance on wheels is the place to be. Second, being the tallest person on the floor (who isn’t helping a toddler stay upright) attracts derisive stares from teenagers reacting to your geriatric vibes.

On weekends, rinks are packed with small children who lack either the coordination or the courtesy to avoid tripping you as they race by. Fortunately, worrying about being sued for rolling over a first-grader provides distraction from the awful songs that pass for rink music these days. Seriously, who can roll-bounce to nu metal? (“I can feel you bleed!” Ooh, pass the lip gloss.)

After lamenting the absence of late-night adult skates in Sacramento, my friends and I decided to go skating on a school night—when most parents keep their kids home and most of our social circle has lower expectations for alcohol consumption. Most local rinks are closed on weeknights, but an Internet search revealed Monday discount-skate nights at Sunrise Rollerland.

We failed to notice that Mondays also are Christian skate night—a fact that became obvious when the door girl stamped our hands with those little fish that commonly adorn car bumpers. Their little inky bodies read “.”

I asked the sole Christian in our group for a translation. She squinted at the blue-inked symbol of salvation. “Um …” she said. “It’s something Greek.” So much for 12 years of Sunday school. (Google later revealed the word was Greek for “fish.”)

Christian skate night is basically like any other night at the rink, dominated by the smell of stale pizza and preteen sweat, with some subtle differences. For instance, many young women skated in long skirts, rather than jeans with suggestive adjectives Bedazzled across the rear. The playlist was 100-percent praise music, which blended oddly with the rink’s medieval décor—think 1970s Round Table Pizza—to evoke a whimsical interpretation of the Crusades. The couples skate was renamed the “friendship skate,” and the limbo competition was scrapped altogether, possibly in deference to the long skirts.

Most noticeably, the fluorescent house lights stayed on most of the time. “Where are the disco lights?” I whined. “It looks like a gymnasium in here.”

“Maybe Jesus doesn’t approve of flashing light shows?” a friend suggested. “God doesn’t like funk.”

My God likes funk!” I blurted, maybe too loudly, as a youth-group leader turned to stare. “My God lives in Funkytown!”

My friend shook his head slowly. “God does not live in Funkytown,” he enjoined.

I skated away, deep in theological thought. If God lives in all of us, I posited, then God must have been in the members of Lipps Inc. when they composed “Funkytown.” Therefore, God lives in Funkytown!

As I tried to catch up with my friend to share my logic, the DJ put on Kirk Franklin’s “Stomp”—a gospel tune that owes a heavy debt to the Gap Band—and brought the lights down. The disco ball shot beams of light through the rink, hypnotizing everyone. Moms stopped trading diet tips in the snack bar and took to the floor. Little boys cut straight to the center and tried their best dance moves. Christian booties wiggled above scuffed brown rental skates. I rolled through the lot of them, secure in the knowledge that God loves all the little children of the world—even the funky ones.