Saturday, December 21, 2013

KEEP THE BEAT

We were camping at Chaco Canyon New Mexico on a cold and rainy night, having a comfortable dinner underneath a fortuitously overhanging wall.  The sand was warm and dry next to our fire and the lighting was exquisite as we listened to the subtle sounds of the dripping desert.  A car pulled into the exposed campsite next to ours and sat there for a long time with the motor running.  My indignant wife Tracey eventually told me to go over and tell them to turn it off.  I stormed over and tapped on the window.  When they rolled down the window and I saw the confused faces inside, I changed my attitude and I asked them if they would like to join us for cocktails under our rock.  The husband and wife pair was flabbergasted and grabbed some whiskey and wine and quickly joined us in the sand. 

They had just flown in from New York City, rented a car and headed off into the wilderness.  In the rain and the dark they were a little discombobulated, making the transition from the city to the country, and they were having a hard time getting their bearings.  They were designers and developers of sonic playgrounds in NYC where the action and motion of the kids energized tubs and drums buried underground creating a symphony of tympani and percussion.  They were great folks so we shared our dinner and drink, shade and warmth.

It turned out that they were drummers by trade and hobby and said they always travel with their drums.  We asked if they would break out their drums and play for us, pa rum pum pum pum.  They went back to their car and came back with a big rug that they laid out next to our fire.  Then they kept coming back with more and more drums, elaborate drum sets for themselves and smaller drums for us.   They pulled drums out of their rental car like clowns popping out of a circus car.

 They started playing and we all started grooving haphazardly.  After the first cacophonous round they offered us the key to good drumming, one hint.  We are all responsible for the best.  They started again, laying down a simple back-beat and we were encouraged to join in.  We started tentatively but were soon riffing and improvising, dropping related layers of rhythm on top and around each other, never forgetting the original beat.  It sounded great, in our cozy little amphitheater, and we jammed harmonically late into the night, talking and playing with our new found friends.  

They left in the morning, after coffee and breakfast, with their rug, drums and their rental car.  We exchanged hugs and contact information as they thanked us for our hospitality and we thanked them for the drumming and the life lesson.  We are all responsible for the beat.