Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?
Why don’t you tell me who’s on the phone?
— The Prophet Lindsay Buckingham
I’m pretending to care about Steve Inskeep touring a Venezuelan prison on the afternoon run. It’s not working.
I guess I’m mildly interested because Mo spent some time in Venezuela, although very little of it in prison. Inskeep is talking to the inmate who runs the prison. It’s such a lawless place that the guards just man the gates and let the inmates take care of themselves. This guy and his pals all have guns, and he was allowed to bring in his own metal detector to deter other gangs. They have pretty much all the comforts of home there — big-screen TV, tiki hut for visitors, pool room, cockfighting ring. And apparently a drum corps.
Yes, in the background I hear the steady drone of drums. This strikes me as odd, even in the latter stages of heat stroke. Why would a Venezuelan prison have a drum corps? But the beat continues throughout the course of the interview. And then something odd.
The gears shift and NPR goes on to the next piece. Which features the same drum corps. And it hits me. The drums are not on the radio at all.
I’m hearing Ray High School The Live Show. Here, only days after school is over for the year, the drum guys are out next to the school, hammering away at a relentless cadence. Why are they outside? Did I mention it’s crazy hot? And why aren’t they at the beach? Did I mention it’s crazy summer? But they continue along in the distance, a steady rhythm of bass and snare and tom, a little running metronome.
I turn off Morning Edition and drift as I run. I’m back at Central High in the fall. That feeling of anticipation at the football game when the band entered the stadium. The primal feeling that plugs into the days of our ancestors. There’s just something about drums. It makes for a great run.
As I drive off, they’re still there. Hammering away in the heat, three months from their first football game. I tap along on the steering wheel. I smile. I make a mental note to avoid Venezuelan prisons. It’s a good day on the track ..