He wanders up and pulls a drum out of the bag. And then, his life begins again.
He’s an old guy. Has his own fold-up stool, the sure sign of a drum circle veteran. He joins maybe 10 or 12 guys already playing a never-ending rhythm. Some pause occasionally, taking a drink of Red Bull or Coca-Cola, depending on their generation. They occasionally acknowledge each other, but mostly they sit with eyes closed, swaying to the beat of white guys tapping into tribal tradition.
He just sits there for a minute, hands resting on his well-worn djembe. Slowly, he begins to join in, a beat here and a flourish there.
A young guy, pleasantly stoned, sits next to him, bandanna covering his dreadlocks. He nods at the old guy. They lock into the same beat, swapping solos. Others in the group keep the rhythm with a bass drum, congas, dununs cowbells, wood blocks. Anything that can make a joyous sound.
The beat goes on. I listen to it from a distance as I wander around downtown, stopping occasionally as I make loops. The old guy is intent. I’m not sure I get drum circles, but I know they’re doing what they love. I drift back to those Dead shows and that feeling of being young and a part of something special. Maybe a drum circle doubles as a time machine.
Drum circles are like life, I suppose. They’re going when you arrive. You sit down, join in, make your little contribution, hope someone notices. And then you leave.
He puts the drum back in the bag and folds up his stool. He walks into the night and slowly fades away. The drums go on without him, never missing a beat.