“Bongo lost his drum!
That was Bongo lost his drum sung by Burl Ives. The record was revolving on the small white Alice in Wonderland 45 rpm record player. The flat plastic arm moved up and down to the warp of the disc that revolved around the center pole. It was Hayne’s record player and I had slipped that 45 onto the turntable so many times we could almost hear both sides at once.
“Here, put this on for a change, Rickey,” said my cousin. I took it from his hands, looked at it and shook my head.
“You got room to talk. How many times you played that Bongo thing?”
He had a point. I pulled the arm to the side, pulled Bongo off, and dropped his record onto the stacker. It caught midway on the retractable shelf. I pushed the switch that retracted the shelf dropping his record onto the turn table. The needle arm swung over and lowered to the surface skidding into the groove with a loud scratching sound.
“Don’t scratch my record. It’s my favorite.” Hayne was annoyed.
Bursting upon the air was the brilliant sound of Dance of the Sabers, an Armenian piece of music. It was and way beyond the plane of My Bongo song.
“Why do you like that so much?” I asked while my foot tapped to the wild beat.
“You can’t feel it?” He was looking at me like I had Jello for brains.
“I don’t feel anything,” I said with a straight face. It was music, just something you hear.
“That’s a lie,” he said. “You can’t tell me you don’t feel anything. I see your foot tapping away to the beat.”
“Huh?” I looked down. It was keeping time. I had not been aware. “Oh. I see. Funny, I didn’t know.”
“For me this music takes me away. I feel the circles danced and the sabers waved.”
“Huh?” I said.
“You really don’t feel that?”
“The air is alive with the twirling of dancers. It sings with blades of steel slashing away. It would have me jumping and twirling.”
I felt sad for a moment. I never felt these things. I listened.
“Just let the beat take hold, Rickey.”
Like a dullard I looked at him. He was smiling. His hands were waving in the air, head bobbing. “I sense the wind in the notes. It lifts my mind and spirit into the space around us. DEEyu deeyu.”
His last words were his vocalization of the notes in a portion of the tune. I watched him, trying to understand what he meant. His eyes were closed and he was wrapped up in the piece as it rolled out of the speaker. I closed my eyes trying to capture his enjoyment. Squinting through my lashes I saw his smile and the total involvement with the music. It was as if the world for him had disappeared and he was transported into another one.
I tried to hear Bongo Lost his drum in my mind but the Saber Dance was overwhelming, destroying any rhythmic continuity. From Bongo Lost to dat dat dat dat dadadatat became the oft repeated refrain in my mind as it tried vainly to restore the Bongo tune. Finally, I gave up.
The rattling Sabers were coming to the close. I looked at Hayne. Again the total commitment to what he was hearing translated into his arms swaying, a growing smile and eyes focused on a world I couldn’t see.
It was possible, I thought, that this music has more meaning than my song about Bongo. The music was just a silly tune and the words were even sillier. His music did have a more impressive sound. There was nothing silly about it that was for sure. When it ended Hayne’s eyes opened he was elsewhere until the birds outside roused him. His disappointment was just noticeable.
He smiled at me. “Can we play it again?”
“Sure. It is your record player. I wish I could see what you see.”
“Listen this time, and relax. Let it flow over you. Stop thinking or trying to understand. Just enjoy it.”
I leveled the needle at the outer rim. It caught and began its journey through the groves in the plastic once more.
“OK, I’ll try.” I closed my eyes as the first notes flew from the vibrating needle. Wham! It hit me wave after wave in quick succession. My heart began to race with the beat pumping out into the air. My foot began tapping. I began to wave an imaginary baton whipping it up, down, around my head and punching outward. It caught me and I was lost to this world. The room dissolved and there were the sabers flashing light, glinting rapidly, high and low. Lost to this world and traveling along the punctuating notes in rapid fire, it began to dawn.
The last note faded and, along with it, the distance to which I had been transported. Not as nice here as where I was but where was I?
“You were there,” answered Hayne.
“You heard me?”
“You were talking trance-like. Yeah, I heard you.”
“So Where is there?” My mind couldn’t quite grasp what had happened.
“With the music. It opens up the world in a new way. I sit in this chair day after day. My life is confining and I found a way to escape it in that song and others. It takes me to a world and in it I can run and play and fly even. You take it for granted. You’ve always been able to do those things.”
“I can’t fly.”
“You know what I mean. You and everybody else can walk and run and play ball. I can only dream about it. But in the music I can feel all those things. It’s wonderful. The Dance of the Sabers is especially wonderful for me. It will always be my favorite. I found the world anew in it. That’s why I play it so much.”
“So why do I play Bongo Lost His Drum so much?” After what I’d just felt that song seemed so silly.
“You just weren’t ready. Your heart and spirit respond to lighter entertainment. You have always been like all the other kids. You’ve never been confined to a wheel chair. You’ve seen me but never really placed yourself here to see what it was like. You’ve just included me in all the games as if I were like everyone else. I don’t think you have ever really thought what it would be like to be in my place.”
I hadn’t. He was completely right.
“So I would take longer to come under the influence of music’s ability to shift me to someplace I might have dreamed of?’
“Something like that. I’m used to my chair. I can almost go where I want when I listen.”
Hayne was younger than I was but so much older. I could have learned so much more from him right then but I heard the television speaker.
“Hey there! Hi there! Ho there! You’re as welcome as can be. M-I-C-K-E-Y….”
“It’s the Mickey Mouse Club! We gotta go!”
I grabbed the hand grips to his wheel chair and pushed him into the other room parking him in front of the set. He smiled and sang along with me and the Mouseketeers as the show commenced. It was another form of transportation into the world of Disney the greatest of family entertainers. Hayne’s face lit up as he joined in the dancing on the screen. We were both with our pals there in that illuminated box. We were both confined to the spot but just as much a part of the singing, dancing and talking as any other well-adjusted normal kid.