Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Evolution

Following three years in Canada then roaming around the U.S for a while, I arrived to Venice Beach in Los Angeles early 2014. The tropical weather was something I had been dearly missing. Being by the beach in general was another.

One of my first Sundays I was cruising around by the Venice Boardwalk when I saw — and heard — a big group of people on the beach playing music. Like a moth to a flame, my curiosity naturally led me towards them to get a closer look. What I found was mainly drummers in all sorts and shapes and colours just jamming around while forming a circle. In the middle, people were dancing to the beats and having a chilling time. This was my first encounter with Venice Beach Drum Circle, which I did not know anything about before then.

Having been always a drummer, though without a tribe, I started going every Sunday to this magical gathering — then also Saturday. Even before buying a djembe, I was just taking pictures and using others’ drums. After a while I felt more at ease and got to know many lovely folks from there. Eventually, I wrote an article titled: How Scary the Power of the People is, in which I was expressing my frustration caused by the heavy presence of cops and their vehicles on the beach by the Drum Circle. It was published on Conscious Life News. 

Note that in 2014 my own realty tunnel was filled with remnants of a hijacked Egyptian Revolution. So my views, thoughts, and feelings about “the establishment” were still bias in a certain way as I was lumping it all together. Not that I turned pro-establishment now, but my views are more balanced as I taught myself how to perceive both sides of any equation.

The following is a short excerpt from said article: 

They are afraid from us, not the other way round. We the people. The long-haired freaks, the peaceful warriors, the colourful weirdos, the nonconformist rads, the purple bonkers and the ballistic unicorns, the tie-dyed ones who dare to be different. We individualistic souls make them uncomfortable. That I knew for a while but the fear bit is what struck me yesterday. Their weapons cannot protect them against united people who are armed only with their smiles and cameras, and they know that. 

We’ve seen it happen all over the world in revolutions and uprisings throughout history. And that’s why they enforce laws to prevent citizens of the Earth from joyfully gathering, drumming and dancing on the beach after sunset! How absurd that is when you think about it. Why should that be anywhere near illegal? We actually come from generations of tribal nomads, this is natural to us. But I tell you why. It’s to control people, because when united they become an unstoppable force. And the establishment knows that.
They do.

Time at the Circle went on mainly peacefully until an officer named Roberts came into the scene. He was a cool guy and we bonded pretty well. This inspired a series of three of articles: Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between Us and Them.

Slowly becoming a part of that monumental gathering, more creativity came along with photo-video articles like A Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos and its Sequel — while a third is on the way.

After all this connection, things went relatively well between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

With the cool officer Roberts in 2016

Now fast-forwarding to some months back towards the end of 2017. 

By the end of the Drum Circle one Saturday I was approached by two officers on foot, informing me that we have to wrap it up as it was past sunset. I joked with the 20-something year old petite officer by telling her that I didn’t recognise them without their big cruisers, loud sirens, and blinking lights. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
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The following week the sun went down yet no police showed up. So we kept going. The one after, it was the same story. It felt so natural that mature adults can stop drumming on a public beach whenever they wish rather than having to listen to a source of authority. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Nevertheless, the sudden disappearance of the LAPD got me curious, so I asked around. And this is what I found out. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Apparently, the cops ran over a woman lying on the beach in broad daylight — again! Then they got sued for it. So as a consequences their big toys were taken away from them; for now, they are not allowed to drive around on the sand. This is most probably why they never came back on foot to stop us since that first time. Now the drum circle keeps going till people just willingly leave. As it should be. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Another six-month fast-forward brings us to last Saturday — which is usually smaller and less noisy than Sunday. After a long hiatus, two cops, both in their mid 20s, came visiting us. Not in their vehicles, nor on foot, but in a golf cart. The first thing they did is give a ticket to some guy for having a beer in hands, and outsider sitting on the outskirts of the circle,

Their sudden appearance after MIA for all this time, especially that the first thing they did was ticketing that man, wasn’t welcomed well by many. While some of us kept watching in silence or ignoring what was going on altogether, a few shouted at the cops a couple of times. Nothing aggressive or rude; just “Fine, give him a ticket then you can leave.” Just passive aggressive. 

This was all happening about 10 minutes after I arrived. But even for me, having cops around wasn’t that perfect time to start drumming or getting into the zone. I then took this time to go around the circle and socialise with different brothers and sisters.

After the ticket, the cops went around and positioned themselves to have the sun in their backs while facing us — as seen in the featured photo. 

Eventually I did begin playing, yet still kept wondering when the cops will leave, almost subconsciously. Though I tried not to show it because the rest of the circle can easily pick up on that energy. That would be an addition to their initial discomfort I could already sense just by looking at their faces and body languages. 

What I did, however, was take a break after ten minutes through — much faster than the usual break which can take place after 40-60 minutes of constant playing. I then took another tour after jokingly telling a couple of unhappy drummers that I’ll go talk to the cops and tell them to leave. 

No man! Why?” was their anxious response, before smiling mischievously so they get that it’s a Ha-Ha. Well, maybe half a Ha-Ha.

After snapping a few photos around I headed towards the golf cart and took a couple of shots of the cops. Then I went closer to say hello. “I hope you guys are enjoying the view. How is officer Roberts, is he still around here? He’s a friend but I haven’t seen him in a while.

Not very much here, he moved to PK2 — or some other lingo — so he doesn’t really come here. I assumed that they meant about his promotion.

Both officers had young, gentle faces and could not be more than 25. When I told them that I share my photos on Instagram and tag #LAPD, they asked if they could see the ones I took. I did show them, adding that I do a bit of editing and they will find it on IG.

Eventually I introduced myself and shook hands with both before bidding them farewell. Unfortunately, though, I forgot their names.

When I turned around after this brief encounter I found T, one of the drummers who wasn’t too pleased of the random visit, filming the whole encounter. I think he took my words for real and followed me with the camera as I talked to them — possibly as a way to protect me.

As we moved further back towards the circle, T had that “What just happened?” kind of perplexed look. So I once again mischievously smiled and told him:

Because they will leave in a few minutes. Watch and learn. The magic of kindness and openness!

He smiled, yet I do not think he thought I was too serious.

A couple of minutes through as I went back to my chair, another drummer sitting right by came closer to ask: “I’m curious to know what did you tell them.”

Well, I introduced myself, took a few photos, and sent my regards to officer Roberts. You know, simply being myself. And they will leave shortly. They have other more important things to do than watch a bunch of Hippies having fun at a drum circle.

Haha. I can’t help it sometimes. I’m a 48-year-old war veteran who doesn’t feel like he needs to be policed, especially when I’m trying to have a good, clean time, He went on. 

I hear you, Brother. One thing I remember from a John Lennon quote is: The only thing they [the establishment] don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humour. So when you shower them with openness and authenticity things just flow from then on. This is called emotional intelligence.

Before finishing our chat, we both looked ahead to find the cops evacuating the area in their little vehicle and never came back. Adios, amigos.

You see?”

Bedazzled and smiling happily, the guys then looked at me like I am some kind of wizard, while the circle went on to its natural peaceful state. Ta-Da

Now to reflecting upon this latest encounter. The transition from the tension and passive aggressive energy I picked up when first arriving to the Circle four years back, to attempting to connect “us” with “them” on a more intimate level, to succeeding in doing so to a considerable degree, I can only think of the word “Evolution”.

All I could see this time is two young docile men doing their job: Ticketing the guy who was drinking in public first. Then deciding to watch us Hippies having a good time for fifteen minutes. Perhaps as a break from a long — likely boring — working day. This actually wasn’t a first, as I’ve seen it many times before when the Circle is so absolutely lit and the officers take their phones out of their pockets to start filming us from afar. After all, we are something to see, a phenomenon, a true Venice Beach tourist attraction.

That said, I did not sense those two officers were there to monitor us as it used to happen back then, or stir any kind of trouble. Neither did I consider them any kind of threat. In fact they were actually located pretty far, just enjoying the scenery, or so I felt.

As such, there is absolutely no good reason to treat them anything other than kindly, respectfully, and more importantly humanly. As I mentioned before, one may not agree with the establishment, the system, politics, lawmakers, but the officers themselves are simply humans, just like me, just like you. Some are simply cooler than others, just like the rest of us.

Love one another. It is The Way.


Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Officer Roberts

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: The Coke Prank

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Sergeant Pepper
A Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos

Another Year at the Venice Beach Drum Circle in Photos & Videos 

Stop-n-Search That Hippy

Banged Up Abroad — My Few Days @ The Don Jail

The Intertwining of Music and Sexuality ― A Djembefola’s Tale

How Drumming Changed The Way My Brain Processes Music

Drum Circle Etiquette — The Do’s and Don’ts 
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