I Just Wanna Play The Bongos
At various times in my life and career, I’ve been in a band that employed a conga player. (I’m using the term ‘employed’ here in the most generous sense). This is really nothing to brag about, but for some unknown reason my proximity to conga players—the phenomenon intentional or accidental—seems to spawn many well-worn memories. Sweeping generalizations notwithstanding, conga players are a carefree bunch, at least in my limited observation.
I got the concept for the song I Just Wanna Play The Bongos out of sheer amazement, envy, and jealousy of a wonderful soul while touring the country. The name is concealed here for various legal reasons, but the story transpires nonetheless.
This particular conga player smoked a lot of weed. No, let me rephrase that: he smoked copious amounts of weed. (That last sentence still doesn’t seem to convey the amount of weed smoked, but as Ludwig Wittgenstein contended, so the limits of language.) I think the colloquialism would be ‘wake and bake,’ but this phrase still doesn’t suffice. But I think you can grasp the gist of my observation.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against smoking weed. As a matter of fact, I’m all for it, and I hope it’s legalized soon. Although I’ve tried it, it’s not my thing. I usually just fell asleep. I’m much better company if I drink some cold beers or a Merlot. A fishbowl margarita is very festive, but that’s about my limit these days. Also, I haven’t heard one convincing argument why marijuana should be illegal. Someone would be hard-pressed to explain to me why Jägermeister is legal and marijuana isn’t. But I digress.
This particular conga player at some place and time would magically appear and disappear from stage before, after, and during any particular show. This person would also show up in different cities along the tour and disappear again, seemingly at random. This extremely talented musician was the freest person I’d ever met. Leave time, showtime, loading or packing up gear, bus calls, breakfast, set lists, food, money, etc. meant nothing. I was in total awe. Why didn’t I possess this freedom? This musician could play an incredible conga solo, toss the congas into a screaming audience, walk out the back stage door, and drift off into the night, only to meet up with us in another city during another song. In contrast, my life was a swirling pool of capitalistic determinism. My free will had all but succumbed to a day-sheet pinned under the driver-side wiper of a Prevost. Where’s the adventure in that? ¡Rápidamente, alguien me una margarita!