RAINBOW FAMILY GATHERINGS: Unofficial Community for Rainbow Family
Bam Bam was a man who did what he wanted. He loved a lot, was loved a
lot and was much beloved. There were more than several people who
didn't care for his drumming or his leadership in drumcircles. For
certain Bam Bam could be a disagreeable rascal. He was a legend for
well-earned reasons. But he was also an arrogant snot. For instance,
Bam Bam acted like a know-it-all high holy from time to time, as well
as being downright cruel to young neophyte drummers. But let me say
it's damn difficult not to seem like a high holy given circumstances
that all too easily line up when especially leos bring pressure to
bear. Likewise, it's damn difficult to teach and not be cruel because
teaching denotes learning and there are always those who will not or
cannot learn despite their own expectations and evaluations.
While there's nothing here I wouldn't or didn't say to him, I'm sure
that this post seems negative in the balance so far especially to
those who hold with maxims about not speaking ill of the dead. But I
only want to emphasize one more negative before I go on to praise this
guy I loved: Alcohol. Goddamned godblessed alcohol. If you tell me
what a hell of a good drinking buddy he was I puke on your shoes.
Alcohol informed everything. Rather: alcoholism. Bam Bam's life,
death, mania, depression, talent, bad acts, good acts, sweetness,
meanness-- all of it was affected by alcoholism. Please don't get me
wrong. Just don't act as if being good at drinking is a commendable
I love Bam Bam dearly. I cannot think of Bam Bam and not get happy.
I saw him do a lot of things but two stand out. 1993. May? Dead
Show. Sacto. It's just the way he would lead that tide of one
hundred drummers against that sea of leos and block the squadcars from
encroaching on the village in the parking lot, just as he would at
various gatherings. It was a joyful thing.
That day was very very hot. 115. Early in the year. Still early in
the day, say three pm, under the press of an orange fiery sky on that
black coal asphalt, Bam raises one arm, says, "There we were on the
Serengeti--" Well, I fell instantly in love and we were paramours for
that day, making that scorched africa motif our script for the day and
night. There were only half a dozen drummers at that hour. By the
time the crowd swelled to a hundred or more then went down to just
several of us again, somehow Bam Bam's brand new very fine jimbe (sp)
had been ripped off. It was such an outrage. Outrageous! He was
dejected and whispering after an initial burst of hilarity and
invective that seemed so short lived considering the magnitude of the
loss. THEN! It also turned out someone has knicked his backpack,
rendering him a man with the clothes on his back (plus thousands of
friends). He really was like a little boy and even cried a bit and I
with him. I gave him five bucks which was half what I had. It was
tender and moving to see a big man of such art and ideal who with such
extravagant primitivist showbiz acumen "led" a big exuberant motley
orchestra brought to little boy tears and knees by some greedy maya-
deluded people. I was struck by the gentility in one who might have
been expected to be macho and blustery.
Flash forward a few weeks. July 1994. Wyoming. Vision council.
I've been knocked flat by altitude sickness and stuck in my rig in the
parking lot from the third on sundown until this time on the seventh.
Up through the middle of the circle of some hundred people come Bam
Bam and a few other brothers carrying the peace pole which they then
plant in the ground. Now that's the entire story. No more plot than
that. The story was that the story goes on.
The reason I write of it is that this is Bam Bam and this is life!
That's the first I'd seen him since the dead parking lot. I mean
there he was! In full throes! Free! Yet in harness! A gallop!
Nearly naked and magnificent. Muscles. Veins. Sweat. Teeth. Hair
tangled like roots or flying clouds or lover's limbs or real life's
real soap opera plots. Big bony feet. Pounding a rhythm on the Teton
dirt. Smiles, grimaces. All worthy of the late masters' oils. All
browns and tans and blacks and reds and golds. God I love the
rainbow! God I love Bam Bam! The story is the beat goes on!