Make sure that others respect your drum as well. Now there are those who may disagree with this philosophical point of view...alla tu. The drum has an inviting surface for those inclined to want to put their beer bottle or sheet music on it. Some will turn it into a regular dinner table. The Tito Puente restaurant on City Island in the Bronx had LP congas as stools at its bar. People put their behinds on the drum. I have had serious falling outs with people disrespecting my drum and teach any one who cares to listen to not allow it. I'm going to tell a story to illustrate my point. You can make of it what you will, but this happened and I witnessed it.
July 4th was rapidly approaching when I got a call from an old squeeze named Rona. She had hooked up with a fairly wealthy guy who was interested in throwing a July 4th bash on two houseboats he owned and moored at the 79th St Boat Basin off the West Side Hwy in Manhattan. This was very much for the well heeled and I became interested because I had never been on the dock despite having lived in the city all my life. She explained to me that the party was on but she knew that his group was more of the stand around and talk Wall Street and drink cocktails type of folks. She wanted a PARTY. So she convinced him to let me invite 25 friends to make sure it was a party. I had a bit of a reputation back then. I went to my hang on Brook Ave and 139th St. and got my peeps together and it was on. Of course, I invited four rumberos so we could play some drums along the Hudson River.
Well the party was slammin.' There was a cat in a tux serving drinks from a well stocked portable bar...the kitchen was popping as two chefs cooked steak and lobster...all you could eat. Needless to say, by 3pm most folks were embalao and dancing up a storm on the roof top of the bigger house boat. One of my friends had commandeered the DJ table and folks from all over the pier came over. In fact a schooner, which was heading up to West Point from Lower Hudson's Bay heard the music, saw the action and dropped anchor to join us. Rona was ecstatic as was her old man and his guests. They got right into it with us.
After awhile folks took a break and we pulled out the drums to do our thing...it became difficult to play because as ships went up and down the river..the wakes they generated would rock the houseboat and one drum almost wound up in the drink. We decide to lay the drums down and chill. So here we go. I have a very good friend named Angel Berrios. He was six sheets to the wind and feeling no pain at this point. My drum happened to be near where he was sitting on the deck floor and he began to rub his feet on the skin. I said Angel...that is definitely not cool...you are disrespecting the drum. His reaction caught me by surprise. He got very indignant, telling me it was just some wood and skin and what was I worried about. I realized that this was basically the booze talking and dismissed it and told him that he really needed to check himself. He got pissed and said "I'm gonna get something to eat." As he was climbing down the ladder which led to the kitchen or galley as they call it, a huge tanker was making its way down the river...a serious wake emanating from its rear. Angel arrived at the kitchen as did the first wave at exactly the same time. A pot of boiling water waiting for more lobster to be added slid off the stove surface and caught him on both feet. I heard him scream and everyone turned to see what had happened. I quickly went down to survey the damage and the blisters were already beginning to form on his feet. He looked at me...completely sobered by the pain and said "Don't say it!" Only he and I knew what we were talking about at that point. Well it took several weeks for him to heal after spending that evening in the hospital. Pure chance, instant justice, spiritual intervention; you be the judge. Respect your drum and make sure others do as well.