The man wielding the drumsticks wasn’t hitting anything but I could still hear what he was playing. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye while the videographer and I were driving along Dallas Road searching for a story. The air-drummer was power-walking away from Ogden Point, smashing silent cymbals and nailing virtual rolls.
We turned the truck around and raced to park so we could get pictures of the constant and remarkable motion. The videographer only captured a few seconds of footage before the man veered to the right. He walked down to the beach never missing a beat. We chased after him and watched as he placed the point of his drum-stick in the sand and started writing a message.
His name is Mike. He says he started walking and drumming because his 14-piece professional drum set won’t fit in his new condo. Now he plays along to a soundtrack of classic rock coming through his earphones. “I’m in my zone” he explains. “But I see people around me so I don’t bump into them with a five roll at the end of Kashmir and smack a Japanese tourist on the lens of her camera.”
Mike says there are benefits to drumming while walking. He’s lost 115 pounds and gained a few minutes of “being present.”
“I try not to worry about the future” he reveals, “but that’s easier said than done.”
Because there’s nothing easy about being accidently infected with HIV after getting stuck by a dirty needle while working as a landscaper. There’s nothing easy about the toll that takes on your mental health. “All of a sudden you wake up one day and you’re 50 pounds overweight living in your bathrobe.”
And there’s nothing easy about being told that the drug cocktail that you’ve been prescribed has caused kidney failure and your wife and daughters are now fearing the worst. “Seeing the pain and fear in their faces in the hospital … it’s tough. But I get through it.”
Mike is doing more than just coping. His passion for life is infectious. It’s because of the love of his family, the support of his health care team, and air-drumming. “When I’m playing, I’m back when I was 15 years old in front of my mirror in my parents’ basement listening to Led Zepplin II.”
And then Mike finishes writing that message in the sand with his drumstick. It says, ‘keep on rockin’.’ Mike says that’s what he does. “No matter what, I just keep on rockin’ in life.” He keeps on because he’s hopeful for a matching donor. And he knows – as all the best drummers do – that there is a rhythm to life and the beat goes on.
Adam Sawatsky is co-host of CTV News Vancouver Island at Five. On weekends, he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.