After air guitar did not provide me with the spiritual fulfillment I had hoped for, I drifted along in a perpetual, aimless stupor. With an air guitar-shaped hole in my heart, I had to find some alternate way of realizing my potential. Some ideas went through my head that held some promise, like my idea for creating a fishing pole shaped like a go kart engine, but I just couldn’t bring myself to submit a patent application.
In the end, I knew the guitar was my destiny, and no amount of throwing engines at confused fish could distract me from that. Still, I was proud of myself; not a lot of people would tackle air guitar, so I had that going for me. Despite my desire to play guitar, an intermediate step was required before I could truly pursue my dream of rock stardom. With laziness not a factor whatsoever, I decided to improve my nonexistent guitar skills by playing Guitar Hero.
Picking the right version proved difficult given that there were several hundred variations to choose from, including Guitar Hero 80s, Guitar Hero Aerosmith, and Guitar Hero Yoko Ono (an odd one that had more to do with screaming in public areas). Lest people think I was too hasty, I spent dozens of hours contemplating my choice, much to the annoyance of my wife who kept insisting that doing dishes was a more pressing concern.
My neglected responsibilities aside, I had gone from playing air guitar to holding a pretend guitar, so that was progress of a sort. Plus, I knew with absolute certainty that my Guitar Hero skills, underdeveloped though they were, would be invaluable to me when I acquired the requisite confidence to practice a real guitar.
After playing Guitar Hero every day for about three years, I had a spiritual epiphany that ranks somewhere between owning my first car and realizing that sometimes the IRS takes too much of my money: I was ready for a real guitar.
I went to Guitar Center, a name which once again highlights how much more we care about guitars than other instruments (Tuba Center doesn’t seem to have the same appeal). Guitar Center does sell some other instruments, but they’re kept in back rooms, janitor’s closets, and a variety of dumpsters.
When I entered the store, the first thing I heard was a random guy playing something really complicated on one of the guitars. His skill level was God-like (God, of course, being famous for playing guitar), yet everyone else in the store seemed oblivious to the guitar mastery unfolding in front of them. I questioned a sales associate regarding the apparent apathy of the other customers. In a tone of a man who’d rather jump headfirst into an iron girder, he said that guitar showoffs come to the store so frequently that the management is forced to fumigate twice a day. In this case though, he chased the guitarist out of the store with a flyswatter.
That bit of excitement out of the way, I decided to pick a guitar. For those who have never been to a guitar store, the guitars are perched at various heights on the wall, the higher ones above my head, always threatening to fall and bop some unfortunate customer on the head, bringing a literal meaning to “headbanging”. Seeing the guitar display was quite inspiring, although I was curious why they didn’t display other instruments in this manner. I asked about tubas in particular, and the same sales associate told me they kept the tubas in a store room in Siberia.
The guitars on the top row, which are symbolically out of reach are called “signature guitars”, which means, “this guitar costs several thousand dollars more than other guitars because someone more talented than you plays one that looks like it”. Since they were all out of my $20 price range, I bought a guitar that was the instrument equivalent of a week-old Big Mac that had been slowly ground into the pavement by a leaky garbage truck. Looking a bit more closely at the guitar, I noticed it had a little tag with the following description: “Guaranteed to increase your social standing. If after 30 days your social standing hasn’t increased, please do not be seen in public with our product.”
Since I didn’t want to spend money on guitar teachers, I went to the only place where one can learn anything of value: the internet. Hidden among videos of cats jumping into walls and people hiding cockroaches in their parents’ coffeemakers were instructional videos that ranged in quality from “this could actually help you” to “I got chased out of too many guitar stores for playing this way”.
Despite all of that, I pressed on, my first attempts at guitar sounding like a bull elephant seal that had just been beaned in the chest with a pickup truck. There was a positive side though: the people in the apartments below me were so pleased with my relentless practicing that they told the landlord about it. One tenant came up and gave what I could only assume was the highest praise: he said I should consider jackhammering the floor as that would be easier on his ears.