Around my house, these days I’m almost always holding an acoustic guitar.
For one, it hides my gut.
But also, it’s a prop. Moreover, it’s a really cool prop.
When we were teenagers, my friends used this really cool prop to hook up. I’ll set the scene for you: a darkened suburban bedroom circa 1991; there’s a black-light, black-light posters, a case of Milwaukee’s Best (preferably “Ice,” which boasted higher alcohol per volume) and a cardboard toilet paper tube stuffed with fabric softener sheets that, when exhaled through, covered the smell of smoke (although surely our parents knew something was up when the whole second floor reeked of Bounce).
The friend would wait for his moment, usually when the cassette tape reached the end of side A. Then, filling the nascent silence with soft strumming and breathy, nasal earnestness…
If that didn’t work, he’d try something more “extreme,” so to speak:
Of course, at the time, I didn’t play guitar; I played bass. Girls aren’t nearly as interested in learning bass. A bass player who runs with a crowd of guitarists (one of whom eventually went pro) is destined to be out-dated.
Honestly, that’s part of why I ditched music for comedy in college. Not that it yielded many more dates, either. No one who gets laid does comedy, and, for the most part, no one who does comedy gets laid.
Anyway, while I stopped playing music, I never stopped loving it (nor would I relinquish my secret suburban desire to play guitar). While my tastes would mature and my horizons broaden to include everything from gypsy jazz to Tuvan throat singing, there’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by early ’90s rock. Even Top 40 fluff that at the time I wouldn’t have listened to with your ears.
But then, something odd happened. Somehow, three decades passed. Although, I only found out recently, when U2 took Kennedy Center Honors, and news stories mentioned last year’s 30th anniversary of “Achtung Baby.” Then a friend called raving about a documentary he’d just Netflixed: “Pearl Jam 20,” celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album “Ten.” Of course, the documentary is itself 10 years old.
At first, I was like, no, can’t be. Has it been three decades? Really? Seems like only yesterday “Jeremy spoke in class today.” Is the Achtung Baby now a millennial, somewhere in the Bay Area eating avocado toast?
The whole thing reminds me of a quote from “The Simpsons,” itself now a relic, too. In the episode where Homer goes on tour with “Hullabalooza,” Grandpa warns: “I used to be with IT, but then they changed what IT was, now what I’m with isn’t IT anymore and what’s IT seems weird and scary.”
And so here I stand, at the precipice of geezerhood, and IT does seem scary and strange. Seems I’ve traded one type of out-datedness for another.
The thing is, I don’t mind. The difference? I’m 46, not 16. I’m no longer formative; I’m formed. Growing up might mean losing touch with contemporary pop culture, but for me, at least, it’s also meant getting more in touch with myself. All things considered, I’d much rather be out-dated than out-dated.
Plus, a few years back I picked up a shiny new acoustic and slowly taught myself to play — better late than never, right? Lately, I find myself playing in front of people. And you know, turns out being out-dated’s even more fun with company. So this year, I resolve to play as much in public as possible.
So if you ever hear me call “If you see a faded sign at the side of the road that says fifteen miles to the…” you better answer “Looooooovveeee Shack!”
If I go “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, and I’m wanted” you go “wanted!” then we both go “dead or alive.”
If I start strumming “Patience… yeah, yeah” pick it up and keep it going. Then I’ll bust out with: “I’ve been walkin’ the streets at night, just trying to get it right, but it’s hard to see with so many around, and you know I don’t like being stuck in the ground….” And I do a mean Axl Rose, too, with the sneering, and the thrusting and the serpentine dancing.
Man, I’m going to embarrass my kids. Good. It’ll give them plenty to work through in therapy.