Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Shredding in charades: my pantomime pleasures

<lass="page layoutArea column" title="Page 1">

The pick never wears down and the strap never strains your neck. The strings never break, lose their tone, or go out of tune. The air guitar is nothing if not loyal; an ergonomically perfect specimen.

We met in the Fall of 2006. Me, a Red Hot Chili Peppers-obsessed 7th grader with greasy hair at shoulder-length. Her, a massless figment of my imagination. It was love. She helped me feel… important. She helped me feel powerful. She helped me feel.

Years later, I would realize that while it’s perfectly reasonable to personify and assign a gender to your imaginary friends OR your tangible musical instruments, it’s a stretch when the two are one and the same. Now I just call it my air guitar, and I’m comfortable with the fact that our doting relationship is just as mutual, just as reciprocal without the prerequisite of six-string sentience. Love doesn’t deal in our petty discrimination between the living and the supposedly non-living. Look up “objectum sexuality” or “animism.” I know phrases.

The Chili Peppers had just put out their 2-disc album Stadium Arcadium, which was both their first release during my pubescent life and arguably their most mature record. Long gone were the misogynistic stories of seducing female police officers (see: Sir Psycho Sexy) and the racist love ballads (see: Sexy Mexican Maid). These days, the Peppers were writing some pretty emotive arena rock hits, empowered by John Frusciante’s return to form as one of the most talented Fender Stratocaster players alive.

When the band hit it big over a decade earlier with songs like “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away,” their already luxuriant drug habits had spiraled out of control. Frusciante quit the band and got so strung out on heroin that he sold every last guitar he owned for drug money. Even after kicking drugs and rejoining the Peppers, it took him years to fully regain his guitar-playing chops. When he finally did it on Stadium Arcadium, the songs felt like a victory lap. Remember that minute-long guitar solo that closed out their hit single, “Dani California”? Pure cornball shreddage. I love it.

So I was walking home from another boring day of 7th grade and listening to my sister’s metallic blue 4GB iPod Mini, right? On comes the song “Readymade,” buried deep in the second half of the 28-song album. It’s a punchy song, and groovy enough to coax some head-nodding. Then out of nowhere, two and a half minutes in, Anthony Kiedis moans “Awww, clean it up, Johnny!” followed by an absolute explosion of lead guitar. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had never heard something so powerful. His guitar was screaming.

The next day, I asked my dad to teach me how to play the guitar. From that day forward, I would tirelessly devote myself to becoming the greatest guitarist possible. I would stop at nothing short of undeniable six-string mastery. Six months later, I realized that it required actual effort to learn more than just the riff of “Crazy Train.” 8th grade girls were impressed enough at my cursory skill level, so I didn’t feel much drive to improve. These days I’m just as poor a guitar player as I was in my 8th grade band PRDVAK (a name that our drummer Gator came up with to garner sympathy from parents at the Kelly Middle School open house events we played outside of – it stood for “Poverty/ Racism/Discrimination Victim Asian Kid”). PRDVAK took our- selves pretty seriously after our school-wide Japanese-language hit “Cheeseburger Combo” (the music video for which is still on YouTube). We even switched to the equally off-the-mark moniker “The Creative Flow.” But deep down I knew I’d never play the guitar as well as the great Johns: Frusciante, Mayer, Lennon, “ny Cash,” or even Bon Jovi. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t pretend.

Since 8th grade, the air guitar has been my best friend. To this day I sometimes skip class, find a bathroom stall, and play as intensely as I can until someone actually needs to use the toilet more than an audience would for my feigned Clapton solos.

Some (my mom) might say it’s a worthless skill. To them (her) I say, “Remember that time I was voted the 2010 North Eugene High School Air Guitar Champion and won a Nintendo Wii which I promptly traded in for store credit that I almost used to buy you that makeup remover you really love but instead I used it to buy candy and video games? No?? Well it happened.” Don’t let anyone steal your joy, readers. This hobby may not have helped me develop any character or callouses, but it probably does have some other redeeming quality that I’ll think of eventually.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *