Monday, June 17, 2013

President or Guitarist--that is the question

Probably the hardest thing to do is decide what it is you want to do.

Millions of teenage boys and maybe an equal number of girls must decide at an early age if they want to become a guitarist. Guitarist isn’t something one becomes later in life. A much smaller number have to decide if they want to take a stab at being president and there is a little less urgency involved.

Being a guitarist probably has a lead in time of about six months to learn the basics and then you must determine if being a rock-n-roll guitarist is “for you.” If you decide it is, there will be an incubation period of about five to ten years for the general public to decided if they want to get on your bandwagon. Generally to be a successful guitarist in a rock-n-roll band you need only a few million fans or even less if they are hardcore.

For the young men or women who decide they want to be president the prep time is a little longer—more like 30 years to get yourself in position to throw your hat into the ring and to actually be elected president you will need at least 70-million votes—a number will likely grow to a hundred million for the teenager making a choice today.

What are the odds for success? Well there have been thousands, hundreds of thousands of guitarist—everyone from Eric Clapton to the kid playing across the street right now in his garage. We’ve only had 44 presidents and to even approach 100 our nation will have to have survived longer than the Roman Empire.

So if you’re one of those people that can go either way, guitarist is probably the way to go. And if you’re one of those kids that really, really, really want to be president, you would still be wise to give being guitarist a second look.

If answering the question, “What to do?” is the hardest thing to do I’d say the easiest question to answer is, “Did I make the right choice?”

I’ve seen president’s come and go and believe me they look happier coming than going. They come in with unbridled enthusiasm but go out like they were rode hard without a saddle. You can practically see the spur marks that have been dug into them.

A president is afforded every comfort of life imaginable—a rent-free mansion, two planes to take him anywhere he wants to go, a squadron of helicopters to get him to those planes and a fleet of limousines to get him to those helicopters if for some reason they can’t land on his roof.

His food is prepared by master chefs, he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to talk to and anyone he does want to talk to is waiting outside his office the moment he wants to speak to them. He has a private theater, his own bowling alley, a pool, an exercise room and his own theme song.

Still, in spite of all this stuff, when he leaves office he has a look on his face that seems to cry out, find me a bed, get me a stiff drink and I don’t want to speak to anyone for a month—and then only if they’re calling to apologize. His hair has turned gray, his eye sockets sunken into swollen cheeks, his face wrinkled into a gerrymandered facsimile of the one that got him 58% of the women’s vote alone just a short four and no more than eight years earlier.

Whether he was a good president, a bad president or simply a run of the mill president, the most accurate way to describe a president leaving the White House for the last time is to say, he looks like shit.

Perhaps now would be a good time to explain what has brought on this comparison of president or guitarist, as a career choice.

I was watching the 2013 Rock-n-Roll induction ceremonies the other night and to be perfectly honest it was very much like watching the Country Music Awards or the Grammy’s or the People’s Choice. You see one music awards show, you’ve seen them all and if you’ve seen them all you’ve seen a few too many but there was one thing, common to all, that really got my attention.

It was the guitarists—men and women of all ages—and every one of them looked like the happiest people on the face of the earth. Now it’s pretty easy to understand why the young ones were happy. They were experiencing success for the first time in their lives. But more importantly, they were doing it while most of their former high school classmates were busying themselves going into deep college debt or else working as interns in professions they have already decided were the wrong choices.

But it was the older ones that caught my attention. And when I say older ones I mean guitarist, who were, on average, older than the last two and certainly the next president to drag himself out of the White House for his final ride home.

They were prancing up and down the stage like cheerleaders at a pep rally, strumming their solos as if they were show-n-tells being delivered to awestruck classmates. They were talking with each other, wide grins on their faces, like they were boys in the gym bragging about last night’s date. But they weren’t boys.

These were old men raising their guitars to the roof, dropping their heads to the floor and turning their backs to the audience for private jokes with the drummer as if to say, “Yeah, that’s right, I’m 68 years old and I’m still the meanest, baddest bad ass in the house. I’ve never worked a day in my life but I made more money last year than you’ve made in a lifetime. I’ve never punched a time clock but I’ve punched out riffs you couldn’t find on a ten-foot Fender guitar neck.

I’m not saying they didn’t look like they’d been doing some hard travelin'. I’m just saying they didn’t have that same beat up and hung out to dry look our most recent Commander-in-Chiefs have had when they reached the end of the road. In fact, they look like they never felt better. When they finish their last gig and walk off the stage they look as satisfied as they must have appeared when they walked onto the stage for their first gig.

A president’s time in office might be measured as such:

a crisis,
another crisis,
yet another crisis,
a crisis no one saw coming,
get me the hell home.

A guitarist career might be measured thusly:

   first gig with his first riff,
   another gig with another riff,
   yet another gig with yet another riff'
   an eternity of gigs with an eternity of riffs,
   and finally his last gig featuring his final riff, a really, good  riff.

Nothing else matters. Every guitarist working his very last gig knows he made the right choice. And he doesn't have to build a library to prove it.