As kids we shout for everyone to watch us cannonball and somersault into swimming pools. When we begin the uneasy transition into adultishness, the pool trick loses its potency. How do we continue to fulfill that awkward desire to impress others without doing anything impressive, to have everyone's attention without rewarding those who turn their attention toward us? Some get into fights as often as possible. Some brush hair and apply makeup in public. A select few go all-in, becoming the guy that plays guitar next to a campfire.
Do you have what it takes to become Campfire Guitar Guy? You're not sure? Good. Having an insecurity that you'd like to hide is the first step.
You will, of course, need an acoustic guitar. It doesn't really matter what the brand and model are. Any old guitar will do, just so long as a strum across its strings sounds like a choir of pitch-perfect angels singing the most beautiful melody ever created. Unfortunately, acoustic guitars are rather difficult to find. You can't just walk into a store and purchase one with a fat handful of dollars and checks. Your best bet is to go on a months-long hunt, stealthily tracking a Campfire Guitar Guy until you find him asleep in a clearing, then silently falling upon him with a knife and an unspoken apology upon your lips.
Now that you have a guitar, you'll need to learn how to play the stupid thing. I recommend starting off with little skill or knowledge, then slowly getting better until you are the best. There are other methods, such as starting off as pretty good then becoming great before going back to being pretty good, but I wouldn't suggest them. If someone brings up one of these alternatives while you are playing guitar, you should form a chord that requires the extension of your middle finger and play that chord repeatedly while shouting "GO AWAY" until they go away.
When you think you're ready, pack up your guitar and locate a campfire. It should be easy enough to find. Simply refer to your Atlas Of Places Where There Are Definitely No Campfires and head to one of the excluded sites. With any luck, the campfire will be surrounded by people having a good time and speaking to one another. In a few short minutes you'll put an end to all that.
Be extremely casual. Sit down on a log. Take your guitar out of its case as if you just happened to see it sitting there. Quietly pluck at a few strings, singing softly. Pretend to be embarrassed when people start looking at you.
This is a crucial time. Someone else on the campgrounds might be piecing together a 31-piece drum kit, or whispering the opening lines of a one-man show performance of Die Hard. Eliminate any potential rivals as quickly as possible by throwing a stick deep into the woods and watching them run off to chase it.
Once you're sure all the focus is on you, signal your hidden partner to turn on the spotlight. With its bright beam of attention-grabbing illumination aimed squarely at the moon, the spotlight will provide your audience with something to stare up at dreamily as you launch into your song.
You may wish to incorporate acts of showmanship into your set. If someone has a hot dog cooking over the campfire at the end of a stick, lean forward and take a big bite as you play, then flash an innocent look. Don't let on that the hot dog is still raw or that you have a fatal hot dog allergy. If someone is cooking marshmallows over the fire, lean forward to take a big bite as you play, but fall face first into the fire. Amaze everyone by standing up perfectly unscathed, never missing a note.
When and how should you end the performance? Never. A true Campfire Guitar Guy stretches every song into an excruciating fifteen-minute ordeal with repeated choruses and early verses that are skipped then hauled out just when everyone hopes the performance is over. Play every song you know, then play every song you don't know, using the chord progression from "Louie Louie" as a base while you belt out half-remembered lyrics.
If partygoers start to ignore you and try to speak to one another, play louder. When exaggerated yawns and mentions of sleep crop up, have your assistant steal the tents and disable any nearby vehicles. As night turns to day, as plaintive cries turn to frightened convulsions, hold steady. Keep feeding. Never stop until the attention is drained dry.
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You can realize that you’ve wasted the last few moments of youth at an occupation you hate or fool yourself into a numb compliance with one of these great excuses.