I’m standing ankle deep in the living room shag, legs spread apart, guitar hanging from a strap that crosses my chest like a shoulder bag I’m stowing away from purse thieves. I feel like a Freedom Shopper.
Santa in his jolly elven wisdom brought the children a video game that uses miniature plastic guitars as controllers. That’s like bringing Stephen Hawking a Playskool computer.
Personally, I'm having trouble working up to technology that advanced. Five colored buttons on the guitar correspond to notes on the televison screen. I can type 85 words a minute without so much as a peek at the space bar. So why can’t I play Slow Ride in easy mode without holding the guitar up to my bifocals to help me distinguish the red button from the green?
As the colored numbers disappear down the yellow brick road onscreen, I’m wildly pressing buttons at random, humming “If I only had a brain,” at chipmunk speed in my head. I press the yellow button in time to score a point and figure I’m in the zone. “Jimi Hendrix, eat your heart out!” I squeal, sinking to one knee and head banging with enough gusto to take the curl out of my perm.
“You know Jimi Hendrix?” Apparently I’m earning Mom points with my specialized history knowledge.
“Who doesn’t know Jimi?” I’m in the zone. I feel the music. I also feel pain in my old roller skating injury. “Help me up. My knees are locked.”
I’m just getting into the rhythm of the thing when the song ends. The virtual rock star onscreen shoots me a disgusted look and the audience jeers.
“Gee Mom,” says Son One, ever the encourager. “You got booed by a fake crowd.”
Son Two, heaven’s answer to Eric Clapton, picks up the guitar. “Like this, Mom.” By the time he’s through playing Freebird, we’ve all linked arms and are swaying back and forth. The dog is holding a lighter aloft and wiping a tear from one eye.
Oh sure, kids today have video games that have more moves than the real people we actually knew. But my generation had Jimi before he was an electronic rendition. We had the Beatles live. We had Elvis in his prime. You can’t duplicate that. Not with a plastic guitar and a six inch cartoon figure whose pixels won’t swivel.