If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
I awoke... Well, to say awoke implies I actually got to sleep, which last night I didn't ? not because I was out carousing on my final night in London, but because I have anxiety-induced insomnia, and nothing gets one's anxiety revved up like knowing one has to wake up at 4am to catch an hour-long taxi to the airport to catch a flight to catch a train. Before going "to sleep" at 11:30 pm, I debated taking a sleeping pill, but the only ones I had on me were Ambien CR (I recently did a comparison of sleeping pills for Esquire magazine and had some left over) and these are rather strong controlled-release doses, and I didn't think I'd be able to wake up at 3:45 am after taking one less than five hours prior. Instead I just sat in bed all night, stewing.
I finally got out of bed around 3:10 am, drank some tea, and quietly left Brixton in a cab.
"How you today, sir?" asked my cabbie. Though I am 35 years old, I still feel awkward being called sir.
"Tired," I say. "I didn't sleep last night."
"I only got three hours," he says. "I'm very tired."
To stay awake, the cabbie held his right hand out the window the entire ride to Stansted Airport, which is about an hour out of London. That only made me slightly terrified.
In the Air
Now I am writing on board a Ryanair flight from London to Tampere, Finland, where I'll be adjudicating at the dark horse qualifying round of the Air Guitar World Championships. I'll also host an Aireoke after party that night, lecture on "Nietzsche and Persistence in Air Guitar" at the High Altitude Training Camp, lecture on "web journalism" at the Oulu University of Applied Science, drink an unhealthy amount of alcohol, and sweat for long periods of time in a variety of Finland's ubiquitous saunas.
I'm looking forward to it, I think.
(Ryanair, by the way, is really cheap, and not bad at all. My cab ride from Brixton to Stansted was more expensive, actually, than the airfare to Finland. The seats are not pre-assigned, and I was able to grab an exit row isle seat despite being in the back of the boarding line. For more on the exciting world of Ryanair, check out Anthony Lane's piece about it in a recent New Yorker).
This will mark my third year attending the Air Guitar World Championships, my third trek to Oulu ? a small university town in the north of Finland. The words of David Byrne often echo in my head: "And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"
This Thursday night's dark horse round ? in which those brave or idiotic enough to get themselves to Oulu for the competition compete for one of five slots in the world finals ? will mark my second time serving on an air guitar jury.
Now that I have officially retired from competitive air guitar, it's sort of an "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" kind of thing.
My first stint as air arbitrator was last Friday night at the first official UK Air Guitar Championships in London (there have been other competitions, but they were unsanctioned by the world federation). I served on the jury with two-time world champ Zac "The Magnet" Monro, and a music promoter named Chris, both of whom helped organize the extraordinarily well pulled-off event. They had an amazing video display, lots of cool set pieces including a simulated "road case" booth for the judges, and giant plectrums with the rules printed on them ? seen here held by the evening's emcee:
There were some good performances, and my early favorite was this guy wearing pink stripes who also seemed an audience frontrunner as well:
The top three air guitarists went on to the compulsory round where they had to do a song chosen by the evening's organizers. It was the Arctic Monkeys, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor." Zac and I decided (well, I suggested and he obliged) that we should do a demonstration, which was, I am told, head and shoulders above any of the night's competition (as is clearly demonstrated here by Zac).
I thought Count Rockula, who had a couple of very solid moves and some astonishingly tight spandex, rocked hard ? but lacked any real technical prowess.
By the end, it was clear that the Hoxton Creeper, who is actually an Italian chef and is not British, was il maestro of the air.
He took home the beautifully rendered Lucite trophy and got two tickets to paradise, er, Finland.
Later that week, after a nice sushi dinner in central London, an acoustic air guitar fell from the sky and I played it with a broken vacuum cleaner that was lying in a heap of garbage...
My work is never done.