Please don’t play your acoustic guitar around me; I’ve heard enough.

These days fewer people wander the streets with a guitar strapped around their necks, ready to take society on unwanted journeys into church, love, or folk. 

When I was younger, countless acquaintances had an acoustic guitar within reach. They needed no prodding to get going into “Cheeseburger in Paradise” or “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy.” And the musicians recieved little to no pushback from anyone. 

These happy, uninhibited bastards crowded my church life. They could be found at my military school, college, and around town. My interims were filled with amateur guitar-backed forays into songs made famous by Hank Williams Sr., Mike + The Mechanics, Dave Mathews Band, and sometimes Russian folk.

My entire childhood in the church was backed up by someone playing acoustic guitar — usually at the center of a cloistered mass of other children. During Sunday School or singing along off-key as fuck with an acoustic guitar strumming at the front of the church — waving at parents.

And by the way, Catholics wouldn’t deal with this shit. Don’t play acoustic guitar at Mass unless you’re a member of the Von Trapp family.

My mother was Catholic enough for me to form a longitudinal study of the skill level needed to be invited in front of Mass to play or sing.

While at my Lutheran church, I was invited to solo in front of the Christmas Eve service with the saxophone. And I only started playing it a season before being asked to squeak out “I Saw Three Ships” to the congregation. 

And then I basked in the approval, catching whispered, “you did great!” from everyone on my way back to my pew. There my mother took my hand; “you need to practice.”


Meanwhile, I’ve wandered away from the acoustic guitar.

When in college, a dude would saunter around — guitar strapped loosely about him — strumming, mainly to clusters of ladies randomly sitting in the grass. An easy smile would quickly lead into an abbreviated song. Chord fluttering and talking and more playing and singing.

Composite — Photo by Francesco Morrone

One night, he sidled up to the staircase railing beside me as I smoked — to myself, I’m shouting, “please don’t play your acoustic guitar around me.” I heard him coming from over the hill crest, strumming clusters of notes, and I knew, with my luck, he would see me as an audience.

And he did. He stopped next to me and began to play. He splattered notes into the Vermont air and then choked the neck of his instrument suddenly. “You ever wonder,” aiming the guitar head at the night sky, “if any of them over there are staring back this way?”

The year before, I had been attending a military school in the deep south. Most folks were positive the rapture was imminent. Like, possibly next week. “I dunno,” I stammered awkwardly. 

The universe is somehow patient with this brand of lackadaisical indifference. A couple of dudes in Vermont are contemplating everything, and one of the dude is holding an acoustic goddam guitar.

Nonetheles it’s poor form, like accidentally heckling zoo animals that could randomly collapse into a hole that sucks everything into it.


Anyone pulls a guitar out, and I immediately long for that person to hurry the hell up.

When I worked in software, the company would host epic house parties delightfully drenched in alcohol. They were wonderful. A lot of good people and conversations.

Generally, I wanted to talk about Alien Skin Software’s awesome logo or how overpriced and over-hyped the goddam Flint was. I wanted to shoot the shit about Halo or Hip-hop or how awesome being “fucked up” was. Or any embarrassing forays into uninformed political opinions for the point of argument.

Anyway, like clockwork in the twilight hours, one dude suddenly appears with an acoustic guitar in the center of wherever the most people are milling. And then starts playing Russian folk. Hushing everyone into a vibe-shattering, “oh, I guess we’re listening to you now.”

And I had to pee. 

We sat or stood glued to our spot because — a dude is suddenly performing in front of us. No one asked for it, but walking out would still be rude.

We eyed our company’s Russian contingent for clues on how to respond to all of this. Maybe internally, “ooph, please don’t play your acoustic guitar.” Yet outwardly, there were smiles and other indications of solemn approval. 

I should have taken a second to realize how rare it was to be introduced to cultural music. It felt from the heart — a powerful thing to share with others.

I wanted to get the fuck away.


It would be easy to push this missive into “suck” territory. I use the “suck” title construction for my low-stakes complaints about copious Feta or AI-Generated art. And titling this “Acoustic Guitars Suck” would complete that trilogy. Peddling a word that earned me a paddling in elementary school.

I dropped “suck” in the middle of a tense kickball game. And the gym teacher was all, “what did you just say?!” 

“Suck” is a moronic childish obscenity; if I took anything from my paddling, it should have been that. But… people search the internet for combinations of things that “suck.” i.e. it’s a play for effective SEO.

I was marched to the assistant principal’s office, head bowed. “Come in,” she said, “I was on the phone with your father, and he’s agreed with your punishment.” Nodding down to a large wooden object in the corner. It resembled something you might use to propel a canoe.

The assistant principal embodied every nightmarish teacher stereotype. Villainous sharp angled glasses that created sinister shadows over her beady eyes. Dark red clothing hooked up on the shoulders by massive padding. Long thin cigarettes stubbed out in an amber ashtray.

Behind her were pictures of a career, a painting of the elementary school, and a wolf plush that stared back stupidly in my direction. It was Vučko, the mascot from the Sarajevo Winter Olympics — she had explained that someone she knew, I think her son, had brought it back for her.

It was either the time I had been throwing up in class from flu or the time I had uttered “butthead” in art class that I found out who Vučko was. 

This time I took three loud claps to my posterior and was sent back to my homeroom crying.


 Acoustic guitars don’t suck; in the right hands, they are amazing. Albeit in the wrong hands, they are still pretty admirable.

I am impressed by those who play instruments; it’s as unique to me as knowing another language. And the courage to wander around playing it for others is praiseworthy, whether you are fucking Liberachi with the shit or some dude from college trying to score a date. 

But please don’t play around me. It is too awkward being the only audience for your personal show.

By the way, I doubt anyone will read this, let alone anyone from school — JIC, I’m thinking of a dude from freshman year. Not the egg-man, that dude was fantastic; I wouldn’t have ever shut him down with a please don’t play your acoustic guitar.

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