(You might want to read it. It's helpful for what follows.)
(Or not. Whatever. No pressure here.)
(But really, yeah.)
At the time (September 2011), I had no idea that this little spare room would eventually become my bedroom once my spouse and I separated-but-still-lived-together. At the time I just wanted to de-clutter a space that had become too messy and overstuffed for its intended purpose.
And damned if I haven't had to throw away even more stuff as I prepare to leave this room forever.
|Not a picture of my actual room, but you know, |
Well, guess what? I'm now faced with the same decision to keep or discard those old tapes. They're mostly mixtapes made by dear friends. Although I haven't listened to them in years, I still remember most of the song sequences by heart. Because music is that way.
|It hath charms, people. Breast-soothing charms.|
Except I do. I have one device that will play a cassette tape: My nostalgia-designed turntable/radio/tape player thingy. My cars won't play cassettes, I don't own a standalone player or a Walkman. But I have this.
I've been promising myself that I would try to play my beloved, scruffy old mixtapes on this thing before deciding to chuck them. I've also been putting it off. I mean, come on, what are the odds that they won't sound like shit - so distorted and echoey that I can barely tell what the songs were supposed to be. And so I've avoided actually plugging in my turntable/cassette player thingy on the pretense that I have 500 other things to do.
Which is sort of true, anyway.
But tonight is Friday night. My Precocious Daughter is away. My spouse is working. I have the house to myself. I'm treating myself to a dinner of pizza and vodka to celebrate the end of another challenging week.
This is it.
So I plugged in the thingy. And I pulled out an old, dusty cassette to potentially sacrifice to the hungry gods of chewed-up magnetic tape.
I chose one my dear friend Trips sent me in the '80s. One side was labeled (in her unforgettable, spiky handwriting) "Driving Music" and the other "The Cut-Off Side." I love Trips, and I owe her a tremendous debt for introducing me to many of the musical artists I still love today. Talking Heads. The Jam. Tom Waits. XTC. She fostered my obsession with Bob Dylan and understood my love of '50s rock and roll. And she made the most amazing mixtapes.
With very low expectations of success, I pushed it into the cassette slot on the side of the thingy. I nudged up the volume, anticipating that whatever sound the tape made would be mostly inaudible.
And I heard the unmistakable voice of Chuck Berry singing "Brown Eyed Handsome Man." Loudly, proudly, and every bit as clearly as the day it was recorded from a vinyl record onto a cheap cassette. Which is to say, not with digital clarity, but amazingly damn good for a 30-year-old tape that had been sitting in a closet and hadn't been played since the first Bush administration.
I may have cried a little.
And then I tried one that Bestest Friend made for me in (maybe) the early 1990s. Again, a surprisingly well-preserved time capsule of music, made with loving care, one track at a time.
You kids with your shared playlists have no idea what an important and intimate thing it is to create a mixtape.
I can't believe these tapes still play, and still sound perfectly serviceable.
I apologize to the Maxell and BSF companies for all the smack I've talked about their audio products since advent of digital music.
If I get ambitious (and really bored in the absence of PDaughter), I may record a few of these tapes for my long-neglected YouTube channel. I don't even remember some of these songs any more, and it would be amazing if you guys could help me compile a track list.
If you've ever made me a mixtape, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I'm keeping them all. Forever. Not like marriage-forever, but like friends-forever.
That's really forever.