mix-tape mementos

Submitted by la miller on 6 October, 2008 - 15:01

This is a story idea that I have about mix tapes.

It really has to do with the fact that my car, that I don't drive very often, has a cassette tape player. I really love that it has a cassette player and not a CD player. So, when I'm driving all over town running errands, I've been listening to old (and one new) mix tapes. These tapes haven't really been in circulation, but over the past year and a half as I've moved out of and sold a house, I unearthed several old mix tapes that friends had made for me and a couple I had made for myself.

My story idea involves those mix tapes and the people that made them. Most of the mix-tape makers are absent from my life now and the collection of music they put together is what's stayed with me. Who are they now? What were they thinking? Did I ever make a mix-tape for them? Usually the exchange of mix-tapes implies some kind of emotional connection, what were my relationships like then?

tapesthe tapes

I was listening to one a few days ago that I don't remember listening to more than a handful of times when I got it. The creator was someone I really connected with musically. A not-very-close college friend, a few years later we developed a friendship and were exchanging emails and music while he was living in Washington D.C. and I was in Madison. He never gave me music I didn't like. It was as I was listening to that tape that this idea occurred to me. I wanted to ask him, "Why did you included these incredible gospel songs? How did you know that I'd like them? Where did you find them?

I dug all the mix-tapes out of the back seat of my car where I've been throwing them as I find them. I collected eight, but what about those other mix-tapes that I remember having that weren't there? Did I really throw them away? It's entirely possible given my past mania to get rid of stuff. Or did I let nostalgia win out and they're in a box somewhere? Maybe even in the storage closet in the basement of my apartment. (Moving out here wasn't terribly organized or clean. Sometimes I'm not sure what I still have.) Clearly there's an expedition into the storage closet involved in this story.

Technology has changed this a lot. Mix-tapes were made in real time. You had to be present for the whole process. Now we just make playlists in iTunes and burn a CD or maybe there's something even more sophisticated that the kids are doing these days. Anyway, it's not the same. A plastic encased 90-minute meditation on a friend or crush or whatever is truly a treasure.