I adore mixtapes.
I’ve got eclectic taste in music. I’ve traditionally said my tastes are like Old Country Buffet. There’s a whole lot of everything and none of it is particularly good. If I had to pick five favorite artists, it’d be Mountain Goats, Green Day, Bowling for Soup, Pearl Jam and The Bloodhound Gang. Yeah…
But what happens is, songs take on meanings. I make a mix CD now and each song reminds me of my past. I listen to Modest Mouse or Mountain Goats, and I think of Keli from Barnes and Noble. If I hear Misfits or The Kills or Nick Cave, I think of the awesome mix Scotty made us in film school. When I hear Ween or XTC or Goldfinger, I think of Shep in his mom’s van. Tim Spaulding makes incredible mixtapes at least once a year. Death Cab for Cutie makes me think of Jenn teaching in Roanoke, Fall Out Boy makes me think of Erin Michaelceratops, The Decembrists make me think of everyone at Barnes and Noble in Montgomeryville. But it goes beyond that. Dave Matthews Band is a double conjuration – of Jill and Allison, but also of Washington and Lee and frat basements. I think of playing board games with Wolfe and Marci, or listening to Wexler jam with his endless assortment of bands. I think of Matt Rittenhouse singing at a bonfire. I think of driving cross country and seeing the stars in Nebraska. I heard Crush’s Jellyhead and I think of dancing on our coffee table at 2 AM with a baby in a diaper. I remember accidentally going to my first Weezer concert. I remember giant foam cowboy hats, and double fisting Miller Lites, of chest-bumping a little mohawked motherfucker who was spazzing out in the mosh pit at the TLA in Philly. I remember good times and bad. Some of the songs make me think of the Theatre Outlet and pre-show before the plays I wrote were to be performed. Each song has a single significance depending on what I heard. It makes me remember my friends. I still can’t listen to Eddie Vedder singing Last Kiss or The Quad City DJ’s singing Come On Ride It without thinking of my brother and I driving up to Scranton for my grandfather’s funeral, singing as loud as we could so we wouldn’t cry.
I always ask people to send me new mixtapes, or now, I guess it’s evolved to playlists. I tried to do a writing project that I still think would have been amazing had I not bit off a little more than I can chew. It was to be called Lost and Found Ears. Basically, I asked 40 friends to send me a song, any song, every three weeks for what was to be a full year. I would not tell them why. And then I would take the songs and put them randomly on a playlist and listen to them. And then I would write a story based on what came to mind when I listened to the playlist. I only ever wrote two of the stories. But I liked them. And I didn’t tell them what else I was planning with them. So maybe when I resurrect it, it’ll still be a surprise. But that would have meant so much if I could have pulled it off.
My playlists confuse other people when they hear them. Why that? It’s a mini hug that you don’t need to understand. It’s better than a letter, or an email. Higginbottom doesn’t like us to have much material crap lying around (and after the move, I am beginning to see her wisdom) but the problem is, people judge you. They come to your home and see the books and DVDs and CDs and video games and they judge you. Now, that everything is becoming digitalized, it’s a little less important. But a mixtape is a connection. It’s someone saying, “Here’s a little piece of me that isn’t quite a piece of me, and here’s what I think about you, but maybe not.”
I adore mixtapes.