Monday, August 23, 2010

Mixed Up

I used to adore making a mix tape. Hell, who am I kidding, I haven't made a "tape" since I was still recording Top 10's off the radio. Let me rephrase... I used to adore making a mix. Pulsing with theme, alive with sound, ahh, those were such proud days. I'd fill in the lines on the smooth, square matte paper  with permanent marker to make sure the mix stayed tight and deliver with such a sense of satisfaction. Often the recipient was the reason the mix got made in the first place. An inspired introduction to my taste and style, all in just shy of an hour and 20 minutes. I even used to shrink the time between songs to make sure all 22 or so made it. Like some mad agent out to sell a greatest hits, I chopped off the last 3 seconds here, made the lag time 1 second there, stopped Pink Floyd mid-chant in "Fearless" just to squeak it all in.

Nowadays I start a mix, make another five more just like it in some iPod On-the-Go frenzy, and never quite make it to blow dry the Sharpie label illuminating the compact disk. Fucking repeat. This whole thought began with a repeat. I was in the bath, and decided to revisit this mix I made called "DC or Bust" for the U-Haul ride with my mom on the drive from Asheville to Washington. It's actually a pretty prefect bath mix. It's totally me, but with nothing on there my Mom would switch off suddenly in a nervous moment on the road like she used to do to the dial on 93.5FM back home when we found ourselves stuck in traffic and she needed a little quiet. Not unlike her required silence, I guess this mix is calming in a way, yet at the same time, completely sad, a little ridiculous and, in this case, all-out hopelessly romantic. If that doesn't also manage to fit the theme of a move, I don't know what does. Especially one in which you pack your feelings all up with your luggage too.

Truth? "DC or Bust" reeks of my ex. It's littered with lyrical asides and songs stolen right off some other mix we made together. I left Asheville in such a fucking hurry the bust part was bound to happen - musical support or not. A song comes on and I can't help but snicker again at what I found funny earlier (as I sat in the so-not-warm-anymore bath water). Beck is on every single one of these damn mixes from the Summer of 2007. Maybe even farther back. "Missing" no less. If I could've picked a theme song for our relationship, it would have been this one, so it fits just fine. I must have ignored the glaring symbolism back then when we were still mixed up making mixes. But it doesn't matter now. The mix made it and he did not.

I think the static choices I made back then where my way of trying to control the chaos of my heart. And maybe that's the whole point of a mix tape. Finding a place to stand still in the middle of your mood. Making that Cat Stevens song from Harold & Maude flow right into "Sweet Black Angel". Picking something because it mentions the part of your past you are leaving behind but still manages to make you hopeful for the future; where you might eventually be sitting in a dress - ironically covered in pink mix tapes - listening to that very song, wondering what happened to that girl but being so glad you're not her anymore.

Oh, don't worry, I'll still make a new mix. In fact, I have one right now that needs a little tweaking. It's too long, and something just doesn't sound right, and well, life's too short for a crappy mix tape.