So I’m sure anyone knows, when you move into a house, you take boxes upon boxes of possessions, and you shove them in the attic. Years, even a decade can go by before you need some trinket, some book, or some photo for a project you are working on. When it dawns on you that you cannot live without Content Area Reading from your 1996 class, or that picture from 1988 of all your friends at Chuck E. Cheese at your surprise 18th birthday, well, you set out on a mission to open all 37 boxes until you find exactly what you need. Ah, but the greatest part of the treasure hunt is stumbling upon something you did not remember that you kept: something that defined your youth, your individualism, your sense of self.
For me that moment happened this morning. The ultimate item that defined my youth was my Sony Sports Cassette Player Walkman that played the mixed tape! Right when I saw it, my heart fluttered. I rushed downstairs, put batteries in it, hit play, and… nothing. It did not work. It did not play. The mix “Tunes For Freud Dude” (Freud is pronounced frude to rhyme with dude. Bitchen, right?) will for the time being be a mystery, but I can guess what I would have heard: Smiths, Sparks, Echo and the Bunnymen, to name a few. The ultimate 1980s montage of alternative rock.
To say I was slightly disappointed is an understatement. The Sony Sports Walkman and the mix tape defined my youth– lying in the sun slathered in baby oil (we didn’t talk about skin cancer in the 80s; we talked about getting a tan); running the neighborhood exercising my toned, fit youthful body; sitting in the library at school sneaking the joyous harmonious overtones of punk rock angst and unrequited love– these were the moments that created my identity, my love for music, and my love for self-expression. I wanted to hit the play button and metamorphose into a seventeen year-old, sun-kissed blond, happily wearing Espirit, outrageous earrings, the Sony Walkman, and a smile.
My daughters could not believe the size of the Walkman. When I explained the premise of the mixed tape, ninety minutes of sheer delight; they laughed in my face. They have iPods that hold hundreds, even thousands of songs. I explained it was like a playlist, and they kind of understood, but they still thought it seemed inconvenient to have all of those tapes lying around.
Ugh! I loved those tapes, and even more so, I loved making those tapes. Each mix represented a time of my teenage life– and I know if I was able to play this tape, I would conjure a multitude of memories– high school dances, parties, friends, and fun. If you were to ask any of my high school friends, I was considered the quintessential mix-maker. Martha Quinn and MTV had nothing on me. I bought Maxell tapes by the dozens, and whenever I made a tape, everyone wanted a copy. These tapes represented who we were.
The most important part of the mix was getting the songs in the correct order. Theme, speed of the song, and artist all mattered. I mean come on, you could not put “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” after “Burning Down the House”– the themes do not match, the speeds do not flow together correctly, and the melancholy pensive style of Morrissey would not do the upbeat folly of David Byrne justice. It mattered. It mattered because unlike the modern conveniences of shuffle and skip, most of the times, you listened to every song on the tape in order because everyone knew fast forward and rewind were bad for both the Walkman and the cassette itself.
I never did find the book I was looking for; nonetheless, I realized it is pretty righteous to be an American girl born in the USA, and that maybe for a while I was on a road to nowhere in a raspberry beret, and maybe I’ve forgotten the name and the address of everyone I’ve ever known, it’s nothing I regret because this is the day my life will surely change; this is the day my life falls into place. At least, that’s what my music tells me.