Life is a Mixtape

Awhile back, someone gave me a mixtape.

It wasn’t just any ol’ mixtape.
This person, a boy, carefully selected a medley of music ranging from Tom Waits to Gil Scott-Heron, dropped it all onto a USB drive, and then fused the USB drive into a gutted cassette cartridge, therefore creating a USB mixtape.
The idea that someone wanted to give me a mixtape was lost upon me at first. However, over time the significance became more clearer. You see, it had been a long time since a boy made a mixtape solely for me. The connotation often affiliated with such an act had become foreign to me. A gesture of a time long ago.
At least I thought.
In return, I arduously made the boy a mixtape. Though creatively inferior to his own present, it held the same emphasis nonetheless.
Since the day I received the modern day version of the classic mixtape, I’ve thought a lot about it’s bearing on contemporary culture.

Being the articulate sage I am not, Rob Sheffield, from his book, “Love is a Mixtape”, sums it up better than I ever could;

“The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with- nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together and they can add up to the story of a life.”
He’s right.
For me there is only one song that lives on my own mixtape. It sums up my entire life. It’s the mixtape I will give to myself at my wedding. The mixtape I will play at my child’s birth. The mixtape someone else will have to play for me at my funeral.
It’s a tape made of twenty tracks of “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads.
It’s a song about love. The sort of love where your “head is in the sky” and you “make it up as you go along”. It’s about home, but not really knowing where that is, until you find that person. It’s about death and loving that person until “their heart stops”. The words are spoken by a man who never sang about love, who never sang about his emotions. Only objects and abstraction. A man who probably thought he was incapable of ever feeling such a way.
However, this time he felt something.
This post has been a few months in the making, and now I can finally finish it.

The boy and I parted ways yesterday.

But the mixtape that he put so much time and energy in, the mixtape he nervously handed to me in the kitchen, the mixtape I was too confused to receive, the mixtape I listened to the next night and smiled to until I fell asleep, like a snapshot, has now become a fleeting memory that will forever live on in the essence of itself.

So goodbye, boy. I know you are reading this. You always do.
But maybe today you won’t.
You knew you couldn’t get away with dating a blogger and not getting mentioned at least once on her blog.
Thank you for being my mixtape giver, my daily proofreader, but above all, thank you for being simply amazing.

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  • Reply Angie April 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    It's so true, my collection of burned cds (don't really have any casettes) are like a time capsule. I put one on and the combination of random songs makes me time travel, and memories come flooding back to where I was and what I was doing when I made it. Even the people that were around me at the time…

  • Reply M. April 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    fuck, i love this clip from Stop Making Sense!

  • Reply Jessica Druck April 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    i love mix tapes…or mix playlists at least; however, I hate when a perfectly favorited song or band is ruined by the terrible memory of someone.

  • Reply Hipstercrite April 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    @Angie- Music is pretty incredible like that, huh? "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder makes me think of my Dad. Any Earth, Wind, and Fire song makes me think of my Mom. Dave Matthews Band makes me think of high school….

    @M- So do I. I first fell in love with this song ten years ago when I watched the re-release of Stop Making Sense. Within the first couple of bars, I was hooked.

    @Jessica- I hear ya, but usually that fades with time.

  • Reply Wild Celtic April 21, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Almost crying over here!! What a sweet dedication to your mix tape boy. Wonderful post.

  • Reply The Fresch Klesch April 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    ah the art of the mixed tape for expression of what you are nervous to say yourself.

  • Reply Amy April 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I once fell for a boy who made me a mix with that song on it, oddly enough. At the time, it seemed like it was a painstaking process for him to put it together; looking back now I realize it was most likely just a happy accident of a compilation, but whatever. I don't care much for him anymore, but I still do love that mix!

    The USB-mixtape fusion reminds me of this little product, which I received for Christmas this year:


    Anyway, I love your blog. Thanks for taking us all on a trip down mixtape memory lane with this post. I agree with the previous post about mix tapes being a time capsule… mine are priceless for that reason!

  • Reply Christine Macdonald April 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    How lovely to mention this man who came in to your life and left an indelible place in your heart. The older we get, the more we realize thoughtfullness is really an amasing trait.

    I'm happy you tresure that gift. It's a way to celebrate life's moments. Even love that moves on.


  • Reply H. Brown April 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    speaking from experience, the songs last longer than the painful memories. and mix tapes are the most wonderful thing in the world. and that song is the best life soundtrack. i just watched lars and the real girl again with friends, and that song plays at the end. perfect.

  • Reply the eternal worrier April 21, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Thats a great post. I found a CD in the car the other day of ten tracks I gave to my girlfriend years ago. Truly brings back good memories.

  • Reply girluntitled April 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    this song is great. definitely one worthy enough to be put on a tape 20 times consecutively.

    the version by "arcide fire", although not as good as the original (they never are) is great too.

    boys suck. but that's why we love 'em, eh?

  • Reply Hipstercrite April 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    @Wild Celtic- Awww….thank you!!!

    @The Fresch Klesch- you hit the nose on the head. or the head on the nose. how does that expression go?

    @Amy- thank you for your comment and thanks for that link. pretty cool!

    @Christine- Even your comments are beautiful

    @H.Brown- YES! I wanted to love Lars and The Real Girl, but I didn't. I only liked it. When that song came on though, I was very happy.

    @The Eternal Worrier- Why do you have the CD if you gave it to her? Did she give it back?

    @GirlUntitled- I agree. As much as I love Arcade Fire, that cover sucks ass. So many people have covered that song, but nothing compares to the Talking Heads Stop Making Sense version.

  • Reply Whitney April 21, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    When I started reading this post, I first thought of the book, 'Love is a Mixtape.' Later, you mentioned it.

    I thought that this was such a great book. I even wrote about it, a few years ago on my blog πŸ™‚

  • Reply Freelance Pallbearer April 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Man, that's rough, Waits and Scott-Heron, and your done. I hope Nick Cave, Donovan, Regina Spektor, Mazzy Star, Air, David Byrne, and Brighblack Morning Light didn't make an appearance because that's, well, I mean… you know.

    Was his mix was called 'The Bittersweet Mix.' Billy Green is dead after all.

    I'm wrapped up in a two month mixathon, and I was going to write about what an amazing experience it's been to share myself with someone who has this symbiotic taste for music, among other things, and we create this osmosis between the miles that separate us with art. It's like, well it's fucking awesome.

    And then I was going to write about how that Talking Heads concert changed my life but instead I'm going to go work on the third in a trilogy of mixes for said ladies brother, because you've inspired me to mix Cannibal Ox with Digable Planets and wrap that between Eyedea and Abilities, maybe topped with, well I'll shut up. Thanks though, lovely lady of Austin.

    Oh, and if you ever run into Elliot Lennon, Mali, Manuelo the blind dog, Bridgette & Eric, or Nick Felduto in Austin give them my love and ask them if they believe in walruses. I'm sure they would like you immensely and immediately.


  • Reply Claire Marie April 21, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks for this post. It was really wonderful. I listen to the mixes my boyfriend makes me when he's gone on trips and it always makes me feel less alone — I think it's one of the most powerful gifts in the world.

  • Reply Meghan April 21, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Oh Christ. My ex made me two mixtapes at two different points in our relationship. I still have all the music on my computer and I have one of the CDs.

    I kind of despise mixtapes now. Hopefully one day I won't feel that way about them anymore.

    BUT I will say that this guy deserves props for putting the USB in an actual tape. V creative.

  • Reply Charmalade April 21, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    You have a way with words that makes me feel like I'm being told a story, but I don't really realize it at first until I'm already into it. Does that make any sense? I hope it does. I really liked this post– it's bittersweet, but with more sincerity. I hope you and Mix Tape Boy won't have too harsh feelings in the end.

    Toast with Charmalade

  • Reply Hipstercrite April 21, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    @Whitney- I've only read portions of the book, but I like what I've read. The only problem is, I have a hard time relating to 90's music… πŸ™

    @Pallbearer- Who is this special lady!?

    @Claire- Thank you and I totally agree.

    @Meghan- I think in time you will love both of them…

  • Reply Hipstercrite April 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    @Charmalade- You just made my day. Thank you so much for that. Wow!

  • Reply emily April 21, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I can definitely relate to your comment about all of the memories that go along with a mixtape: My friend made me one when my iPod got stolen 5 years ago; the very first song on it was Wilco's, "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart". I took it in the car with my roommate, and prefaced the listening party with, "My friend made me this", to which she replied, "You don't put WILCO on a mixtape for a FRIEND!". She was right – that 'friend' is now my husband. So strange how much a song can say.
    …Hope the boy read your post πŸ™‚

  • Reply Benny April 21, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I can't tell you how surprised I was to see something that personal on your blog!

    You know what? It's definitely comforting and also just plain pretty cool to see these glimpses of what's actually going on in your life… ie stuff that's not yourself filtered through talking about cities and childhood crushes and late '70s pop culture. πŸ™‚ I mean, it's cool to see because it's so rare in your blog and also because nothing else about this entry was really abnormal.

    There was just a moment where I was like, Holy shit! She mentioned her *immediate* life.

    On another note, I was happy to see that video. I forgot how amazing that version of the song is, and how brilliantly choreographed (no irony) DB's lamp-dance is. I'm also definitely drifting from a close friend, and the first time I watched Stop Making Sense was when he showed it to me.

    So I felt a weird kind of synchronicity there.

  • Reply Allie April 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    i loved this. it actually reminded me of something similar that happened to me two years ago, so i wrote today's post based off of yours!
    http://alliekate.blogspot.com/2010/04/mixtape-edit-later.html <– i'm not being obnoxious and trying to traffic people to my blog, it's for you!

  • Reply Gemma Woodcock April 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    This must be the place is possible my favourite song ever. I've blogged it a few times. It's brilliant.

  • Reply Christopher April 22, 2010 at 1:06 am

    Totally gonna steal the USB mixtape idea, that's awesome.

  • Reply Chris April 22, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Wow, this post really made me feel something. I like the idea of a song which defines your life, though it's hard to find a song that has enough range to cover a whole life. There are moments of David Byrne & Brian Eno's album that came out a couple of years ago though that definitely have that quality though. I think Wilco's "I'm always in Love" describes my life at the moment.

  • Reply HD April 22, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Wow. What a storyteller you are! Love through mixtapes, awwww. Interesting. You laid this out perfectly!

  • Reply Sarah xo April 22, 2010 at 7:11 am

    This is a beautiful post, you're a really fantastic writer. This is a wonderful tribute to mixtape boy, and to the amazing power music has to unite people, and to unite people with everlasting memories.

  • Reply S.I.F. April 22, 2010 at 7:29 am

    One of my best friends and I are always giving each other mix tape CD's – it is seriously the highlight of my week when I get a new one with tunes I haven't heard before!!

    And that was a perfect send off to the boy!

  • Reply T!nK April 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I'm TOTALLY making my boyfriend a mix tape!!

  • Reply Hipstercrite April 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    @Emily- That story made me so happy! What a beautiful story. Have you written about it?

    @Benny- I try not to get too personal on my blog, only abstractly personal. I really appreciate your comment. It's often scary to write about how I feel/what's going on in my life. Everyone's comments have been amazing and inspiring. As for Stop Making Sense and your friend…isn't it weird how we all kind of go through the same thing and how music/books/film can play such a big role?

    @Allie- I commented on your blog. I loved your story and I am honored.

    @Gemma- I wholeheartedly agree.

    @Christopher- Haha yes! I think you'll win over any heart by doing that.

    @Chris- You know, I've never really listened to Wilco. They have come up a few times in regards to this post, so now I have to go and check them out.

    @HD- Thank you HD, my new blogger friend!

    @Sarah- Thanks, Sarah. That means a lot to me.

    @S.I.F.- What a great idea! I think I should be making more mixtapes in the future.

    @T!nk- Why haven't you yet!?!

  • Reply clio44 April 23, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Hey, just found your blog through Allie's (which I love)…..

    This post reminds me of the book I read recently (and also love the movie) — High Fidelity πŸ™‚

    I hope you don't hate it, 'cuz I love it, and he describes the process of making a mix tape so in detail and so awesomely your post made me smile in memory of it πŸ™‚

  • Reply CTRL + β™₯ April 23, 2010 at 6:42 am

    i love this post babe. love it πŸ™‚ hope youre okay, if you need anything, kick your problems my way, πŸ™‚



  • Reply Hipstercrite April 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    @Clio44- I love Allie's site too! You know, I looooove "High Fidelity" the movie. It's one of my all-time faves. However, the book was so close to the movie, I had a hard time getting into it. Nonetheless, it's a great story. I was going to reference "High Fidelity" in this post, but couldn't find where to put it.

    @CTRL- Awww…thank you! It's all good! Can I kick my problems all the way to Australia?

  • Reply clio44 April 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    haha phew. I was hoping you liked the story. I was afraid it was gonna be one of those awkward situations where someone refers to something the other person actually loathes but then has to tactfully (or not) respond and then it's just super-awkward for both parties. haha.

    I found the beginning of the book very similar to the movie too, but it's been so long since I saw the movie, it was like watching it in slow motion, able to enjoy every part. It really is a good read if you ever get into it.

    Hope you're feeling better….. <:)

  • Reply Jules April 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    holy cow! Naive Melody is my favorite song, and totally played at my wedding. Those lyrics are such a heart wrench, no?

    Your mixtape man sounds like a good guy.

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