TBT: The Mix Tape

Define a generation.

Any generation you want.

And let's just assume that you grew up in the American Education system and have no knowledge of events prior to 1938.

See if we're gonna go back to my grandparents time, the defining moments are easy: Depression, WW2 (the war to end all war), big metal cars, and tracked housing.

Pop over to the baby-boom and you get to take a trip through the freakshow of the summer of love to the three ring circus of Reaganomics to what will eventually be universal health care.

(Do you really think that's not gonna happen? Lets face it, old people like free shit, and old people vote. Oh . . . and they also smoke a lot of marijuana, so when Taco Bell starts a delivery service, be smart and buy a lot of PepsiCo shares.)

Skipping the X-ers for a moment, we go right into the Y-bothers and into the Social-Media-ites. Who knows what kind of amazing future lays ahead assuming we somehow avoid Planet Killer Comets and the Zombie Apocalypse.

But that takes us back to the Me-Generation.

The Generation X-ers.

We get Big Bird. We get Yo' MTV Raps. We get grunge and dot-com bubbles and crushing consumer debt and passenger-side airbags. We get super wide-screen TV's (although, you might wanna re-read Fahrenheit 451, cause that shit was called 60 years ago) Apple is now our Big Brother and none of us will ever know what it's like to stay at one job because of how good the pension is.

So anyway, I have this white dreser cabinet in my garage where I keep all of my extra electronic stuff (user manuals, batteries, DVDR's, 180 feet of coaxile cable accumulated from ten different apartments, RCA cables, canned air), and I was rummaging through it all looking for that little pokey thing that comes with your iPhone to pop the SIM card out.

I try to be meticulous with those things, making sure to put them in a place I'd remember to look if ever I needed one, but I must have been in a hurry back in 2009 and now it's no where to be found.

What I did find, however, was a thick stack of blank TDK (so real) cassette tapes, still in their original packaging, just sitting their reminding me that they were once the most relevant technology in existence.

See, if you really want to point to a single thing . . . a single thing that defines the Generation X that will never again be seen . . . it's the Mix Tape.

Sure some of you snot nosed youg-uns can point out that it's easy to create a play list now. Drag, drop, stream.

But you don't do that do you?

You could. It's easy.

But you don't.

It's because you're weak and lazy and with so much generalized nonsense, you feel no particular need to craft a moment.

See, that was the key. A mix tape is a single moment. Where you were, where you were going, who you wanted to impress, how you wanted to quantify all those feelings you had when nothing could say it better than Kate Bush followed by ZZ Top. 

How to tell a girl that you dream about her day and night without actually having to say anything or really even make eye contact.

How to tell a boy that maybe if he's maybe not too busy that you will probably be home on wednesday night and if he felt like it, he could give you a call around 5:36pm and if not then maybe you might wanna say hi to him in the hallway between 2nd and 3rd period if he was standing by his locker like he normally is, except on fridays when he has an open period likes to sneak cigarettes out in the parking lot.

That last one is a damn good mix tape.

There was the early morning mix tape. The lunch on the quad mix tape. The riding your bike home when the weather starts to turn, mix tape.

There was the happy. The sad. And . . . of course . . . the Road Trip.

In highschool, being the consumate designated driver (I had a van), we went on a lot of road trips.

I made a mix tape for single one.

My buddies made ones too.

The man in shot-gun got to call out the order of which they were played. If a single song was a swing and a miss, that tape got tossed to the back of the pile.

No greater moment in a Mix-Tape-Master's life than when when the first chords ring through and heads bob and someone says "Yeaaaah."

Hendrix was always a winner (All Along the Watchtower or VooDoo-Chile). Followed closely by Dire Straights (Money For Nuthin). If you were cheeky, and I always was, you could try your hand at some Toni Basil, They Might Be Giants, The Knack (Yes . . . My Sherona . . . what else did they play?).

Bohemian Rhapsody was forbidden. Not because we were too cool, only because it was impossible not to do the entire scene from Wayne's World and that is the closest I ever came to killing us all.

It was also forbidden to play any song from a band whose concert we were heading to.

Faux Pas, my friend, Faux Pas.

It was weather dependent, so as the clouds rolled into town, you would get a flood of CCR (Have You Ever Seen the Rain?) Tori Amos (Winter), Rain (Beatles or Concrete Blonde), Hazy Shade of Winter (Always Bangles, never Simon and Garfunkel). Mine always ended with "Here Comes the Sun" (My teenage sense of irony was forever predictable)

Sean had a love of death metal. Justin had a love for the Grateful Dead. I was always, always a Beatlemaniac.

We didn't share our souls to the world for enternity. We shared them with our friends for one night and one night only, on the way to The City, or The Lake, or the Edge of Town where the cops don't come and one hit won't kill you.

When iTunes came out and CD's became copyable, I spent my last dime on a CD burner and every dime after that on blank discs and every forgotten album I could find in Rasputin Records.

It was the golden age of the mix tape.

But somewhere along the line, I got old, or I ran out of time, or I ran out of friends, or I discovered that my iPod could carry my entire library around, and the point of crafting a singular event drifted away.

The last mix tape I ever made was for my step-son a few years back. I remember he was sad for some reason (either he got a rejection letter from a college or like a B+ on an exam, something like that)

I burned the disc and slipped it under his doorway.

It was the only way I could think of to tell him that I loved him and that I understood . . . 

. . . and that I was young once too.

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