I Bet You Think This Blog Is About You

Once upon a time, things were simple. You might remember it. Sit down for a second. No, wait, stand. We're gonna take a walk down memory lane.

Way back when, let's say, oh, 1989, you had very simple criteria in your life. You hung out with friends who entertained you. You found ways to amuse yourself that honed in on your talents. You made tape mixes and swapped them with other kids, having already screened said friends for their musical taste. It wasn't considered weird to filter people out of your life based on their (allegedly) shitty taste in music. Importantly, it wasn't uncalled for to screen people out for *lacking* their own taste in music. You did what you wanted to. Oh, and what your parents wanted, because they paid the bills.

Since I don't have access to your particular memory lane, let me take you down mine. I had a decent amount of friends (this would be the "the writer of this blog wasn't a total loser" clause). Within that group that filled my little address book, I had a few that I was genuinely close with. How did I know I was close with them? Because I'd share my sketches of the logo and bassist from Guns n Roses with them. That's how you knew you were in the inner circle. But how did I know who to share my prized artwork with? Did they have to be a GnfnR fan? Of course not. But, like a Venn Diagram, enough had to intersect to make them worth my time. If not, I was happy drawing and writing songs (including the sleeper hit "I Think I'll Become A Nun") in my room, on my island of pink striped walls and flaming flourescent carpeting, thank you very much.

Some of my friends just "got" it. And they mostly proved to me that they did via their understanding of music that I liked. Now, I'm not gonna push it. I have and always will listen to Madonna on my own clock. But my best friend throughout high school is the one who laughed at Doctor Demento tapes with me to no end, pausing only to film our own video for "Dead Puppies (Aren't Much Fun)". She was alongside me as we listened to hours upon hours of 103.5, hard rock. She would walk in to my room and pass my posters of Sebastian Bach or Bret Michaels without flinching. Only she could duet with me just right on Tesla songs.

Music brought people together back in the day despite the geographical distances between them and the absence of technology to fill those gaps. We didn't have file swapping. What we had was tape dubbing and the US Fucking Postal Service. Once you made a friend in Boston or in Wisconsin or in Canada, you could stay in touch via loooong letters of painstaking detail (and design) detailing all the millions of minute details of your life, accompanied by a painstakingly assembled 60 or -- if you were so devoted -- 90 minute tape mix.

I still have my crate of tapes. Someone asked me the other day why I don't dump them, given that I own much of that same music on cd. But perfect digital sound isn't what I'm after. What good is an Aerosmith song to me if not labeled in Julia-from-French-camp-this-was-the-tape-she-made-when-I-visited-her-family-jumped-on-their-trampoline-and-accidentally-ate-venison handwriting? And what about all the punk rock that I just couldn't get in to, but Jon "we-were-in-the-same-Holland-American-cruise-clique" Barabash of Edmonton assembled and sent in a steady stream of persuasion? And what about Stacy's mixes for my international family vacations, in which she plugged a mic and entertained me with her random thoughts between the Doors and Blue Oyster Cult?

Today we make our friends for different reasons. The office brings people together. Blech. Prestige brings people together. Class seating brings people together. Because-we-have-a-friend-in-common brings people together. Desperation (often) brings people together. Back in the day, my criteria was tightly enforced. I would rifle through people's tape cases in search of a reason to believe we should be friends. I was efficient as a forensic expert at a stinky scene. In, find what I need to make my decision, and leave.

I had a conversation with a male friend as I was starting college to the effect that "Real Men Listen To The Beastie Boys". Well, our theory was tested out not too much later. I went on a few dates with Jake, a Nice Guy. Exactly. There wasn't anything wrong with him -- he was cute, smart, and pretty fun. But there wasn't anything really *right* with him either. The first time I was over at his house, I sat myself right in front of his CD tower. My eyes scanned the impeccably organized collection. "AC/DC..... AC/DC....Beatles." There it was. All I needed to know. I scanned with my eyes, once, twice more, to be sure they hadn't failed me. I was on the scene of a stinky crime. I told him nicely that I needed to leave, and I went to find my friend and go home.

Somewhere on the journey to adulthood, I hushed my Muse-Ical Instincts. They were telling me all along, no, screaming, that the guys I found myself adoring weren't right for me. There was the guy who listened to too much nn-cha nn-cha techno. The guy who made me a mix with Len's "Stealing My Sunshine" (Author's Note: I would *never* dis on a mix someone had made me, but in retrospect, this digression was simply unforgivable). The guy who, surpassing Those With Stinky Musical Taste, proved to be a Blank Slater. No musical taste whatsoever. Audially malleable. And thus, for me, boring.

I don't think I need to go on. I think my point has been made. There's something to be said for listening to your heart. And when your heart beats with music every moment of every day, you have all the reason in the world to listen especially hard.


neema said...

I used to have a lot of mix tapes. I loved mixed tapes until I found one by a friend who died several years ago. I threw them all away after that. It was too depressing.