Frequently Asked Questions, or, When Tape Was King

It's inevitable. People come over, walk into my Persian room and enjoy the decor for a minute, then their eyes become riveted upon an antique artifact resting innocently in the corner. Housed in its protective grey create, it peers out at the world quietly, the sounds of my friends amusedly ruffling through it a cry against its victimziation. It is MY TAPE COLLECTION.

I was recently saddened to hear that one of my best friends was selling off her tapes in a garage sale. She was one of my musical holdout pals -- until 4 years ago we were still covertly making each other tape mixes for the gym and for long roadtrips. But with that casual declaration, years of fandom went out the window. People, at the very least, please eBay that shit! Garage sale = disrespect. And tapes deserve it. They've gotten such a bad rap so suddenly. I am here, Avenger of the Analog.

I don't know when cds became the thing, but it felt like it happened overnight. Suddenly people forgot the years of joy that tapes had brought them. Let's harken back to the good old days for a moment: You hurry to the music store. What will it be? The packaging options alone were nearly mindboggling. Will it be a standard clear-cover-but-black-trapezoid-back-flap tape case a la Bon Jovi "Slippery When Wet" and many of my 80s favorites (see Heart's "Bad Animals"), as shipped by BMG? Red trapezoid, a la Air Supply (my roommate had this one). Or would it be a completely clear, rectangle-flap case a la Prince "Diamonds and Pearls"? And the tape itself- would it be standard issue creme-colored bland opaqueness, or would they have taken a chance will the translucent w/brownish coloring tape? Would they go wild and do blue-on-translucent, a la Madonna's "True Blue" and the B52's "Cosmic Thing"? How would the songs be divided. Would there be a cute name for "side a" or "side b"?

Friends always ask me how I learned so much about music. While you were searching for that song- rewind, play (hopefully pressing stop first, but sometimes you were in a rush), fast forward, play, rewind -- you had time to read -- I mean REALLY read -- the liner notes. Therein you could find the actual words to Michael Jackson "Wanna Be Startin Something" and ascertain that yes, indeed, it was simply "mama se mama sa mama ku sa". You could find out whether your artiste of choice had participated in the music writing, so when people told you they sucked you could say "hey, at least she writes her own shit and plays the bongos!". You could learn who producers were for no good reason, and then years later, as you watched Behind the Music, you could raise an eyebrow at the fact that someone DIDN'T know that Nile Rogers who produced "Like a Virgin" was once in ("Le freak, c'est") Chic. Who did they thank? Did they thank God first? Did they thank their fans? What other artists got shout-outs? Who were they influenced by? Within the millions of minutely-printed words on the tape liner notes lie a complete musical education. Here the aspiring pop musician first learns that songs go AABA. What a bridge is. What an intro is, what an outro is. You could find out who that familiar voice was in the background of a beloved tune (see the Bangles chorus on Cyndi Lauper's "Change of Heart" or Michael Jackson in Rockell's "Somebody's Watchin' Me").

Cds were supposed to bring convenience to music, and they did. Music became selectively consumed. Now, I buy a cd, never bother to learn the song names, and skip through in mere moments to find the two songs I like before popping it out and putting the next one in. When Tape Was King, I sat through the tape one full time at least once. I NEVER bought a tape and forwarded to my chosen song, because, well, you didn't know where the hell to find it. So you began, you sat down in your room and shut the door and turned the volume on, and you LET IT PLAY. You listened to lyrics and read along with the liner notes, rewinding if you missed something. And you listened to the songs in the order the artist wanted you to hear them in. And you ejected it and flipped it over and listened to the other side. And after doing this for a few days or weeks, you had a good sense of the entire album. More likely than not, a song that will never be on the artist's "best of" album became your favorite. Whether it was Guns n Roses' "So Fine" (yes, I was still buying tapes) or Sinead O'Connor's "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" or Paula Abdul's "Blowin Kisses In the Wind", there were treats to be found, and through the time consuming process of being a tape listener, you would find them. When there was a particular song you wanted to find on the tape, the agonizing process of searching to find it would multiply the joy of listening to it when you finally got there.

You felt more control when a tape got messed up, too. Last week (yes, you read that right, for those of you who haven't had Lasik) my "Chicago Flight Entertainment" tape was eaten by my stereo. Bastard! I quickly began the routine that is embedded so deeply in my physical memory, using my finger to turn, turn, turn it back to safety. (The procedure went well and it's a great tape, by the way). When a CD gets scratched, it's game over, because we all know that cd scratch fixers are bullshit.

And that brings me to my next thought- tape mixes. Some people have suggested (mostly to me, these people being friends who didn't know what to do with a tape I made them) that cd mixes have the same importance as a tape mix. While I think they're sweet and thoughtful as ever, and a great opportunity to collect songs that deserve to be together (like "pointless slow jams-- slow jams from before we knew what they're for"), there's another labor of love element in making a mix tape. For one thing, you don't know when you're going to run out of time. So you just add and add and hope the time all fits. And if a song cut off, you'd go back and fix it with a good outro (a guitar solo, perhaps?). There's an element of urgency to a tape mix that I really love. And yet at the same time there is this counter-energy of patience. The patience to dub. Hi Speed dub sometimes, but not always. The time it took to make the tape was often illustrated -- literally- in a pretty cover, perhaps a collage, or at the very least a decorated songlist or note rife with inside jokes. When I got my hands on a little mic, I used to plug that in and offer commentary between songs. Oh yes, quite a bonus for my listeners out there. Basically the fun useless trivia that I bore my friends with at dinners nowadays was infused seamlessly into my mixtape artwork. And appreciated! Today, you collect some songs, let iTunes calculate if they'll fit, and press "burn". If you're nice, you draw something cute on the cd, but most people can't be troubled with that.

Tapes to me speak of a time when we could be troubled to take the time out for our music. As someone who loves loves loves her music, I'm reclaiming my tapes. One by one, I'm moving them out of the crate where they are eyed so suspiciously and welcoming them back into my room. Roxette, hey, howya been? Belinda! There you are. Tape single for "We Didn't Start the Fire"? Don't worry, you're safe with me. I'm keeping them all. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Out with the old, in with the new? Hm. I don't think so. Not this kid.

The lengths I will go to to prove a point

Another set of twins. And I'm not talking Danny deVito and Schwartzenegger. Can I truly be the only person who noticed this?

Yes, I Moved My Furniture Again

Every so often I suddenly move my furniture around. Because I share an apartment and realize that innocent standersby (read: my roommate) need not be subjected to my insanity, I keep it to my room. For two weeks now I had my furniture in the same place, but tonight I moved it all over again.

I read somewhere that when you move your furniture around, you let energy circulate. So tonight, to the sweet sounds of Galvez' "Monsters of Rock" mix, I let the energy do its thing. But really what I did was found a way to put incredible strain on my body (I'd probably be a few inches taller if I stopped this ritual) and procrastinated. But it was fun. Somehow, I seem to believe that if I just move my bed-here-dresser-there-couch-to-the-wall, this stack of manuscripts will read itself.

But it won't. Or so I'm told. So I'm going to have to look for an intern.


1. cabana-boy good looks
2. portable cappucino machine and accompanying skills
3. good sense of humor. seinfeld bad. jon stewart good.
4. an innate understanding of the difference between "their" and "they're", particularly if English is his first language (hi Nicole!)
5. quality taste in music, as judged by me. iPods will be confiscated and searched. No one knows where I will draw the lines. This week I already offered amnesty to a guy friend with the best of Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam and Linda Ronstadt. The fact that I can spell her name might have just implicated me. I swear, her duet on "I Don't Know Much" is the ONLY one I find bearable. Promise.
6. overarching desire to do my laundry while he's here.

People who list "Tuesdays With Morrie" and "The Alchemist" as favorite reads need not apply. And trust me, they will.

Ok, I realize that as I go on, this is starting to read more like a "dream boyfriend" list than a "dream intern" list. But it's late and hell, I deserve both.

And of course I can't forget #7: Strength to move furniture.

Forward my mail to the office...

Does anyone know for sure what the definition of a workaholic is? I'm afraid I've become one. I was worried it would happen if I went to the big firm life; you know, that the only man in my life would be the kindly office janitor, that I'd fall asleep drooling on important discovery paperwork, and wake up with a Bates stamp date on my forehead.

But here I am, self-employed and living that same crazy life. Minus the hives I got when I was pre-trial at my old firm. That was just gross.

I mean, as far as this potential workaholism, I'm kinda afraid and... kinda... proud (?!?) of it. I mean, I got a LOT done this summer. But where did my summer go? I didn't TOUCH the ocean water. I complain about saline nasal drip, but really, I wouldn't have minded a bronzed back from surfing and just a *bit* of authentic drip. I live in friggin California, and I haven't been to the beach. I'm hoping to pencil it in for later this weekend, but I could always cancel on me.

Here I am, 12:50 -- A.M. -- blogging. It's what I'm doing to "unwind". I'm a loser of proportions Doogie Howser couldn't even begin to imagine (he was the root of blogging as far as I'm concerned, and Jon, I want that in your book!). Why blog when I can barely keep my eyes open? Well, truth be told, I've been sitting in front of this computer for so long that I can't be troubled with getting up and out of this chair. I've actually thought I might be able to roll myself over to the bed and then just lean over to sleep.

So where is the line? Workaholic? Devotee? Passionate entrepreneur?

I think I'm just driven right now. I want to sign off the computer at 10pm, but I decide to do "just one more thing" and end up typing away for a few more hours. I blow the whistle at 1am these days. My eyes pop open in the morning and it doesn't even feel like I slept. (Side note: they pop open and I can see across the room. Let this be my 3-months-later endorsement. I HEART LASIK!!!)

Actually, the only reason I'm posting is because I'm sick of Gerard Depardieu being the first thing people see when they open my blog.