Saturday, May 28, 2011

From the Vault: Mix Tape Blues

Something about the summer heat makes me drag out old mix CDs, and this time, I'm listening to the mixes my BFF Matthew and I made for our frequent road trips to conferences and grad school residencies. 

Mix CDs are almost as good as records.  Mix CDs are almost always made with a specific purpose in mind and the memories of that event get locked into the music itself.  When I played "Bizarre Love Triangle" on Beautiful, Terrible Things: The Best (So Far) of Libby and Matthew, I was transported back to the Chicago AWP dance floor, watching two skanks in matching lace-trimmed satin nighties do the whole "get down on my knees and pray" bit more than was called for.  The pounding rhythm of Duran Duran's "Last Chance on the Stairway" is the pavement beneath our tires on peach-colored summer morning drives to workshop and the Psychedelic Furs "The Ghost in You" is pure, nostalgic bliss.

The driving mix CD is the best of the bunch.  It is an adventure for an adventure, a tangible culmination of anticipation and execution.  I've been listening to a mix I made for our January trip to our grad school residency in Freeport, Maine.  Getty Lee's voice on "Fly By Night" reminds me of New Haven, cold and icy and a little bit thrilling.  I cannot hear Squeeze's "Tempted" without hearing our friend Ben groan and roll his eyes from the backseat of our rental car, and I can't hear The Servant's "Beautiful Thing" without remembering how quiet and crystal-cold and beautiful the Haraseekett Inn was.  And when it's 80 degrees and humid in my house, I can't help but long for the snowflakes that fell as "Bring on the Dancing Horses" played.

Come July, I will have been out of graduate school for a year.  I've got the framed diploma and the student loan payments to prove it . . . but the only thing I really miss is that trip, those 6-8 hour drives when it was just us and bad coffee and good music and the frantic, caffinated conversation we're famous for, a language we speak that no one else understands.  We didn't need any major momentous moments . . . just the quiet, intimate ones captured and held forever, a memory in melody.

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