Life's Mixtape



It's a good thing it had been one early-on sucky spring. Snow? Really. Finding those mittens again after you put them away, believing this past laborious winter was finally over. Down jackets back out of the closet. But despite the necessary morning defrosting of my car windows in April, it has been fitting and at times even welcomed. You see, I am moving. Well, I moved, and the kids, dogs, furniture  and our extensive collection of extension cords all came with.

We went from a collective 6100-square-foot house (Yes, you read that right.) to half that. So in doing so, I had to weed out all the stuff. The stupid stuff like the metal stand that holds tacos upright. The sentimental stuff like the boys' first attempts at clay figures (read "What is that?!"). The abundance of stuff like books and CDs. My priority was to whittle it down so that we would enter our smaller digs with only unpacked boxes filled with things that had made the cut.

Today's Spotify playlist owes it all to the humble mixtape of yesteryear. - WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION
  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Today's Spotify playlist owes it all to the humble mixtape of yesteryear.

The music collection. I didn't get rid of nearly the number of CDs I anticipated, though our entire album collection found a home with a dear family friend. However as I went through the CD titles, I could connect a song or an entire playlist to a person, phase, moment, or lengthy period in our lives. Some joyful, others not, and perhaps stagnant. Maybe life seemed at a standstill at a time when Blues Traveler played in the background for you too. As I placed the soundtrack from the movie High Fidelity in a packing box, it got me thinking. Well, the movie's star, John Cusack, actually got me thinking. In this movie, Cusack's character did two trademark things: He made continuous lists of the top-five things (Top 5 Dream Jobs, Top 5 Songs to Make Love To, Top 5 Songs About Death, etc.) and was a master of creating mixtapes. Remember those? They were compilations of songs using, as Cusack said, someone else's poetry to express how you feel.

If someone were to ask me to make a tape to be released May 2014, I would begin with one of the first hit singles that I can remember learning the words to. I sang the lyrics to "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" (Paul Simon) to my oldest sister. Comical really that this little girl was listing the ways to ditch her lover, but my sister was genuinely impressed. That sent a message to me that no matter your age, you could be a fan of a song, sharing the same passion for it as your sibling who was fourteen years your senior.

The Beatles, The Steve Miller Band's "Jungle Love," Michael Jackson's Off The Wall defined my lazy summers, my elementary school days. In high school, I would strut with my posse into the cafeteria to the tunes of 99 Luftballoons and White Horse, listening to the Violent Femmes during after school hours. I discovered The Talking Heads over a weekend trip to I.U., visiting my sister who was a blonde bombshell dating a popular Fiji guy. Then when I became the university coed, trying to enter through the hallowed doors of Hooligan's with my fake I.D., "Push It" pounded all the way to Kirkwood Avenue. Later during my 20s and my early years of work as an adult, I discovered Neil Finn and then jazz. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone became my Sirens and serenaded down the aisle into marriage and children. A brief break with kid-friendly songs and then a reawakening to the joys of exploring different artists after seeing Vampire Weekend appear on Saturday Night Live.

I haven't looked back since, and so the compilation tape is just too big to "compile." I have provided a sampling of some of the songs I have listed plus a few others. Really though I couldn't boil it down to a Cusack top-five list. Music, like our lives, are just too varied and wide and full. And every day I add to or modify that list. All I know is it has been the best background music to a life that keeps on playing out.

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