The Mix Tape

I did not find The Last Wish's Rooftop Sessions tape in our closet, but I did find a wealth of other cassettes. An entire woven Mexican backpack full. I lugged the bag into our bedroom and let the musical artifacts spill on the carpet. I sorted through about fifty plastic boxes, amazed by the quantity. I remember the poverty of my singleness, how I scoured the CD racks at Cactus Music, pining over music I usually could not afford. When I found a few extra dollars in my wallet, I would buy a cassette to play in the car.

Several of the long-lost tapes were pure nostalgia:

Unplugged by Eric Clapton ~ I think I purchased this one in high school!

The Best of the Gipsy Kings ~ I discovered this phenomenal band while working at The Body Shop in Willowbrook Mall. Katy (my manager) was from England, and a Spanish major at the University of Houston. The Gipsy Kings were one of her favorite bands, and we listened to this album in constant rotation while selling satsuma bath beads, green apple glycerin soap, and peppermint foot lotion.

Swamp Ophelia by The Indigo Girls ~ One of the folk duo's best. I saw them in person at Austin City Limits and The Backyard in Austin, TX - the latter my first unfortunate witness of a lesbian makeout session. Swamp Ophelia will be orchestral music my children will roll their eyes to, which occurred to me as I cleaned house last week, blaring The Sundays' Blind CD. That crystalline voice, their cover of "Wild Horses" - perfection. Then I thought, Dear God, my kids will hate this album! I wonder what the heck they will store on their futuristic iPods.

Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet ~ So many great songs on one album. The kids will hate this one, too.

Blue by Joni Mitchell ~ One of THE best albums ever written in any genre.

Check Your Head by The Beastie Boys. Yep, I love The Beastie Boys! Which reminds me, I need to get a box set of their music.

The Rainy Season by Marc Cohn. That voice, his songs. Man, I need to pop this one in the Monte Carlo tomorrow.

The Late Great Townes Van Zandt by Townes Van Zandt. One of the greatest songwriters that will ever live. During a Kasey Chambers show at La Zona Rosa, she covered Van Zandt's "If I Needed You." Aunt Denise turned to me and quizzed, "Who wrote this song?" I quickly said, Townes Van Zandt. She beamed with pride, "You are my niece!" That song is one I sing often; another example of musical perfection. Also, a little family trivia: Van Zandt's niece, Amanda, was in my brother's preschool class. Amanda was my brother's first crush. I like to think that connects me to Townes.

Mortal City by Dar Williams. This tape was the soundtrack to many a road trip visiting my parents in Round Rock, one in particular with Kierstin, both of us singing along to "Iowa."

Speaking of, at the very bottom of my dusty backpack, I pulled out a homemade mix tape. The song list is written with graceful, lilting penmanship worthy of a font. It is a mix tape Kierstin created for me on this very day back in 1998 titled SHELTER. On the inside it says, "for jenni ~ a happy, mellow mixture of folk favorites & timeless classics...from my collection." That is what I love about mix tape gifts; the songs are intended to please the recipient, but each tune conveys the giver's personality. Well, except for a mix tape I received from my very first boyfriend - a kind, odd guy who worked as a bagger at Randall's. He left a mix tape on my front porch which was utterly forgettable except for Meatloaf songs. I'll go easy since Johnny likes a few Meatloaf songs, but I am not a fan.

Kierstin's mix is lovely. I listened to the vintage cassette sound while driving to a Farmers' Market. Billy Pilgrim, Nanci Griffith, Simon & Garfunkel, Joan Baez, The Neighbors, Cat Stevens, Pierce Pettis, Sarah McLaughlin, David Wilcox, Paul McCartney, Barenaked Ladies, Jackson Browne, 10,000 Maniacs, John Denver, Cheryl Wheeler, and Barbara Kessler. Cat Stevens and John Denver made me smile - of all the songs, they most remind me of my pregnant friend. I hope her son appreciates good, old music more than I predict of my progeny.

Nostalgia is all around and everywhere. The Houston air is finally cooling off allowing memories to more easily surface. Kierstin's mix tape, cinnamon incense, and an evening cup of chicory coffee inspired more reminiscing, but also more September hope. Today Aunt Denise invited me to a Sufjan Stevens concert at the Paramount Theatre this month! Johnny granted permission to abandon him for a few days of frolic around my favorite city. I ought to bring along old cassettes for the ride and drive down Kierstin's favorite stretch of Lamar, parallel to the park.


Hotwire said...

no i'm going to have to dig out 'check your head' and 'girlfriend' (especially the song about winona ryder) - those albums are great.

March to the Sea said...

i love mix of the few disadvantages of the "Cd age". Making tapes for girlfriends was always a thing I loved to do.

Suz said...

i love this post jenni. just so full of nostalgia, it makes me want to turn on old jazz classics and bake cookies. :-)

Chris said...

mix tapes are the best...with itunes, mix cds are fun to make as well. need to find a tape player to listen to those old tapes...

Anonymous said...

I ran across your blog and just wanted to say--you have great taste in music!

Also, a question--I'm recently married, so I noticed your comment about leaving town and your husband granting permission. When he wants to leave, does he also ask your permission? just curious.

Jenni said...

Anonymous - thanks!

As my husband, Johnny doesn't need my permission, but he never just ups and leaves, either. He travels a lot for his career, anyway - he is a drummer. Congrats on your recent marriage!

Hotwire said...

how do you like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius?

Jenni said...

Hmm, I need to update my blog.....

Hotwire - I am LOVING A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius! So well-written, although unconventionally so. I keep laughing out loud, too! Have you read it? (no spoilers, please)

Hotwire said...

i read it the day it came out. no spoilers other than to say i cried at the end.