Friday, May 14, 2010

Sir Mix Tapes A Lot

My best friend and I, in high school, used to make mixed tapes for each other all the time. Admittedly, mine were way less varied than hers, since I accidentally put "Brick House" on every single compilation I ever produced. "This is totally, 100% new music," I would promise her, and she would dutifully pop it in, straining for the alleged new music...and then the words "She's a brick...hooouse" would come blaring out of her speakers. Cue the eye roll. To her credit, she didn't point out that I was musically monotonous until years later, when it was too late to do anything except turn it into a punch line.

I love a good mix tape. My uncles make them all the time, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to awesome bands like 2 Men, A Drum Machine And A Trumpet (which I loved when I was eleven) and Midlake and Antony and the Johnsons. When I was in middle and high school, they were actual mixed tape - as in cassettes, as in ancient stuff these days, since they've graduated to compact discs. Which is equally good, since I can now rock out to mixes on the MP3 tip. Love that!

I used to say that if people wanted to woo me, all they had to do was show up with a few cases of Diet Coke, but mix tapes are a game changer. Even if the relationship goes south, you're left with a legacy: someone made something for you. The first time I got a mix from a suitor, it totally blew me away. It was an actual mix tape, too, which, like, double points. Here was a dude who had crafted a cute little indie blend of Sloan and The Postal Service...and then, to top it off, he tacked on the legendary quote from Back to the Future, which made me want to tear his clothes off in the diner. As a courtship tactic, it was a rousing success. Who doesn't love Back to the Future? Stupid people, that's who.

I think it goes back to my early love of soundtracks. I love movie music - not scores, but pop music - because it plays to the very appealing idea that your life is fancy and therefor deserves a soundtrack of its own. I mean, if I got a montage every time I had to get dressed or pack my apartment, I would be a much happier lady. And soundtracks reinforce the idea that our lives need musical punctuation: we like it when we have a song to graft our emotions onto. I mean, it's all a little High Fidelity (which, like, a movie [with a soundtrack] about pop music as the soundtrack for our lives...meta!) for reality, but pop songs give structure to our lives. We get to sing along and mean the lyrics with all our hearts. Even if we didn't make the music in the first place, we get to own a piece of it.

A well-crafted mix can be a hipster badge of honour - I remember a few mixes I made that I got cocky about, thinking to myself, "I am so good at this, I should make soundtracks," which is just blatantly and hilariously false. Because it shows you're into music, into the esoteric and the popular, and that you listen...all highly desirable traits during the hipster mating ritual. (Sidebar: I sometimes forget the name of this blog, and devolve into blathering about cupcakes or whatever. Sorry, hipsters!) But there's the other part of a good mix, which is just that good music is timeless and transcends ridiculous posturing, and becomes accessible and fun, easy and pleasing. I got a superb and much-appreciated mix earlier this week and have been using it as both packing music (stomping around to Amanda Palmer) and as a bridge into this long-awaited summer (grooving on Joe Strummer).

I sometimes think about the mix tapes, the ones with "Brick House" all over them like a freaking rash. I still listen to the same songs over and over again - maybe they're like chapter headings in my life, or musical security blankets - but now I know more songs, and I love more songs, and I belt out more songs like a lunatic (and I never do this, but right now, I'm obsessed with both the original song and the fantastic "cover" behind that link, so click it, please) at the top of my lungs. Especially in the shower. Thanks, in part, to the fantastic mixes I've received over the years. We may not need roads where we're going, but it'd be nice to have some mix tapes for the ride there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pack 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out

Right now, I'm just boiling with rage. I think a lot of that has to do with being on a monster Louis C.K. kick, because he's a comic with some serious rage issues. Hilarious rage issues - I especially like his bits about his kids, even though they're just awful jokes that are going to scar his offspring once they're old enough to walk the f-bomb sprinkled field he's constructed as his home turf - but mostly it has to do with packing.

I hate packing.

The last time I moved, I was living in a room in a house. I had all the standard goofy crap that people accumulate: photographs, posters, books, clothes. Lamps - so many lamps. But it was one room's worth of goofy crap. Now I live in an apartment, with a bunch of closets and cabinets and things like dishes - dishes! Seriously, I eat 98% of my meals out of the same three bowls, and I have like 25 plates, just cluttering up my cabinets and making angry. GOD! - and chairs and shit. I have so much more stuff than I did three years ago, and I am mad at all of it.

I'm not mad at myself, because I brought all this stuff in in tiny little increments. Backpack-sized chunks: a magazine here, a pair of shoes there, like I'm smuggling it into my own life, until all of the sudden, I have, like, a thousand pounds worth of possessions, and I can't remember why I bought any of it. Like, I keep magazines, which is a fun and whimsical habit - "Oh, each issue is like a little time capsule!" - until I actually have to put three hundred flimsy little books into boxes and lug them down three flights of stairs. Then I just stare at them, seething, hating every printed page, every fashion spread, every article.

"Use this as an opportunity to purge!" I can hear you chirping. Sure. Sure, I'm doing that. I threw out a bunch of magazines. I'll be getting rid of, like, all my old school work; seriously, I graduated...who needs that? I'm not going to grad school. My GPA was middling and my work ethic is terrible, so grad school sounds about as smart as keeping issues of The Atlantic around for seven extra years. But I can't just leave all the stuff I'm getting rid of behind. No, I have to lug that stuff down three flights of stairs too, and then heave it into the recycling bin, and then stomp back up three flights of stairs and curse.

Oh, there has been much cursing today.

Luckily, I live not far from an LCBO, which always has a bunch of boxes. I loathe trying to acquire boxes, because in May, in a student district, those things are like the freaking abominable snowman. You can't find them anywhere. Last time I moved, I raided three different liquor stores (one of which was in Stratford) to get enough cardboard to lug all my stuff around. This time, I can just go up the street and get them, six at a time, and bring them home to stuff my stupid belongings into.

This could be a great opportunity to take stock of the things I hold dear. Hang onto photographs and gifts, books and favourite clothes. Tee shirts from concerts, invitations to parties, letters from friends: all the standard stuff people keep. Jettison the rest overboard. All the unfinished art projects and mementos from ex-friends and lovers, the ugly paintings and the Halloween wigs that startle me every time I see them. All that stuff is getting pitched. But as I've gotten older, my life has gotten bigger. Three years ago, I could have packed all my stuff into a bindle and set off, whistling, down the train tracks. Sure, I could do that now - but how would I bring my toaster oven?

Packing means moving, moving means change, and change, mes amies, is hard. Walking out the door of your home, leaving the lights off and the ceiling fan going (third floor apartments get damned hot in the summer. Turning off the fan would be uncharitable to the next tenants), locking the door for the final time - all that means that this chapter in my life is over. The last three years of life, the years I spent at this address, hanging out on my patio and sleeping on my bathroom floor when it was so hot that to sleep in a bed was to risk death by heat exhaustion, were some of the most turbulent, intense, rewarding and challenging years of my entire life. In some ways, I feel like I grew up in this apartment. It's hard to walk away from that.

So the cursing and the moaning - and I spent a sold 20 minutes today, literally yelling at a shelf full of books for existing - are just a symptom of my complicated emotions re: change. According to Kubler-Ross, I'm well on my way to dealing with the change in a healthy, albeit rage-y, way. I expect tomorrow I'll be trying to bribe my friends to come help (bargaining) and Thursday, I'll just be weeping. And, as a friend pointed out tonight, it's helpful to remember that this time next week, all this moving stuff will be over. All the moving and packing, sure, but also all the time spent here. The parties, the lovers, the friends. The sleepovers and the shots of bourbon. The halfhearted hobbies and unmade beds. That will be for another place, soon.

All that's left to do then is turn out the lights and lock the door behind me.