The early 2000's were the golden age of mixtapes for me. As mixtaping is still my all-time favorite activity I look back on this period with much reverence and bittersweet nostalgia. Websites like Livejournal and Makeoutclub were full of girls eager to trade their best compilations of indie rock and vanishing emo bands (I say girls specifically because in all that time I only traded with one guy, some dude from Arizona, though that tape did introduce me to Pinback). I still have every tape I was ever given, good or bad, excellent or awful, engrossing or embarrassing. It could be Spoon from that girl from Michigan, or the best song Green Day ever wrote from Allison from Boston, or any number of gems from Illinois' own Mallory. One funny thing is how I have still not grown out of certain awkwardnesses - for some guys these mixtapes may have acted as stepping stones to romantic encounters, whereas I would have been sent running for the hills. As much as I may have hoped for or desired these dream interactions, I turned away from them all, much as I might today.
I remember visiting one girl up in Boston (not Allison, she was a friend of a friend) named Brianna who actually gave me not one, but two tapes when we finally met. We spent most of the day together, she showed me around Beantown, we went record and thrift store shopping, and as the afternoon turned to evening and we sat in her car (and I played some found harmonica) she said I feel like we should be making out... This was, of course, my cue to reply Well, I should probably be heading back to Rob's house... Haha, what a honest-to-god geek. Now, did this girl ACTUALLY want to make out with me...pretty good chance the answer is NO. However, once I got that little nudge into the awkward zone, there was no escape.
This all came to mind today because I listened to a tape this morning that I haven't heard in many years. It was given to me by Vanessa from Ohio, aka: The One that Got Away. Save for the very few times in my life that I actually didn't blow it, every girl I've ever liked "got away", but Vanessa is the Queen of them all. From autumn '02 to early '03 I was a goofy 21 year old loser enamored by a girl from suburban Ohio. Everything she liked was amazing, and everything she hated I did too. One thing we had in common was our love of metal, and not corny-era Judas Priest or 80's garbage. She liked real, legitimate metal and hardcore. Let me be clear, I knew a TON of girls who liked punk, that was pretty common, but until that time I'd never met a girl who would start a mixtape with Emperor and end it with Nico. It reminds me of that Freaks and Geeks episode where they all fall for the girl who they shoot off rockets with and at the end of the episode they ask something to the extent of How are we NOT supposed to fall in love with her?
Well, as with most starry-eyed stories that unfortunately happen in reality, this one didn't have a happy ending. She asked me to visit her but I was too nervous to take the train (this is a stark contrast to present-day Brian who enjoys driving to Montreal on a whim), so she came to New Jersey on New Years Eve where I was a less-than-superb host and over the next couple months we drifted apart (this also being mainly my fault). Completely botching a chance with someone amazing stands as good reason to neglect a mixtape. Listening now I have to say it still holds up, sure it may have three Dystopia songs, but of the ten bands on it I bought cd's by five of them. Ugh, now I'm depressed. I have no idea what became of her, she's probably in a major city by now, championing the little guy and the downtrodden. Perhaps working for Kucinich, almost certainly married.
Thinking back to how I acted nearly a decade ago, I'm not surprised I don't mind getting older. I'm not nearly as shy or oblivious as I used to be, and I've met plenty of girls since then that like metal and I have somehow managed to not fall in love with (all of) them. I'm not sure why I felt the need to recount all of this so long after the fact. I miss the confessional aspect of Livejournal, being able to share something with people who can then recall their own moments of stupidity or regret. We've all been there. There's something reassuring about looking back and admitting you used to be kind of ridiculous, and it's okay. It's even better with a soundtrack.
This drawing accompanied the tape Vanessa gave me. Maybe one day I'll write a book about her, I bet someone already has.