Cassettes: They can be a reel pain in the ass.
I’m in the process of packing my belongings in preparation for a move to Orange County, California; I’m outta here March 24 (yeah, I’m happy to see me go, too).
I’ve moved many times and it never gets easier to choose what to jettison and what to keep. Moving is one of the most existential and emotionally exhausting experiences one can go through. Boxing up your possessions, you are forced to decide over and over the worth of your stuff and by extension the worth of your life (you may not be what you own, but you are largely defined by it, and your shit speaks volumes about who you are, he said with obvious obviousness). During this assessment, your past, present, and future somehow converge in the material goods you drag around this planet like a ball and chain that both nourishes and drains your mind. Repeatedly you have to ask yourself, “Will this thing from my past serve any worthwhile function in my future?” And you have to decide this now. This procedure becomes more excruciating when you’re an aging writer with tons of your work in yellowing newspapers and magazines from the pre-internet era.
With this latest move, I’ve been seriously pondering ditching my ludicrously large collection of cassettes. I rarely play them, nor even really think about ’em—until I have to move again. Now, I can deal with leaving behind the store-bought tapes and promo cassettes for albums that deluged me when I worked for Alternative Press magazine in the ’90s. What gives me pause (get it? PAUSE) are the hundreds of mixtapes I made myself, mixtapes in which I sweated the track selections and segues as if my life depended on them… and maybe it did, at the time.
Just glancing at the titles I gave to those tapes (The Wayout Sound from Far Too Deep, Leveraged Freakout, Blackening Yr Third Eye, Anything Is Impossible, Feeling Good About Feeling Bad, Alone in a Crowd, Drone of Blood, A Yearning Experience, Prepare Yourself for Delirium, etc.) zooms me back to the time of their creation and the circumstances of my life then. I even wrote the date of completion on each tape, as if I knew they’d eventually be treasured mementos.
So even though I want to lighten my load as I head south, I’m still torn over whether to trash my tapes or continue to lug them around with me like audio diaries that possess as much symbolic value as they do sonic worth—most of them anyway. Some of these cassettes date back to the ’80s and probably aren’t even playable, yet the thought of sending them to the scrap heap seems about as appealing as severing my ears. I’d like to think of them as eloquent testaments to a life well lived, but maybe I’m just a sentimental, deluded bastard.
In another sense, leaving behind my tapes could be liberating, a dispatching of old analog habits and a shedding of dead weight. Yet in another sense, it would be like losing a significant chunk of my history, an old-school version of having your hard drive wiped out. If this paragraph drove you nuts, then you have an idea of my current mental state—multiplied a hundredfold.
Is it only old motherfuckers like me who grew up in the analog era who fret over this nonsense, or are the kids nurtured on computers and cellphones just as attached to their possessions?
On another note, who wants to buy my played-to-death cassette copies of Jeru the Damaja’s The Sun Rises in the East and Kitchens of Distinction’s Strange Free World? I’ll cut you a sweet deal.