a set of stacks of mixed cds

Mixed CDs, Stolen

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Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground

Someone keeps breaking into my car, but all they’ve really taken are the mix CD’s from a douchebag I used to know. And a milk crate.

His name was Zach and I thought, as all young women evidently do, that he was so cool. But his friendship was purchased at the price of my pride and his respect for me — a limited quantity that I managed to burn through in record time. I was not cultured enough for him. I thought I understood David Lynch films.

It was barely a friendship and more a sort of companionship of geography that happens when you’re a kid in a small town and the closest movie theater is an hour away. In the end, it evaporated when making a mockery of my taste and naivete lost its flavor. Or rather, when we both went to college.

Before that though, before undergrad with a shared degree that somehow still resulted in us never seeing each other again, he gave me mixed CDs. I had to pay for the CDs, I still remember buying the shrink wrapped cases, deciding that I wanted them to be in cases so I could listen to them (and more easily store them) in the 2007 Honda Fit that I had named Biscuit. There were 3 curated mix CD’s of Beatles music — he was aghast that I had never actually listened to the Beatles before, my music education consisting of my fathers taste in Prince and Frank Sinatra and my mother’s love of country music.

The second batch of CD’s were the real star of the show. 14 disks in their slimline cases, carefully handwritten descriptions of each song — no more than 2 per artist. 100 songs. Later, long after these disks became the foundation of my musical education, he explained that the purpose of the disks was so that I could find an artist I liked and then he could burn me their discography from his shitty computer in his bedroom. He, like all of the cool kids I knew, understood Limewire and illegal downloading. My computer was so that I could play Age of Mythology.

Last week, someone stole the last of those CD’s from my car.

I don’t know why they stole the CD’s. Like most burnt CD’s in cars, they hold little real world value and at this point, these hold little sentimental value as well. The most important CD in the lot was not made by Zach, and was actually my first mix from my friend who is now a gynecologist where she had written in her looping script “It’s curtains for you, lacy gently wafting curtains” and was a summer mix of songs that she liked that year. I received it in the mail, a carefully wrapped package. A handcrafted sort of affection that comes parcelled out in digital ephemera. I love that CD. It was not in my car glove compartment with a small bag of emergency pads and my registration. It’s tucked safely in a holder in my back seat, which the thief did not express interest in.

Zach’s CD’s, the remnants of them, were in the glove compartment. Alongside a Fugee’s disk and a copy of selected songs from Sondheim, the thief had redistributed the bag of sanitary napkins and my car registration through the back of the car. The mix CD’s themselves were gone.

I make a point that I did not, until recently, have all 14 CD’s. Over the years, they have been deposited like so much debris across my life. I think my sister took my first, and since she has had at least one car since then, I doubt she still owns it. The CD’s were in alphabetical order, the first was the numbers and the A’s. It was a good one. Al Green sings “Let’s Stay Together” on that CD. There’s also a one two punch of 2Pac, stored in iTunes system first because of the number in his name. The first song is Keep Your Head Up; And since we all came from a woman/Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman. The second is Hit ‘Em Up which starts with the hardest opening line; I ain’t got no motherfuckin friends/That’s why I fucked yo’ bitch, you fat motherfucker.

It is what the kids call a banger. I think. I’m not terribly versed on the lingo, I just know that when it played I felt invincible and I would roll through my hippie town at midnight with the windows rolled down, blasting it after I had dropped off my friends at their house.

My sister wanted it for the Al Green. I don’t think it ever returned to my car.

The other CD’s went the way of the first — CD’s full of things like the Chemical Brothers and The Flaming Lips and Aphex Twin. Work distilled down to two songs, like soundbites of a musical experience. I hadn’t listened to the CD’s in years, though I remember that disk 7’s cover had faded the black ink a soft purple in the sunlight, so slight I could barely make out the songs — I think there was at least one song from Sufjan Stevens, probably Chicago because it was 2008.

The collection was incomplete in a lot of ways. I know Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots; Yoshimi, they don’t believe me/But you won’t let those robots defeat me; but literally nothing else from what I assume is an impressive discography. Same with artists like the Velvet Underground or Primus, who I immediately despised. Perhaps Zach would be disappointed that his attempts to culture me into what he considered high art failed, that I instead listen to the radio than the carefully mixed collection of his exacting standards. It seems fitting.

For awhile I joked that this library was the only good thing I had left from my friendship with Zach. To an extent that was true. But mixed CD’s (and I assume their tape predecessors) are an expression of the person as much as they are of the work on them. These fourteen were a dump of information from someone who viewed themselves as my cultural better. Our relationship was never an exchange, but instead him pouring himself out into me and my being an open receptacle for his taste. When I tried to expose him to artists that I liked, he dismissed me. Ours was not a cultural exchange of equals. These CD’s, resting untouched in my glove compartment for near 10 years, were the last remnants of that.

I wish I had my milk crate back.