Where have you been, old friend?

I have made dozens of mix tapes in my life each one more agonizing to make than the last. As I noted in my “Sweatin’ to the CJS” article:

“Anyone who knows me well knows that I spend more time creating mix tapes than virtually anyone else. I agonize over each song, its placement, and its effect on the overall aesthetic of the mix. I’m like Rob Gordon in High Fidelity. A mix tape says as much about you as any other aspect of your personality. I have created 10 different punk mixes, that if you listened to them sequentially and paid attention carefully, you’d get a startlingly accurate snapshot of who I was when I created each one. Between 2002 and 2007, my life is summarized in CDs. Some people keep journals. Some make scrapbooks. I make mix tapes.”

In addition to those 10 aforementioned punk mixes, I’ve made three Road Trip Mixes, two Birthday Mixes (one shitty, one spectacular), two mellow Late Night Jukebox Mixes, a Workout Mix, one profoundly awful Ska Mix, one I called “Dagger’s Basement Jams” when I was in a particularly immature and angst-ridden mood, and five other mixes that were lost in the Great CD Disappearance of 2002. You count that up, that’s 25 mixes in the last 7 years.

Some mixes always stand out head and shoulders above the rest and earn more regular rotation than their brothers in crime. Dagger’s 26th Birthday Mix is the most uproarious fun of all spanning everything from Ludacris to Johnny Cash to Andrew WK to Zebrahead to The Scissor Sisters. It’s fucking nuts.

Punk Mix Vol. 5 is easily my finest work and serves as the punk opera score setting the scene of Lady E and I meeting and falling in love during the first semester of grad school. Punk Mix Vol. 7 was the musical accompaniment on our incredible drunken ride to Durango in early-2006 and never fails to conjure happy memories of Crown Royal shots, putting our tall cans in the air, and dying to pee just before Pagosa Springs. These discs all get regular rotation as do many of the others.

 They seem to be acting out the “fuck you” part of the song.

But Punk Mix Vol. 6 sits terminally as the proverbial forgotten middle child. It was born between the transcendent Vol. 5 and the ridiculously fun Vol. 7 never fully carving out an identity for itself. It’s not nearly as dark as Vol. 5 and doesn’t have an indelible memory attached to it like Vol. 7 does.

In addition, Vol. 6 just looks different. I ran out of my usual brand of CD-Rs when constructing this one and was forced to use this gaudy, blue monstrosity I stole from the radio station. When it sits in my CD binder, it looks like the random black kid in an otherwise fertile, all-white family. Vol. 6 is different, and therefore largely subjugated to collect dust in my case.

It’s not until your CD player resembles baseball season in August that you begin to delve deep into your rotation. All your regulars are worn out. The fans have gotten bored. And you need a miracle to sustain interest. So what do you do? You either call up the veteran dutifully toiling away in Triple-A trying to regain his form, or you take a flyer on a rookie you don’t know that well. What did I do when my CD rotation looked like the Rockies pitching staff after a 10 game road trip in the dog days of summer? I went to the little-used, but consistent veteran. I re-found Punk Mix Vol. 6.

Re-listening to Punk Mix Vol. 6 made me feel like Robert DeNiro in Awakenings. As each song faded into the next, my memory gradually re-generated itself and I was suddenly transported to the summer of 2005. Being sandwiched between two of the best Mix Tapes of all-time will cloud your memory, and the greatness of this mix had been temporarily forgotten.

It was 45 degrees outside, but all I could feel was warmth thanks to the live version of Lagwagon’s “Razorburn.” I wasn’t on the dreary streets of a downtown metroplex, I was leisurely cruising down Fort Collins’ beautiful tree-lined Laporte Avenue on the way to meet friends on the roof of Tailgate Tommy’s for Happy Hour. For 3 minutes, my day wasn’t filled with client meetings, I was in a fresh relationship with Lady E during a positively splendid summer where the sun never stopped shining. I wasn’t pissed off at my boss for his terrible project management skills, I was amusedly raging against the academia machine that didn’t understand me chanting Reel Big Fish’s “I don’t fucking care!” the whole way.

 It’s gonna be alri…I don’t fucking care!

This mix sat dormant in my CD case for too long, and once I unleashed it, a flood of memories rushed to my immediate consciousness like Agent Cujan figuring out that Verbal Kint is Keyser Soze. I remembered experiences and happy times I hadn’t thought of in years, and that made the rest of my day, nay, the rest of my week, that much better.

The forgotten Mix Tape is your brain’s version of the Dead Sea Scrolls holding cherished memories you’ve been too busy to remember and too calloused to unlock again. I haven’t put this disc back in its holder for two weeks and have no immediate plans to. Every day I listen to a new song and everyday it’s a new happy memory from one fabulous summer. I’m tempted to revisit other mixes, but don’t want to overdo the nostalgia and burn out my reminiscent reservoir too quickly.

But I’ll tell you this, the mixes you’ve got buried in your collection not only contain a cadre of music you’re not into anymore, but also a secret entrance into a part of your subconscious you’re dying to play with again. Check out the Forgotten Mix Tape. Good things are there.

Until next time…