My friends make fun of me.
I LOVE mix tapes, or as it is these days, mix CDs.
Yes, I am one of those people that feels a well crafted mix tape makes the perfect gift! From the early days of “Lawnmower Tapes I-IV” (made for the 2 years back in the Hubert, NC days when it was my chore to cut the grass of our 3 acre rental farmhouse with the very cool riding lawnmower), to the annual Christmas compilations (this year will make the 7th), to my favorite driving mixes, currently up to “Driving VII: To the MHR,” I love my mixes, especially the driving mixes. There is something magical to about creating the perfectly transitioning flow of music to match the mood of the intended drive.
I could easily go off on a tangent about the correct way to make a mix tape/CD, but everyone’s seen High Fidelity by now and should already know that the first 3 songs are like the thesis statement, allowing the listener to have a basic idea of what’s to come, you should never have the same artist twice in a row unless you are trying to prove a point of some sort, or it is part of a format to be followed for the entire mix, mixing genres is risky but can be extremely rewarding, and the transition from one song to the next is of utmost importance, otherwise you may as well be listening to the radio!
Sorry, tangent unsuccessfully avoided.
Driving mixes are my favorites because I love the escape a road trip offers, especially when accompanied by the perfect music. As road trips are seldom random, they almost always have instigation. Therein lies the beauty of the mix tape/CD (Okay lets be honest; no one makes mix tapes anymore. While having 2 sides can provide a poignant tool for the compiling, it’s just plain impractical to spend so much time recording in real time, or even slightly sped up dubbing. In fact, I really shouldn’t even be making mix CDs. If I were truly up with technology, I would be making Driving Playlists for my iPod and iPod car adapter. Nonetheless, I have no iPod so back to the dated CDs). The mix CD offers the accompaniment for the purpose of the drive.
Let’s take, for instance, the aforementioned “Driving VII: To the MHR.”
This mix was created for my short drive from Fayetteville, NC to Wilmington, NC, driven just a few weeks ago. I was leaving the marching band camp where it was my job to run saxophone sectionals for the annoying can’t get out of your head “West Side Story,” to attend the Manor House Reunion. The MHR is an annual meeting of spiritually connected sisters, no-pants parties, and otherwise general debauchery. I would go into further detail, but want to keep this at least PG in the case of possible younger readers. The gist is that every year Heidi, Amy, Redding, and I, former college roommates occupying the cutest little house on Manor Dr., meet yearly to emote, drink, and overall, be completely and utterly comfortable (a luxury not always available in this judgmental society of ours).
Giddy with anticipation for our trad margarita first night, I compiled a mix of laid back Motown, Pop, and Funk tunes, skillfully (I may add) weaving between artists of yesteryear and today, all designed to get me in the MHR mind frame. The first three songs are as followed:
“Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae
“Lovely Day” by Billy Withers
“Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do Now” by Joss Stone
My drive from Fayetteville to Wilmington that Friday, watching the sun set, windows open through the country on route 87 (no interstates for me if I can help it!), iced coffee in hand, tunes blaring uninterrupted due to lack of cell signal (I meant it when I said country) gave me the first (in a really long time) real hour and half of deep, unrelenting, intense, desperately needed, peace. Or did I mean happiness? They were one and the same to me that evening.
That, to me, is the magic of road trips and driving mixes.
Of course there is the very significant added bonus of listening to the mix again. In fact, we girls listened to “Driving VII: To the MHR” a couple times over the course of our reunion as we traveled to the beach, celebrated Redding’s belated 30th, and primped ourselves for our annual night(s) out. And now, as I listen to it while typing, a bit of the country breeze and paling sky lightens within my soul.
There is magic in road trips.
My August road trip was not glamorous and only counted 2 new driving mixes, 2 states, and 4 towns (I also visited Jeanne and her backyard fawn down in J-ville) -pretty much only covered the I-95 corridor of NC and VA (with the slight spin off to the coast). But it certainly repaired my soul. (That and the week following in Fred-Vegas, mooching lovingly off my parents.) I aspire to an Elizabethtown worthy road trip one day, but this little bi-state trip satiated my need so that I was even able to Amtrak it back to NY happily.
My friend Heather knew of my trip and offered an excerpt to accompany the contemplative thought processes that are an inevitable side effect of long hours alone in a car. It’s from a book called “Through Painted Deserts” by Donald Miller, which now resides on my bookshelf, bumped up to next in line, after finishing Kerouac’s classic “On The Road” which I finally started after a brief digression to “The Nanny Diaries” (sometimes I just really love chick-lit).
I’ll conclude this epic ode to the mix tape (CD) and its integral coupling with the every so often desperately needed time honored traditional road trip with Heather’s very thoughtful and perfectly appropriate excerpt:
It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were...and feel a kind of sickness at the idea that you never again will be.
So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.
And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?
It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.
I want to repeat one word for you: Leave.
Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.