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A coworker quit the other day. Justin. He was a cool guy, a little off, maybe, but cool. At least I thought he was. Then I found something in the office after he left. A mixtape CD. A bad, horrible, "Say it isn't so!" mixtape. I felt lied to, I felt used. How could I have been so stupid? Justin was a closet music wanker!
Now, I consider myself quite the expert when it comes to making mixtapes. (Mixtapes, by the way, don't have to be tapes. The word refers to CDs or mp3s, too.) I know that a good mixtape needs to have a loose narrative throughout. I let the music tell a story; I appropriate the artists' words for my own. Mixes are, or at least they can be, just as evocative as a painting or a love note. In the days of iPods, of course, mixtapes are a dying art. You just put your $300 miniature computerized jukebox on random and forget it. But a mixtape, when well done, is a sound track to an event or a state of being. When it's really, really well done, it's a sound track to your life.
But back to Justin. I had never seen his mixtape before; he must have kept it hidden. Like I said, I had always thought Justin was a little off. Boy, was I ever right.
I pop the mixtape into the CD player on my desk. It begins with "Dude Looks like a Lady." I guess that's an okay start -- if Justin was making a mix for a buddy who just unknowingly hooked up with a tranny, that is. Or maybe he just liked Aerosmith. Either is equally embarrassing.
I go on to the next song (thank goodness for fast-forward buttons!). C & C Music Factory's "Gonna Make you Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," a '90s dance song that plays from the mouths of those mechanized mounted fish that rednecks love. That's followed by Bryan Adams's "Summer of '69." Fast-forward, fast-forward. Then it's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive. At this point, my hands are starting to go numb. Next is "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard. "Sugar" only belongs on mix CDs made by 20-year-old party girls on spring break with dreams of dancing on bars and getting their nipples pierced. (I see you Tiffany! You be nasty!) That's followed by the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams." Out of the context of this mix, this song is pretty bitchin'. But here it just becomes yet another burning cigarette being put out in my ear canal.
I manage to push the fast-forward button and stifle a little scream at the same time. "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" by Lenny Kravitz. The last time I heard this song was at our company retreat, when the lady with saggy boobs from human resources played it while our burned-out boss told us to "really pull together as a group and make this the best fiscal year ever!" I hated it then, too.
Then it's Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer." Bon-fricking-Jovi. That's it, the next time I see Justin I'm going to thump him in the nuts. By the time R.E.M.'s "Stand" comes on, I can't feel my face anymore. After Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible," I'm having trouble seeing so I can't find the fast-forward button. I'm still fumbling with the buttons, hoping that I don't accidentally hit repeat, when "She's Got the Look" by Roxette starts. I realize I'm crying a little bit. Just whimpers and gentle sobs, but I'm definitely crying. Where the hell is the stop button? Surely there's a stop button.
"Two Princes" by Spin Doctors starts up. I'm beginning to hallucinate: "If you shut your eyes real tight, it looks like there are black clouds in your eyelids. All sorts of cool squiggles and shapes. Hey, I see a Ferris wheel!"
I black out at this point, so I don't know if the mixtape keeps going or not. I wake up a couple of hours later. Everyone else has already left the office. I'm glad -- I don't want them to see me like this. On the way home I do the only thing I can with Justin's mixtape: I put the CD in a brown burlap sack weighed down with a brick. I drive to Port Aransas and get on the ferry. When we get to the center of Matagorda Bay, I get out of my car and throw the sack in the ocean. (Gosh, I hope the fish know how to hit fast-forward.)
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