Thursday, April 9, 2009

on burning cds

During high school and college, I was the mix CD queen. You knew you were part of my inner circle if you got a hand decorated CD from Melanie. Making one of these CDs took me upwards of an hour, painstakingly selecting songs for optimal flow, no listener track skippage and the ultimate CD-listening experience. It was both an art and a science.

Then there was the decorating.

I know from personal experience that it is exceptionally hard to keep track of a CD jewel case and sleeve, so I always relied on the CD itself to convey the message I wished to share. Using a rather impressive array of colored sharpies, I would write the track list - songs and artists on the CD. I would use my (minimal) remaining space to illustrate... usually some sort of palm tree or beach motif. Or stars. Or hearts. And then add a personal message:
Dear Kristen/Greg/Jonathan/Jenn/Michelle/Chris,

Happy Graduation/Birthday/Valentine's Day/break up/reunion/got-your-braces-off
You're the best!

Those CDs, while exceedingly cheesy, were quite popular. I loved getting inspired by an occasion (I especially remember making ones for all the girlfriends before we went off to our various colleges) and fitting the music to the mood.

Lots of these are still lying around in various friends, boyfriends and siblings car consoles, CD-R holders and desk drawers and are pulled out to relive that month in our lives: headed to college after high school graduation, first valentine's day in a relationship, pick-me-up CD for a best friend during finals, big brother's 21st birthday.

To me, the mix CD is more thoughtful at times than a handwritten letter - and this coming from a writer. While both are used express the mood of an occasion, music is powerful. Hearing the first strain of the hit rap song of 2002 brings back dancing around the dorm while getting ready to go out your first semester of college. The chorus of Wonderwall brings back sitting on that pedestrian bridge in Paris, singing along, in English with kids from all over the world, enjoying the July evening in the City of Light.

They say that smell is the most instantaneous link to memory, but for this hyper-allergic writer, sound is just as equally powerful.

On that note,
Dear Christina,

Congratulations, love! You're getting hitched. Let's take this weekend to symbolically recognize all of the time up till now that this group of girls has spent together. Let's celebrate the current gorgeous, immensly intelligent (and charming) and successful - working for Calvin Klein in Manhattan - you, by taking trip back to less complicated times. Here's to you. And us. And what we have become through all of those fun times.


track list:

Outkast - Bombs Over Baghdad
Destiny's Child - Bug-a-Boo; Bills, Bills, Bills
Any crappy rap song from the early '00s
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The Beatles
Britney Spears
anything Gwen Stefani and No Doubt

Missy Elliott
Nelly Furtado
Jimmy Eat World
...and more
Yeah, yeah... laugh it up. Most of this is pretty passé by now, but at the time, that was our music. Embarassing as it may be now, this weekend these songs will take us back to the happiest, easiest times of our lives. Before jobs and rough economies. Before committed relationships and car payments. Now that I have the CD burner back up and running, I might have to get back into the practice.

It's like what they said about mix tapes before we made the switch to burning CDs - all of the effort had gone out of the endeavor. There was no longer copying one song at a time using two tape decks. Now, there's no more dragging and dropping, labeling and burning. There's just the iPod cord and the on-the-go list, all downloaded remotely. I might keep up this dying art for a little longer, if just for the happiness a palm tree and some x's and o's provide a friend. Congrats, Chris.

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