Saturday, July 3, 2010

An Open Letter to T

Dear T,

I don't know you and you don't know me. I don't know if T stands for Tyler, Timothy, Tina, or Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania. All I know is that I have your mix CD.

I was feeling nostalgic yesterday so I listened to your mix in my car while driving to Steve's place. I hooked my old Walkman up to my cassette deck and jammed out to the most eccentric batch of songs I've ever encountered. Boyz II Men followed by Nine Inch Nails. The Black Eyed Peas on the same disc as The Ben Folds Five. The Presidents of The United States of America back to back with Supertramp.

I first experienced this wonderful combination of randomized mediocre music in the year of 2002. I was in middle school.

My great aunt found a whole pile of CDs laying on her lawn one day and gave them to me in a plastic zip-lock bag. It was always a mystery where they came from. I've always thought that maybe some gangstas stole a car and chucked all the CDs in the car out the window while driving past my aunt's house. But maybe it was just the magical music fairy making her nightly rounds. Who knows.

I was really excited about all the new CDs. The excitement wore off fast though once I discovered they were all awful things like Peter Gabriel and P Diddy back when he still went by Sean "Puffy" Combs. I was about to pass the whole collection over to my little brother when I noticed a homemade mix CD hiding behind The Greatest Hits of The Charlie Daniels Band.

"T's Mix" was written on the front in black Sharpie ink. There were some Roman numerals scribbled on the front as well to indicate it was part of a series.

I was completely intruiged by your mystery mix. I skimmed through the tracks with my little brother when no one else was home. I was too young to appreciate most of them. I scoffed at the Nine Inch Nails track, agreeing with my brother that the Weird Al version was way better. I didn't quite know what to make of The Black Eyed Peas and I think Ben Folds probably offended me.

But there was a punk rock cover of "Turning Japanese" that I thought was awesome for whatever stupid reason. I wouldn't understand all the innuendos involved in that song (and the 1980s in general) until college.

There were almost 20 tracks on the CD, each track a little weirder than the last. The mix finishes off with Stephen Lynch singing about the Special Olympics. I still remember listening to that song for the first time with my brother in the back of the house, laughing hysterically and then feeling like horrible people.

Right after the Lynch track, the theme from "Three's Company" plays and then the whole CD is over. My brother and I decided that the mix was mostly a dud and I put it on some dust-ridden shelf in a corner.

But as I got older, I found myself revisiting that awkward mix. There were all sorts of angry, anti-corporate rock songs towards the middle of it that fit in well with my pathetic teenage angst. Since I lived in suburbia and had no real problems, I had to get mad at really vague entities, like society as a whole. I was even an incredibly misinformed vegetarian for approximately five minutes (blame that one on reading "The Jungle" in history class).

And when I got my first car (a 1993 silver Chevy Lumina with tinted windows and two authentic bullet holes in the back), it only made since to load your mix into my car stereo and blast track number four - "Damn, It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta." You know, the song they play in "Office Space" when all the white guys are beating the crap out of the fax machine. The song went on for a whole five minutes and contained more profanity than the smoker's bathroom at my high school. But it was the closest thing to gangsta rap I had (other than Gorillaz...yeah, I'm super white) and therefore became the national anthem of my infamous Gangsta Car.

I loaded your mix onto my iPod before I left for college. Well, my iPod only held 500 songs, so I loaded the ones I really liked and left out Lil' Kim and Boyz II Men. Ben Folds ceased to offend me and became living proof that geeky white kids who play piano can rock out. I began to secretly fall in love with The Black Eyed Peas. And since I was just coming out of my intense They Might Be Giants phase, I thought The Presidents of The United States of America were brilliant.

Every once in awhile someone would look at my iPod and ask about the playlist labeled "T's Mix."

"I don't really know who T is," I would answer stupidly. "My great aunt found this mix laying on her lawn and gave it to me."

It was silly, but I always wondered who you are. What kind of person puts punk rock, 80s music, hip hop, Nine Inch Nails, and Steve Martin singing "King Tut" all on the same CD?

Surely you must be someone totally interesting. I always thought you were probably a boy. Maybe one that was a little older than me and wore beat up Converse tennis shoes. I thought we would probably be friends. Your musical taste never did match up perfectly with mine, but it was extremely diverse and eccentric. I like that.

The reality is that you're probably a 35 year old stoner who lives in your mother's basement. Maybe you made the mix when you were high and decided to play CD frisbee on my great aunt's lawn one night in the summer of 2002.

Or maybe you're some crazy alternative chick who was on a mission to spread music awareness throughout the land and purposefully left those CDs on that lawn. Like when I lived in the dorms and got all the ditzy girls on my floor addicted to 90s eurodance by anonymously leaving my mixes everywhere. But that was mostly just an experiment to see if I could get everyone to stop listening to country western crap nonstop.

Anyway, I'm starting to ramble. The point is, T, I don't know who you are. And I'll probably never know. But I'd like to thank you for the mix CD that fell into my hands eight years ago.

So, T, thanks for the tunes. You probably just thought that your CD disappeared into an open sewer grate or something, but it went to a good home. Sometimes I wish I could make you a mix in return. But your identity remains a mystery, so that would be impossible.

Peace/Love/Rock and Roll,



  1. Peter Gabrail isn't that lame...

    Anyways, since I am slightly older than you this mix seems to represent a certain time in my life - at least some of the songs. Perhaps T was making this mix to be nostalgic (I have mixes like this - Allison's Car CD version 4.0 etc.)

    I'm glad you came around when it comes to Ben Folds - when I first read that you didn't like him, I was surprised. I'm glad he grew on you and came to represent the very genre you came to love and embrace!

    You should make a CD called "L's Mix III" and drop it on a bus bench or someone's lawn. Maybe T will find it.

  2. Keep in mind, I haven't always been as cool as I am today. When I first listened to that mix, I was about 13 and liked boy bands. *shudder*
    I've come a long way since then haha.

    And I love your idea about making a mix and dropping it on a bus bench. Even if T doesn't find it, maybe someone else will. Maybe even a 13 year old girl who likes bad pop music and needs to be educated in the ways of Ben Folds. It will be my way of paying it forward. :D

  3. What a find. I concur re: Allison's idea - I think that would be a good thing to do. You could even put an email address in, so that if someone found it, and liked it, they could email and let you know how much it rocked.

    ANYWAY...once again I've let my overactive imagination run away with me.

  4. Ooh, that would be really cool if someone actually emailed me saying they listened to my mix.
    I think I'll try it. :)

    I don't even know what songs I should put on it. Probably a little bit of everything, like T's Mix.

  5. This is awesome. Ode to mix c.d.s or ones you find on the side of the road!

    Also, the graphic made me laugh :)


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