Love & Sex

Cassette From My Ex: “Here’s a tape I made for yez”

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Each day this week, Tools of Attraction will present a story from Cassettefrommyex.com, a celebration of lost loves and mixtapes from Jason Bitner, co-creator of Found Magazine. This month, Cassette From My Ex came out as a book — check it out here. Today’s entry comes from Julie Shapiro, artistic director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

"Here’s a tape I made for yez"

When Jeff first walked into the record store where I worked, I took note because he was older than most of the undergrads slinking up and down the aisles, and because he seemed automatically sad. I broke the ice, inviting him to contribute to my zine, which meant filling in a blank sign (held up by two grinning white kids, straight out of the 50’s,) with “whatever’s on your mind these days.” Jeff’s sign depicted a frog, in profile, with some shading near the top of its head and the caption “Fig. 12-6. Frog, showing cut to remove fore-and mid brain.” The crush was instant, despite my vegetarian/animal rights inclinations. This was 1993, in Boulder.

For our first date we drove in a near-blizzard to Denver to shop for records and find some dinner, at which I remember blabbing on about how little I knew about wine* beyond which color I liked, only to find out he’d been trained as a sommelier** in a small, fancy town in California, where he lived for optimal access to the coast, where he surfed whenever possible.

But Jeff was not such a Surfing Dude, with bulging muscles and sun-bleached hair and fluorescent, zinc-y sunscreen, and rowdy swimming trunks. Instead he was a writer of melancholy short stories and a collector of punk records and striped tshirts. He had a soft voice, long arms and gentle, twinkly eyes.

Sooner than later came the mix tape. Forgoing excessive decoration, Jeff typed*** a short note on a slip of paper he wrapped around the cassette, and also inserted a list of the songs. One side was mostly a movie soundtrack, the other was compiled from a stack of 7″s he’d recently re-discovered at his mother’s house. The soundtrack kind of bored me**** and the other side just never really clicked. Except, that is, the one song Jeff had singled out in the typewritten note, and quoted from – “Pretty Mess” by Crimpshrine (see for yourself) which I agreed then (and still do) is one of the most romantic songs ever written.

I listened to the tape a few times before conjuring up these memories and still don’t care for it very much. The French song is kind of sweet, but the other novelty items (like the pot-smoking mom tune) wear thin quickly, and the Mecca Normal cuts are barely tolerable, though I was once a big fan.

Of course this got me wondering about Jeff, and what he’s up to these days. We broke up eventually, he moved back out to California. I once ran into him at a used bookstore in Santa Barbara, while standing under a ladder (the kind installed on a runner so you can read the titles on the highest shelves,) which seemed ominous. It was an awkward moment, and we both may have wondered how it had ever not been. But thinking back now, I can appreciate a lot about that time spent with Jeff – a new sort of adventuring – and I have relished having the “Pretty Mess” chorus stuck in my head for days.

* still don’t know very much about wine.
** the first time I’d heard that word
*** actually quite radical for mix-tape design
**** not anymore. (The Piano)

Side A:

“dean martin song and
some new age movie”

[ed note: see **** above]

Side B:

Pooh Gets into a Tight Place
Ill Repute: Fuck with My Head
Juke: Kids Will Rock
Velocity Girl: I Don’t Care If You Go
Courtney Love: Disappearing Lessons
Heavenly: So Little Deserve
Crimpshine: Pretty Mess
Cringer: Understand
Jean Moreau: Le Tourbillion
Thee Headcotes: The Man I Am
Los Locos Del Ritmo: El Rey del Surfing
Mecca Normal: Follow Down
Rolling Scabs: Giuliano’s Dream /
My Mom Smokes Pot
Pegboy: Field of Darkness
Brent’s TV: What Do You Get
Mecca Normal: He Didn’t Say, Accidentally

Listen to this mixtape at cassettefrommyex.com.