Don’t Leave Out the Good Part
But I’m her lover,
not a man bent on revenge,
hanging out here on the fringe,
of my native borderlands.
– from “The Ballad of the Snow Leopard and the Tanqueray Cowboy” written by David Rodriguez, performed by Lyle Lovett
To help answer the questions thrown at them by life, some people write. Some talk. Some take pictures. Some paint or draw or carve or build or make collages.
I make mixtapes.
I have since I was a small boy. It started with “Sara” by Starship in my family’s gazebo in our backyard in Newton, Kansas. I received a D7140 Magnavox single deck cassette player with a radio. With that little blue and silver deck, I recorded songs on the radio as early as five years old, and I taught myself how to cut them together so that they’d flow from one song to the other and tell a story. The other day, for the first time in ages, I opened a cello-wrapped cassette. Taking in the burnt smell of fresh plastic and the inky-sweet smell of the tape was transportive. As my hands tornadoed around the case, the crunchy crinkle of the cellophane was almost better than a Motown 2-4 snared backbeat. The motions of opening the fresh cassette felt so natural, happened so fast, so furtively. I make no claim to be an expert of any kind, but the natural way my hands unwrapped the tape led me to realize I must’ve done this a thousand times. It revealed my serious preoccupation with the compilation of music. And if there was any doubt, I spent several days recently reorganizing my Spotify playlists (alphabetically, for those keeping score at home), and I literally have too many playlists to count. There are nearly three dozen playlists that I am currently “working” on… working in the sense that they are either not quite where I want them to be, or they are just a sketch, a furtive glance at the subject I intend to tackle with a mixtape.
I preface with all this, as some of you are coming to this site for the first time, and you may not be familiar with my Spotify profile, nor with my distinct obsession with a musical playlist, the roughly 80 to 120 minutes of music put together in such a way that you feel like you sat through an opera or a musical or a really good movie. I’ve had other blogs before All Plaidout (Those were wild days, those early aughts, weren’t they?), one of which still exists out there and is only composed of old mix tapes.
A well-founded love and obsession for the mixtape combined with Spotify’s ability to throw a seemingly endless number of songs into a playlist has led to a reconfiguration of my notion of the playlist. I still intend to make the shorter, cinematic experience, but I will also begin to share longer mixes, infinite worlds in which I find myself repeatedly lost, adding to them when struck to do so. It’s my hope you’ll follow along with those and make suggestions to me for what might be missing from those worlds.
“Don’t Leave Out the Good Part” is a mix I made in 2018, reflective of the Homeric epic my life was finishing at the time. Going from a 37-year-old boy, lost amidst the clouds of the sublime life he’d built and trekked through and come to know, into a 38-year-old man grounding himself in his hometown — environs that had never done him many favors — falling in love for the first time with himself and later with the woman and her daughters who would take the limestone-rich clay of his upbringing and shape skinny boy into robust man, a man rediscovering his own backyard as if for the first time. These were the songs that I found circling like turkey vultures as I reflected on that three year voyage. My hope with this mix was to crack open some of the myths of my social media persona. My life appeared all pastel hues, sunrises, sunsets, surfing and funky, rattletrap convertible cruises (more on that another time), but it was all a sham, a ruse, a facade that I needed to build in order to feel ordered, orderly, put together. In all honesty, in that time, shit had hit fans I didn’t know were up there, and I paid a hefty price as a result. I lost everything, and a lot of people took pity on me. I relied heavily on the goodwill of many to whom I will forever owe a great deal. As I struggled to figure things out for myself, I out-spent these good people’s emotional, financial, spiritual, and their trust capital.
In the process, I whittled myself and the world around me down to nothing. I wrote this about that time of my life somewhere else online, “Unlike other moments in life where I faced one or two of these losses and found a way to bounce back, in this moment, losing so much, so fast, when there was no ‘back’ to bounce to, I found — much to my surprise — that rock bottom was actually solid ground.”
Perhaps you once went through a similar transition, a similar epic journey that led you effectively back to yourself. Well, this one’s for you.
Originally compiled in August of 2018
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