642 Tiny Things To Write About: Down in the Basement

What’s in the basement that you just can’t throw out?

But first some Etta James…

This prompt poses a minor challenge, because like most houses in my proverbial neck of the woods, mine does not have a basement.  It does have a creepy crawl space under the house which I’m sure houses several deadly breeds of spiders and maybe a demon or two.  You’d have to probably get me very drunk and pay me over a years salary to go under there under even an emergency circumstance.

We do however have a garage.   No one in my townhouse group actually uses their garages for the intended purpose, aka housing a vehicle. (As an aside, we once had a renter next door to our unit who actually did fit his vehicle into the garage.  We were suitably impressed).  Instead, they serve as an alternative living space / storage unit.  Ours currently houses seasonal decorations,  my overflow of canning supplies, ephemera from our children’s time in elementary school, my bass rig that I gig with and my husband’s drum set that at some point will rival Terry Bozzio’s and take over the entire garage.

It also has a small box of cassette tapes, that I will never throw out, despite the fact we haven’t had a tape player in years.  These tapes were all home-made and span from 1987 – 88, and mark the first year of my husband’s and my long relationship.  If you were into music, like we both were and still are, and you wanted to impress someone, you made them a mix tape.  Rob Sheffield, in his book Love is a Mixtape, does a superb job of describing the art of making a mixtape and how those cassettes became the soundtracks of our dating lives and even our lives in general.  It’s a good read, and he does a better job of writing about it than I can.

My favorite tape in our collection is labeled “Summer of 1987”.  It was the cassette that my husband first made for me.  It was the perfect mixtape–it included songs by groups he loved (so I got a good sense of his musical tastes) and songs that were strong hints of “Hey I want to be more than just friends at work”, including  “I Want You” by Elvis Costello, and Marshall Crenshaw’s “Favorite Waste of Time”.    It was also my first introduction to Captain Beefheart (“Floppy Boot Stomp”) and Steve Hillage (“Hurdy Gurdy Man”).  And Side one started out with what has become one of my favorite Daryl Hall songs “Burn me up I’m a Cigarette!”

(For the record, the first mixtape I gave him included music I had discovered during an earlier trip to England that year…that tape unfortunately has been lost to time)

For our 25th anniversary,  I hunted down all the songs on iTunes and other internet services and made him a CD version of that Summer of 1987 mix tape.  It seemed odd listening to it on that format without the hiss of the tape and having to eject and turn the tape over for side two.   Maybe some day, we’ll find an old tape player and drag out those cassettes again to listen to them in their original format.  Until then, I’ll keep those tapes in their box in the garage, plastic and magnetic film love letters between my husband and I.

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