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Personal Archeology

June 13, 2014

Last weekend I went on journey of personal archeology - deep into a prism of my (and my wife’s) past. It was especially difficult to get started, and, like all of these missions, it had its challenging moments. But the struggle paid off - if in unexpected ways. And I moved my agenda forward, manifesting my personal myth and ideology.

You see, out in the garage there was a couple broken down boxes filled to the brim with cassette tapes. Spanning from the mid ‘80s to the late ‘90s, there were tapes of all kinds, about a hundred and fifty commercially released albums. Another fifty or so were homemade - carefully recorded from the vinyl or even off the FM radio. Remember that? Album Rock? Then you’re old!

There were some mix tapes, mostly my wife’s, so many were not labeled in any discernible fashion. A lot of tapes were completely unlabeled, and of course there was a ton of empty and unlabeled boxes. I spent most of the time sorting out the ones I could read and finding a box for it and checking that each box had the right tape in it, and locating the correct tape when it almost never did. Oh man, there’s a Beastie Boys one with a cool cardboard box that opens on the end - where’s the tape? Still missing, damn! That’s one I could have sold on eBay! S thinks it may still be in the player in the old Volvo I traded to get my piano fixed.

There’s around a hundred I classified as “demos or keepsakes”, from my mother-in-law’s band Nzinga’s Daughters, to random demos from friends and old bands . . . who remembers Slashappy? Some of the latest - must be from the late ‘90s, are a couple G. Love and Special Sauce rough mix cassettes from Longview Farms, the beautiful farmhouse studio where we worked on a few records. They must be from the Philadelphonic sessions because by the time we did the Electric Mile there, I remember I had my DAT machine with me.

Note that this does not include my four-tracks - they’re all in another box, down in the basement with the Tascam, in the “old gear” pile. Some day I will subject everyone to the horrors contained in those . . . soon, soon, but not today. This day I am sorting and organizing, transforming what was basically a box of garbage, into a library of the music from my youth. And more-organized garbage. And mementos that are now somewhat sorted and labeled, but will still probably never be listened too.

A quick perusal of eBay leads me to believe that none of these have much value. It seems that metal albums on cassette sometimes sell for a bit, but our catalog of mostly “alternative” (or whatever that early ‘90s sound is called today) and classic rock - Todd Rundgren anybody? Yea, they don’t seem to be worth the trouble of listing. Plus there’s S who’s like “Don’t sell my Jane’s Addiction tapes . . . “ Alas, there’s the box, but the tape? Long gone, likely left in a boom box in San Francisco.

The important thing is that they are out of my way in the garage, and this will inspire me to get rid of or at least organize some more crap. See, I’m a functional hoarder, I can’t part with anything. My grandmother was pretty bad, but she lived through the depression, so had an excuses. I struggle in our throw-away society.

The worst are the cool boxes that Macs come in. I have a couple of those - I always thought, you know, I would store the computer in there later (it’s really in the pile with the other banged up laptops), or that I would make the box into a cary case (it’s really not as durable as it seems), then finally I would make it into a diorama (fat chance!) I might appear to be pious to say I won’t throw it away because of the environmentally damaging plastics, but then it will be thrown away one day when I’m gone. Unless I make it into a diorama, then of course it will be in a museum for eternity.

Anyhow, small steps. Even though I could only bear to throw away a few cassettes and the broken plastic, the whole process did lead me to start cleaning out under the stairs in the basement. I filled the recycling bin with broken down boxes. Boom! Vacuumed up a layer of dust even. I created a clean and welcoming path for Chi flow down to the laboratory.

And I now have 99 cassettes I can listen to on the boom box in the kitchen. Wow, I haven’t listened to a whole album by The Cure in a while! The other side is a band from Boston called the Lyres. Remember them? Now I’m thinking I’ll have to get out my Barrence Whitfield and the Savages vinyls.

Portland, the rain is reprising slightly.