Thursday, November 12, 2009

the windy city, mixtapes & a Neil mailbox post...

it’s 3 am and I am sitting in the O’Hare airport, my rental car guy told me to be here two hours before my flight—and I am, but they won’t let me in until 3:45 so...I sit and I write.

Here in Chicago to see my family and to try to be a comfort to them as we all try to come to terms with the loss of Julia. When I bought the ticket, she was still alive, my plan was to come and just be with her. I talked to her ghost in the homes of her parents and her husband. I stayed with my aunt & uncle and poured over old photos and memories as we laughed and we cried. When her husband asked if I wanted anything of hers, I said no. Then he suggested I take her ipod, and I thought, what a gift. Loaded to the gills with every kind of music imaginable, it will be a most treasured last journey through the mind and ears of my cousin. I can’t wait to just put it on shuffle...

My beautiful niece was hosting a charity for rock event that fell in the time I was visiting, and I was impressed with the turnout and her tenacity. I willpass her the roadie crown...One of the bands A Kidnap in Color was a real stand-out. It was so good to spend time with all my beautiful cousins, Vicki, Kathy, Stacy, thanks for everything.

The Chicago book launch for the new book which I have a story in CASSETTE FROM MY EX also fell within the time frame of my visit so I was happy to be witness to the event.

In an industrial part of almost- downtown Chicago, the Hideout is now officially one of my favorite places.

All lit up like Christmas in July, it sits on the edge of a big warehouse lot. Marked only by a big Old Style sign, it brought to mind my dear old roommate Geo. Since it took me an entire three passes to park my boat-sized rental (I am used to driving baby little Ghosty) I didn’t pause long enough to get a photo of the outside.

Jason Bitner, mastermind of the book, greeted me in the crowd, a confident master of the ceremony, decked in plaid. He kicked off the event with a radio show he had taped on Chicago Public Radio, which featured a discussion of the art of making a mixtape. An important question came up, whether this art is lost forever in light of electronic Genius mixes or will it experience a revival? Obviously, it has evolved.

“nothing says longing better than a mixtape...”

he got the idea for the book when he came across a suitcase full of cassettes that he had hung on to, with no ready means to play them. I still have a good size collection of tapes too, like him, i felt they were perfect compact “memory holders”, However, I retained my cassette player. There are tapes of my father telling me stories of his life in Greece, and mixes that I made in the old days, mixes for new love or heartache or to mark a certain time, like a tattoo. Cyn was the president of perfectly blended mixes, while I was famous for cutting off midsong, Nancye would go ballastic over my abrupt DJ style... each tape still resounds with a time from my life.

“when a tape breaks, it’s a tragedy” says Jason, and he was right. Remember that crushed feeling while attempting to spool the wounded crinkly magnetic strip with a sharpened pencil back on the reel, only to have it stutter and woo on playback.
(I also recall the pure magic of burning my first CD, a real landmark!)

Jason called a panel of “experts” up to the stage, and they were hilarious in their memories of the do’s and don’t of mixtaping.

The cleverest response of the evening was one panelist saying he would woo a girl by going to the thrift shop and buying up to fifteen “cass-singles” and taping over each one with Velvet Underground’s “I heard her call my name” and then paying a pizza man to deliver them to her house.
Whether this was based in fact, i can’t be sure, but sure it stirred my heart.

The recollection of waiting for a certain song on the radio to tape it, fingers paused over the record & play buttons, Jason likened it to our generations “walking four miles uphill barefoot in the snow”-- “We actually had to reach out our arms and wait...” (you kids today with your iTunes)

When my tape cover was shown, the lady panelist mentioned that they had a section in her record store of spooky music, and that my tape looked like it would be full of this spooky music...Jason asked me what was the first song on the tape. I admitted to the packed house that I didn’t recall, but that he could check in the book...he did...”I put a spell on you” by Screaming Jay Hawkins.

The night ended with a clever story told in post-it notes by Arthur Jones, the lost innocence of a cassette-expectation falling short.

if you want to get the book, which features 60 tales of the tape by Claudia "Magnetic Fields" Gonson, Rick Moody, me and 57 others-- go HERE

I am back home now, Mr. Neil Gaiman's birthday was this week, and he got some presents in the mail,
warm presents.

these toasty mittens were made by Kate from Maryland, she says they are "for cold mornings in the gazebo.." and she offers to make miss AFP her own pair if she wishes:

this came for Neil in an orange Doc Martens boots box, and while I didn't measure it, Ally from Montana claims this handknit Dr. Who-esque scarf is 20 feet long. It is beautiful in so many colors:

Nat from Minnesota sends @neilhimself a beautiful bottle of honey mead:

that's about it from the treehouse, tonight we are going to revisit the stomping grounds of my youth, the Rainbow on Sunset strip--
Jozie is leaving this weekend, and we are going to have an evening of it. Drew is working on the Lady Gaga rehearsals so I think it will be girls night. Those reports will be up on the furrytiger blog...


Kitty Cat said...

now my librarian Mom can be proud: it made the New Yorker:

Marjorie said...

Congratulations !

FabulousLorraine said...

Whee-hoo! You GO girl!

AH, mix tapes, I remember them well. MAde a mix cd for myself yesterday, not sure what that says about me.

Glad you are back, and very sorry for the sadness. Wish I was with you NOW.

spacedlaw said...

That tape book project sounds fascinating!

vampi said...

my mix tapes got lost in a move. i was crushed. i would work for hours in my room on mix tapes. getting the transitions just right, adjusting song order to use up the whole tape

mix cd's or itunes playlists lack the imperfection that gives mixtapes soul.

my car still has a tapedeck, but i have not tapes for it :(

Dan Guy said...

I made some awesome mix-tapes back in my day.... *sigh*

That's awesome.

EmilyLady said...

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself in Chicago and also hope you enjoy listening to Julia's music. I rather like tape cassettes myself. I don't think I've ever made a mix-tape but I did like to record myself when I was some ten-ish years old ... and maybe for a couple years after that as well. My voice was so high ...