What came first, the music or the misery?
– Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
About the Mixtape project
Mixtape #1: Interpol, “NYC”
Mixtape #2: Violent Femmes, “Kiss Off”
Mixtape #3: Cyndi Lauper, “All Through the Night”
Mixtape #4: Towa Tei, “Technova
Mixtape #5: Teresa Teng, “The Moon Represents My Heart”
Mixtape #6: David Bowie, “Soul Love”
Mixtape #7: Modest Mouse, “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright”
Mixtape #8: Elvis Costello, “Beyond Belief”
Mixtape #9: Mountain Brothers, “Paperchase”
Mixtape #10: Don Gibson, “Born to Lose”
Mixtape #11: TV on the Radio, “Staring at the Sun”
Mixtape #12: ABBA, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”
Mixtape #13: Morphine, “Cure for Pain”
Mixtape #14: Beethoven, “‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto, No. 5, Op. 73, Second Movement”
Mixtape #15: The Replacements, “Sixteen Blue”
Mixtape #16: Derrick and Patsy, “Housewife’s Choice”
Your first apartment in Manhattan is 225 square feet and it’s all yours. The rent is more than you will ever pay again, even 17 years later, but it’s okay because you haven’t learned how to have a savings account yet, and you’re making it big as a freelance writer, writing and editing for the Internet. You are 24 years old. It’s the era of Web 1.0, dot-commers, and Silicon Alley, and there are start-ups everywhere in need of content writers. You make a dollar a word writing about tech culture. There are booze cruises at night, open bars where you can get wasted and dance to bad techno and go home with free messenger bags and T-shirts. One job you have sends the entire staff on an all-expenses-paid business trip to Maui for a week, where you have meetings in a resort and go whale watching and bike down a volcano. On the final night, the company pays for a futurist to give a special speech. He’s an older white man with a gray beard and long hair and a flowing black shirt printed with moons and stars, opining about how technology will change the world over platters of sashimi.
All these companies will go bankrupt in less than a year but nobody knows that yet.
Your boyfriend has his own start-up. He works fourteen-hour days, writes code and meets with venture capitalists. Mostly he is drunk, which suits you. You’d reconnected on a road trip over New Year’s, and when he dropped you off in Queens, where you had lived then, you invited him to come in. He didn’t leave for days.
On weekends you wander around the city together, sunshine and crowded sidewalks, and buy records and play scratchy rocksteady on your turntable. At night you go to shows, bars, and you puke in trashcans after last call. You think, I’ve never been happier; I’ve never been so in love. You read the Sunday paper in Tompkins Square Park, get coffee and walk down to the Brooklyn Bridge, where you stand in the middle, away from the tourists, and look out at the city and all its buildings. Maybe this is what it means to pray.
After you leave New York, you’re day drinking with friends in a bar in San Francisco and there’s a song on the jukebox that sounds so familiar, though you just can’t place it. Hush darling, you don’t know I love you or else darling, you wouldn’t have made me cry. A slow, smiley chorus, a song from a forgotten place, and all of a sudden you’re thinking of fire escapes and rooftops, but the song slips away before you can catch it, because someone is calling your name.