“Alexa, play George Winston.”
Why make a mixtape when you can simply order your smart hub to play anything you want, any time of the day or night? I’ll tell you why. Because, though a smart hub is cool and convenient, it will never be as amazing as a mixtape.
Screw the Cloud, make a mixtape
Digital playlists are pale imposters when it comes to creating something everlasting. A mixtape is forever. Even the questionable ones you dubiously dubbed C’mon Baby Light My Fire to convey febrile declarations of lust to a short-lived-what-was-I-thinking-crush, are probably crammed in a shoe box in the back of someone’s closet, but I digress…
Sex, lies, and mixtapes
One of my all time favorite mixtapes came by way of a sculptor artist I’d met in San Francisco at a women’s bar in the mid 1980’s. After an evening of dancing and flirting, an invitation was extended. Sometime after midnight, I rode my motorcycle to her apartment in the city. She’d gone ahead of me in her own car and when I arrived at the address she’d given me, the scene for romance was presumably set.
When she opened the door I noticed she’d changed into a white cotton t-shirt and a pair of faded Levis. Her feet were bare and tan. Solo piano music filled the space in soothing counterpoint to my nervousness, and a warm fire danced in the fireplace. Her apartment smelled faintly of cranberry and sage. My heart raced with anticipation as she pulled me over the threshold. But what happened next was not exactly what I was figuring on and I wondered if I hadn’t gotten my wires crossed.
Taking both my hands in hers, she led me to the living room and sat me on a straight back chair, then disappeared. She came back a minute later cradling a large wooden trough of grayish paste. She threw off her t-shirt and as she knelt down before me I had quite a time deciding where to focus my gaze. A stream of thoughts played like a tape winding round the rollers and posts in my brain: What’s that in the bowl? Wow, her eyes are so blue…maybe I’d better go…but this music is so beautiful… she seems sane…enough. What is she planning to do with that…wait, did I tell my friends where I was going?
Despite some mildly justified apprehension, I was admittedly glued to the edge of my seat by lustful curiosity. The music, which was weaving its way from my head to my heart, helped to bolster my resolve. There was no way I was going to leave without knowing what she intended to do next.
Taking my hand, she pulled me off my seat to the floor where a pile of colorful throw pillows was arranged in front of the fireplace. I did not resist.
She set the bowl of gray paste next to her on the floor and pushed me back on the cushions before unbuttoning my blouse.
On her face was the most exquisite expression. She looked as though she were unwrapping a precious gift. When she slid her arm around me then single-handed, unhooked my bra, a tiny gasp of pleasure escaped both our lips.
Looking deep into my eyes she finally revealed her intentions, which I’d begun to care less and less about. “Will you let me cast you?” she asked, indicating the bowl of goop which was actually casting plaster and strips of linen cloth I had yet notice..
Nude from the waist up, I looked tentatively down at my torso and back up to her face. She was serious. She beamed at me. “You’re stunning,” she said, and lightly brushed her fingertips down my shoulder. She told me about her ongoing art project which entailed collecting several castings of women’s torsos for her upcoming exhibit in a San Francisco gallery.
While she spoke, she began pushing pieces of cloth into the plaster, certain I would agree to the proposal. With each strip she placed on my shoulders and breasts, she’d lean forward and softly kiss my lips. The confidence in her touch was electrifying.
As passions rose, she explained the plaster was fairly quick drying and promised to release me from the mold as soon as she could. For sitting still and letting her have her way, I would be well rewarded. Just before dawn, I untangled myself from bed sheets, legs and arms, And pulled myself into a sitting position. While she slept, I marveled at my empty torso cast waiting patiently in the chair for her new show.
Oh, I almost forgot about the mixtape — who could blame me, right?
I saw my sculptor a few more times after my casting call. I asked her about the music she’d been playing that first night because I couldn’t get it (or her) out of my head. While it was clear she was ready to move on, she also admitted she wasn’t exactly ‘single’.
Saying good-bye to me, she placed in my hands a cassette tape inside a plastic box. Penned in calligraphy on the tape label was the composer, George Winston, and the two albums Autumn and Winter she’d played that night for our casting session. She’d made me a mixtape! Some months later, I received an invitation to her art show in the city, however, I was unable to attend. I never saw her again.
Years later, I had the opportunity to see George Winston play live in San Diego. An unassuming man, he stepped onto the stage and up to the grand piano wearing a red plaid shirt and jeans. He proceeded to play, by then, many familiar favorites from the mixtape she’d given me, and the memory of one uniquely erotic night was alive again.
Music is a powerful and sacred messenger of human emotion and a guardian to our memories. If you want to give a lasting gift to someone you care very much about, make them a mixtape, you won’t regret it and neither will they.
P.S. A special thanks to George Winston for playing me through the writing of this story.