Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Morning Questions: Mix Tape Edition

Anyone remember mix tapes?

When I first started buying popular music, back in my late teens and early twenties, it became important for me not only to listen to the music I collected, but to share it with the people I cared about. My first real stereo was a system I bought straight out of college, from Sears—I know, real top of the line audiophile stuff. It was affordable, though, and I bought it because it was perfect for my needs. Not only did it have a turntable for my burgeoning collection of LPs, but it had a dual cassette tape deck. With high-speed dubbing, no less. Double tape decks were rare in those days. The high-speed dubbing was almost unheard of.

I loved that system. During grad school I would spend entire nights in my apartment in my parents’ basement, sitting on the cold tile floor cross-legged while I made mix tapes for my friends. I’d choose songs that not only they’d like, but that I was pretty sure they’d never heard before—songs for which I had a lot of enthusiasm. On my electric typewriter I’d type up the names of the songs and the artists, and then I’d make some custom art. Usually it was a chunk of a New Yorker cover, which when snipped down to fit in the cassette case would be colorful but abstract. Then I’d lovingly send them off to my best friends and hope they loved the mixes as much as I.

Over the years the typed inserts became computer-printed; a couple of years later, I burned my first mix CD. Even the concept of ‘burning’ a CD was exotic at first. The phrase brought to mind images of a blacksmith’s forge, and using a pair of white-hot tongs to pull a shiny CD from the flames so I could hear the sizzle when I plunged it into a horse bucket of cool water. The last mix tape I made was for Spencer, shortly before we parted ways. It was a thumb drive with a dozen mp3s on it.

But the thing is, people remember those mix tapes. I have friends who mention long-forgotten songs I sent them decades ago, and who’ve talked about all the love I put into those gifts of music, from the thoughtfulness of the song choice to the New Yorker artwork in which they were wrapped. One of my oldest friends recently went through all the tapes I’d given him over the years, and bought digital copies of all the songs from either Amazon or iTunes, so he could keep them as playlists on his computer. Those little gifts mean something, years and years later. That makes me smile.

Spencer used to go to sleep to a set playlist of songs on his iPod. He’d chosen them to lull him gently into his dreams. During the year when I was living on my own, trying to sell my house in the midwest, he was spending most of his nights in my bed. After he’d taken his bedtime shower and slipped into bed, steaming and warm and wet, we’d make love and drift into slumber in each other’s arms. The last memory of would have, most of those nights before I nodded off, would be of his strong, muscular arm reaching over me to my clock radio, so he could turn on his iPod and start that playlist.

It lasted for nearly an hour and a half. I know the first four songs well. I wouldn’t recognize the latter hour if you played it for me. I’ve always been deeply asleep by the time it played. The last night before I left Michigan for good, at a going-away party thrown in my honor, Spencer sat next to me as my guest of honor. We held hands beneath the table. Before the night’s end, he slipped back to me the thumb drive I’d given him a few weeks before. It held his Sleepytime mix.

You know, I still listen to it. There are nights when I can’t sleep. I keep a pair of earbuds by the bed. I keep the Sleepytime mix on my phone. I’ll plug in, turn on, and listen to the songs Spencer cultivated, the songs to which we fell asleep month after month, night after night, holding each other.

And little by little, I drift off, comforted. I still haven’t heard the back end of that mix during my waking hours. I’m not sure I care to. But I do know it’s the mix tape that means the most to me. It always will.

Let’s get to some questions from readers before I start bawling. If you’d like to ask something, come on over to and ask what you’d like. If you’d prefer to email me, just put ‘Sunday Morning Questions’ in the subject line of your email. My address is in the sidebar. I’ll answer anything, trivial or not, so long as it’s not too invasive of my privacy.

Do you ever fantasize about being forced to "service" a dominant stranger?

I do. My twist on it, though, which I’ve shared several times, is the fantasy of being forced to service a dominant bottom, as a top.

I'm not convinced the bottom for that task exists in real life, though.

thanks for your blog, i'd never have the courage to be out there,too much catholic guilt, your blog is my guilty pleasure, thank you sir

If you are so burdened that even reading about someone else having sex makes you feel guilty, my friend, I think it's time to do something about it.

I never look at my sex writings as prescriptive. I don't set words to paper as a recommendation of how anyone else should live his life. My acts are my own, and that's how they should remain. No one should push themselves past their own natural levels of comfort with any sexual exploration.

However, sex is a blessing. If you're religious, I don't know how you can justify to yourself that God made such an abundantly beautiful world with so many wonderful things . . . and yet believe that sex is supposed to be an awful act, a torture, a torment, or something that only a man and a woman approved by a representative of the church may do solely for procreational purposes. That's just not the way this world works. Religion might try to regulate sex in order to keep its adherents in line, but sex was given to us for pleasure, and for us to make connections with each other. It's a true gift. Not a source of guilt.

So if reading a sex blog brings you pleasure . . . enjoy it without guilt. Start with that leniency, and move on to others. You'll be a happier person in the end.

What's the last fun thing you bought for yourself?

A rice cooker. Does that count? If not, I buy myself video games on a fairly regular basis. The last one I purchased was Game & Wario, I think. Oh, and I bought some nice dress boots for myself last week. They’re classy.

Some of your fans (me included) lust after you, do you lust after anyone in the world?

Hmm. I think all my readers know I’ve had some pretty serious (and by serious, I mean goofy) crushes on various pretty bartenders. Long-term readers might remember I had a serious case of hotpants for my backyard neighbor, back in Michigan. (No, that’s not a euphemism. I wish it were.) I manage to work out my lusts on available asses on a pretty regular basis, so instead of burning with lust for various people, I just get schoolgirl crushes on random guys who delight my eyes.

What's the dumbest thing you’ve ever done to impress somebody and what's the dumbest thing anyone's ever done to impress you?

I once bought a rose a day for someone I wanted to woo, when I was in college. I thought it was beautiful and romantic as a gesture, but after about three days I realized it was coming across as creepy and stalkerish.

Most of the stupid things people have done to impress me have also leaked over into stalker territory—guys who follow me around the city, or who bombard me with hand-written notes—or who send me frantic instant messages the minute I get online, or who keep calling many times repeatedly over the course of a day—say they're doing it to show their devotion, but it's the kind of behavior these days that makes me wish I had a restraining order.


  1. A blast from the past -- If my Sears "stereo" wasn't the same one you had it was pretty close. I made mix tapes from records and played a number of mix tapes created for me by others. I never got around to making colorful inserts but some of my friends did. I still have them all but I don't have anything to play them on any more. But just thinking about them makes me smile. Thanks for the reminder!

    Paul, NYC

  2. I have a feeling with a schoolgirl crush over someone you might actually giggle and be shy around them. True?

  3. awwww Rob, mix tapes. that is true love. I still have 30+ yr mix tapes from exes and friends and I still cherish them. every song on those mix tapes has meaning for me.
    thank you for the wonderful reminders.
    monkey girl

  4. And now "Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" is running around in my brain. Marilyn McCoo was on a lot of mixes I gave and received.

  5. I loved making cassette tapes for my friends & family!! I still have about 75-100 that I need to find on digital and remake.