Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don’t live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous.”

Book: Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, by Rob Sheffield

This was a really simple but cute read. I’d compare it to anything Klosterman, though more about the human experience (specifically, love, as you probably figured) than the pop culture experience. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, made me laugh aloud, and offered its fair share of underline-worthy passages. Plus, who hasn’t tried to express life and love through a mixtape at some point? Rob Sheffield, you have my props!

She put a hitch in my git-along. She would wake up in the middle of the night and say things like “What if Bad Bad Leroy Brown was a girl?” or “Why don’t they have commercials for salt like they do for milk?” Then she would fall back to sleep, while I would lie awake and give thanks for this alien creature beside whom I resided.

It was a smashing time, and then it ended, because that’s what times do.

She was in the middle of everything, living her big, messy, epic life, and none of us who loved her will ever catch up with her.

Tonight, I feel like my whole body is made out of memories. I’m a mix tape, a cassette that’s been rewound so many times you can hear the fingerprints smudged on the tape.

There are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one.

The words “douche” and “bag” have never coupled as passionately as they did in the person of my thirteen year old self. My body, my brain, my elbows that stuck out like switchblades, my feet that got tangled in my bike spokes, but most of all my soul—these formed the waterbed where douchitude and bagness made love sweet love with all the feral intensity of Burt Reynolds and Rachel Ward in Sharky’s Medicine”

In my headphones, I led a life of romance and incident and intrigue, none of which had anything to do with the world outside my Walkman.

I was wasted, not on drugs, but on something possibly worse. I read an aphorism of Nietzsche’s, in which he says, “The man who despises himself still respects himself as one who despises.” I laughed and said, Totally. That describes everybody I know, except me. It was time for a change.

I’ve been stuck in my little isolation chamber for so long I’m spinning through the same sounds I’ve been hearing in my head all my life. If I go on this way, I’ll get old too fast, without remembering any more sounds than I already know now…How do you turn down the volume on your personal-drama headphones and learn how to listen to other people? How do you jump off one moving train, marked Yourself, and jump onto a train moving in the opposite direction, marked Everybody Else?

If she breaks my heart, no matter what hell she puts me through, I can say it was worth it, just because of right now. Out the window is a blur and all I can really hear is this girls’ hair flapping in the wind, and maybe if we drive fast enough the universe will lose track of us and forget to stick us somewhere else.

That’s the way they did it in the old country. Two people battle the elements that are trying to kill them, and if one of them weakens, the other dies. If they stay strong, they get to die some other way. That was romance. My grandparents stayed in love for over sixty years.

That was always my most intense fear about getting married: When everything sucked and I was by myself, I thought, Well, at least I don’t have another miserable person to worry about. I figured if you give up your private place and it still turns out to be lonely, you’re just screwed. So I just felt safer not thinking about it.

Ruby put the “freak” in “frequently drunk and belligerent.”


I’m not much of a phone person. I always vowed if I ever met a woman who ignored a ringing pone for me, she was the one. But of course, this never happened, and I fell for a woman who would have dropped a scalpel into my spleen in the middle of performing open-heart surgery on me to grab the phone.

And being a husband made me helpless, because I had somebody to protect (somebody a little high-strung, who had a tough time emotionally with things like the lights going out indefinitely). Man, I thought it was tough being broke when I was single, but being broke as a husband is not even in the same category…
I suddenly realized how much being a husband was about fear: fear of not being able to keep somebody safe, of not protecting somebody from all the bad stuff you want to protect them from. Knowing they have more tears in them than you will be able to keep them from crying. I realized that Renee had seen me fail, and that she was the person I was going to be failing in front of for the rest of my life. But that’s who your wife is, the person you fail in front of. Love is so confusing; there’s no peace of mind.

She knows dreams are something you have to steal…She knows pop dreams are a hustle, a deception, a “glamor” in the witchcraft sense of the word.

Every time I started to cry, I remembered how Renee used to say real life was a bad country song, except bad country songs are believable and real life isn’t.

You lose a certain kind of innocence when you experience this type of kindness. You lose your right to be a jaded cynic.
You can no longer go back through the looking glass and pretend not to know what you know about kindness. It’s defeat, in a way…People kept showing me unreasonable kindness, inexplicable kindness, indefensible kindness. People were kind when they knew that nobody would ever notice, much less praise them for it. People were even kind when they knew I wouldn’t’ appreciate it.
I had no idea how to live up to that kindness.

What do you do with kindness like that? I felt tiny beside it, and stupid for not understanding the first thing about it. I had a lot to learn. It was bewildering and humbling to keep discovering how many brave things people can fail to talk themselves out of doing.

Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that’s for sure. Cruelty isn’t that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That’s the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn’t make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid.
Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don’t live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous.

The rhythm of the mix tape is the rhythm of romance, the analog hum of a physical connection between two sloppy, human bodies. The cassette is full of tape hiss and room tone; it’s full of wasted space, unnecessary noise. Compared to the go-go-go rhythm of an MP3, mix tapes are hopelessly inefficient. You go back to a cassette the way a detective sits and pours drinks for the elderly motel clerk who tells stories about the old days—you know you might be somewhat bored, but there might be a clue in there somewhere. And if there isn’t, what the hell? It’s not a bad time, you know you will waste time. You plan on it.

Is anyone?


Filed under: Rob Sheffield

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