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The Perfect Playlist

Updated: May 21, 2023


A blank cassette tape on an off-white background.

I will never forget when I realized I could record music from the radio. I had gotten my hands on one of those tape recorders that had the record button inside the play button, and the angled tape door that made me feel like I was really about to do something significant when I slammed it shut. I had just been given the power to preserve little moments in time. My moments. The snapshots of my very being. And share them with the people that meant the most to me.


My acquisition of the recorder shared the moment in time when I was obsessed with the song Kokomo by the Beach Boys. I got excited every time the song came on the radio. It was the first song I remember really making see the places from the song in my mind and feel the happiness of being there. Every time I heard it, I felt a little happier. And when the Tanner family got to sing it with the Beach Boys in their own house and on stage!?!? (I went nuts!)



The tape recorder gave me the opportunity to capture that moment and it felt like being magic. I had to sit by the radio for hours. I remember asking my parents if I could call the local station and request they play the song. Or they could. It didn't matter to me who made the call, the import thing was to get Kokomo moved to the top of the pile. But they just gave me that smile that adults give when a child asks an adorably silly question.


So I waited. Not the strong suit of a kid with an "active imagination," but the life changing potential of this experiment was so strong it kept me focused. I had a few false starts. The button-within-a-button technology is not a breeze for young, inexperienced fingers, and watching that first chance just float away was painful enough to ensure I never again forgot to take practice swings.


I briefly flirted with trying to learn to play instruments, but it never worked out. My inability to make music just elevated the significance of being able to play it when I needed to hear it. I had piles of tapes. I recorded and re-recorded. When I needed to, I upgraded technology via the nearest Christmas or birthday. There was a monumental shift when I discovered tape-to-tape recording. I now had the power to not only capture moments, but to curate moments, also. I could make a soundtrack for everything. As my moment capturing skills developed, so did I, which of course led me to the magic of the mix tape. It is amazing that the right combination of songs with the right combination of people can speak for you in ways you may be unable to do, and capture shared moments in time.


Eventually, the ability to create playlists became, essentially, limitless. Many people quit the practice, and some even snubbed their noses at it. Services were created that would make lists for me, and they were good at it. There were options for every occasion and mood. You're from here, you know how it works. So why bother spending the time making pretty much the same thing it does?


Neon lights on a brick wall that says, "you are what you listen to."

I don't know why I continued to make playlists. At first it was because I didn't like the feeling of software knowing me so well. I eventually made peace with our data sucking overlords and let the smart lists work for me. I was actually pretty pleased with how well it met my needs, and I loved that it would expose me to new music similar to something I already liked. I love a good "you may also like..." afternoon.


As wonderful as the smart music experience was, there were always moments I was reminded that it was missing something. The songs would slowly drift away from the energy or tone or mood I was originally seeking. I couldn't always explain it, but I could feel when it wasn't working.


I continued to make playlists that I knew would work when I needed them. I had lists for working out, reading, studying, walking, recovering from a rough day, you get it. One day I made a playlist called "Day Drinking."


Day drinking is a special phenomenon. An occasion whose value is linked not to its optional use of inebriants, but rather rigidly to its scarcity. There is an infectious optimism to day drinking, the invigorating feeling of reclaiming time. There is a release from obligation that flirts with irresponsibility in a way that is stimulating, but not careless. The day is so beautiful it is almost overwhelming. A fall day washed in the pregame revelry of a tailgate. A spring afternoon surrounded by flowers bursting with the exuberance of having survived winter. The smell of the slimy water at the bottom of the canoe or the algae stained rope lashing the inner tubes together. The leaves cascading through the sun between trees on an autumn afternoon. The way the heat from the bonfire and the chill from the early winter air fight for space on my cheeks. The liberty of giving myself permission to just stop and do nothing but soak in the moment.


My day drinking playlist is perfect because each song on it makes me feel a different shade of that same happy, liberated, optimistic feeling at a magnitude unlike any list I have made before. It can be a time machine that transports me to that moment, or an accompaniment to creating new ones. It does exactly what I want, exactly when I want. It is perfect. The feeling of having created the perfect playlist after decades of trying was so comforting, fulfilling, and validating that I felt compelled to share it with the world. Not because I think anyone else will think it is perfect, but because I hope I can inspire others to find a way to create this feeling for themselves, and I hope that the process of sharing my playlist my way helps me finally find voice. I have something in mind to write about every song. As I listened to the playlist and envisioned this website, I realized the music helps me organize my thoughts and even remember my drafts. It gives me a clarity I don't think I have ever experienced. The ideas all stay in my mind until I feel they are complete enough to share, but still may be edited as new or refined inspiration hit me. I plan to reveal the playlist through each post, but I may also occasionally post about other things not related to the play list. Like I said, I am done with rules.


I will publish posts about the songs to the site and link them here.


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