THE LINER NOTES:
“I’m free to run/But I walk slowly along”
We’re all free to make our own decisions. Free to follow our own dreams. Free to change and grow and aspire. We are all free to run. But more often we only walk slowly along. That’s what I had been doing. Just meandering about, circling the same block again and again, moving as lackadaisically as the overall acoustic groove of this song. When I first heard this song, I misheard it as a rousing proclamation of freedom. But it doesn’t take long to sit with it and realize the deeper meaning is that of letting opportunities pass you by.
This cross-country movie-making multi-hyphenate experience was my opportunity. It was my chance to run.
The best part of it was, for these three or four weeks, I was only doing this. I wasn’t working all day and then filming a little at night– this was all we were doing, all day, every single day. And any worries and cares I had about my job, money and social life back in Boston quickly faded away as our road trip came to an end and we set up base camp in Western Massachusetts. And base camp was, in fact, a camp: several old trailers surrounding a decked out mobile home in the middle of the woods. We were all using sleeping bags. We were all using bug spray. There were two showers to share for about 12 of us. And only the first person in got the hot water. It wasn’t comfortable, but we were all having a blast. At sun up, we were filming at various locations in the surrounding area, at sun set, we were lounging and laughing around a roaring fire. No one had a care in the world, except for how that day’s shoot went, and what to expect tomorrow. For all this camp was lacking, it was simple perfection.
And through all the filming and campfires and inside jokes and creativity and laughter, there was Kirsten. I wasn’t supposed to be attracted to Kirsten. There was a girl from my past with whom I was trying to keep a long distance relationship going. And also, I was told not to be attracted to Kirsten. It was the second one I felt more obligated to. When a friend tells you to leave his other friend alone, you do it. So I did it. And maybe I did it too much.
We picked up Kirsten and Andria a little more than midway through the cross-country trek. Our first stop with the girls was a Burger King near a bus station. We had made our pleasant introductions and it was time to grab some lunch. Bill, Steve, Brian and I– all having been told not to pursue– sat two or three tables away from Jason and his old friends. We were probably seen a shy. And by “shy,” I mean jerks. I remember the four of us joking about how difficult this was going to be. Never mind the fact that they were both beautiful– they were funny, smart, interesting and entertaining. They were an irresistible force we had promised to resist.
“Jesus Christ/I’m on fire when you smile”
I met the challenge head on by generally ignoring them both. It was easy to do when we’re driving for hours in separate cars. It became more difficult once we reached base camp and our little crew was spending every waking moment with each other. So I kept my conversations short and sarcastic. Which made them laugh. Which made Kirsten laugh. And then we talked. And then we flirted. And I was doomed. I had my summer crush.
But I wasn’t going to do anything about it. I had made a promise.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
This was the tape I had made specifically for this trip. And now, almost 16 years later, I can’t even begin to explain what my thought process was.
- “Free To Run” – Gomez
- “Five State Drive” – Less Than Jake
- “Sissyneck” – Beck
- “Looking at the Sun” – Matthew Sweet
- “On a Plain” – Nirvana
- “What’s the Matter, Baby?” – Indigo Swing
- “So Far I Have Not Found the Science” – Soul Coughing
- “Super-Connected” – Belly
- “Yellow Ledbetter” – Pearl Jam
- “The Rascal King” – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
- “Jesus Christ” – Longpigs
- “Utopia Parkway” – Fountains of Wayne
- “Tattva” – Kula Shaker
- “You Mama You” – Jude
- “Description” – De La Soul
- “Who’s on Third?” – 3rd Bass
There’s a travel and tourism theme to the opening tracks. “Free to Run” and “Five State Drive” work on their titles alone. “Sissyneck” opens by declaring “I don’t need no wheels/I don’t need no gasoline.” And the oft used “Looking at the Sun” is a sonic open road to infinity. So I can kind of see what I was going for at first. But then things become a hodgepodge of starts and stops. The retro swing stylings of “What’s the Matter, Baby?” was a sore thumb between Nirvana and Soul Coughing. And look– there’s Kula Shaker.
But, really, if you’re going to make a tape for the open road– for driving with the windows down and throwing your cares to the wind– don’t put “Yellow Ledbetter” right in the middle of it.
It was sort of pointless to bother making this tape at all, actually. With the packed filming schedule, there was little time to lose myself in my headphones. And any time we were in a car, we opted for the radio. Which is why this great adventure’s theme song will always be “All Star”— with “Every Morning” running a close second.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
Because the next mixtape in my collection comes after the filming of Road Trip, and because there’s more story to tell, I’ve split this narrative between the two sides of the tape. So your “Pleased to Meet You” comes in the next installment. (Hint: It’s Sleater-Kinney.)
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
This whole tape could be a “Wait. What? Why?” There are so many odd choices. Look– there’s Kula Shaker. But it’s “Yellow Ledbetter” that’s the obvious standout on Side A. Not that it’s a bad song. In fact, I love this song. I have no idea what it’s about or what the hell Eddie Vedder is saying, but I love this song. Its sonically evocative. It’s sad. It’s nostalgic. It’s cryptic. And it’s too slow to have on a road trip tape.
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
Here’s another one you’ll have to wait for as it’s found on Side B.
(Hint: It’s really good.)