Back in the 90s, I met and befriended a local club DJ, whose skill at mixing music was awe-inspiring.
He didn't have a car, so he'd ride his bike to gigs with a crate of records bungee-corded on the back of it.
He was a music junkie, always going back to DC to score new and obscure stuff he couldn't find in rva. Needless to say, I don't often meet someone as rabid about music as I am, so I wanted to know him better.
After seeing him for several weeks at one place or another, he suggested we meet up at the Virginia Museum on a Thursday night since that's when the museum stayed open in the evening.
As it turned out, I had to stay late at the radio station where I worked and missed meeting him.
I didn't even have a way to contact him to let him know I couldn't make it. What I didn't know at the time was that he'd made me a mixtape he'd intended to give me that night.
It was a masterpiece entitled "Naive Melodies/Waiting" and the title referred to his anticipation of our first outing together.
Full of classic 80s and early 90s indie pop, it was superbly chosen and mixed.
By the time we rescheduled our outing, he'd made me a second mixtape, this one called, "STOOD UP!" and full of jittery and angry music.
I got the message.
Other mixtapes followed, with names like "A Cup of Coffee and a Slice of Time" and "Groovy Tunes," which had one side of "Harmless Pop" and another of "Popless Harm."
One called "Delusions of Grandeur" didn't even list song titles or artists, just the instructions to listen and enjoy because titles were irrelevant.
I listened to those mixtapes for years because they were so well done. It got to the point where I could anticipate the next song because I knew the tape so well.
Finally I realized that I was going to wear out the tape itself and enlisted a friend to put them on CD for me so I could enjoy them in perpetuity.
My friend and I eventually lost touch, although I occasionally heard him on a late-night shift on several local commercial radio stations.
Not long after I'd heard he'd moved back to DC, he showed up weekly on WRIR doing Monday's Breakfast Blend.
What a treat! It's almost like having a new mixtape made for me every week because our tastes are so similar and I'm just so fond of his musical selections.
I listen when I'm up early enough, but I always make a point to look at his playlist for sentimental reasons.
Invariably, I see song after song from one of my many mixtapes that are still making it on to his show: the B52's "Follow Your Bliss," The Posies' "Mrs. Green," Marshall Crenshaw's "Cynical Girl" and anything by Paul Weller.
There's also plenty of new stuff which I'm also listening to, but it's these mixtape reminders that give me a retro thrill.
Over the years, no less than a dozen friends have made mixtapes for me; some were terrific and some were nice gestures, but uninspired.
Creating a really good mixtape is more difficult than it sounds and yet, I've still got this guy's collection of 1993/94 mixtapes in regular rotation.
No one but a mixtape master can inspire that kind of long-term musical devotion.