Remember Audio Cassette Tapes?

Remember when people listened to music on cassette tapes?

I do.

The first cassette tape I ever bought was the album Appetite For Destruction by Guns ‘N’ Roses. I had never heard their music. But my friend said the band was cool and I did whatever my friends told me. After a few weeks of saving my allowance, the plastic Hess truck finally had the eight dollars I needed to buy the album in that innocent time when recorded profanity had to be bought in person.

I barely had the tape out of the cellophane when I realized that my family’s sole cassette player belonged to my father, and that this cassette player was in his car. Driving myself was not an option, as I had poor motor skills and was in the fifth grade. Listening to tunes like “Nightrain” (Wake up late/Honey put on your clothes/And take your credit card/To the liquor store), “My Michelle” (Your Daddy works in porno/Now that Mommy’s not around/She used to love her heroin/But now she’s underground), and “It’s So Easy” (Cars are crashin’ every night/I drink and drive/Everything in sight) with my father in the car next to me was a little uncomfortable at first, but soon he was whistling along just like he did to Roy Orbison.

One of the things I remember most about cassettes was making mix tapes. A mix tape was a recording of assorted songs on a blank tape, usually of different artists, and frequently made for a member of the opposite sex, or, if you were me, made just for yourself. The main character in the film High Fidelity lists a number of rules for making mix tapes. I, however, had only one rule: Arrange the songs so that I would not have to flip over the tape in the middle of a song.

With only this one rule to obey, the mood of my mix tapes was a little erratic. For example, one of my mixes started out with “Dead Souls” by Nine Inch Nails, then “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, then Metallica’s “Blackened,” and then “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper. Another one of my mix tapes opened with “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees, then the main theme from “The Marriage of Figaro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then jumped to “Hammer Smashed Face” by Cannibal Corpse, and finally “V’Shomru” by Cantor Joseph Kanefsky. That mix was for my grandmother.

The other thing that stands out in my memory about cassettes was how they would get caught in the spokes of the tape player. I’d be pacing back and forth across the campus green, listening to The White Album over and over again instead of doing my Spanish homework, when all of a sudden Paul McCartney’s vocals on “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” would be replaced by a loud crunching sound, and then there would be no sound but my own profanity.

Oh the humanity! I felt as if it were my arm that had been caught in the spokes, although because of the size difference only the end of my sleeve would get wound up. Try as I might to unwind the tangled tape and restore my beloved music, it almost never worked again, and even when it did the tape never sounded right. On some of the tracks it sounded like Paul was just screaming.

I no longer use cassette tapes, and even my compact discs are being featured on Antiques Roadshow. I now carry thousands of songs on my telephone. It takes seconds to arrange them in a mix, and I don’t have to flip over the phone unless I feel like drawing attention to myself. The only thing missing is the sound of cassette tape getting mauled by tape player spokes.

But I’m sure they’ve got an app for that.

Thanks to Jessica Buttram and Maria for the topic.

Remember When You Could Bring Lip Gloss On An Airplane?

On the occasion of my 50th post I would like to thank you all for reading, and especially those of you who took the time to comment.  For the first few months of this operation the only person reading my posts was my mother, which was a little awkward since she does not have a computer.  I would have to print the post and mail it to her along with a self-addressed stamped envelope for comments.

Blogging is easier when the only reader is your mother.  But it is not nearly as fun.  You all have made this worthwhile, and I hope that you’ve found at least one or two things here that did not put you to sleep or make you ill.  As long as someone’s still reading, I’ll keep posting.

And on that note…

Remember when you could carry things like lip gloss, hand moisturizer, and water on an airplane without incident?

I do.

When I was a kid and my parents felt like putting me on a plane, the only items I ever carried on were paperback novels, Esquire magazine, and, just once, the Etch-A-Sketch Animator, which interfered with radar and necessitated an emergency landing in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I did not know that lip gloss and hand moisturizer even existed, and I would not have believed that people would one day pay for bottled water.

And then I got married. My wife carries around a CVS in her pocketbook, and engages in what I call “guerilla moisturizing.” Sometimes when I’m not looking she’ll apply some Neutrogena to my hands and say, “Rub it in.”

The other day we were at the airport, flying somewhere. We walk up to the security line and start placing into the gray plastic bins our shoes, belts, wallets, keys, cell phones, iPods, magazines, fuzzy dice, tongue scrapers, Texas Chainsaw Massacre bobble head dolls, Smucker’s jars containing embryonic aliens, and chewing gum.

Three items in my wife’s pocketbook catch my eye: a plastic bottle of lip gloss, a plastic bottle of hand moisturizer, and a plastic bottle of water. I consider telling her that these items might be a problem, but elect to remain silent. You learn certain things when you are married, and I know that it will be better for me if I let someone else tell her she can’t take something on the plane.

I’m directed to stand in this apparatus that looks like an upright magnetic resonance machine. Obviously I’m either going to travel through time, or be subjected to a full body scan. There is a whirring noise and I close my eyes. When I re-open them I am still in my own time, but they catch me trying to smuggle an ATM receipt onto the plane. After a TSA worker pats me down and then buys me drinks, I re-don my shoes, belt, et al.

I’m ready to graduate to the Food Court/Hudson News phase of air travel, but my wife has been detained by a TSA worker who does not look as nice as the one who patted me down. “Do you have a re-sealable plastic bag?” my wife asks me, as if I was supposed to have packed one.  I reply that, alas, I do not.

Spread out before her are the lip gloss, hand moisturizer, and bottled water. “They’re saying I have to put these things in a re-sealable plastic bag. I have to go through security again.” I ask my wife why she doesn’t just throw out the water. “Are you kidding? I paid three dollars for this!” The humorless TSA worker starts leading my wife back into the pre-security area. The chivalric thing to do would be to follow her, but chivalry is no match for Cinnabon.

A few minutes later I’m stuffing my face and wondering where my wife has gone. I see her standing just before the conveyor belt, chugging her water. I wonder if she’s going to start applying all her hand moisturizer, perhaps offering it to the passengers around her. “Excuse me,” she would say, “but I can’t take this on the plane, and your hands look dry.” Then she goes through the time warp again, and I’m about to breathe a sigh of relief, but she is detained again, this time by a different TSA worker.

I’m halfway through Steig Larsson’s “The Girl Who Tried To Bring Moisturizer On A Plane” when my wife gets through security. She tells me that she had to take a taxi to a local convenience store to buy Ziploc bags. I tell her how unfair it all is, how making her go through security three times is a waste of valuable resources, and inconveniences people for no gain. I put my arm around her and she smiles a little.

But let’s see her try to moisturize me now without my hearing the plastic bag.

Remember When Airplane Meals Were Included With the Price of the Ticket?

Remember when meals on an airplane were included with the price of the ticket?

I do.

I don’t recall the airplane meals being anything like what I would normally consider food. But still I liked them and looked forward to them. Airline food had a special taste and consistency that I could enjoy back in the days when my digestive system could still hit a curve ball.

If the flight was long enough to be considered meal-worthy, the “steward” or “stewardess” (the ancient names for flight attendants) would serve each passenger breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on the time of day. My favorite meal was dinner, followed by a distant lunch and an even more distant breakfast. Lunch was just some turkey with a squeezable packet of Hellman’s, and breakfast was allegedly “eggs” and “sausage” but no laboratory could confirm this. But dinner was always great, and the main reason was because of the dessert.

Dessert was the crown jewel of the plastic divider plates, and carrot cake was the dominant dessert. I was on a flight to Florida to see my grandparents and eat ice cream every day when I had my first taste of airplane carrot cake. I went down the aisle of the plane, asking people if they were going to eat their carrot cake, or if they were going to finish their carrot cake if they had already started on it but looked like they might be full.

The most memorable airplane experience was when I flew to Vancouver Island the summer before my senior year of high school to spend two weeks studying killer whales and whether they preferred cable or satellite. The in-flight desert was a Table Talk apple pie. I wolfed mine down and then asked my classmates if they were going to eat theirs. Word spread quickly throughout the Boeing 747 that I was willing to eat unwanted Table Talk apple pie, free of charge, and the white and red boxes were piling up on my fold down tray. I was only halfway done when they announced that we were landing and had to put the tray tables back in their upright positions and that our Captain had turned on the “no-gluttony” sign.

Those days are over. Today, the flight attendants go down the aisle asking if anyone wants to purchase food. I don’t know if they sell dessert because I am too cheap to find out. I’m sure that some economics professor could prove to me on the back of a napkin that tickets would just be more expensive if the meals were included, and that this pricing model is really more efficient because people who don’t want meals can elect to forgo them and thereby reduce their flying costs. Of course, the professor would have to bring the napkin because I won’t pay for that, either.

Soon you’ll have to pay extra for a seat. The passengers will be standing on the plane as it taxis towards the runway, and the flight attendants will go down the aisle, asking three passengers at a time whether they would like to purchase a seat for the flight. Most people will decline the offer, because they will refuse to pay for something that used to be included. I know this because I will be one of them.