Mix CD Redux: There and back again – A 21st Century Hobbit’s Tale

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a trip I took back in 2003 to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m not sure why it’s been on my mind so much these days, but it has been. The trip was a Christmas gift from my wife to see a friend who lived there – a friend who, at the time, I knew only from online interactions and phone conversations. A friend I met on a men’s e-mail list (and it wasn’t one of those awful men’s rights activists lists either) who helped me soldier through a really bad spat with depression. I went by Amtrak, from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa to Chicago and then overnight from Chicago to Cincinnati. Me being me, I had to a make a mix CD just for the trip, and it had to have a theme.  Here’s the cover of the mix CD that I made for the trip.


Important to know is that this was the first solo trip I had ever made in my adult life. I was 30 years old and had never spent a night away from home without Heidi. I did feel a bit like Frodo carrying the One Ring to Mt. Doom, although the analogy breaks down because Cincinnati and seeing my friend were certainly not analogous to Mordor. Anyway, it was a Big Deal™ for me to be going away. I also had a just over a year-old daughter I was leaving behind for that short period of time. I was nervous, but also excited to be doing something completely on my own. I’d taken Amtrak before so that was fine but going to visit a friend – especially one that I had never actually met in person before – was a big step outside of my comfort zone.

I needn’t have worried because the trip was very good. I harbor some regrets that I was not in tip-top health either physically or mentally when I was there so that colored the experience in ways I’d rather not remember. When I got home, it turned out I had a full-blown ear infection. But it was a good chance to see someone who had become very important to me – a Sam to my Frodo in many ways (we always used to say that) – and to do something on my own for once. We’ve drifted in and out of each others lives over the years, but if there is anything I can say with certainty, it’s that I would not be the man I am today if not for his influence. He was the one who taught me that finding friends is a numbers game, and the more you try, the more you are likely to make a connection. That always used to piss me off, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it is gospel truth and following that advice has netted me some exceptional friends.

But about the music…

  • This was clearly a CD that I didn’t put a terrible amount of thought into. I can tell by looking at the track listing that it was merely a collection of some of my favorite songs at the time.
  • Naturally, I bookended the mix with songs that reference Ohio. The theme to “WKRP in Cincinnati” is actually a very catchy earworm, so much so that it’s been stuck in my head all day today. It was actually a minor chart hit back in the early 80s and the version on here is the full single version, not just the 1 minute theme from the TV show. “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players proved to be a less inspired choice, but served the purpose.
  • “Xanadu (2000 Remix)” is a track lost to time. It is not in my iTunes library and when I went to pull the CD out to rip the track so I could truly replicate the CD as an iTunes playlist, it was not there! So instead, I just put the regular version of “Xanadu” in the playlist. It was probably a shitty fan remix anyway.
  • A couple Cher songs on here – a classic Metro Mix of “Song For the Lonely” and a deep cut off her not.com.mercial album, “Fit To Fly.”  Both of these are tracks I had nearly completely forgotten about so I’m glad I dug this out.
  • No mix CD I made ever would be complete without a Madonna track, and this one is a fan remix of “Deeper and Deeper.” Unlike most fan remixes, this one actually is does not suck. Quite the opposite, it’s almost better than most of the official “Deeper and Deeper” remixes. I don’t quite remember how I stumbled across it, probably via Audioscrobbler or something, because by 2002, Napster was a thing of the past.
  • Whitney was probably an incurable coke head when she sang “Love That Man,” but there’s no denying that it is A JAM.

I think the Shania Twain song on here sums up my feelings on this mix – it don’t impress me much. I can’t imagine listening to it a whole lot. But last night when I was listening to it on my iPod in bed, I had little twinges of memory of trying to sleep on a train to Cincinnati just over 15 years ago, so I guess the mix did it’s job and preserved some of the feel of the time in which it was assembled. And that’s all it really needed to do.

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