I’m sure you might remember how I once expressed my mourning for the lost art of making a tape, especially when putting together a playlist is what people do now, and it sounds unsatisfying. When you made a tape, you had to listen to each song, calculate how long each song was so you didn’t have too much blank space at the end. (Or, as many chose to do it, just play as much of the next song as you can before the tape runs out.) You put stickers on the tape, you decorated the case. You only made tapes for someone you’re trying to impress. A mix tape was a goddamned work of art, and you couldn’t do that with any other music medium.
Another work of art I miss is letter-writing. I have had several pen-pals, and they were my closest friends at the time. One of my correspondents told me she said to her doctor that she did go to therapy—she wrote me every week. I would illustrate the margins when I was feeling whimsical, and if I was feeling ambitious, I’d do something fun with the envelope. The paper smelled like paper and felt crisp in your hands, while you reread what the final line was on a page so you could make sure it matched up with the next one. I’ve tried to revive letter-writing as an adult (I’ve got all these blank cards I never sold), but it never caught on with anybody. Writing a letter is a commitment, one most people don’t seem have the time or the will to make anymore. But when you take the time to write someone a letter on paper, you are spending every minute you work on it with them, and that is an act of intimacy that you will never find when someone slides into your DMs.
For our evolution, we next got email, which was about 75 percent less commitment. You could say whatever you want, but not how you would say it. It’s not like your typing changes size or sprawls when you’re agitated. In email, you can capitalize words for emphasis, like some people still do in their comments and IMs, but that just gives people headaches. From there society moved onto comment threads, and the less said about that, the better (though that is how I met my ex-girlfriend and one of my best friends, so it’s not all bad). From there, we moved to IM, which had been around since the beginning, but went mainstream with social media (which is not at all bad, in that I met my eyes and ears in Finland, Wippa, the Norse Goddess of Punishment, through Myspace).
But going back to email, I called myself a writer, but I hardly wrote because I was I was putting so much energy into emails. I just wanted to entertain my friends, so I wrote little plays, limericks, newscasts, an Oscar speech, the screenplay for a Kung Fu movie starring my coworkers, an ode to my missing button, and song lyrics that I made up.
I only wrote two songs, one being a blues song about being dumped completely out of the blue that did not obey the laws of music. The other one sounded suspiciously like “A Boy Named Sue,” by Johnny Cash. The subject matter is a little difficult to describe.
When I moved into my apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey, after the last tenant was removed on a stretcher, which I witnessed, I discovered what I considered to be a design flaw. There was a single pink strip of wallpaper that ran the circumference of my room, and it was decorated by bunnies, rolling around on their backs, sniffing flowers, wrestling, chasing butterflies.
I looked around and decided that I was never going to get laid in this room (I was wrong), so I got the landlord’s permission and tried everything I could think of to get rid of the accursed bunnies. I even went to an Internet café and looked up how to get rid of wallpaper. I left the one wall for the bunnies that talked to me, but I covered the other walls with magazine clippings, art, and posters. If anything on my walls was going to cock-block me, it would be that.
One day, while lying in bed and listening to the bunnies, I thought of a song. I emailed it to my friend Barry, and I thought it lost on the median of the Information Superhighway. Today, while poking around on my laptop, I found it: the song. And now I bring it to you.
“Ballad of the Bunnies”
When I was young, just twenty-two,
I sought a place that had a view ,
And one that didn’t cost a lot of money.
I found a home, in Jersey City;
It was cheap, and not real pretty,
But still the deal was looking kind of sunny.
So I unpacked my little room
And saw what would now be my doom:
A ring around the wall—and it was bunnies.
Their background: pink. Their pelts were gray.
Their poses were prepared for play.
Their coal black eyes were looking at me funny.
Their origin: I did not know,
I didn’t care—they had to go,
Or never would I find myself a honey.
I scrubbed and washed and scraped that wall.
I steamed and peeled; I tried it all!
It only made my paint look kind of runny.
Those rabbits cut me down to size,
I had to reach a compromise;
And now I’m left with just one wall of bunny.