Break in the Tape

My husband is currently converting a mountain of reel-to-reel to digital storage. We need to downsize and this is taking up some space. Plus, the longer the tape lays around in cans, the more it will decline in quality. It will never be any better than now.


If you’ve never seen a reel-to-reel deck, it seems impressive upon first inspection. Lighted needle displays. Shiny buttons. Smooth, metallic housing. The kind of inviting build that makes you want to press all the things. “What does this do??” The kind of electronic device that makes you feel like a kid again. Especially when you try to use the damn thing–clueless. Only the most experienced reel-to-reel user would know or remember how to utilize the hunk.

Even at my mock and scoff, it is an impressive piece of equipment. For anyone born after 1980, you may not have ever seen one. It is the high-end equivalent of a simple cassette tape recorder. It records sound on spools (reels) of tape. Our machine looks very similar to this.

akai_630DB_11

Anyone can record sound with their phone or computer these days, so I understand its head-scratching obscurity. But I also see the appeal.

As my husband has started the long-procrastinated task of converting every piece of tape to virtually indestructible and mostly-permanent digital storage (somewhere in the cloud and probably 1 or 2 physical flash drives), the voices emerge from the past. Voices, songs, jokes and skits from 50 years ago. 50 years. From before my husband’s birth.

My husband lost both of his parents as a young toddler. First, his mother passed from unexplained natural causes at the age of 19. Then, his father passed from a terrible accident just a short time later. He never knew them. Never formed a memory of them. Never got to love them. He was raised by his paternal grandparents.

I asked my husband, just a few days ago, “Have you ever heard your mother’s voice?”

He hadn’t. Then among the first tapes he started listening to, he heard Dianne’s voice for the first time. He’s 48 years old. That’s impressive. Wondrous that a machine can save and give a priceless gift 50 years later.

Even with that precious holiday surprise, the process of converting all the tape can be frustrating. For him. For me.

The tape is old, fragile, spliced together in spots. The breaks in tape keep coming unglued, as we all do after the holidays. LOL The old adhesive has lost its sticky and under the mild stress of being played again, the tape snaps apart at each splice. Sigh.

Guy has to stop what he’s doing. Retape the splice with good, ol’ Scotch tape (don’t do this if you are saving your tapes and not getting rid of them after converting, regular ol’ clear tape is not a good, permanent fix) and restart the recording. Or hope that he can fix the glitch in editing later. Frustrating. Mildly. But his negativity was starting to spill out the other day in groans and grumbles. I mentioned it to him because it was starting to spill all over me.

I could feel the bad juju starting to grip my humor. I couldn’t brush aside his growing irritation any more. Walk out of the room. Close the door. Ignore his fumblings. It was right under my fingernails and I couldn’t flick it out.

“Hon, let’s talk.”

Sigh.

My husband never likes to talk about his feelings. As an introvert of the highest order, he finds the need to talk about feelings the most irritating conversation in which a person could be involved.

“Why?? Let’s not. It’s fine. I’ll stop.”

And then, with just slight coaxing from me, we talked. I’m glad we did. So is he. No really.

We talked about his frustration. Where’s it bubbling up from? He knew going in, the tape was old, it’s going to have problems. He was ready for anything. Until every little thing happened.

In talking, we both realized, the tape is life. Little hiccups along the way put stress on us. The tape of our memories has splices or breaks. All the memories we ever form are a playback for when we experience similar hardship. Something significant enough to make a memory. A manual for what to do when you encounter the same bullshit on a different day. Our minds rewind the tape.

When you play through some tragedy again, the tape can break. Snap. Frustration is right at the top of now and we break. We go flipping off the reel. Fwip, fwip, fwip. Until someone finds our broken mess, untangles us. Tapes us back together.

I’m glad to be your tape, Guy. I’m glad to find you flipping out and piece you back together. Especially when you can’t simply push play. Thank you for letting me help you get back on track. The tape of our time together is definitely a #1 hit.


I’m proud of you for finally saving these memories. It’s important. I’m glad I get to listen.

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Dear Lillian (and any other frustrated artists),

Oh, my precious daughter.

I have passed down my intensity. Frustration. Perfectionism. And insatiable need for applause and pats on the back. I’m so sorry.

When I look into those deep, brown, watery eyes of yours and see your struggle and pain? It breaks my heart. But at the same time, it pricks my own frustration.

I have somehow failed you along the way. Not that I passed down some negative trait, but that I haven’t taught you how to cope with it. Mainly because at 44, I haven’t learned my damn self.


Lilli is 13. Barely out of middle school and a budding artist. Her skills aren’t where she wants them, but writing as an artist, are they ever?

Taste and talent never seem to match. Do they? Ugh.


The most valuable skill as an artist, I maintain, is the ability to adapt. (Art finds its own way. You can’t force it. Its going to be whatever it wants. It has a life of its own. You’re merely along for the ride.) This is learned, not innate. So I have, at least, failed to teach you how to adapt. The most important skill I could teachย  you. Beyond Photoshop, or how to use watercolor pencils (haven’t a clue), or how to shade properly (if it doesn’t get done with a drop shadow in PS, I can’t help you with shading, sorry!).

But I can teach you (sorry, I keep forgetting to) how to adapt. How to approach art. How to find solutions, how to experiment, find your style.

Do anything that feels real or awesome. And if you’re not there yet? Modify your expectations. I do. Every day. And if you want to get better and I don’t know how, Google that shit. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure there’s a Youtube out there concerning exactly what you want to know.

Be true to yourself. Don’t seek attention. Don’t wait for applause. It may never come. Make art for yourself and screw the rest. It’s that simple.

Oh! And have fun. :*


And Me? Don’t get frustrated with yourself or your daughter. Have fun. Take a deep breath. You haven’t failed. You have an amazing 13 yo who is awesome at art and life. She has a big heart and is full of potential and knows Photoshop, sort of. You. Have not. Failed. You have chances to learn. Just like her.

Thanks, Me. You’re awesome.