Category Archives: high school

Autumn, Nostalgia & Mixtapes


It’s only August, but just the other night I got a hint of a scent in the air that was unmistakable to me as Autumn. I don’t know how to describe it other than wet and earthy. It’s a smell that reminds me of October and all of the Americana that goes along with it: changing leaves, costumes, Halloween in a Normal Rockwell kind of way, and the best parts of my adolescence.

There are certain smells that just go with things. Football players talk about the smell of the field before a game.  I remember that smell, there really is nothing else like it. It almost smells as if the field is sweating before the game begins. The other day at a rehearsal for “Rope” I caught the scent of  a very specific hairspray in the dressing room, a hairspray that I’ve smelled in dressing rooms for decades and with that one contact I was suddenly reminded of all of those shows. The Autumn smell works the exact same way and triggers some of the strongest nostalgia I feel during any given year.

Every year, usually later than now, when the air starts to change and the nostalgia comes on I find myself searching though my music to make a playlist appropriate to the season. I started doing this back when I was a teenager, making mix tapes on my dual cassette/CD stereo system. There was more of an art to it back then. People had tape lengths that they liked to work in (I was a Memorex 90 minute man, myself) and you’d have to plan out your songs and hope that they would fit each side perfectly. I became very good with the Play/Pause button and mastered the length of the tape lead before it started recording. I could do it by feel, no counting required. Somewhere, deep in boxes that probably haven’t seen the light of day in at least a decade, there are dozens of mix tapes made from my music library circa 1990-1996. These tapes were with me during car rides with my friends when we first felt the “freedom” of being teenagers with cars. They were there for early relationships and the break-ups that went along with them. They were there for my first cigarette and for my first sips of Boones Farm Strawberry Hill. They were the soundtrack to my coming of age and represent all the songs that meant something to me at the time. They were also a pretty good representation of alternative hits and underground bands of the time.

My friends did it too, across the board. We’d listen to what each other made, finding new songs that we liked and new bands. My friend Jeff introduced to me to Oingo Boingo, Voice of the Beehive and October Project this way. I discovered that my friend Dan and I had a mutual love of The Cars and The Police this way. And my friend Scott exposed me to the power of Bad Religion and Pennywise this way. Entire backyard parties were powered by these tapes. They were teenage sorcery that could help bend the mood of entire rooms full of hormone fueled basket cases.

Technology changed and iTunes and iPods made it very easy to generate playlists based on whatever mood you were in at that second. Gone was the finesse of tape creation; instead you could just slam together song after song on a whim. I remember sitting at the computer for hours at a time, days in a row plugging songs into the playlists where I felt they belonged. I had the perfect list for whatever mood I was in. It was pretty awesome… until the crash of 2007 when iTunes and all of my playlists crashed and burned. That killed a lot of the fire I had for digital playlists. So much time was spent creating things that were wiped away in, literally, a moment.  After that it took until I discovered Spotify before I felt that a digital playlist would be worth creating again. I haven’t created as many playlists as I did before 2007, but I do find that the ones I curate now get a lot more play.

I started a new playlist for autumn 2015 on Spotify. It’s the start of something that will probably get bigger as the days get shorter and the air gets crisper. I’m sharing this because I selfishly want you to share your playlists with me. Back in the day we would swap tapes and CD’s, but now we can toss entire playlists around digitally. This playlist is full of songs that take me back to being sixteen-and-angry, ready to rage against the world… as soon as I finish my journal entry about no one understanding me. It’s what I would want to listen to on a rainy day, hence the name. Check it out and let me know what you think, but more importantly share your playlists with me. Drop them in the comments and show me something new. I want to try and capture that feeling of sharing music again from back in the day. Whether it’s a favorite album from your favorite band or a playlist of your own creation, pop it in the comments and let’s hear something new.

Happy listening.


Filed under creativity, Curtis Andersen, general, happiness, high school, iTunes, music, musings, rambling, songs, Uncategorized

Getting to Know –

Dan Bookthump

Hello dear readers.

I say readers because today I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Dan and he writes about the books that he reads.

A little back story…

Getting to Know is something new that I’m trying so that I can introduce you to other things that I like beyond the videos that I shared on Fun Video Friday. This might include people, websites, books, movies, TV shows, whatever. I’m not sure if it will have a set schedule or just be a thing that I put out as I find things I want to share, I’m playing it very fast and loose. I’m a wild man.

A little back story about Dan…

Dan and I have been friends since junior high – over 20 years. He has always been a good writer, but rarely done enough with it. He wrote a spec script for “Seinfeld” that was so good that our mutual friend, Jeff, used to reference it as if it were a real episode. If Dan drank a bit more he might be the very perfect model of the modern American novelist. Or the classic American novelist? My desire to make an Pirates of Penzance reference may have clouded that description. Regardless, Dan is a good writer who writes about what he reads. His website,, is a series of book reviews that are both a comment on the book and his personal relationship to the experience of reading that book.

Unlike other reviews, the personal reflections offer a way for you, as the reader, to get a better feel for the story. I find that his reviews tend to be more persuasive when I think about what I want to add to my reading list. I’ll admit that there is a certain amount of bias; he and I have known each other a long time and we share similar interests, but I feel that his authentic approach and honest thoughts on what he reads will appeal to a wide audience.

Here are some of Dan’s favorite posts:

The Martian


Blood River

And one that I really enjoyed:


Check them out. Let me know what you think. Let him know what you think.

See you soon.

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Filed under blatant plug, books, creativity, fiction, geek, high school, hobby, inspiration, internet, writing

Sunday Morning 11-28-2010

It’s Sunday morning, the coffee is brewing and I’m a bad blogger.

Normally I feel like it’s customary to write a “What I’m Thankful For” post – I see them all over the blogosphere – but do you really care what I’m thankful for?  The things I’m most thankful for (family, wife & dog) you can probably guess and I don’t know that any major epiphanies are going to rise out of discussing them however, in a kind of weird associated way, Thanksgiving at my parent’s house did get me thinking.

Rene and I went to my parent’s house on Friday – we had two separate days of Thanksgiving, one for each family, this year – and after all the turkey was gobbled and we were sitting around double bloated from that dinner and the dinner from the night before Rene reminded me that this would be a prime opportunity to play Just Dance on the Wii and try to work off some of the mountain of food that we ate.  I had forgotten the game at our house (we had taken it to her parent’s house the night before) and needed to go get it.

On the drive back, with the winter light, the smell in the air and powered by the sentimentalism that goes along with the holidays my brain somehow was reminded of a conversation that I had had back in high school with my friends Jeff, Scott and Dan.  It was one of the kind of conversations that you have when you’re “16 and angry” and you’re tying to figure out your place in the world.  The way I remember it Dan had been talking with his parents about something, I believe it was how much he thought high school sucked, and his dad told him to try and enjoy high school because they were the greatest days of his life.  Dan took a great deal of offense to this and told us that if these were the best years of his life then he must be aiming too low.  Then I completely agreed with that!  I still do.  All of my greatest years have come after high school – all of them – but it took until Friday evening for me to really see what people mean when they say that the high school years are the greatest years of your life and finally I see that it isn’t about the accomplishments but the opportunity!

High school is the last bastion of childhood before adulthood.  We throw out the term “teenagers,” but in reality that term is just a marketing device designed to convince 12 to 17 year olds to spend their parent’s money on stuff that only 12 to 17 year olds want.  They are the last years where you have the guaranteed safety of family and school and you can test your boundaries without risking your future beyond the school year.  It is four years of opportunity just waiting to be used populated by by the very people who will willingly choose NOT to use it.  It’s a wonderful juxtaposition.  Adults looks back and think of the different number of things they could have done while teenagers knee deep in it barely scratch the surface.

When I think back on my high school years I have very little that can pass as a regret, my high school experience was pretty good, and although they may not have been the greatest years of my life I unwittingly did make quite a bit out of them.  Even still I know that there is more I could have done.  I will always wonder what it would have been like if I had accepted that position on the wrestling team, if I had taken student government just a bit more seriously or not abused the absence policy my senior year.

…Who am I kidding, the absence policy needed abusing.

So if you’re reading this and you’re still going through high school I hope that you’ll take advantage of the different opportunities that are there for you and enjoy them.  I know that it can seem like the pits – I remember – but even the pits are nice to look back on later.

See you tomorrow!

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Filed under friends, high school, rene