Love is still a mixtape, it’s just an infrequent one

It all started with my friend Ryan McManus.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. It started many, many years before I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan; it started back when I was  younger, with a silver Casio boombox, Lite Rock 106.5 (don’t judge me, I was in CLEVELAND) and a Memorex tape. I realized that I could save my precious allowance if I recorded songs off of the radio instead of going to the local record store to purchase my favorite Bon Jovi singles. Problem was: the DJs had a nasty habit of talking over the beginning of the songs. Assholes.

Being the particular (read: Type-A, borderline perfectionist) person that I was (am), I would spend hours waiting for the song to come on without any DJ interruption, trigger finger ready to press record to capture every note of the tune. It’s safe to say that I stayed up much later in the evening in Middle School than I did even in college.

By mid-high school, I was recording mix tapes, often from the CDs of the people I babysat (god bless you, Dr. Horwood, with your introduction to Bruce Springsteen & Cowboy Junkies), interspersed with a few radio dubs. This of course evolved into a Napster obsession; I remember my first job after grad school having a “secret” Music server for people to share their MP3s. Oh, crappy audio quality of “Hooch”, you’ll forever be in my heart.

But back to Ryan. A few years back, we became friends and I ended up on his quarterly Mix Tape circuit, where he would curate with extreme care and precision a musical journey reminiscent of his feelings during those few months. He’d design beautiful cover art, and staying true to the days of when there was autoflip from Side A to Side B, there’s even that sound delineating the two sides of the tape. It was perfect. I’d look forward to them every few months, not just discovering new music through his exquisite taste, but feeling like I got to know my friend a bit better after sharing the musical experience with him. I was hooked. Add the experience of reading one of my favorite books, “Love is a Mixtape”, and I decided I wanted to not just make these mix CDs for myself, as I had been for years, but also share them with others. 

So at the end of 2007, I compiled – and shared – my first CD mixtape. I did the same the following year, adding a “B-Sides” as I couldn’t fit all of my favorites on one disk. Same with the next year. By 2010, I was attempting (and sadly, failing) of doing them monthly, but last year I accomplished my goal and created a different mix each month. You can find links to all of them here

I loved doing these. I received lovely, friendly notes from people all over the world thanking me for helping them discover new music. I have compiled all of them into a single iTunes playlist, and put on shuffle, it reminds me of the ups and downs, the highs and lows of the past few years. The songs that make me happy when I was caught up in the glow of falling in love. The excitement for my friends when their new albums were released. The unfaltering obsession with every song from The National to help me cope through a breakup. These songs, they were the force behind decisions, the salve to a wounded heart, the inspiration to move on. 

People often asked how I discover the music; during my time in San Francisco, I was attending a lot of live shows, often finding new music from the openers or through friends’ recommendations. I had a long commute for much of my time there, and SiriusXMU – Jake Fogelnest in particular – was my musical muse for many, many months. RDIO and Spotify, to some extent, have helped. But as I find myself in New York without a car and in shared spaces where people aren’t playing music – and also the challenge of writing while trying to listen to new tunes, which is really hard for me – this discovery has slowed down. I haven’t been finding new songs or albums as easily, and as such, I made the decision to halt the monthly mixtapes until the situation changed. This was done with a heavy heart, as they were as much for me as they were for you, but in my already overtaxed schedule, it just didn’t fit in anymore, at least not on a monthly basis.

So going forward, I’m going to suggest new music, just more sporadically; it may be a song on my other Tumblr, the mislabeled “Daily Tuneage” (since it’s anything but daily) or a shout-out on Twitter or Facebook, or a post here on this site. I’m certainly not a music critic but I do think I have a pretty good ear for tunes; I still want to share them with you, just in a different format. So stay tuned (Update: POSTED!), I’ll be posting one later today, one you won’t want to miss.

Last Friday, my dog Lila Belle & I were going to my friends’ house in Brooklyn. She was sitting on my lap in their car, as she’s apt to do, and in holding her, I noticed a growth on her front leg. Since Lila considers herself a(n overgrown, 32 lb.) lap dog, she’s often jumping up on me so I have a pretty good idea of what is (and is not) on her squirmy little dog body. This thing on her leg, this was new. It was big, it was (somewhat) fleshy, and it seemingly came out of nowhere.

I called the vet immediately.

We went in on Monday morning; I was hoping the vet would immediately discount it, as it didn’t seem to hurt Lila at all, but she didn’t. Instead, she ordered a cytology, which she said often comes back inconclusive. If that was the case, we’d have to give her anesthesia and take a biopsy of this thing on her leg. For now, I’d just have to wait; results would come back at some point this week.

So for the last six days, I’ve been in a constant state of concern. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I’d tell myself, and yet I’ve had this gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’ve been overly doting on her, feeling guilty that I was at work, that the dog walker was taking her out vs. me, in case – God forbid – there was something more seriously wrong. Lila is only seven, and for the first time, I began to think about her mortality. I’ve lost three cats in the last three years, so the death of a pet is not foreign to me. But Lila? No. Not her. Not now. I can barely even think about her slowing down as she gets older. This is my puppy, this crazy, energetic, sweet, loving, floppy-eared gal. This is my dog. This is my future husband’s dog. This is my future children’s dog. No. She must be ok.

And, she is. The vet just called; I nearly burst into tears when she told me that the results came back and Lila is absolutely fine. It is simply fat cells. There’s really no rhyme nor reason why she has this thing on her paw; I’m supposed to monitor it and if it changes or starts to bother her, we can have it removed. But for now, she’s fine.

Celebratory drinking at lunch is acceptable, right? 

The importance of your kickboxing class

I started working for Google back in the early (read: 2003) days. I started at the now-behemoth (but then, relatively small) company in their Atlanta office; I was the ninth employee there. We were lean, nimble, passionate about our work, and long days were the norm. We were helping build the AdWords business, and took that responsibility seriously (though yes, there was the occasional Razor Scooter accident into the wall, with scars to prove.) It was a great team, with many of us kicking ass, knowing we were doing something exciting and important, though not sure we fully realized the actual scope of it. I’d venture to say that work was, for many of us, our main priority.

It was also during that time that I started taking karate, and soon began teaching a kickboxing course. As an athlete since I was young, I loved being able to not only further my own health but lead a class full of others with the same mindset. The class was on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm. Given the clusterfuckery that was (is) the Atlanta traffic and our office being 12 miles away from downtown (which took 45 mins. at best), I’d leave the office no later than 5pm two days a week. 

This was rare; most people worked late into the evenings, especially since we were on the East Coast and often managed teams on the West, and because the majority of us were single and without families. And though I was a core member of this team – there were only two of us doing a pretty integral and unique role in the office – not once was a word mentioned about my twice-weekly early departure time.

That’s right: I left work at 5pm during one of the largest growth periods at Google, and it was never seen as a detriment. In fact, I repeatedly received accolades from my manager for setting a healthy work-life balance, who said she looked to me as an inspiration.

That has stayed with me through my career. Today, the internet media are abuzz around Sheryl Sandberg’s public admittance that she leaves work at 5:30pm, and true, Sheryl was a key figure at Google during this time. (I never worked for her directly at Google, but our paths did cross many times as we were part of an extended team.) I applaud her for this disclosure, and support it entirely; I also understand the other part of the discussion that she “proves” that she is still working by intentionally sending emails late into the evening and early into the morning. It’s that latter part that I’m concerned about, though begrudgingly agree that it’s the reality. There is a fear that you can look disengaged or appear to be working less hard if you aren’t staying ‘til you’re the one that has to lock up. I hope we start working to change this expectation.

I appreciate the awareness that she – and, more accurately, the Facebook PR team, as we know these placements didn’t come from a one-off comment – is bringing to the issue. It’s something that I’ve intentionally strived for with every job I’ve had since, both in my behaviour, and more importantly, in any employee I’ve worked with. I’d tell them my kickboxing story, and say that I’d expect, at least one day a week, for them to be gone by 5pm. I don’t care if they sit on their couch and eat bonbons, shotgun a few beers or stalk their ex-boyfriend. They’d best be gone from the office, because this is their time. Because the reality is that nobody will give you this time; you have to take it. And as a new employee with any company, your emphasis is on working not just hard, but long; how many times have you been twiddling your thumbs after filling out your paperwork on your first day, waiting for your boss to leave while trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing? (Yeah. I’ve been there.) As a manager, we should know to teach by example and provide the ability for our younger, eager employees to also have a work-life balance, in hopes that they will pass it on to their team one day. 

So better limber up, team. If you plan on working with me, you’ve got a kickboxing class in your future.

rickwebb’s tumblrmajig: I’ll talk how I want


In the past few weeks, I have heard passionate complaints against people who say “um.” People who say “like.” People who say “right?” at the end of their sentences. I just read a very fine book which spent a whole chapter decrying the use of the word “so” to start a sentence or a presentation (I…

I believe this also means I can continue to curse like a sailor (when I feel like it.) Um, right?

rickwebb’s tumblrmajig: I’ll talk how I want

The Common Sense Guide to SXSW: It’s Really Not That Hard*

Seems like everyone is posting a “Guide to SXSW”. Many of these contain paragraph after paragraph of tangible advice, everything from “Be nice” (I agree) to “Buy up all the chalk, bubbles, glitter…you can” (HUH? Um…no.) With respect to everyone’s opinions, y’all are frankly thinking about it way too much. (And don’t get me started on my hatred for the word ‘hustle’. Kindly shut the fuck up now, please). Yes, SXSW is an event, a huge one, at that. Yes, it is potentially overwhelming with all of the parties, people and panels (yep, they still offer those in the midst of the marketer’s wet dream of an event it’s now become), but I urge you to not think too much about it. Don’t overplan. Don’t stress. Just show up, bring business cards, and be open to serendipity. 

But if you really want a few more tips from this 9-year veteran, sure. Here you go.

  • Drink water. You’ll need it.
  • Get enough sleep. Skip some morning panels, order breakfast in bed; take a night off. The whole trend of “staying up all night to hustle” is not only annoying as hell (blog post forthcoming on that bullshit) but it’s also unhealthy. Get sleep. Your body needs it.
  • Wear your real clothes, not your stupid brand on your shirt. And if those are the only clothes you own, I’ve got a good stylist I’ll recommend you.
  • Pick one party you want to go to. All week. Yes, that sounds counter-intuitive, but just let the days & night evolve as you want to. You’ll go to a ton more, but if you over-plan, you’re going to be stressed out. That’s no fun for anyone, especially me who will tell you to chill the fuck out. (I hate being repetitive.)
  • Say yes more than no. Your new friend wants to ditch out on a panel & go to Moonshine? Do it.  
  • Spend some time in the sun. The back lawn of the Four Seasons is delectable. Sitting on the grass will recharge your soul.
  • Exercise. Even if I’m hungover as hell (read: usually), I drag my weary ass for a run (or fast walk, depending upon said hangover) down by Lady Bird Lake to start my day. It’s beautiful, and there’s this great little bench that I dare you to find. 
  • Hook up. No need to check in to get your “Bangin’ Badge”, pal, but hey, kissing a new friend is fun. And if you’re taken, having an innocent SXSW crush doesn’t hurt…just don’t take it too far. It’s good for the serotonin, and after the depletion caused by all that boozing, you’ll need it. 
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Whether you’re there to pimp your company or to just have fun and meet new people, nobody wants to get a sales pitch from a new friend. That will come up in the conversation, but that lad donning head-to-toe schwag telling you their new app is like Pinterest for zombies? Kindly shut the fuck up.

SXSW is what you make of it. It can be a very effective networking opportunity, and it can also be a fun, enjoyable, relaxing few days with great weather and a chance to meet new people. Don’t overthink, and for God’s sake, please don’t sprinkle me with glitter. That’s SOOO 2007.

*That’s what she said.