Is there a statute of limitations on stealing music?

Last night, as I was driving to Target (and thoroughly enjoying the alone time; I think it was Louis C.K. who deemed the walk from putting the kids in the backseat and getting to the driver’s seat as a mini vacation), I flipped through the radio stations. Happily for my solo singin’ time, the song Rosanna came on the radio. (I love Toto. Have since I was six, which is roughly when that song came out.)

Inexplicably, hearing it made me think of college. More specifically, downloading buckets of music in my friend and frequent hallmate Wilder’s room. He always had a) better computers, b) newer software, and c) a jug of Carlo Rossi wine. More importantly, he possessed an extremely new invention called NAPSTER.

Now, kiddos, keep in mind that this wasn’t just a new way to get free music, it was the first time this kind of thing had ever been done. Before that, you had to buy entire albums, at the store (or with a BMG circular, thusly signing away the rest of your credit- because really, no one ever bought one album at list price.)

And Napster had everything. EVERYTHING. I’d type in a random track or band I half-remembered from my childhood, and I could choose from eighty sources within a minute. I didn’t care (or really know) about copyright infringement. It was just music on some kid’s computer. It was like a stranger was making me the best mix tape ever!

Some days Wilder would return to his room to find me at his desk, downloads going for hours. Sometimes I wouldn’t be there at all, but he’d find a queue of songs fifty deep, all one percent downloaded.

“Keely?” He’d call across to my door. “I might need this computer today.”

To keep his PC moving beyond a crawl, he’d burn songs onto CDs for me, sometimes tapes- if you can believe THAT whackness.

Sometimes the mixes were so fabulous that I’d stay in his room for hours, and we’d blare the music straight out into the quad. (We were doing them a favor.) Other times I’d start an impromptu dance party. (Once, we jumped on the bed to an ‘NSYNC song. True story.)

Sure, I had my own computer and stereo and plenty of places to jump during parties…but my window faced the loading dock.

I still own all of those mixes- one of which boasts the track Rosanna. I play them for Nora, who revels in grooving to anything with a beat (and pressing ‘stop’ and ‘pause’ on the stereo’s tape deck.) They never fail to bring me back to the early Aughts, a time when my most pressing early evening issue was getting to Saga before the wok was rendered unusable by burnt stir fry.

But not before lining up hours’ worth of Def Leppard and Lyle Lovett for downloading.

So this is where my mind went on the four minute drive to Target. It was pleasant, that jaunt through nostalgia. In that moment, it was late Spring on the Merrill quad and there was plenty of veggie pizza and Lucky Charms for everyone. And it seemed like it could’ve been yesterday.

Then the song ended and I glanced down at the radio station.

And it had been on the oldies channel.


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