I spent a few days listening to very little but Ani DiFranco in preparation for an essay about her back catalogue. I’ve revisited everything from Out of Range on, except for the Swing Set EP, So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (which I started last night), and that most difficult of DiFranco discs, the sullen, navel-gazing Reckoning. I haven’t tired of her yet, but I could never, ever, live on one artist alone, which is why I own 500+ discs (+ god knows how many more tapes.) I know, I should go out and buy her first six albums to get a more complete impression/analysis, but I have more than enough music to listen to and revisit. The other day, I was thinking of my beloved Avalanches CD, and how I haven’t played it in over six weeks.

At the moment, I’m listening to Billy Bragg’s Talking With The Taxman About Poetry for the first time, on loan from the Newton Free Library (as opposed to ones where you hafta pay for everything), and I still have four discs of Richard Thompson and two of Nick Drake to contend with. But I’d rather have too much music to listen to than not enough. When I moved to Boston six years ago, whilst waiting three weeks for all my stuff to arrive I had but less than 20 cassette tapes (most of ‘em dubs) with me. I remember listening an Ella Fitzgerald mix as I made my first jaunt over to the Esplanade on an impossibly sparkling Friday afternoon. The other two tapes that stand out from that time are Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Ani DiFranco’s Dilate, albums that I’d enjoy and fully absorb over those first six months.

I remember all the strolls I took through Brookline, on my way home back to grungy Allston from a flick at the Coolidge Corner (possibly Underground or Never Met Picasso). Rain fell in sheets on my way there, but later in the night, the air was moist and calm. I’d walk up Beals Street, past JFK’s birthplace, the final, ethereal moans concluding “Joyful Girl” (the final track on Dilate) all around me and only me. In those moments, I felt so lost and found without a lattice of local friends for support. Everything was gradually turning familiar but still felt new and unmarked.

I now work near my first Boston neighborhood, and at times I feel like I never left it. I don’t consciously think about it much when I walk through it in the mornings or on my lunch break, but on occasion, memories of my 23-year-old self surface on these same streets. All the hours I’d escape my shitbox apartment to sit in the idyllic park off of St. Paul Street, or the moment when, a few blocks away, I ran into a guy whose apartment I had looked at while trying to get out of said shitbox. In his mid-thirties, he owned a home in nearby Washington Square and was looking for two roommates. Two steps into the place and I knew I’d never be comfortable there; it had the consummate air of a unquestionably straight, slightly sleazy, mullet and Metallica-friendly bachelor pad, right down to the leather couches in the dark, dark living room and the maid service that frequented once a week.

I didn’t want to lie to his face and say, “No way in HELL am I moving in with you dude.” More timid than I am now, I lied to him over the phone a few nights later and told him I had found another place (and I did--or would, in two weeks time). So, some time later, I’m walking down St. Paul and he drives up in a vintage blue Beetle, sticks his head out the window and says, “Hey Chris, how are you enjoying the new place?” I hadn’t actually moved yet, so I managed a weak smile and said something along the lines of, “Um, it’s great.” Fortunately, I didn’t have a stalker on my hands; thankfully I never ran into him again, and spent a safe, if for other reasons abso-lively, posi-tutely crazy year ‘cross town in North Cambridge.

And, I moved into that very apartment five years ago today! (See how neatly it all ties in?)