Behold, the Internet. I log on for the first time ever in January, although I’d had an e-mail account for a little over a year at that point (only accessible at Marquette through stations of antiquated black-and-green screened DOS computers). This doesn’t change what I listen to so much that it gives me a better sense of what’s out there and how I can obtain it. Album release date schedules, charts, and, most importantly, information about my favorite artists via their websites are suddenly available with a few clicks of the mouse.

This means no more sojourns to various magazine racks all over town to thumb through a two-week old copy of Billboard. However, it also heightens my anticipation for new releases. I circle calendar dates weeks, sometimes months in advance, counting down the days until I can head over to The Exclusive Company or Vibes to pick up a freshly minted copy of Aimee Mann’s I’m With Stupid, Steve Wynn’s Melting In The Dark, Luscious Jackson’s Fever In Fever Out, or The Cure’s Wild Mood Swings (yes, I actually bought this last one on the day it came out, so enamored of Wish was I at the time).

I also briefly latch on to Chalkhills, an online XTC discussion group. I timidly never post anything on it, but seeing the next digest appear in my inbox somehow soothes me. I love reading what others have to say about my then-favorite band, which at that point was in the midst of a seven-year strike with their record label (and wouldn’t release any new music until 1999.)

A seismic shift is occurring in my life, and it only partially has anything to do with music. After taking a few film studies classes for a minor, I’m less certain I want to be a journalist. I also take a critical writing course that spring and discover a talent for film and music reviews (my assessment of I’m With Stupid earns raves from my professor, who has never heard of Mann) that far surpasses my interest in straight-arrow newswriting and reporting. I briefly consider transferring to the University of Minnesota to study film full-time, but chicken out and stay where I am to get the degree I’ve already put copious amounts of sweat and stress into earning.

In the fall, I take a magazine publication course and have to come up with an idea for my very own periodical. I have a wonderful dream where the house I grew up in on 12th Street has been inexplicably transformed into a used record store, and I see this as a sign. My magazine will be a tome for vinyl collectors, and it will be called VyMonthly (the bi-monthly vinyl magazine). A silly title in retrospect (Vinyl Monthly scans better), but I was 21, okay?

Speaking of which, I don’t take advantage of too many opportunities that come with being legal. A certain friend drags me to Summerfest four or five times, mostly to hear Midwestern fixture/novelty songwriter Pat McCurdy. While I enjoy McCurdy, having a beer or a wine cooler in hand doesn’t enhance the whole concert-going experience in any positive way for me. I see my third (and final) Violent Femmes show on the Fourth of July, and start spending more of my disposable income on movies instead of live shows.

By year’s end, I’m ready to leave Milwaukee. My roommates listen to too much Hootie and the Blowfish and I’m listening to too much Phish--a brief, strange fascination spurred on by a friend dubbing me a copy of A Picture of Nectar (their best album, and the only one I can listen to today without wincing). I don’t forget the sublime, moonlit summer night my friends and I spent climbing the rocks next to Bradford Beach by the lake, staring at the stars, singing selections from Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes. But I know it's time to move on, move away and seek out the unknown.