I expect Boston to be overwhelmingly cool, like Madison’s State Street times ten: a laid-back coffeehouse on every corner and a funky, disheveled used record store on every other one. Of course, Boston has both, but they’re a little different (not to mention more scattered). Unlike the places I frequented in my hometown (with names like Fuel and Brewed Awakenings), Boston’s coffeehouses are generally pricier, more pretentious, and always packed with a nary a free table or seat in sight. You could almost say the same for the used record stores.

Living on meager stipends and adjusting to a considerably higher cost of living, I buy less music out East. I make occasional trips to that stretch of Mass Ave. in Cambridge between Central and Harvard Squares informally known as “used-record row”, thumbing through the racks at Looney Tunes, Mars, and Mystery Train (but not Second Coming, which keeps all their goods behind impenetrable glass cases… what fun is that?). Sadly, none of them quite fill the used-music junky void left by 2nd Hand Tunes. Still, I’ll occasionally find something exciting that I never knew I was looking for, like a copy of Kirsty MacColl’s Galore for $5.99 at a place whose name I can’t remember (it closed not long after I made that purchase).

Fortunately, Boston radio is way more exciting than Milwaukee’s. The college stations, particularly WMBR (MIT) and WERS (Emerson) are always worth scanning the dial for. On the former, I occasionally tune into an eclectic weekly show called “In The Margin of the Other” which plays mostly (but is not limited to) female folk and jazz artists--somehow, it has a consistent sensibility in tandem with mine. During those first two years, I also listen to a lot of WFNX--back when they had the retro lunch hour, and back before alt-rock temporarily mutated into a malecentric, nu-metal bore.

Every Sunday night, I make it a habit to listen to One In Ten, 'FNX's gay/lesbian talk show. My arrival in Boston coincided with my coming out, a process which was as tentative and gradual as my getting to know and becoming comfortable with the city. I guess I expected to instantly make gay friends in such a vast, enlightened metropolis; my 23-year-old self didn’t know I had to go out and find them myself. But I didn’t make any attempts to date for another year. I spent one abortive Sunday summer night at Avalon, not too into the crowd or the throbbing, repetitive instrumental house music. I left, thinking of that line in “How Soon Is Now” that goes, “So you go to a club on your own / and you leave on your own / and you go home / and you cry and you want to die.” But I didn’t feel that bad, really.

Eventually, after I move from the student ghettos of Allston to quieter, leafier North Cambridge, I find a few used record stores I can live with: Disc Diggers in Davis Square (closed Jan. 2005) and Record Hog in Porter Square (closed Jan. 2003). Newbury Comics is my Exclusive Company-type surrogate for reasonably priced new discs. Looking back at my list of favorite albums of the year, Saint Etienne’s Good Humor, was number one (and today, still pretty high on my list of desert island discs). Somehow, R.E.M.’s daring but not altogether kosher Up was number two; I’ve probably listened to it twice since then.

Ah, but in 1998, film is becoming my life, music inevitably taking a backseat to the four movies I rent per week from Videosmith (in addition to everything I had to watch for classes). However, I'm perfecting my mixtaping skills, almost to the point of obsession. A good friend hands me an eight-pack of blank cassettes when I see her at New Year’s, and I return them to her, completely filled with everything from Sam Phillips to Sinead O'Connor, when she comes out to visit me on Spring Break. Actually, I’m finding excuses to make mixtapes for just about every person and occasion--it is my Creative Destiny, and also a nifty way to put off a reading or writing assignment.