I ring in the New Year at a party in Chicago. Having missed the express bus, the trip takes nine grueling hours from Des Moines—six of them just to reach the Illinois border. Yet, I make it into town before the clock strikes Midnight. At the party, we listen to about thirty seconds of Prince’s “1999” before everyone in the apartment groans and the DJ plays something else.

On January 2, a massive blizzard ravages the Midwest, postponing plans my friend and I had to drive up to Milwaukee. Stranded at her parent’s suburban split-level, we stay in, making “dada poetry” (cutting out phrases from magazines and rearranging them in random order) and listening to Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, which I had just picked up in Iowa a few days before. We both instantly fall in love with first song, “The Stars of Track and Field”, and put the entire album on repeat play as the snow piles up outside.

I return to Boston a week later and begin my final semester of graduate school. It’s thesis time, and I spend much of the next three months gathering research, watching films, re-watching films and writing, writing, writing. Entire weekends are given up to staring at a computer screen until my eyes glaze over, completing a draft of a chapter for discussion group the following Monday. When I’m not working on my thesis, I’m taking two other classes, working as a teaching assistant for another class, and interning one day a week at the Harvard Film Archive.

Obviously, I’m left with little time to listen to or discover new music. However, early in the semester, I have to go to the Brookline Public Library to retrieve a book for my research that I can’t find anywhere else. They have racks and racks of CDs for borrowing, and upon first sight of them I had to rub my eyes and make sure they weren’t an apparition. The Boston Public Library has next to zilch when it comes to audio/visual materials; it didn’t occur to me that I only had to go to the suburbs to find them. I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store, faced with a whole new collection to pick and choose from. At this time, I first heard Nina Simone, Serge Gainsbourg, Gillian Welch, Jason Falkner and Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

While I was knee deep in thesis-land, XTC finally released their first new album in seven years, Apple Venus (Volume One). My anticipation reaching its boiling point, I bought it the day it came out and rushed home after class, sprawled out in my dungeon-like basement room to listen to these eleven songs I’d heard (and read) so much about. Of course nothing can live up to such expectations, and while I wasn’t disappointed, hearing them felt a little anticlimactic. Six years later, I’d still argue the album is one of the band’s five best, but I didn’t feel as passionate about and consumed by it than I would have had it come out three years earlier.

After finishing up my thesis (I celebrated by walking over to Disc Diggers for a ritual browsing) and my studies, I chose to be lazy for the summer. I felt royally burned out, and had little desire to bend over backwards for a temporary employer or send out my resume to hundreds of prospective long-term ones. Oh, I tried the former, but after one day at a particularly ludicrous temp assignment, I vowed to live off my savings for a few months. I would do nothing but write, read (something other than film theory), bike, and rent movies from the library.

I went FOUR MONTHS without buying a single CD. Luckily, during that period nothing came out that I simply had to get. So, I purchased Pizzicato Five’s Playgirl & Playboy in mid-May and a used copy of Luscious Jackson’s Electric Honey in mid-September with absolutely nothing else in between. It wasn’t that hard—I regularly borrowed discs from three different libraries, so I still had new music to listen to, examine, dissect and enjoy. I look back on that time with astonishment, though. I was clearly trying to hold on to the last vestigial scraps of my childhood, putting off the post-student World of Responsibility as long as I possibly could.

I treated myself to one big concert: Ani DiFranco at the Fleet Center. It was a totally inappropriate venue, but my friends and I had fun, anyway. After a month carousing through the Midwest, I returned to Boston in the fall, moved out of the basement and into a new apartment and began temping for real. Weekly trips to Newbury Comics and CD Spins resumed immediately, and I adjusted to a 9-to-5 schedule more easily than I ever thought possible. I began this penultimate year (‘cause we all know the new century/millennium technically started in 2001, right?) tired, stressed and a little bewildered; I was, to a lesser extent, still all of these things at the end of it. By then, however, I was also on the verge of falling in love for real.