While my childhood was filled with music, it was other people’s music that I listened to - music that came from my parents, my cousins, my friends, my camp counselors, and so on and so on. This continued well into middle school, until my parents insisted I get a paper route.
We lived in a small lower-middle class neighborhood; the only businesses that haven’t folded or changed hands are the Dunkin Donuts and the liquor store, located on opposite sides of the street from one another. In one on the way to work, in the other on the way home. As of my last visit to the old neighborhood, they are both still alive and kicking.
At any rate, it was, like I said, a small neighborhood, so there were few papers to be delivered, few bills to collect, and few tips to be pocketed. What little I did make went chiefly to bottles of soda and Magic: The Gathering cards, all of which I still have, buried someplace in boxes. (The Magic cards, not the soda bottles.)
At some point, early in seventh grade, as I tried to figure out precisely which social circle I belonged in, I realized that having a CD player and some music would help me make inroads, particularly with a girl in my Spanish class named Abby Donovan.
Abby was a tall, pretty girl whose style fell somewhere on the goth-metal-emo-punk spectrum - lots of black and too much eye makeup. Her taste in music was, in retrospect, as questionable as any thirteen year-old’s, but because I grew up in a small neighborhood and went to a small school, and she was foreign to me, she intrigued me. Excited me, even. I didn’t know much about sex; I knew what a blowjob was - though I hadn’t yet experienced one - and that was about the ceiling of my carnal knowledge. But what I did know is that being around her made me feel things.
It was around this time that I discovered the wonders of the FM dial. At that time, Boston had two radio stations worth noting, WFNX and WBCN. The influence these two stations had on me is incalculable. I learned everything there was to know about every subgenre and subculture of rock that existed. They exposed me to Radiohead, Pixies, At the Drive-In, The Distillers, The Clash, The Sheila Divine, Arcade Fire and hundreds of other bands. I listened to these two stations for over a decade each, hiding under the sheets as a kid, learning to drive, working my first job, in the kitchen before school. When I left for college, I listened to WBCN until the static became unbearable; coming home, it became a game of geography, trying to find the exact moments my antenna began picking up BCN and FNX. When FNX went off the air, I sat in my kitchen and cried.
Now, my taste wasn’t refined, not yet. I’ll cop to listening to Godsmack, Disturbed, Marilyn Manson, and all those other hallmarks of dawn-of-the-millennium angst. When it came time to buy my first CDs of my own, I went into Strawberries, I had three things in mind: WBCN, WFNX, and Abby Donovan. I walked out with three things in hand: Green Day’s Warning, LInkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, and Tool’s Lateralus. This incongruous trio made me intriguing to Abby Donovan for about two weeks in the spring of seventh grade, which was good enough to get close enough to her to become cripplingly afraid to make a move. Then she started dating an eighth grader named Tristan who inexplicably already owned a leather jacket. Who has a leather jacket at 14?