With the early-morning squeal of the bus’s brakes, I knew that the end of summer was actually a reality. Sure, summer isn’t over on the calendar. There will be some heat, humidity, and fun yet to be had on weekends to come. But the days of the kids riding bikes past dark and sleeping in past noon have been halted for another year. We will continue to hear the hypnotic hum of weed-eaters, have our favorite baseball team to cheer on, and be met most days by singing birds and beating sunshine. There will still be some splashing in pools, backyard badminton, and — at least for now — the ground still feels very inviting to our bare feet. But a change is coming soon.

Summer certainly swims by faster than when I was young, but so does the rest of life, I suppose. Sadly, I don’t see it slowing down any in my lifetime. It feels as if the earth’s rotation is gaining momentum, and there are simply no brakes. The passing of summer is not all bad, however. It actually brings plenty I look forward to.

Like Friday nights, when my family will wrap ourselves in comfy sweatshirts and sit in our driveway, listening to the distant P.A. system announcing names and numbers at the local high school football game. We will watch leaves turn colors and breathe the strange, wonderful smell of decay when they fall to the ground. Autumn brings Halloween and Thanksgiving, flannel shirts and cozy blankets, bonfires and the roasting of marshmallows.

Before we know it, there is snow on the ground and flames in the fireplace. Wet boots and heavy coats pile up by the front door, with sleds and shovels waiting just beyond. The frigid air stops our kids’ running snot in its tracks, causes our old joints to ache, and keeps everyone from wanting to leave the warmth of our beds. But we keep forging ahead, until the holiday season and new year bring joy and hope to all. Slowly the snow begins to disappear as the mercury creeps upward a notch or two at a time.

Spring renews our faith in all that is good. We feel truly alive for the first time in months as the grass turns green, leaves fill the barren trees, and neighbors come out of hibernation. Bicycles are dusted off, balls are aired up, and cars are washed. We inhale the aroma of freshly mowed grass, budding flowers, and charcoal. Life is finally good…although it was never actually bad.

And in the blink of an eye, school is out again. But our children are a year older. So are we…

My kids are excited to get back to school. It’s a time of endless possibilities for them, and excitement of the unknown. I guess it’s bittersweet for me. I’m happy to see them ready to go back, but I will miss our summer life when laziness is not only respected, but encouraged. When happiness is the main goal. It seems like that should be the case more often. The occasionally melancholy, over-thinker in me realizes that summers with my kids are a fleeting time and one day will truly be only a fond memory. But, as with the changing of the seasons, I know there will be more to experience, love, and remember as they grow older and become adults, themselves.

In the meantime I hope and trust that we can all make an effort to pay attention to what’s happening around us, and appreciate what life offers us. There really is so much it offers. Let’s cherish the time we have with our families, and look forward to the changes. Sometimes life will be good, sometimes it will be bad, and we may never know the reason. But may we all have endless summers, regardless of the season.

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“None of us wanted to be the bass player. In our minds he was the fat guy who always played in the back.” – Paul McCartney

I’m no rock star, but I’m somewhat (or more) of a rock star wannabe. Yes, it’s true that I play in a local rock band. We play pretty hard, original rock ‘n’ roll. We rehearse once a week and get to hit the stage at some very cool venues around town at least a couple times each month. We have a fairly large and loyal following, and are considered to be one of the good bands in a town that has many good (and not so good) bands. We are fast-approaching middle age (I’m already there), yet we dance around like teenagers in our skinny jeans as we loudly bang on our instruments. It’s a lot of fun, and something I also take very seriously.

Still, I’m no rock star. Rock stars tend to be divorced and estranged from their children. I’m happily married and spend a ton of time with my kids. Rock stars party all night and sleep all day. If I’m up past 10:30 on a weeknight it’s probably because I got out of bed to pee or due to realizing that I forgot to take my multi-vitamin. Rock stars drink Budweiser in the morning, then wash down various drugs with jugs of whiskey at night. I enjoy a few craft beers on occasion. Rock stars are rich and have personal trainers, personal chefs, and personal assistants. They drive fast cars and jet-set around the world. They have mansions with mirrored ceilings, six-car garages, swimming pools, and hot-tubs.

Like I said, I’m no rock star — and I actually have no desire to lead that kind of lifestyle — but I do wish I could simply master the art of the “cool vibe” that we all see in our musical idols. You know, the cocky swagger of a lead singer belting out a scream as he simultaneously catches a woman’s bra being heaved onto the stage. The effortless drum solo that includes stick twirling and tossing, plenty of cowbell, two bass drums, and the thunderous hammering of a gong. The blistering guitar solo, perfectly executed as the shirtless virtuoso squints through the smoke coming from his dangling cigarette…and then, my favorite part, the flick of the guitar pick into the crowd. A mob dives after it like a foul ball in the seventh game of a World Series. These people define cool. These are the rock stars.

But there’s a problem. You see, I’m not lead singer, a drummer, or a guitarist. I’m just, well, I’m a bass player. That’s right, the guitar’s ugly, long-necked cousin. The instrument that most people can’t even pick out in a song. The member of the band who people can’t name and never seek autographs from. The guy who is usually mistaken for a fan or, if lucky, a roadie (probably because he is carrying the rest of the bands’ gear). Once a bassist proves to security that he is part of the band, he still may not be allowed backstage. The person who wasted groupies accidentally sleep with because they thought he was the guitarist. The butt of endless jokes:

How do you get a bass player off your front porch? Pay for the pizza.

Why don’t bass players play hide and seek? Because no one will look for them.

Why do bass players have trouble opening locked doors? They can never find the right key.

How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb? Never mind, the keyboard player will just do it with his left hand.

What do you call someone who is always trying to hang out with musicians? A bass player.

And so on… But enough bad jokes, how about some boring technical stuff.

There are generally two types of bass players — those who use a pick and those who use their fingers. A pick typically creates more volume, more “attack” (an edgier, grittier sound), and sometimes makes it a little easier to play faster. Playing with your fingers creates a smoother sound, a deeper thump, and makes it easier (in my opinion) to get into the groove and really feel the music. As a result, I’ve never been one to use a pick. However, my band recently added a new tune that just sounds better with a pick. It’s been fun for me because it’s a fresh, new approach to playing. But more importantly, playing with a pick gives me a chance to do something cool.

We debuted the song at a gig last week, and in the days leading up to the show I was incredibly excited about the rock star opportunity that had presented itself to me: throwing my pick into the audience when the song ended. I had played the scene over many times in my head — always in slow motion. As the last note of the song rings out, I loft my pick out over the crowd, all of whom (thousands it seems like) are jumping and stretching, eyes focused and mouths open in anticipation of grasping this $0.10 piece of plastic used by a guy they’ve never heard of. I knew it would be so awesome. When the time actually came, my heart was pounding. Don’t let the pick slip out of your hand, I kept thinking. The song ended and — trying to keep from smiling so I was sure to look even extra cool — I threw the pick…

Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite right. Rather than have the pick softly soar over the outstretched, screaming fans, it instead somehow took off like one of those old round plastic discs that were shot from toy guns in the 1980s. You know, those guns that were banned in most countries due to causing so many injuries to children. Yes, the pick became a dangerous projectile and struck some poor, unsuspecting dude square in the eye.

I’m not sure he ever saw it coming, although I saw the whole thing. After impact, he briefly lowered his head, then raised it so I could see his spastically blinking, red, watering eye. I was doing a frantic, awkward “I’m so sorry” wave/gesture thingy from the stage, but I don’t think he had regained enough focus to see me. Thankfully, he seemed to recover quickly and didn’t appear to be seriously injured. A woman next to him grabbed the pick off the floor and offered it to him, but he put his hands up and looked away, adamantly shaking his head no. The woman happily smiled as she looked at her souvenir. She must have thought our guitarist threw it. I tried to find the guy after the show to apologize, but he was gone. I can only hope he didn’t rush out to seek medical attention.

Yet another epic fail for the bass player. To the fellow I hit, I offer a sincere apology. I genuinely hope your retina is still attached. I vow to continue my quest for rock star coolness, but in as safe a way as possible. I may never quite get there, but I’ll at least be very happy making music with my friends, as I fight off getting old with all my weak bass player power. Here’s to realizing we are all as cool as we want to be — and maybe, just maybe, cooler than we think. Rock on, baby!

Cheers.