“My friends serve as the touchstones of my character.”

Playing an instrument never came naturally to me, and I’ve always been sensitive to cold weather.  By late October, it would be cold and dark when I stood at the bus stop, waiting for my daily ride to the practice field.  More than once, it crossed my mind to let the bus roll on by, and go back to my dorm room.  I’ve never been a paratrooper, but I imagine those guys only have to be really brave for just the second or two it takes to jump out of the plane.  After that, the die is cast, and whatever comes next has a momentum all its own.  Each afternoon, I’d take a deep breath and get on the bus.  That was all the willpower I required.  I was off to practice and had no second thoughts.

Of course, once I got there, I had a great time.  There were warm-ups, and drill, and jokes we’d all heard a million times.  There were sunsets so gorgeous one could almost overlook the sewage plant marring the view.  There was music, often really great music, the kind that puts you in a world all its own.  More than anything else, though, there were all the friendly faces.  Friendly faces who knew what was going on.  Everybody there had other things to worry about: writing papers, paying bills, doing laundry, staying healthy, calling home, and all those other things which come easily to us now but seemed so overwhelming when we were nineteen.  As individuals, we all came to practice with those problems and, by unspoken consensus, we put them all aside to do something collectively that was beyond any of us.  My problems were still there when Mr. Parks had us fall out at the end of each practice or game, but somehow they seemed far more manageable.  I had just played with the Power and Class of New England, so I could do anything.  Sometimes that rush lasted the rest of the night; sometimes it had faded by the time the bus took me home.

I spent four years in the UMMB, and there were times when I hated it.  But, damn, I sure loved being with the people who loved it.  (I even married one!)

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