Charles Aaron is a writer and former Editorial Director of Fuccboi Media. He lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, son, and bulldog. His first book, about the decline of the white man in America as viewed through the phenomenon of power ballads, will be published when he finishes it.
Wake up and look for my phone under the pillow because this is how we live now. Hoist myself out of bed and go pee because this is how I live now.
Wake up w/a head full of Hudson Mohawke’s “Ryderz,” which I’ve had on repeat day and night because it makes me feel hopeful and powerful and afloat in a radiant galaxy of dreams. Unfortunately, I also remember my actual dream: a concert featuring the spectacle of Jack White awkwardly sitting on top of a series of antique violas, legs wrapped around the necks, determinedly balancing himself and the instruments upright, violent playing some noisy Jimmy Page-type baroque BS with an engraved silver-and-ebony bow. After the concert ends, outside on the dark streets of an unnamed city, I’m bent down, pushing a small glowing wheel with my hand, while old NFL Films footage of ferocious Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus chasing running backs is projected on nearby tenement walls.
I’m in the bedroom of our house in Durham, N.C., where we’ve lived for about a year after moving from Brooklyn about two years ago (we both grew up in this area of North Carolina, so we claim not to be part of the recent carpetbagger wave, hahaha). My 5-year-old son is naked and tangled up in the sheets next to me, and my wife is asleep next to him. It’s one of the blessed nights when my wife and I are sleeping in same bed. Ever since moving, our son has regularly demanded “little boy bedtime,” which means that one of us has to lie down with him until he falls asleep. Of course, we fall asleep too because we’re dead parents walking by then.
Not ready to get up yet, I cuddle with the little guy, which is infinitely better than cuddling with anybody I ever dated before my wife. Why? He’s warmer, softer, sweeter, smells better, gives longer hugs, better kisses, and tells more creative stories. And when he rolls over and absently says “I love you,” I don’t assume it’ll end in betrayal approximately 2 ½ years later. (Get back to me in 2 ½ years.)
Little guy wakes up. “There are two rules that I need to say,” he announces: 1) “Do not disturb my patterns!” (He means don’t rearrange his random assortment of toy cars or trains or rubber alien finger puppets that are scattered on the living-room floor.); 2) “Don’t move my racers!” (See previous note about cars.)
Give son the iPad because he’s starting cry for it, go to bathroom, take crazy pills, let bulldog outside to pee, give her food and water and put her back in crate so she won’t poop in the house before I finish eating my cereal. Stare out the window and watch a neighbor heading out for a morning run. Resentment building. Start to grumble because Wheaties put some mixed-martial-arts bro on the cover of the box and I think about all the worthier athletes they had to bypass to get to him and realize I’ve become alienated from Wheaties (a cereal I’ve been eating for decades) because of their increasingly sus cover choices: snowboarders, skiers, beach volleyballers, speed skaters. I mean, who was the last NBA player they deigned to sign up – Larry Bird? <i>Maybe</i> David Robinson or Tim Duncan? Clearly, the Wheaties star chamber is specifically marketing to boring suburban/exurban white parents who run 10Ks and drive SUVs and have given up on caring about anything slightly challenging. Yikes! I should scramble an egg.
Feeling terribly mortal and sentimental, so I re-read a Lorca poem I’d looked at last night. Hadn’t read it in years, not since I had a kid…
If I should die
Leave the balcony open.
The little boy is eating oranges.
(From the balcony I can see him.)
The reaper is harvesting the wheat.
(From the balcony I can hear him.)
If I should die
Leave the balcony open!
“YOU LOST MAX SCHNELL!!!!” My son is screaming from the bedroom (Max Schnell is one of the drivers from the kids movie <i>Cars</i> and apparently I’ve misplaced his toy version). Eventually I find it, calm him down, then take the dog out of the crate and walk her around the block while I crank up HudMo’s “Ryderz” on my headphones. Mood improves. Sun is shining, weather’s sweet, etc.
My wonderful, brilliant, bread-winning wife wakes up and makes coffee and fries an egg for our son. Son is saying something to me about how he’ll be very sad if I don’t help him obtain a new “Micro Drifter speedway.” Now he’s weeping.
Tears stop and he’s now telling me about a video where <i>Cars</i> toys are transformed into superheroes by covering them in Play-Doh of different color combinations. Then he relates an encounter between Play-Doh Batman and Play-Doh Joker in which Batman and Robin are in the Batcave and Batman says to Robin that “the guests are here for dinner” and the Joker unexpectedly shows up and says, “I’m not here for dinner, I’m here to destroy you!” We both laugh heartily.
I take out the recycling, grab some coffee, debate the pros and cons of a knife over a fork as a means to an end. No food in the house, need to buy groceries.
Check Twitter for Baltimore protests and other fucked-up shit being perpetrated against the good people of this blood-stained land.
“Who’s the Duchess of Cambridge?” I ask my wife. She stares. Then says, with barely concealed annoyance, “Kate.” I almost don’t hear her because I’m distracted by the dog trying to eat my son’s egg and also transfixed by the trailer for <i>Big Hero 6</i>, which looks amazing. My son just shrugs. He won’t watch <i>Paddington</i>, either, but I guess it does lean a bit too MacFarlanesque.
Wife goes to out to a meeting and I “babysit”, a.k.a. curl up with son in our heinously ugly and unspeakably comfy doo-doo-brown Costco reclining chair. He is in a nonstop chitchat phase and is virtually incapable of not moving around. I suppose, like every other halfway interesting kid in America, he’s “on the spectrum” (as various professionals have diagnosed) but so am I, and he gets help from therapists and everybody loves him, so fuck it. My opinion is that, at 38 pounds and holding, he’s the superfleaweight champion of the world. Still, hangin’ with the guy means fielding a constant flow of queries, the most popular of which are: “Guess what?” (followed by a circuitous monologue involving cars and superheroes) and “Isn’t that silly?” or “Isn’t that funny?” Then “Do you know what’s silly?” or “I have some good news” or “I have some bad news” or “Is that a good idea?”
If my wife or I aren’t directly engaged enough with what he’s saying, he’ll interject, “Will someone please pay attention to what I’m saying?” or “I have something to say!” in a more-soup-please-sir voice that makes me feel like a complete deadbeat. And if we’re talking about “grown-up stuff” between the two of us, he implores, with a stricken tone: “I want to be in this conversation!”
Wife comes home from meeting and we get dressed for a grocery trip. Son takes a handful of Lego characters with him, which he will drop repeatedly in the car and in the store, always followed by a loud cry of pain until we find the wayward figurine. Why do we allow this? Because we’d never get out of the house otherwise. Should we develop a better plan to deal with the situation? Go fuck yourself. On a side note, the parking lot of the Durham Whole Foods feels like the Overlook maze in <i>The Shining</i>. One day I expect to be trapped and strangled with a scrunchie by a pack of dead-eyed Duke undergrads in sweatpants and never be heard from again.
After grocery trip, we drive by Rite-Aid for prescriptions – thyroid medicine for wife, crazy pills for me. Son pipes up from the backseat, “You know what’s <i>silllllyyyy</i>?” Now he’s just mocking us.
Brief stop at home and wife takes son to his music class (usually my gig), so I can write. So I write. Music therapy is supposed to help with his “sensory processing issues.” And no hype, it fucking rules – cheap, helpful, fun, a room full of instruments for him to experiment with and bang on. And our son, who usually finds music painfully assaultive and emotionally unsettling (his default is to cover his ears and shout “Noooooo”), actually seems to like it now. At first, he responded with the same critical assessment that he offers of any music we play at home or in the car: “TOO LOUD!” or “TOO SAD!” I suppose it’s ironic that after 30 years as music writer/editor, these are still my <i>favorite</i> types of music – LOUD and SAD – but I was never counting on my spawn to reflect my particular sensibility. At times, he has enjoyed “Stevie Wonder music,” as he puts it, and he thinks “Anaconda” is hilarious and the chorus of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” is a blast to sing along to, but I’m not trying to act like he enjoys ambient-pop because he gurgled and smiled when I played Aphex Twin for him at two years old.
Wife and son return. Son eats lunch. I play with him outside. He’s riding his scooter and wants to race me in the driveway – him on scooter, with a three-second head start, me running, <i>backwards</i>, trying not to plow into either the car or the neighbor’s wooden fence. It’s actually pretty amusing, in a man-who-used-to-hold-court-at-285 Kent-willingly-sacrificing-his-last-shred-of-dignity sorta way.
Saintly generous wife takes son to ride ponies so I can write. We have a group-hug goodbye at front door, led by our son who says, “Aaron family can’t be stopped!”
To get to riding, it’s about a 30-minute drive outside of Durham to the breathtaking rolling hills that surround the farm of some rich old hippie lady who once said, in a rambling fugue-state monologue, that she had something to do with the Montreal Biodome. She gives paddock and stable space to our instructor – a tiny, grizzled, 70-year-old gay Frenchman – in exchange for him keeping up the grounds, and he, in turn, charges us and other parents only $20 a lesson to teach our kids how to ride. The Frenchman plays Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin in the stable, is a riotously wry charmer, plus an intuitive, skilled teacher and guru. “You must be <i>proud</i> in the saddle,” he purrs. Our son, who hates all sports because of his developmental delays, was relaxed from jump and rides masterfully as if in a trance.
Sadly, though, the Frenchman informs my wife that the rich old hippie kook just sold the farm, despite promises of keeping him on through the end of the year, and he may have to sell his ponies, and he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to continue the lessons, or how he’s going to survive (as the nightwatchman, he sleeps in the back of a fancy riding school where they charge $130 a lesson and he might able to get a better-paying gig there, but they certainly won’t be so forgiving as us when he sips too much <i>vin</i> the night before and has to cancel at the last minute, and we can’t certainly afford that kind of money for lessons). He’s thoroughly distraught. And since riding ponies is the only physical activity that our son has ever shown any aptitude for, or excelled at, my wife is demoralized and apparently she and the Frenchman both shed tears, unsure if they’ll ever see each other again.
As I write, the bulldog saunters over to say hello and nibble on my Ziploc bag full of cheese and crackers and climb all over my computer’s keypad. I have to put her back in the crate. Our bulldog is adorable and fairly obedient (after much training), but she consumes money like kibble and constantly needs to pee and poop. Then there’s the smell. You could bathe our pooch daily in Clive Christian No. 1 Imperial Majesty and she’d still reek like, well, ripe dog ass. Like a lot of things in life, I hate it but tolerate it, yet there are days when I’m sideswiped by a whiff at the wrong time and I’ll gag and shout “Aw, fuck this!” without meaning to. Back to writing.
Wife and son return, and I play with son in front yard while wife regroups and prepares to cook dinner for neighbor and kids who are coming over in about an hour for a playdate and dinner. Son keeps falling off his scooter on purpose and announcing, “What a fail!” while we both laugh, and I pull up weeds as he continues the floor show. Then we go back inside to check on mommy.
Mommy’s in the kitchen cooking meatballs when the doorbell rings. Our son practically levitates and zooms to the front door. It’s our neighbor, who is strangely alone, carrying brownies. She explains to my son that both her kids are sick and won’t be able to come over this time. But as my little guy’s lip starts to curl and he ‘s on the verge of a meltdown, he walks outside and spies the “sick” kids hiding and giggling in the bushes. We all laugh and everybody piles into the house. The boys play with race cars and sprint around furniture and between rooms, occasionally firing comments at me like, “Hey, can you believe how stupid this driver is? He tried to put on his left-hand turn signal when he wanted to go into the pits!” I sit on the living-room sofa, drink an iced coffee, and beg for a second wind.
I set the table and get drinks for the adults and kids. As the meal starts, one kid starts crying about having water instead of milk, one gets up and starts running laps, another bitches that the meatballs are too spicy, then a drink spills. Meatballs taste like Babbo on a good night to me, so the kids can kick rocks.
Parents vainly attempt adult convo, but soon move the operation to the backyard where we set up a “Stomp Rocket” (a recent gift), and the boys take turns jumping and landing on the “launch tube” which is connected by air hose to the “launch pad” (three flimsy plastic yellow sticks), on which the hard foam “rockets” rest. The boys’ attempts vary in effectiveness and gradually the length of their run-ups get longer and longer and more ridiculous to the point that they’re leaping and falling melodramatically and even tackling each other. Finally, neighbor dad strides up to the launch pad and proclaims, deadpan, “It’s time for somebody to take care of business.” After a few prep steps, he lifts his foot and smashes it down on the tube. The rocket swooshes upward like an Apollo spacecraft and just keeps going, curving toward the roof but landing safely near the A/C unit. “Moon shot,” he says matter-of-factly, and strolls back inside the house. The boys look on, dumbstruck.
Playdate concludes with a meltdown of some sort, can’t remember the problem, but some boundary was crossed, and the plug was pulled.
I commence intense kitchen cleanup, collecting at least 47 cups and glasses from the dining-room table, in addition to bowls and silverware off the table and floor. Scrub tomato sauce and noodles off plates and stack them in the dishwasher, listen to Speedy Ortiz on headphones and zone out while Sadie croons inscrutably, “Shot out in four words or less / You want a jail, you want a mess, you have the right to drink less / Then we were floating on a balcony / And I fell into a trampoline…”
Time to run my son’s bath, which we take together around this time every day. The tub is full of plastic animals, Styrofoam fire trucks and street signs, tiny cars, and my favorite toy, Squigs, which are small rubber suction-cup what’s-its that I mindlessly toss at the wall while bantering and soaking in Epsom salts. Nirvana.
After bath, I clean up some more in kitchen, put a second load in the dishwasher, pick up clumps of dirt that are mysteriously all over the floor, take out the trash, and set the TV to tape Spurs-Clippers Game 7 (the game’s already 1/3 over, but earlier my wife was watching some Nazi movie about a girl who steals books).
Wife does little boy time with our son while I put away his toys so the dog doesn’t eat them and I don’t step on them in the middle of the night (the French knight with the deer-head armored helmet that I tripped over the other day felt like an iron spike in my foot). Family motto: If it ain’t broke, it soon will be.
Try to write some more, cough up a few decent paragraphs, rewrite some nonsense, start to nod off, and decide it’s time to watch the game.
The Clips and Spurs are so fiercely competitive and on point that the game is almost transporting, by which I mean I forget for short periods of time that I’m in a coma on the sofa and even involuntarily jerk around excitedly and pump my fist now and then. The Clippers’ miraculously relentless, total-asshole point guard Chris Paul (who’s hobbling around with a hamstring pull) hits an absurd fadeaway floater to win the game and even though he’s the biggest whiner and cheap-shot artist in the league, I find myself quietly mouthing stunned admiration.
I take the dog out for two pees and a poop, put her back in her crate, wipe off the counters, turn off all the lights, pick up some stray alien finger puppets.
Go to bed, put on my headphones, listen to the HudMo “Ryderz” playlist, and drift off peacefully. Ahhhhh. If I should die, leave the balcony open!