Editor’s Note: Joe Bardi — writer, editor, musician, husband, father — has always been a busy man. But until recently it had been up to his wife, freelance writer/photographer and frequent dRTB contributor Heidi Kurpiela, to handle the bulk of weekday parenting chores, because she could work from home and he had an office job. Then the pandemic hit. The following post is the second installment in “The Quarantine Diaries,” a series about the double whammy of suddenly being both unemployed and a 24-hour stay-at-home dad. Read the first installment here.
Quarantine Diaries, Part Two
March 24, 2020: Chip & The Henchmen
As a newly minted “stay-at-home Dad” facing weeks or months of quarantine, I knew I had to throw myself into being there for the children. Easy for some, the prospect was a nightmare for me. If you’ve ever seen the movie Parenthood, I’m kind of a combination of Steve Martin’s white-bread family man and the overly serious dad played by Rick Moranis — you remember him, the guy always drilling his daughter on flash cards and avoiding all the goofy fun that makes childhood sing.
I started flailing at it. We played board games (Monopoly mostly), watched movies, and took up backyard kickball — with each activity usually ending in some kind of blow-up. Either Henry would go nuclear because he “lost” (made worse by the fact that we know he’s a shitty loser and don’t really keep score, only to have him blow anyway), or Chip would decide we should all be doing something else — exactly as he commands! — and scream until group madness set in.
Then, on the morning of March 24, a breakthrough. I woke up to find my kids had set up a makeshift “stage” in the backyard. The borders were defined by lawn furniture and some unused window shutters. Henry had fashioned a bucket drum kit with pots for cymbals. Chip rocked an air guitar (really a glowing wand purchased at Jurassic World Live back in January, when we were still going to public events), and was stomping on a black box as a stand-in for a pedal board. They were adorable. I had to join in.
I grabbed my guitar and portable speaker and headed out to jam. In my “normal” life I play guitar in the instrumental rock band Zerobabies. We practice once a week, and play both public gigs (the last one was March 7 at the St. Pete Side Lot, which we squeezed in right before the curtain fell on all social gatherings) and perform live on Facebook. The kids are obsessed with all of it, so I suggested we do a Facebook Live just like my “real” band. They were instantly overjoyed. All we needed was a name and some songs. Mere details!
The name came to me in an instant: Chip & The Henchmen. The songs took about three seconds longer. (“This is our first song. It’s called ‘Jam #1.’ This is our second song. It’s called … ‘Jam #2!’”) A few minutes later we were live on Facebook, playing for an adoring audience of … I don’t know. My parents, I guess, along with other family members and some friends. It would have been worth it if no one had tuned in. The kids LOVED it. Watching the video back, I noticed that at least twice Chip had turned and given me little kisses on the leg as we played because he was so happy. I melted.
Chip & The Henchmen’s backyard debut:
Posted by Joe Bardi on Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Before Corona set in, Henry had been whining that he was jealous that I was in a band and desperately wanted to be in one himself. Whenever it would come up (which was at least a few times a week), I would say the same things: “You’re 8 years old. You have plenty of time to be in a band! I wasn’t in a band until I was in my late 30s! Be patient. Keep practicing. Focus on getting better at your instrument. The band will come.” This speech always went over like a lead balloon and I was getting frustrated. It never once occurred to me to just start a band with my son, which is probably all he was asking for in the first place. (Kids are tricky! I’m also a little slow emotionally.)
Chip & The Henchmen continue to appear on Facebook Live playing their unique brand of originals and covers of tunes by the likes of The White Stripes and Led Zeppelin. We might even tour once the end times are over and the new world dawns. Hopefully the kids aren’t adults by then.
An indoor concert featuring a special appearance by Wolf Man (aka Mom), Helmet Man (aka Henry) and Front Man (Chip, who moves like Jagger and throws down like Townshend):
Posted by Joe Bardi on Saturday, March 28, 2020
Next up in the Quarantine Diaries: