OG DAD: The Hum


OG Dad will recount the adventures of a man who, in the proverbial autumn of his years, or at least the pre pre-autumn, discovers his girlfriend is pregnant. And having a baby. Whereupon hijinks, cosmic and mundane, ensue.


Waiting for a baby to be born is like sitting in Nagasaki, listening to the hum of planes overhead, and wondering when the little joy bomb is going to be dropped and destroy your life. In a good way. And ours is supposed to drop any minute.

Of course, I’ve heard the hum before. Been flattened by the thrill and terror of new life delivered from beyond. Only now it’s different. For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is that the first time I staggered into fatherhood I was thirty-five, and strung out, and feeling all the guilt and weirdness over that. And now I’m fifty-eight, and, well…. fifty-eight, feeling all the guilt and weirdness over knowing that, no matter how great things are, inevitably I’m going to—Jesus, I can’t even say it without cramps—I’m going to be seventy when she’s twelve. (The realization, at my age, that seventy is closer than forty, when in fact, I feel thirty, is a whole other discussion. I mean, who wants to be the creepy old in the playground? How do you give horsey rides in a walker?) I don’t know why I’m so obsessed. But I can’t help it. I harbor this irrational fear that E, the thirty-year-old mom, will just finish having to change our child’s Pampers when she’ll begin having to change mine. Two in diapers! Jesus.

I told you, it was irrational. So far I’m footloose and diaper-free. But still, some men dream, and some men dread, and I’m a dreader.

Discussing our happy accident, I told E, the thirty-year-old future mom, that the night our soon-to-get-here semi-Jew-tot was conceived, I imagined I could hear a faint buzzing coming from her vagina. More like a tiny motorized drone: the drone of my sperm chugging along in a Hoverround at the head of a pack, colliding full-on into my sweetheart’s egg—not because it was the strongest, or the most worthy, but because it was near-sighted and didn’t see the thing. My little Mister Magoo, sputtering accidentally into the miracle of creation.

So now, friends and fans, I’m sitting in Austin—long story, which I’ll get to—waiting with the woman of my dreams, while she laments that fact that she’s ballooned from a sylph-like 111 to a Hindenburg-esque 150-something. I tell her she’s still beautiful, of course, but still… She’s been an athlete all her life, and now it’s an Olympic event bending to pick up a sock. I used to think that love was damage loving damage—when our pain jives with the person we’re with. Now, I believe, among other things, that it’s about you accept my neurosis and I’ll accept yours. Either way, sometimes life can be just too fascinating.

The Austin thing, by the way, is a whole other saga. Which I but might as well march out now. This is a blog, not literature, so I don’t have to worry about seamless transitions. Instead, I can just tell you, in a clunky, intrusive way, I’ve had hepatitis C  for decades, since my stint as a professional needle-jockey, back in my days as a dope fiend. (Again, as mentioned, first time around the Daddy track I was shooting Mexican tar in the Cedars Sinai OB/BYN men’s room in Los Angeles, freaking when the nurse banged on the door and told me the baby was coming, and I had to put on scrubs, not having worn short sleeves in forever, what with the unsightly bleeding tracks and all. But I digress.)

Fast forward to the present. After years of trying every brand of alternative medicine known to man – from coffee enemas and gargling sesame oil to Vitamin C drip to injectable ozone therapy, from troughs of wheatgrass to a trip to the Dominican Republic for illegal stem cell treatment to daily consumption of enough vitamin and herbal supplements to choke a sea monster, I occasionally felt okay – except for crushing fatigue, night sweats, a roaring irrational temper (the liver, in Chinese medicine, is the organ of anger) and non-stop brain fog. But I was, on paper, dying just the same. My viral load, as my 80 year, side-burned old ex surfer hepatologist used to say, “looked like something out of Ray Bradbury.’ Way up there in the bazillions.

I imagined my liver, not to get too technical, as a dried up old dog turd lodged in my stomach, a hair or two way from cirrhosis. While I lived on in denial, going to the gym, doing Chi Gong living my veggie life, it continued to decline. Being a Jewish vegan Jack LaLanne didn’t help.

Long story short, I ended up on this trial drug from Some Major Pharmaceutical Company—embracing the enemy Big Pharma, after years of fighting for Team Alterna—and sure enough, after one week on a cocktail of AIDS-drug adjacent protease inhibitors and virus killers, my count went from a quarter gazillion down to twenty-three—twenty-three!—and the week after that, be still my heart, down to undetectable.

Mind you, there were side effects, about which I’m not complaining: shortness of breath, weird ingrown hairs that make my chest and legs look like I’ve taken shrapnel, a constant, crushing spaciness that made every day an adventure in bad acid… etc, etc… (Full disclosure: Even though the twelve week trial’s over and I’m still, miracle of miracles, hep free, I have to pop into the hospital every month to see if the evil virus hasn’t returned, sending me back down into the shadow of the valley of hep.) But the main side effect, the one that got Future Mom to Austin, is that the stuff was so noxious, so massively mutagenic, that basically just being in the same county as me—well, okay, the same bed—was dangerous, and enough to cause screaming birth defects to any child with the misfortune of being nearby and in utero. Forget sex or intimacy of any kind. It was as though my sperm was now manufactured by Monsanto, and fatal to unborn generations.

How toxic are we talking about? Just touching my finger after that finger had touched a pill, or—God forbid!—coming in contact with my sweat—all of it, any of it, enough to cause the fruit of my loins to emerge—according to the trial administrators—purple with wheels. Hence, for the months I was on the trial, she went to be with her people in Austin, while I, back in poison bachelorville, remained in Los Angeles.


Rumpus original art by Jason Novak.

Jerry Stahl has written 8 books, including Permanent Midnight, Bad Sex On Speed, and I, Fatty. His new novel, Happy Mutant Baby Pills, is now out from Harper Perennial. More from this author →