On July 27, 2012, at 4:47 p.m. PST, Lou Barlow tweets the following:
"i'm training my son to kick journalists in the balls on sight.. spin guy coming by tonight for a dino jr 'fly on the wall' piece"
I wouldn't read that tweet until I reached the driveway of his house in Los Angeles' Silverlake District, a gorgeous hilltop stucco whose front door is haloed by a nest of neon Bougainvillea. "My son, Hendrix," Barlow says, "he told me earlier today, 'There's a bad man coming and I'm going to kick him with my soccer shoes.' This is a horror movie I'm about to send you into." Barlow, in sandals and torn jeans, is leaning against the wall outside his home's side entrance as his wife, Kathleen, takes a break from preparing dinner.
Inside, Hendrix is nowhere to be found. But Murph, who is currently without a fixed address and has been living here for most of the year, emerges from his bedroom in a faded T-shirt and cargo shorts, a ball cap atop his cleanly shaven head. Kathleen is plenty familiar. "I had his dad at Smith," she says of Murph's father, who was a professor of African Studies at the famed all-women’s college in Northampton. It was as a student DJ at Smith's radio station that she first learned of Barlow through a spectral Dinosaur Jr. song he wrote named "Poledo" (from 1987's You're Living All Over Me). A station interview blossomed into a long-term, often long-distance relationship.
"When I first met Lou," she says, "I had to do all of the talking, especially when we were dealing with the outside world. He had never had to find an apartment on his own, or call the gas company to get service. I've always done that for him." She squints to see him across the room. "He's better now."
"Yeah," Murph says. "If we ever got a hotel, I'd have to go in because these guys couldn't deal with just going up to the desk and asking for a room for the night. I could not understand that."
Murph, who would continue to play in Dinosaur Jr. for another five years after Barlow's departure, has long assumed the unenviable position of intermediary between his bandmates. "My parents were divorced when I was 14," he says. “It was always, 'I don't know, ask your mother; I don't know, ask your father.' I had to mediate, and because J and Lou wouldn't talk or communicate, it was very similar."
"He's here," Barlow yells, pointing toward a much smaller version of himself standing on the other side of the sliding glass door, two small, dark eyes slightly obscured by a mess of brown, sun-streaked hair. "Get him, Hendrix! Get him!" After a long, hard stare, Hendrix, scurries back into the darkness of the living room, bumping his older sister, Hannelore, as he goes.
Before dinner, Hendrix throws a silent temper tantrum below the dining room table.
"Honey," Kathleen says to her husband, as bacon hisses in the pan. "He's kicking."
Barlow, watching his son flail about on the ground, is reminded of Rory in that moment.
"He's so awesome with Hendrix," he says of the younger Mascis, staring. "I wonder if he will be like J. He's so fascinated with what his dad does, with guitars and amps. I've found that little boys are so tactile. They've got chaotic energy, too, you know? They just channel it. They need to."