We talk about anniversaries more than we used to, possibly because time seems to be moving faster, or possibly because the present is such a drag. Many terrible things happened on this date in history, including the Dred Scott decision (1857), the beginning of the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (1951), the first deployment of US Marines to Vietnam (1965), and the suicide of Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse (2010).
Some good things happened, too: the births of Michaelangelo (1475) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1928), the release of The Big Lebowski (1998), the beginning of the end of Napster (2001).
But for many of us, March 6, 2016 will always be the day we lost Aaron Huffman after seven months of hospitalization. He was The Stranger's art director for nine years, and my close friend and bandmate for 18. He was 43 years old.
I don't have anything new to add, aside from the fact that I miss him every bit as much as I knew I would. What surprises me is the vividness of his voice in my head, and the sudden jolts of sorrow I feel when I realize I'm still operating under the unconscious expectation that he could walk in the door at any moment.
I invite you to read or re-read this recollection of Aaron written by several of his Stranger colleagues. My favorite bit, unsurprisingly, is by Angela Garbes, because it absolutely nails the main characteristic that made Aaron so uncommon—his capacity for silence:
"I found myself downstairs in the living room with Aaron, one of the only times we ever sat alone together and talked. Music was playing, of course, and a song from the XTC album Skylarking came on, which made us both happy. I told Aaron how every spring—when the birds begin singing, the trees begin blossoming, and I begin sneezing because I'm allergic to all the pollen and life in the air, just as I am doing right now—I lie down on the floor and listen to Skylarking because everything about it has always felt like the season to me. He laughed and then got up and fiddled with the stereo. A few moments later, the sounds of the album's opening track, "Summer's Cauldron," filled the room: insects buzzing, crickets chirping, birds tweeting. We sat together on the floor in silence and looked up at the ceiling.
"Listening to these songs remains a springtime ritual for me, but this year—and every year that follows—I'll be thinking of Aaron when I look upward and hear these words: "When Miss Moon lays down /And Sir Sun stands up / Me I'm found floating round and round / Like a bug in brandy / In this big bronze cup."
This is the one song Aaron wrote and sang lead on for our old band. I remember the look on his face when we listened to the playback (on tape, no less), at John & Stu's Place, formerly Reciprocal Recording, now the Hall of Justice, in Fremont. He was so happy about it.