100daysoff

Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 30

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The hardest part about writing a sitcom episode is coming up with the story.   Sure, pitching a great joke is a fantastic feeling, especially if it makes it all the way through and winds up on tv and you hear a cute girl quote it on an airplane but you have a Crazy girlfriend who’s sitting in the row in back of you and she already threatened to stab you because you said “thank you and smiled” at the woman who took your ticket so you can’t do anything about it.  You know, hypothetically.    Anyway, there is nothing worse than sitting around a room staring at a blank white greaseboard listening to people chew.  Okay, yes, donating bone marrow is worse, but having to come up with a story from scratch can be awful.  The worst days are those spent trying to break an area that seems like it should be funny– William Shatner gets caught giving plant steroids to his pumpkin!– only to hit dead end after dead end.  The worst part of those worst days is when, at the very end of the day when you’ve finally wrestled together a story that you think could possibly hold together under the pressure of a week of production as long as no one pulls too strongly on all the loose threads, the Staff Writer at the end of the table who hasn’t said anything all day finally chimes in with, “They did that on Seinfeld.”  It means your day was lost, without meaning.

Today, my day had no story.  Sure there were little B and C runners that were nice distractions, but nothing to hook into.  I thought the story was going to be, “Jeff does manly things”.  After hiking the dog and getting a sufficient coat of sweat and dust, I went to my favorite store: Home Depot.  I went there, as a man, because they have a place where I can safely recycle my broken CFL bulb (as you recall from an earlier post I broke one in my daughter’s room and acted like I was in “Silkwood”.)  There are few places more manly than Home Depot.  So there I was, ready for my episode of “Home Improvement” to begin when all of a sudden… NOTHING.  I threw out my bulb in a specially marked container then went to find a tiny screw to replace a door knob that fell off.  But no story– there was a C runner about the Sales Associate who took a half hour to help me find the right screw by opening at least 12 different packages of screws, having to throw each of them out before finally helping me to find my 39 cent purchase after costing his employer at least twenty times that amount.  But that story was cut for time.

I then tried a different area: “What if Jeff was a domestic dad who went to Whole Foods for the fifth time in six days spending what the average American family makes in a week and yet still has to go back tomorrow?”  “I like it!  What happens next?”  “Er… um… he buys his groceries.   And then has to go back tomorrow because he ate them.”  Chew chew.  Stare stare.  After Whole Foods I came home to what I was sure was a story: “Jeff as Suburban Dad confronting his nemesis: the curb painter!”  For people not from LA, there’s a phenomenon here where guys put a sign on your door that says they’re from the Official Curb Painting Office of LA (OCPOLA) and later this week they’ll be coming around to paint numbers on your curb– or curve as my grandmother used to call it.  The recommended donation is $20, and if you don’t want it, you have to adhere the piece of paper onto your curb with duct tape by the next day so it doesn’t fly off.  So, already I’m pissed off when I get this.  It’s clearly extortion: they know I’m going to have to get my curb number painted because A, if I don’t pay the money on time to the company that allegedly stores my kids’ umbilical cord for me in case God forbid they ever need a new umbilical cord I guess, there’s NO WAY I’m going to remember to put this piece of paper on my curve.  And B: where the hell did I put the duct tape and can I use masking tape instead?  But this time I was determined to not pay for what I always thought the city did for free.  My plan was ingenious: I took the notice I got from OCPALA and used the tape they used to stick it on my door to stick it to the curb– aha, hoisted on their own tape!  My hope was that they just passed on to the next house when they saw this, my fear was that they would replace my number with the word “A-hole”.

So the scene is now set for when I come home with my $500 worth of Whole Foods (two bags), to find that my curb is painted white.  There’s no number!  What if– as the notice from OCPOLA warned– there was a fire and the fire department couldn’t identify my house (assuming that the giant illuminated “520” next to my door had already burned off).   I looked around, panicked– I would now have to go back to Home Depot to find a stencil and spray paint knowing full well that there was no story there!  Finally, a Mexican gentleman holding spray paint and a stencil approached.  This is the first time I had scene the Man from OCPOLA in person.  I was ready for the confrontation I had been gearing up for since I moved to LA.  “Excuse me, are you the guy who paints curbs?”  (In an actual sitcom he would be played by Sean Hayes from Will & Grace and say something snarky like, “No, I’m Pope Benedict”)  “Yes”, he said.  “Well,” I said, “I stuck the sign back on the curve using your tape…”  “What’s a curve?”  “It’s a curb.  And I don’t think you should force people to have this done.  I didn’t want mine painted but I also didn’t want you to paint over my number with a wrong number or write a bad word in front of my house.”  “Oh.  Sorry.  Well, we work for donations.  My dad and I started this business and we got a license and everything so it’s legal.  Just give us whatever you feel like.”  I paused, unmoved by the hardworking, paint-smeared man and his father.  “Ten enough?”  “We recommend twenty.”  “Here you go then.”

So, clearly, no story there either.  The rest of the night went the same way: kids are exhausted and melting down because we set the clocks forward one hour which for some reason put everyone on Greenwich Mean Time, emphasis on Mean.  My son threw a tantrum because he doesn’t believe in book reports and my daughter doesn’t like the way I teach her fractions, which is the same way, I believe, that the Greeks taught their kids fractions and the father from OCPOLA taught his son fractions.  But alas, my story’s a story that’s been done again and again.  And now, as I’m forced to document my day because of a promise I made– and promises are always binding in sitcoms– I’m here to report that today was really about… nothing.  But maybe that’s okay.

Wait.  Never mind.  Seinfeld did that.

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Written by 100daysoff

March 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. this was great

    David Kopp

    March 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm


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