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

Day 42

with 2 comments

As I’ve mentioned before, Saturdays are fairly uneventful for me, which is by design.  With no access to my car, iPhone or my revolutionary Facebook friends in Cairo– he sent me a goat in Farmville!– I am left with a day of overeating, walking a little, and hanging with family and friends.  If I had to write a book about my Saturdays it would be “Eat. Pray. Eat some more.”   While I would love to use Saturday to “live in the moment”, my mind is almost always racing (even now I’m looking for a joke to illustrate this, I hope to come back to this spot when I’m done writing, but if you’re reading this, it means I’ve moved onto the next thing).  Anyway, I did have a moment or two of true appreciation today.

About a year ago, when I thought there was a decent chance that the show I was working on wasn’t coming back, my agent set me up with a bunch of “meet and greet’ and “get reacquainted” meetings with studios around town.  Now, I never turn down a meeting– as you can probably tell by now, I like having something scheduled in my calendar– but my first thought was, “I’ve been doing this for 19 years, don’t these people know who I am by now?”  My agent replied, “Listen, Mike–”  “It’s Jeff.”  “Sorry.  Listen, Jeff, you’ve been on a show for five years with the same network and studio, I think it would be good for you to get reacquainted with the other studios.  Besides, there have been a lot of executive changes over the last five years.”  He was right, many of the people he set me up with I was meeting for the first time.  Some of them hadn’t been born yet when I started my first job, and some were some old faces who I just hadn’t seen in a while.  (One of the realities of being a tv writer is that if you survive long enough you will be taking notes from the same people who used to get you water while you were waiting to meet with their bosses.  In fact, I was recently told by a TV Executive who used to answer the phones for the TV Executive who used to give us notes on “Friends” that she liked my work on staff but didn’t want to hire me to do a pilot.  I then asked her for a glass of room temperature water.  That didn’t change her mind.)

One of my first of the studio meetings that my agent set up was with an old face, who turned out to be a really old face.  I remembered “Dave” as a young, trim, bushy-haired executive whom I had last met, I think, when I was writing for an animated show called “Duckman” in 1992.  As I waited in the lobby of this very hip office near the beach I realized I had been here before.  But when?  The last time I saw Dave he was working for Fox, not this small independent-production-company-that-couldn’t-pay-me-even-if-they-wanted- to-so-I-would-use-this-meeting-as-a-warmup-to-feel-good-about-myself.  Then I realized that this was one of the buildings that was on my route when I was a “food dude”.  A food dude, for those of you not in the know, is a guy who goes office to office with a cooler full of sandwiches and snacks that are chilled to about ten degrees north of what the Health Department deems as the minimum safe temperature to transport food.  Food Dude was my first job when I came out to Los Angeles– I went from being an investment banker working in 30 Rockefeller Center with a Finance degree from Wharton to a guy who was alternately referred to as, “You!” and “Sandwich Girl!”   It was in this particular building that I was referred to as Sandwich Girl, and I was now about to make my triumphant return as a young, hot writer who could afford to buy food that didn’t give you hepatitis.  I took a look back at the previous 19 years that led me from this waiting room to… this waiting room.  It went by quickly and I still felt like the same kid, except I didn’t smell quite as much as egg salad.

As I waited for Dave to come out, an old, overweight bald guy turned the corner and approached me.  “There’s no way this is Dave”, I thought, and may have even said.  And then, Dave thought, and definitely said, “Jesus, look at you.  You got old!”  Needless to say, that meeting sucked.  The lesson I learned was that it was very important to not go too long without seeing people.  When I, and then a few years later my sister, moved to LA, we knew we wouldn’t see our father as much.  Each time we saw him, we asked each other if we thought he looked older.  And, of course he did.  I mean, ask Dave about what it’s like to get old.  And even though my dad looks great and keeps in good shape, it’s hard when the image of someone in your head that is frozen in time collides with the actual person.  Which is why, my dad and stepmom moving to Las Vegas, has been one of the most uplifting things for me.

My dad and stepmom stayed over with us this weekend and they looked the same as they did the last time I saw them– around a month ago.   And my sister and her husband who came over with their kids also looked the same as they did the last time we saw them, a week ago.   And while there is no doubt that family can drive you, and by “you” I mean “me”, absolutely nuts, and every personality defect inflicted by nature and nurture and dutifully passed onto our children was on full display, there’s something nice– and comfortable– about everybody looking the same.  So take that, Dave.

UPDATE:  Okay, I’ve never done this before– added to a post the next day, but since I get to make the rules, which are “none”, I’m going to make an exception.  The reason I’m adding to yesterday’s– ie: Day 42’s post– is because of my wife’s subtle criticism: “I didn’t like it.”  I hate giving my wife a script to read, almost as much as she hates me giving her something to read.  Not because she’s not a fan of my work, I truly believe she is, but because she’s honest and while I say I want honesty, what I really want is someone to say, “I love this!”  And sometimes she does: when she loves it.  But when she doesn’t… well, I get pouty and snarky and mean and then will make it better.  By the way, I think every writer will identify with this: watching a spouse read your script is the definition of hell.  Seeing him or her blank-faced as he or she passes the joke that took you 20 minutes to craft is torture.  I, of course, respond with restraint: “When you’re done reading our will can you read my script?”  She says, in the same tone one might say when you ask them to put their hand outside and see if it’s too cold to wear shorts: “No, it’s funny.”  I follow with: “Well, sometimes when something’s funny, you breath extra hard in a short burst.  Some call it a ‘laugh’.”  She says she doesn’t laugh out-loud.  I will then leave the room, angry, then hear from the other room laughter.  I run back in: “What did you like?”  She: “Oh, you used the name of my mom here.  That’s funny.”  I want to kill everyone and burn down my house.

Anyway, the reason she correctly didn’t care for my last post– THIS post– is because I was tired and did not put in a through-line or an emotional underpinning.  The truth is, she’s right.  The thing I really wanted to talk about was having my family over and walking to synagogue with my dad– father and son–both dressed up like gangsters, and having a lady roll down her window on the way and say, “I just want to tell you, you both look so handsome!”  That made me feel cool: not only that I looked handsome (which I did) but that my dad also looked handsome, and we were doing a father and son thing where I was the son.  As a dad, I’m always the father.  Then, when we got to synagogue, I was once again like the father, showing my dad where we were in the service (he does not go to the same type of synagogue I go to, but he comes with me because he’s my dad.) the same way I show my son when he comes with me.

That’s what I should have talked about– the blurring lines between father and son.  That’s what my wife would have responded to, and that’s what I’ll truly remember about Day 42.  So, despite my wife’s brutal criticism of me, as usual she was right.  And now, to get her to laugh: her mom’s name is Dwanee.


Written by 100daysoff

March 26, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Even your average is still great, but the addendum…you’re back. ox


    March 27, 2011 at 9:32 am

  2. Two comments: 1) I too, laugh whenever I hear Dwanee’s name. Not because it’s usual because to me it’s not, I was born with an Aunt Dwanee. But because Mr. Thom, Stylist to the Stars, always asks me about my “Aunt Dawanis”.

    2) I love that you used the word “snarky”, but it doesn’t help my case to my husband who believes that I made it up and have used your help to get it injected into various sitcoms. (but secretly enjoy that he thinks I have that kind of power)


    March 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

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