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

Day 43

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Tonight, a good friend of mine told me about the “Peak End Rule” which says that when giving a speech, it’s important that you peak at the end, because that’s what people will remember.  He told me that after I gave a speech at the dessert party my wife and I threw for another good friend of mine who got married a few months ago.  In the beginning of the speech I trod carelessly, talking about former girlfriends and how much his current wife was out of his league and how he had dated everyone in the room including me, and just as the bride and groom were turning purple, I wrapped it up with a blessing that all their dreams should go straight to heaven and may they be answered with joy.  And everyone clapped and said what a sweet speech.  The ending is everything.  And so it was with my day.

For those of you who read Day 42, you saw that it contained a rewrite after getting notes from my wife.  It was the first rewrite I’ve had to do on my journal, but not the first, or most awkward, I’ve had to do on my hiatus.  That distinction goes to the notes I got from my estate lawyer.  In trying to put together my will, I wanted to explain why certain things were going to certain people and how my wife and I wanted our kids to be raised.  And I kept getting notes back after each draft like, “Hmm.  Getting closer, but I don’t think you want to say it that way.”  Or, “Wouldn’t it be better to build to your tragic untimely death?”  Finally my lawyer agreed to take his own pass on it which I should get tomorrow.

After my “step backwards” to rewrite yesterday, I begged off to go to yoga where I knew going in my performance would be subpar.  Unfortunately I immediately got off on the wrong foot, literally, when my croc hit a wet tile while walking into the building, causing my legs to separate at a 15º angle which is more than my tight-as-steel groin muscles can handle, and I heard a small “pop” that will no doubt have me going back for more chiropractic torture next week.  Undaunted– and not wanting to go home and set up the dessert party even though they’re my friends and I was the one who offered to throw them a party in front of my wife, making everyone in the room except for me extraordinarily uncomfortable– I proceeded to place my mat next to what could only be described as a tattooed wire wearing only bike shorts and a bandana.  Within two minutes of an impossible class I dropped into child’s pose.  Within thirty seconds of being in child’s pose, my muscles started shaking so I had to get out of child’s pose and do something even more restful.  But how do you get exhausted doing child’s pose?  That’s like getting a club soda stain.

After the slowest and sweatiest 90 minutes of my life, I hobbled back home, excited for what would no doubt be the highlight of my weekend: the day of Cub Scout’s Pinewood Derby had arrived!  This is supposed to be the funnest event of the year for the Cub Scouts, and my son and I had already had a great bonding experience building and sanding and painting our car over the last two weeks.  As I mentioned, I hate that my son hates baseball, but having him miss it for the Pinewood Derby is as good an excuse as any.  So imagine my surprise as I entered my house to hear my son screaming at the top of his lungs, immediately undoing any possible second-hand benefit that yoga had on me.  “What’s wrong?”  I naively asked my wife.  “Caleb doesn’t want to go to the Pinewood Derby.”  “Caleb, why don’t you want to go to the Pinewood Derby?”  I asked calmly, “it’s the most fun event of the year.”  “Because it’s boooooring!”  I immediately snapped, “Listen to me, dammit, we made the car and we’re missing baseball which you hate and which you are definitely going to next week by the way, so we are going to the Pinewood Derby!”

Now, one would think (that one being me) that out of all my children (both of them) I would find it easier to relate to my son.  My son is a chip off my block: he lives to get a laugh– often inappropriately, he’s extremely emotional, fiercely loyal, loves my wife more than anything and is the perfect blend of cute and jackass.  Today the meter was full-on jackass.  As my son literally howled, I used all my recent parenting training and responded by making my own set of indecipherable noises.  He threw his body around saying he wasn’t going and I danced around the room telling him was.  My wife, meanwhile, had to take time away from putting together the party for my friends that I had committed us to throwing, to deal with two mental patients.  Finally, after sending me out to do some errands and getting my son to calm down, some peace ensued and I was able to take him.  Not a scene that was going to be on the highlight reel of my parenting.

I tried to make it up at the actual Derby.  I bought my son an ice cream cone and told him all the secret reasons we were going to win and how he did a great job on his car and how I really had a good feeling about this and that even if we didn’t win it would be fun, but I really think we’re going to win.  My son, to his credit, indulged me.  As soon as we got into the rec room where we had to check in I knew we were goners.  If regular Cub Scouts are geeks, then the people who do the Pinewood Derby are the people the Cub Scouts beat the crap out of.  It took us a half hour to get our car inspected to make sure it was the proper specs: height, weight, axle length, all wheels touching the track at the exact same point of rotation– my last physical took me 20 minutes and the stakes were slightly higher.  When we proudly passed inspection, they registered our car and put it next to the other cars– each one smoother, shinier and sleeker than ours.  But none pissed me off more than my new nemesis: Goldstein.

From the research I did on how to win at the Pinewood Derby (ie: I watched a two minute YouTube video), it seems that since all the cars are the same weight– five ounces– the thing that makes one car faster than the next is how much of the weight is put over the rear axle.  With this knowledge, Caleb and I put our pre-measured Cub Scout weights towards the back of the car, hoping that none of the two million views of this YouTube video were accounted for in this room.   Now, most of the cars look the same– like a kid who had a bandsaw and some sandpaper went to town on a block of wood.  But here comes Goldstein who’s car was a polished arrow with a long, skinny body and all of the weight put INSIDE the car (HOW THE HELL DO YOU GET THE WEIGHT INSIDE OF THE CAR?) over the rear wheels.  It immediately became clear that Goldstein had used a Boy Scout’s sanctioned custom kit!  I hated Goldstein even more than I hated tattooed wire yoga guy.

Goldstein’s car was in the first heat (each car races six times) and finished before any of the other cars even got started.  That cocky bastard Goldstein smugly walked around the track, barely looking up as he texted someone on his Blackberry, probably sarcastically writing “How do you think we did?”  Heat two: Goldstein by a mile, again.   Same thing with heats three and four.   Finally, in heat five– with thanks I believe to a very powerful prayer I issued and I’m not kidding– Goldstein’s car jumped the track and came in sixth.  I stood up, knocking Caleb off my lap and cheered.  Apparently that’s not proper etiquette, especially since Mrs. Goldstein was sitting right behind me with Goldstein, Jr. who was 18 months old!  Goldstein wasn’t even pretending he didn’t make this car!  I then turned to Goldstein who was now with his wife and said, “I’m sorry, I thought this was an event for the kids.”  Goldstein, a better car manufacturer, but not funnier than me, responded, “Oh, he made it.”  Me: “I don’t think he did.  I think he’s 18 months old.  I think you made it for him.”  Goldstein walked away to get his ribbon and I turned to Caleb, “That’s not the way we want to win.”

Then it was our car’s turn.  The truth is, I did most of the work on our car as well, I just wasn’t as good as Goldstein.  As they put our car on the track I knew this was my best chance to salvage the day.  “Okay, Caleb, here we go!  I think we’re going to win!  Let’s root for our car number fifteen— lightning!”  (Let’s see Goldstein come up with something like that!)  Our car ran its six heats: we finished third, sixth, sixth, second and fifth and then had to wait two hours for the rest of the cars to go.  If you think it’s hard getting a kid to be psyched about watching his own car, try getting him psyched about watching a bunch of strange other kids’ cars.

When we got home, we were fully defeated.  I said innocently, “So, that was fun, huh?” and he responded, “No.  I want to play.”  But unfortunately it was time to get ready for bed.  He went nuts and I didn’t blame him.  Here’s a kid who lives for his Sunday and I ruined it for him.  He told me his day was “like a piece of scrap metal”, which was the second funniest thing he’s ever said (the first was when he told my wife that he didn’t want to do homework: “all I do is work, it’s like I’m 45 years old!).  I asked my wife if she could put him to bed, I was exhausted and didn’t want to ruin his day any more than I already had.  A bad day for my kid meant a bad day for me.  Like scrap metal.

And then, just as my day was ready to be written off, my newlywed friends came in and saw all the desserts and their eyes lit up like Goldstein’s upon seeing his car blow past the others.  And as friend after friend came over and drank champagne with us, and as I looked at my wife, beautiful as ever, in our house that somehow looked perfect, I started to relax.  And my speech that started out terrifying wound up perfect.  And I laughed and held my wife’s hand and realized that not every day has to be about the kids– it certainly wasn’t for Goldstein.  And today, my day just happen to peak after they went to bed.

"Eat our dust Schneider, Friedman, Taxon and Light!"


Written by 100daysoff

March 27, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. hurrrray!!!!!!!!!

    David Kopp

    March 28, 2011 at 12:14 am

  2. Great, great stuff. LOVE it!

    David Kantor

    March 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

  3. go speed racer go!!

    Michael Lebit

    March 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm

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