100daysoff

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

Day 52

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6:16 p.m. — I’m sitting outside at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles.  The Coffee Bean used to be my favorite place in the world because it serves something called an Iced Blended– which is basically a vanilla or chocolate milkshake with coffee in it. Right now I’m drinking a glass of cold urine.  Actually, it’s some sort of Saharan tea, but it might as well be.  Because of my Paleo diet I am not allowed to drink dairy because cave men did not drink milk.  Then how do you justify me using a computer, jackass?!  Lack of ice blendeds make me testy.

I should go home, it’s freezing outside and my cup of urine is getting watered down by the ice that is somehow able to melt in this frigid air (62 degrees).  But I need to feel like I’m working.  People passing by see me typing away and assume that I’m working.  That will have to do.  I just got off the phone with my agents; the same ones who called with the greeting two weeks ago, “Do you want to hear the good news or the good news?” have used the last two weeks to let me know that the “cat is on the roof” with the good news and now the good news is not good and is barely even news.  My guess is the next time they call, the good news will somehow wind up costing me money.  I ask if there’s anything I can do.  “Just relax and take it easy.”  After 12 years my agent doesn’t know me.  He then has to “jump” meaning that he’s tired of pretending not to be sending emails during the call.  The truth is, I love my agent.  He’s always honest.  He tells me not to panic and then jumps.

I call my best friend in the business who knows me better than anyone.  He tells me not to worry.  “Because I’ll be fine?” “No, because worrying won’t do anything for you.  This business sucks.”  I agree.  He then tells me that at least I’m not traveling to the Golan Heights.  I tell him (honestly) that that’s where I’m spending Passover.  He jumps.

That was emblematic of my day.  I’m in a business that requires people to “hurry up and wait” and I’m only good at half of that.  I like getting things done.  Even if nothing is really getting done.  Ironically, the reason I quit investment banking 20 years ago was that it was soul-crushing: I felt like I wasn’t creating anything.  The simile I used at the time was that I felt like a toll booth operator who’s job was to collect tolls so that I could get paid to man the toll booth.  That’s what today was like in many ways.  On the way back from dropping my kids off from school I passed the AT&T store.  I decided that instead of waiting on hold for 20 minutes to get a new data plan (apparently, in addition to Beverly Hills, AT&T does not have great coverage in the Golan Heights) I would talk to a human being and get it done right away.  Also, while I was there I would upgrade my iPhone to the iPhone 4.  Why?  Because It seems better than my iPhone 3Gs which seemed better than my iPhone 3G which seemed better than my iPhone1 which was definitely better than the ladder of Treos I had before my iPhone (Yes, I’ve seen the “I want an iPhone4” video.  It’s who I am.)

My attempt to avoid waiting on hold for 20 minutes was successful: I waited for 45 minutes to talk to a real person.  There were 7 people in the AT&T store: one was me, one was the greeter who told me how to sign in, two were other customers who were waiting and the other three were guys whose jobs, to the best of my observation, were to stare at their computer screen quizzically, then call each other over to look at whatever was on that screen and agree that it was quizzical.  By the time I got to talk to Craig, I had forgotten what I was there for, so I asked him the only question to come to mind: “Does your phone get a signal here, because mine doesn’t.”  He told me that it wasn’t my phone, they had bad reception here.  Why the hell would you put an AT&T store in a dead zone?  I then told him I wanted to get an iPhone 4.  He asked me why and instead of recreating the I want an iPhone 4 video, I just said, “I think it would be better.”  He told me that it wouldn’t.  The 3GS is fine, it’s what he has and I probably wouldn’t use the extra features– he had me pegged: I only use my iPhone to text.  It doesn’t even receive calls, rather, it tells me when I have a message.  It’s basically a pager.  Speaking of technology, my laptop is about to die, and my fingers are freezing.  If I lose this work I will be pissed, but not surprised.

Aha!  It worked fine.  I’m back home now, greeted by my tired frazzled wife who is now doing her best impression of me trying not to strangle the kids.  I should probably go upstairs and help but it’s so calm and quiet down here.  Okay, fine.  I’ll try saving again.  Please hold.

Back again!  It’s a whole new world, this saving thing.  Anyway, after being unable to convince the guy at the AT&T store to sell me a new phone, I headed over to my local camera specialty shop.  Last night we went over to friends of ours’ house to watch a home movie our friend had made.  Now, I would sooner perform surgery on myself than watch someone else’s home movie, but our friend was proud, and more importantly, my wife didn’t tell me that that’s what we were going over there for.  Long story short, the movie was actually pretty good and most importantly, my friend showed me the camera he shot it on: the perfect video camera to take on our trip with us.  Now, I know very little about electronica and cameras fall into that category.  Like everything else of this nature, I usually nod along with the salesperson and buy the second most expensive thing they have, saying something authoritative like, “Yeah, I don’t need that many pixels for my line of work.”

On the way over to the camera store I justified in my head buying the second most expensive camera they had.  Sure, I’m not working right now, but on the other hand, the new camera records to a card and not videotape and, let’s face it, dropping a thousand plus dollars on a new camera certainly makes for a productive day.  For a reason unknown to me, I brought along my old camera to show the camera store guy what I had been dealing with and how I need way more pixels and more hi-def than this bad boy had.  Here’s how our conversation went: Me: “Hey, I’d like to buy a new video camera.  You know, a videocam.”  Camera Guy: “Okay, what are you looking for?”  Me: “A video cam.  Oh, what kind?  Well, this is my old one.”  Camera Guy: “Is it broken?”  Me: “No.” CG: “Then why do you want a new one.”  Me: “Um.  I just feel like I should get a better one.  (I neglected to tell him about my blog and how I needed to do something to justify today)”  CG: “This camera is fine.  It’s the one I have.  I’d just keep it until it breaks.”  MOTHER-FATHER!  What the hell do I have to do in this town to get someone to sell me some piece of expensive electronic equipment that I don’t need?!

Dejected, I went to the one place that I knew would bring my spirits down: my kids’ school.  Now, I LOVE my kids’ school, and they love it.  But we were going to see a musical number put on by my daughter’s class, and after watching her as a statue of Rapunzel in her last play, I just didn’t think I had it in my heart to see and not hear her up there.  I got there at the last second, trying to open the videotape (videotape!) as the kids were taking their places in front of Mr. Song, the way-too-serious, overly strict music teacher who could have been a character in the Christopher Guest movie about this musical production.   Sasha was in the second row, perfectly hidden behind her taller friends (she played a shy plate that hid behind the armoire in a version of Beauty and the Beast several years ago so I knew what I was in for).

When my wife and I both go to these performances one films with the video camera and one takes pictures with the still camera– often time with my daughter they look identical.  I, hating my archaic videocam, gave it to my wife in exchange for the still camera.  Then, as Mr. Song barked, “mallets up, shoulders back, mouths shut!” the first notes of the xylophone played and remarkably, my daughter started singing!  Now, she wasn’t Bette Midler in “The Rose” but she was not the mannequin from Into the Woods, either.   I got so excited watching her sing along and do the accompanying hand movements that I motioned for the kids in front of her to move so I could take a picture.  I would actually get a picture of my daughter with her mouth open!   Unfortunately, my seat was at a very bad angle and I didn’t have an x-ray lens (I bet the new video camera has an x-ray lens!) so I had to move around to get a clear shot.  I dodged over parents, and kids and nearly tripped Mr. Song who had to hop over me with his guitar and finally flung myself down like a fashion photographer to capture the perfect shot of my daughter, mouth open, embarrassed about her dad.

When the kids were done, I cheered the loudest.  It was so good to see my daughter acting like a normal kid.  I’m sure she would have liked to have said the same about me.  I hugged her and kissed her and went on my way, trying to squeeze some accomplishment out of my day.  But in my car, on the way to the Coffee Bean, my agent called, ostensibly to tell me that this was not going to be a day of achievement for me.  Or maybe, on a deeper level, that what I view as achievement is not really all that important.

I think I really learned my lesson today about the meaning of life and what’s truly important.  Tomorrow I get my back waxed and I’m not kidding!

Are you kidding me? Is that my father sprawled on the FLOOR?!

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Written by 100daysoff

April 5, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Hey, can I have all your “old” stuff when you replace it?? Pretty sure you need the newest iPad. ;)~

    Heidi

    April 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm


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