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

Day 58

with 4 comments

Today, for the second time in my life a stranger on a hike told me to relax.  It came in the form of a very squat Hispanic man who said “Chill out, bro” as I was trying to get my dogs into the car.  I think he had passed me on the trail as I was putting my dogs into a choke hold banned by the Geneva Convention to get them to stop going after every dog or plastic bag that passed.  In my mind, I had worked up a response should someone confront me on my dog-training skills, “I’m training these dogs to be bomb-sniffing dogs where any slight deviation in their training could result in their being blown up.  Just by taking the time to talk to you I probably cost my boxer one of her legs.”  In actuality, I got into my car, closed the door and muttered, “You chill out.”

The first time someone told me to relax was 12 years ago when I was in South Africa.  There’s a path down a huge bluff that you can take that leads you to the southernmost point in Africa where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.  While there were many tourists slowly walking down the path taking in the incredible view from up high of two colossal bodies of water slamming into each other, I decided to run full speed down the path clinging to my giant camera backpack to keep from falling over.  As I continued to hurl myself down towards an unknown destination, I was stopped by an old lady walking up the same path I was running down.  She looked at me and said, “Why must you run when everyone else is content to walk?”  I stopped to consider what to this date is one of the most profound things I have ever heard sober.  In my recollection of the event, I turned around to thank the woman and she was gone.  In actuality, I’m sure she wasn’t.  And I’m willing to bet that her actual words were, “Hey, watch it, dick.”  Needless to say,  I did not hold onto that important lesson as I continue to hurl through life, but I’m trying, I’m really trying.

After my hike I drove up with the dogs to pick up a small package my sister had waiting for me.  She is my unlicensed pharmacist and had set aside a number (5) of Xanax for me, to help her bro chill out.  In around 36 hours I’m taking a 14 1/2 non-stop flight while sitting in the very last row of the plane, crammed in between the bathroom and the galley, each smell competing to make me sick.  I’m not a good flyer to begin with– I’ve been on at least a dozen planes with undocumented terrorists on them since 9/11.  On my last flight back from New York I got the flight attendant so worried about two guys looking at an Arabic website– or maybe it was a video game, in hindsight it’s hard to tell– that I got the Captain to call Homeland Security in Atlanta and do a full background check on them.  I believe that my paranoia is what saved everyone on that plane from being the subject of a movie of the week.   Truthfully, the Xanax is more so my wife doesn’t have to listen to me point out all the potential threats on the plane and ask my kids every ten minutes, “Are you buckled in?”

On my way to my sister’s place, driving through the Valley, I got the sense I was in the movie “Boogie Nights”, passing all the seventies houses, going to get my “score”.  Just then, the song, “Spill the Wine” came on my classic oldies station and I totally got lost in the moment.  I pulled my Prius in front of my sister’s ranch-style Brady bunch era house, rolled down my windows and cranked up the music as I slowly made my way to the mailbox to pick up the envelope.  My giant sunglasses gleaming, my afro bouncing with every step, the music blaring, “Spill the wine, ner ner girl!  Spill the wine, get get dirl!”  I opened the mailbox, and saw the envelope with my name on it.  “Out of the middle came a lady.  She whispered in my ear…”  I looked around then quickly palmed it… “Something Crazy.”  In slow motion I took the pouch of contraband and started heading back to my ride.  “She said, Spill the wine, ner ner twirl!”  And then I caught my reflection of me wearing my white socks pulled up over my calves in my hiking books and I immediately snapped out of my revery.

Today should not have been the day that I took time to be in a slow motion fantasy drug-buying sequence: I actually have a LOT to do to prepare for my trip, which is paralyzing me.  My growing to do list includes getting my tickets ready, finding our passports, printing out emergency numbers, canceling papers, calling credit card companies, burpees, blog… it’s all too much!  So instead, I decide to call my wife and ask if she wants to go to lunch.  She can’t, she’s at the Gap returning the clothes I got for my kids yesterday.  MOTHER FATHER!  “What’s wrong with the clothes I got?”  “Sasha’s jeans were the wrong size and you got Caleb girls’ sweats.”  Crap, my own incompetence is now costing my wife her valuable packing time and more importantly, me my time-killing lunch date.  I look at the clock: How the hell can it be 3:00?  How slow was my drug fantasy?  This day is quickly evaporating.  This is why I need to rush.  I quickly go to the drug store to pick up more sundries, forgetting what I came there for which is those little tiny portable toothscrubbers which I should write down now, but I won’t so hopefully I’ll read this tomorrow and remember.  I call my wife asking if she needs anything and she doesn’t.  I’m on speakerphone with the kids.  “Hey kids, it’s daddy!”  (muffled)  “hey.”  My wife tells me she’s going to take my daughter shoe shopping.  “Hey, Caleb, maybe you’ll stay home and hang out with daddy and we can–” “No.”  “So you’d rather watch your sister try on shoes then some undisclosed fun activity with daddy?”  “Can you hang up, we were listening to a song.”

I had nothing to do, and yet so much to do.  I raced around from store to store, picking up one thing and forgetting two, only wanting to avoid going home to the crushing disappointment of my kids choosing watching their siblings shop over hanging out with me.   I finally dropped off home before having to leave again when my daughter said she had a gift for me.  She had bought something at her school’s book fair the other day but wouldn’t tell us what.  My first thought, having seen enough commercials, was that it was drugs or alcohol.  My second thought was, “I’m hungry” so I got something to eat and forgot about the book fair.  She came downstairs with three wrapped presents and gave one to each of me, Shawni and Caleb.  Caleb’s was two cans of chemical goo– the perfect gift.  Shawni’s was a book on how to cook meatless foods (my daughter is a vegetarian).  Again: bullseye.  I anxiously opened mine (I love presents!) to see the book “Dear Daughter: How to be a better father and husband.”  Did it hurt my feelings that my nine year old had to go to the book fair and ask a teacher, “Hi, what do you have for someone who’s clueless about being a father or husband?”?  Maybe a little.  But my overwhelming feeling was that of joy– my daughter who’s so hard to know, was giving me a way to know her a little better.  Or she just didn’t want to wind up in child protective services.  Either way, it was a sign that my little baby girl was growing up.

And at the very moment, Shawni said that Sasha had too much homework to do and had to stay home.  I jumped at the chance: “Caleb, wanna ride bikes?”  He did.  So we got on our bikes and sped around the block, Caleb yelling ahead, “wait up!” and I realized I was a block ahead of him.  I then turned around to watch my little boy huffing and puffing to keep up.  I then told him he should go ahead.  I wanted to take the moment.  And then, in slow motion, we made our way home, humming…  “Chill the wine, spit that pearl…”


Written by 100daysoff

April 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. GREAT!!!!!

    Marc Rosenberg

    April 12, 2011 at 2:54 am

  2. You want us to follow you for the past 58 days and then believe that the first time someone told you to relax was 12 years ago? Really.


    April 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm

  3. if only all fathers would want to ride bikes with their kids. I think you’re a great father and a great husband. My husband wouldn’t go to ANY store to buy me clothes! But that’s ok – cause I wouldn’t ever wear anything he picked out.


    April 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

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