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

Day 61

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Actually, I think it’s Day 61, I’m really not sure. All I know is that after spending 14 1\2 hours crammed into the penultimate seat on a very crowded plane, I am now comfortably in a hotel room and it’s sunny, and since it started out sunny, and then got dark, and now it’s sunny again, I’m going to go with the Copernican view that this is the next day.

The flight itsef was fairly uneventful, save for the fact that I have only slept 2 hours in the last 24 and don’t know what day it is. I have to tell you, though, that as flights go, the one from LA to Tel Aviv is not a great one even in the best of circumstances. In my experience, there is nothing more depressing than trying to go to sleep when you get on a plane to acclimate to your destination time zone (ten hours ahead), pitch and turn in your seat for an hour and a half until your body finally submits to falling asleep in a position you would take under a desk during an earthquake, then waking up, feeling you have gotten all the sleep you are going to get during the flight, and looking up at the map to see that you are just entering the airspace of Quebec. That was my experience last night (this morning?) Unable to reach my bag because of the two thick teenage girls sleeping between me and the aisle, I was denied access to my ‘medicine’. Finally, after playing 200 hands of blackjack against the computer in the tiny tv on the seatback in front of me (it was very realistic, I won only 82 hands and lost $10,000 in imaginary money even though I played ‘exactly how the book tells you’) I finally extricated mysef to take a “walk”.

It was here that I ran into an acquaintance of mine, who, has it turns out, has been made aware of this journal. “So that blog, is that a joke?” “No, why?” “It just seems like a joke. You’re really doing that?” “Yes.” “Really doing what?” someone else chimed in. “A joke.” “It’s not a joke!” I explained that I’m documenting my time off in a journal. “So you’re not writing?” “I am writing.” “What are you writing?” “My blog.” “Is that a joke?” I then excused myself back to my seat and forced myself asleep again. This time I awoke to see that we were clearing Greenland and heading to Iceland. I couldn’t believe it: one of the reasons I’ve never been to Iceland is because it’s too far, and now I’m not even there yet and we still have another 6 hours to go!

After trying to toss and\or turn for the next several hours, I looked up at the map to see that we were now in familiar territory. In fact, it was familiar because it’s all over the news as places that are in the throes of revolution. After carefully avoiding the No Fly Zone over Libya– barely, according to our map– cut up passed Egypt and cut across Turkey and Lebanon to find the one tiny piece of land that a guy who looks like me would want to land in. Looking at the map, you really felt like Wolf Blitzer should have been narrating it.

At the end of the flight, when it was time to put away our electronic devices, our kids simultaneously groaned, “Awww”. Are you kidding me? They just watched 14 straight hours of movies and they were pissed that it was about to end. Meanwhile, I uncurled from my newfound scoliosis to hear something I have never heard before in my life. An old guy sitting behind me said, “You are a very patient man.” I looked around wondering who the hell he could be talking to. Finally I said, “Who the hell are you talking to?” He said he was talking to me. At one point when I tried to get out of my seat to go to the bathroom, one of the teenage seatblockers was sleeping and the other one refused to wake her up, so I just sat back down. This guy told me he witnessed it and thought, “I should be more like him.” Look at that, huh? Can you imagine the miserable people this dude hangs out with to use me as an example of patience? He then revealed his true jackassness by telling me the following: “I can also tell that your eyesight is good.” “How’s that” “By looking at your wife.” Oh, I thought, that’s a nice compliment. “You can tell a guy’s eyesight by his wife, and you have good eyesight.” “Thank you”, I said as this man continued to stare at my wife. “Yeah, you got some goooood eyesight.”

We then got off the plane and the old man followed behind my wife to admire my eyesight. I, personally, get extremely excited to get to a new place, especially Israel. Unfortunately, my family was too tired to join me in my exhuberance- plus the fact that Israel looks remarkably like Southern California did not give the rest of my family enough incentive to stay up for the ride from the airport. Which is too bad, because we took a different route. In fact, I had never taken this route before, so I asked the driver, “Is this the normal way from the airport?” “No, there’s traffic, so we’re taking a different way.” “Okay. It’s nice. So what’s that city over there?” “That’s Ramallah.” Yes, we were driving through the West Bank to avoid a little traffic.

Anyway, I’m back in the hotel now, my son and wife crashed out despite my admonition to get on local time and my daughter is up reading a book, despite my admonition to get some rest so she doesn’t fall asleep in the shower like she did last time we were here. As for me? I’m exhausted and I either just tipped the Bellman $100 or 20 cents depending on what piece of colorful currency I gave him. In the meantime, I’ve got 61 burpees to do, and I may just get around to solving world peace. If I can stay awake.

UPDATE: It turns out that my son, Caleb, who has claimed recently in LA that his body clock is on Israel time, has switched to LA time just in time to get to Israel. This will make for a very long night, especially since I have to be up at 5.

Tonight was a great night here in the Old City. We went to an amazing restaurant where the waitresses were all “What-who-me’s” a phrase my wife and I came up with to describe a woman whose beauty puts me into a state of stunned nerd. The derivation of the term comes from a time when I went to pick up food from an Israeli restaurant in LA with my family in tow. As my wife and children sat at a table to wait for our food to be ready, I approached a stunning server person to pay for our order. While I was waiting, she asked me if I wanted a drink. For a brief surrreal second, I thought she was asking me out and my response was a dumbfounded “What? Who? Me?” at which point I heard my wife, who witnessed this debacle, laughing to break my reverie. Anyway, after a walk through an outdoor mall featuring a Benneton ad’s variety of shapes sizes and colors of beautiful people, we ate at our favorite restaurant, after which my wife and daughter walked back to the hotel and my son and I went to an outdoor light show in a 2,000 year artifact.

Wherever I go, I try to act like a citizen, but it never works. Once when I was in Jamaica I told a friend to “ditch his watch, otherwise they’ll know we’re not natives” but even my cornrows and rasta tam did not fool the local populace. When touring in Italy on a Eurail pass after college I told my buddy not to hold onto the pole in the Roman subway, or else they’ll know we’re foreigners. The subway then jolted forward sending me and my giant backpack sprawling into a bunch of Euros, all the while spewing every American expletive I could think of. And alas, tonight, as I was approached by a young Palestinian boy selling gum, I searched for the Hebrew phrase for ‘no thanks’ and in the process spilled my camera bag everywhere, sending a variety of batteries tapes and camera parts over the same stones that Jesus once spilled his camera bag. When I took out my wallet to find a dollar, the rest of the bag emptied out at which point I was surrounded by a group of young boys each putting gum in my pocket. Finally my 7 year old said, “lo”, the Hebrew word for “no” that somehow escaped me, and after handing out ten dollars in singles, we made a run for it.

Anyway, I should get some rest. I’m getting up in 6 hours and if I’m not on my toes, I have a feeling I might stick out as a tourist.


Written by 100daysoff

April 14, 2011 at 6:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Such a long trip, you deserve a little r&r. We don’t want your eyesight to suffer.

    Michael Lebt

    April 14, 2011 at 1:23 pm

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