100daysoff

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

Day 67

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It’s 11:00 at night and my eyes are cloudy with smoke and fatigue. Shawni and Sasha have been asleep for at least an hour while Caleb and I went to a bonfire/drum circle. I begged him not to go but Caleb doesn’t miss out on anything. Caleb is Intrepid. Sasha is Shy. Shawni is an Angel. I am Neurotic. For some reason, I am very aware of labels today. Maybe because I got to spend a lot of time with my daughter today and really, really tried to connect with her. I think I spend so much time trying her to be the person I want her to be, at the expense of letting her be the person she is, which is, in the broadest sense of the word, Shy.

Sasha and I got to spend so much time today because our ATV got stuck while we were crossing a river. I know, it doesn’t seem like me, and it seems even less like Sasha. But after she got done complaining that her pink crocs get a spot of mud on them and there was an ant on her leg, she was actually laughing as we tried backing up out of a muddy river bed. There is nothing sweeter to me than her laugh, and I’m guessing that if I didn’t pressure her so much to smile I would hear it more often. So, how did Mr. Neurotic and Ms. Shy get stuck in a river bed? Let’s start with a Tale of Two Jews.

The first is our hero, at 5 ‘8 1/2″ and let’s call it 180 pounds of somewhat toned 45 year old sitcom writer. The second is Alon, our tour guide today. He is 5’ 10″ 170 pounds of former IDF special forces commando/assassin. In the movie of 100daysoff he will be played by Adam Sandler, although my wife was quick to point out, “Maybe Adam Sandler’s supermodel cousin.” Okay, relax Shawni. Now, on the surface, it seems like Alon and I have a lot in common: we’re Jewish guys, and… that’s it. Alon makes bad guys “disappear” while I made my wedding ring disappear. Alon carries a 9 millimeter semi-automatic gun, I carry 9 room keys because I keep thinking I’ve lost them whereas they’re really in my wallet. Alon puts his life on the line to defend his country, I… get annoyed that I can’t bring more than three ounces of hand cream on a flight.

But Alon doesn’t consider himself a hero, it’s just what he does. Like what I do is I’m a sitcom writer. It’s just that objectively his job seems more important; in fact, everybody who lives here has the same job– to fight for their country. And as I’ve discovered, a job is what gives you your identity, I think especially for a man. I’ve tried to focus my time off on having my job be being a better father, but honestly, I would have gotten fired from that job by now if anyone was paying attention. Anyway, my job as a sitcom writer allowed me to be able to afford hiring Alon to be my guide today. I left the itinerary to him; afterall, any guy who can live undercover as an Arab woman in the West Bank for two weeks has my complete confidence.

First up was a trip to his village where a decent house costs as much as my Prius. The main industry of this village– aside from a teepee reservation for some reason– is a dairy farm. As we drove to his village, past wild horses and acres and acres of open farmland, he told us that he leaves his house open and keys in his car without any fear. Now, the fact that he could kill a man with a blade of grass might be part of his comfort in doing so, but I wondered aloud if I could live that kind of life. I then told Shawni what she deemed to be “the funniest thing [I’ve] ever said: “If we lived here, I’d be a farmer. Or maybe a cowboy.” I don’t know why she thought that was funny, I was dead serious. I pictured working the fields and it seemed realistic–I had more hair and a mustache, but it was basically me.

As we got to the dairy farm, I was already trying on chaps in my mind. You know, relaxed fit chaps. Alon said something in Hebrew to the woman who was giving the tour and her eyes lit up. She interrupted her speech to say that we had a very important guest in the crowd. It didnt seem like Alon to blow his cover like that, but he was impressive. She then looked at me and said, “that man is a writer for ‘Friends’. There was a brief moment of confusion as people translated for their friends and family and then everyone on the tour turned and looked at me. A chubby kid even had his mother take a picture next to me.

The moment of course, was extremely awkward, and only made worse when after every attempt at a joke the leader of the tour said,
“you can use that in ‘Friends'”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Friends is no longer in production and even if it was, I left after the second season. Although I am curious to hear what the Hebrew was for, “why would you leave a hit show like that, you idiot?” So there it was, my identity: Friends writer. More impressive than assassin and guaranteed more impressive than cowboy/farmer.

But not having any job, especially on a non-extant show like Friends, I still try to make my job– at leasat for the next month or so– be to be the better father. So when Alon took us to the ATV place, and we were picking cars, I grabbed Sasha to be my co-pilot. I knew she would say she didn’t want to go, or that she wanted to drive with Mommy or were we sure that this was the right place. But it didn’t matter. It was my time to be a hero. And as our car got stuck in the muddy water and we had a joke fight about whose fault it was, and she laughed while filming our tires spin, that’s exactly how I felt: a hero. Now, to figure out how to explain to her that I no longer work on “Friends”.

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Written by 100daysoff

April 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I know what you mean about your job being your identity. After working full time for 12 years while trying to raise three kids, I thought I so badly wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When I finally got my chance, it turns out, I was wrong.

    Heidi

    April 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm

  2. Hmmm, Jeff Astrof fighting off the Indian marauders with an old Indian and other outcasts; or coming to the protection of defenseless gold miners as a nameless skilled gunman. Yeah…. I buy that.

    Michael

    April 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm


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