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

Day 91

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It has been a Friday night tradition for my wife and me for as long as I can remember– I can only remember back around two weeks, but I think the tradition extends to when we were married– that we tell each other what we love about each other for that week.  The tradition expanded to include our children once we had them.  I always start with the kids first, struggling hard to remember all the good things I was thinking about them leading up to Friday dinner, that evaporated instantly when I yell at them something where the subtext is clearly, “You’re ruining everything!”  Ultimately, for my daughter I usually wind up highlighting some social achievement, while she dances nervously, not wanting to be the center of attention.  For my son, I usually wind up talking about some act of kindness he did while he does something to try to get a laugh, resulting in me again saying something with the subtext “You’re ruining everything!”  The most fun part for me is still getting to tell my wife what I love about her in front of our kids– something I never had the opportunity to see my parents do.  I usually have several things to tell her, while when it’s my wife’s turn she usually vamps by saying, “Honey.  Where to start?  Hmm.  Honey!” before landing on how helpful I was in dropping off the dry cleaning or picking up dinner.  But then she’ll add how sincerely proud she is of me, really for whatever I’ve been trying to do that week– like going on meetings to get a job.  The subtext of what I always love about her– which was text last night– was that she always makes me feel like what I’m doing is important.  It could be seen as sad that my biggest achievement in the eyes of the woman who took me for better or for worse was that I took a pile of dirty clothes to get cleaned, but in a way, it’s actually more impressive that she loves me for that as much as, say, for getting a job that allows us to dry clean clothes after every wearing.

After dinner, which as usual contains some big laughs, usually courtesy of my son who does an earnest impression of something or someone, or reacts with extreme drama to a droplet of water that touched him– we’ve chosen to deal with his own level of crazy by laughing at it– I tell Shawni to let me put the dishes away then she and I can hang out.  By my opting to do the dishes, of course, it means Shawni puts the kids to bed.  This always works out better for me because I never yell at the dishes and they never tell me they like it when mommy does them better.  I then skip upstairs, hoping to have some good quality time with my wife without the distraction of our iPhones to find… that my kids are awake in my bed but my wife is not.  Ordinarily, I would be extremely frustrated by this, but earlier in the day I had read a copy of a children’s book titled, “Go the F— to Sleep”.  It is the perfect story of a father trying to get his kid to sleep with all the bargaining, crying, pleading– on the part of the father– only to be frustrated and wind up going to sleep before the kid.  The book was funny because it was true– and it made me feel like not such a freak.  On nights like this, I usually crawl into my daughter’s bed amidst the literally 100 Barbies that she had laid out for some sort of party, or cry for help.

Growing up Jewish, I never had the experience of waking up early to see what Santa brought me, so the closest I can come to understanding that feeling of expectation is running downstairs to see if the mousetrap got its prey when we have mice.  This morning, since we didn’t have mice, I scurried downstairs to see if the fax machine had delivered any news about my career.  While I don’t answer the phones on Saturday, if my agent wants to fax me information about my career, there’s nothing I can do to stop him.  Is it kosher?  Probably technically, but if what I’m trying to do is have a day away from the office, it’s not the best idea.  This morning, it didn’t matter, though: the world of Hollywood as it pertains to me stopped at sundown.  Either that or people were buzzing about town, doing business, making deals, so busy that they forget to fax me to tell me what’s going on while I’m explaining to my son why he can’t die of lead poisoning because he put one of his plastic soldiers in his mouth.  For better or for worse, I am isolated today from the world of Hollywood, not knowing if a job has passed me by or if there’s a great one waiting for me.

I– and even my wife– sometimes worry that I don’t spend enough time outside of work with entertainment people.  The people I associate with on Saturdays are for the most part not “in the industry”: they do unimportant things like oncology, or surgery or law or building low income housing.  They don’t know about the upfronts or staffing season mid-season pick-ups.  Knowing them doesn’t help me get a job.  The friends we had over for lunch today are a British couple whose kids go to school with our kids.  He’s an aircraft leasing lawyer and she is a stay-at-home mom.  They are dear, sweet, people and as many times as I’ve tried explaining to them why I can’t just “write and shoot my own show” or tell Warner Brothers that I “demand a raise”  it doesn’t seem to stick.  So the conversation changes to our kids and our school and our last vacation and our summer plans and slowly but surely I’m not listening for the fax machine.  We laughed together, shared our fears together, and finally, me and the other husband took a nap together on the couch.

When the sun finally set, and with no more dishes to do, I read my daughter a story as she went to sleep, while my wife tried desperately to get my son the F to sleep.  I then ran to go on-line to check the assortment of work-related emails that would bombard me, only to find a couple of new Facebook friend requests and Mrs. Maria Johnson of Hong Kong who is dying and wants to leave me “ten millions of dollars US$” because she got my name from the internet.  It turns out, I was right, nothing in Hollywood did happen while I was unplugged.  I’ll never know if my choice to check myself out on Friday nights and Saturdays costs me work.  What I do know is that it doesn’t seem to matter for my wife, or my kids, or our British friends, or Mrs. Maria Johnson, who for some reason love me for who I am.  And that will have to be good enough for me.


Written by 100daysoff

May 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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