The single disadvantage to living is Los Angeles over the East Coast- with the possible exception of culture and Autumn– is that the internet will always ruin for you who was voted off the show you had been following for three months. I say this moments after a Facebook friend announced her incredulity at which of the final three contestants got voted off American Idol and posted it as her status which somehow found its way onto my Wall. I have tried in vain to keep my wall clean of peoples’ visits to Farmville or fake Mafia or quizzes about me, but to no avail. I now know which off-key karaoke singer is now going back to work at Dairy Queen. Which means I am robbed of the joy of watching American Idol with my wife, saying “fast forward” after the first three overwrought notes of a given pop song until my wife just says “take the remote” at which point I mysteriously stop to listen to the entire warbled rendering of “I Hope You Dance”, while I get teary-eyed and my wife looks on in a combination of confusion and horror. But that’s not what I’m hear to talk about.
As I enter the final few days of my 100 days off I am faced with a sudden feeling of nostalgia. I’m sure if I eventually go back and read this journal– I almost never ever read or watch my work on tv, I’m way too critical of it– it will read like the diary of a prisoner, trapped in a world of domestic minutiae, finally liberated from the shackles of fatherhood and released to work after a 100 day sentence. But as I put the 96th hash mark on my cell wall, I am starting to miss certain things already. This is not a new thought, but there are two movies that a man will watch until their completion no matter at what point in the movie they tune into them or what time it is. The second one is “The Shawshank Redemption” precisely for the scene I’m about to reference. When both Red and Brooks got out of jail after long sentences, neither one could cope with the “real world” and missed the comfort and predictability of prison. Now, of course, this analogy breaks down rather quickly; after all, neither Red or Brooks had to deal with kids who WOULD NOT GO THE F TO SLEEP, but still, with the prospect of work looming, I’ve come to appreciate my time off.
With that in mind, I started my Farewell Tour today. Now, I should mention right here that I am flying across country the night of Day 99 so God forbid anything happens, I don’t want people to look back at this entry and say, “He knew” because I didn’t know and I hope I don’t have to know because I’ve got way too much to accomplish and I’m too young to know. Man do I hate flying (this doesn’t mean I know!) Anyway, I started my day by taking the kids to school; something I’ve done around three times a week since I’ve been off. If my job’s hours are as grueling as some first-year shows can be, I may not have the time or energy to take the kids as much. Today’s trip was fairly typical– finally ready to leave on time, maybe get to school a little early followed 20 minutes later by me screaming upstairs for the kids to get their backpacks so we’re only 10 minutes late followed by the idle threat that I’m going to leave without them. The drive to school was also typical with the kids asking for their kiddie music and me convincing them to listen to a new song I downloaded on my ipod, then them falling in love with the new song and forcing me to play it over and over until I hate it. Okay, maybe that won’t be the thing I miss the most.
My morning continued with me going to my trainer– something I really hope to be able to continue doing seeing as I will be locked into a room with fluorescent lighting and snack food for 14 hours a day which should probably have a two way mirror in it so scientists can observe us. The workout was brutal, as usual, with me complaining that the exercise is virtually impossible and him responding in his Irish brogue, “Yes. That’s why I’m not doing it.” Maybe it won’t be too bad to miss that, either.
Following my workout was lunch with my wife which I definitely will miss. We went to the same sushi restaurant we eat at four times a week– I probably have enough mercury in me to serve as a thermometer– where the waitress not only doesn’t give us menus anymore because we order the same thing every day, she practically just gives us our food when we get there. In hindsight, might be good to take a break from sushi.
It was then off to get a mocha Iced Blended No Sugar Added from the same Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf I go to everyday to the point where I no longer get a coffee buzz but somehow get the crash 20 minutes later, followed by my weekly trip to the place where everyone knows my name– if my name was “Jack”– my nail salon. Unfortunately, the woman who does my nails couldn’t do a very good job on me today because my cuticles were too sore. “You come in too much. How come your wife doesn’t come here anymore, Jack?” (Sorry about the racist accent.) I should probably give my nails some rest, as well.
It was then off to pick my kids up from school– something I definitely won’t have time to do– and then take them to tennis. Pickup was a little hairy today as I got a call from my agent at the exact moment I was picking my son up. As my agent was trying to go over the details of my deal so I could approve them, my son was asking me his usual line of a million questions. Agent: “So are you comfortable with this development clause?” Caleb: What did mommy pack for snack? Me: I don’t know. A: Well, we need to decide. Me: Decide what? (TO CALEB WHO IS PULLING ON ME) Don’t do that! A: We could go back and counter but I doubt they’ll budge.
We finally got to tennis after my kids had a full on wrestling match in the back of my wife’s SUV while trying to change into their outfits. I was especially excited to see the kids play tennis, because I hadn’t done that in a few weeks, and apparently my daughter has really opened up. In fact, she’s been fluorishing in so many ways these past few weeks which has coincidentally corresponded with our accepting of her shy personality not as a liability but as an asset. Today, for some reason as I shouted, “Daddy’s watching, come on honey, hit it harder don’t be shy” she seemed to have had a minor setback.
After dinner either Shawni or I had to go to a meeting to help plan a tribute dinner for our friend who is moving out of town. I was supposed to go, but I decided to stay home and help the kids with their homework then put them to bed (any idea where this is going?) Finally, after bribing my son to finish his math homework which was “impossible!” by letting him watch “Glee” I just wrote the answers down myself and told him to go upstairs and brush his teeth. In the meantime, I realized I hadn’t even began to crack the 96 burpees I had to do, so I thumped my way through 20 or so of them before panting upstairs. Putting my kids to bed is also likely to be a casualty of late nights, and it’s also something so intimate that I really wanted to appreciate. I had also read that having a daddy read to a kid helps them to be better at math and science (especially if daddy does the homework). I wanted to surprise Shawni by having the kids asleep by the time she got home at 8:30.
CUT TO: 9:03, Shawni enters the house to find Caleb crying. “What’s wrong?” “Daddy told me to shut up!” Shawni looked at me the way you would have and I responded in my defense, “He wouldn’t shut up!” Shawni then told me I could go downstairs as she put them to sleep, leaving me to write in my journal about how much I’m going to miss my time off, which in the retelling, doesn’t seem like I’ll miss it that much at all. But if I’ve learned anything, I’m guessing that in the same way that I somehow got cute in my high school and college pictures, even though I was tortured at the time, a few months from now I’m going to sneak in at 2:00 in the morning, unable to believe that my kids are so big, forgetting about how hard my time off was, wishing to fast forward to my next 100 days off.