With the garage clean (ish), the only room in the house that twists my bowels when I walk into it is the office. Despite my passive-aggressive remarks to my wife such as “honey, did you clean the office, it looks great!” and “The people from ‘Hoarders’ turned us down for their show because they can’t get into office”, it was not getting clean. In fact, it seemed that short of actually cleaning it, there would be no way for me to remove the clutter. But cleaning it would be a job that took at least two weeks, and even though I find myself with at least another 100 days off, the thought of spending 14 of those cleaning my office was unacceptable. Instead, I took my kids to see a non-3D animated movie (my kids are afraid of 3D. As my son put it “Even Barney in 3D” would scare his sister– a sophisticated joke for an 8 year old and one I will no doubt put into a future pilot as my own– welcome to showbiz kid),
When I returned from the movie two hours later, assured that my wife would “owe me one” because I sat with the kids for 100 minutes in an overstuffed chair in a perfectly-chilled dark room– I found that the office was cleaned up. I guess I could take some credit, for it was I who nagged her enough. My sole job at this point was to go through a box of my crap that I had been saving. As I opened it up, I was overcome with the musty smell of nostalgia. In fact, it smelled like my grandmother’s house without the undertones of stuffed cabbage and chicken fat. Kind of like moth balls, though there were none to be found. Instead I found a copy of the first script I had written for a low-rated show called “Seinfeld” which would probably not last past its original six episode order. I emptied another manilla envelope to find cards from my 30th birthday party.
In case I never mentioned it; I love celebrating my birthday, and my biggest celebration ever was when I turned 30. It seems like yesterday, but it is now a third of my life ago. As a testimony to that fact, the cards smelled like an old person’s closet– merely from existing for 16 years in the dark. To make matters worse, the cards celebrated a party I held in a restaurant that no longer exists (The Derby), and were from friends I no longer speak to (most of them), a writing partner I no longer work with, a horrible relationship that had run its course (several cards from my Horrible Ex-Girlfriend promising to treat me better) and from two people who are no longer alive (my college roommate who died in Manhattan’s only unsolved murder in a century, and my grandmother who’s death was more predictable– see references to chicken fat and stuffed cabbage above).
None of this made me sad– except seeing my grandmother’s handwriting again; I wish I had saved the $25 check that no doubt came with the card as it did every year. In fact, I threw out most of the cards (except for hers, and from my parents. I was especially tickled by the card from my narcissistic mother who couldn’t believe that she was 55). I sure wish I had the vigor (and hair) of 16 years ago, but my life is infinitely better. Even without a job at the moment– don’t get me started, I could go on for days– my life is pretty much perfect. I have two healthy kids, a loving wife and my parents are still alive (my mother can’t believe she’s 71!) I can also still stand to look at myself in the mirror, most of the time. Specifically, the one mirror in our bathroom which is the best mirror in the world. The light hits my body in such a way that at a certain time (dusk or pre-dawn) you can actually see what may be an abdominal muscle. It is the last mirror in my house where I can convince myself that I still look like I’m in my 30’s, and I cling to that mirror. In the same way I cling to my loving family and my living parents.
Above all, at age 46, the thing I did not possess when I was 30, is a huge sense of gratitude. For my wife who still gives me tingles when she walks in the room– for my kids, who are going through a really good stretch right now (I yell at them no more than once or twice a day) and for strong shoulders that carry the burden of trying to be optimistic in a shrinking industry. But I AM optimistic. I know for a FACT that every pilot I write will get made (none have so far) and that the next show I’m on will be a hit (haven’t written a complete season in three years) and that my wife will still love me and my kids will be good and my parents will answer the phone when I call them and dammit, when I look in that mirror and lower the lights and turn my body just so I will see that ab! And though deep down I know that some day that mirror will betray me, thank G-d, today is not that day.