An open letter to those who want to know why I chose to lowercase the “u” in Uncle Morris in The Ten Best Days of my Life

September 4, 2008 - Leave a Response

Dear Readers,

 

I want to thank everyone who sent me such kind letters about my book. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me.  A lot of you wrote me to say that you picked it up thinking it would be an easy frivolous book to read on the beach, but instead found it to be much deeper and thought about it for days after.  So many of you wrote to say that you read the book in a day or two days.  A lot of you wrote me with your own best days.  Reading some of your days made me cry.   

One of the most popular questions that people have asked me however was this: 

Why did I choose to lowercase the “u” in the character’s name ‘Uncle Morris’ throughout the entire book? 

The answer is:  I didn’t do it.

Unfortunately, this was a glitch in the publishing that I had nothing to do with.

Happily, THE TEN BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE has sold out of its first printing, lowercase “u” and all, and the changes will be fixed in the new edition. 

Now I don’t know if this has anything to do with anything.  You might say I’m looking for things. Whether it’s a sign or just a glitch, I’d like to think it’s a sign because it makes me feel good.  I watch John Edwards: Crossing Over on Oxygen when it’s on. He says that if you think something is a sign from those who have passed on, then it probably is.

I only have one character in the book that was a real person: my Uncle Morris Salis.  My uncle was just as he is described in the book.  He was my Santa Claus, never without a gift in his hand when he saw me.  Like his character, Uncle Morris never married because he felt he had to take care of his sisters and his mother after my great-grandfather passed away. He also became a third grandparent for my brothers, cousins and me. Because Uncle Morris died without having children, I thought he deserved the legacy of being in THE TEN BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE with his real name and real characteristics.  My uncle was a jovial man who loved to play jokes and make others laugh. 

I could be pissed off that this lowercase “u” debacle happened at all. I choose not to for this reason:  If my Uncle Morris’ spirit got into the walls of Plume (the publishing house which publishes Ten Best Days) and switched that lowercase “u” so people would notice his name more in the book- I wouldn’t put it past him. 

Therefore, should the second edition arrive in stores and still have that lowercase “u” in my Uncle’s name, please don’t blame me.  Please don’t blame Plume. 

Blame Uncle Morris.

 

With love and dear thanks,

 

Adena

 

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THE GIRL IN THE BLACK LAND ROVER- PART II

July 2, 2008 - One Response

 (To see Part One, scroll down to the previous post)

The Halpern family as a whole has really bad car karma.

My mother just got jacked into paying $600 a month for her 2004 Lexus after her lease ran out and she decided to buy it. She got an extended warranty for a car she drives maybe every two weeks to go to the supermarket. I really want to help her, but she keeps insisting this is a fair deal. “I get my oil changed for free,” she says.

My brother Michael’s picture is on a most wanted list at the DMV. If you want him to leave your house, all you have to do is say the word “boot,” and he’s out the door.

When my brother David was seventeen years old, he begged my parents to buy him a Fiat Spider. Since he could never get it to run, it became a lawn ornament for five long years. Weeds started to sprout from the dashboard. Neighborhood cats and squirrels took refuge in it. It was the kind of thing that just blurred into the scenery, you never noticed it until my mother and brother would be in a fight and she’d shriek, “And another thing, you get that goddamned car off the lawn already! It looks like a goddamned junkyard out there!” 

I thought the Halpern curse was about to be broken. 

“It’s 6’6, right?” I asked my landlady as she suspiciously watched me from her balcony. My landlady took her job very seriously. She was always standing on her balcony watching any movement in front of our chipped paint thinly walled apartment complex. Sometimes this was a good thing. She saved us a couple of times from unsuspecting characters. Most of the time though, she stood there with piercing eyes as I threw my trash out (“did you clean your empty containers? I don’t want mice,”) or when I put my stuff in the apartment washing machine (“don’t use too much soap, the machine could overflow.”)

“It’s 6’6, right?” I repeated again. 

“What does the sign say?” She accused. I still don’t know what that woman was so paranoid about.

“6’6.” I said reading the clearance sign on top of the garage.

“So then it’s 6’6.”

That was all I needed to hear. The height of the Land Rover I wanted was 6’4. Sure, it was only a two-inch difference between the roof of my apartment garage, but two inches was enough. The car would fit. The dream of the girl in The Black Land Rover would soon be me.

Now, I couldn’t afford a brand new Black Land Rover, but that was okay. I believed in the phrase “certified pre-owned” that was sweeping the nation. Truth is advertising was key. If I bought the car from an actual car dealer, that was even better than buying it from just any Joe off the street. “Certified pre-owned” had been checked top to bottom, right to left. “All vehicles must pass a “160 point” inspection first,” the ad said. Any derelict could have driven a “used” car. A certified pre-owned vehicle could be a near mint Jaguar driven lovingly by a cautious dowager in the month prior to her death. 

With my boyfriend Jonathan in tow, we drove up to a dealership some 20 miles from Los Angeles. Pulling in, I saw the lustrous Grey Land Rover towering over the other cars in the lot. Gleaming back at me, not a speck of dirt on it. It was sold before we even got out of our car. (oh yeah, I gave up on the color of the car in lieu of the certified pre-owned thing.)

“Now let me do the talking,” Jonathan instructed. I was fine with that. Jon had gone to Harvard law school. I once watched Jon replace a faulty showerhead so I knew he was good with mechanics. I excused the time Jon insisted on going home after dinner because “his toe hurt.” I was thrilled to throw him the reigns. 

As we stood with the salesman, Jon crouched down in front of the car and peered underneath it, then stood up and nodded to us. When I asked him later why he did that, he said, “that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re looking at a car.” When we went for a test drive, Jon cranked up the radio as high as it would go. “It’s got good speakers,” he shouted. A few months later when it was Jon’s turn to get a new car, he said, “I’m going to hire a car broker. I’ve never been good at buying cars.”

After haggling over the price of the car for five hours (I think I got maybe $1000 off) I was driving out of the dealership. There I was on the 405 freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Did it bother me? Heck no! Perched like a princess on her throne, I could see over all the other cars that the traffic was due to an accident about a mile ahead. It was 90 degrees in the shade, but inside my Grey Land Rover with the air conditioning blowing my hair like a model in a perfume ad, it was a cool 75. I sat back, relaxing upon the headrest as I glanced at my reflection from my rear view mirror. My hair, which only this morning had splitest of ends looked golden blond and smooth like silk. I was ten pounds thinner. Hey, that zit from this morning on the tip of my nose was gone! Before I knew it, I was home. As I pressed the button inside my car to open the gate to my garage, I noticed as I slowly pulled in, the gate was frighteningly low. Wait, why was my car looking too high to fit? 

“What the…!” I shouted as I looked at the clearly posted 6’6 clearance sign on top of the garage. 

“Mother fu…!” I cried as I threw my car into reverse and pulled to the side of the line of parked cars that forever made it impossible to park in front of the building.

“YOU SAID IT WAS 6’6!” I shouted to my landlady who was inevitably standing on her balcony watching me get off my high horse.

“It is!” She exclaimed, “it… oh, I forgot… with the gate we installed three years ago, the clearance is now 6’2.”

PART THREE COMING SOON…

THE GIRL IN THE BLACK LAND ROVER

June 17, 2008 - One Response

THE GIRL IN THE BLACK LAND ROVER

By

Adena Halpern

 

            When I was a kid my father told me the following story:

 

            He was about 14 years old when he was walking down the street and noticed a box of chocolates sitting on the top of a trashcan.  He said the box of chocolates was beautifully wrapped. Though he never said what the box looked like, I envisioned it being a Valentines heart shaped candy box with shiny cellophane red paper, a big red bow and maybe some plastic flowers tied in-between the ribbon.  My dad figured some guy had tried to give it to his girlfriend after an argument, but the girlfriend wouldn’t forgive him.  Jilted, the guy threw the box of chocolates in the trash only the box wouldn’t fit so he left it on top of the can.  My dad, figuring he’d struck semi-sweet gold, snagged the box from the trashcan and went on his way. When my dad got home he unwrapped the box of chocolates but found no chocolates. 

 

What he found was that someone had taken a shit in the box.

 

 The whole thing was a ruse for an unsuspecting passerby, who turned out to be my 14-year old dad.  When pressed by my brothers and I some 25-years later, he described the feces as being runny. He said it had probably melted from the time the prankster defecated in the box, wrapped it up and placed it on top of the trashcan in the direct sunlight.

 

 This story has had a profound effect on my life.

 

  I’ve thought about it many times, like when handsome dates turned out to be jerks or the time I bit into a cookie that had no sugar in it and so on.   Two things always struck me: 

 

1.  Even some of the smartest people (meaning my dad or I) can be suckered. 

2.  What seems fabulous and exciting on the outside can sometimes turn out to be utter crap. 

 

That’s pretty much the way I feel about my about my current automobile.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Let’s go back to five years ago.

 

I remember the first time I saw the girl in the Black Land Rover.

 

 It was 2003 and I was driving down Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles in my beat up white 1987 Pile of Tin, the one leaking oil with the broken taillight.  It was about 100 degrees in the shade and since my sunroof had decided to die in mid closing about three years earlier, along with the air conditioning that never worked, I could have cooked a steak on the Pleather seats.  I couldn’t tell you exactly where I was coming from or where I was going, but I’m sure there was some grief or gripe involved in it.  Normally when I drove back then, there was always some grief.  I was either driving to or from work, driving to an appointment for work, or just plain driving to places that took me so damn long to get to I forgot where I was going because of all the traffic.  This particular day was like no other and I longed for it to be different.  That’s when I saw her.

 

            I had just chickened out of going through the yellow light on Martel and Beverly Boulevards and stopped short, pissing off the guy in the Jeep behind me who flipped me the bird as I waved back at him (the universal “I’m so sorry, you don’t have to tell me, I know I’m a shitty driver,” sign) through my busted sunroof.  As I turned towards the front of my car to watch the red light (I didn’t want to piss the guy off any more than I had already. I needed to be on watch when the light turned green so I could floor my gas pedal and get moving before I pissed him off again,) there she was.

 

            It was a split second.  I would have missed her all together had I not been keen enough to notice, and if I had missed her, maybe my life today would be different all together.  She was closest to me in the oncoming traffic lane. She looked like she was sitting on a throne instead of her Black Land Rover.  Her tinted windows were up and she was talking on her cell phone laughing carelessly as she breezed through her green light. The fan from her air conditioner was blowing her hair like a model in a perfume ad.  She had blond hair just like mine, but it was obvious that her hairdresser was better than mine. If she did go to my hairdresser (which I highly doubted), he spent more time perfecting her color than he did to mine. She had on big tortoise shell sunglasses, again, just like mine, but I’m sure hers didn’t have the grease smudges.  No matter how much Windex I sprayed or rubbed them with that polish rag they give you when you buy the sunglasses, it wouldn’t come out. I had a perpetual blurry view of the world in the lower left corner of my eye line.

 

            There was her Black Land Rover, gleaming black, not a fleck dust appeared on it. The silver hubcaps shined devoid of the caked on mud that blanketed my hubcaps. She never parked too close to a pole or wall in a garage and scraped the side of her car like I pathetically did one too many times to mention.  She probably drove right up to the valet everywhere she went (since everywhere she went had a valet). She didn’t have to sit on a pillow.  Unlike mine, her seat adjuster worked and she could see clearly over the steering wheel.  She was never on the verge of running out of gas.  Someone filled the tank and checked the oil while she was sleeping.  Her car never broke down, never.  If by some chance it did though, someone drove up with a brand new Black Land Rover for her before she could even pull over to the side of the road.

 

            “Who was that girl and where was she going?” I thought as the guy in the Jeep behind me slammed on his horn and wouldn’t let up until I realized the light had turned green.  

 

            Here’s how I envisioned that woman. She was definitely on her way to the manicurist (one that used sterilized tools. There were no ingrown nails or staph infections in her world).  She looked too happy on the hottest day of the year (and a Wednesday at that) to be doing anything else.  She certainly wasn’t working. This was my vision and in this vision, that girl didn’t work and didn’t need to. Money just showed up in her Louis Vuitton or Prada wallet. She was always popping up in society photos next to a who’s who.   She appeared in the New York Times Sunday Style section features What I’m Wearing Now, and A Night Out With….  Who was she talking to on the phone? That was one of her best friends who was in her own Black Land Rover going to… uh, the facialist (and her face never had red blotches for days after the facial.).  They were bubbling with laughter talking about how great Saturday night was going to be, just the 15 of them.  Juan Carlos was in from Spain, he’s so funny.  His family makes money for a living. None of her friends called on the verge of suicide because other co-workers were sabotaging their jobs or their boyfriends dumped them or they ate two pieces of pizza and felt really guilty about it.  All was great and fine and lovely and kiss on both cheeks- I’ll see you Saturday night, gorgeous.

 

            As I noticed the water temperature gage go to exceedingly high levels in my car, I pulled over to the side of the road.  I sat wiping the sweat off my brow and fanning myself with a past due cell phone bill.  I made a commitment right there. One day, I was going to be that girl in the Black Land Rover.

 

            Two years later, my life got a little better. I had finally achieved my dream of selling my first book.  I also received a fantastic advance and I knew exactly what I was going to spend some of it on. 

 

            “I’m getting a Black Land Rover,” I told my friends.

 

            “Do you know how much gas costs for a thing like that?” They replied.

 

            “Do you know how much it costs to get that thing fixed if something breaks down?” Another piped up.

 

            “Environment killer!”  Another added.

thank you Russell from popsquire.com

May 29, 2008 - Leave a Response

Thanks Russell!!

RANDOM HAPPENINGS

May 16, 2008 - Leave a Response

Since I work from home, twice a day I like to sit outside in my backyard and take in the day.  I don’t drink coffee so this is my version of a break.  Our backyard is enclosed with a tree-lined fence, and the only part of the outside world you can see is the block of space where the trashcans are.  This is where I sit because there’s a stoop that’s comfortable for sitting about 15 minutes.  We live in a residential block in Los Angeles where not too many people walk, and yet every time I go to sit outside, someone walks by the space.  I’ve come to look at these people like the background people in the video games my husband plays on our television.  They’re from all different walks of life, kids to grandparents and it’s the united colors of Clinton Street from what I can see.  People always walk buy with their heads either down or straight ahead.  A lot of people are on the phone.  They’re not there long enough to hear what the conversation is about though.

 

            The thing I love most about sitting on my stoop is that because there’s 10-foot tall white fence with ivy growing around it, no one can see me when they walk by unless they really take a second to look.  In the year and a half I’ve lived here, no one has become the wiser.  I’m like this secret neighborhood watch lady for fifteen minutes at a time.  I will call the police if you don’t curb your dog.  I won’t say anything to you directly though.  I’m too afraid.  

 

            Other than the people who walk their dogs though and the ones who pick their kids up from the school around the corner at 3:30, I can’t fathom who these other people are and where they’re walking. 

 

            Case in point: I called this one guy “Angry Guy.”  Angry Guy would walk by our house at approximately 10am every morning screaming obscenities to no one.  I figured he had Tourettes, but my husband just thought he was crazy. I once saw Angry Guy at our local supermarket and I elbowed my husband as if I was seeing some big time celebrity.

 

            “It’s Angry Guy in aisle 4!  He’s pulling a frozen pizza from the freezer!” I whispered excitedly.

 

            Then one night at around 10:30, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy in the living room and my husband was doing dishes in the kitchen (I know, I have a really good life).  All of a sudden I heard a really loud thrashing sound outside, but Grey’s was getting good so I let it go.  My husband let out a huge, “What the fuck!” scream.  That’s when I paused Grey’s.  He ran outside to the backyard and saw that someone had just kicked in the corner of our tall white fence by the trashcans.  He had to run back into the house and grab the key to the gate so he could get out of the yard and chase the guy, but by the time he got out to the street, the guy was long gone.

 

            “It was Angry Guy, I know it was!”  My husband yelled at me as if it was my fault.  “Call 911!”

 

            When the police came, I gave a full description of Angy Guy: “Age 30-35, approximately 5’10, Caucasian, thinning dirty blond hair most likely wearing a tan  microsuede jacket with zippered closure, dark polo shirt, relaxed fit five pocket jeans and grey cross training New Balance 768 running shoes with blue stripes.  In the day he wears black polarized sunglasses.  Oh, and he’s always screaming obscenities unless he’s at the supermarket.”

 

            “You spend too much time sitting outside,” my husband said.

 

            The police said they’d look for him and I’m pretty sure they got him (no doubt due to my excellent description).  I haven’t seen Angry Guy since and this was about five months ago.  I have to say that the cinematic view of the world from the fence in my backyard has suffered a bit as a result.

 

            We got the fence fixed in case you were wondering.  

The Adena Halpern Blog

May 6, 2008 - One Response

Here are some things you should know about me.

Here are the things I love:

My husband Jonathan

My mother Arlene

My father Barry

My girlfriends

writing when it’s easy (and okay, even when it’s not)

6 inch heels from XTC on Melrose

Lancome cosmetics

 

Here are some things I don’t like:

the price of gas

my Land Rover

my height

people who ring my doorbell at any given time of the day

nervous laughter