Archive for June, 2008

June 17, 2008



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.