Howard Kaplan

The Reminder of Death

I’ve had three deaths in my Los Angele universe the last three weeks. 65, 73, 75. In order: Sara Flint Greenberg had ALS, 65. I knew her in the 1980s. She cheated on her boyfriend with me once, but those kind of things for me create a bond (not the cheating) and I drove way the hell into ridiculous winding streets in the Hollywood Hills last night to go to the shiva. The public and embraced story is after 35 years, she left her husband for an older woman up the block. Two days before Sara died, they married. At the shiva, her ex-husband he told me with deep feeling and hope that she had found a true and deep love. I saw her once since the 1980s, 10 years ago. My son went to a tony private high school and at a parents meeting there she was, tall (taller than me), elegant and her beauty little diminished by time.
Mike Adler, entertainment attorney was, 73. In the old movie Traffic, he comes up– someone goofing in the script or the shoot, but it’s in the film says what about that Mike Adler lawyer. I saw him last 6 years ago at a BBQ in my yard when the film adaptation of my novel The Damascus Cover came out. His wife, the OBGYN, Brenda Fabe, was actually my friend, part of my Berkeley college gang. Heart, Parkinson’s, COVID. At the shiva, she told me, “I thought he would last longer.” I had been to her house in Studio City where she had lived forever, exactly once. I skipped the funeral and went to the shiva afterwards there, at the house. I was early, typical, my father would leave weekend vacations after breakfast to beat the traffic. He was always in a hurry and typically not really going anywhere. So I absorbed that ridiculous stance. So I got to the house nobody there, so I walked down to Ventura Blvd for coffee. On the way back, white cup in hand, I’m trudging up a hill back to her house and Brenda drives by, rolls down her window and says: “Howard Kaplan, come to my house.” I say, “What do you think I’m doing here.” In other words in the valley, walking on a street in Studio City, though in fact I really like the LaLa Argentinian Grill down the hill from her house and as many times as I’ve LaLa’d, I didn’t realize, it was a few bocks from her and I could have turned up.
I wrote my cousin Rami Shtark in Haifa about my new novel, The Syrian Sunset. I saw Rami last in 2015 when I was in Haifa. We email periodically mostly stuff about Poland as his parents were about the only two survivors from my father’s hometown of Nowy Sacz. They landed on Zamenhof Street in Tel-Aviv, near Dizengoff Square and I met them for the first time when I was at the Hebrew U on my junior year abroad. We had no common language so they fed me until I learned Hebrew. They survived, husband and wife, by being shipped to Siberia. Rami was born in Poland probably in 1948. So the next day an email comes back not from Rami, but from his son, who tells me he passed last month. Kidney Cancer. My father died at 103 in February; life and death is pretty random and I don’t think he’d have managed Rami’s death well at all, another long reach of the Holocaust. People often ask me what I attribute my father’s longevity to, he remained mentally cogent until the last few months and I say: he never thought he was wrong about anything. I mean it.
I emailed his son a photo I took of Rami in 2015. So now my task is to appreciate life a bit more, maybe something I’m less good at than writing.
About the Author
Howard Kaplan's new novel, THE SYRIAN SUNSET: a novel of the Syrian Civil War, the failure of the West to save the Syrian people, and how that inaction against the Russian incursion in Syria emboldened Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. The film adaptation of his THE DAMASCUS COVER, starring Sir John Hurt in his final film, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and seven Israeli actors is available on Tubi in the U.S.
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