Source: Atlantic Wire
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
Last night I learned that Nora Ephron died. I was sitting at the bar in the NoMad Hotel.
My daughter sent the text and it was a shock.
Just two years ago I was in the audience at Barnes and Noble, Union Square, when she spoke. Her book, I Remember Nothing, was just released.
She was SO New York.
Tall, thin, wearing all black she breezed in took the stage and began speaking. She was instantly likeable, quick, funny, and dazzling. It felt like I was sitting in my living room chatting with a brilliant girlfriend. Exactly what one might expect from the woman who wrote the following dialog from When Harry Met Sally:
“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
I bought I Remember Nothing and regret that I didn’t wait in the long line for her to sign it. There was something I wanted to tell her but with everyone around it wasn’t the time.
I felt there would be another opportunity—that’s how it seems to be in New York—famous people are out on the streets just like everyone else. Opportunities always seem to happen, as she perfectly stated:
“I’d spent those sixteen years imagining what New York was going to be like. I thought it was going to be the most exciting, magical, fraught-with-possibility place that you could ever live in; a place where if you really wanted something, you might be able to get it; a place where I’d be surrounded by people I was dying to be with. And I turned out to be right.”
I wanted to tell her that I was living in the city on the Upper West Side, because of her. Well, because of her movie, You’ve Got Mail. When I was looking for an apartment I couldn’t imagine any other neighborhood. If it were where my heroine Kathleen Kelly resided, I’d live there too. After watching the film so often, it felt like coming home when I moved into my building.
I also wanted to explain that the film had gotten me through some rough times–metaphorically held my hand–as I recovered from yet another breakup. It gave me hope that my own Joe Fox was out there waiting.
All I had to do was find him.
In my book, I write:
My therapy of choice for love life depression was the movie, You’ve Got Mail. The girls gauged my mental state by this. If they walked past my room and saw me in bed with the movie playing, they would either leave me alone or quietly join me and hold my hand. The three of us knew all the lines by heart.
Sometimes my daughters would say, “Give it up, Mom. It’s just a movie. There’s no man out there like that.”
“Yes, there is. Just wait and see.”
I knew; never quit hoping, and finally it happened. I was with a coworker in the Pittsburgh Airport Hyatt.
Here’s an excerpt from my (unpublished) memoir, Unconditional, describing that big screen moment:
We entered the hotel bar to the left of the front desk. It was a large lounge with several tables along a wall of windows on the left, a row of small tables in the middle and a bar area to the right. The place was packed and many people had their bags next to them waiting for flights. We found a spot next to a window and sat down. I glanced at the drink menu and settled on a dirty martini, John ordered scotch. After our cocktails were delivered I took a few sips and started to relax for the first time in days. As we fell into a comfortable silence I leaned back in my chair and glanced around the room. My eyes were drawn to a group of eight people who sat around two pulled-together tables, they appeared to be in their late twenties and early thirties, casually dressed and most were wearing jeans. The cocktail server had just opened a bottle of wine and was pouring it for several of them. Once finished, she stepped away.
That’s when I saw him.
I had a clear view of the most spectacular man I’d ever seen. He glanced up as the server moved, our eyes met and we studied each other with curiosity. I knew him. I’d never seen him before but he was so familiar, it was all I could do not to get up and go to him. Someone in the group asked a question, he turned away and I had an opportunity to study him. He was older than the others seated at the tables–late forties or perhaps early fifties. His hair flowed back over the top of his ears and collar and it was obvious his mane had once been darker–maybe dark blonde or light brown–but was now streaked with gray. His features were sharp, his nose prominent, and his skin had the lines of someone who had worked hard and played hard as well. Completely engaged in the conversation, he smiled broadly and laughed. His teeth were white and straight. He picked up the bottle of wine and topped off a glass. His hands seemed out of place on his body–large and kind of beefy–yet he moved them with the grace of a dancer, gesturing frequently as he spoke. He wore jeans, a dark blue linen shirt, and tan-colored, suede driving loafers. Movie star handsome and simply elegant, when he talked everyone around him focused on his words. He looked up, saw me staring and did a double take. It was just the two of us in the room from then on.
When I first got to Manhattan I walked around my neighborhood and found all the places that were familiar in the movie.
The place in Riverside Park where the paths meet, and the characters finally come together:
Gray’s Papaya on 72nd and Amsterdam where they share a hotdog. (Where Kate bolted past on her trek to find me):
The storefront used for the Shop Around The Corner, on 69th and Columbus:
The (now closed) Lincoln Center Barnes and Noble on 66th and Broadway, which I believe had to be the inspiration for Fox Books.
I was in heaven.
More than a year ago, The Huffington Post began looking for women for a video series called, The Breakover. They asked for stories of women who’d gone through a tragedy (divorce, job loss, health issues, etc.) and reinvented themselves. It was Nora Ephron’s idea. As Editor at Large she thought it was a perfect subject to cover–just the sort of thing women do best. (I always put in links but this time I really hope you’ll click on the ones in this paragraph.)
I submitted my story and hoped I would be one of the lucky ones chosen for the series. I also wanted the chance to finally tell her how much her work meant to me. I heard back from an editor, we had a great Skype interview and it seemed I was in the running. Then AOL bought The Huffington Post and many months passed with no word. I finally heard back from the same editor that the project was once again moving forward and she asked if I were still interested in participating. She also requested an update and I was excited to share that I’d started a blog and it was beginning to have quite a large following. That was three months ago and I’ve not heard anything since. I hope they’ll see her project through. It seems a fitting way to memorialize Ms. Ephron. I would certainly be honored to be a part of it but if I don’t make the cut I look forward to hearing the stories of those who do.
SO, now I’m back in that same place I was many years ago. Kissing a pond full of amphibians in the hope that an updated version of Joe Fox comes into my life. I still turn to You’ve Got Mail when feeling hopeless and my daughters don’t poo-poo my dreams anymore.
They saw that a guy like that—perfect for me–did exist.
I’ve had many readers question my lack of willingness to settle.
Wonder if I’m too picky.
Worry that I’ll never meet the guy I seek because I’m asking too much.
To many of you, it may seem impossible. Simply a silly woman, old enough to know better, still wishing for girlish fantasies.
And now you know that I take my inspiration from a quirky romantic comedy.
Do you think therapy might be a better option?
I get it and appreciate your concern.
BUT, I’m holding out, refusing to settle no matter how crazy it is to think lightening can strike twice. As I told my daughters, many years ago,
“Just wait and see.”
I normally finish with a quote but today I felt trying to choose only one would be impossible. Here are my favorites:
“I don’t want to be someone that you’re settling for. I don’t want to be someone that anyone settles for. Marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it, isn’t it?”
Walter to Annie Reed, Sleepless in Seattle
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self.”
Joe Fox to Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
“You are the butter to my bread, you are the breath to my life.”
Paul Child to Julia, Julie & Julia
“Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together … and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home … only to no home I’d ever known … I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like … magic.”
Sam Baldwin to radio host, Sleepless in Seattle
“When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first, that way in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.”
Harry Burns to Sally Albright, When Harry Met Sally
“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”
Nora Ephron, Heartburn
“In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind.”
“Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.”
Sam Baldwin to radio host, Sleepless in Seattle
“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
Joe Fox to Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
“I have no desire to be dominated. Honestly I don’t. And yet I find myself becoming angry when I’m not.”
Nora Ephron, Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women
“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady.”
Nora Ephron, Wellesley’s Class of 1996 commencement speech
“I’ll have what she’s having”
Older woman to waiter after Sally’s orgasm, When Harry Met Sally