For Nora

When Harry Met Sally came out in 1989 when I was 16. I saw it nine times in the theater.

Nine.

One of those nine times was with a boy with whom I was in desperate, angst-y teenage love. As I watched the movie with him, stealing sidelong glances to see if he laughed at the same moments I did, I imagined us as one of the long-married couples in the movie’s vignette asides, talking about how we met, revealing our quirky but everlasting love for one another.

That didn’t really pan out.

But, it didn’t stop me from watching the movie many, many more times.

I’ve watched When Harry Met Sally countless times: on my “special features” DVD but most often, when it’s on T.V. It never fails to make laugh aloud. It never fails to make me want to live in New York. It is somehow timeless and yet exactly in the moments it so perfectly portrays.

After I read of Nora Ephron’s passing, I began receiving emails from friends whose messages ranged from sadness and anger (Subject line of one email: Nooooooooooooooooo!) to a compassion usually reserved for the passing of a dear friend (“I feel like I should say I’m sorry for your loss.”) to a vigil-like devotion planned for an upcoming trip (“That means in Vermont we have to quote When Harry Met Sally even more than we usually do.”)

Yes, my friends and I quote When Harry Met Sally.

It’s my sincere belief that there is an appropriate line for nearly every moment in life.

As evidenced by…

ON DEATH
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.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Sheldon can do your income taxes.  If you need a root, canal Sheldon’s your man, but humping and pumping is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name.  Do it to me ‘Sheldon’, you’re an animal ‘Sheldon’, ride me big ‘Sheldon‘.  Doesn’t work.

ON SEXUAL FANTASIES
A faceless man rips your clothes off, and that’s the sex fantasy you’ve had since you were 12. Exactly the same.

Well, sometimes I vary it a little.

Which part?

What I’m wearing.

ON BURGEONING RELATIONSHIPS
You take someone to the airport it’s clearly the beginning of a relationship, which is why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship.

Why?

Because eventually things move on and you don’t take someone to the airport, and I never wanted anyone to say to me, ‘How come you never take me to the airport anymore?’

ON JEALOUSY
Well if you must know it was because he was very jealous, and I had these days of the week underpants.

ON CAREER CHOICE
You were going to be a gymnast.

A journalist.

Right, that’s what I said.

THE WHOLE LIFE-OF-A-SINGLE-GUY THING
You meet someone, you have the safe lunch, you decide you like each other enough to move on to dinner.  You go dancing, you do the white man’s overbite, go back to her place, you have sex and the minute you’re finished you know what goes through your mind?  How long do I have to lie here and hold her before I can get up and go home.  Is 30 seconds enough?

ON THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK
I said to myself, “You deserve more, you’re 31 years old…”

And the clock is ticking.

No, the clock doesn’t really start to tick until you’re 36.

ON TIMING
Look, there is no point in my going out with someone I might really like if I met him at the right time but who right now has no chance of being anything to me but a transitional man.

ON BEING HARSH
You know what she says? ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever loved you.’

DON’T FUCK WITH MR. ZERO
You’re saying Mr. Zero knew you were getting a divorce a week before you did?

Mr. Zero knew.

RE: SEX ON THE KITCHEN FLOOR
Not once, it’s this cold, hard Mexican ceramic tile.

RE: MEN
You’re a human affront to all women, and I am a woman.

ON FAKING THE BIG “O”
It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and most women at one time or another have done it, so you do the math.

ON PULLING YOUR FRIEND ASIDE TO CHAT SECRETLY
Ohh, I’ve been looking for a red suede pump.

THE POST RUN-IN-WITH-THE-EX MELTDOWN
We started out like this, Helen and I.  We had blank walls, we hung things, we picked out tiles together.  Then you know what happens?  Six years later you find yourself singing Surrey With The Fringe On Top in front of Ira!

MUST BE SAID DURING EVERY GAME OF PICTIONARY FOREVERMORE
Baby fish mouth!

MALE COMPETITION
He’s too tall to talk to.

FEMALE COMPETITION
She makes 3,600 chocolate mousse pies a week.

RE: REJECTION, SELF-LOATHING, & AGING
Why didn’t he want to marry me?  What’s the matter with me?

I’m difficult.

You’re challenging.

I’m too structured, I’m completely closed off.

But in a good way.

No, no, no I drove him away…and I’m gonna be 40.

When?

Someday.

In eight years.

But it’s there.  It’s just sitting there like this big dead end.  And it’s not the same for men.  Charlie Chaplain had babies when he was 73.

Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up.

RE: LOVE
I love that you get cold when it’s 70 degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order asandwich, 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 a 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.

Why do we quote these lines, you ask? Because Nora wrote down all the things we want to say (if we are brave, funny, and honest enough), all the things we have said (from the mewling, angst-filled abyss to our shiniest, exultant heights), and the things we want someone to say to us (if we will just open ourselves to them).

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

During her much-too-short life, she listened, watched, wrote and gave us the gift of her words. And they are worth saying, repeating, living, and sharing. They are love and laughter. They are eternal.

Reading List

My dear, writer friend Amanda asked me for a post on the books I’ve recently or currently reading. She’s also the mother of a 2 1/2-year-old, so her reading time is pretty limited. Here’s to finding a few quiet hours with a great book, sweet friend!

Nora Ephron wrote my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally…as well as Heartburn, Silkwood, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and a plethora of others. I read her first book of essays: I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman, and liked it so much I had to have her second book, this one.

I love Nora Ephron. In fact, one of my life goals is to have a really delicious, hilarious lunch with her in New York. Cocktails would also suffice.

If you’ve never read anything by Joan Didion, this is a pretty intense and incredible place to start. A vivid, detailed and sometimes disturbing account of the late sixties and seventies in America: everything from the Manson murders to Ms. Didion’s notes from a recording session with The Doors.

I was stunned and shocked to learn in the first pages of this book that I’m not the only one on the planet who, when asked what I’d like, often responds with the words: “A pony!” It’s also a handy addendum to the question, “Anything else?”

Anyway, Ms. Crosley writes funny. This is a wonderful, quick read. I love her honesty, sarcasm and commentary on how the way we grow up doesn’t necessarily seem strange or weird…until you start meeting a whole bunch of people who grow up completely differently. For instance, while a camper at a Christian summer camp (Crosley was raised Jew-ish), one of Crosley’s fellow campers is shocked to discover that she didn’t have “horns.” Crosley’s response had me laughing for the better part of the day:

“I had no idea that people thought Jews had horns. Where I came from, Jews had good grades and BMWs.”

This is a bold statement, but I’m not afraid to make it. If you haven’t read any Billy Collins, you’ve missed one of our country’s finest writers. I give you:

“…Just think-
before the invention of the window,
the poets would have had to put on a jacket
and a winter hat to go outside
or remain indoors with only a wall to stare at.

And when I say a wall,
I do not mean a wall with striped wallpaper
and a sketch of a cow in a frame.
I mean a cold wall of fieldstones,
the wall of the medieval sonnet,
the original woman’s heart of stone,
the stone caught in the throat of her poet-lover.”

I reluctantly admit to you that my knowledge of Patti Smith music was minimal. As in, it began and ended with “Because The Night.” However, I picked up her memoir Just Kids in the bookstore, read the first page and immediately bought the book.

All that I didn’t know about Patti Smith as a woman, writer, artist, friend and lover comes to beautiful light in this book. Again, I didn’t know of her years-long relationship/friendship/kinship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe until I read this book, a vibrant, honest and wide-eyed story of love, art, music and growing up.

A great book for writers of all sorts about our evolving profession, mission and inspiration in the digital age. Also comes with helpful career and health tips, like:

“Also, don’t use the word ‘learnings.’ You might not realize it right away, but slowly, inexorably, your soul will start dying.”

I first heard about Stewart O’Nan on NPR. His latest novel, Emily, Alone, garnered wonderful reviews. I decided I’d go back a bit and picked up Last Night at The Lobster, a novel about the last night of business at a Red Lobster in Connecticut. Warm yet lonely, this book says so much about jobs, the relationships we build within them and around them and how we define ourselves. Lots of bittersweet and an especially telling read for anyone who’s ever worked for even a moment in the food and beverage industry.

Now. How about your recommendations?

Be not afraid of humor

My top three movies are, as of this moment, (the list shifts):

1. When Harry Met Sally (There is a quote from that movie suitable for most every life moment. Try it. And hello, the Katz Delicatessen moment.)

2. Raising Arizona (Cohen Brothers, classic Holly Hunter and this line: “Son, you got a panty on your head.”)

"Son, you got a panty on your head."

3. Moonstruck (What a cast! Too many perfect lines to count.)

Simply put, great dialogue and an expertly crafted line are what I love most about writing.

Every now and again, I get to bring a bit of humor to a project. This time around, the client was The Greenbrier Sporting Club, a luxury residential sporting community on the grounds of the historic Greenbrier Resort. The project was a postcard announcing the reopening of the newly renovated sales office. Which in and of itself didn’t sound so thrilling to me.

I thought I’d throw in a bit of humor to grab people’s attention.

We knew the audience we targeted had a well-developed sense of humor. Still, throwing humor out there is always a bit of a risk. We took it. And, I had the pleasure of art director Keith Johnson working with me to add fantastic graphics to my words. It worked. Not only was the reopening a smashing success, some folks even brought the postcard with them to share a laugh with the staff.