Saturday, June 30, 2012

No More Egg White Omelets


For some strange reason, I am really mourning the loss of Nora Ephron. I loved her work so much.  I saw her in Zingerman's Nextdoor's upstairs in 1998. She was in town for some writers' workshop or something.  I was delighted when she returned my stunned and reflexive smile and 'hello' with her own. I was beaming for weeks.

What struck me about her was that she would have been at least 57 at the time I saw her. I would have put her at 41 or 42.  She was sleek and trim and warm. Her table was laughing and chatting while she just smiled gently and listened.  I heard her say a few words but there was no mistaking the fact that she was the central figure.  She conveyed a sense of affability and seriousness all at the same time.  I think I was the only person in the room (other than her table-mates) who recognized her. 

I saw her on the cover of Town and Country magazine in November of 2010. She was pictured with another of my favorite east coasters Ina Garten. The two were discussing the holidays. I grabbed the last copy in the rack it like it was a newborn baby.  I rarely buy cooking magazines because it depresses me that I can't immediately be good at cooking without actually practicing.  I still had the magazine this past Christmas. I'm a chronic purger so the fact that I held on to this for future reference is amazing to me. I must have given it away during my spring clean-up this year.  I saw them on eBay for $7.  I'm going to get it as soon as I reset my eBay password.

In it, she discusses her love of the holidays, cooking and gathering with family and friends.  She apparently loved Christmas even though she was raised Jewish.  Go figure.  I think everybody loves Christmas.  It's a ballistic time of year that everybody bitches about but it's wonderful.  It certainly figured prominently in her movies.  And to think, she won't be around to enjoy another one.  How sad.

I have seen "When Harry Met Sally" close to 50 times since it first crashed onto the scene in the summer of 1989.  That movie defined a generation--more than most movies that make a similar claim.  It defined the generation ahead of me and in so doing, mine as well.  My favorite characters were not the leads but the ancillary figures played by Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher.   Their collective resemblance to the characters that would appear 2 years later on Seinfeld cannot be overstated.  The difference between Nora's cohort and Jerry's was not just in their dimension and relatability but also in their actual employment--they worked and they worked. 

What I mean is that Nora wrote for the big names, to be sure. She crafted interesting characters that drove stories and solved problems. They felt deep pain and sorrow and made gaffes and missteps.  They were pretty, cool, funny and each possessed the 'terminally awesome' gene.  But their friends were wack! In WHMS, Bruno Kirby's stunned confirmation was hilarious when Carrie Fisher quoted his article "Pesto is the Quiche of the 80s." Carrie Fisher's character was dating a married man waiting in vain for him to leave his wife.  The two characters fell madly in love that night and ditched Harry and Sally unceremoniously by hopping into a cab and speeding away.

If you look at Jean Stapleton's character in "You've Got Mail" you also see another bizarre offshoot from moral/normal. Apparently, she was dating Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the revolution.  Who knew?!

Some of this was probably Nora playing with scenes and characters.  But some of it seems to me to have been borne out of the fact that she saw herself as much as the lead in her own big and very well connected life as she did a character in others' lives so that's what she wrote.   I listened to several interviews from notables who worked with, knew and loved her.  They all said a variation on 'she made people better'.  The most interesting tidbit they shared was the fact that she thought that we should all put an end to egg white omelets.  After all, life is short.

She made people better.  No more egg white omelets.  Life is too short.

I guess if you have to have an epitaph, that's a pretty good one.

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