Saturday, 21 September 2013

Nora, Delia and New York City

The first time I visited the Big Apple, I was 22 and on assignment for a newspaper, attending the premiere of the James Bond movie Moonraker.
I had no idea what to expect.
I had very little money, no credit cards and a suit I'd bought at Reitman's for forty bucks. Hannibal Lecter would have noticed my cheap shoes and bag as the serious signs of a hick. I didn't even have enough money to take a cab from the airport to my hotel which was the tony Essex House, the place where all the guests stayed while appearing on SNL back then.
Seriously? I was petrified.
When I got to the hotel, I was given a key chain with Roger Moore's face on it and my room key.
It was noon and I was alone. The rest of the press corps wouldn't be arriving until the afternoon.
What was I to do?
"Well," the publicist shrugged. "There's the bar."
After about two glasses of wine, I relaxed and started chatting up the bartender. Then my other junket mates began to pour in from the suburban papers. None of the high flyers attended these shindigs. It was just me and Virginia Lucier, the society columnist from a Boston weekly.
Lucier, pronounced Loosher. Who could forget that?
Maybe I wasn't the only rube on an adventure in the big city.
By the time the movie started, it was ten o'clock and I was blasted. I don't even remember it.
We then went to a swish Italian place, ate pasta then walked it off. At two in the morning, I was standing outside Studio 54 not getting in.
The next day, I took my hungover self to the "star" roundtable which featured a bevy of beauties, the guy who played Jaws and Cubby Broccoli, scion of the Italian vegetable family and longtime Bond producer. Roger Moore had not bothered to show.
It didn't matter.
I didn't come to see Roger Moore.
I came to fall in love with New York.
 It was in New York where I began my lifelong addiction to Perrier water, where I bought my first silk suit at Saks Fifth Avenue for eighty bucks, a suit so beautiful that a girl once stopped me on the street and offered to buy it off my back.
Since that time, I've been to New York many times, waited in line for cheap theatre tickets in Times Square, nearly got kicked out of Michael's Bar with a ruckus group of Kodak executives during a press tour, slept with my married lover in the hotel at the World Trade Center and spent my 40th birthday drinking vodka and eating lobster at the Russian Tea Room.
It is, on Earth, my favorite place to visit and I always, always hope to live there.
But I never will.
So I have to get my New York jollies reading about the City that Never Sleeps and living vicariously through the many and varied characters who inhabit the movies.
For some reason, I only read New York writers: Dorothy Parker, Fran Lebowitz, Augusten Burrows, David Sedaris and of course, the Ephron sisters who performed double duty writing fabulous romantic movies about New York.
Thanks to the influence of Nora and Delia, I spend many Sundays on a virtual tour of Central Park with Tom and Meg, sharing a vente non-fat dry cappuccino at a crowded Starbucks or thinking of buying pencils in the fall.
I know never to buy a hat at Bloomingdales, that daisies are the friendliest flowers and that caviar is a garnish.
After my husband left me, I sat and watched Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail every Saturday when the kids were visiting my ex and the White Witch of Bermuda. And I ached for romantic love. As Rosie O'Donnell said: "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie."
After a while, my life got better, but I still waited for a new Ephron escape.
It wasn't all about Nora for me.
Nora might have been the director, but the words came from both Nora and Delia.
They were Hope and Crosby. McCartney and Lennon. Burns and Allen.
They were interchangeable.
Which line came from whom? I didn't know. I just knew I loved everything they wrote.
So when Nora -- the big sister died -- I was terribly sad. Terribly sad for me, for romantics everywhere and for Delia who probably felt like she'd lost her left arm, presuming she was right handed. Otherwise, she would have to learn to do everything all over again. But that is a different story.
I never had a sister and always wanted one. Brothers -- I have two -- are a dime a dozen. They hog the television in the afternoon watching sports. They leave their handprints on a sister's leg if she's terribly annoying.
But sisters, well, sisters are the bomb.
You can borrow their shoes or meet them for lunch, write a recipe book based on mom's favorite dishes -- at least that's what I imagine that sisters do, having never had any.
So I was entranced with Delia's new book, Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog, Etc.
I'd read her novels before -- Hanging Up is one of my favorites -- but I'd always thought the essay, well, the essay seemed to be Nora's forte.
I was mistaken. SMHD is a romp through some of Delia's favorite haunts and a glimpse into the private life of a New Yorker raised by wolves -- I mean raised by over-refreshed screenwriters and nurtured by sister love.
The writing is Delia's own, but the memory of her sister is lasered on her heart like a hologram.
It must be awfully difficult being Delia these days when there's no Nora to act as an umbrella or a sharp pointy stick.
She's lucky though.
She can always visit her sister in a bookstore, on DVD and even on the Broadway stage.
And she can do it in New York, so she can eat her cake and have it, too.
How great is that?

 

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