by: Genevieve Palmieri
Remembering Nora Ephron…
I knew Nora Ephron briefly. That is to say, I worked for her for a short time. During those brief days she afforded me the opportunity to share the experience of knowing her. Cooking classes, lunches I still salivate over, my first (so far only) trip to Paris, and a once in a lifetime on-screen appearance opposite a Hollywood legend (Thanks, Nora). When I heard of her illness and sudden passing I instantly flashed back to what have become major pins in my journey to date. I had just begun working on her final film, Julie & Julia, as a production assistant and I was going through a bit of a spell / quarter life crisis, maybe? I felt miserable and jaded and I could not seem to shake it. I started to document my day-to-day thoughts in the hopes that something would occur to me during transcription; somehow I would become self-realized. While trying to weave some sort of clever, anecdotal memorial last night, I came across an essay I wrote shortly after meeting Nora…
The perks of my line of work are limited. And by limited I mean there aren’t really any. None; In fact. I work stockbroker hours for happy meal wages. I eat too much, sleep too little, drink too much coffee, don’t exercise enough, occasionally smoke and constantly stew, all of it ruminating into a festering ball of woe-is-me type frustration. The kind that can paralyze if left unchecked with the healthy “snap out of it” slap that comes along with self-scrutiny. There are things though…things worth mentioning- things that if you didn’t say out loud you would have trouble believing yourself. These are the things worth mentioning as they have happened to me.
LUNCH…ON A TUESDAY
Even as we sat there, I couldn’t really believe it. There I was in the back of Otto, a fantastic Italian restaurant with celebrity chef attachment, with a New York icon and a few of her latest collaborators. Nora Ephron, the woman responsible for my lofty, if not impossible, expectations about what love and relationships are supposed to be. The woman who made the promise that yes, it is out there and possible if you’re just willing to wait for it, sat across the table whispering to Stanley over the menu. The two foodies studied the menu combining their knowledge and expertise into what would be a parade of “that’s to die for”s and “you simply must try this”es.
Stanley showed us a photo of his children, dressed up as the Marx Bros for Halloween and commented on the audacity the people of suburbia had for not recognizing their precocious comic brilliance. I wondered for a moment, had his children even known whom they were dressed up as? I’m sure. And in the same instance I grew so furious at my ghosts of Hallow’s eve past. Why hadn’t I dressed as Lucille Ball at the tender age of six, looking down my culturally advanced nose at all the other snot nose children pillaging the neighborhood for sweets? Everyone groaned in compliance. “Ugh…this generation.”
“There should be a test,” he quipped. “A cultural SAT of sorts…” “ Well, what would be on it? Its contents: Being able to I.D. a Gershwin tune, quote the Godfather, hum along to stardust melody, know a Manet from a Monet. A collection of music, literary works, films, art, that are a requirement to a culturally mature adulthood. They all jumped in on the fun, spouting films, books, skill sets in the kitchen and the like. And for a moment, I stepped outside myself and looked at my surroundings. Nora Ephron, Stanley Tucci, Amy Adams, Chris Messina, Nora’s best friend and her personal assistant…and then there was me. What was I doing there? How did I get there? How would I stay there? I felt so inspired and alive sitting among these creative geniuses. I was welcomed and treated as an equal and for a moment. I imagined I was– part of the round table; the writer/director and her peers. There, the hunger was born, I wanted to keep coming back to that table and tables like that and I was not going to stop until I did.
Legends are rarely recognized anymore. I chalk it up to a defect of our generation. We’re de-sensitized beyond repair. The classics still remain though. The people like Nora and her contemporaries that continue to, even after they are gone, breathe life into that word— legend. These are the ones that put things in perspective; the ones that show you how much more there is to learn; the ones who, with their capacity for love, art, and wit go beyond your comprehension like otherworldly intellects with a contemporary sooth-saying power. Tuesday afternoon, I caught word that Nora Ephron was very ill and would not make it through the day. By evening, she had passed; a New York icon had slipped away. There are many people much closer to her than I that have been devastated by her loss. It is not my intention to fabricate some mythical relationship where she was somehow my mentor. My hopes in writing this are to show the length of her reach. I count myself with a small lucky minority who were able to briefly stand in her company and experience her brilliant mind, her passion, and her unmatched generosity. One more phantom genius floats through Gotham.