I remember nothing, p.1

I Remember Nothing, page 1

 

I Remember Nothing
 


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I Remember Nothing


  ALSO BY NORA EPHRON

  FICTION

  Heartburn

  ESSAYS

  I Feel Bad About My Neck

  Nora Ephron Collected

  Scribble Scribble

  Crazy Salad

  Wallflower at the Orgy

  DRAMA

  Love, Loss, and What I Wore (with Delia Ephron)

  Imaginary Friends

  SCREENPLAYS

  Julie & Julia

  Bewitched (with Delia Ephron)

  Hanging Up (with Delia Ephron)

  You’ve Got Mail (with Delia Ephron)

  Michael (with Jim Quinlan, Pete Dexter, and Delia Ephron)

  Mixed Nuts (with Delia Ephron)

  Sleepless in Seattle (with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch)

  This Is My Life (with Delia Ephron)

  My Blue Heaven

  When Harry Met Sally …

  Cookie (with Alice Arlen)

  Heartburn

  Silkwood (with Alice Arlen)

  THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK

  PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF

  Copyright © 2010 by Heartburn Enterprises, Inc.

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. www.aaknopf.com

  Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  Some of the pieces in this collection have previously appeared in the following: “Christmas Dinner,” “I Just Want to Say: Teflon” as “Farewell to Teflon,” “I Just Want to Say: The Egg-White Omelette” as “The Informational Cascade and the Egg-White Omelette,” “I Just Want to Say: The World Is Not Flat” as “And by the Way, the World Is Not Flat,” “Twenty-Five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” in The Huffington Post; “Addicted to L-U-V,” “Going to the Movies” as “The Last Picture Show,” “I Just Want to Say: Chicken Soup” as “The Chicken Soup Chronicles,” “I Just Want to Say: No, I Do Not Want Another Bottle of Pellegrino” as “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Dinner,” “The Six Stages of E-Mail,” and “Who Are You?” in The New York Times; “My Life as an Heiress” in The New Yorker; and “The Legend” in Vogue.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Ephron, Nora.

  I remember nothing,

  and other reflections / Nora Ephron.—

  1st. ed.

  p. cm.

  “This is a Borzoi Book.”

  eISBN: 978-0-307-59562-1

  1. Ephron, Nora. 2. Middle-aged women—Humor. 3. American wit and humor. I. Title.

  PS3555.P5125 2010

  814′.54—dc22

  2010026989

  v3.1

  For Richard and Mona

  Contents

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  I Remember Nothing

  Who Are You?

  Journalism: A Love Story

  The Legend

  My Aruba

  My Life as an Heiress

  Going to the Movies

  Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again

  I Just Want to Say: The Egg-White Omelette

  I Just Want to Say: Teflon

  I Just Want to Say: No, I Do Not Want Another Bottle of Pellegrino

  I Just Want to Say: The World Is Not Flat

  I Just Want to Say: Chicken Soup

  Pentimento

  My Life as a Meat Loaf

  Addicted to L-U-V

  The Six Stages of E-Mail

  Flops

  Christmas Dinner

  The D Word

  The O Word

  What I Won’t Miss

  What I Will Miss

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  I Remember Nothing

  I have been forgetting things for years—at least since I was in my thirties. I know this because I wrote something about it at the time. I have proof. Of course, I can’t remember exactly where I wrote about it, or when, but I could probably hunt it up if I had to.

  In my early days of forgetting things, words would slip away, and names. I did what you normally do when this happens: I scrolled through a mental dictionary, trying to figure out what letter the word began with, and how many syllables were involved. Eventually the lost thing would float back into my head, recaptured. I never took such lapses as harbingers of doom, or old age, or actual senescence. I always knew that whatever I’d forgotten was going to come back to me sooner or later. Once I went to a store to buy a book about Alzheimer’s disease and forgot the name of it. I thought it was funny. And it was, at the time.

  Here’s a thing I’ve never been able to remember: the title of that movie with Jeremy Irons. The one about Claus von Bülow. You know the one. All I ever succeeded in remembering was that it was three words long, and the middle word was “of.” For many years, this did not bother me at all, because no one I knew could ever think of the title either. One night, eight of us were at the theater together, and not one of us could retrieve it. Finally, at intermission, someone went out to the street and Googled it; we were all informed of the title and we all vowed to remember it forever. For all I know, the other seven did. I, on the other hand, am back to remembering that it’s three words long with an “of” in the middle.

  By the way, when we finally learned the title that night, we all agreed it was a bad title. No wonder we didn’t remember it.

  I am going to Google for the name of that movie. Be right back.…

  It’s Reversal of Fortune.

  How is one to remember that title? It has nothing to do with anything.

  But here’s the point: I have been forgetting things for years, but now I forget in a new way. I used to believe I could eventually retrieve whatever was lost and then commit it to memory. Now I know I can’t possibly. Whatever’s gone is hopelessly gone. And what’s new doesn’t stick.

  The other night I met a man who informed me that he had a neurological disorder and couldn’t remember the faces of people he’d met. He said that sometimes he looked at himself in a mirror and had no idea whom he was looking at. I don’t mean to minimize this man’s ailment, which I’m sure is a bona fide syndrome with a long name that’s capitalized, but all I could think was, Welcome to my world. A couple of years ago, the actor Ryan O’Neal confessed that he’d recently failed to recognize his own daughter, Tatum, at a funeral and had accidentally made a pass at her. Everyone was judgmental about this, but not me. A month earlier, I’d found myself in a mall in Las Vegas when I saw a very pleasant-looking woman coming toward me, smiling, her arms outstretched, and I thought, Who is this woman? Where do I know her from? Then she spoke and I realized it was my sister Amy.

  You might think, Well, how was she to know her sister would be in Las Vegas? I’m sorry to report that not only did I know, but she was the person I was meeting in the mall.

  All this makes me feel sad, and wistful, but mostly it makes me feel old. I have many symptoms of old age, aside from the physical. I occasionally repeat myself. I use the expression, “When I was young.” Often I don’t get the joke, although I pretend that I do. If I go see a play or a movie for a second time, it’s as if I didn’t see it at all the first time, even if the first time was just recently. I have no idea who anyone in People magazine is.

  I used to think my problem was that my disk was full; now I’m forced to conclude that the opposite is true: it’s becoming empty.

  I have not yet reached the nadir of old age, the Land of Anecdote, but I’m approachin
g it.

  I know, I know, I should have kept a journal. I should have saved the love letters. I should have taken a storage room somewhere in Long Island City for all the papers I thought I’d never need to look at again.

  But I didn’t.

  And sometimes I’m forced to conclude that I remember nothing.

  For example: I met Eleanor Roosevelt. It was June 1961, and I was on my way to a political internship at the Kennedy White House. All the Wellesley/Vassar interns drove to Hyde Park to meet the former first lady. I was dying to meet her. I’d grown up with a photograph in our den of her standing with my parents backstage at a play they’d written. My mother was wearing a corsage and Eleanor wore pearls. It was a photograph I always thought of as iconic, if I’m using the word correctly, which, if I am, it will be for the first time. We were among the thousands of Americans (mostly Jews) who had dens, and, in their dens, photos of Eleanor Roosevelt. I idolized the woman. I couldn’t believe I was going to be in the same room with her. So what was she like that day in Hyde Park, you may wonder. I HAVE NO IDEA. I can’t remember what she said or what she wore; I can barely summon up a mental picture of the room where we met her, although I have a very vague memory of drapes. But here’s what I do remember: I got lost on the way. And ever since, every time I’ve been on the Taconic State Parkway, I’m reminded that I got lost there on the way to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. But I don’t remember a thing about Eleanor Roosevelt herself.

  In 1964 the Beatles came to New York for the first time. I was a newspaper reporter and I was sent to the airport to cover their arrival. It was a Friday. I spent the weekend following them around. Sunday night they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. You could make an argument that the sixties began that night, on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was a historic night. I was there. I stood in the back of the Ed Sullivan Theater and watched. I remember how amazingly obnoxious the fans were—the teenage girls who screamed and yelled and behaved like idiots. But how were the Beatles, you may ask. Well, you are asking the wrong person. I could barely hear them.

  I marched on Washington to protest the war in Vietnam. This was in 1967, and it was the most significant event of the antiwar movement. Thousands and thousands of people were there. I went with a lawyer I was dating. We spent most of the day in a hotel room having sex. I am not proud of this, but I mention it because it explains why I honestly cannot remember anything about the protest, including whether I ever even got to the Pentagon. I don’t think I did. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Pentagon. But I wouldn’t bet a nickel on it one way or the other.

  Norman Mailer wrote an entire book about this march, called The Armies of the Night. It was 288 pages long. It won the Pulitzer Prize. And I can barely write two paragraphs about it. If you knew Norman Mailer and me and were asked to guess which of us cared more about sex, you would, of course, pick Norman Mailer. How wrong you would be.

  Here are some people I met that I remember nothing about:

  Justice Hugo Black

  Ethel Merman

  Jimmy Stewart

  Alger Hiss

  Senator Hubert Humphrey

  Cary Grant

  Benny Goodman

  Peter Ustinov

  Harry Kurnitz

  George Abbott

  Dorothy Parker

  I went to the Bobby Riggs–Billie Jean King tennis match and couldn’t really see anything from where I was sitting.

  I went to stand in front of the White House the night Nixon resigned and here’s what I have to tell you about it: my wallet was stolen.

  I went to many legendary rock concerts and spent them wondering when they would end and where we would eat afterward and whether the restaurant would still be open and what I would order.

  I went to at least one hundred Knicks games and I remember only the night that Reggie Miller scored eight points in the last nine seconds.

  I went to cover the war in Israel in 1973 but my therapist absolutely forbid me to go to the front.

  I was not at Woodstock, but I might as well have been because I wouldn’t remember it anyway.

  On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can?

  The past is slipping away and the present is a constant affront. I can’t possibly keep up. When I was younger, I managed to overcome my resistance to new things. After a short period of negativity, I flung myself at the Cuisinart food processor. I was curious about technology. I became a champion of e-mail and blogs—I found them romantic; I even made movies about them. But now I believe that almost anything new has been put on the earth in order to make me feel bad about my dwindling memory, and I’ve erected a wall to protect myself from most of it.

  On the other side of that wall are many things, pinging. For the most part I pay no attention. For a long time, I didn’t know the difference between the Sunnis and the Shias, but there were so many pings I was finally forced to learn. But I can’t help wondering, Why did I bother? Wasn’t it enough to know they didn’t like each other? And in any case, I have now forgotten.

  At this moment, some of the things I’m refusing to know anything about include:

  The former Soviet republics

  The Kardashians

  Twitter

  All Housewives, Survivors, American Idols, and Bachelors

  Karzai’s brother

  Soccer

  Monkfish

  Jay-Z

  Every drink invented since the Cosmopolitan

  Especially the drink made with crushed mint leaves. You know the one.

  I am going to Google the name of that drink. Be right back.…

  The Mojito.

  I am living in the Google years, no question of that. And there are advantages to it. When you forget something, you can whip out your iPhone and go to Google. The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn’t it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up. You can delude yourself that no one at the table thinks of you as a geezer. And finding the missing bit is so quick. There’s none of the nightmare of the true Senior Moment—the long search for the answer, the guessing, the self-recrimination, the head-slapping mystification, the frustrated finger-snapping. You just go to Google and retrieve it.

  You can’t retrieve your life (unless you’re on Wikipedia, in which case you can retrieve an inaccurate version of it).

  But you can retrieve the name of that actor who was in that movie, the one about World War II. And the name of that writer who wrote that book, the one about her affair with that painter. Or the name of that song that was sung by that singer, the one about love.

  You know the one.

  Who Are You?

  I Know You

  I know you. I know you well. It’s true I always have a little trouble with your name, but I do know your name. I just don’t know it at this moment. We’re at a big party. We’ve kissed hello. We’ve had a delightful conversation about how we are the last two people on the face of the earth who don’t kiss on both cheeks. Now we’re having a conversation about how phony all the people are who do kiss on both cheeks. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You’re so charming. If only I could remember your name. It’s inexcusable that I can’t. You’ve been to my house for dinner. I tried to read your last book. I know your girlfriend’s name, or I almost know it. It’s something like Chanelle. Only it’s not. Chantelle? That’s not it either. Fortunately, she isn’t here, so I haven’t forgotten both of your names. I’m becoming desperate. It’s something like Larry. Is it Larry? No, it’s not. Jerry? No, it’s not. But it ends in a Y. Your last name: three syllables. Starts with a C. Starts with a G? I’m losing my mind. But a miracle occurs: the host is about to toast the guest of honor. Thank God. I can escape to the bar.

  Have We Met?

  Have we met? I think we’ve met. But I can’t be sure. We were introduced, but I didn’t catch your name because it’s so noisy at this party. I’m goi
ng to assume we know each other, and I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” If I say, “Nice to meet you,” I know what will happen. You’ll say, “We’ve met.” You’ll say “We’ve met” in a sort of aggressive, irritable tone. And you won’t even tell me your name so I can recover in some way. So I’m not going to say, “Nice to meet you.” I’m going to say, “Nice to see you.” I’ll have a big smile on my face. I won’t look desperate. But what I’ll be thinking is, Please throw me your name. Please, please, please. Give me a hint. My husband is likely to walk up, and I’ll have to introduce you, and I won’t be able to, and you’ll know that I have no idea who you are, even though we probably spent an entire weekend together on a boat in 1984. I have a secret signal with my husband that involves my pinching him very hard on the upper arm. The signal means, “Throw your name at this person because I have no idea whom I’m talking to.” But my husband always forgets the secret signal and can’t be counted on to respond to my pinching, even when it produces a bruise. I would like to chew my husband out about his forgetfulness on this point, but I’m not exactly in a position to do so since I myself have forgotten (if I ever knew it) the name of the person I’m talking to.

  Old Friends

  Old friends? We must be. You’re delighted to see me. I’m delighted to see you. But who are you? Oh, my God, you’re Ellen. I can’t believe it. Ellen. “Ellen! How are you? It’s been—how long has it been?” I’d like to suggest that the reason I didn’t recognize you right off the bat is that you’ve done something to your hair, but you’ve done nothing to your hair, nothing that would excuse my not recognizing you. What you’ve actually done is gotten older. I don’t believe it. You used to be my age, and now you’re much, much, much older than I am. You could be my mother. Unless, of course, I look as old as you and I don’t know it. Which is not possible. Or is it? I’m looking around the room and I notice that everyone in it looks like someone—and when I try to figure out exactly who that someone is, it turns out to be a former version of herself, a thinner version or a healthier version or a pre-plastic-surgery version or a taller version. If this is true of everyone, it must be true of me. Mustn’t it? But never mind: you are speaking. “Maggie,” you say, “it’s been so long.” “I’m not Maggie,” I say. “Oh, my God,” you say, “it’s you. I didn’t recognize you. You’ve done something to your hair.”

 
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