Nora, Tommy & the Hispano Bloggers Awards

We’re halfway through 2012, and the Fifty/Fifty challenge is looming LARGE, taunting me, as if it already knows I’m not going to make it.

For, I’m falling behind like nobody’s business.

But, cut me some slack, okay? You all know how busy I am. Frankly, I don’t know why I agreed to this aggressive challenge, anyway, but the fact of the matter is I did, and now I just have to deal.

So here’s what I did this month: I embraced my romantic side.

Yes, this jaded Latina from Queens, who still has the scars of divorce imprinted on her heart, still wants to believe in that happily ever after ending. Maybe it’s a dream. Maybe I’m in love with love, or, rather, love, as it appears in the movies. Too bad life doesn’t imitate art.

And no one portrays love in the cinema like Nora Ephron, the greatest, happy-go-lucky romantic of them all, who, sadly passed away this June. Nora looked on the bright side of life, and her movies resonate with her upbeat style and sensibility. Which is why I decided to have myself a Nora Ephron movie marathon, which I started in June and, time got the better of me, so my marathon sort of wiggled its way into early July (Happy Fourth, Nora!) and I haven’t quite finished (Mixed Nuts and Julie and Julia, you’re next!)

I watched Heartburn (the most empowering movie about divorce, ever!), Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally. I have to tell you, after watching these four films, I’ve come to the conclusion that Nora’s movies are not necessarily love stories centered on two people. Nope.

What these films really and truly represent, is an exquisitely gift-wrapped homage to what was undoubtedly Nora’s greatest love of all:  New York City. Manhattan, the city that never sleeps.

These movies celebrate all that is beautiful, dreamy and sublime about the city. The music sets the tone and the stories capture the jazzy mood of Manhattan, much like the films of Woody Allen.  Even, Sleepless in Seattle comes to a rousing, starry-eyed finale at the top of the Empire State Building, which is all lit up—thanks to technical wizardy—with a giant red heart. Ah, love! Ah, New York!

Ah, Nora! Ah, Tommy!

Singer/Songwriter, Tommy Torres

Tommy? Yes, Tommy.  For, when it comes to love, what better way to express the feelings it stirs than through music? As Shakespeare himself, wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

Sure, Harry Connick, Jr. and Jimmy Durante have it down in Nora’s movies. Their love songs trip the light fantastic, building upon the idealistic feelings the films convey. But, any Latina knows, that when it comes to genuine, heartbreaking, passionate, die-for-love romance, Latin lovers have a way with words—and song.

And lately, here’s whom I’ve been listening to: Tommy Torres. He’s a big sensation in Latin countries, but that’s changing, so watch out. Tommy Torres is crossing over.

Now, I love coming across new talent. But, Tommy’s been around for over a decade, writing songs for the likes of Alicia Keyes and Ricky Martin. He’s got a voice and a way around a keyboard that reaches into the depths of your soul. His music and his voice, which reminds me of the style of Jamie Cullum and James Morrison, are very sexy, indeed.

I could listen to Tommy Torres all day long. And, if you ask me, there’s nothing like a love song enhanced by the sound of a piano, guaranteed to tug at my heartstrings.  Listen to his latest, titled “Querido Tommy” (Dear Tommy) and see what I mean. It is a love letter, an impassioned request for advice from a lovelorn fan:

What’s special about this song is its roots in social media. A fan named Paco, contacted Tommy through Twitter, asking for his advice. At first, Tommy didn’t respond, so Paco sent him another message. This time, Tommy replied by creating this song. Released through social media in late May, it became an instant hit, and to date has received more than 800,000 visits on YouTube.

Tommy has an album coming out in August (The album release date was actually moved up as a result of the song’s success). So, stay tuned. For, I am certain Tommy and his music are going places!

Hispano Bloggers In other news, Ashley (who you may recall, recently adopted a puppy) has nominated me for a 2012 Hispano Bloggers award! This is such an honor–and incredibly flattering. It is also unexpected (I did not put her up to this!), but, now that I’ve been nominated, I must do my part to help Ashley help me win!

So, here’s where you come in: Ashley and I would love it if you tweeted the news about my nomination. Here’s the info for the tweet, which you can copy and paste:

@AshleyR125 just nominated @monicastangled for the 2012 #HispanoBlogger Awards:! #2012HBAwards #Hispz #Latism.

The more it’s tweeted, the better my chances, so I’m counting on you!

Oh, and getting back to my Fifty/Fifty challenge, I actually read a book and saw a couple of other films in June, and you can find them on my Fifty/Fifty page.

So, tell me, what have you been up to, vis-à-vis, movies, music and/or mayhem? And, while you’re at it, any books to recommend?

Empire State of Mine

Not that anyone has asked, but I’ll say it anyway: I thank my lucky stars I grew up in New York.

I mean, when you think about it, when my parents left their country for the U.S.—just after World War II—they could have ended up anywhere. Today, I could be saying that I hail from Gainesville, Florida or, that I was born on a cattle ranch in Nacogdoches, Texas, assuming they have cattle in Nacogdoches. And, maybe if that had happened, I would be saying I like these places very much.

Ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

Or maybe, if their plane had been going at warp speed and shot right over the states, today I might be calling myself a Canadian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They have a beautiful national anthem, after all.

So, given the odds, it’s a wonder my folks made it to New York at all.  By the city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. Where Mad Men dreams come true. Home to Woody Allen, Lady Liberty, an empire state of mind, and, as it turns out–me!

Which means, I grew up shopping at the Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan—the very same one that inspired Miracle on 34th Street. I went to school at P.S. 154 and, later, to P.S. 117. We didn’t bother giving schools names; after all, New Yorkers don’t have time for such trivialities.

When I was a mere infant, my mother and her friend, who also had a baby, would push our baby carriages to the supermarket and park us out in front, while they went inside and did their grocery shopping. All the while, we, babies, would be innocently lulled to sleep by the cacophony of traffic on Main Street. Who had time for finding babysitters? The streets were our sitters!

Growing up in New York, meant class field trips to the United Nations, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hayden Planetarium. Does it get any better than that?

A view from atop of the Empire State Building.

Every time there was a new film playing at Radio City Music Hall, my family was there, listening to the organist play while we took our seats (boring!), and seeing a movie (the Doris Day films were the best!). And, when the film was over, it was exciting to see the fabulous, New York City Rockettes, tapping and kicking away, in all their glory.

Growing up in New York meant waking up at the crack of dawn to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, live and in person. We saw it in all kinds of inclement weather, with pummeling, freezing rain being the worst. Best of all, growing up in New York meant I got to see many Broadway musicals, like The Sound of Music with Mary Martin, and My Fair Lady, with Julie Andrews. I also got to see Here’s Love, a musical version of Miracle on 34th Street that flopped, despite my seven-year-old self, predicting to my school chum, that it would be a big hit.

I LOVE the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Growing up in New York meant that, as a teen, I got to see up-and-coming journalist, Geraldo Rivera, and his One-to-One benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. The line-up included John Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, and best of all, who can forget, Sha-Na-Na.

Growing up in New York means that I say “on line,” and not “in line” when I’m standing on a line and waiting my turn.

Being a kid in New York was so much fun that I’m hard pressed to find any drawbacks.

For, had I not grown up in NY, I would never have met Rod Serling in Central Park, back when he was still producing The Twilight Zone TV series.

Central Park in summer.

I wouldn’t have been able to read the local newspaper to keep up on that nefarious serial killer, David Berkowitz, aka, Son of Sam. And how would I have ever found a $20 bill at the Flushing subway station if I wasn’t in Queens at the time? Or mastered my cool, aloof, don’t-bother-me stare, while assertively striding through the streets of Manhattan?

Perhaps, too, I would never have eaten gads of steaks at Tad’s Steak House, only to learn they weren’t serving steaks at all. Horse meat was the meat du jour. Talk about indigestion.

And, I probably would never have experienced the hot, sweaty platforms at the subway station in summertime, or the crushing sensation that you feel when you wedge the subway doors open as they’re closing, because, if you don’t, who knows when the next train will come along?

Or the mobs of people everywhere, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in cramped restaurants, and dining so close you could almost kiss the stranger next to you on the cheek, but, why on earth would you?

I was raised in New York, which gives me carte blanche to call myself a New Yorker, or Nu YAWKER, depending on your accent.

New York and proud of it.

How about you? What makes your hometown special to you?