It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane…It’s a Conspiracy!

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane…It’s a Conspiracy!

The disappearance of the Malaysian airplane keeps the world in suspense, and with it has come a gaggle of conspiracy theories. The fact that the plane has yet to be located simply adds to the whirligig of paranoiac thought that surrounds it.

Personally, I think Flight 370 pulled a “Lost,” as in the series by that name, the one about the fictitious Oceanic Air jet that crashed on a remote, mysterious island and kept viewers enthralled for six years. The good thing about that airplane was that nearly all the passengers survived. At least that’s what we initially thought. Continue reading

Breaking News: My Brother’s Got the Scoop

My brother and I have this thing. Call it one-upmanship. Call it a contest to see who can be first. Call it sibling rivalry at it’s worst. He actually started it, many years ago, and in the beginning, I didn’t think anything about it. But, suddenly it dawned on me, and, when it did, I said,

This is how I learned that my idol, Nora Ephron, had passed away.

“Game on!”

And, ever since, it’s been a mad dash to the finish.  Everyone at work is privy to this race of ours, and some have even tried to help me win. But I rarely do. You see, my brother is quite adept at this and he definitely has an advantage, he being in a time zone that is two hours ahead of mine, so I’m often still asleep when he awakens and gets the latest scoop.

Still haven’t figured it out?

My brother loves to be the first with breaking news. He’s a regular news wire, Twitter feed, CNN junkie all rolled into one. He has his finger on the pulse and the other hovering over his smart phone, at the ready, to send out a text to all the family with the latest news.

Plain and simple, my brother was born to be a journalist, a muckraker, a newspaper reporter, a newshound. Yet, he’s none of these.  Not by profession, anyway.

Mostly, he has a zeal for being first with breaking news about celebrity deaths, but on occasion he’s been first to tell me breaking news about celebrity, well, breakups (for example, think Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes).

This goes as far back as Princess Diana. In those days, neither of us had cell phones. I’ll never forget that evening. It was late August, kids were still out of school, enjoying the last days of their summer vacation, and we had spent the entire evening doing one of our favorite things, exploring our local bookstore. We had just returned home, each of us having added two to three books to our personal libraries, when the phone rang.

I picked it up. It was my brother.

“Watch the news. Princess Diana is dead!”  He blurted, and then hung up.

No, wait. This actually started further back than Princess Diana. It was in 1994!

A Friday evening in early June. I remember because I was sick to my stomach. I had gone out with friends from work to celebrate someone’s retirement and we had eaten at this Greek place and though I love Greek food, I got sick. Really, really sick. I couldn’t-keep-anything-down I was so sick. So I was home in a near coma, laying on my bed in a pool of sweat and drifting in and out of consciousness, when the phone rang.

“Turn on the TV. OJ’s being chased by the police!”

That’s all my brother said and hung up. In my delirium, I did what I was told. I dragged myself out of bed and turned on the TV. I watched for the next several hours, what would turn out to be the most incredibly slow chase in history. I wasn’t sure whether my eyes were deceiving me, and to this day, I still wonder how much of that chase was real and how much of it was part of some surreal Fellini-like dream that I was having as a result of my debilitating nausea.

In any case, over the years, my brother must have told me of about 277 celebrity deaths, including Phil Hartman, Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Donna Summers, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Trisha tried to help me be first with news about Andy Griffith.

About a week ago, Andy Griffith died. My friend, Trisha, tried to give me the heads up via text, hoping I’d be first with the news. But she doesn’t have the practice, the experience and the tenacity, that my brother has and so, she couldn’t compete. He beat her text by mere minutes.

But, there’s always the next time. Like this past Sunday, when Academy-Award winning actor, Ernest Borgnine, passed away. I happened to be on my computer when the email alert from The Washington Post arrived with the news. I immediately looked at my texts to see if I’d received one from my brother. Nope. I then went into action and sent a text and an email, not only to my brother, but to all my siblings so they could have proof that I was first with the news.

Well, as macabre as this contest might seem, I’m in it for the long haul. So, until next time, Bro!

And I Quote: On Tributes & Loss

Among my collection of quotes are a few that pay tribute to some of the people who have had special meaning for me. People who have touched my life–and, perhaps, yours, as well–and who have contributed significantly through their art and passion.

We embraced them, we were inspired by them. Their lights flickered on this earth for a brief moment in time, giving us strength, joy and love, through their music, their writings, their creativity and their vibrant spirits. These are people I admire, who enriched our lives, and who are now no longer with us.

Nobody could do scat like Ella, the "First Lady of Song."

Each persevered through life, sometimes at great odds, sometimes facing challenges and incomprehensible tragedy on the world stage. We witnessed one, as a little boy, salute his father for the last time; another lose her life in a fiery crash. One had a voice like melted honey, and made a new form of jazz all her own, though no matter how great her gift, she still had to enter through the backdoor to some of the clubs where she would perform. Two couldn’t cope with their incredible talent for writing poetry and prose, and the state of their mental health made it impossible for them to go on. And, one will always remind me of my parents, and how they’d play his records on the Hi-Fi, over and over.

And, though they’re all gone, they always will be here, in our hearts and minds, still bringing us joy, every time we pick up a book, play one of their songs, and remember their inner grace and beauty. These quotes are eloquent, expressive remembrances, and worthy of the subject being revered:

On Frank Sinatra:

“But it was the deep blueness of Frank’s voice that affected me the most, and while his music became synonymous with black tie, good life, the best booze, women sophistication, his blues voice was always the sound of hard luck and men late at night with the last $10 in their pockets trying to figure a way out. On behalf of all New Jersey, Frank, I want to say, ‘Hail brother, you sang out our soul.’”  – Bruce Springsteen

 

On Ella Fitzgerald:

Where (Billie) Holiday and Frank Sinatra lived out the dramas they sang about, Miss Fitzgerald, viewing them from afar, seemed to understand and forgive all. Her apparent equanimity and her clear pronunciation, which transcended race, ethnicity, class and age, made her a voice of profound reassurance and hope. – Stephen Holden, New York Times 1996

On Sylvia Plath:

“You were transfigured

So slender and new and naked

A nodding spray of wet lilac

You shook, you sobbed with joy, you were ocean depth

Brimming with God.”

–      Ted Hughes’ poem to Sylvia Plath (to whom he was married), from Birthday Letters

Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton.

On Anne Sexton:

“Suddenly my childhood nightmare had a name and a date. It was reality—not just some wolf under the bed…

“…I looked for a plain box but there was none. This room was full of Cadillac’s, each model padded like a baby’s bassinet, swathed in silks and satins, each displayed on its own pedestal and with its own price tag discreetly tucked under the bedding. Astonishingly beautiful with their wood of burnished mahogany, the caskets aroused in me the first sadness to rise above the shock of disbelief: my mother’s body would lie, cold and final, here.”

– Both quotes are from Linda Gray Sexton, on learning of her mother’s death, in her heartfelt, beautifully-written memoir, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton

On John F. Kennedy, Jr.:

“His moral compass directed him to an honorable, charitable life. He kept his bearings despite the tragedies he experienced. It is profoundly sad that he is gone. His heart was as big as his mind, and with the deaths of John, Carolyn and Lauren Bessette, our optimism died a little, too. God bless you in heaven. – Glamour magazine, October 1999

On Diana, the People’s Princess: (Check out my post comparing myself to her: The Princess and the Gal from Queens)

“I stand before you today the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock. We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but in our need to do so.” – From eulogy delivered by Earl Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother September 1997

And one more–

On Charles Dickens: (For those of you who missed my interview, 200-Year-Old Man Gives Dickens of an Interview)

“His death, in many ways, also marked the end of the Victorian age, although Queen Victoria would rule for many years to come. For when readers look back on that era today, it is not England’s queen that they recall. It is Pip, encountering a mysterious convict in the marshes of East Anglia. It is David Copperfield fleeing his evil stepfather, and Nicholas Nickleby discovering the horrors of a Yorkshire boarding school. It is Nell dying, and Nancy being murdered, and Miss Havisham endlessly living on, perpetually dressed for her wedding day. And it is Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the Aged Parent and the Infant Phenomenon, the Artful Dodger, the dipsomaniacal Sairey Gamp, the obsessive Bradley Headstone, the hapless Miss Flite, and all of the other more than 2,000 men, women, and children that Charles Dickens created to touch our hearts and to ‘brighten, brighten, brighten’ our days.” – Biography Magazine, March 2000

So, tell me, who has made a difference in your life, through their art or other contribution? And, would you pick any of these?

Six Degrees from Fame

Some people are just six degrees of separation away from Kevin Bacon. Well, I am six degrees of separation away from just about everyone else. Clearly, that can only mean one thing:  I’m famous! I dare you. Name one famous person—as long as they’re not from a reality show, that is–and chances are, you will find that we are kindred spirits. Odds are, I can show you that we have at least one thing in common.  Here are a few, just to get you started:

Note the watch. I have the exact, same one! How uncanny is that? Photograph from People Magazine.

Bruce Springsteen:  No brainer. We share the same birthday, September 23rd. Look it up if you don’t believe me! Plus, he’s from New Jersey and I’m from New York. Why that’s practically one and the same, if you ask me!

Amanda Knox:  Now, if you had asked me last month, I would have said, what? Me and Amanda? That’s crazy talk. But, now I know better. That girl and I are two peas in a pod. She’s from Seattle and I lived there once. She spent a couple of years in an Italian prison and I visited Italy once. And we both wear the same Swatch. I bought mine in France during a trip there, and she must have acquired hers while serving time. I’m assuming it came with the prison garb. In any case, do you  see how much we have in common? It’s plain eerie if you ask me.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates:  These two weren’t particularly fond of each other, but that’s nothing compared to what they both thought about me:  Nothing! They never gave me a second thought, for crying out loud. Nor a first thought, for that matter. It was as if I didn’t exist in their eyes. But here’s the clincher: all three of us were born in the same year. You can look it up if you don’t believe me, but why should I lie? I have nothing to gain, except my six degrees, that is.

Princess Diana:  I wrote a whole blog once on all that the People’s Princess and I had in common. What’s more, she had ties to royalty and so do I, in that, my dog, Henry, is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Which means, he descends from royalty. Need I say more?

Kevin Bacon:  He’s married to Kyra Sedgewick and her show, The Closer, was one of my favorites. Plus, I’m fond of eggs and bacon for breakfast.

Bernie Madoff:  We’re both from New York. He allegedly made investments; I invested a little in stock once. His was a Ponzi scheme, of course, and my investment ended up losing money thanks to the economy. Anyway, Bernie went to prison and I once considered dating men in prison. Sheesh, give me a break. Men in stripes are an untapped dating market, after all.

Brian Williams:  He has a nightly news show, which I watch regularly. He also makes guest appearances on two of my favorite shows (not counting The Closer):  30 Rock and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Bingo!

Joy Behar:  Joy Behar is a hoot and I like her a lot.  If I met her on the street, I’m sure we’d be fast friends. We’re both from New York and we both have New York accents, though mine is better. Sends chills down my spine to even think about how alike that makes us.

Courtney Cox:  My name is Monica and she played a character named Monica on some show about relationships. I’m blanking on the name of the show, but, trust me, it was funny. Besides, the character she played was a chef and I spent a whole day working in a McDonald’s while in college, and I’d probably still be there right now if it hadn’t been for an early spring blizzard in May. Plus, her show was on TV and I love watching TV. Enough said.

So you see? I’m just a few degrees away from just about any celeb. Ergo, I must be a celebrity at heart! So, now that I’ve proved I’m famous, how about you? Which personality are you six degrees from?

The Princess and the Gal From Queens

No doubt you’ve heard that there’s a royal wedding afoot. Which reminds me of the last royal wedding and of course, remembering that wedding causes me to reflect on just how alike Princess Diana and I were. We had a lot in common, she and I.  Birds of a feather, if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I never thought I was a princess.  But there have been times when I would have preferred to live like one.  And sure, I’m a Latina and she was born in England. There’s no denying that there are a few differences. But here’s what I’m really getting at: For a while there, Princess Diana and I led parallel lives.

First, there’s the obvious things.  She was a princess and I hailed from Queens. You can’t get more royal than that. Plus, we both wore our hair short, though she’s a blonde and I’m not.  And we were both rather shy in our youth, especially at public appearances, though hers were televised and photographed incessantly, while nobody followed me around—whether to the mall or to the grocery store. In fact, the only paparazzo I knew was my father. He was always snapping photos, which was very annoying. So, I can totally relate to all the attention the princess received.

Then, there’s the fact that Princess Diana and I each married in the same year, though her wedding was a bit flashier than mine, and she married in the perfect month for weddings, June.  As for me, I was newly employed, with little vacation time, so I had to schedule my nuptials during the holidays, just after the New Year. It was a mere four degrees in New Jersey that day, with the wind chill factor putting the temps way below zero. Miserable weather for a seemingly auspicious start.

Princess Diana and I were married the same year! Though mine was first.

We each wore fairytale wedding gowns, though mine was off the rack and the sales lady practically bullied my mother and I into making the purchase. I’m sure, Princess Diana had a slew of people helping her with her gown, and I doubt any of them tried to push her into buying wholesale. Her gown became a fashion icon and is currently touring the states.  Mine spent years stored in a box somewhere, until I dropped it off at Goodwill one day.

Our first borns were boys, and mine was every bit a prince until that is, he started walking and terrorizing our poor cat.  When the princess and prince visited the U.S., a gala dinner at the White House was held in their honor. At the time, I was working at an office just a few blocks away. There, she got to dance with John Travolta, who I happened to have a major crush on, ever since seeing him in Grease.  Turns out, Diana had a crush on him, too! You see? Parallel lives, indeed! Coincidence? I think not!

We both married men with cheating in their hearts, and our divorces became final around the same time. Which is about when our parallel lives began to part ways.  She became a jet setter, jaunting all over Europe and tripping the light fantastic.  While the only tripping I did was on my way to pounding the pavement in search of a job.

Yes, Princess Diana and I were kindred spirits, though we never met and she never did respond to the 47 letters I sent her, in which I described all our similarities. Sigh. Maybe I’ll have better luck with Kate. After all, I’m just certain she and I must have a good deal in common!