(Publication date:  Feb. 13, 2004)

From Here to Eternity – or New Jersey

The Oscars make me think about New Jersey. At least, this year they do, because our Albany
friends Sandy and Catherine are not across the street anymore, where they belong. They’re back
there, west of the Hudson, where every canary is a Soprano, and people have not only heard of
“bling-bling” but wear it around their necks and on their fingers, even when it’s not Halloween.

Sandy and Catherine were among the first people we met when we landed in Albany, fresh from
that place across the Bay, the one with the big orange bridge, the famous bread, and the football
team that couldn’t lose. Sandy and I probably first spotted each other pretending to do yard work
and within minutes, I’m sure, were hurling insults at each other across Santa Fe Avenue.

I won’t bore you with the follow-up details. You know them, anyway, because that’s the kind of
town this is, and you know people like Sandy and Catherine. They may not look like you, and they
may not talk like you. They may not even talk like each other—Catherine was born in Paris and
Sandy’s a guy from South Philly, for God’s sake—but they have certain feelings that mesh with
yours. Sensibilities. Values. An allergic reaction to Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?

Well, all right, a few details. We watched each other’s kids grow, and we’d talk each other out of
moving to Cabo San Lucas  in the middle of the night without the children when, in our parental
delirium, selling seashells by the seashore would start to seem not only pronounceable, but
economically viable. Sandy would howl with laughter when he’d spot me tottering on the edge of
our rooftop in the driving rain, tangled in Christmas lights, and then invite us over for latkes, to
which I’d shout that eating his latkes wasn’t necessarily any safer than dangling from my roof,
twenty feet over the impatiens bed. We’d eat dinner at their house, they’d eat dinner at ours, we’d
all eat dinner any place on Solano Avenue that would still let us in the door. We’d laugh, we’d cry,
sometimes not even in the same sentence. And always, we’d go to the movies.

Which brings me (Finally!—Ed.) back to the Oscars.

We get together with Sandy and Catherine at our house every year for The Movies’ biggest night,
hauling in from Solano Avenue boxes of fancy pizza and bottles of somewhat less fancy wine.
Sandy and I make so much noise, the kids flee to the TV upstairs, which means more pizza for
those of us who stay downstairs. We watch the stars laugh up at the podium and cry on any
nearby shoulder, including the one attached to Barbara Walters after the Oscar telecast is over.

At least we used to do all that. But last summer, Sandy’s job took them to New Jersey, and now
we’re going to have to watch the Oscars with only Bill Murray, Charlize Theron, and a bunch of
hairy Hobbits.

Sometimes, I still feel like it’s the blistering day in June of last year when the moving van pulled
away, and I’m standing, stunned, in Sandy and Catherine’s empty kitchen. That’s how life is, I
know, but I’m not sure I would have felt this way if the situation were playing out on our street
across the Bay in the place with the big orange bridge, the famous bread, and the football team that
couldn’t lose.

And that’s why the Oscars make me think about New Jersey.

Life Is a Movie