Alzheimer's, Chance, Dani Shapiro, Destiny, Fate, Linda Lavin, Michael Maren, writing
One of my favorite childhood pastimes was playing connect-the-dots. I took great pleasure in guiding my pencil from one numbered dot to the next to find out what would reveal itself to me on the page.
Writing is like that. So is life.
And this is a true story.
About two years ago, I was in Manhattan for a conference. It was Sunday, the last day, my travel day home, but after 72 hours in the airless rooms of the New York Hilton, my friend Nancy and I decided we’d escape and treat ourselves to brunch at Sarabeth’s. Being outside felt wonderful, despite the sticky August humidity. As we walked along Avenue of the Americas to the restaurant on Central Park South, I felt the exhilaration I always feel whenever I’m in the city: the rush of traffic, the clusters of strangers moving with and against me on the broad sidewalks, the glint of granite and marble and glass in the summer sunlight. All of this combines to make me feel as though I’m part of something important and larger than myself. The experience also, strangely, makes me feel grounded and secure; at the same time, I’m aware that at any moment, something unusual might happen that could change my course.
That morning, something did.
Nancy and I reached the restaurant and positioned ourselves to join the short queue that had formed outside the door. Out of the corner of my eye, two people emerged, one of them familiar to me. “Linda Lavin,” I said softly to Nancy. And then, for emphasis, to register my out-of-towner’s surprise at seeing a Famous Person, and to make sure Nancy heard me, I repeated, a bit loudly: “It’s Linda Lavin!” Not only Nancy heard me; so did Ms. Lavin, who looked over at me, probably thinking, tourists!
Thus engaged, I said the only thing I could say to justify my rube-like behavior: “We love you!” Linda Lavin smiled. She was wearing a baseball cap, which looked adorable on her, and she continued on her way.
You might think the story ends there, but it doesn’t.
Nancy and I enjoyed a delicious brunch, walked back to our hotel, picked up our baggage from the concierge and parted amidst the foot traffic of a sweltering day—she to hail a taxi for the airport, me to catch a cab to Penn Station.
Settled in Amtrak’s Quiet Car, heading south to Virginia on the Northeast Regional Line, I picked up my iPhone and sent out a tweet that went something like this:
“Spotted Linda Lavin outside Sarabeth’s in NYC…don’t you just love her?”
A moment passed, possibly two, and then, to my surprise, someone with the handle “mmaren” retweeted my tweet.
“Why would somone retweet this?” I wondered. And “who is “mmaren?” I clicked on his Twitter profile, and then on the hyperlink to his website.
A journalist. A filmmaker—something about a film in production. Husband of writer Dani Shapiro. I filed all this away, and tweeted out my thanks to him for the retweet. (For those who might be reading this hundreds of years into the future, tweeting is how people met one another in the early 21st century, without really meeting each other.)
Back and forth we tweeted, during which Mr. Maren followed me. Here’s a brief exchange:
@Midlife2Wife 5 Aug 2012
@mmaren. Thanks for the lovely follow. Eager to learn more about your film.
@mmaren 5 Aug 2012
@Midlife2Wife Well, it stars the lovely and insanely talented Linda Lavin… info here on FB http://on.fb.me/HI3pY7
@Midlife2Wife 5 Aug 2012
@mmaren thanks for the link. I’ll definitely take a look. My mom had Alzheimer’s. Part I of her story is on my blog. Will share w/u soon.
I have since followed the development of Maren’s film, A Short History of Decay, with great interest, and I’m eager to see it. Throughout the past year, select film festivals have screened it, and Paladin is releasing it in April 2014. If you’d like to know more about it, here’s an interview, from the Hamptons International Film Festival, with Maren and two of the film’s actors:
I wrote at the beginning of this essay that my Linda Lavin sighting on that humid Sunday morning in 2012 set me on a different course; it was, in fact, a course strewn with dots that I connected, one after the other: my tweet about seeing her led to Michael Maren’s retweet, and my awareness of his film about Alzheimer’s—a topic of great interest to me. Our resulting exchanges led me to seek out more information about the writings of his wife, Dani Shapiro, whom at the time I had not read.
Now, after reading two of her novels; one of her memoirs, Slow Motion; and having nearly finished her newest book, the astonishing Still Writing (which I’m recommending to every writer I know), I have made a discovery. In Shapiro’s work I have found a kindred spirit and a literary soul-mate—as I read her I feel as though I’m filling pages of connect-the-dot workbooks, each one studded with epiphanies.
Here’s one of them: I would like to study with her. I’m at work on a manuscript, and in need of a mentor and guide. I find myself at the end of that long cluster of dots that emerged in Manhattan nearly two years ago, to this spot: I am first on the wait-list for Shapiro’s workshop in fiction and memoir at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
I hope and pray I get in. Maybe, if I happen to see Linda Lavin somewhere in the Cleveland area, where I’m living now, I can take that as a good sign.
Linda Grashoff said:
Good luck, Marci!
I hope you get in, too!
Awwww, thanks Janie!
Nancy Wurtzel said:
Oh, how I remember that glorious walk to the restaurant in NYC!! What fun we had sharing brunch and sharing our blog experiences. Great post. And, thanks for spreading the word about this film about Alzheimer’s that looks to be awesome.
Thanks so much, Nancy! That was a real life moment and a wonderful morning–I’m happy you were there to share it with me. Please continue to help spread the word about this film. xom
Connections always fascinate me! I like to think there are no coincidences.
I tend to agree. Maybe, as we make our own luck, we make our own coincidences. Thanks so much for reading, and for taking the time to share your thoughts!
Good Luck Marci! I recently finished Still Writing and would also recommend the book to anyone who writes.
Thank you, and thanks very much for reading! Yes, Still Writing is a wonderful book.
Isn’t life just amazing?!? I love that your pathway of connecting the dots has led you to this place. Your story is really encouraging and lovely. Thank you for sharing this and I send you tons of good thoughts about getting into the workshop. How exciting!
Thank you so much for stopping by to share your incredibly kind thoughts about my post! You’re right: life is amazing. All best, Marci
Joan Stommen said:
Amazing! I loved your descriptions of a warm day in the city and riding the rails! I too believe in connections; many wonderful things occur that way! 🙂 Good luck to you, Marci, in becoming a member of this workshop! They’ll be delighted to work with YOU!
You’re so kind! Thank you for your lovely comment, and for taking the time to read my post.
Sandra Sallin said:
Isn’t it marvelous how you can connect on the web. You need curiosity. Just as you used yours. Loved it.
Thank you, Sandy! It is truly marvelous…and I love watching where your own curiosity is taking you. Your achievements in social media are an inspiration to me! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts on my post.
This is an extraordinary story. You never know where life will take you, and you’ve found that out by connecting the dots!
I pray you get into that workshop – can you take me with you? 🙂
Next time you’re in NYC I’ll go to Sarabeth’s with you! Give me a ring.
P.S. I love how you write.
Thank you. Just…thank you.
Yes. We’ll go to Sarabeth’s…and maybe a play! If I do get into the workshop, I will let you know. Perhaps we can hide you in my suitcase.
You’ve made my day!
It’s incredible how much difference a small twist in our lives can take. I hope you get into the workshop. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and then keep visiting so I can see how it turns out. I have a feeling dots aren’t done being connected.
Thank you for your kind thoughts.
To all who expressed hope that I’d get in Dani Shapiro’s workshop, I’m thrilled to report that I got a call today saying that a spot opened up for me. I’ll be taking “Transforming Chaos into Art: A Workshop in Fiction and Memoir” this August at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Thanks so much for your interest!
Fifty Fab & Healthy said:
This was a very touching story. I hope it works out for you.
Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your kind words. Yesterday I learned that I do have a place in the workshop—it feels as though my readers’ positive energy has helped to make this happen!