Cynthia loves movies. Always has. But what separates her from the rest of the pompous wannabe Eberts of the web is that she likes movies the same way that you and I do when we talk about them over dinner or at Starbuck’s. Whether it’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Mad Max, she just digs a good story. We connected when I joined the esteemed roster of scribes at The Nervous Breakdown somewhere around 2010. Over the next few years, TNB, founded by author Brad Listi, evolved as both a culture site and a beautifully weird alternative to social media. Somebody would post a feature about some random childhood memory, like their time on a dude ranch in the 80s, and by the end of the week, there would be 200-plus comments under the piece. They replies always began as responses to the actual feature, but as you pored through the sub-levels of banter, subjects spun wildly off-topic in triumphantly profane and entertaining ways. Because that’s what happens when friends get together and chat.
We writers often interviewed each other and we collaborated on shitloads of pieces because when strange minds collide, the only reasonable response is to create something together as soon as possible. A couple of nights ago I came across this piece that Cynthia and I wrote: Ten Essential Rock Movies. When we published it, she was TNB’s resident movie critic and I was the site’s Music Editor. I think it was her idea to do the feature. Or maybe it was mine? As I look at it again, I see that it was published as a music piece, so it must have been my way of meeting my weekly deadline. Hey, thanks again, CH! Regardless, when discussing the idea, we agreed to each pick five awesome movies and discuss what each one exuded that drew it near and dear to our hearts. We resolved to watch each other’s movies, again if need be, so we could approach the feature with new perspectives and fresh recollection. Her feedback was way better than mine, as you can see from the feature. And it was really fun to do. Out of curiosity, I searched my inbox and found the emails we wrote to each other back in 2012 as we were putting the piece together. Reaching through each other’s selections, I don’t know which of us was more excited. CH- I’m going to say that you were more excited to watch some new movies (you’d never seen three out of my five picks!) and I was more excited to combine our superpowers. I suspect I’m right.
When you disconnect from social media, you unshackle yourself from a lot of overly-dramatic bullshit but you also fall out of touch with people. My friend Gloria sent me an email yesterday to let me know that Cynthia’s not doing well. She’d been battling cancer since I first met her and over the course of the year, in my final months on Facebook, I could see from Cynthia’s pictures and status updates that the cancer had stormed back with a relentless aggression. She’d always kicked the shit out of her disease and done so with a feisty grin and usually a funny movie quote. Like the blog she wrote after recovering from a double mastectomy, where a friend tripped over her IV and she immediately likened it to the similar scene in Airplane. Seriously funny stuff. But still, whenever I’d see her most recent pictures, I’d wonder, “How many times can she get back up?” Gloria’s email made it clear – this time there is no getting back up. In fact, her battle with cancer is nearly finished and her husband and children have taken her home to ride out her final few days surrounded by loved ones.
Brad wrote a gorgeous post on TNB and all of the writers, past and present have descended on it to leave comments for Cynthia and to swap stories about our times with her. Joe, her husband, has been reading them to Cynthia and we’re all hoping that at least a few of them induce a chuckle or even a smile. So many of us writers have moved on to other projects, jobs and life situations. It’s been years since our paths have all intersected at TNB but for the past day, it’s like somebody’s turned the clock back five years and we’re all happily slogging away under the TNB banner, like the chatty, opinionated, potty-mouthed and majestically-dysfunctional family that we were. It just sucks that it’s taken this to make that happen. And I don’t know what else to say.
Love you, CH. I’ll see you on the other side. x[Update: I’m sad to report that our dear Cynthia lost her battle with cancer on February 17, 2017. Rest in peace.]