Ghost Buster Website

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Hotel Exedra where James Gandolfini died.

I rarely think about it, but someone died many years ago in the third bedroom of my New York apartment. Of course, the bedroom at the time belonged to my elderly neighbors. I don’t know exactly what happened, but the wife wasn’t in such a rush to have her deceased husband removed. She slept beside him for a few days.

We lived next door and didn’t see, hear, or smell a thing. The wife moved away soon after. The apartment had a few renters since then, but they didn’t last. When the building went co-op thirty years ago, we bought that apartment plus ours and connected them. Death or no death, I wanted the additional space.

Usually, I would be a little skittish about it, but greed took over. The two apartments together were a New York dream. That wasn’t the case for celebrity chef, Sandra Lee, who abruptly ended her stay in the same Rome hotel room where “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini died suddenly three days earlier. The minute she found out, she fled. The girlfriend of Governor Andrew Cuomo claims she didn’t want any part of the media frenzy — but we imagine we know differently.

Just in case you also are feeling a little uneasy about your current abode, or could swear you have been hearing disturbances for a while, check out DiedInHouse.com.

DiedInHouse.com can tell you if someone once ceased existing within your walls. The site claims to have searched all fifty states for evidence of expiration. It promises something called a “certified report.”

A single search costs $11.99. There is a disclaimer on the site which absolves them of any inaccurate information. I wouldn’t let that dissuade me from using the service. Lawyers always try to protect their clients.

Tick, Tock, How Much Time Do We Have Left?

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“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” Steve Jobs

I have always wondered if I would have lived my life differently if I knew the exact date and time of my death. Even as a young kid, I used to wonder why we all weren’t told how long we had here on Earth. I believe life would have been so much easier.

I wouldn’t have been so hysterical every time I went to the doctor. All that unnecessary negative energy worrying all the time. Just this afternoon I panicked when I had my second MRI and the technician made me hold my breath about 110 times during a 40-minute period in the tube. I convinced myself that my body couldn’t handle that kind of breathing with dye running thorough it. If I knew I wasn’t going to die, it would have been so much easier.

Moments like this forced Fredrik Colting, a Swedish inventor, to create Tikker, a wrist watch that counts down your life, just so you can make every second count.

The slogan of the watch is “Make Every Second Count.” Tikker believes that if you wear their watch, you are making a statement that your biggest priority in life is living.

The Tikker Kickstarter page says, “Setting up and using TIKKER is incredibly easy. The wearer simply fills out a questionnaire, deducts his/her current age from the results, and TIKKER is ready to start the countdown. With your Tikker you will also receive the book About Time. This is your instruction manual to both Tikker and time itself. It not only gives you information on the concept of time – answering questions such as “What is time? When did time begin? Is time endless?” – but it also guides you through the process of calculating your own life span.

“Through various questions you will arrive at a figure; this is what you set your Tikker on. Although your life’s countdown began the day you were born, Tikker is now there to remind you to make the most of it, AND TO BE HAPPY!”

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What Happens to our Facebook Page when We Die?

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Facebook has had to face the death question 30 million times since its inception. Yes, 30 million users have died worldwide. Closer to home, 580,000 users died last year in the United States as compared to three million worldwide. Those statistics are being given out by sources close to Facebook.

Unbeknownst to many of us, Facebook actually has guidelines for pages belonging to the deceased. There is a whole story about it that you will find fascinating if you just press here. The reason why this topic is so interesting is because a social media platform like Facebook has its own postmortem rituals much like real life. Wait a minute, did I say that? Facebook to many people is real life or to many better than the life they have to face every day when they are offline.

Continue reading

Internet + Death

When I was in the taxi riding home from JFK airport two weeks ago, after our trip to Croatia, I received this text from the superintendent of my NYC coop: “Your neighbor in 10A passed.”

I was stunned on several accounts.

First, I never understood that expression. Passed? I am not trying to be funny, but passed what? An exam? Broke wind? Passed a stone? I just asked Eliot if he agreed with the expression “passed” before writing this post. He got annoyed with me and in a tone that only a 100-year marriage could produce (remember, we work together 24/7), he sighed, “What do you think it means? Passed. Like in passed on. Like no longer living. Like on to the afterlife.” It seemed to make sense during his explanation, but I don’t like it.

Secondly, I was stunned to receive a text. That seems to be the way I am receiving death notices these days. Cut and dry. No need for small talk. “Virginia passed.” Now don’t say that this is “just New Yorkers.” Many people in my coop know each other well because we are always at each other’s throat over some issue.

Virginia was another story. My quiet neighbor who I’ve seen maybe 10 times in the last 20 years even though we lived side-by-side, seemed happy and healthy when we met at the trash chute a month ago. She was around my age and single. I was on my way to work when she opened the door to throw out her garbage. This was our usual encounter. Virginia had been sick a few years back and looked frail for quite some time. In the last year or two she seemed active and carefree. I also confirmed this with our doormen. They know things like that.

I tried to talk to our super Salim face-to-face, but he was too busy in the morning before I left for work and off the premises when I came home at night. So the texting continued. “What happened?” I texted.  He texted back, “Her nephew called me to say that he couldn’t reach her. When he came to the building a few hours later, we both went into her apartment together. We found her in bed, gone.”

When I met up with Salim days later, he told me that in the 20 years he has been working in the building this marked the eighth body he’s discovered — several found in bath tubs, on the floor, or slumped in a chair.

The third thing that stunned me was the notice the police posted on Virginia’s door. Until an autopsy is performed and a death is determined, no one is allowed to enter the apartment. The seal on the door cannot be broken. Salim promised to text me the findings. Other neighbors asked me to text them what I’ve learned.

Texting has replaced hanging out the window, screaming your neighbor’s name.

By the way, we argue by text as well but we use CAPS. “SCREW YOU!!”

I wanted to tell you this story after reading Jenna Wortham’s New York Times piece about “Death Online.” Jenna has been reporting on digital news for years. She is well-respected and adored.

NYTimes: Digital Diary: Talking About Death Online

Posting about a personal loss online makes people — both the poster and the readers — uncomfortable. Why does the social Web seem limited to a few emotions? http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/digital-diary-talking-about-death-online/

Rest In Peace Virginia