Saturday, June 22, 2013

One Last, Long, Mournful Note....

"Remember when" is the lowest form of conversation.

- Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini.  Jersey Guy.  His initials said it all.  Wednesday, while on vacation in Rome, Italy with his son and his sister, the fifty-one-year-old Gandolfini died.  Preliminary indications are that it was a massive heart attack that killed him.  

From 1999 to 2007, he was a regular visitor to our home on Sundays - as he was to millions of homes across the country.  The Sopranos simply exploded upon its arrival on HBO.  As a Jersey boy - I was born here, have lived here all of my life and shall in all likelihood die here (though likely not soon enough to please most of those who know me) - the show resonated with me down to my core.  I have lived in Central Jersey most of my life - never north of Middlesex County and never south of Mercer County.  However, most of my working life has been spent in northern Jersey.   The opening credits montage was chock full of places I drove by and through on nothing less than a recurring basis.  Each episode - save for those they filmed in Italy - featured locales that were familiar to me and to countless other folks here in the State of Concrete Gardens. 

A couple of years ago, my oldest brother Bill shared with me a photograph of a vehicle parked in a parking lot outside of his office in Connecticut.  On the vehicle's rear bumper was a bumper sticker that perhaps only a Jerseyan can love.  To this day, I smile every time I look at it.  And I see it every day.  It is framed and on a wall in my office.

The Sopranos - in spite of the protests of some in the Italian-American community - struck a chord with those of us who call Jersey home because not only was the show set here, it was filled with characters one encounters on the streets and in the shopping centers here as part of one's day-by-day.  They were a family that was unabashedly Jersey.  They loved it.  And every Sunday night, sitting in my den with my family watching them, I loved it too.   I had reason to smile on Thursday afternoon.  I came across something Rob posted on-line in tribute to the late, great Gandolfini from an episode in the show's first season.  It is a scene that has long been one of his favorites - as it has long been one of mine.  The essence of Tony Soprano, captured in fifty-two seconds

Best of all - for me at least - was the knowledge that the titular head of the operation, Tony Soprano, was being portrayed by an actor who was a true-blue Jersey guy.  James Gandolfini was a Bergen County boy, born and raised in Bergen County in a working-class household.  His college years were spent on the banks of the old Rar-i-tan and he was a proud, visible Rutgers alumni.  Although he spent what turned out to be the final years of his life splitting time between residences in California and New York City, he not only never ran from his Jersey roots, he embraced them.  They were part of the fabric of his being.  They were part of his DNA.  I get it.  I am similarly constructed.  

Fifty-one is too damn young to die - sayeth the man who celebrated his forty-sixth birthday five months ago.  From across the Atlantic, another native son of the State of Concrete Gardens paid tribute to him from the concert stage on Thursday evening.  Here, Holsten's Ice Cream Parlor in Bloomfield - where the final scene of the series took place - was besieged by well-wishers and people just wanting to pay their respects in any way they could.   Holsten's owner paid his own tribute.  He closed the booth where Tony, Carmela and AJ sat waiting for Meadow to join them (the last moments that they shared with those of at home) and placed a "Reserved" sign on the table.  

A bit corny?  Cheesy?  Maybe.  To you at least.  But this is Jersey.  This is how we roll....

....and this is how it ends. 

For all of us. 


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