Monday, September 27, 2010

Jersey Pride

THE SOPRANOS ended its fifth season last Sunday with a ba... no, no, I won’t say that, and not just because one of the brilliant things about this season finale was its relative lack of bang! Far from being the setup for a major New York / New Jersey gang war (as most assumed), the season finale seems to bode for some renewed peace in the land of northern New Jersey.

Which is a relief, because that’s where I live.

Being a resident of Hoboken, NJ (a town wholly familiar with corruption), I can relate to much in The Sopranos. Not that I’ve ever whacked a guy or had a no-show construction job (ah, to dream!), but I do know the proper response to seeing an overweight Italian gentleman in a running suit walking down the street. It’s not to smirk, it’s to genuflect.

There’s a well known local pizza joint that is, uh, connected, and if the titular owner walks in, the entire place reacts as if Sinatra just strolled into the lounge at the Sands. I witnessed this once. I was sitting there with my piece o’ pie and he sauntered in and the place erupted and he slapped me on the back and asked, “How’s your slice?” and I loudly proclaimed it the best pizza I’ve ever had, thank you sir!

I know some people who’ve been on THE SOPRANOS. I offered my condolences to Gibby on the death of his former producer Adriana. Shelley was at the Mudvayne show that AJ went to (which is odd, because Shelley usually has good taste). Local bands like the Swingin’ Neckbreakers and No Soap Radio have graced the stage at the bar where I work in addition to the Crazy Horse.

I know the places shown in the opening and have been to some of the businesses that have served as meeting points for various crew members. When Feech told the tale of being at the Clam Broth House when a famous hit took place, I jumped because the Clam Broth House is within walking distance of my apartment.

Two summers ago, a lady and I sat in a Honda on a Jersey beachfront road in dead traffic. I assumed it was an accident, but when we got rolling again, I saw that cars were stopped to allow the filming of something. It wasn’t until a year later that I saw the Season 4 finale “Whitecaps” and realized we drove past the house Tony almost bought that day.

There’s a weird sense of pride that comes from living in Sopranos-land. It’s not the same as being a New Yorker or an Angeleno.... most movies and TV shows are set in one of those towns, and its denizens are mostly cynical enough to at least pretend that they don’t care they live down the block from Monica and Chandler. And it’s not the kind of aw-shucks partial defensiveness I felt being from Lancaster PA when WITNESS came out. Watching The Sopranos while sitting a stone’s throw from the Bada-Bing! definitely enhances the experience.

Maybe it’s because New Jersey has been little more than a punchline in pop culture for so many years. I realize that THE SOPRANOS embraces much of the stereotypes of the big-haired, gold-chained cheeseballs and suburban malaise, and that, like so many stereotypes, they’re rooted in fact. But, like most pop culture phenomena, the hipness of the show has rubbed off a teeny tiny bit on the very unhip thing it depicts. Suddenly the ugly industrial byways of northern New Jersey have an ethereal mystery to them.... ooh, is that Adriana’s suitcase over there?

Finally, and with all humility, I feel that I have to acknowledge the thanks that’s bestowed upon me at the end of every episode of THE SOPRANOS. It’s lovely of David Chase to extend such a gracious acknowledgement to myself.... okay, and the other nine million “people of New Jersey” in the end credits every week. Really, David, you don’t have to thank me, it was no big deal. All I did was move here.

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