I was saddened to learn of the passing of James Gandolfini, Mr. Tony Soprano himself. I wasn't a huge fan of the Soprano's but I watched the show for the background shots. I grew up in the part of New Jersey where the Soprano's was filmed. The town the Soprano family lived in was Essex Fells where my Great Uncle Norman lived. Tony Soprano's mother lived in my home town of Verona - how do I know that? Because when she was taken to the hospital who was in the scene but the Verona Rescue Squad -the same guys who came when my mom needed them so many years ago. I ate in diners just like the one on the show, in fact my step grandmother always got excellent service since she spoke fluent Greek and most of the diners were owned by Greek families. Every time I watched the show it would remind me of New Jersey and my childhood.
Was the show realistic? Who knows? Was the mob in New Jersey? Yes absolutely. I volunteered at a local hospital once and a known mobster was being treated there - surrounded by security with very scary guns. Did we know made guys? Who knows?
Did we sound like the Soprano's - absolutely not - but I knew people who did. And can I do the accent? Oh yeah, absolutely, on occasion I let my inner Jersey come out.
Do I think about Jersey often? Not often but certain things remind me - Chris Christie rising to national prominence and being such a Jersey boy himself always reminds me. And my cousins posting photos from the Jersey shore bring back the memories of hot sunny summer days and being at an ocean you can swim in (I love California but you cannot swim here without a wet suit). And every time I saw James Gandolfini on anything I'd think of the Sopranos and Jersey.
What is it about New Jersey that holds such a place in my heart? My sister said it very well once - everyone in New Jersey has this slightly sarcastic tone - it doesn't mean they don't like you, but they just cannot help giving you a little bit of a dig even if they're a waiter hoping for a nice tip. You don't find that anywhere here on the coast.
So it is with sadness I saw Rest in Peace Tony Soprano. You will be missed. And what was up with that finale ending?