A Musical Interlude with Sopranos

This is part of the journal I kept for one of my last classes at St. Mary’s. We were supposed to write about a pair of songs each week, songs that had some special meaning to us.  I loved this show…and am saddened at the loss of James Gandolfini.

 It starts in a tunnel, and the harmonica does that little loop the loop thing, but then it’s all about the bass line. Alabama 3, “Woke up This Morning.”

So the car goes through the Lincoln Tunnel, heading west into New Jersey. We can see the New York skyline in the distance. In the early years, the Twin Towers are there, but later, they’re gone and all you see really is the Empire State Building. But now we’re on the New Jersey Turnpike and the low down voice is talking about getting himself a gun. We see the heavyset man with the big cigar reach for a ticket at the Turnpike toll plaza. He lights the cigar and we see the hair on his arm glinting in the sun. An airplane flies past and then we get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.  The car crosses the Hackensack River, then we see the driver’s reflection in the rear view mirror, behind a cloud of smoke from the cigar. The landscape is industrial: we see factories and trains, and then the Sacred Heart Basilica in Newark. We see the car pass the Meadowlands,  the cemetery, the big statue of the Muffler Man and then the familiar sight of Satriales Pork Shop on Kearny Avenue. Next is the neon sign above Pizzaland. The neighborhood changes from working class to high rent, and finally Tony pulls up the long drive to the big house and gets out of his car and slams the door, just as the music stops. Got yourself a gun, got yourself a gun, and another episode of “The Sopranos” begins.

I got into it late, but once I was there, I was religious about watching every episode. The people I worked with were into it too. We had discussions each week about the previous night’s episode and started saying things like, “It cannot be accommodated,” and “That’s a no go,” and quoting the guys who quoted lines from The Godfather: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” We knew it would end one day, but no one wanted to think about it.

I invited a friend over to watch the last episode and eat baked ziti. We sat on the edge of our seats when Tony walked into the diner in that last scene. Just a few minutes left, and the tension was building to impossible levels. Every time a new customer came in the door, we jumped. Tony sits and waits for his family to arrive, flipping through the jukebox offerings at the table to pass the time. We see him scanning the pages for something to play, and then we see him light on “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.

Just a small town girl, and Carmela walks in. The song plays in the background and there is some conversation about Meadow going on at the table as Tony’s son AJ arrives. They talk about his day at work. AJ says, “Focus on the good times, right?” Meanwhile, Meadow is taking forever to parallel park.  Luckily, this is a long song.Everyone who walks in the diner looks menacing and suspicious, even the boy scouts. A guy (in a Members Only jacket?) gets up from the counter and heads back to the bathrooms. Is this going to be a nod to The Godfather when Michael Corleone gets the gun from the bathroom and comes out blasting? No, they wouldn’t do that. Too predictable. But what if…?

The music is still playing. Don’t stop believing.  Meadow finally gets the car parked and runs across the street, dodging traffic. Will she be hit? No, she makes it to the door, opens it, we hear the bell over the door jingle, and at the words “Don’t stop” the screen goes black. Just like that, it’s over. Remember?

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