September 3, 2008
About this time a year ago I let it be known I was leaving Lower Alabama for New Jersey. I wanted to be close to Manhattan and closer to my daughter and her two sons who live in Kingston, NY.
Hoboken, I told them. It was the place I had chosen.
My stepdaughter, an artist who lives in the wilds near Grants, New Mexico, responded, "Really? Hoboken? Soprano country!"
Not subscribing to HBO I had missed the award-winning series, but to be au courant I rented the first episode at one point and watched it from my treadmill. I was impressed, but it wasn't my thing. That was the only episode I had seen.
That was then. Now I watch re-runs on A & E every day at 3 P.M. Sometimes I catch an episode on the weekend. For a while it was hit-and-miss (not hit or miss, but and), because I was catching episodes out of sequence. I stayed confused. "They're gonna whack this one," and "Hey hadn't they killed him by this time?"
I look for telltale locales, but I can't say that much if any of it was shot in Hoboken. I recognize all that stuff in Weehawken at the sign-on, when Tony is chewing that cigar as he comes out of the tunnel and over the bridges. He drives through neighborhoods that could be Newark or Jersey City, but definitely are not Hoboken. Pizza-Land and Satriale's Meat--not Hoboken. Then he wheels down into some upscale neighborhood that could be anywhere, U.S.A., into an Italian mansion that it wouldn't take a mob boss to love. Beautiful landscaping. This could be in one of the many communities within commuting distance of New York. My readers probably know where it was filmed. Surely not Summit or Montclair. Tony and Carmella and family would not be welcome there.
But in a way Hoboken is Soprano country. There is a realtor with that last name, who probably gets teased a lot, but it's her name. Nobody denies that there was a presence of the Cosa Nostra when there was a waterfront here and crime was a big factor in this part of New Jersey. My friend Slezak says they were all nice guys. (Nice to him.) Sinatra once sent "some guys from Hoboken" to break Buddy Rich's kneecaps when he was having difficulty with the drummer. And Jimmy Roselli was in-and-out with the boys most of his life.
I just watched today's episode of The Sopranos. It's a superbly crafted drama, and whenever it's family and Dr. Melfi, I am totally hooked. Today A.J. (Tony Jr.) was expelled from school and Tony wanted to enroll him in a military academy. The former mob boss' son had to be extinguished, so there was a funeral scene and lots of grief and a couple of arrests at the graveside. I seem to recognize that cemetery, just off the turnpike. Dr. Melfi tries to get Tony to talk about what he wants for his children. His daughter gets drunk at the post-funeral and starts throwing bread bits at Uncle Junior, who is singing sentimental Italian songs (rather well, I thought). It's the absolute highest level of soap opera, beautifully photographed and expensively produced, with some of the most convincing ensemble acting I have ever seen.
And last week one of those actors was filming a movie right in front of my house on Hudson Street! Exciting country, Soprano country.