Friday, June 21, 2013

A Tribute To James Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano

Yesterday was a good day...and a bad day. I learned somewhere that one should always deliver the good news first. So...the good news is that yesterday I ended my blogging hiatus. I updated this blog with a fresh new look and made my first post in years. Okay, so maybe that's only good news for me and the one other person that reads this blog...thanks, mom...but it is what it is.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano
Now for the bad news...talented actor James Gandolfini died unexpectedly a few days ago at age 51. In case you don't recognize the name, look at the picture. Most people will recognize him as Tony Soprano from the award-winning HBO series, The Sopranos. That was my absolutely favorite show of all time...and virtually the only television I watched for years. Anyway...more about our family Soprano ritual will probably appear in a future post.

James Gandolfini was a wonderful actor, and I enjoyed his performances in several movies. But, to me, he will always be Tony Soprano. That show brought back some wonderful memories from my childhood growing up in New York. I don't mean the mafia aspects of the show, but rather the gestures, expressions, and slang words used by my Italian/American family and friends. They were virtually identical to those used by the show's characters. Even my children recognized them.

A few years ago, I made a post on this blog entitled N'Italian Lessons 101. It was the most popular post I ever made, getting thousands of views and more than a hundred comments. If you google it it should come up in the top three or for search results. The post listed a number of expressions used by my family and friends...and they were a wonderful part of my life. As a number of these were also used in the Sopranos show, I thought I would post them as a kind of tribute to James Gandolfini. Anyone who was a fan of that series will certainly remember some of them.

In the New York - New Jersey area in particular, many people of Italian-American descent have developed their own version of Italian slang, that I call N'Italian. Granted, some of the slang is a pretty brutal bastardization of la bella lingua, but, I grew up with them so they are near and dear to my heart. Some words and expressions have many variations in spelling. For example, the letters 'c' and 'g' are often used in place of one another. Some also have multiple meanings…so hand gestures, facial expression, and body language are often needed to make an accurate interpretation of context…these will be the subject of a future post. They also have their own English slang expressions...that too will be the subject of another post.

Here are a few samples of N'Italian:

gabagool. This is pronounced ga-ba-'gool. It's slang for cappicola, a highly seasoned type of ham that is a popular cold cut.

proshut. This is pronounced pro-'shoot. It's slang for prosciutto, a salt-cured type of ham eaten as a cold cut and used in Italian cooking.

madonna. Pronounced madonn' or mah-'dawn. The literal meaning is 'virgin mary' or 'mother of God,' but its slang meanings are "Oh no!" or "That's too bad" or "Holy shit!" A variation is the expression madonna mia. Sample usage:

Paulie: "Tony, I'm stuck in friggin' traffic, so I'm gonna' be late for the meetin'.
Oh yeah. And I forgot to pickup the gabagool and proshut."

Tony: "Madonn', what the hell else is gonna' go wrong today?"

ming. Pronounced ming'. Often used as a substitute for madonna.

goomah. Pronounced goo-'mah or coo-'mah. This means 'girlfriend,' but it must be used in the proper context. If you're single and have a girlfriend, she's your goomah. Your wife or fiance is NOT your goomah. If you're married or engaged, a goomah is someone you're seeing on the side.

stunad. Pronounced stew-'nod. A person who is stupid, thick, dense. Sample usage:

"I tell him how to do it five times, and he still screws it up. Ming, what a friggin' stunad."

oobatz. Pronounced oo-'botz. It means 'crazy' or 'you're crazy.' Sample usage:

"Friggin' shyster sends me a bill for five grand. I call him up and say 'You think I'm gonna pay this? Oobatz.'"

stugats. Pronounced stew-'gotz. It means 'balls' or 'big balls' or 'you've got some balls.' In the Sopranos, Tony's boat is named Stugats.

fancul. Pronounced fon-'gool. It means to 'go f--- yourself' or 'f--- yourself up the a--.' Variations include va fancul and a fancul.

fanuk. Pronounced fa-'nuke or fi-'nuke. A guy who is gay. Think Vito in the last few episodes of the Sopranos.

Thank you James Gandolfini for bringing these to life for me. May you rest in peace.

More words like these, and characters like those in the Sopranos, can be found in my buddy J.D. Cannon's fast-moving suspense novel Just By Chance...rated 5 Stars on Amazon. Mobsters, a beautiful high-class escort, and a sexy tropical setting...what could be better than that?

Check it on the cover image or here to learn more.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Something In The Air

Memory is a funny thing. I woke up this morning and decided that it was time to end my blogging hiatus. So, I upgraded to this new Blogger template, but couldn't figure out what to blog about. A phone call from a friend solved that problem. For whatever reason, I recalled an evening that we had dinner together during one of my business trips, and decided I'd re-post a story I told here some time ago.
This is a true story. It really happened. It happened exactly as I describe it. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Oh yeah...I should warn you in advance that this is a long post.

My trip two weeks ago was to a suburb of Cleveland. A buddy and I arranged to have dinner at a trendy restaurant that neither of us had been to before. I arrived before he did. There was a waiting line, so I put my name on the list and went to the bar to wait. I knew he'd know where to find me.

The bar was packed with 20, 30, and 40-somethings pressed shoulder-to-shoulder. I was the only 'cotton head' in the place. I wedged my way to the bar, ordered a glass of wine, and retreated to the periphery to watch and wait.

A woman standing at a chest-high partition at the back of the bar started waving and smiling at me. She was tanned, pretty face, late-30's to early-40's. I looked over both shoulders to check if she was waving at someone else...then smiled back. Now, I'm a happily married guy and wasn't looking for a woman, but I figured it might be interesting to at least strike up a conversation. A few minutes later, a spot opened up next to her and I instinctively made a bee-line for it. My reflex reaction to the empty space was clearly the result of many decades of training.

As I approached, she smiled again. "Hi. Nice to see you. You're Norman, right?"

Not. There's no way in hell that I look like a Norman.

I chuckled to myself, because that line was almost identical to one of my old pick up lines back in my bachelor days…with 'Susan' or some other spur-of-the-moment female name substituted for 'Norman.' In any case, I was flattered by the thought of an attractive woman dishing me a pick up line.

Then again, it could just have been wishful thinking. Hmmm. Nah. Okay...maybe.

We made small talk and she told me I looked just like her friend Norman. She introduced herself (we'll just call her Fran) and offered to buy me a drink. It was a nice gesture, but I declined and just stuck with the small talk. She was waiting for a girlfriend. I was waiting for a buddy. She offered to let us share a table with them since their name would come up first. I didn't think my friend would be comfortable with that, so I didn't want to commit. I don't remember exactly what my response was, but it would definitely have earned me a senior position in the diplomatic corps.

And besides, I didn't know what her girlfriend looked like ;-)

I eventually bought her a drink. My buddy arrived and I bought him a drink. Her girlfriend arrived (we'll call her Carla), and I bought her a drink. Then we took turns buying each other drinks.

Did I mention that Carla was hot? Well, she was. Pretty, blonde, tanned, possibly liposucted, and nicely cleavaged. Okay, okay, I know 'liposucted' and 'cleavaged' aren't officially words. So what? I made 'em up…but I'll bet you got the picture, right? So, just think of them as my contribution to the blogtionary. Yeah…I just made up that word too…creative old fart that I am.

Anyway, we continued buying rounds for quite some time. I can't remember how many iterations this went on for, but I was way past what I usually drink and my friends were liking my jokes, so everything was right with the world. I could tell the booze was working its magic since the girls were laughing even before I got to the punchlines of my jokes. I chose to ignore this little factoid in favor of believing it was my superb delivery.

Suddenly, in mid-slur, Carla and Fran saw two open stools at the bar and swooped them up before I could even swallow a sip of my wine. I was a bit envious that they reacted faster than me. They must have had the same hands-on, hardcore bar training as me. We won't mention the roughly 20-year age advantage they had on me. They waved at us to join them at the bar, but my buddy and I decided to stay put and figure out what, if anything, we were going to do about dinner. I suggested we have another round, on me, and think about our options.

When I returned from the bar with our drinks I found my friend talking with an attractive black woman. We had a nice conversation…and she liked my jokes too, so we were off and running. My friend spent the next hour talking with her, and I shared my time between them and Carla and Fran who were still sitting at the bar. Every time I checked-in with the girls at the bar, Fran would say "Oh, isn't he the sweetest guy, my new friend?" to which Carla would (by this time semi-inebriatedly) agree. Then, Fran would say, "Poor Carla. She says she feels so old. Don't you think she's beautiful?" Of course, I would reply with "Absolutely. I think she's very beautiful," or with "Absolutely. I think she's the hottest 35 year-old in this place." Both lines got an "Oh, get outta' here" from Carla and a "See, what did I tell ya'...he's just the sweetest guy" from Fran.

Did I mention that each time Fran said how sweet I was she would punctuate it with a kiss on the cheek? Yes, that would be my cheek. She was a good kisser. I thought about telling her that, but logic got the best of me and I held my tongue.

After about ten iterations (hell, it could have been only six but who's counting) Carla started to say "thank you" whenever I paid her one of those compliments. I wonder if it took her that long because by that point maybe I started looking at her baby blue's instead of her cleavage…or maybe she was too far gone to know or care. Probably the latter, since I long ago mastered the art of inconspicuous cleavage peeking. (I'm so tempted to make up another new word here…somehow 'cleaking' doesn't quite have the right ring to it...but I shall resist.)

Oh yeah. Fran continued with the kisses, but upped the ante to two on each cheek.

Did I mention that my two new friends were getting shit-faced? Now, I like women when they're a little giddy, but when they get too drunk it can be a very un-pretty sight. That is, of course, unless I'm also which case I wouldn't notice. Of course, the fact that I did notice is proof positive that I wasn't shit-faced. Wow, my logic is so perfect it scares me sometimes. (quod erat demonstrandum)

I started spending more time with my buddy and his new friend. She was getting a little tipsy and the conversation got very interesting. Turns out she was married, but she had a thing for older white guys with gray hair. And, as we say in New York, she was looking for a little "strange"…a little something "on the side" to speak. Upon hearing this I really perked up (get your mind out of the gutter…there isn't room for all of us there) and did a quick scan of the room. Well, there were only two older 'cotton heads' in the bar…and I was one of them.

Shit…she had to go and spoil my fantasy by saying she was interested in the other guy. I kidded that I was insulted. She said she was originally attracted to me…that's why she struck up a conversation with my buddy…but that after talking with me she thought I was too nice of a guy for her. The ensuing conversation went like this:

"So, you like more of the bad boy type, huh?"

"Yes. You're better looking than him, but he looks like the bad boy type to me."

"Well, I can be a bad boy too, ya' know."

"Really? But you seem like such a nice guy. It's hard to believe. I don't think so."

"Okay then, girl. Maybe I should just bend you over that bar stool and spank your ass real good. How'd you like that?"

"Oh yeah baby," she squealed with delight and grabbed my arm, "that's the kind of thing I'm lookin' for."

By the way, I kid you not. This actually happened. Verbatim.

The woman ultimately left to pursue the remaining cotton head, and I got tired of standing, so my buddy and I found a couple of lounge stools and we shot the shit for who knows how long. In case you don't know, 'shot the shit' is a technical term meaning we talked.

Suddenly, there was a bit of a ruckus at the bar, but all we could see was a crowd of people stepping away from it as we heard the sound of glasses shattering on the floor, and cries of "Oh my god" and "Are you okay?"

It took a few seconds more for the unmistakable scent of vomit to waft our way.

First the bad news. My new friend Fran had just up-chucked at the bar. The good news is that the empty bar stool to her left was the only victim. Carla would normally have been sitting there, but, fortunately for her, she was on a potty break.

After the air cleared, literally and figuratively, I went over to see if Fran was okay. She started into a glassy-eyed "Oh, here's my sweet friend. Isn't he…" but I stopped her in midstream because I sure as hell didn't want that peck on the cheek. Instead, I took her hand.

Big mistake!!

Everything got cleaned up pretty good. Everything but Fran's hand.

Yes. That's right. I was holding a gooey vomit hand. A very gooey vomit hand. It was wet. It was clammy. It was sticky. It had little solid vomit bits mixed in. Arggh.

That was my first time…my first time holding a gooey vomit hand.

Aren't you glad I shared?

Badaboom Badabing...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Let Me Hear a Melody...

So...I've been hanging out at Facebook with some old friends from high school, and I saw a picture of our old football coach posted that triggered an acute neuropsychologic transferrence. Okay, I made that term up. In layman's terms it means that a memory bubbled up from the subconscious to the conscious part of my brain...and that's what triggered this post.

If you are of a certain vintage you might recall the Mitch Miller aired in the 60's. The theme song went like this:

Let me hear a melody...I 'd like to sing along...loud and strong…

The Mitch Miller singers would sing all these old tunes and a bouncing ball would appear on the tv screen over the lyrics. Why? case you wanted to sing along, of course.

Anyway...let me get back on point.

Every year the junior class of our school would sponsor a talent guessed it...the Junior Class Talent Show. A couple of us from the football team decided that we would enter...and sing some Mitch Miller songs. Alright, alright...I can hear you saying "Oh My Gawd..he's got to be kidding." Well, I kid you not. We entered.

We decided to call ourselves Mondo's Boys in honor of our backfield coach...whose name was Mr. Kane. Yeah, yeah...I can smell the wood burning're trying to figure out how in hell that has anything to do with the coach's name. on and ye shall be rewarded.

During the 60's there was a movie called Mondo Cane (Latin translation...Dog's World). It was one of the first "shocumentary" films of that era and it featured some of mankind's cruel rituals and bizarre behaviors. I know you're dying for me to tell you about them...but I'm not going to...except for the part about the women in Lapland who would bite the b---s off reindeers. Aren't you glad I mentioned that? I thought so.

So how does that relate to the coach and the group's name? I know that's what you're thinking. Please be patient. if you were a Latin afficionado, you'd know that the correct pronunciation of Cane is Cah-nay. But... if you were a dumb football me and the might you pronounce Cane? I'll give you a hint...fill in the blank...Candy ____... Which rhymes with...K-A-N-E. Oh...and did I mention that the coach was a bit rotund? (Think mondo->world->round) I need to connect the dots for you...or can you see how the name Mondo's Boys was born? Clever huh? I think a few six-packs of beer may have played a minor role in that exercise as well.

So...Mondo's Boys was born. And here's a picture of us. In the back row is Jimmy, JJ, me, and Earl. In the front row there's Carl, Simo, and Ronnie. And Billy aka "Gertie" is at the mike.

We were given time to perform five songs: I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, Ain't She Sweet, The Man On The Flying Trapeze, By The Light Of The Silvery Moon, and Down By The Old Mill Stream. I can still remember the words to those songs.

We opened with I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, performed in classical Mitch Miller full-chorus style:

"I'm looking over a four leaf clover...that I've overlooked before. One leaf is sunshine...the second is rain. Third is the roses that grow in the lane..."

Our second number was Ain't She Sweet...performed in conjunction with a soft-shoe routine. Oh yes, we could dance too:

"Ain't she sweet...see her walking down the street. Now I ask you very confidentially...ain't she sweet…"

The third number was The Man On The Flying Trapeze in which I had a solo part:

Chorus: He'd fly through the air with the greatest of ease...the daring young man on the flying trapeze…

My Solo: "Oh, once I was happy, but now I'm forlorn…like an old coat that is tattered and torn…left in this wide world to fret and to mourn…betrayed by a maid in her teens"

And our fourth number, which brought the house down, was By The Light Of The Silvery Moon. We decided to give it our own personal touch:

Main chorus: "By the light..."
Back chorus: "not the dark but the light"
Main chorus: "of the silvery moon..."
Back chorus: "not the sun but the moon"
Main chorus: "we love to spoon…"
Back chorus: "not knife but spoon"
Main chorus: "to my honey I croon love's tune…" the time we finished we got a standing ovation...and won second place. Unlike us, the winners...a jazz & vocal trio...had some real talent.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Flora Dora Sisters

An email from my sister, mentioning some very old relatives, was the catalyst for this post. Two twin sisters, known affectionately as the Flora Dora sisters, are cousins of mine...probably three or four times removed. Those are not their real names, but that's what we’ve always called them. They lived together, always dressed identically, and for the whole time I've known them I couldn't tell Flora from Dora.

For my entire life the Flora Dora sisters have been fixtures at family weddings and funerals. I remember my mother telling me that they loved to dance. My only memory of them dancing was at a cousin's wedding when I was in my 20’s . Every time the band played they’d stand up, clap their hands to the beat, and shift their weight from one foot to the other. I guess that was dancing to them, but to me it looked like two little wooden soldiers marching in place to the music. Not to be too critical…at least they kept time to the beat.

There aren't too many weddings anymore, so for the past few decades I've only seen them at funerals. They’ve always prided themselves on never missing a funeral...and would always seem to show up before anyone else...rosary beads in hand... dressed in identical black mourning clothes. I have this mental picture them showing up at the funeral home 15 minutes beforehand waiting for the doors to open. How quickly they found out who died remains a mystery to me...Facebook perhaps? I think not.

Whenever they'd see me they would always attack approach in tandem, arms outstretched, surround me with hugs, and plant very wet kisses all over my face. Did I mention they had whiskers? Anyway, after slobbering smothering me with kisses, they’d nod towards the coffin. Then Dora…or maybe it was Flora…would invariably say “Such a shame”dabbing her eye with a tissue…and her twin would say…nodding her head knowingly…“God decided to take him.” The only variation in this statement over the last 40 years was that sometimes “her” replaced “him.”

I have no clue how old they are...they've always looked 80-something to me. The family joke was that they'd probably outlive everyone else, and when they died there wouldn't be anyone left to attend their funerals. I'm not even sure if they're still alive...guess I'll have to wait until the next funeral to find out.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Expanding My Vocabulary

There was this guy who lived in my neighborhood when I was a teenager. We called him Jimmy's Taxi…because his name was Jimmy…and he drove a taxi. Yes, we were very creative back then. Anyway, Jimmy was probably in his 30's or 40's, and single. He rented a room in a house about two blocks from mine. His taxi was old…real old. It was painted a bluish gray…with "Jimmy's Taxi" displayed in faded red lettering on the two front doors.

Several evenings per week Jimmy would park his taxi on Taylor Road, which was kind of an access road that ran parallel to the parkway across from my house. It was a very wide road, with houses on one side that were set way back. I'd often see him there when I took my dog for a walk at night. Sometimes he'd be there by himself, smoking a cigarette while lounging back in the front seat with his long skinny legs sticking out from the driver side window. More times than not I saw him with one of his girlfriends. And sometimes I just saw the car…rocking up and down…a definite sign that Jimmy was gettin' some. I often wondered how he could manage a prone position without his feet jamming up against the window because he was more than six feet tall.

Well, one night the car was bucking up and down with more than usual vigor. The front window was open a bit, and I could clearly hear the grunts and groans as I walked the dog on the opposite side of the street. I was tempted to get closer and maybe catch a peek of the action, but was worried that the dog would get spooked by the mating sounds and start barking…and I didn't want to put the kabash on Jimmy's fun. Instead, I just continued down the street.

On my way to school the next day, I stopped by my friend Billy's house. Billy wasn't quite ready, so his mom told me to have a seat at the kitchen table while I waited. Billy's mom was really cool. She was a big, rotund woman. She always had a smile on her face and she had an incredible sense of humor.

"Did you hear about Jimmy's Taxi?" she asked.


"He died in the saddle. They found him parked in his car on Taylor Road."

The look on my face made it clear that I had no clue what she meant by dying in the saddle. She broke into a laugh. I shrugged my shoulders and looked at her expectantly. That made her laugh even harder.

"Billeee…," she yelled. "Come out here and educate Joey."

She resumed her laughing until Billy came into the kitchen.

The first thing Billy said to me was "You hear about Jimmy's Taxi? He died in the saddle last night."

"Joey doesn't know what that means," his mom said. She was now laughing so hard her face had turned a beet red.

"He was porkin' his girlfriend in the car and had a heart attack," Billy said. "Died right there on top of her."

"You're shittin' me," I said, forgetting for a moment that Billy's mother was there. "I saw his car there last night when I walked the dog. He was really going at it."

"They had to call the fire department to pry her loose," his mother said, wiping the tears running down her cheeks. "God, I'd give anything to have seen the look on her face."

Now...I know we should have felt sorry for Jimmy, but for some reason all we could think about was the image of the firemen showing up and finding the two of them like that. I almost peed in my pants laughing.

On the bright side…my vocabulary was enhanced a bit that morning.

By the way, this is a true story. It was inspired by my connection with an old neighborhood friend on Facebook a few days ago. He lived about a hundred feet from where Jimmy died.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Badabing Is Back

I can't believe it's been more than a year since I've posted here...but, I'm baaaack!!

Oh...and Happy New Year to all. Here's how mine is going so far:

  • I came down with a nasty sinus infection on New Year's Eve...that I'm just now getting over
  • Went to the doc to get something for it and find out that my blood pressure and cholesterol are both sky high...what's with that?
  • Oh...and the doc wants me to have an MRI of the, not to see if I actually have see if I'm about to have a stroke or something
  • The weather here is cold enough to freeze the ballinos off a brass monkey...and my heating costs have increased 300% over the last 10 years...about the same amount as my income has decreased

    Other than that...everything is just dandy.

    Badabing Badaboom...

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  • Monday, November 17, 2008

    Happy Birthday Daddy

    Halloween was my birthday. My daughter cooked me an excellent meal of veal scallopini, and we had a decadent dessert of handmade chocolates and thirty-year-old port wine. Here is the cover of the birthday card she gave me.

    Inside, the message was See, there are things more frightening than Halloween.

    I wonder who she inherited her warped sense of humor from :-) Would you believe me if I told you that the dinner conversation included a discussion of whether the guy was wearing a thong...or nothong at all?

    I know my friend Old Horsetail Snake is gonna' love this since he's such a fan of butt crack...only kidding of course.

    That's all for now...I still have 700 more words to write in order to make my NaNoWriMo budget for the day.

    Badaboom Badabing...

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