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...