R.I.P. James Gandolfini (1961-2013)
"Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky." -- Ojibwe saying
I didn't know James Gandolfini, but I knew Tony Soprano.
Knew him well.
Tony Soprano, that "fat fucking crook from New Jersey" (his words, not mine), that walking amalgam of every human flaw, of all seven deadly sins. A living, breathing paradox who could rationalize killing his own nephew in cold blood and yet would openly sob recounting the image of a family of ducks opting to vacate his pool and fly south for the winter.
One time, in an effort to bed her, Tony Soprano told his therapist Dr. Melfi that "there are two Tony Sopranos," but truth be told Tony may have lowballed that number, because by my count, mob boss, husband, father, boyfriend, captain of industry, cold blooded murderer, and yes, "fat fucking crook," are all fitting descriptions.
But the transcendence of Tony Soprano was in his ability to juggle those roles, at times, simultaneously.
Because only Tony Soprano could bring his daughter, Meadow, on college visits to rural Maine, and then use that "daddy-daughter" time to track down a "rat" who went government witness on his other "family," strangle said "rat" in cold blood, and somehow return to north Jersey with an even stronger bond with his daughter.
And only Tony Soprano could stop off at a New York eatery to curb stomp a rival gangster who disrespected Meadow when he saw her out on a date the previous evening, leave the poor bastard's teeth scattered about the floor like popcorn at the Cinemark, and then head over to his son's psychiatrist's office to casually discuss how the kid's bout with depression was coming along. (Worth noting, in that meeting with the psychiatrist, Tony found a stray, bloody tooth in the cuff of his slacks.)
And only Tony Soprano could take a quiet, autumn walk with his wife on the new piece of land he just bought her so she could begin her fledgling career as a custom builder, all the while knowing full well that hours ago he had just green lighted a successful hit on his nephew's fiancé (another pesky government informant) and that he was on the verge of having to execute a mercy hit himself on his own cousin.
When his wife, Carmela, noticed he seemed distracted as they took their peaceful stroll, she asked "Are you all right?"
Tony just chuckled, softly took her hand, and said "Me? Yeah, absolutely."
And therein lies the irony, because in the time we knew Tony Soprano, he was never all right.
Not even close.