(This is an incomplete list.)
1. It’s like drugs. It’s too good. Knowing that I can eat dinner and watch another episode of The Sopranos, it’s almost as though I don’t need anything else to live for. One episode can un-waste an entire day, no matter how long it took me to put on my pants in the morning. That’s how much I love The Sopranos. It is a dangerous love.
2. I’m noticing a bunch of small errors for the first time. Mostly they’re first-season stuff: the actresses who play Silvio and Big Pussy’s wives are different the very first time you see them, and some of the vocal punch-ins are a little off. Also the very first season uses more non-diegetic music than the seasons that follow. I’d never noticed that before.
3. When I play the game of “Which Sopranos Character Am I?” I’ve come to see that I’m probably Johnny Sack, the perpetual guy-behind-the-guy from New York who dies of lung cancer. He’s monogamous, he’s uptight about his things, and he’s basically in charge, but he has to play chess games with everybody to get his way. I relate to those qualities. Also he loses face for crying at his daughter’s wedding. The other gangsters talk shit about that.
Now that I’m older I can admit that I would not be Tony or Chris. I calculate too much. I have too many questions, and I have also, in my time, cried. So I’ve come to terms with the fact that I would not be one of the stars of The Sopranos, if my life were The Sopranos. I would be the slinky cigarette-smoker with bags under his eyes. I would be Johnny Sack.
4. Certain things on the show are too much for me. Certain things make me squirm with pleasure-pain. For instance: the scene in the fancy restaurant when Tony Soprano tells some guy to take off his baseball hat. This scene haunts me. The guy doesn’t want to take his hat off. But then Tony looks at him, and he takes the hat off. Afterward a waiter comes over and thanks Tony.
Sometimes I think this one scene has fucked me up more than all heavy metal music and rated-R movies combined. When I’m on the subway and I see and hear things that are the Ivan Anderson–equivalent of a person wearing a baseball hat in a fancy restaurant, I think of this scene and I am tormented.
How does a person do that thing? How does a Johnny Sack become a Tony Soprano? And why does it mean as much to me as it does?
When I talk about The Sopranos as drugs, this is what I’m talking about. It nudges my fantasies to their furthest, most infinite places. And as much as I love the show, sometimes it’s just too much. Like the flavored syrup the dentist uses to clean your teeth and gums. Sometimes that’s the taste of the thing you love.