Just one month after New Jersey lost favorite son Ray Liotta, we suffered another terrible loss. Last week, the Jersey family lost Tony “Goose” Siragusa at the young age of 55. His passing sent shockwaves across the state and the NFL.
Siragusa grew up in Kenilworth and played football at Brearley High School. He was also on the wrestling team and won a state high school heavyweight wrestling title in 1985. He was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame in March of this year.
His impressive 12-year NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens as a defensive tackle ended with 562 tackles, 22 sacks, and nine fumble recoveries. After his retirement, Siragusa was a sideline analyst for Fox Sports from 2003 until 2015.
Better than his NFL career was his larger-than-life personality. He was true Jersey, even appearing in The Sopranos.
Goose entered the NFL undrafted. He was known for doing things the hard way. That’s typical for a Jersey guy. He did us proud his entire life, which ended way too short.
When many people think of Americans of Italian descent, they often think we are all in the mob, or “connected.” Many movies such as The Godfather add to the stereotype. Add to that shows like Jersey Shore, Housewives of New Jersey, and The Sopranos, and well…
While many depictions in New Jersey and mob movies show a lot of things that are not true, many more good things are true. Many of us talk about wonderful memories growing up with Sunday dinners, multi-generational families, and pride in our heritage.
Enter James Gandolfini
Gandolfini played “Tony Soprano” in the famed HBO series. He was a deplorable character, yet, he was able to show a human side of this man. Tony had many of the issues we all struggle with; anxiety, temptation; a frustration with his family – his “blood family” that is. James Gandolfini played the character perfectly. He able to play a guy from Jersey because he was a guy from New Jersey.
That “New Jersey” I often speak of is an intangible characteristic those of us from this state easily understand. Born in Westwood, Gandolfini was raised in Park Ridge, New Jersey, the son of an American-born mother and an Italian-born father. He grew up with a strong pride in his heritage and visited Italy often. He was in Rome when he passed away from a heart attack in 2013 at the young age of 51. In 2014, Gandolfini was posthumously inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
While he was proud of his heritage, he worked hard to show his love for America. Gandolfini never forgot the sacrifice his father made, earning a Purple Heart in WWII, and sought to make sure that all veterans received the care and respect they deserve. In 2007, Gandolfini produced Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq, a documentary in which he interviewed injured Iraq War veterans. In 2010 he produced Wartorn: 1861–2010, which examined the impact of PTSD on soldiers and families throughout wars in U.S. history from 1861 to 2010. He also worked with the USO making meeting service members and was a spokesperson for Wounded Warrior Project.
So no, not all Americans of Italian descent are in the mob, but we all love our Italian heritage. Gandolfini showed that pride in his role of Tony Soprano, and more importantly, in his daily life.
My entire career has been focused on high tech. From prepress to IT to SEO, everything I’ve done has involved the latest in technology.
I think that’s why people are so surprised to hear I have analog hobbies. I fly fish, as well as tie my own flies. I do yoga, hike, crochet, felt, weave, spin my own yarn, garden, and am learning to sew on a 1951 Singer. I also love photography; old school photography – with film.
For as long as I can remember, I loved photography. There was a point when I was young I actually wanted to be a photojournalist. However, as life became busier, that idea was put aside.
I picked up photography again in college when I registered for a film photography class. I used my father’s Canon F 35mm and learned to develop my own film in the bathroom of my home, much to my mother’s displeasure. Seton Hall University had two darkrooms and I spent hours in there working to create the best prints possible. For every roll of film I was able to come up with a few solid shots. While on the school paper, I would work with the photo editor on cropping and resizing. My print production and typography classes were great and I still use the skills I learned back then.
While my photography was eventually put aside, that knowledge served me well while working in prepress, print production, and on press runs.
About two years ago, I purchased a digital camera to get back into shooting again. But what I really longed for was old school photography. I went to a monthly used camera event in Hasbrouck Heights and picked up a Canon F – right back where it all started. Since then a dear friend gave me a Mamiya C300. I also have a Polaroid Land Camera from the 60s. Additionally, I’m toying with the idea of picking up either a Diana F+ or a Brownie Hawkeye.
So why am I telling you this long winded story? Stick with me.
I discovered the Film Photography Project quite a while ago and have placed orders with them several times. However, it is only recently I started listening to their podcast. Wow! I have been missing out on something great.
The The Film Photography Podcast is hosted by Michael Raso, Duane Polcou, and John Fedele – all Jersey guys. Raso, a proud William Paterson graduate (known lovingly as “Bill on the Hill”), brings a curious nature to tackling multiple film-related topics. Polcou has an encyclopedic-like knowledge while making the information easy to understand to the average enthusiast. Fedele rounds out the trio and has a long-standing friendship with Raso that began in the William Paterson darkroom. He is an accomplished videographer, as well as a great musician.
Each episode is full of great information, coupled with a lot of humor. They can switch topics from developing film at home to where to get the best plain pie in North Jersey. Their comedic banter is just great. Put as straightforward as possible – they have that Jersey attitude I live – and love. And yes, I love The Sopranos.
I am currently listening to the entire 10-plus year history; checking out a few old episodes, then a few new. I plan on listening to the entire backlog.
If you are interested in film photography, and I highly recommend it, I urge you to check out the Film Photography Podcast.
So we’ve all been hearing about the expansion of the Coronavirus around the world on a minute-by-minute basis. A lot of people are in quarantine – either by choice or government mandate; others are following curfews. We are all social distancing and every school in New Jersey has been switched to remote learning.
For the next few weeks (or longer, possibly), what are we going to do? Here are five suggestions on how to survive Coronavirus with a Jersey flair.
Binge Watch: There are plenty of great Jersey movies and television shows to watch while you are cooped up in the house. Need some suggestions? How about some of my favorite shows and movies with a Jersey theme:
The Sopranos (I mean, do I really need to explain this one?)
Cop Land (a great movie starring Sly Stallone)
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (when you need a good laugh)
Eddie and the Cruisers (think Bruce in a movie)
Garden State (a home-grown cult classic from Jersey’s own Zach Braff)
Coffee at the Tick Tock
Grab a Bite: Even though we are no longer allowed to go to our favorite diner, you can still enjoy disco fries – just at home. Place an order to go bring home a hamburger deluxe or a TEC (that’s taylor ham, egg, and cheese for you non-North Jersey folks). Not only will you avoid cooking one night, you’ll be supporting small business owners in your community that need your help so they will still be there when life gets back to normal. My favorites? The Jefferson Diner in Jefferson, the Tick Tock in Clifton, and the Roxbury Diner in Roxbury.
Go for a Walk: There’s going to come a point when we all need to get out for some fresh air. While some towns are closing down their parks, the Morris County Parks Commission still offers plenty of great locations to get out, stretch your legs, and clear your mind. They are keeping their website up to date with what parks are available.
Turn off the News and Grab a Beer: While I appreciate the media working to keep us up to date on all the latest updates, over time it can really get on your last nerve (I know it is for me). Turn off the television and try and to get it off your mind. Enjoy a brew of the deck instead. I suggest picking up some Angry Erik.
Be Jersey Tough: At the end of the day, let’s face it. There’s no one tougher than people from New Jersey. We need to put up with traffic on the Turnpike and corruption from our politicians. Not to mention all the abuse from residents of other states who think they know what New Jersey is all about. But remember, we know better. Just hang tough. It will all be over soon.