In this picture he even LOOKS so much like my dad.

People think I am weird for all sorts of reasons. And, agreed, there are plenty from which to choose. Take your very own pick.  Anyway, one of the odd duck qualities I bring to the table? I take the death of strangers too much to heart. From reading obituaries of local residents to celebrities – depending on the case, I can truly be affected.

There are some deaths that seem to really shock people and cover the internet with a mourning blanket. Often times those deaths do not phase me much. But other times, I will cry as if I knew them. Phil Hartman has so far been the worst. And today, I feel that same sadness due to the death of James Gandolfini.

It is reported that James died in Italy from a heart attack at the age of 51. Clearly, an age much too young.

If I came across a movie starring the actor, I would typically watch it just because he was in it. I have always found him to be a remarkable performer. True Romance to Zero Dark Thirty to Sopranos – he was always a welcomed sight.

But for me it wasn’t just about his talent. For some reason, he has always reminded me of my father. Watching him and listening to him comforted me. Sometimes I would feel like my dad was in the room. I dunno, it’s weird.

Sopranos was my first outbreak of binge viewing. Not being able to afford cable, I didn’t watch it until about a year after its initial release. It was Memorial Day weekend and I borrowed my friend’s VHS recordings of the first season. I didn’t leave my apartment all weekend and by Tuesday I had a Jersey accent.

Those who know me know that I have a bit of an obsession/love affair with mob movies. At a young age, The Godfather (both 1 & 2 because I always watch them together) became my favorite film…and that has never changed. If it was about the mob – I watched it. So, obviously, when Sopranos came out…I was twitchin’ pretty hard wanting to see it. I became addicted immediately and eventually owned every season on DVD.

But even bigger than that – greater than my fascination with the mafia – James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano was the first time I had witnessed someone on television portray a panic attack. During that time in my life, anxiety and panic had a pretty tight hold on me. I felt like a total crazy person. I felt stupid. I felt weak. And most of all, I felt fear. I knew a couple of people who could somewhat relate, but people really didn’t talk about it much…not like now anyway. So to see it in this way was very meaningful to me.

Here was this big, tough mob boss having panic attacks. Just the fact that it was such a major part of his character was some kind of proof that I needed to realize I most certainly wasn’t alone in my neurosis and that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t a complete wimpy tit for being so afraid. His character didn’t react to the attacks like I did – but it didn’t seem to matter.

So, yea. I am very saddened by the loss of this great actor – this stranger who honestly brought some relieving and comforting moments to my life. Thanks, James. You have been appreciated.


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