Deja de llorar chiquilla
Deja de llorar mi amor
Aunque partiré muy lejos
Algún día volveré por ti mi amor
Te tengo que dejar
Mi barco zarpará
Me duele el corazón
Más tengo que partir
La vida fue muy cruel
Borrando nuestro ayer
Contigo fui feliz
Jamás te olvidare.
--Deja de llorar
I've been hooked on watching The Sopranos on DVD for a few weeks now. Up till then, I'd only seen random episodes of the show, and now I'm committed to powering through the entire series.
Today I was watching a couple of episodes from Season Three - "Amour Fou" and "An Army of One". I found myself strangely mirroring some of the characters. For example, in Amour Fou, Carmela Soprano finds herself crying at the drop of a hat. The first time they show her crying, she's with her daughter Meadow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She comes across a Renaissance-era painting that she finds so beautiful, it makes her cry. I was an art history major in college, and although I've not done much in the field since I graduated, I've kept my interest in art alive; the Italian Renaissance is one of my favorite eras. How nice, I thought, she found a painting that moved her to tears. I've been there. Later, however, she's watching a maudlin commercial where the narrator is waxing poetic about man's best friend. Cute dogs are panned-and-scanned in slow motion, and Carmela starts to tear up. In the same serious baritone, the narrator identifies it as a Pedigree dog food commercial, and suddenly the spell is broken. "What's wrong with me?", Carmela says to herself as she shakes her head and gets up from the couch. I laughed, because recently I found myself moved to tears by an ASPCA commercial with lots of slo-mo scenes of doggies and kitties. Carmela, I feel ya.
I watched the rest of the episode and moved on to "An Army of One". In this one, a young man who is close to the Sopranos is killed. Grief, guilt, and tension are very high. After the funeral, friends and family congregate at their usual Italian restaurant. Uncle Junior is shown at a remote table, singing along while someone else plays guitar. He's got a great voice, and soon the guests are asking him to sing for them. He complies, and begins to sing, in Italian, a heartfelt song about ungrateful hearts.
Everything settles down to a quiet stillness as Uncle Junior sings his heart out. In PR we would call this kind of song corta-venas - vein-slashing. Macabre, yes, but it captures the feeling of lovelorn despair that apparently is not limited to old-timey ballads in Spanish. All the guests are Italian - some having been born there, others were at least second-generation - and in their eyes, glazed over and staring into the general distance, you can see their thoughts are now elsewhere. Some were even tearing up. In a moment of sadness and personal loss, it seems amazing to me that people instinctively turn to things that remind them of home. Whether it be their actual home or ancestral, it's almost like the sounds and tastes of our culture are imprinted in our DNA. They come to our rescue when we need them by helping us bond with others, and comforting us with good memories. The spell was not even broken when Meadow, all giggly-drunk, starts to throw pieces of bread in Uncle Junior's direction. Her father chased her down, but everyone else remained in tune to their nostalgic reverie.
Even I teared up (this time for a reason!), because although I'm not Italian, I recognized what was happening. And as I thought about how universal that scene was, so recognized by people whose home is elsewhere, the sound of Junior singing faded away and other songs started playing. A French ballad, Parlez-moi d'amour, and then a bolero called La enramada - both songs also about ungrateful hearts. The themes echoed each other, but the digression into other languages came together with how the scene was affecting me. Either I had read the show's mind or it had read mine.
*Aunque partiré muy lejos, algún día volveré - Although I've gone far away, one day I will return