HBO's hit series The Sopranos came to a questionable conclusion last night, causing millions of cable subscribers to erupt in chorus, "that's it?" After the program I made an appearance at the final hurrah of the Cha Cha Lounge, a cauldron of cool in Capitol Hill Seattle. As "Don't Stop Believin'" came on the speakers in that all-American diner, revealing a pinwheel of suspects for us to finger as potential trigger-men for Tony's ultimate (off-camera) demise, I thought about many drunken nights spent in the bottom of that filth barrel, the Cha.
Like Lounge Axe in Chicago, Brownies in New York or Respectable Street Cafe in West Palm Beach, bars and shows, like lovers or livers, come and go as easy as a week-long bender, or the declaration of the false statement "I'll never drink again." But true alcoholics never muster the courage to utter such a sacrilege, nor did true fans really feel a disappointing POP when the lights literally went out on the Mafioso show last evening, just like that. I remember dancing with David Cross in a dress at the Cha Cha Lounge and thought, "where else on earth could such an event happen?"
When the crazed patriot, armed to the teeth in trashy cowboy attire, sporting the USA hat, poured way too much salt on his fatso burger, I knew that show creator David Chase, who wrote and directed the final episode, wanted to explore the profiles of all possible suspects in our own backyard. The anti-climactic scene also introduced a pair of African-American punks, possibly referencing the scare Tony felt when a pair of similar kiddos car-jacked the kingpin during the first season. And as for that third possible murderer, the weirdo who looked like any and every other Jersey scum bag, I remembered the warning that my daddy issued to me back in the early 1980s; "never trust a man who wears a Member's Only jacket." Back at the Cha I noticed not one, but three members only jackets, as happy hour ran from 4 - close, providing Seattle's sleaziest faces sweet chugs of cheap drinks, in a desperate, but typical, attempt to make this scene seem more attractive. Despite how the cards were going to fall, I threw caution to the wind, and rain, for nearly two and one half years, when I volunteered to have my liver doused to death in that Cha.
For six seasons Tony Soprano walked in and out of an infernal pool like a revolving door, spinning up atmospheres of drug induced sex and back down into a hospital bed with a gut full of lead. As the show plinked off Christopher, and then Bobby, and ultimately leaving Tony's best boyfriend in a coma, I knew I knew, it was serious. There was never going to be a silver lining like the wings of Paulie's greased doo, but rather, a bright white light signaling the show's afterlife, throwing fans in a waiting room of momentary hell, as we patiently await the birth of our new favorite program.
Even though a fancier, meaning shittier, version of the Cha will open this summer, it will never be the same. As I looked around that scum setting last evening, still remembering how much I wanted to knock the trash out of Drea de Matteo's can, I chuckled with fondness at all of the women whom I awoke next to, after some intoxicated riot at that disgusting bar. For all of the blood, shit, and piss that I sifted through at that joint, and for all of people who were brutally beaten, curbed, or whacked on that show, I realize that in ten years from now, when our troops are sunbathing in Iran and Paris Hilton is president, that the closing of these two major doors in my life are a significant one, that should never be forgotten, however uneventful or ordinary both of them truly seemed.
Sure, Tony survived when everyone wanted him to die, and me, well, I never did tap the faucet on the sink of dreams, but I'm still here, with a remote in one hand and a brew in the other. The Norman Rockwell Americana portrait that David Chase illustrated was something of a myth, yet overflowed with every miniscule detail that we experience every moment of our lives, from the eclectic selections on the juke to the imported bottle caps nailed to the bathroom wall. The details are our daily bread and the memories, the tiny victories like a fried ring of onion with your family, or a quick hand job in the booze closet, are what separates humans from the animals, and what makes me continue to breathe.
Thanks to construction, the evil progress of any big city, the entire block of Pine Street where the Cha was perched as the watering hole for all hipsters, will be demolished and polished with snazzy condos for uppity Seattleites to infest next Spring. The Sopranos, which debuted on January 10, 1999, will stand the test of time as being one of television's most successful, whatever your definition of the word may be, programs in the history of television. It made you think about how you feel, but it also made you feel by testing just how it is that you think, about everything. I think that The Sopranos and The Cha Cha Lounge both stopped happening because their time was over, proving that all good things come to an end. That, as they say, is that. Bada Bing.