Monday, June 6, 2011
14 Aspen Drive, North Caldwell, NJ
After spending Dec 23rd, 2007 in a Manhattan hotel, we headed to New Jersey to spend Christmas Eve with Canadian Lou’s family. We had just gotten back together, so I was on thin ice with her old man, although I didn’t find that out till afterwards, and to this day am praised for the courage I demonstrated showing up at Aunt Catherine’s house for eggnog and gift exchange. But trust me: my courage was only out of ignorance. I’m the guy who hides in the car if I think someone dislikes me even a little. If I’d known her father hated me, I would’ve stayed in the trunk with the spare tire.
That night, at Aunt Catherine’s, the conversation turned to the greatest TV show ever, THE SOPRANOS. It turned out David Chase had wanted to use the huge house next store to Catherine's to film the scene in season 6, Part I where Tony meets up with his cousin Tony B in a dream. Tony B wants to take Tony S's briefcase and invite him inside. Soprano, sensing trouble, resists the invite, and begins to hear his childrens' voices calling him back from the coma that came when Uncle Junior shot him. And when he wakes, he says ‘I’m dead, right?” and Carmella says, 'No, you’re in New Jersey.' The family who owned the desired house, the Palmers, turned down David Chase, and the scene was shot elsewhere, but wow, what a story.
The day after Christmas, as me and Canadian Lou drove north on the NJ Highway, I was still talking about the Palmers turning down Chase. That’s when we saw a highway sign for North Caldwell. Knowing that the Soprano house was in N. Caldwell, I took the exit, and said, ‘Let’s find the Soprano house.’ We entered Caldwell, and drove through a small town that looked like Delmar times a thousand. Almost immediately, I recognized sites from the show. The hill where the feds stake out Tony and his fam in the first episode of season 3: Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood. Then I saw the school stoop where Tony sat down and called his lawyer after running from the FBI who stormed Johnny Sac’s house, which is the house that Chase originally wanted for Tony Soprano's. I knew the Soprano house was in a development of some sort, so we started searching one after the other, and believe me there are many lavish developments in N. Caldwell.
After an hour, we had no luck, so we returned to the town. When we saw a man wearing a NY Yankees jersey, we pulled over, and asked if he knew where Tony Soprano’s house was. He said he did. I knew we could count on a Yankees fan. He gave us directions back to the first wealthy development we had entered, so now we were back, for the second time, stalking slowly down streets called Birch and Cedar Drive. Finally we saw a woman walking her dog, and asked for updated directions. She smiled, said, ‘Take a right then take another right on Aspen, and you’ll see it.’ We thanked her, went on our way.
Sensing we were oh-so close, I cranked up the Soprano theme song in the CD player, and turned right on Aspen, as directed. The second I made that turn, we saw the house, huge and high, at the end of a cul-de-sac, just like in the show. Oh my God, there it is, I thought, and we raced right up the driveway, Tony style. We parked outside the garage, and jumped out like two kids in a candy store. It was real, this was the house. 14 Aspen Drive, North Caldwell, NJ. It’s actually in a normal neighborhood, beautiful of course. This was a dream come true. We took pictures and mimicked some of our favorite SOPRANO’s scenes.
We thought that HBO owned the house, so we peeked in the windows, went around back to the yard. There were no DO NOT ENTER or NO TRESPASSING signs. Turns out the house is owned by a private person, and they must’ve been away for X-Mas, and likely had a laugh when they watched back the security cameras, if they have them. But wow, what a day. Later on we found out the house right next to Tony’s was the last house the unabomber targeted before his arrest.
It was one of the greatest days of my life, as you can see by the pics, and 2months later the NY Giants won the Superbowl. Life doesn’t get much better than that . . .
. . . And Facebook doesn't get much better than the Cat's Pajamas.