Actually, it's not over when the fat lady sings; an opera is over when the fat lady flat-out dies. Such is the case with Tosca, Puccini's Roman odyssey. Good opera also has to have plenty of betrayal, farce, and jealousy, but it all must culminate in death, which mirrors the human condition: We all die in the end.
I can't help but be reminded of death every time I go to Tosca on Columbus. Sadly, a bartender here who was an acquaintance of mine passed away a few years ago, so I always think of him. The bar is old, sepia-toned, red-velveted and classy, like Sinatra's ghost. Sean Penn supposedly comes here to drink (though we have never been there at the same time), which also lends the place a wisp of greatness for me; his spirit-DNA has settled around the joint like a fine dust.
There are many, many bars in the city that I feel fine walking into by myself, but Tosca is not one of them. It is not suited to the lone drinker. Sure, there are plenty of us in there at any given time, but I always feel like I should be on a date, or with an entourage, or sitting on Willie Brown's knee. But I had just gotten off a long day at work, and company was not in the cards.
You can usually count on the bartenders at Tosca to see that you are by yourself and give you just enough friendly chit chat to make you feel less conspicuous. And so it was the last time I went in. I chose a stool way at the end, in between the tables and the front door. The fellow behind the bar put a beverage napkin down before me like a maitre d'. Good hosts never say, "Will you be dining alone tonight?" but instead use their powers of perception to suss out the singles. They make you feel like it is perfectly natural to go out to eat by yourself and order the Lobster Thermidor and a carafe of martinis. Good bartenders are the same.
As it turned out, I wasn't the only one alone, although the other men in suits who sat near me seemed to know the bartender pretty well. If you come in often enough you never feel alone, because the guy behind the bar knows you.
I usually bring my crosswords (nothing says "Come talk to me! I'm sexy!" like a good puzzle), but instead I whipped out my US Weekly, the one with a pregnant Snookie on the cover. I have heretofore avoided discussing Jersey Shore on these pages, finding it too obvious a target, but seeing as how I was in Tosca, and Snookie has gotten herself in a very operatic situation, please allow me to indulge. The fat lady (sorry, Nicole) is dying. Snookie's pregnancy is not only a tragedy, it is the end of an era.
Betrayal, farce, jealousy. All of these things can be found on every single episode of Jersey Shore. This season, The Situation has been plotting to overthrow Snookie and Jionni's union by revealing the fact that she blew him one night — truly the stuff of Puccini. Mike crept behind doorways and furtively whispered into the telephone in preparation for his grand betrayal. Snookie harbored her secret and would stop at nothing to keep it from her betrothed.
An entire opera could be written around Sammy and Ronnie's redonkulous love affair. Act Two would comprise "The Anonymous Letter" sent to her outlining Ronnie's infidelity, and her subsequent jealous rampage. The list goes on, but it of course culminates in Snookie bein' in trouble deep and keepin' her baby. As a mom, Snookie may as well be dead because she is going to have to kiss her old life goodbye. (Okay, chances are she will not be able to, and her little Jiannabella will go the way of Francis Bean and Bobbi Kristina.)
The cover of US Weekly has Snookie delicately caressing her baby-bump, like van Eyck's Marriage of Arnolfini painting. Apparently she is worried about her baby, since she went on a monthlong bender before she realized she was knocked up. Is it really a "bender," though, when it is all you ever do? I have some reassuring news for Snookie: Any baby of yours will be of below-average intelligence, so you needn't worry about fetal alcohol syndrome.
"Another one?" asked my bartender. I glanced down at the other imbibers; when you are by yourself, you like to see how far into their cups all the other loners are. The sun had just gone down, which is a cozy time to be at Tosca. I started to feel some sadness for Snooks, since she is surely to go the way of Madame Butterfly, and be ditched by her baby-daddy soon enough. She's far too egocentric to commit suicide, though.
"Fill 'er up," I said to the bartender. One more before my curtain call.