I just binge-listened to every single episode of “Our Thing,” the self-told life story of ex-mafia underboss, caporegime and infamous hit man, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. The intensity of a life lived, “in the life”, is delivered so electrifyingly compellingly, that I think it’s the most engaging content in the history of ANY storytelling medium.
This is ancient La Cosa Nostra tragedy (by way of Sicilian-heritage, 20th-century Bensonhurst and Staten Island), told in a manner that carries more weight and intensity than any Verdi or Shakespearean, Coppola- or Scorsese-an drama combined could ever hope to achieve. Not only because the head-exploding narrative is true, at least that backed by the legal record. But also because it’s told in a halting, tempered, clear as f$€k ‘capiche?’ cadence from a (perhaps surprisingly) emotionally diverse Gravano – a one-man band of humanity’s brooding, war of multitudes within himself – to a degree way more existential, due to his life’s work, most days than most of us, I think we can all agree, generally contain – and whose worn-leather voice evinces the acute and inescapable gravitational pull of a neighborhood that shapes destiny, and zip-ties the listener into a sub-rosa seat in the social clubs and back rooms of New York’s underworld of the 1970s and ‘80s.
Forget about assumptions that “Our Thing” glorifies brutality, criminality and murder. The impact does the opposite. It simply conveys a reality that takes your breath away. One that highlights the darkest corners of the American psyche: the worst kind of fear and loathing in the land of immigrants, where too often the expectation of a fair shake, or for breaking off a piece, pickles and devolves into a my-ascension-means-your-demise undertow too strong for some to deny. It reminds me of a lyric by Van Morrison, who once had to be extracted as a Mafia revenue stream from connected associates of Bang Records, during his early days in the U.S. The lyric, sung almost as an incantation, seems meant to clarify what’s essentially unanswerable about the mix of choice and circumstance that is life: “It ain’t ‘Why, why, why, why, why, why, why?’ It just: ‘is.’”
Season 3 of “Our Thing” can’t get here quick enough.