We have learned a valuable lesson today, Gentle Reader, about the dangers of letting yourself disconnect completely from popular culture. Behold:
Okay, we never watched “The Sopranos”. And while we were vaguely aware of what the opening credits were like, it wasn’t until today that we actually watched them. (As an aside, the reason for watching them was that we’re planning Patty (In Dallas)’s visit here [EEEEEEEE!], and wanted to give her an idea of the difference between the drives from Philly and Newark.) The first minute of the credits is, in reverse, our Devils season-ticket experience! It made us so nostalgic, all that Turnpike awesomeness. But the image at 0:37… that just blew our minds.
You see, when we had season tickets, we went to every single game, every year. All the preseason games, all 41 home games, and the two or three playoff games before the end of the first-round flameout. Our glory days only lasted 3 1/2 years, but that’s still roughly 160 drives up and down the Turnpike for our beloved Devils. Needless to say, the entire 90-minute drive became highly ritualized for us, with its own mythology and wildly-spun fictions. We had to say hello to the melted Javy Lopez life-sized blow-up doll on the tarmac at Newark. There were always hearty greetings for Trevor “Big Trev” Linden at the Linden refinery plant. And, most importantly, there was Hydro-Puf.
It’s hard to say what prompted the start of Hydro-Puf’s story, but suffice to say that it ended up thusly: Schnookie and Eric Fichaud (don’t ask) lived in the old, run-down Hyrdro-Pruf factory after the Exit 15 divergence, and in 1997 Fichaud tried to go to the All-Star Game in San Jose by kickboarding through the Panama Canal on his kickboard named Hydro-Puffie. Every time we drove past Hydro-Puf, we all heartily greeted Fiche, and discussed all the amenities his dilapidated surrounds had to offer (like the hot tub on the top of the crumbling industrial tower). There is no more beloved landmark on the New Jersey Turnpike for us than Hydro-Puf. Every time we drove past it — for any reason, Devils or otherwise — we giggled. Every time we took the train into the City, we craned our necks to see if we could catch a glimpse of it, even though we knew we couldn’t. Every time we flew into or out of Newark, we hoped against hope to see it from the plane. Hydro-Puf is as much a part of our Devils experience as the Meadowlands itself. Even after the “F” fell off and it was saddled with the indignity of being called Hydro-Pu.
And all this time, it was featured prominently on the opening credits of “The Sopranos”. Who knew??