March 31, 2008
Everybody knows that Seattle is a beautiful, busy city in a magnificent location, but that it's so rainy and bleak and you wouldn't want to live there.
I have friends in Seattle who tell me the locals keep that mythology going just to control population. Apparently it doesn't rain all that much, and when it does it doesn't daunt the natives in the slightest. They are just careful to let visitors know about it so they won't plan to move in.
Hoboken, on the other hand, is charming and esthetically appealing, with a busy social scene, a wonderful arts program, and all the music bars you could ever want. It has excellent restaurants and a heritage of Italian bakeries, salumerias (deli's, to you) and boutiques. People avoid Hoboken. It's the opposite of Seattle's problem -- it sounds like a dump, but it isn't.
A friend with a decidedly South Alabama orientation emailed me: "Why does it seem so different to write to you in Hoboken? Partly because of the name. Thank who, Johnny Carson? Have you already spun something up about that on a blog? Someone permanently skewered Hoboken sometime in my past. And even if they hadn't, 'Hoboken' doesn't have the ring to it that 'Fairhope' has.
"I need to think of you as somewhere else than where you are. I frequently say that I've lost a Fairhope friend to New York, but I imagine that seems laughable to you when I say that you are in NYC, much as a Dauphin Island Real Estate agent balks against the words "ocean view" for Dauphin Island property. 'I've seen the ocean and believe me, Gulf, you're no Pacific.'
"I gotta come up with some code name... How's things in The Boken? How's it hangin' in Hotown? Any night life in Hoboburg?"
And the answer probably is that the name sounds kinda silly. Hoboken's real identity is lost because people laugh at the name first. But compare it to other New Jersey cities -- Hackensack is funnier. Paramus, Passaic and Parsippany more musical. Secaucus more suspect. Then there are the pretty names like Asbury Park, Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, and Cape May. The quaint: Egg Harbor Township, Barnegat Light.
The world likes to single out Hoboken for all the wrong reasons. Maybe I can shed a little light on the place and change that.