June 13, 2008
When I lived in Manhattan 30 some odd years ago, if you were in an older building you could be sure you would have some cockroaches for roommates. And you might even have a couple of families of mice.
In the South, the roaches we cohabit with are the big, black variety known euphemistically in Florida as Palmetto Bugs. We have palmettos in Lower Alabama, but our bugs are called roaches and they are the same. The ones in Manhattan were little, pale and anemic in comparison; and, while I had come to have a certain acceptance of the big black babies, I always felt a shiver of revulsion when I encountered the nasty little light brown critters.
When I first moved to Hoboken, my friend the reporter from the Jersey Journal warned me to have the exterminator visit my apartment before I settled in. Indeed, I met a Hoboken artist who told me he used to live in an apartment over a restaurant on Washington Street and it was infested with roaches. Betty, whom I met in a bar on St. Patrick’s Day, lives on Washington Street too, and she said they had to seal up all the corners because of the presence of mice in the building.
Indeed, there must have been a lot of cockroaches and a few mice in Hoboken too in the past. My Internet friend and correspondent from Old Hoboken wrote of the little black creatures in the bakeries, “but we thought that was normal.”
Slezak writes: “JUST WONDERING if the famous Hoboken cockroach is still in Hoboken...or did they move out when the yuppies moved in. The roaches were a clever lot. They invaded your kitchen, after you put out the lights at bed time, eating everything they could find. You never bought raisins or raisin bread...they looked like roaches. You always stored your cups and glasses upside down as not to trap any of them poor little things. You might find one doing the back stroke in your morning coffee. You knew if your electric clock stopped it was the roaches that jammed in the gears of your clock…TIME TO CLEAN OUT THE CLOCK. Remembering the good old days of Hoboken...THE RATS had their fun too...THE STRAY CATS in the yards fighting till all hours of the night…the sights, sounds and smells of Hoboken…the good old days of Hoboken, never to return. THE PIDGEONS was our city bird...pidgeon coops on our roofs...a hobby for them down town..JUST LIKE YOU SEEN IN THE MOVIE, On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando...just another memory of an era long past.”
I’m here -- in Hoboken -- to tell you that all these situations, insects, pidgeons and rodents are in the past, at least in my apartment. Not to say there are no more in the whole of Hoboken, but they are not to be seen, not here, not now. In a way, I miss them, but not very often. There are some things that must be seen as progress.