December 1, 2008
Today is my first anniversary of living in Hoboken. On December 1, 2007 I moved into an empty third-floor walkup on Hudson Street with big plans about making a new life in an old city. I had sold my car, had numerous yard sales to get rid of a lifetime of collected stuff, and given tons of clothes to the local thrift shops.
I’ve come a long way in this year. Even though I had purged so much of my furniture and onetime valuables, I found that what I'd kept more than filled the 800-sq.-ft. apartment. Luckily there were lots of big closets, and most of the stuff was shoved in. I bought a little single bed since the bedroom was too tiny to get even a double in comfortably. I was also able to use the little room for my laptop. I began my new blog.
Right away I found a doctor, a dentist, and the public library. I explored Hoboken on foot and got a little disoriented looking for basics like the A& P; tried to adapt to the colder climate, and wrote about all my new situations on the blog. A compulsive blogger in my home town, I knew writing about my life helped me clarify things in my own mind.
The enormity of what I had done was slow to sink in. I thought about the climate, the isolation, the difficulties of getting everywhere on foot-the blank slate that lay before me--every morning. There would be no phone calls, no board meetings, club meetings, organizational meetings. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t experience this as loneliness, but rather as a transition to something I couldn’t possibly understand. It seemed like an opportunity, but I couldn’t define for what.
I felt a little uncomfortable in my own skin, as if I were in a dream or on vacation in a place where I could speak the language but nothing else. I would get confused on the city streets, even in my old neighborhood in Manhattan. I took it slowly and didn’t push myself into doing too much too soon. It seemed as if my feet always hurt, from the walking and from minor foot surgery I had endured at the end of summer. I was never sure my clothes looked right--everybody in New York and New Jersey seemed to wear black all the time, not the bright colors and patterns I had been looking at in the South for almost 20 years. It took time to realize that this was less about Hoboken than about myself, facing a new phase of life in which I had to admit the person in the mirror looked didn’t look much like the self I had come to know.
Writing a blog about these things was helpful in surprising ways. Within a few months people were actually reading the blog, which had not necessarily been the case of my blog in my home town, “Finding Fair Hope.” On the Fairhope blog I had had a few regular readers, but most of them were people I had known in the distant past, keeping in touch with me from far flung outposts. I had about five regulars from contemporary Fairhope, and they were all people I knew who seemed a little discomfited by the thought that I might quiz them about the blog the next time I saw them. Hoboken brought me an average of some 40 readers a day, and they began to make themselves known to me by sending me emails and commenting on the blog.
Cristina wrote, after reading a post about me getting lost in the cold looking for the A & P, that she was new in town too and that maybe we could have lunch together sometime. She later told me that my blog posts sounded like a voice in the wilderness of someone who needed help. She is a special and generous person who has meant almost as much to me as my lifelong friends in my few months of knowing her. She and her husband run a company in New York, but she is always available to drive me anyplace either of us wants or needs to go, and we have a wonderful time together. It’s very odd to me that without prompting by me to do so, she never read the blog before or after her first time, yet I can email her for requests like a drive to the airport or the doctor’s, and she never refuses.
Gradually I have learned my way around. Working at it, I don’t find the walking of a couple of miles a day a hardship any more; over and over I tell myself “It’s good for you.” When I moved from a third floor walkup to one that was on the fourth floor, I had little problem with it.
Writing a blog has enriched my life enormously. Old Hobokenites discovered the blog and began to email me with tales from the past--high school pranks, characters they used to know, and desciptions of Hoboken in bygone days. They eagerly shared stories of the waterfront (The Barbary Coast), and On the Waterfront, the restaurants and ice cream parlors, the fabulous Fabian Theater, and Palisades Park. I learned about Mr. Stover, the high school principal, and the day some adventurous boys trapped a flock of pigeons in the piano before assembly, only to see them released onstage by an unsuspecting pianist. I learned about Eddie the Criminal, who worked as sort of a bouncer at Abel’s Ice Cream Parlor where the high school crowd hung out. I learn about Alan Freed’s rock-and-roll shows in Hoboken and Jersey City. I've written blog posts about most of these tales; if you're new, feel free to browse.
I’m glad to be here. After a year I know that I’ve made a good decision. I’ve experienced a lot of milestones so far and I've seen many sides of Hoboken and myself during these days. I’m closer to my daughter and grandsons and they all love to visit Hoboken. I'm part of the boys' life now. I've reconnected with old friends who remain in New York, and I can get there in a few minutes. Thinking about Hoboken, I know it holds more adventures for the years to come.