December 9, 2008
Want to know what I like about Hoboken? I'll tell you what I like about Hoboken.
It's a small city that feels like a part of Manhattan. It's in a state that is as varied as it is provincial--a little of everything. You can walk everywhere, and I do, even when the weather is frigid as it was yesterday. I went to the gym at 3 in the afternoon--a first for me at that hour--expecting the temperature to be so intolerable I would have to turn back. (Don't forget, I moved here from the South a year ago, and I spent the whole of last winter suffering in the cold.) By 3 P.M. it was a balmy 30° degrees, and I was sufficiently bundled. I hardly felt the chill as I walked my brisk six-block hike to the sports club. I felt infinitely better after a brief workout and browsed in the big CVS for lotions and potions, finding a lotion to my liking and getting one of those delightful receipts that offers you $5 off your next purchase of $25 or more. (My lotion was less than $25.)
Hoboken has a funny name. I met Jerry Stiller last year, and when I was introduced the person said, "She lives in Hoboken." Stiller gave me that famous New York quizzical look and said, "You live in Hoboken?" I still don't know what he meant by that, but I'll assume he knows what a cool place Hoboken is and that the question was posed in admiration.
I have a friend who writes a New York blog, and he maintains that the Upper West Side, where he has lived some 40 years, is really a small town where everybody knows everybody and many are related. Never mind that the "everybody" includes famous playwrights, artists and noted Jewish intellectuals like my friend. Living in Hoboken I can have dinner with him from time to time and be regaled with stories of his famous friends and acquaintances, as I shall do this evening.
If the Upper West Side is a small town, Hoboken is certainly a small town too. We have our celebrities, although some are dead. I often see Danny Aiello lunching at Tutta Pasta, and every store plays Frank Sinatra music on the sound system, especially at Christmas. For a small town Hoboken has great food and great eaters. Hoboken has little mom-and-pop stores (way more per capita than the Upper West Side). Hoboken is authentic, an American original born out of the immigrant experience and the working class. Hoboken has heart to spare, and memories, and a future.
I moved to Hoboken from a little town in the South that was undergoing a total upheaval and really moving into the 21st Century, with huge new buildings, excited new residents, and a penchant for tearing out the genuine to replace it with the phony. Some tell me the same thing has happened in Hoboken, but when I go to the library or the train station or eat at Helmer's or the Elysian or Leo's Grandez-Vous, you couldn't prove it by me.