Monday, December 8, 2008

Wherefore Hoboken?

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.


Alex said...

I miss Hoboken already! Especially my walks along the waterfront. Princeton is nice though too.

JC said...

I was born in Hoboken 37 years ago. My parents were Italian immigrants. When I was young I always wished that my parents would move to the suburbs. I don't know why because I have so many great memories of growing up in Hoboken and if I had to do it all over again it would be in Hoboken. I remember the guy selling the fresh fruit and veggies on the corner, the truck driving through hoboken selling the different meats and fresh sausages, Mr Softee, the Italian Festivals, playing four corners softball and I can go on for days. There were so many kids in Hoboken. I feel like thats coming back. I also lived on the UWS, I loved it, but Hoboken is a place where you truly get to know people by their first name. I didn't sense that on the UWS.

Mary Lois said...

Welcome to the club, JC. I've got a tribe of readers like you with great memories of growing up here. Browse the blog and you may read some familiar names and stories!

Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment to tell you how much I enjoyed your Blog. It reminded me how much I like our city!!!!

Unknown said...

Hi great reading your site .I was born and razed in Hoboken .I am 52 .My family go"s back to the 1800"s in Hoboken .Al tho no one in my family lives thee anymore .I own a house in Weehawken .Witch turn"s out to be really great .you see we don't really have a main St. So Washington st is out main st. With out all the troubles parking like in Hoboken .Anyway .My father was best friends with the first owner"s of Helmars from back in the 1930"s .My father is Dutch and the people who owned helms were German .At that time there was alot of Dutch and German in Hoboken .My grand father build alot of the brown stones in hoboken .I grew up in the yellow flats on 12 st .We had a 4 bedroom apartment ..Now those apartments were cut in half in the 1970"s .I had 6 brothers and sisters .Most of the people living there had big family"s .It was a great please to grew up.I wouldn"t change it for anything !! I love the waterfront .I can remember when you could get near it !! Hoboken was a great places to grew up in the 50"s % 60's I must have had 50 friends!

Mr Met