Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hearing Hoboken

I’ve never mentioned this, but people in Hoboken share a certain kind of voice. Women and men, maybe children too. The main characteristic of this is that they talk louder than other people. Oh, yes, they have a distinctive accent—similar to Jersey City and even Brooklyn. But they all seem to assume that the rest of the world is hard of hearing. Even in ordinary conversation, their voices carry across the room. Sometimes I think they should all go on the stage.

When you do an accent for the theatre, you begin with voice placement. The Hoboken voice is husky, coming from the throat,
rather than the head or chest. The t’s and d’s are spoken in the front of the mouth, hissing through the teeth. “Th,” of course, is pronouced like a “d” in any other dialect (dis for this). I met a really nice Hoboken native a couple of weeks ago, a lady who runs a long-standing chocolate shop in the old Italian section of town, which will be my new neighborhood. The voice was a bellow—deep as a man’s, and very loud. Otherwise, she was an attractive, nice lady. Something about that booming voice was very endearing.

Yesterday I was in the Garden Wine and Liquor Store, which is not on Garden but rather one block over on Park. I had been told to drop by there months ago by Slezak, a regular reader and commenter here. He told me the people who run Garden Liquor know him from the old days and they are great people. I’ve been meaning to check it out, but didn’t get around to it until yesterday, because I was passing by, and know that liquor stores usually are very generous with cartons when you are planning to move. It is a small store, but astonishingly well stocked with wines and every conceivable kind of liquor. A fat old dog lay on the floor and observed me, but the man behind the counter ducked out as soon as I came in, leaving me to browse and await his return. The dog regarded me suspiciously, apparently checking that I didn’t leave with anything valuable.

When the man behind the counter returned, he proceeded to ring up my order, a bottle of pinot grigio. He asked if he could do anything else for me.

I engaged him in a conversation, and his loud voice blew me away. It was okay, I’ve lived in Hoboken for a year and a half now, and this vocal volume is his badge of authenticity. I almost said, “Do you think I’m deaf?” but of course I didn’t. I must say this about him also—he was very virile, attractive, oh, hell, I admit it. He was sexy, with graying hair and brown, Italian-looking eyes. And the voice didn’t hurt a bit. Such reactions crop up, even at my age. Don’t you dare laugh. But I was on a quest here, so forget I said that.

What I wanted to know was if the store occasionally had cartons to give to people who are moving. We had a good chat about that—with him telling me some days they had a hundred, some days, not so much. Then he said this wonderful Hoboken thing.

“Why don’t you place a delivery order and ask for extra cartons?”

“A big order, you mean.”

“No, whatever you want. A bottle of wine, whatever. Just tell us you want a few extra cartons. Then you don’t have to carry them all the way home.”

I love the Garden Wine and Liquor Store. You should check the reviews. You’ll find a heap of comments from satisfied customers, with nobody mentioning the voice or accent of the owner.

I’m going to go by personally and pick up cartons from now until I move. I may have some wine delivered too. I’m sure the delivery boy is the grandson of the man behind the counter. What do you bet he’s got that Hoboken voice too?


Hoboken Kid said...

Why did you not mention my name?? Phil, da sexy guy who waited on you ...he is a dear friend of mine. His mom JOAN was my wife's best girlfriend. His dad is named Joe. His sister is named Dawn. Tell em I sent you next time you go...tell him you are my friend, he would give you anything you want...maybe even a discount 'cause you know me. Bobby Slezak from Delaware would put a smile on his face. We had many fun and sad times together.

Irene Sobolov said...

Hi Mary,

Yes Phil is a very nice guy and his wife Barbara is wonderful too.

Did you see any cute little boys hanging out outside. My son Nicky spends most of his day "at the liquor strore" with Phil's son.

another Hoboken connection :)


Mary Lois said...

No cute little boys the day I was there, Irene. And I just knew there was a wonderful wife in that picture too. Ah, well. He's only about 20 years younger than I am anyway. I have to keep reminding myself.

Unknown said...


Mary Lois said...

Carolyn, only when you have to make a point!

Hoboken Kid said...

Carolyn only talks loud when her lips move. By da way, when ya go back to da liq store, if ya see a wine you think might be good, buy it. If it tastes crappy, bring da bottle back. He will give you ya money back. Tell him he's gotta 'cause you know me.

Phil's dad JOE once owned a chicken store by Observer Highway in da good ol days. Joe and I were pals. Our wives used to hang out on the stoop till 4am just blabbing away...LOUDLY their pajamas. Guess ya can't do that any more in Hoboken...

Anonymous said...

Hoboken Kid.....I come from a long line of stoop sitters. I still blab to loudly on the stoop. Maybe not until 4am, but definately in my PJ's :)