Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leaving Myself in Hoboken

Washington Street, June 2007
I came to Hoboken just exactly five years ago and am in the process of packing up my things to leave in a week. This is not an easy move; I'm not going away mad or even without regret. It's a very endearing town, easy to fit into, easy to love, and not a bit easy to leave. My five years here have been very productive. I've written two books, made a number of friends, gained a vantage point on New Jersey and New York City, and grown in ways I never expected.

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived. I had taken one look when surveying the New York City area, found it affordable and not without a small-town charm and a scruffy, tough reputation. I felt comfortable with its outsider vibe, its survival instinct, its lopsided, striving charm. I liked walking on the streets amid old couples, young hotshots, couples speaking languages ranging from French to Russian and what sounded like Polish, in addition to the more predictable Spanish and Italian. I liked writing a blog about my daily experiences, and having comments appear from total strangers who shared their memories of bygone Hoboken. Some of them I met in person, some I never did but remain vividly real to me in their comments here. I invite you to read the early posts and meet a younger Mary Lois, instructed by generations of people born and raised in Hoboken and eager to impart their knowledge to a newcomer.

I'll miss a number of things. I already miss when Carlo's was a local bakery, a place you could drop in for a fresh canolli, a box of cookies, or a cake to take to a dinner party. I miss the people I met early and seldom see now, just because life has somehow come between us. A few great restaurants have come and gone since I first set foot in Hoboken. A few places and things remain--the two hardware stores I know on Washington Street, run by old born-n-raised-in-Hoboken guys; the Garden Street Liquor Store, which is on Park Street. I only went to that liquor store one time, but if you go to the link you'll see why it was memorable. I'll miss the views of the New York skyline, particularly the Empire State Building. I'll miss the campus of Stevens, with its rich Hoboken history--and the public  library and the train terminal, both beautiful examples of 19th century Victorian architecture. I'll miss the trees on streets like Bloomfield and Garden, O'Neill's wonderful burgers, the Hoboken Historical Museum and the opportunity missed to work on a project getting a statue of Frank Sinatra in town. I'll miss Danny Aiello, running lines with a friend as he ate spaghetti at Tutta Pasta (and I'll miss that spinach course!). I'll miss the battery of doctors and dentists who have shored up my body as I totter into old age.

I never saw the Fabian Theater, now a CVS. I never had ice cream at Abel's or saw a flock of pigeons fly out of a piano at the high school assembly. I never met Mr. Stover, the onetime principal of that institution.  I never heard the crystal voice of little Jimmy Roselli, singing in church. I learned about all of them on this blog. If you want nostalgia, go to my blog posts in 2008 and 2009, as the colorful life of old Hoboken is recounted again and again by my blog readers.

I'll probably do that from time to time--revisit this blog and think of the Hoboken period of my life. But I've no time for it today. I've got organizing and packing to do and planning for the rest of my days. Please follow up by finding my new blog about my new life, and comment there and here if you want to keep in touch. I love writing for you, and am pleased you're still reading.


Cheri said...

Your blog has touched a spot in my heart. I've been wanting to move to the East Coast because my only child lives in Boston. At the moment circumstances prevent it, but once my husband turns 66 this will be a possibility for me. Two more years! Thanks for your openness about your experiences. You have given me courage.

Margo said...

I'm so sorry to see you go. It's so lovely to see you easily fit into the design of an adopted town. I had the great pleasure of doing a play reading with you of Hoboken born and raised, Louis LaRusso, about Hoboken. You're a treasure. Must you go?

Steve said...

I have always enjoyed you blogs, your books, and your comments and discussions on line. Fascinated with the variety of subjects and both humor and warmth they tell of. Regardless of where you move, your words will be followed. The best of luck on this new chapter of another book, yet to be written. Get ready New Paltz, Mary Lois is coming :)

Stephen F. Hultgren

Nan said...

This is a particularly lovely piece. I think you expressed beautifully just how you feel. I found it quite amazing how very much can change in only five years in terms of stores. Nice there are local hardwares.