14 August 2006

Flashes Of You Were Everywhere

It's been a very discombulated week, what with a bit of minor illness, sleeping very irregular hours, and watching much more TV than usual, so my blogging is all out of order, too. I still haven't gotten round to writing about last Tuesday, whereas I've already written about Saturday and whatever day that was that Degrassi: The Next Generation and Green Day's Bullet In A Bible were on, so now it's time to tell you about Friday, which is the day I did something especially daring and left New York City.

Not just New York City, either; I went clean out of state, though "clean" might be the wrong choice of words considering my destination, namely New Jersey. Sorry, Jersey-ites, I know that's an old joke around here, and as it turns out, the little corner of Jersey in which I wound up was very clean, almost enough so to make me nervous after a summer slogging around Manhattan and Brooklyn.

I'm talking, of course, about Hoboken, I've always known was over there somewhere across the Hudson, but had never quite got round to visiting. I'd even made a trip over to Jersey City a couple years back to see some bands - the Copyrights and Steinways, I think it was - but essentially went straight from the PATH station to the club and back again, so saw little of the city except for some big, anonymous-looking buildings and lots of snow.

But that was Jersey City, and Hoboken is a whole different story. It's famous for being the home of Maxwell's, which seems to be one of the country's most popular clubs among the musicians who actually play there, and for a while there was a lot of talk about musicians and artists moving there because it was so much cheaper than New York, yet within ridiculously easy commuting distance.

And that seems to be true, the part about commuting, anyway; I hopped on a train in the West Village and was in Hoboken ten minutes later. Even the fare was a bargain; only $1.50, compared with $2 for the New York subway. And even though Jim Jersey Beat had warned me that Hoboken's bargain real estate prices had been discovered so long ago that they were no longer much of a bargain, they were still about 60 to 70% lower than those in Manhattan, just across the river. In fact you can get some pretty good views of the storied isle as you meander along Frank Sinatra Drive and through Frank Sinatra Park, neither of which is much of anything to look at in itself.

But once you get away from the river and onto Washington Avenue, which seems to be the town's main drag, things get downright picturesque. Too picturesque, almost; the place is starting to seem like one of those time capsule toytowns where everything except the cars and the prices looks as though it hasn't changed in a hundred years. I don't think that's the case with Hoboken, though; I'd guess that it's been through a lot of changes, some of them probably not for better, and was only revived to its present state in the wake of the gentrification that washed over from post-Giuliani New York.

I could be wrong, and I'm sure vociferous Jersey-boosters reading this will let me know if I am (or even if I'm not), but the coats of paint are too fresh on the imposing rows of 19th century tenements-turned-luxury-housing, the flowerboxes and sidewalk caf├ęs all a little too new to carry the full ring of authenticity. But minor cavils aside, it was a very pleasant place, and a look at rental and sale prices at a local real estate agent almost had me convinced I could happily live there. After all, it's closer to Manhattan than most parts of Brooklyn or Queens, one of which will probably end up being my permanent home.

But something didn't seem quite right. As much as I was enjoying walking around, as scenic and nostalgia-inducing as it was, I felt myself growing edgy as the afternoon rolled on. I had to get back to New York before it got much later, I kept telling myself. It wasn't that I felt unsafe, or that I was worried about gettting stranded there, since the trains run all night (but what if there's an earthquake and all the bridges and tunnels collapse, my inner voice nagged). I was reminded of my grandfather, who any time he was out driving, would fret that we'd better get started back before it got dark. But grandpa, we'd argue, it's only 3 o'clock in the afternoon! I know, I know, he'd respond, we don't want to take any chances.

So was I turning into a worrywart old grandpa, or (don't know if this is better or worse) a worrywart New Yorker who breaks out in hives anytime he's outside the city for more than a few hours? Whichever, I knew right then and there that no matter how pleasant or cheap it was in Hoboken, I couldn't live there. Because when it comes down to, it's still Jersey, fer crying out loud.

P.S. For any of you still wondering what the title of this piece has to do with Hoboken, check your Operation Ivy lyrics.

1 comment:

Chelsea R. said...

Hey! Larry, you are so awesome. Your blog is so interesting and I'll be coming back to read it all the time. I was surprised noone commented on this entry. They must not know Operation Ivy like the back of their hand *cough cough, like my friend, whom I'm reading your blog to over telephone.* Well, I thought you were still in Berkeley but I guess not..and I see you still check to see what Green Day is up to every now and then.Cool.
If you want to contact me my email is crr_basketcase@yahoo.com
Hope to hear from you!