October 24, 2007
The next morning I arose from the scratchy sheets of the Motel Essex Regency and managed a shower in what must be referred to as the bathroom. This turned out to be less an ordeal than I had anticipated, as there was plenty of hot water and the little coupon-sized towels sufficed if I used all three to do the job of drying. There had not been as much noise in the night as I expected, even though a crowd of three or four people did decide the space in the parking lot directly outside my room was the best place to start their party. Lots of shrieks and loud laughter gave me the impression there was alcohol involved. I was certain that this meant in a few hours the laughter would turn to noise, arguments, misunderstandings and probably a good bit of creative profanity. Fortunately for me, it didn't really happen, but the intermittent car sounds from the nearby expressway never abated.
I had to get to Hudson Street by nine. This meant having the motel page a cab to the Jersey City Terminal to take a train to Hoboken. A hyper little man with a cell phone was also waiting for a cab. Apparently he was late for a meeting. He owned the business, but the customers can't stand to be kept waiting. I told him I was on my way to Hoboken to look for an apartment. He quickly started scrawling something on a piece of paper from his pocket, telling me he had a nephew who was in real estate in Hoboken and to call him about getting me a place. We were joined in the cab by a black woman who looked to be nine and a half months pregnant. I thought we might have to make a side trip to the hospital.
The little man, who looked like James Caan in a way, kept talking on his cell phone and identifying himself as Jerry to the person on the other end of the line. He ended up following me through the turnstile and standing with me on the platform as I explained the way to get to Hoboken -- getting off the train at a stop called Pavonia Newport, and waiting for the next train on the same track which would be to Hoboken. I thought Pavonia sounded like one of those mythical kingdoms in an old operetta, but decided to keep this notion to myself. On the train from Pavonia Newport to Hoboken, an Asian couple with a decidedly unresponsive baby sat across from Jerry and me, and Jerry did his best to engage the baby in a little across-the-aisle kootchie-koo, waving and making faces, to no avail with this dullard infant. The question in my mind was if Jerry were Jewish or Italian, and his behavior with the baby cinched it. Italian. Also, as we parted at the Hoboken station, he said, "Call me," reminding me of the piece of paper with his phone number on it. I said, "I think I have a place lined up," and he again said, "Call me." Italian.
I went into a little bagel shop for breakfast. This place specializes in square bagels. Apparently it is a marketing tool in Hoboken to do something different with your bagels -- smashed bagels worked, so why not square? What I ended up with was kind of an Egg McMuffin on a square bagel and a glass of orange juice. Then I was ready for the trek up to 6th St. and Hudson.
The apartment was on the 3rd floor, on a beautiful block of a very nice street -- as reported, the nicest Hoboken has to offer. Across the street is Stevens Technical College, which happens to have a beautiful theatre space used for local productions of all kinds. A block away is a nice little park, Elysian Fields, and the local Little League ballpark. Just the other side of that is Frank Sinatra Drive which borders the river and one of the exquisite views of Manhattan Hoboken offers.
You will note in the picture there is a For Rent sign on the stoop in front of the second building from the left, and also a For Rent sign in the window of the third floor apartment of the building. Neither of those signs is there any more. I took the apartment after very little deliberation. The accommodating realtor drove me to Jersey City where he had another place for rent and we drove past two buildings I was considering. After I looked at the apartment he was renovating in Jersey City, and generally got an impression of Jersey City, I knew it had to be Hoboken for me, and that the Hudson Street place was just about perfect. It has one large room (10 x 20 feet), a tiny side room -- known as a "hall room" in brownstones, fine for a little bed and/or my laptop office; a big, eat-in kitchen, lots of closets and windows. There are actually three big windows in the kitchen, from which you can see the rooftops of Hoboken at sunset.
By noon my fate was sealed. I had written the requisite checks and signed the application form, called the realtor with the basement place. I celebrated by having lunch at Benny Tudino's (known as the best pizza in Hoboken, as long as you order it extra-crispy) and exploring Hoboken, including the library which is small, compact, Victorian in vintage and utterly beautiful, until I was ready to drop. I bought a sandwich and a banana and two bottles of water at Blimpie's and took them to the motel for supper and an early bedtime.
I slept fitfully on the hard mattress (and the sheets were no less scratchy than the night before) and wondered what I would do for the next two days.