October 23, 2007
I just got home from four days in Hoboken. Let me tell you what happened on the first day.
My flight left Pensacola at 7 A.M., which meant leaving the house at about five. I only needed a few changes of underwear and a hairdryer so I was able to travel with only a carry bag and my purse which holds a multitude of small objects and papers, none of which I can find without a lot of fishing and fuming. I included a little digital clock because I was going to be staying in a cheap motel in Jersey City, and cheap motels seldom have amenities like clocks. More on that motel later.
I arrived at La Guardia at 2 P.M. To get to New Jersey from La Guardia, which is in a different state, is quite a trick but I had instructions from the motel guy when I made reservations. A cab from that airport to anywhere in Jersey is at least $90. Instead I took the airport bus to Grand Central and started walking to the subway station known as the PATH (Port Authority something) which goes to New Jersey destinations. I called the realtor who had been so nice to me on the phone and he said he could show me the apartment whenever I got to Hoboken. He said, "Welcome home!"
That's the news, folks. This was not a pleasure trip. This was part of a plan to move from beautiful Fairhope, in the lower part of Alabama, to Hoboken, a city of undiscovered delights that has been calling to me since I first laid eyes on it last June. Convenient to Manhattan -- a ten-minute ride either by underground railroad or on the speed-ferry -- and crawling with local history and lore, Hoboken is the place I want to be next (and probably last).
Where was I? Oh, yes, the trip into Jersey City. I was standing in front of the New York Public Library, having walked from Grand Central, when I realized I didn't understand where the PATH train was. I hauled out my heavy old Nokia cell phone, virtually unused in Alabama, and called my nephew who lives in Manhattan and knows all about the transit system. After the pleasantries -- his surprise to hear my voice and learn that I was standing in front of the NY Public Library, and my revelation of my mission and need to know how to get to New Jersey from where I was -- he gave me the info that the PATH train is in the Herald Square station, just below Macy's.
This was a cinch. I took the #4 bus which goes down 5th Ave. to 34th and turns to take you to Macy's, and from there walked under the streets of New York until I found a sign that said "Journal Square Trains." Per instruction from the motel guy, I took that train and from there, now safely in the arms of New Jersey, got a taxi to the motel that cost $7.
So far, so good -- until I saw the motel and my room. More on that in another post. Now I'm going to tell you what else happened on my first day of this journey.
I checked into the Regency Essex (I've changed the name to protect myself from lawsuits brought on by later comments in future posts), and got another cab back to the train, hopped on a train to Hoboken, and found my friendly realtor.
The place he showed me was very pleasant. The ground floor of a row house lately made condominiums, this was a convenient place on a nice street. The realtor and his wife owned a condo above, and he had "saved" this place to show me because he thought I would be an interesting person to have in the building. I had a little problem with space -- there were closets, but they were small, and being on the ground floor it was essentially a basement apartment, with a dark central room but windows on either end, in the bedroom and the kitchen. There was a washer and dryer in the apartment. There was access to a nice little backyard. Such apartments are referred to as "garden apartments," because that sounds nicer than "basement."
I liked the realtor, liked the possibility of living in the building with him and his wife above me, and didn't dislike the apartment. I began mentally fitting it out with my furniture. Then my creaky old cell phone rang, and it was another realtor. He had a place on the top floor of a brownstone on Hudson Street and could show it to me the next day. My realtor informed me that Hudson Street was the prime location in Hoboken, "the Park Avenue of Hoboken," he said. "The mayor lives there." He said I should look at the other apartment before making a decision. He also told me that there had been so many calls about the apartment I was standing in that he had raised the price by $45 per month, but would give it to me at the price advertised if I wanted it.
We shook hands, and as we were taking leave he asked me how I'd liked the Orient Express. I was thrown by that -- what could he have known about my trip on the Orient Express some 25 years ago? He said when I told him on the phone I was a writer he'd Googled me and found my website He wanted to know if the lady who'd gone canoeing in the nude was a figment of my imagination or if she had been a real person. I told him the truth of the matter: She was a real person, and she did all the things I report in Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree -- and quite likely a great deal more.
I had time for a drink or two before finding a place for dinner and finding my way back to Jersey City. I stopped off in an appealing old bar called Busker's, which inside made me think of the old White Horse Tavern in the West Village. It was crowded mostly with men, apparently business guys, jovially talking sports and the like. There were about four flat-screen tvs at the bar (I was to discover this is a must for Hoboken bars). There was a pretty young woman mixing drinks like White Sangrias by the glass, and when a customer approached, she said, "What do you want from my life -- besides a Heineken's draft?"
From there I found a place I'd read about in a Hoboken blog as a jazz bar, "You'll find it from the English phone booth in front." I had a long conversation about cell phones and the possibility of a Frank Sinatra festival in Hoboken with a nice looking young man, finished another glass of Pinot Grigio (which he paid for), and then went looking for the Hudson street address. There I saw the beautiful street itself, looked at the outside of the building (very nice), found a good Italian restaurant, and took a cab from Hoboken to my Jersey City motel for the night. I spent the night decorating two apartments in my mind, one of which I hadn't even seen.
Tune in tomorrow. Decision time.