It’s not too often I hear, “Last call!” on a Wednesday night these days, but I have a very strong feeling that will occur next Wednesday.
My living room is closing.
I was slogging through another unfulfilling, unrewarding day in cubicle hell Wednesday when one of my best friends called with the bad news that Ted & Jo’s, our favorite bar, is closing its doors after Wednesday, March 26. The landlord apparently asked for an exorbitant rent increase, and meeting it wouldn’t have made business sense. After all, as much as I adore the place, it’s still a business.
I’ve lived in Hoboken for seven-and-a-half years and actually started going to T&J’s even before that, when I still lived in Manhattan. It’s been more than a place to eat and drink: It’s been a combination of family, home and comfort. Sure, Hoboken has loads of other bars, but I just can’t see getting the same warm feeling from any of them that I get the second I walk through the doors of T&J’s.
And I thought the closing of the deli near my office left a void. They don’t even remotely compare.
I’ve known for about 48 hours now, and I’m still stunned. The idea that I’ll never be able to tell people to just meet at T&J’s is unfathomable, as is the idea that I’ll never walk in, hang my jacket and see my pint of Guinness already being poured.
I also can’t believe I’ll never repeat this scenario: Sitting at the bar, waiting for a perpetually tardy friend of mine who said she’d be there around 9, then receiving a panicked phone call just before 10 (when the kitchen closes) and ordering a Balsamic chicken and house salad for her just under the wire, only to have her fly in at 10:25, wearing a hat that could occupy a parking spot, dump everything on one plate and scarf it down. If you know who I’m talking about, I’d say my play-by-play call was pretty accurate.
Yet one more scenario I’ll actually miss: trying to watch a game and having a certain bartender who likes to occasionally wager a dollar or two (or several) ask me to look out for the score of some obscure college basketball game. “No, I have no idea who won the Furman-Austin Peay game. What was the spread?”
Oh, what the hell? While I’m picking on the bartenders, I’ll miss the history teacher who couldn’t explain how World War I started, too!
One of the things I’ve always liked about T&J’s is that its atmosphere matured at the same rate I did. Naturally, I use the term “matured” in a very loose manner.
But when I first started going, around nine years ago, what looks like your nice, quiet establishment certainly had its wild moments, usually on Thursday nights.
Those of you who know T&J’s as quiet and sedate weren’t there for the days of escapades including bartenders wearing no pants under their aprons (didn’t do much for me, but the chicks dug it), blow-job shots (whipped cream piled high on strawberries, no hands allowed) that led to marriage proposals, red-thong night, commando night, bartenders humping the bar and Lord knows what else I was too drunk to remember.
It’s definitely a mellower establishment now. But I’m more relaxed, too. I’m past the days of needing to pound drinks and yell all night, although I still have my moments — last Saturday, for example, when I held an impromptu Iron Maiden concert accompanying the new digital jukebox.
But T&J’s has a great owner, a great staff and a great crowd of regulars. What more can you ask for in a bar?
It was home. And it will remain home, if only for the next few days.
It’s sad. My first home bar, from even before my freshman year at NYU, was The Dugout, on Third Avenue and 13th Street in Manhattan. The Dugout was an utter and complete dive, but I was 18, they didn’t card, and frozen mugs of Meister Brau were $0.75. I always thought I’d bring my kids to The Dugout for a beer. Sadly, while still a bar, The Dugout is no more. Several years ago, its absentee owner decided to sell and gave the staff — and, by extension, the loyal patrons — about 36 hours’ notice to pound our last frosted mugs.
I also always thought I’d bring my kids to games in my seats at Yankee Stadium, which I’ve had since 1997. But that’s not going to happen unless I adopt some really quickly, and I don’t think my cats or my roommate would be too thrilled with that, nor have I discussed it with my girlfriend. This is the last year for my beloved ballpark, and God only knows what kind of prohibitive price increases are in store when the new Yankee Stadium opens next season. Frankly, I’ll be stunned if I get to keep my tickets. And even if I do, it won’t be the same as box 611. Hell, even if the new Stadium has a box 611 and I end up sitting there, it won’t be the same as box 611.
And now, yet another place I always thought my kids would experience with me is days from being just a memory — well, a plethora of great memories, but still.
It’s obviously more than just a bar to me. I met my girlfriend there. I’ve made several friends through the years who I’d never have met if it wasn’t for T&J’s. It’s been our headquarters for meeting potential new people for our beach house. Everyone’s birthday celebration ends up at T&J’s at some point. It was my headquarters for several Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (and far too many Irish Car Bombs). It was the place many of us went to seek solace, refuge, news, comfort and companionship after 9/11 (rest in peace, George).
It was home. And not being able to go home next weekend, or the weekend after that, and so on, truly sucks.
It was a great run. Thanks for everything, Gerry.