Nice try, shady Nissan dealer

I had an incredibly frustrating experience with a local Nissan dealer that I wanted to share so other Nissan owners don’t fall victim to the same shenanigans. I won’t name the dealer, because everything was resolved in the end, and I don’t want its name to show up in Google searches, but anyone who knows where I live can probably figure it out. And if any of my friends also drive Nissans and want to avoid this place (highly recommended), email me and I’ll tell you which dealer it was.

HomeyOne Sunday last month, I drove to my softball quarterfinal and semifinal doubleheader, blasting Rush to help wake me up. That was the last time my car stereo worked properly. I actually didn’t use it on the way back from the field, because I took our dog home from the park. I also drove into Hoboken and back that afternoon, but didn’t have any music on because the entire family was in the car.

The next morning, when I started up the Rogue to go satisfy my craving for Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, the very same Rush CD was playing, but there was dead silence in the car. The same thing happened with the radio, and with a different CD. The stereo was powering up, spinning the CD and pulling in radio signals, but nothing at all was coming out of the speakers.

I decided to take the Rogue in that day and choose between two nearby dealers, clearly making the wrong choice. I should have gone to the dealer in the better area, but I thought the traffic would be lighter going to the one in the crappier area, and I knew exactly where it was. My gut told me to go to the better dealer, but I didn’t listen.

I drove to the dealer late that morning and, after waiting about an hour (perfectly acceptable wait), I was told that a new radio was being ordered, and that everything was under warranty, so it wouldn’t cost me anything. The woman at the front desk said the radio should arrive by the end of that week, and someone from the dealership would call when it was received.

I never heard from the dealership, so I called the following Monday and, no exaggeration, spoke with seven different people and was put on hold for several minutes three different times, just to find out if the radio had arrived (it did, and no one bothered to call) and to set up an appointment to get it installed.

I brought the Rogue in that Tuesday and, after two-and-a-half hours, the technician who worked on the job came into the waiting area and told me there were coins in my car stereo, and that putting a new unit in didn’t solve the problem, so I’d have to bring the car back another day and leave it there. When I said I had no idea how coins could have gotten into the stereo, he mentioned noticing the car seat in the back and said kids do things like this all the time.

My kid has never, ever been in the front seat of my car. And I don’t keep coins in the car anymore. I used to keep quarters in the car for meters, but most meters in Hoboken and Manhattan have been converted to the centralized payment boxes that accept cards.

While I did buy my Rogue used, I have had it since January 2013, and I have listened to CDs or Yankees games just about every time I have driven the car. I have never, ever heard anything resembling the sound of loose coins jingling around my radio. It’s a very obvious sound and pretty hard to miss.

I was asked to bring the car back that Friday and leave it at the dealership. Again, my gut told me to bring it to a different dealer, but I was swamped that week, so I kept the appointment.

After not hearing anything all day, I called late in the afternoon, and they said they’d check on the car. A different person called back and said I could come get the car by 6, and then asked how I intended to pay for the radio. When I mentioned that I was told everything was covered by warranty, he said, “Well, the coins in your radio made your warranty invalid.”

At this point, I absolutely blew a gasket, and insisted that there was no way I was responsible for putting coins in my car radio, because I am not a moron, and there was no way my kid was responsible because, as I said earlier, he has never been in the front seat of my car.

I asked how much they were trying to charge me, and the total came to about $600, between the new radio and labor. I said, “Don’t you think someone should have called me and ASKED if I wanted to spend $600 repairing a radio?” After a few seconds of silence, he said he would call me back, and he did a few minutes later to tell me they would figure out a way to put the repair through under warranty, and I could come get my car.

I have two conclusions, although I don’t have solid proof of either. The first is that the only reason they didn’t press the issue on paying for this job is the fact that no one called to ask my permission to move forward. The second, and more controversial, is that they had a radio with coins stuffed into it sitting around, and when they saw the car seat in my car, figured they could convince me that my kid put coins in my radio, so that they didn’t have to pay for it.

There was absolutely no way in hell I was giving this dealership $600, or even $6.

Anyway, as I said, I won’t name the dealer, because the situation was resolved (albeit with tons of aggravation), and I don’t want people Googling that dealer to come across a blog post. I struggled with the decision on that, but I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

But as a general word of caution, be careful when you pull into a dealership with a car seat in your car. Certain people apparently think car seats are an invitation to pull off shady things. Not on my watch

Nine in the suburbs: How to drive in Basking Ridge


Average Basking Ridge driver, give or take a denture

We moved from Hoboken, N.J., to Basking Ridge, N.J., at the end of August 2012, and the adjustments have been plentiful, particularly for yours truly, a lifelong city dweller experiencing the suburbs for the first time.

One of the biggest differences between the New York metropolitan area (obviously including Hoboken, but I grew up in Manhattan) and Basking Ridge is the way people drive. To put it simply, people in the immediate area around the city drive like assholes, while people out here drive like pussies.

After one year and a few months out here, I have put together a set of rules for how to drive if you want to fit in with the norm here in Basking Ridge:

  • The speed limit is merely a suggestion for the pace you should maintain in the case of unusual events, such as having to take an enormous shit, or transporting a woman in labor. In normal circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to drive 15 miles per hour under the speed limit, or maybe 10 MPH, if you’re feeling exceptionally spry, but don’t get carried away. Remember, if the sign says “Speed Limit: 40,” 25 MPH will suffice.
  • The newer your car is, and the larger the price tag is, the slower you should drive. Despite the fact that safety is built into the exorbitant costs of your vehicle, you can’t be too careful. I recommend a top speed of 25 MPH, and whatever you do, don’t let that high rate of horsepower tempt you. Horsepower is the bait used by Satan.
  • When making a turn, it is best to come to a complete stop, and not simply glide into the turn. You wouldn’t want your $75,000 Audi to end up on its side like a rickshaw, would you? The people behind you will understand.
  • When stopped at a stop sign, the safest policy is to remain there until no car is visible in either direction, no matter how long that takes. The mail truck may be a half-mile down the road, but as long as you can see it, it represents a clear and present danger, and it must be avoided at all costs.
  • By no means should you ever flick your brights off, no matter how many cars are oncoming or directly in front of you. Being able to see is half the battle! Take solace in the fact that if a blinded driver smashes into you head-on, the insurance company will probably declare that driver at fault, and not you.

“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” — George Carlin, R.I.P.

Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

Pre-moving mixed emotions

I am now smack in the middle of the most frustrating period of our impending move from Hoboken to Basking Ridge, two very different New Jersey destinations. On the one hand, time seems to be crawling, and on the other hand, it feels like it’s accelerating out of control.

Less than one month …

This experience is new to me, as I have never been involved in the purchase of a home, having spent my entire life in rental properties. It is basically a two-month period between the point when the house was pretty much officially ours until the point when we actually move in, and the two months has seemed like forever.

It’s hard to contain my excitement about the new space, and as much as I want to get started on buying things and laying out areas like my office, there’s so much we can’t do until the walk-through at the end of the month. We need to find out if things like shelving in the storage area are staying in the house or going with its previous owner. And even though we took measurements of all the rooms, there are certain things we can’t really buy or order until physically being in the house. I still don’t have a desk, and I work from home.

Plus, there are certain things that I just couldn’t do that far in advance. For example, I am embracing our upcoming switch from horse shit Cablevision to Verizon FiOS, but I had to wait until the other day to set it up because I couldn’t get an appointment as far in advance as the day after we move in. The same is true for things like magazine subscriptions, which I hope to begin taking care of this week.

On the other hand, there are so many things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go before leaving Hoboken, and all of a sudden, time is short. For example, there are three beer gardens in the immediate area that I must say farewell to, including Pier 13, which I haven’t been to yet, so it will be a hello and a goodbye.

A prevailing theme on Facebook today was surprise at the fact that it’s August already, and, as I said in my status update, it hit me even harder because I will be a resident of an entirely different place when this month comes to a close.

Having a baby in the family doesn’t necessarily have to mean an end to everything fun that we liked to do beforehand, but it also makes things more complicated. It’s not like Mrs. 9 and I are going to strap 0.9 into his car seat on some random weekday night and drive into Hoboken for dinner. It’s all about picking your spots, which we’re still learning to do. We’re new at this. It hasn’t quite been four months. There are so many things I want to do between now and Aug. 30, when the moving truck pulls up to the front of our building, and I know I will never get to all of them.

Although I am 100% confident we are making the right move, if I needed a sign, I got one today, when my neighbor knocked on my door to tell me that a car had been broken into in the parking area of our building. This is the first time I have heard of this happening in my nine years or so here, and it’s a little disturbing. By no means do I believe Basking Ridge is a crime-free utopia, as no such place exists, but I’d like to think our car will be a lot safer in our own garage, instead of in a building’s parking area where the door is constantly being left unlocked, or the lock is constantly broken.

My emotions are very mixed right now. As much as I can’t wait to open the door to our new house for the very first time, I almost wish I had a little more time here in Hoboken. But you can’t have everything, I suppose.

The end of an era: Saying goodbye to Hoboken and hello to Basking Ridge

On Aug. 30, my life will undergo the third most dramatic change of its 44-plus years, behind somehow suckering Mrs. 9 into saying yes, and welcoming 0.9 to the family.

When I wake up on the morning of Aug. 31, for the first time in my life, I will not live in a city. We are leaving the mile square of Hoboken for the friendly confines of Basking Ridge, N.J.

We would have had to move eventually, anyway, because the next good word I hear about the schools in Hoboken will be the first, but Mrs. 9’scommute is just too long. And since my commute is measured in steps and not miles, I could not put up a convincing argument to stay. Besides, it’s time.

This will be a huge adjustment for me, as I have only lived in Manhattan and Hoboken. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me knows that I love to throw back a few good beers on occasion — days that end in “y” count as occasions. Not being able to walk to a bar will be a culture shock. And I would never think of drinking and driving.

We will actually be walking distance from the Basking Ridge New Jersey Transit station, which is a huge plus. It will be nice to be able to sneak into Hoboken or Manhattan occasionally and not have to worry about driving home. I may try to do it for a few Dallas Cowboys games this season, to avoid having to add DirecTV to the long list of goods and services we are investigating or purchasing.

We are also walking distance from the downtown area, but that statement needs a little perspective. Downtown Basking Ridge looked really nice when we drove through it, with some cool shops and restaurants, but downtown Basking Ridge is not Washington St. in Hoboken, or any street in Manhattan. It’s still nice to have the option of walking over, rather than being a typical suburbanite and having to drive everywhere, but I didn’t happen to notice any sports bars, taverns, pubs, beer gardens, or other watering holes.

Another radical change for me will be learning how to do small repairs and maintenance around the house. I have spent my entire life in apartments, where you call the superintendent with any issues. When you buy a house, a superintendent does not come along with it. I am not completely incompetent, but calling me handy would be a stretch, to say the least. The only yard I have ever had was a really tall glass filled with beer. I have never had a lawn to mow and maintain. I have never owned a grill that didn’t say “George Foreman” on it. I am more than willing to learn, but I have already decided that anything involving electricity or plumbing will result in an immediate call for professional help. I will not be responsible for blowing up, burning down, or submerging our house.

I couldn’t be happier with the house we found, though. I love the location. In addition to the proximity to the downtown area and train station, it is also really close to schools that have good reputations, so 0.9 can work on that full scholarship. The yard is a great size — large enough to have a catch, but not so large that it will be difficult and costly to maintain. There is already a neat little patio area built into the yard, which will be the new location for 9’s Outdoor Office, Beer Garden & Wine Bar. There is a small deck right next to the kitchen that is perfect for a grill. The house is pretty set back from the street. And it comes with its own Christmas tree for us Jews, as there is a huge pine in the front yard.

I moved to Hoboken in September 2000, and I have loved my 12 years here, but it’s just not the same anymore. It really hasn’t been the same for me since Ted & Jo’s, my absolute favorite bar and living room, closed in March 2008. And while I still have several friends here, many of my closest friends have let “real life” run its course, married, had kids, and moved elsewhere. Hoboken in July 2012 for me is nothing like Hoboken in September 2000, or any time between then and the untimely demise of T&J’s.

I can’t talk about Hoboken without mentioning another bar where I have felt like part of the family from the get-go: The Shannon. I don’t go there much on weekends because I am old enough to be the father of most of the patrons, but going there after softball games has been the source of some of my most fun nights in Hoboken. Everyone has always treated me and the rest of the various softball teams very well, from the owners, to the bartenders, to the bouncers. With T&J’s gone, The Shannon is the only bar in Hoboken I would even think of going to alone.

One of the biggest advantages to living in Hoboken is the ability to go out every night, with the entire town within walking distance, and between being married, having a son, and not having a lot of my close friends around anymore, I barely go out, so it’s a wash.

I’m sure we will find some decent places to eat, and hopefully a few that deliver, especially Chinese. I would have to turn in my barely used Jew card if I didn’t have regular access to Chinese food. However, after 12 years in Hoboken, I’ve developed an addiction to certain restaurants and dishes, and they will be difficult to replace:

  • Precious: When I moved from Manhattan to Hoboken, I thought I was saying goodbye to good Chinese food. Fortunately, I was mistaken. Precious is as good as any of the places I ever ordered from in Manhattan, and I am convinced that sorcery is the only explanation for how quickly they show up. Chicken Amazing is one of my favorite dishes of all-time.
  • Maru: Sushi from Maru is always fresh and delicious, and some of the specialty rolls are off the hook. I think the Hawaiian Roll is my personal favorite.
  • Rosario’s: I have never actually set foot in the restaurant, but Triple Fiesta is one of the best pasta dishes I have ever enjoyed, and it has been a delivery staple in our household.
  • Fiore’s: Roast beef, gravy, and fresh mozzarella — need I say anything else?
  • Leo’s: I will truly miss this genuine, family-run, inexpensive Italian restaurant littered with Frank Sinatra memorabilia. The stuffed mushrooms appetizer and the marsala sauce are to die for.
  • Zack’s: Bizarro Ted & Jo’s (same owner, nearly identical to the old homestead) imported Balsamic Chicken from the old T&J’s menu. After making the mistake of removing it for a while, it returned, due to popular demand. The beer selection is fantastic, too.
  • Three A’s: I will miss the outstanding dirty martinis and the second-best pork chops I have ever had, trailing only the ones my dear friend and old roommate used to cook up.
  • Philly’s Cheesesteaks: OK, it’s not Tony Luke’s, or Jim’s, or even Lee’s Hoagies, but the cheesesteaks here are the closest to real Philadelphia cheesesteaks I’ve had up in these parts.
  • Cucharamama: I have yet to refer to this place by its actual name, usually alternating between Cucaracha and Coochie Mama, but the Spanish food is outstanding, as are the cocktails. I could use a Mojito right about now.
  • Zafra: This is another source of excellent Spanish food, minus the cocktails. I only wish it had more than three tables (OK, I’m exaggerating on the number of tables, but not by much).
  • Biggie’s: I have been neglecting this place, and the new location where Clam Broth House used to be has an expanded menu, for those who haven’t been. I must treat myself to clams steamed in beer, very soon.
  • Hoboken Bar & Grill: This is another place I have neglected recently, for no good reason. It has a fantastic menu and an equally fantastic beer selection.

I will also miss Pier A, the park with the best possible view of Manhattan. I don’t know Basking Ridge well enough to know what bodies of water are nearby, but I’m pretty sure none provides the view of Manhattan across the Hudson River.

Naturally, there are some things I will not miss about Hoboken, although, as I said, I wouldn’t trade the past 12 years for any other place.

It will be great to invite people over to the new house without worrying about where they will be able to park. Parking in Hoboken is absolutely nonexistent, but we have a small blacktop area that could probably fit nine cars, if needed.

Speaking of parking, I won’t miss the parking area in my current building, and the assholes who believe ownership of a BMW entitles them to park free-of-charge while the rest of us pay $200 per month.

I will also not miss the corruption that runs rampant throughout politics in Hudson County in general and Hoboken in particular. I am under no delusions that corruption doesn’t exist in Basking Ridge and Somerset County. Corruption exists whenever a person gains control over decisions that affect others. It’s human nature. But when you have a mayor who begins serving his term July 1, 2009, and is ousted July 31, 2009, you have some serious issues.

I will not miss the inevitable traffic that comes with trying to get in or out of Hoboken, due to its proximity to the Hudson River and the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. I am sure Basking Ridge has its own traffic trouble spots, as a map of New Jersey should accompany the listing for “traffic” in the dictionary, but I am just about done with sitting under the covered roadway (if you live anywhere near here, this requires no explanation) for minutes that seem like hours.

I am also sure that living in the suburbs will come with its own driving challenges, but I will not miss driving in Hoboken, as the stupidity level of people behind the wheel seems to accelerate at a more rapid rate than the price of gas. Every time someone stops at an intersection when they don’t have a stop sign, I want to pull over and kick their car. Doing that only causes accidents, as people are unsure whether to proceed or not. And the same people who stop when they don’t have a stop sign usually fly right through the intersection when they do have a stop sign. Plus, double-parking is a fact of life, especially with the dearth of available parking I mentioned earlier, but it would be nice if people tried to get as close as possible to the legally parked cars, rather than just sitting in the middle of already narrow streets.

I will not miss having upstairs neighbors. I have no beef with anyone who has lived in the apartment upstairs. The problem is that my building was constructed in the typical Hoboken method of getting it completed as quickly as possible and cutting every corner, so there is absolutely nothing muffling the sound of the people walking upstairs. I jumped out of bed a few times the first couple of weeks I lived here because it sounded like someone was walking through my living room.

I will not miss Cablevision in the least. I have hated that company and its piss-poor service and treatment of customers for years. Having worked for a weekly newspaper that covered the cable industry, I also know about the detestable Dolan family, and I hate them, too, particularly cokehead James Dolan. Fuck the Cablevision-owned Knicks and Rangers, as well. We could have gotten Verizon FiOS in our current apartment, but we knew we were moving, so there was no point. FiOS will be a welcome addition in Basking Ridge, however. There is no way the Internet service won’t blow away Cablevision’s spotty, overrated Optimum Online, which seems to get slower every day.

All in all, I am looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life. As I said, it will be a huge adjustment on many levels, but I am confident that it will turn out to be a good move in the end. Hoboken: It’s been real. Basking Ridge: Duck, punk! Here we come.

I apparently live atop a BMW dealership … who knew?

The issue of dickheads parking for free in my building’s parking area, while most of us pay for the privilege, has gotten worse and worse, and my landlord finally called in the tow truck again, in a long-overdue move.


As I said in my blog post the last time cars were towed (all the way back in October 2010, which is a big part of the problem): Our parking area has several assigned spots, but it also has an area in the back where parking is not allowed. Most people use it as emergency parking, for a short time, since parking here in Hoboken is God-awful and often nonexistent. I have absolutely no problem with this, and I’ve done it myself on occasion. But I don’t abuse it.

Unfortunately, people do abuse it, and it makes me wonder why my wife and I pay to park two cars, including keeping mine several blocks away, while other people take advantage of our landlord’s “threaten often, but do nothing” policy and park at will.

In defense of the landlord, yes, he should be more vigilant about this issue, but he also should not have to be a babysitter and constantly tow cars. And tenants like myself should not have to be bothered with perpetually complaining about the problem.

Three cars have been the worst offenders, parking for free literally every single day for months, and often parking in the two really dangerous “illegal” spots, which makes navigating the garage very difficult for those of us who actually fucking pay to park there.

Space is very tight as it is, and when cars are parked right next to the two turns, those turns must be navigated with only a couple of inches on each side. I scratched up our car a few weeks ago, and I see similar scratches on other cars in the garage — cars owned by people who, again, actually fucking pay to park there.

Two of the three cars are BMWs. I have nothing against the brand, and they’re beautiful vehicles, but if you can afford a fucking BMW, then you should be able to afford a legal parking spot. Adding to the annoyance, a very recent addition to the illegal parking brigade is another, brand-new BMW, so new that it still has its temporary, paper license in the window, as its owner is awaiting license plates.

The other car is a royal blue Honda that should have grown roots into the ground based on how infrequently this car moved before it was towed. In fact, at one point, the car was left in an awkward diagonal position a few days prior to Christmas, and did not move an inch until well after the New Year.

The absolute indifference of these people just galls me. What makes them think that they can park without paying every single day for months on end, often in spots that threaten damage to the cars of those of us who belong in the garage?

The day after four cars were towed (I didn’t recognize one, but since this person parked in a dangerous spot, tough shit to them), one of the BMWs was back, fresh from the tow lot, with the yellow crayon writing still on its back window, and a note on the dashboard. I had to go read this note, because I figured it would be good for a laugh.

The guy left a sorry-assed excuse of a note, begging the landlord not to tow his car again, and saying he was doing everything possible to get the proper permit from the Hoboken Parking Authority so that he could park his car on the street.

Seriously? OK, while anyone who has ever dealt with the Hoboken Parking Authority knows they are incompetent beyond belief, your car has been back there every single fucking day for almost six months. What’s your excuse for that? Bottom line: If this guy’s car hadn’t been towed, he would have continued to park for free, every single day, with no regard for paying tenants like myself.

I know human nature should not surprise me at this point in my life, but the utter and complete disregard for paying tenants and the sense of entitlement shown by these people is sickening.

Two completely random observations from an errand run in Hoboken

A simple walk around Hoboken to run some errands generated two ideas for blog topics, so I’m putting them in the same entry. Why? It’s my blog and I feel like it. So there.

Cake Boss Buddy Valastro in front of Carlo's Bakery

First: My travels took me past Carlo’s Bakery, of Cake Boss fame. Have you ever seen footage from when The Beatles first came to the United States, and teenage girls were screaming at the top of their lungs and completely losing their minds? Bakery owner and reality star Buddy Valastro drew the same reaction by leaning out of his office window to wave to the throngs of people waiting in line. It was deafening, and I’m not exaggerating.

Since Cake Boss took off, there has been quite a bit of anti-Buddy and anti-Carlo’s sentiment around Hoboken. I am not part of that camp. I say get while the getting is good, and I hope they profit as much as they can while they’re still in the limelight. I’ve heard a lot of people say the quality of Carlo’s goods has diminished, and that there are better bakeries in Hoboken. I’m not an expert on the subject (shut up), but I’ve never been dissatisfied with anything I’ve eaten from Carlo’s, including our wedding cake.

I just can’t help but laugh at the people who wait in line, though. The line this afternoon stretched the equivalent of two Manhattan blocks down Washington Street. I like the show, although I’ve tired of it a little — after a while, every episode tends to be the same, including the moment in every episode that seems to be required: Buddy freaking out and yelling, “How am I gonna make this cake?” — but the idea of waiting two to three hours, often in bad weather, to buy pastries or cookies and possibly catch a quick glimpse of someone who’s been on-air, is baffling.

The real morons, however, are the ones who wait in the back alley behind the bakery, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the featured employees loading up a cake into a truck. Really? Seriously? When I walked by today, there were 15-20 people hanging out in a nondescript, dingy alley, all with cameras at the ready. Why? Stalk much?

On to the second, completely unrelated thought: I realize the Hoboken Police Department has plenty on its plate and fewer officers to help reduce the workload, but a crackdown on people talking on cell phones while driving is an absolute necessity. I was in the street for a total of about 40 minutes, walking probably the equivalent of one mile, and witnessed two situations that were dangerously close to accidents, including one in which I would have been hit while crossing the street. The common denominator: Both morons were holding cell phones and jabbering away, barely paying attention to the road.

Bimbo driving while jabbering

One white male moron in a blue BMW made a turn without looking while I was crossing, absolutely with the right of way. If you can afford a BMW, I think you can afford a Bluetooth headset, since they’re available for under $15 these days.

The second moron was a white female, driving an old Toyota, who blew right through the stop sign on Jefferson and 1st, also with a cell phone attached to her jaw. While the first near accident rattled me personally, because I was almost the one getting hit, the second one was downright scary. The two cars coming through the intersection missed each other by about a yard, and while I didn’t catch the make of the second car (the one not at fault), I give the driver huge credit for avoiding a collision.

If it is absolutely necessary to yack away while driving, there is enough affordable technology out there to eliminate having to hold the cell phone. Enough is enough already, people. If you hit me, I will kill you, whether it’s in this life or another.

Going through hell to get a license to drive in Hell

If you’re going to have a Web site that lists inaccurate and incomplete information, why have one at all? That question can easily be directed to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission after what should have been a simple (albeit long overdue) trip to exchange my New York driver’s license for a New Jersey driver’s license turned into three trips, one-and-a-half wasted days, and a keg of aggravation.


According to the wonderful state of New Jersey, there is a six-point ID verification process for obtaining a driver’s license. I completely understand this and have zero objections. Running the risk of granting official credentials to a terrorist would be foolhardy. However, people consult this list so that they bring the proper documents to the Motor Vehicle Commission and make the trip only once, so shouldn’t the list be accurate and specific?

More and more people are switching to electronic billing to pay for their utilities. It’s more efficient, and it helps the environment by not creating unnecessary paper documents. If you choose not to accept electronic bills as proof of residence, shouldn’t you mention that somewhere on your Web site? I don’t have a problem with the policy. I have a problem with not having a clue, despite consulting the Web site, and being turned away after showing up with a document that satisfied the published criteria. The woman I spoke with said, “It happens all the time.” Well, there’s a reason for that. There is not one word on the Web site that indicated that electronic bills are unacceptable. Thanks for wasting my Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, my landlord was kind enough to meet me at his office, prior to leaving for vacation, to print out a copy of the lease for our apartment. A lease is also on the list of one-point documents that satisfy the proof-of-residence requirement. However, as I found out Tuesday, on my second trip to the Jersey City office of the Motor Vehicle Commission, if the lease was signed more than 60 days ago, it doesn’t qualify. Again, there is not a single word about this restriction anywhere on the Web site. I wouldn’t have even attempted to use the lease had I known it wouldn’t be accepted. This marked my second wasted trip to Jersey City.

Fortunately, the supervisor I spoke with was very helpful and made some suggestions that would enable me to complete the torturous task of getting a driver’s license on that day, rather than wasting time on another day. I was able to get PSE&G to print out my bill, along with an official stamp, and I was also able to locate some tax-related documents that were sent to my address, so on trip No. 3, I emerged with a New Jersey driver’s license. But it should not have taken three trips. As I said at the start of this blog, if you’re going to have a Web site that lists inaccurate and incomplete information, why have one at all?

Then again, based on how useful the road signs in New Jersey tend to be, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that the Motor Vehicle Commission’s site was equally useful (read: useless).

On a humorous side note, the helpful supervisor (in a rare occurrence, no sarcasm from me whatsoever — he truly was helpful) suggested PSE&G and directed me to its office in the Journal Square transportation complex. What a freaking nightmare. It was packed when I walked in, and I took a ticket with No. 11 on it, only to look up at the screen and see that No. 54 was being served. When 10 minutes had passed and No. 56 was being served, I got the hell out of there and went several blocks out of my way to PSEG’s Hoboken office, where I was in and out in three minutes. When I finally left the Motor Vehicle Commission with my driver’s license, about three-and-a-half hours after leaving the Journal Square PSE&G location, I peeked in out of curiosity to see what number they were up to and saw No. 24. I would have spent about three hours sitting there. Word of advice: Never, ever go to the Journal Square PSE&G office. Wow.

Anyway, after three trips and almost 10 hours of time spent, my story finally reached a happy ending (not THAT kind, you pervs!). I am now the proud (OK, probably not so proud) owner of a New Jersey driver’s license. As a result, I immediately forgot how to parallel park and use my turn signals, but I was suddenly enlightened as to the mystical ways of negotiating a traffic circle, a roundabout, a jughandle, or whatever you want to call those atrocities. Yay, me!

Good Morning, Mr. Tow Truck Driver!

Most people are not happy to see tow trucks, as it either means their car was parked illegally, leading to aggravation and expenses, or their car is dead or inoperable, also leading to aggravation and expenses. I was watching tow trucks all morning, right in my apartment building’s parking area, just outside of my window, and I was ecstatic.

Happy Tow Truck, Happy 9nine9!

Three cars were removed from my building’s parking area this morning. I normally cringe at the sight of someone’s car being towed, feeling sympathetic toward the car owners, but not this morning.

Our parking area has several assigned spots, but it also has an area in the back where parking is not allowed. Most people use it as emergency parking, for a short time, since parking here in Hoboken is God-awful and often nonexistent. I have absolutely no problem with this, and I’ve done it myself on occasion. But I don’t abuse it: I’ve been in this building about seven years, and I have probably put cars back there 10 times, including overnight twice.

The cars that were towed this morning, however, are owned by people who thoroughly abuse the privilege, for lack of a better word. Seeing the same cars parked illegally day after day after day really wears on my patience, especially when my wife and I are paying for a spot in a garage several blocks from here so we can keep both of our cars (we only have one spot in our building, and the odds of getting a second are negligible, as there are far fewer spots than units).

I really hope I’m fortunate enough to be near the window when these people come home to discover their vehicles gone. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a lengthy, evil cackle.

My only regret is that this action wasn’t taken two months ago, before a former tenant left the building. This former tenant apparently believed that being a rabbi also made him lord and master of the parking area, as he had one spot, but his second car was parked illegally anywhere from 20-25 days per month, and he often had a third vehicle back there, too. I don’t miss having him and his 26 kids in the building, but the look on his face upon realizing that his car was gone would have been priceless. And had it happened on a Friday, like today, he would have had to wait until sundown Saturday to even do anything about it!

Yes, I am evil, and I am culling far too much enjoyment from the misery of others. But this should have happened months ago, and I’m glad we’re not shelling out the cash for a second spot for no reason whatsoever, which sometimes felt like the case.

Give some people an inch, and they take a mile.

Dodging furniture on the New Jersey Turnpike

Is it weird that while facing a split-second, near-death moment last night (no exaggeration whatsoever), I was laughing? No lie: Here’s what happened.

Not too far off

I was driving southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike, traveling 75-80 miles per hour in the left-hand lane, when a pickup truck with some highly unstable cargo entered the lane in front of me, also reaching about 80 MPH. The two turd-for-brains rejects driving the pickup apparently thought that wedging a love seat and two mattresses into the open back, with no bungee cords or rope, was a wise move. They were wrong.

I realized instantly that their cargo was perilous, at best, but I couldn’t get out of the left-hand lane due to the truck traffic in the middle lane. I slowed down a little, much to the dismay of the driver behind me, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Suddenly, one of the mattresses came flying off the back of the pickup truck. Luckily, there was just enough room between trucks in the middle lane for me to slam on the gas pedal, cut off the trailing truck by less than a yard (again, no exaggeration), and avoid an accident.

The spilt-second I will never forget: I had my right eye on the rear-view mirror, praying that my aging 1997 Honda Accord had enough pickup to cut off a fast-moving truck. At the same time, my left eye saw a maroon love seat literally bounce past my car in the lane I had just vacated, narrowly missing my side-view mirror. And I was laughing throughout the entire experience, all of which probably lasted about five seconds, probably just to keep my sanity.

As for the car behind me, its driver was able to execute a similar life-saving move, using the shoulder on the left-hand side of the road, which worked out perfectly for both of us.

By the way, how idiotic do you have to be to jam a love seat and two mattresses into the back of a pickup, with no safety precautions whatsoever and nothing preventing the items from falling out? Even worse, how much of a dope do you have to be to do this while driving 80 MPH on the New Jersey Turnpike? The cat turds I cleaned out of my litter box this morning have more intelligence than these jackasses.

The stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me. I’m just glad I’m here in one piece typing this blog, instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about it.