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.

Beer vs. wine: drunken confusion

This past weekend’s arrest of an art-gallery owner in East Hampton for serving wine during the opening of an exhibit stoked the fires of an old debate I used to partake in.

As anyone who either knows me or has read this blog knows, I am a big fan of both beer and wine. I’m clearly far from anti-wine, but my loyalty belongs to beer for years of service, personal preference and, sometimes, plain old logistics. I’m not about to be caught dead sipping a chardonnay at a Yankee game, or ordering a glass of merlot at a bar after playing softball. Those are beer times. But with a nice dinner or at home relaxing, wine is fine.

That being said, the attitude of law enforcement when it comes to the two beverages has always befuddled me. And what really brought it to the forefront for me were several experiences while playing softball on the Great Lawn in Central Park.

Fact: Beer and wine are both alcoholic beverages. Fact: Beer and wine have similar alcoholic contents — if anything, wine is stronger than beer. Fact: Consuming either one in public is against the law. So why did police officers patrolling the park bust softball players’ balls for having a few beers during or after games, while, mere yards away, people waiting to get into Shakespeare in the Park were allowed to sit on picnic blankets and sip wine unmolested from clearly visible bottles and glasses?

In fact, the senility that sets in after turning 40 is clouding my memory as to which mayor it was, but I clearly remember a story in one of the tabloids featuring either Mayor Giuliani or Mayor Bloomberg drinking wine in the park while waiting for a performance.

So even though I’m not anti-wine, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about wine’s image as the drink of the elite and beer’s white-trash reputation. Selective enforcement is bullshit, period.

With all of that being said, I have very conflicting opinions on the East Hampton incident. The beer loyalist in me was happy to see stuffy wine drinkers in an art gallery go through some of the hassles I’ve gone through. But both the wine fan and the practical voice in my head were amazed at the utter silliness of this arrest.

The woman was serving wine during an event. She wasn’t selling wine. She wasn’t throwing a loud, raucous party. I wasn’t there, but I’d be willing to wager a significant amount of money that people weren’t craning their heads out of an art gallery and yelling, “Show your tits!” at passers-by. So, what exactly is the problem?

Maybe I’d have a different view on things if I hadn’t spent my whole life in Manhattan and Hoboken, where driving is rarely part of the equation. I’ve very rarely been confronted with the dilemma of car keys in one hand and an adult beverage in the other.

But I really don’t think the fear of drinking and driving was behind either this weekend’s gallery incident or the harassment myself and countless other softball players have endured in Central Park. I believe in both cases, someone in the law-enforcement community was bored, had a hair up their ass or was looking to fill a quota.

Perhaps that someone needs a drink?

Buy me some peanuts and … a dirty martini?

I just can’t wait until April 2009, when the new Yankee Stadium opens. It’s always been my dream to change into a jersey and shorts, throw on my old-school hat, leave the office, take the 4 train up to the ballpark and settle into my seat with a martini to root on the Bronx Bombers.

Or not.

In case you missed it, AP posted a progress report on the construction of the new Yankee Stadium yesterday. Featured prominently in the lead paragraph was the fact that the new ballpark will have a martini bar.

Are you kidding me?

Baseball is about hotdogs and cold beer. Baseball is about sneaking a flask into the ballpark so you can add Jack Daniel’s to your soda or vodka to your lemon ice. Baseball is NOT about martinis.

I like martinis. I really do. But they have their place, and the ballpark is not their place.

I actually prefer dirty martinis. I’m not a fan of the sweet, fruity varieties. It’s simply a matter of taste — I don’t dislike them because I think they’re “girly” drinks. I’m confident in my masculinity, even though I own two cats.

But they don’t belong in the ballpark. Period.

And even if I was sitting at a relatively unexciting Tuesday-night affair against Kansas City and suddenly got the craving for something different, here’s another issue: Considering the fact that most beers at the Stadium are just under $10, and they just started selling oil cans of Foster’s this past season for $12 (only six times the local bodega’s price, but who’s counting?), exactly how much are these martinis going to cost? I set the over/under at $31.50.

The more I hear about this new ballpark, the more I hate it.

Zeke’s Roadhouse

(Originally posted on my MySpace blog Sept. 21, 2007) 

I have found Heaven, and its name is Zeke’s Roadhouse.

I was in Miami last weekend with a few friends, visiting two good friends of mine from college and attending the Cowboys-Dolphins game (Cowboys 37, Dolphins 20, HOLLA!). Paradise is located on Lincoln Road in Miami, near South Beach.

Zeke’s Roadhouse has several refrigerators stocked with bottles of hard-to-find microbrewed and imported beer, with every single bottle selling for the princely sum of $3.

Plus, if you’re fortunate enough to secure an outdoor table, the people-watching on Lincoln Road is just unbelievable.

I don’t even know how to start describing all the beautiful women who walked by during the two hours or so that we spent there. Between the Amazon-like six footers who were sizzling hot, the mothers who looked like they started doing one-armed pushups seconds after childbirth and the good, old-fashioned, just plain beautiful women – I mean, wow!

If I lived in the Miami area, Zeke’s Roadhouse would be on my agenda a minimum of twice every week. Period. I wish one would open in Hoboken, instead of another bank, nail salon or Chinese restaurant.

Morons at the PNC Bank Arts Center

(Originally posted on my MySpace blog Aug. 23, 2007) 

A two-middle-fingers-raised, loud FUCK YOU to the management of the PNC Bank Arts Center for a recent decision that reeks of stupidity.

Some 26-year-old moron from Forked River — don’t even get me STARTED on THAT town! — died at Ozzfest earlier this month. It turns out that one stimulant wasn’t enough for this soon-to-be-former party animal — large amounts of marijuana, cocaine AND alcohol were found in his system.

So what did the geniuses who run the Arts Center do? They banned alcohol from the parking lot.

Because of one idiot, responsible people who don’t turn their bodies into toxic cocktails can’t enjoy a few beers before a show?

Hey, Einsteins, guess what? Your alcohol ban will lead to three things:

• Much greater consumption of hard liquor, as it’s much easier to hide than beer;

• Much greater consumption of drugs, as they’re even easier to hide than hard liquor; and

• People getting lit up like Christmas trees in other locations, THEN driving to the Arts Center for the show.

I mean, really, are you shitting me? Pot, cocaine, alcohol — I wonder which one killed him.

Actually, part of my FUCK YOU goes to our justice system. My guess is that part of the motivation behind this idiotic policy is to avoid lawsuits. Any judge with an IQ topping that of a Dorito should immediately throw the lawsuit out of his or her courtroom upon hearing the word “cocaine.” But there are never any guarantees (See: O.J. Simpson on the golf course instead of the big house).

Scratch PNC Bank Arts Center off my list of concert venues — the place sucks ass, anyway — until this half-witted policy is scrapped.

New Year’s Eve … bah, humbug!

(Originally posted on my MySpace blog Dec. 29, 2005) 

Someone please enlighten me: What is the big fucking deal about New Year’s Eve?

I just don’t understand the concept that it’s a social necessity to do something new, amazing, spectacular and costly for New Year’s Eve just because it’s New Year’s Eve. From my experiences, two things happen on New Year’s Eve: People who rarely drink decide to imbibe heavily due to the “special” occasion and make asses of themselves, and people who drink regularly decide to exceed their usual consumption and make asses of themselves. For the record, I have been guilty of the latter on numerous occasions.

Yet people seem to feel that it’s mandatory to spend $100 to get into a crowded, hot bar, when there’s no way in hell they’ll get up to the bar enough times to drink their $100 worth. Bartenders are often grumpy because most people don’t bother tipping them during all-you-can-drink nights, so they’re in no rush to quench your thirst. Going to the bathroom is a mission. And when it comes down to it, there’s often no difference between the bar on that night and the same bar on any of the other 364 nights of the year, aside from goofy hats and noisemakers.

I will be spending New Year’s Eve at my favorite bar in Hoboken, with a good core group of the regulars. I will not be paying a cover charge, nor will I be rammed into a place crowded enough to mirror the 4 train on the way up to a Yankee playoff game. I will drink several pints of Guinness, more than likely with a champagne toast at midnight. I will have a blast, love every minute of it and not regret my decision whatsoever. And I will have enough money left to enable me to consume something other than Oodles of Noodles between New Year’s Day and my next paycheck on Jan. 15.

Good riddance, 2005. Be gone, spawn of Satan. Here’s to a good 2006.

 (9’s addition on 1/26/08: 2006 sucked!)