Nine in the suburbs: Why is it so damn dark out here?

It has been just over four months since we moved from Hoboken to Basking Ridge, and we’ve settled in nicely, for the most part. We really like it out here, and everyone is adjusting well, from yours truly, to Mrs. 9, to 0.9, and even the cats.

9House

The 9 Compound

The positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I mentioned some of these things in a previous post, but that was months ago, and most people online don’t have any attention span, anyway, so here goes:

  • Mrs. 9’s commute has been shortened to about 15-20 minutes, with little to no traffic, from 50 minutes on paper and much longer in real life when we were still in Hoboken.
  • 0.9 loves his daycare and the teachers there.
  • Driving around here in general is a far more pleasant experience. Not only is traffic rarely an issue, but there just seems to be a lot less douchebaggery on the roads.
  • Life in general is a lot less stressful. Things like shopping, or going out for dinner, are much more manageable out here. People just seem to be a lot more relaxed, and it shows.
  • The two fat cats have actually lost weight since we moved here, likely due to having a lot more room to run, as well as the steps. Even 8-Ball, who used to move twice a day, has actually shown signs of being spry. The only bad thing about 8-Ball and Trouble getting into better shape is that one of them might catch Skittles one day, and eat him, because he continues to bait the two of them mercilessly, figuring that he can outrun them.
  • This will not be a factor for another five years or so, but the elementary school 0.9 will eventually attend is picturesque. It looks like something Norman Rockwell would paint. It’s a beautiful building, with so much space around it. I am actually jealous of him, as I feel like when you grow up in Manhattan, classrooms feel more like cells due to the lack of space. The thought of having a vast expense of grass for him to play on, instead of a slab of concrete, is comforting.
  • I have taken advantage of the fact that it is about three-quarters of a mile from our house to the train station and taken New Jersey Transit into Penn Station or Hoboken a few times. It’s pretty easy, and for someone who has been known to enjoy the occasional beer or 12, it’s a great option to have.
  • Being walking distance from the downtown area of Basking Ridge has been a huge plus, as well, and we have taken advantage of it a few times, weather permitting. It’s good to get out, walk, and exercise, rather than having to drive everywhere.
  • I work in the basement, right next to a window that faces our back yard, and I have been fortunate enough to see deer on a number of occasions, and even a red fox, which was larger than I thought, but quite a beautiful animal. It’s nice to see species other than stray cats, PATH rats, squirrels, and pigeons.
  • As I suspected, Cablevision’s Optimum is not even in the same ballpark as Verizon FiOS, especially when you factor in the Internet speed of the latter. Good riddance, Cablevision.
  • I raked leaves for the second time in my life, and shoveled snow for the first. Neither was too tough to pick up. I didn’t rake the entire yard, so sue me. We would eventually like to get a lawn mower, but with all of the expenses related to moving, new furniture, and 0.9, the lawn mower is on the back burner, for now, as is the snow blower, the generator, and the grill, which will likely come first.

There are a few things I’m definitely having trouble adjusting to, however:

  • I simply cannot get over just how fucking dark it is around here at night. I didn’t expect Basking Ridge to be lit up like the Vegas strip, but it is absolutely pitch black. There are very, very few street lights around here, and other sources of light are scant. As soon as the sun goes down, this is what the view from our window looks like:
Our view ...

Our view …

  • Speaking of the dark, when I take the train back to Basking Ridge and arrive after sundown, I have to walk by a cemetery while it’s pitch black outside. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo have the right idea being rattled. It’s definitely creepy.
  • I said earlier that drivers around here seem to be a lot more courteous and less ruthless than those closer to the city, but the one thing I’ve noticed, kind of related to my point above about the darkness, is that a lot of folks out here have a tendency to not bother to switch from brights to dims when other cars are approaching, and some of the newer cars out there, especially some Audi models, have headlights that are completely blinding. One of the first things I was taught when driving at night was to switch off my brights if another car was coming. But for whatever reason, many people out here simply can’t be bothered.
  • Luckily, we haven’t had to deal with anything major yet in terms of household repairs, but I find myself missing the phrase “call the super” more and more. I did have one unfortunate incident that required an emergency plumbing call due to cat litter clogging up the drain to our slop sink. I know enough not to intentionally pour something that is designed to clump when wet down a drain: It was a stupid and costly accident, as I didn’t realize the trash bag I was dumping the litter box into had slipped, and the litter was going into the sink, and not the bag. You learn from your mistakes. But after living in apartments for the first 44-and-a-half years of my life, it’s still scary that there is no safety net. People can make fun of me all they want for some of the things I don’t know how to do, but I have never had to do them. I am more than willing to learn. We’ll see how it goes. I just hope future mistakes or repairs for other reasons aren’t too costly.
  • I never thought I would find a power company that would make PSE&G look like a superstar, but JCP&L can kiss my ass. There is apparently a history of JCP&L neglecting this area, and their response, or lack thereof, to Hurricane Sandy was an utter and complete joke.

Mrs. 9 and I were talking about this the other day: Despite the fact that we’ve been here a little over four months, we both still have the feeling that we’re on vacation, and that we’ll have to pack everything up one day and go back to our apartment in Hoboken. This place is very much like home, but there are times when it feels like the beach house on Long Beach Island that I was part of for years: You feel at home, but it’s still not your home. Obviously, it is, and we will not be returning to our apartment in Hoboken, or any apartment, for that matter. But there are times when this move still doesn’t seem real or permanent.

Overall, I have no regrets: This was a wise and necessary move. Are there things I miss about Hoboken? Sure, but not enough to make me wish we had never moved here. And there are some treats coming up this summer, as we will hopefully join the local pool, and I will try to get a spot in an over-40 (fuck you in advance for what you’re thinking) softball league.

Yeah, Basking Ridge doesn’t suck. But why is it so fucking dark?

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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.

How to give your car a lovely cinnamon smell

1) Leave Hoboken and stop at the Exxon/Dunkin Donuts on Jersey Ave.

2) Purchase a large iced coffee, cinnamon flavor, from Dunkin Donuts.

3) Take Route 1/9 South, toward Newark Airport, and choose the Pulaski Skyway option.

4) Get caught behind a moron driving a van at 45 miles per hour in the left lane, leading to a clusterfuck of cars attempting to pass the offending van from the right lane.

5) Come around a curve while accelerating, only to see a Cablevision van at a dead stop in the right lane with its flashers on.

6) Slam on the brakes, coming to a stop slightly more than one yard from the van. In the process, be sure the cup containing the cinnamon iced coffee flies out of the cup holder, crashes into the windshield and erupts, spilling cinnamon coffee and ice throughout the vehicle.

7) Wait until heart rate slows from four times normal level, call Cablevision van driver every word of profanity in your vocabulary, and proceed south on Route 1/9.

9) Repeat as necessary (or hopefully never again).

Yes, I know, there’s no step No. 8, but I’m a little fahklempt.