February 2007 Archives

Bartending in Hoboken

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I'm relatively new to Hoboken (I've been here since last June). Things have pretty much settled down with my job and all, and I see that I have some free time a couple nights a week. Also, being completely self-sufficient in Hoboken at age 23 isn't financially easy. Couple those with the fact that I love bars, and I thought it'd be a good idea to pick up a couple of bartending shifts per week, not only for the cash but because it's something I enjoy (I've worked down the shore for years as a barback/bartender).

Obviously, this was much easier in my head than in practice. It's impossible to get a bartending job around here! How did you do it? Do you know someone, or did you get lucky, or what? I'd love to know, since this search is driving me nuts. Also, any suggestions would be much appreciated.

I got that letter in my gmail account, and figured that it would be a good thing to discuss on here, especially for other readers who were interested.

Even with experience, I think it is very hard to get a job bartending in Hoboken. I got my job due to my friend Joe. Dipper's was a new bar and Joe was going to manage the place and needed "guys that he could trust behind the bar".

That's the first rule of this service industry. Trust. The problem is that in our industry it is very easy for people to steal from the owners. Stealing by giving out too many free drinks, stealing money that should be going into the register by putting it in your tip jar (also known as "tipping the tills") and other nefarious ways. So if the owner or the manager sees a guy walking in off the street, and asking to bartend...that doesn't happen very often.

Also you have to consider that guys are a dime a dozen in bartending. The draw for most guys in a bar is their ability to keep the customer happy with good service or with good communication skills. They aren't there for their good looks.

Lots of women, on the other hand, are also very much judged on that special "third factor" - their looks. Quite simply, it helps the bars business to have a good looking woman behind the bar. A good looking female bartender will keep guys sitting at a bar for hours. Trust me, I have seen this first hand. I have seen guys walk in the bar, say, "Where's Susan?" and then spin around and leave when they find out that she isn't working that night. I know that the guy wasn't Susan's personal friend, he was a guy who simply liked to watch Susan work while he sipped his beer.

To get a job, i'd follow my old rules about Hoboken. Find a "local". A "local" is a local pub that you frequent at least once a week. My current local would probably be Court Street, since I go there for dinner about once a week. Moran's is also a local, but that was something I established years ago, and don't go there every week, but the bartenders all know me and we get along well enough. Mulligan's can be considered a local for me, because of my Eagles club.

Find a bar where you get to know the bartenders. Pubs are easier than some of those lounges in town. Find a bar where they don't have an entrenched staff - like people who have been working there for 10 years. Lots of "new" bars are opening up like "Four L's", for example. If I were in your shoes, i'd go there every Friday. Make yourself a regular. Get to know the owner and the staff. Tip well. Get a feel for who is working there. Is it the owner? Who are the bartenders? Maybe they need a barback or a waiter.

Get your foot in the door. Doesn't matter what you are doing. Just get the foot in there, and mention to the owner that you have bartending experience and would be happy to "fill in". "Fill in" is just as it sounds, you fill in if a bartender calls out sick or something. The owner knows he can call you last minute. Also i'd get a bar card, just in case. They cost $100 and last for 2 years. Then the owner will know that you can legally serve, too.

I simply got lucky over my job. I was fortunate enough to be a regular at Farside, and knew my friend Joe through the bartenders there. Joe and I became friends, and when the chance happened at Dipper's, I got my shot and never looked back. When Dipper's changed hands to Mikie's, the new owners re-interviewed everyone on the staff, including people off the street. I was the only person hired from the old employees at Dipper's. That's when the chances happen, if a new bar opens they interview staff. Established places already have their people and only luck or if you know someone will be the chance you get a job there.

Find a place as a local, preferably a newer place. At Mikie's we only have 2 people working there from the original 10 that started last year. I'm one of them. Turnover happens. People quit or get fired. The guys I have seen move into the ranks of bartending were either recommended by someone who worked there, and in some cases we took waiters & barbacks and turned them into bartenders.

Now that's my advice for guys. Women, a whole new rule set applies to them. Read on, if you dare...

Dog Litterbox Update

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I wrote a bit ago how my neighbors were using our common-use backyard for their dogs to poo & pee.

After I wrote that, I saw the dog "in the act" from my bedroom window. I waited until the young looking black labrador ambled up the fire escape to the 2nd floor, and scratched at the back door to be let in. The door opened, and the owner appeared. I got her attention, with an "Excuse me...?"

She came out. I explained that our backyard was designed for a common use purpose, and that having dog shit all over the backyard was pretty disgusting. I tried to be non-confrontational about it, even telling her that my own roommate had a dog and was very responsible in walking Layla daily on the street and cleaning up the mess.

The owner was apologetic and very nice about it. She said she would clean it up right away.

I was satisfied until this weekend.

I hear the dog outside again, and see the black lab "in the act". I tried to get a picture, but it didn't come out very well, because my window screen caused the flash to overexpose the shot.

I waited again.

The dog was let in, and I called to the owner...again.

She came out, and looked slightly more irate than last time. I told her that I thought we spoke about this. She thought we spoke only about cleaning up after the dog, not the idea that I didn't want any dogs in the backyard. She thought it was ok to let her dog shit in the backyard, as long as if they were on top about cleaning up the dog shit. I told her that wasn't what I was saying, that I didn't want ANY dogs in the backyard going to the bathroom, AT ALL.

Her boyfriend came out and listened in also. They asked what the landlord thought about this. I told them that the landlord agreed with me, and that dogs shoudn't be using the backyard at all. I felt it was unsanitary. If people were to go back there in the spring or summer to have a BBQ, I wouldn't want dogs peeing or pooing where they were.

The couple were cordial about it. They didn't argue or be unpolite about it. They felt that the landlord should decide this, and said they would contact the landlord to find out how they felt. I told them i'd do the same.

I emailed the management company yesterday and i'm still waiting to hear from them.

What do you think about this? Am I alone here? Or do you think that a common-use backyard should be used for dogs to pee & poop (as long as the poo is cleaned on a regular basis)? I personally think the owners should WALK their dogs on the street, and clean it up there. This isn't the SUBURBS. This isn't their own house or rental in the suburbs where people can do as they please. When I had a backyard in Richboro, our dog would pee & poop back there. That was our home, and our land. But in this common-use situation (and especially that our backyard is about 20 feet by 15 feet), I think they are out of line letting their dog back there.

I try to be fairly tolerant as a neighbor, but this, to me, is where I draw the line.

Movin' On Up...?

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Things happen so quickly around here, sometimes.

Last week, I was doing my weekly reading of a website of properties in Hoboken. I saw a property that looked interesting, it was a 2 bedroom on 12th and Adams for $600,000. I was doing the math, and thought I could swing it, if I got another roommate for the 2nd room. I emailed the realtor about it.

Later that day the realtor emailed me back, saying he could show it that night. I thought about it and declined. I just didn't want anymore roommates. After 14 years (not counting college) of living with roommates, i'm just ready to be alone for a bit. I don't (or didn't) mind roommates, for me I was very lucky to meet some cool people over the years that were good roommates. I also met some latent psychopaths, and was lucky to get out unscathed.

I emailed the realtor about it, and we had a discussion about the real estate market. I went on about my bearish forecast for the market, and he tried to dissuade me. I was very impressed how tolerant he was of my dissenting views. Most people who work in real estate or own a home aren't as bearish as me about the market, for obvious reasons! But he did explain, patiently, about the different factors that could affect Hoboken, and that a downturn is possible, but realistically if I plan on being here for 5+ years, it makes sense to just ride out any market cycle. The gains of 20% might be over, but even with a return of 5-8% a year still makes real estate a good investment.

We looked at various places in town, about 5 in all. I got prequalified by a broker in town, and knew that my interest rate would be 6% over 30 years for the primary mortgage and 8.25% for the second loan to cover the difference between the cash I put down towards 20% of the total loan. So that made things easier on me.

After looking at a few places and factoring in various "wants" and "needs", I found a place I liked downtown, about 5 blocks from the PATH. I went home, and did some math with Brad, who came up for the day to help me look at some places and crunch some numbers.

We went over the costs involved. I had my mortgage numbers, my tax numbers and my maintenence. But how much did I really spend a month? To be honest, I really didn't know. I don't balance my checkbook. I really don't pay attention to bills. I just pay what I owe, putting most bills (cable, internet, cell phone, gym) on my credit cards. I pay a monthly parking fee at a local lot. I pay PSE&G directly. My car insurance is directly taken from my bank account. So are my monthly whole life insurance, and other investments. Once I did the math, I was a bit surprised how much i'm spending a month.

But even then, adding the mortgage, I figured out that I could afford my own condo.

I put in a bid below asking price on Saturday night. The representing realtor hasn't gotten back to my realtor, and so now I wait to see.

The condo is nice enough. 685 square feet, wall mounted A/C, boxy layout. It has coin operated laundry on the floor, and rental parking is across the street. It needs some work. A new paint job is absolutely needed - the colors look like they were chosen with the same randomness that Bill Cosby chooses his sweaters. The appliances are about 20 years old - i'd like to replace them all with stainless steel GE refrigerator, dishwasher, electric range (radiant glass, not coil) and microhood. I'd like to replace the cabinents, put some granite tops, and new tile floor and backsplash. Basically the entire kitchen will be transformed. The bathroom is ok, and i'd like to retile that also, and replace the cheap tiles that are in there now. The sink & toilet are something that can be replaced down the line. The tub is an older jacuzzi style, but not a jacuzzi as we think of them today. It looks about 20 years old.

The storage/closet situation is a bit tight. There's a closet in the bedroom, of a normal size and also a hallway closet, which is very long, but not terribly deep. My realtor showed me a cool site called ezclosets.com. You can build different closets on their website, and it maximizes the space you have. I'd have to make use of this or something like California Closets to make everything more useful.

But it is just some things i'm thinking about right now. I'm waiting to see what the owners think of my bid. I don't think my bid was low-balling, because of the work I need to put into the place. The paint job is a must. The kitchen is useable, but its just so old-school. At the very least i'd like to replace the appliances. I'd like to see what the costs would be involved to spruce up the kitchen & bathroom, second. I'd like to get things like that done before I move in, I have heard too many nightmare stories when people try to live in a home while it's getting renovations.

Now we wait. I have technically been waiting since Sunday. I put down a $1,000 "good faith" deposit and signed the paperwork at my asking price. If they counter, then if I decide to agree, it makes the process move much faster, because the realtor will just replace the top page of our contract with the new price.

I'm nervous and excited. Nervous that someone is going to swoop in and buy it from under me. I'd like to get what I asked for the condo, only because of the work that I need to put into it. The difference from their ask and my bid would cover the renovation costs that I have in mind.

Hopefully will know soon and will update here on the progress.

Spa H 2: This time it's personal

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At Club H, I took a spinning class on Wednesday. I didn't mean to take the class. I was at the gym, like normal, working out. I wanted to run for about 25 minutes, as part of my workout. But most of the treadmills were occupied. So, I decided to go into the spin room and just ride the bikes for a bit. After 10 minutes, a few people started to enter, including some very cute girls. I asked a guy next to me if a class was starting, and he told me that one was starting. He also said if this was my first time I better get a large bottle of water and a large towel from the locker room. He said that I will dehydrate really fast and sweat a lot.

I was cheerful about it, so I ran out and grabbed a water and a towel. I got back inside and more cute girls were in there and I was very aloof about the whole thing. I figured I had been working out for the last 3 years and wasn't terribly scared about the class. I figured it was going to be hard, but I would be able to keep up.

Did I mention i'm 35? Did I mention that I had fairly major leg surgery 2 years ago? Did I mention that my highschool yearbook pegged me as "Most likely to die from laziness"? I kid about the yearbook.

My friends, let me enlighten you. Spin class was first designed in 1818, by the Germans and lead by the aerobic instructor Karl von Drais. He was no pansy, folks. The dude knew how to whip those krauts into shape. Its true! I swear!

Not much has changed since then, and the class is basically sado-machoism on a stationary bike. They play music, the instructor I had was Robert from Club H. Has anyone seen the movie The Fifth Element? Remember the character played by Chris Tucker, "Ruby Rhod"? Ok, imagine a more fit, muscular version of him leading this class. I told Robert in the beginning of the class that I was new. I think he translated that into, "Fuck with the new guy".

I tried to keep up with them, but couldn't. I had to take a few breaks and I downed the entire liter of water. After the class I wasn't too bad, but wondering how sore I would be the next day.

My groin was killing me. My thighs were very tight. My lower back was a bit sore, but not too bad. My friend Tina laughed at me over email and told me that I was basically an idiot for taking the class and if I expected to take more, that I should get a gel seat cover for the bikes. It helps.

Thursday was a tough day at work. I was very sore. I tried stretching a few times, to the amusement of my co-workers. It really didn't help.

I had a gift certificate to Spa H. It was given to me by a friend for my birthday, and it was for an hour long massage. Perfect day to use it, I thought. I called the spa, and scheduled an appointment for Thursday night.

I have been to Spa H before, but it was 18 months ago. I really haven't been back, because of their prices. I usually go to Body Balance because it is cheaper, here's a comparison of prices with also the higher cost sports massage from Spa H, also:
30 minutes: Spa H: $60 (sport $65) / BB: $45
60 minutes: Spa H: $90 (sport $100) / BB: $75
90 minutes: Spa H: $125 (sport $130) / BB: $100
2 hours: Spa H: n/a / BB: $130

Even with my 10% discount from Club H, Body Balance is still cheaper. I reviewed Marma Day Spa, also. Marma was about the same price as Club H. Interestingly enough, and what I didn't know, is that Spa H charges more for deep tissue (sport) massages.

I get to Spa H, and it was just as I remembered. They did change a few things. Gone was the shower & changing room. Before, they had me change into a robe and go into the room. This time, I did my changing in the massage room. I found that rather clumsy, for such a steep price. I liked having a private changing room, rather than just dumping my clothes on a chair in the massage room.

The massage was really good. The massage therapist, Samantha, was a petite woman with a very good touch. I really enjoyed the massage and found myself dozing off a few times during the hour.

Once it was done, they didn't have (or offer) the shower to use. I missed that. So I put my clothes back on, and tipped Samantha $20 for the massage. She offered me a glass of water, and I drank it while I went outside to give them my gift card.

The receptionist rang up the card, and asked how I felt. I felt great.

The interest in my massage quickly turned to interest in my payment. The person at the desk informed me that there was a problem. She said that the person who bought the card for me paid for a 1 hour long swedish massage, not sports massage. The second problem was that the person was charged $81, not $90, based on the idea that since I was a member of Club H that she could get me a discount. According to the receptionist, this wasn't right.

So, I owed $20.

$9 extra for the difference of the 10% discount that was voided. And $10 more because it was a sports massage. Also taxes made the cost $107, but she was a bit frustrated with the whole thing and was like, "Oh just give me $20."

Now I didn't go to Spa H in the last 18 months because of the price. An hour long massage I saved $12.50 with Body Balance, which doesn't seem like a lot, but to me it is the principle. Now here I was, at Spa H again. Up until that point I was really impressed with everything (albeit slightly disappointed I couldn't have the post-massage shower, and walk home with moisturizer sticking to my clothes).

I wrote before that you never have a second chance to make a good first impression. This was my second time at Spa H. Their first impression was good, but not great. The prices were a bit of a put-off. I was back again, and after my experience with the receptionist (she could have been the owner), I don't think I will be back there anytime soon.

I think Spa H needs to do two things:

1. Lower their prices.
2. Learn the essential art of making a customer feel welcome.

I think they fail on both counts. In my humble opinion what she should have done was just say that a mistake was made, but not have me pay for it. The gift card was a BIRTHDAY GIFT. I certainly don't expect them to know that, but normally when someone is given a GIFT CARD, it was for something special. Like a birthday, an anniversary, for a job well done - or to get over something (like an accident, a breakup, a funeral).

Both jobs I have in my life, my Manhattan job and my bartending job, customer service is our #1 priority. Nothing gets under my skin more when I hear someone had a bad experience with a coworker of mine at either job. I take pride in my work. I take pride in where in work, also. I want people to either get off the phone with me or walk out of the bar with a good experience.

In the bar, I can give buybacks. If a customer didn't like their wine, i'll pop open a new bottle and of course not charge them for the first glass of wine they had. If a customer doesn't like the food, its going to be off their check. That's customer service. That is a lost art in today's day and age.

When I was leaving I asked them if they ever read my first review of their establishment, and they didn't know who I was or that I ever wrote anything about them. When i'm done with this, i'm going to email them both of my reviews. I figure that they should know what someone out here thinks of their spa.

Feedburner!

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I just added this site to Feedburner:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/Philly2hoboken

Basically you can add it to "MyYahoo" or "Google" and other sites that will alert you when I update my site. Have fun!

Randomness

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3 day weekend, woo.

I started the weekend right. Went out and shopped to make sure I had supplies of food, wine and drinks. Friday night I went to the gym like I normally do. Got out, and then went home and made myself dinner. Filet mignon, mashed potatoes, asparagus with a half-open bottle of Cabernet I had. Finished dinner with two glasses of port - with my new crystal port wine glasses from Riedel.

Is it me or do wine glasses make a difference? I think they do. I'm sure I could drink a glass of Opus One in a paper cup and be just as happy, but there is something about the crystal glass that makes the experience less than ordinary.

After dinner, I mellowed out at home, and did my usual bit of TV watching & Warcraft gaming. I normally don't go out Fridays much anymore, just because I got tired of getting blitzkreiged and waking up hungover for work at the bar for Saturday night. I get a phone call Saturday "morning" (my mornings technically extend until about noon, whereas the rest of the world seems to be "up and adam" before then) - from my buddy's wife, Samantha*. I was in their wedding party, I know them well.

Apparently Samantha is selling her TV and her husband was out that day entertaining clients for work. She had someone stopping by her apartment to look at the TV and she didn't feel comfortable letting a stranger in while she was there, alone. She told me it would take 30 minutes, tops. Even offered to pick me up and drop me off, for she lives about a 15 minute walk from my apartment, on the extreme end of town.

I agree, and she said she would call me later in the afternoon.

I get online and do my thing, and get a call a few hours later. It is about 3pm. I have to work at 6:30pm.

She comes over, picks me up and we wait at her place.

And wait.

Eventually Mr. Jersey City shows up to look at the TV. Anyone watch the TV show "Knights of Prosperity". Know the big black guy in the show? It was him.

Ok, I kid. It wasn't exactly him, but the guy was built the same way.

I am 6'4. I am 220 pounds. This guy would have drop kicked me into next Tuesday. I was about as much protection as a poodle to a pit bull.

Fortunately, he liked what he saw, but he had to look at another TV around the corner and would come back. I thought he was lying. But shrugged my shoulders and Samantha and I waited some more.

And waited.

It was now 4:45 and i'm getting a bit antsy. I didn't have anything to do on Saturday, but I did have to work. Samantha is good company, and we munched on pretzels and ate french onion dip while watching Spike TV's selection of insane videos on their new Acquos 50" HDTV. I wish Spike TV had a HDTV channel, i'd watch it so much more. I barely watch any TV besides HDTV now on Cablevision. Channels 700+ make up 90% of my TV watching. Only SciFi is the other TV channel that I watch as often.

Samantha apologized to me a few times that afternoon, and I totally understood. It wasn't her fault. Around 5pm, Mr. Jersey City comes back. He offers $200 for the TV, and Samantha reluctantly agrees. She wanted $300, but was just happy to get rid of the TV.

I didn't eat all day, and she drops me off at Boston Chicken. I order the Sirloin Carver. I don't know what happened recently at Boston Chicken. The old team of mixed ethnic workers was now all Indian (or Pakistani?). I go there often enough that I knew some of the "regular" workers. The people were new. They made my sandwich with the wrong bread, and it took at least 10 minutes of me standing there waiting to get a sandwich. I wanted to claw my eyes out because it was 5:30, I was hungry and work was looming.

I wolf down the sandwich, which was excellent by the way, and head home to change.

I change and headed up to work. It is only a 3 block walk to work, but on the way someone says, "Sean? Furey?", and I spin around. There is a blonde-something looking at me with a "recognition" look. I'm drawing a blank, and i'm sure my look prompted her to say, "Hi! I'm Angela*. I read your blog, also post on the online boards."

We shake hands and chat a bit. She was very nice, and I was taken a bit aback. She was very friendly, and its just another reason why I like living in Hoboken. That big city / small town-ness about it.

Snopes

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I'm tired of forwarded emails.

Look, I know people have good intentions. My mom sent me one the other day about microwave water being harmful to plants. I got one today from my buddy's wife about 13 year old "Ashley Flores" missing.

I know that there are a trillion other people with bad intentions. I guess I have been using the internet so long that everything that is mailed to me by ANYONE I immediately go to one simple website:

www.snopes.com

It is an urban legend website. If you get an email about ANYTHING, all you do is go to snopes and enter into their search category the subject in question. For example, I searched on Ashley Flores and it immediately popped up:

http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/missing/ashleyflores.asp

The microwave water? Yep, there too:

http://www.snopes.com/science/microwave/plants.asp


It is amazing because of the ridiculousness of some emails. Do you really think you won millions in an English lottery? Or that someone is contacting you from Africa to transfer money? If it is too good to be true...it usually is.

Sometimes even the most benign emails are hoaxes. My friend sent me one about a computer virus that was sent via email. The email name was called "Invitation", and it opens an "Olympic Torch which "burns" the whole hard disc C of your computer."

Went over to snopes on that one, too. http://www.snopes.com/computer/virus/invitation.asp

The new rule of emails. Before you forward anything, go to snopes. Just take that 1 second to look over the website and make sure you aren't sending around something stupid or are going to click on a redirected website that you inadverently enter your password for PayPal or Amazon or Ebay - or your bank.

It takes two seconds to stop propogating useless information.

I learned all of this because I was THAT GUY. I had to keep getting people to write me back with a "Dude, this is a hoax." until I finally said, "Hmmm...maybe I should RESEARCH a bit before I send out a forwarded email."

Just go to www.snopes.com and do us all a favor, please?

My backyard is a dog litterbox

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It's Saturday afternoon and i'm playing with Layla.

She has, for the last few months, been a bit lukewarm with me. Some days, she hides from me. Other days she is playful. Today she is playful.

In between me slapping the ground and her charging, snapping her teeth, and retreating, my roommate Kristen tells me about the condition of our backyard.

I live in a townhouse, with a common use backyard. The backyard is connected to the condo unit next to us. We have a backdoor that leads to the backyard, and half the condo unit has doors that connect to a pseudo-emergency exit that could be called a "balcony" if you wanted to be creative. During the spring and summer people grill on the balcony, and use the backyard for parties.

She went outside and discovered that a very large dog has been using our backyard as a toilet. It is absolutely littered with dog droppings.

When I found this out, I was furious.

What kind of person does that? You have a dog. Instead of walking your dog, you are opening your door, letting your dog "out" to use the common use backyard as your dog's personal toilet. That's disgusting.

Part of me wanted to confront this myself. Post up signs on all the doors saying "DO NOT LET YOUR DOGS DUMP IN OUR BACKYARD".

But I relented. I'm not getting mixed up with this, and simply emailed my landlord today to have them take care of it. I want the droppings picked up and I want the dog to stop using the backyard.

Jesus, some people move here are such idiots.

Melissa's Story

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This entry was writen by Melissa, a long time supporter of my blog, the Eagles club and my other half-baked ideas...

Sometimes I feel so clueless, so left out of the loop. Whenever Sean tells me, “There was life in Hoboken before you arrived, Mel,” I feel like I’m 11 years old again and my Dad is chastising me for being incredulous about his once having had a full head of hair.

I guess it’s true, all life in Hoboken didn’t start back in August of 2003 when I arrived at 25 years old. But, it really was the beginning of MY life when I got here. Before moving up here, I was a student. As a student I was still a kid most of the time. Not being able to work a full-time job, my life consisted of drinking way too much, occasionally attending class and then, 4 or 5 days a week, working for 6-7 hours per day. Life was always interesting, had no set rules, and when it got too rough, I always had the safety net of my parents to bail me out (not that I ever needed it). But it was nice to know that it was there.

When I moved to Hoboken 3 and a half years ago, things changed. Mom and dad told me I was on my own the day of my graduation from law school. I had bills, rent, credit cards to pay. I joined the rat race. Every day I woke up at 8:00am and got on the 126 down to the Bus Terminal. Then I’d jump on the Ferry to Pier 11 (Wall Street) and rush into my office. Sometimes I’d be slow all day and not get any work until most people were ready to go home. So I’d stay and slave away until 11 or 12 at night, and then get a car home. It was during those slow days that I started reading a messageboard on Hobokeni.com, called “Hobokenchat”.

Hobokenchat in 2003 isn’t that much different from Hobokenchat today. It had a core group of posters, and a few occasional drop ins. But the group itself has changed. Back then, everyone would post online about meeting up every 3 or 4 weeks for a “chat night” at Farside or Morans or Dippers. I finally was brave enough to reveal myself to the others and went to my first chat night in April of 2004. I’d already met Sean out with a few friends in February, and I’d met another poster or two along the way, so it wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it could have been.

For a while there, we didn’t have to arrange specific chat nights anymore, because every Thursday we’d all be at Dippers. We would get there from 9pm and stay until the bartender Chris, kicked us out. Whenever I’d talk to Sean about this, he’d mention that he’d seen it all before, in years past with old chatboard members. He’d tell me this is the way life in Hoboken goes: And that the chatboard has had many iterations, and this one was not special or different. The faces were new, but he explained to me how friendships in Hoboken go: “You meet friends in Hoboken. You’re close to someone for a couple of months, years, maybe even a decade. You become friends. Good friends. Make friendships that feel real and tangible. Then one of you gets serious with someone and the friendship fades. By the time they’re married and ready to move to the suburbs, you’re hardly seeing them anymore anyway, and you know you won’t see them again.”

I used to laugh when Sean would tell me these stories. I scoffed at the very notion of ‘transient friends’. I’ve had friends since high school that I still keep up with, and my college ties are still strong. It seemed unbelievable to me that these people that I knew, talked to and hung out with daily were going to ever fade from my life. How I laughed at Sean and his ideas. Despite hearing about friends he’d known in Hoboken back while I was still in high school, and wild nights he’d had partying here while I was earning my college degree, I’d just never really pay him much mind. How much more could he know than me? How much more experience could he REALLY have in Hoboken?
But, the first indications that Sean was right came in not long after our first discussion about friendships in Hoboken. I made a friend while I was interviewing for a roommate share in Hoboken. Through her, I met a group of girls, and we spent a lot of time going out in Hoboken to the bars and restaurants. At one time, I could count on a call from “Dina” or “Rachel” everyday as they drove home from their respective school districts. In fact, I usually talked to both of them multiple times per day, and Dina and I even went in on a shore house share together. Then, they started to care more about meeting new men than just having fun together.

Rachel was always boy crazy, but she met someone special shortly before the shore house ended. Her afternoons were filled with calls to him and her evenings were always booked by dates and dinners with her new beau. It soon became apparent that the only time she’d call me was when he was out of town, because every second they spent in Hoboken, was spent with each other.

Dina, my other friend, met someone shortly after the shore house ended. His name was “Tony”, and he was such a womanizer. That same summer he previously dated a girl in our shore house named “Linda”. Dina always claimed to others in our group of friends that she had never met Tony down the shore, but I knew where she really met him. She also knew that I knew. After putting me in a bad position, being in the middle of her and Linda from our shore house, she slowly stopped calling. After I hadn’t heard from her in months, I received an irate phone call from her. Apparently Linda found out about Dina’s ‘secret relationship’ and Dina was appalled that I didn’t stand up for her. She wanted my loyalty when she’d not given me so much as the crumbs from her table of friendship for months. Because of that dramatic incident, she, too, fell by the wayside of friends I used to have.

It wasn’t long before the rest of that clique of girls paired up, one of them was actually set up by me with a college buddy of mine (they’re now engaged). But as soon as they were in a relationship for five minutes, the invites and calls to me dried up.

By the time my first anniversary in Hoboken arrived, I’d all but lost contact with them as they’d paired off with the opposite sex, one by one. Writing them off as an anomaly, I continued to laugh at Yoda’s (my nickname for Sean back then) predictions.

But, soon even I started to see he might have a point. After a few years of fun, Dippers closed and we switched the venue to Farside, but things were just never the same. The group of friends from the chat board slowly disintegrated. New people sometimes replaced the old, but things were different as people paired off, or found new interests, or left Hoboken for the ‘burbs. Again, I got the “I told you about this” speech from Sean, and he mentioned several posters of years past that had once been integral parts of the hobokenchat board, and now hardly, if ever, dropped by to say a line, let alone hung out in person.

Soon my group of intimates had changed quite a bit. In fact, I don’t think anyone that I speak to/email daily today was even on my radar back at Christmas of 2003. When I went to the Eagles/Giants playoff game last month with Sean and Chris, and I heard stories about stuff they’d done back when I was 18 or 19, I began to appreciate just how much I didn’t know about my friend Sean, his past life in Hoboken or his actual ability to bequeath sage-like advice from years of experience.

And that’s why sometimes I feel so out of the loop. I’ll hear stories from Sean and Chris and a few other friends about times past, and I’ll read Sean’s blog and realize I don’t know half of the people to whom he’s referring, because they all came and went before I got here. Yet here I am, talking to him, making new memories for one of us to impart on our new circle of friends once the other is gone.

Caught In The Middle

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I watched her at the end of the bar.

She was talking into her cell phone, quietly. I could tell by her body motions that she wasn't happy. She was upset. I knew probably what it was about.

Her ex.

"Tori" and I worked together at the bar. The place just opened, under new ownership and it was late winter 2002. It was called "Dipper's". What a terrible name for a bar in such a superficial town. Probably should have just called us "Dorkbar" and be done with it. The owner was clueless about things like that, and simply named the bar after his childhood nickname. Must have been a rough childhood if that's what your buddies are calling you.

I was counting the money and watching her get more upset. She finally ended the call and sat there, looking out the window at the end of the bar, with her back to me.

What do I do? What can I do?

The ex, in question, was another bartender in town, named "Jim". Jim was a local, born and raised, and I knew him for about 8 years. Nice enough guy. Before he even knew her, Jim was my local bartender at a pub near the PATH. Our group of regulars were close. We would see each other a lot, some of us dated each other or met a girlfriend or boyfriend through our network of friends. We even did things outside the bar, with other "regulars" like camping trips, movies, sports games, BBQs. I'd call Jim a friend at the time.

Unfortunately, I was caught in the middle. Tori and Jim met a year prior. They knew all the regulars, we all used to get drunk together on the weekends. Then...things turned.

One thing led to another, with the details getting lost in the muddied waters of time. Jim found someone else. Tori didn't. She was slowly excluded from Jim's world, and this also caused some good tension.

In a town like Hoboken, here are social circles. They exist everywhere, i'm sure. Our most prominent social circles would be the local pubs and bars. Many people frequent the same bars each weekend, and get to know the bartenders and the "regulars" of the bar. If you do it long enough, you make new friends that are regulars. People you mostly see when you head out for a Friday or Saturday night, at the bar, and friendships are formed. Sometimes disputes are created. Drama is par for the course in Hoboken.

What was once a big group of regulars started to fracture. Some of them were more friendly with Jim than Tori. Some were more friendly with Tori than Jim. Jim didn't like this much. He didn't say anything. He would just slowly exclude me from his social circle. He would say things behind my back. He would just poison my reputation, where his friends and regulars weren't as warm and friendly as they used to be towards me. I didn't know this was going on until later.

Me? Well, I liked both of them at the time. I worked with Tori at the bar. She and I would work as a team. We would play loud, thumping music and have more fun serving drinks to the customers than the customers would have themselves. Bartending was never a job in those days. It absolutely was something I could have done for the rest of my life, with my friends coming to the bar to play darts or Golden Tee, and we got to play the music we wanted to listen to, while drinking & doing shots with our customers and friends. At the end of the night, we would count up our tips, go home with a pocketful of cash and sleep in until the next day. Tori, myself and "our" regulars would hang out a lot even when we weren't working.

It was hard for me because I didn't want to take sides. I wanted to be friends with both Tori and Jim. Jim wasn't a forgiving fellow, and the fact that I worked with her meant that I was on her side. The fact that I worked in a "rival" bar didn't help matters. Soon I started to notice that I was getting the cold shoulder from Jim and those who were his friends. Some tried to remain diplomatic, but the writing was on the wall.

"So, what happened?", I asked Tori.

She turned to me, her eyes red from the tears that stained her cheeks. She hastily wiped a hand across her face and gave me a half-smile, as if to say, Isn't this just pathetic?

She softly said, "He told me: 'Don't bother coming over.'"

Jim and his entourage (guy & girl regulars & other employees) would often close the bar, go into a back room and play cards or videogames while sipping on some beers, and smoke cigarettes. Sometimes we would invite some cute girls who were drinking at the bar to stay after closing too. I used to be part of that crew. Every Friday or Saturday at 3am, when everyone was walking home from the closed bars, we would be secretly hanging out. It was kind of cool, because we would have all the lights turned down, and there was that 'if we get caught we are in trouble' quality about it. We didn't care. The owners used to hang out with us also. Most of us had bar-cards and worked at the bar from bartenders to card id-checkers. Those were some fun days.

"Ah, well,", I started, "They probably aren't going to do much anyhow.", I tried to downplay it. But it wasn't what they were doing that bothered her, it was the fact that he basically said "Get lost" to her. I had heard that Jim had someone new in his life and I can understand why he didn't want his ex-girlfriend coming over to the bar at 3am. I was still, at the time, welcome to hang out. But I wasn't about to ditch Tori and go to the other bar for some late-night drinks.

We talked some more. Counted our money. We turned the lights down low at our bar, and sat there, talking. I was always a good listener, and been known to dispense some fairly good advice on the other sex. I told her things would get better. That she would find someone else. She was too smart, charismatic and beautiful not to. I told her a lot of things. I just hated to see my friends hurt.

Time passed. Weeks turned to months and the winter turned to spring. Tori and I enjoyed good times at Dipper's. Jim would grow increasingly distant from me and from anyone who was friendly with her. I lost a friend and gained another, at least for short term.

Eventually my prediction came true. Tori did meet someone very nice. They dated. They were engaged and married. She moved away, and I basically lost another friend. That's the way it is in Hoboken, lots of "temporary friends". Sure I still see her maybe once or twice a year, but this was someone I used to be out with at least every weekend (either working or not).

I feel bad, in a way because I am still friendly with Jim's friends. I ask them to explain it, and they just shrug their shoulders and say, "You know how Jim is. He holds grudges."

In a way it bothers me to be caught in the middle, even to this day. I didn't feel like I did anything wrong, aside from trying to be friendly to both of them. I think sometimes in life, no matter what you do, it still won't be the right thing.

Such is the cycle of life, in our town.

Global NFL

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10 years from now, I fully expect to see the following...

Four new teams, two in the American Conference and two in the National Conference.

The cities? Toronto, London, Mexico City, Berlin.

Imagine The London Redcoats, The Mexico City Lobos, The Berlin Thunder (that's the current NFL Europe team name), Toronto Moose.

The names aren't really super important. London could also be The London Foxes (a nod to the indigenous animals) and Lobos is also the team name of the University of New Mexico, too. I'm sure Toronto would want something other than Moose, but i'm trying to keep the team names animal/history oriented. What would you call them? :)

Yes, soccer rules in many international cities. I certainly don't expect us to to a major South American/European expansion. There is already NFL Europe, and it brings in moderate interest, much like our national soccer league brings in moderate interest, too.

But here's the catch. Let's say you had a team in Mexico, London, Toronto and Berlin that was the real deal. The team would be built the same way that other recent expansion teams were created (Houston, Carolina, Jaguars, Ravens). Real talent is brought to each team, they get expansion draft picks. All teams are shown on the NFL network or DirectTV. Wouldn't it be awesome to watch Philadelphia vs London? Hell, i'd fly out there to watch that every year, it would be a great excuse to visit London.

I'd put London's team into the NFC East. Think about it. London vs Dallas. London vs Giants (two of the biggest cities on the planet battling it out). London vs Philadelphia (the 1776 showdown!), London vs WASHINGTON (Oooh! Which capital is greater!). The psychological significance alone just sounds exciting.

Before you immediately react with a "It won't work in other countries", just consider what kind of draw some smaller-market NFL teams get. I fully don't expect a London or Mexician team to draw the same crowd or revenue as a large-market NFL team. But I think they can compete with revenues that teams like the Bills, Jacksonville, Cardinals and other smaller-city teams generate.

Also the "they are too far away", I think can be figured out (somehow). We have East coast vs West Coast teams all the time. A flight from the East coast to the West coast is about the same as a flight from the East Coast to Europe. The only problem I can see is when you have Berlin playing West Coast teams, but there has to be a way to figure this out. Bring back the Concordes! I'd just schedule it in such a way that doesn't hinder the travelling team.

The interest in the NFL in Europe or Mexico is similar to the interest that Americans have in soccer. It really isn't a major sport, and everyone has a die-hard buddy who played in high school or college that tries to convince them how awesome soccer is. We all got semi-excited over it when the World Cup starts and our team shows some promise.

If you put the talent there, if you make a real investment in the team, the fans will come. I mean i'm not saying we should put an NFL team in every European city (The Parisian Frogs, The Rome Gladiators, The Madrid Bulls (I know it is Pamplona, but still...)).

If you haven't read the news, 500,000 people have already requested tickets for next seasons game of Miami vs New York. Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers played in Mexico City in 2005, drawing a lot of interest.

The NFL has already said they aren't interested in expanding, but the writing is on the wall. I'm sure the NFL is doing these international games to poke & prod at the international fans until the day comes that they expand into Canada, Mexico or Europe.

Top 5 Winter Fashion Mistakes 2007

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Last year I wrote about my Top 5 Winter Fashion Mistakes. I don't claim to be Mr. Fashion. I just notice things when I walk to the PATH each morning and they either make me chuckle or cringe. Here's my list this year.

1) Faux-fur lined collar parkas. 013007b.bmpLook, i'm down with all of this, but when I see 10,000 Hobokenites all wearing the same coat, you start to groan with disdain when everyone is wearing it. The faux-fur parka isn't new. It has been around for the last 3 years. It just seems that everyone got one for Christmas this year.


2) Sweater vests. If you are a man and still wear sweater vests, you might want to consider building that time machine and go to 1986, Mr. Huxtable wants them back.
013007c.jpg

3) Big-ass headsets. I'm glad you decided to pair your $350 IPod with the $300 clunky headset. Now you look like you are working at the local airport, directing planes to the terminal gates. Wearing such a headset is also another way of broadcasting to thugs, "Please mug me." I wore headsets like this in public, until I was tackled by my friends and the headset was forcibly removed from my head. Places you are allowed to wear these kind of headsets: In the privacy of your own home, or on an airplane, or if you are a club DJ.

4) 013007d.jpgTimberlands. Unless you work in construction or look like you belong in Eminem's posse, you really shouldn't be wearing the traditonal wheat-colored Timberlands. Just sayin'.

5) Scarves wrapped around the head: I know it is cold. When I walk down the street and see people dressed like Luke on the planet Hoth its ridiculous. 20 degrees isn't THAT bad. Buck up. I love scarves. I wear one myself. When it is cold, I will throw on a hat and gloves, too. However, no matter how cold it gets, I won't look like the next Edmund Hillary or Tenzing Norgay commuting on my yak to work. Hey, that's just me.

So far, so good...?

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Sometimes I find it hard to talk when things are going well. Like the moment I start enjoying something it will be taken away from me.

For example, I have been having unprecidented luck when it comes to gambling.

I'm normally not a gambler by nature. I enjoy my twice a year(ish) trips to Atlantic City. I usually lose more than I win in Atlantic City, but as my father always said to my mother, when she lost a hundred or two on the slot machines in there: "Are you having fun? Then that's all that matters."

I'm sure he wouldn't say that when I lost $1200 one night on 3 card poker, but lets not ruin the quote.

It started with a simple bet last summer. My friend Chris was a big Giants fan. Huge. For years we have been bantering about Eagles vs Giants. Most years he had the last laugh. He called me out in front of a group of people, teasing me to bet him $100 that the Giants regular season record would trump the Eagles.

I agreed.

When the Giants rolled to 6-2, he was mercilessly texting me every Eagles game. On Nov 19th, when McNabb left the game with a torn ACL, about 15 minutes after that I get a text:

Text Message: "So. You want to pay me now or later?"

I didn't respond.

Text Message: "Man, that sucks. Another year, another injury for the Beagles."

Again, silence. Don't err into thinking that my silence was some quiet determination that our birds were going to pull this out. Oh, this was par for the course for my beloved birds, and I was just more pissed that another promising season was down the drain. Fuck the $100. I wanted my team to win.

My newest roommate, Matt, was just as surly. He's a big Giants fan. When Big Blue was on a roll, he was crowing like you wouldn't believe (who could blame him)? It got so bad that I was getting upset. Like upset to the point where I wanted to break something (I don't do that, that isn't me to smash something), so I went to my room (in my own house!) and fumed.

Well wouldn't you know it? Garcia started to look good.

Again, I didn't want to jinx myself. I didn't want to start blogging too much about my excitement. So my second bet was with Matt. I bet him that the next meeting of Eagles/Giants on December 17th, that we would win. It was a simple $20 bet, but also it would be nice to have bragging rights. Oh, he mercilessly lauded the Giants lucky comeback win on September 17th. So, I was fearful, but hopeful that i'd exact some revenge and get $20 from him.

I won. The luck begins.

Next thing happens...I get free Eagles tickets. The guys at Anheiuser Busch were helpful in getting my Eagles club in touch with Mulligan's bar. As my appreciation to that, Paul and I agreed we would run Bud Light specials all season. I didn't think anything of it - I was simply looking for any specials for my Philly fans, and was happy to get what I could.

Little did I expect that free tickets would fall my way. Trust me when I say that shit doesn't happen to me. I don't get perks. My buddy Matt works in a Wall Street office and I hear about his stories about getting Yankee playoff tickets, eating at steakhouses and clubbing at popular bars - oh, well, he is taking clients out. Of course there is a stitch of envy there. I work in a job where you cannot, under any circumstances, accept anything from a vendor or client. I have had plenty of chances to do things under the radar, but turned them down.

So things were looking good at the new year. I won $20 from Matt. I won $100 from Chris. I have free Eagles tickets. Matt and Chris both agreed to bet "double or nothing" on the next Eagles vs Giants game.

I win again. Now i'm up $240.

Saints vs Eagles comes up. A friend of mine, Keith, who recently moved back to Louisiana, emails me. He heard about me beating up Chris, and we laughed over it. He offers me a $50 bet, and gives me a 5 point spread. I take it.

Eagles lose, but I win $50.

$290, now.

A friend of mine runs a playoff pool. At the beginning of the playoff season, everyone puts in $50 and he puts all 12 playoff teams in a hat. Every owner draws one team name, until all are gone. I draw the Colts. In order to "win" your team needs to win the game & win with the spread. If your team gets to the Superbowl, the winner wins $500 and the loser gets $100.

I won $500. Now up $790.

I played in a few box pools, I didn't win those. Spent $60. So really i'm up $730.

So I have been having a tremendous 2007. But I also don't want to get too excited.

The cynic in me is whispering, "If you really put this into context now I only owe $4,770 towards PSE&G!"

I guess better than $5,500.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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