Life: February 2006 Archives

Don't Forget To Turn Out The Lights...

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Living in Hoboken for the better part of 10 years I have learned that one of the things that defines your experience in town is the bar you associate with.

Each bar has it's own varying "reputation" if you will. Some bars are guido hangouts. Some bars are for the snobs. Some bars are dives. Some are neighborhood pubs. Some are irish hangouts. Some have a great music scene.

When I first moved in to town, I didn't know anyone. At my 9 to 5 job I met some co-workers who lived in Hoboken and they marched me over to Hennessy's bar, which was located on Newark street, in between River and Hudson streets. It was one of many irish pubs in town, with a decent weekend crowd and strong group of regulars. I became part of the regulars, friends with the bartenders and those early years were filled with drinking, laughs and comraderie.

Hennessy's changed owners, and the bartenders there moved to midtown to a new bar called "Farside". Farside was "our" new home. All the regulars from Hennessy's moved with the bartenders to the new bar, along with hanging out at Moran's. We were a motley crew of non-conformists, some locals and some yuppies. We liked to drink, play darts, listen to Patrick Fleming and play late night card games. Many a holiday we spent together, plenty of adventures outside of Hoboken we had and we had the common bond of the bar that kept us together. New faces would show up and old friends would leave, but we always had Farside.

Then Dipper's opened up in late 2001. It used to be Dooley's, a bar that I would go every once in a while to order some food or watch football. I didn't frequent Dooley's very much - the "regulars" didn't go there, and we didn't really know the bartenders. After Dipper took over the bar, he took on my friend Joe as a manager. Joe handpicked the new bartenders, bringing in "people he could trust behind the bar". He approached me about bartending, and I was very interested. I saw how much fun Goody and Kenny had at Farside, and wanted to have that same fun also. To me, the money was secondary. I had my 9 to 5 job - I was just looking forward to having a good time.

Like I wrote before, every bar has a reputation. Dipper's, to me, was a neighborhood pub. It was located smack dab in the middle of town, and looked like its decoration budget was $500. You didn't take someone to Dipper's for its "scene", you took someone there because you either knew a bartender or knew a patron. Dipper was very involved with making sure we treated the customer right. He set up "comment cards" and would ask customers what changes he could make to make the bar better. Some he attended to, some he disregarded, but he would always be willing to listen.

It was cool to be at the bar when it first opened, because all the bartenders had so many ideas to try out. We had bands that would play at the bar, we tried theme nights, martini nights, shot nights, ladies nights, dart leagues, Golden Tee league, football clubs (Go Birds!) and trivia nights. Some worked, and some didn't. But it was still very exciting, because Dipper just let the employees do whatever they wanted - as long as if we were generating a profit.

The bar wasn't about making money, it also a social scene for many of our regulars. Dipper's is easily responsible for many marriages, friendships and of course a few break ups, too. Oh, I had my share of good girls and psycho girls that I met there. But I want to take this time for a special shout out to some of my coworkers who made the last 1500+ days special:

Joe: You took a chance on me, and I always appreciated it. I think until the day we die, we will both chuckle over the 'Twin Story'.

Teresa: T - you and I, bartending Friday nights. Listening to Rage Against The Machine and Beastie Boys, having a blast behind the bar. I will bartend with you any day of the week.

Chris: I think you were the most underappreciated bartender at Dipper's. You were like the unofficial owner of the bar and the hardest working bartender I ever saw, plus having a spot-on Rodney Dangerfield impression always made me laugh.

Tom: We had our ups and downs, but I have to admit that now the ride is over I'm proud to have worked for you. My only complaint is that for the last 4 years I had to explain why you called the bar "Dipper's". Meh!

Heather: Heather, you are easily one of the nicest people I know. If I had a nickel for every person you charmed (I'm looking your way Nikki & Jay), I would have a bag of nickels. You can have your choice of bars to work in town - you would have a legion of people who would go there just to visit you.

I have told people before that our bar, like Farside and Hennessy's, was like a "Cheers!" kind of pub. A place that if you were the bartenders knew your name (and your favorite drink), we would get you drunk and show you a good time. The bar could be hit or miss. Some nights we would get a great, fun crowd and some nights it was D E A D.

The demographics of Hoboken is changing, and the type of bar-goer is changing along with it. Less and less 20-something college graduates are moving into town, only to be replaced with 30-something homeowners with a more discerning choice of venue. Bars like Trinity, Lua, 3 Forty and The Madison are popular for a reason - they attract the crowds because of the way they are designed. I remember The Madison when it was a non descript sports bar, that was never very popular. But, once renovated, it became the bar to be seen at.

Dipper's would never be those bars, nor did we ever want to be those bars. The last 4 years we did well enough, and Tom made a tidy profit from his sale. Contrary to any rumors, Tom sold the bar because he lives in Virginia and has a booming business with the U.S. Government. His orginial idea to buying the bar was that he hoped his children would want to run it eventually - but they didn't. They had other aspirations in life. So, he sold it at a very nice profit. That's it. It's that simple.

It is an end of an era. A slice of my life that is over and I enjoyed most of it, with a few minor issues that were an annoyance. No matter what other ignorant people can write about Dipper's, it wasn't the Taj Mahal, but it was the home away from home for a lot of Hobokenites over the last 4 years. It will be missed.

Blurbs Of Thought

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I'm kind of mailing this entry in. I have a few things going on, but nothing spectacular to create into a big entry.

On the other hand i'm trying to avoid the "slacker" comment from Tiffany that I get when I don't update the blog enough for her. I'll still get grief over this from her.

I went to a comedy club on Friday, with a few friends. I really wasn't planning on going, but at the last minute I decided to go. It was at StandUp NY at 78th and Broadway. It was a 7pm show where a friend of mine, Mike, was going to do his material. The show was $10, with a 2 drink minimum (another $18). Worth it? Sure, it was fun. Most of the comedians were either awful or good. One, the headliner, actually went up on stage, said a few strange incoherient thoughts and then said "Fuck it.", dropped the mike and walked off stage after 1 minute. The audience was shocked, the owners of the club were stunned for about 15 seconds until the ushered up another comedian to the stage. The girl who gets up on the stage stole the show by looking around nervously and saying, "How the fuck do I follow that act?!". Everyone laughed.

Afterwards we jetted over to Jake's Dilemma. Back when I moved up to NYC, Jake's was the cool bar to hit on a weekend (if you were into bars and not clubs or lounges). Friday night seemed tame, with maybe half the bar full. We played some pool, foosball and watched some people play beer pong at Jake's. Afterwards we finished up with a few drinks at Brother Jimmy's. I like New York, but only a few times have I gone into New York and really thought the city was amazing. Otherwise, I am normally thinking, "Eh, I could be having just as good as a time in Hoboken".

Saturday I bartended at Dipper's. We had a staff party, which was an open bar for staff and regulars. It was a good time, like the old days of Hoboken when I could walk into a bar and know most of the people at the bar. Sadly, with time, people are either moving away or getting married and don't go out as often as they used to. Plus, it seems the demographics of Hoboken have changed from the post-college 20-something to the 30-something homeowners.

Sunday I was going to hit Court Street, until I saw that the entire bar area was full, so I went to dinner at Brass Rail. I haven't been to the restaurant since their renovations, and i'm impressed with what they have done with the place. The crab cake appetizer I had was delicious, with a wonderful presentation. The cake sat on a small bed of pesto pasta, which was very tasty. I tried the filet mignon entree, which read "with whipped potatoes, ragout of wild mushrooms and caramelized onion and red wine veal jus". When I got the entree, it was surrounded by mashed potatoes, topped with a broccoli rabe and I think it was a sour cream on top. This isn't what I was expecting. I really don't like broccoli rabe or sour cream. I didn't like the entree very much, and at $30 I was very unimpressed.

I was also unimpressed with the wine at the Brass Rail. I normally eat at Court Street, where they use nitrous oxide to preserve the better wines by the glass. The first glass of red wine, a $7 by Rosenblum tasted like it turned. I asked for a different wine, and they were nice enough to not charge me for the first one. I chose a $10 glass of Cabernet, which was very tasty.

After dinner I decided to try their carrot cake dessert, along with a glass of 10 year old Taylor Fladgate tawny port. The port was old and opened far too long. I wasn't about to complain again, and it wasn't so bad that it was undrinkable, it was easily over 2 months old. At $10 a glass, I also would expect that the Brass Rail would have higher standards for preserving wine and port.

I'm slowly getting back to cooking again. It is just less fun to cook for myself and I very much enjoy cooking for others. There is a sense of accomplishment and pleasure that a good meal gives others. Tonight i'm making a Tuscan barley and bean soup from a cookbook that was given to me by my sister. I made it once before and it was perfect for a cold winter night.

I'm also going to hit up Marma Day Spa this week. Dipper was nice enough to give his employees gift certificates for a 30 minute massage. I called and made it an hour long massage. The spa is booked all the time. I tried for various nights and two Saturdays, yet they were booked. I have an appointment, and I will write something up about the place later in the week.

Retrospective Introspection

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If you are a long time reader of this site, I wrote about my childhood in Richboro, moving to an isolated Gwynedd Valley, going to an all-boys high school and eventually going to Villanova.

My high school social life was non-existant. I was no longer around my childhood friends and living in a house on a very quiet street in Gwynedd. In high school I didn't date. I didn't even go to the prom. I simply didn't know any girls, nor was I friendly enough with guys in high school that I was going to parties on the weekend.

Villanova isn't a party school. After 1985, when they won the NCAA Championship the school really cracked down on drinking on campus. They wanted a more polished image. By the time I got there in 1990, it was very hard to get trashed as a freshman, unless you were in a sport, joined a fraternity or were in ROTC.

I was in NROTC, I did join a fraternity and even then - I would say my social experience at Villanova was "eh" (imagine a shoulder shrug here). Everyone's experiences are different. I'm sure if you pulled 100 guys from Villanova who graduated from 1994, they would have 100 different stories. My story is that my formative years, as a high schooler and having zero experience with girls didn't translate very well at a school like Villanova, which isn't known for its decadent party scene and sexually liberated women.

My first three years there, I had a good enough time, but nothing remarkable. A little of this, a little of that. I was always the nice guy in college. I always had a lot of girl friends. I was easy to talk to, and a lot of girls found that refreshing from their boyfriends that treated them badly. I would always get "I wish my boyfriend were like you" from girls. To me, I was an 80's kid watching too many movies with John Cusack where the nice friendly guy gets the cute girl. That never worked for me at Villanova, I just made a lot of girl friends who put me into the box of "friend". Plus it seemed that most girls who were freshman and sophomores were dating juniors and seniors, which didn't help much either. It wasn't until senior year that things started to look up for me.

Happy Birthday To Me

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Friday night was a night on the town, organized by me, for me. I have done parties in the past where I just went down my email list and invited out everyone I knew to a local pub. This year I wanted it to be a bit smaller and something different.

I chose to bring the group bowling at BowlMor, on 12th and University, near Union Square. If you haven't been to BowlMor and you live around New York City - then you really are missing out on a quintessential landmark establishment. It is deceptively large, and has a cool, funky vibe to it. We arrived around 7pm on Friday, and there were plenty of lanes open, but they quickly filled up by 8pm.

We bowled, we drank, everyone had a good time. One of my guests grabbed my camera and for once I didn't have to be "camera-guy". With my leg only operated on about 4 weeks ago I was very nervous at first putting stress on the knee. Fortunately I warmed up after one game and my good friend Captain Morgan assisting me. My last game I bowled a 146, which I didn't think was too shabby for someone who doesn't bowl very often and had recent leg surgery.

Afterwards we went to MercBar, a favorite bar of Kristen's. It was about 11pm by the time we got there and it was really packed. Some people didn't like the crowd and simply left for Hoboken. I felt bad about it, because I didn't realize how crowded the bar would be. It's a Friday - and certainly expected it to be busy, but it was arm-to-arm busy. I briefly considered moving the gathering, but decided against it, because some people were still meeting us at the bar. A couple of my guests, who attended bowling, didn't like the crowded bar and left for Hoboken.

MercBar cleared out, actually, after 45 minutes - by midnight or so there was plenty of room to talk and socialize. There were some people who couldn't make bowling and met us at the bar, where we drank until about 1am or so. Everyone was super nice that night, buying me drinks and paying for bowling. Easily one of the more fun and active birthday nights. We ended the night, in Hoboken, with a few drinks and shots at our local bar.

I did get one special gift that easily was one of the best birthday gifts I have gotten in a long time. Leslie, a friend from Hobokenchat, who I have known for the better part of 3 years or so, was nice enough to give me a 375 ml bottle of Dow's Vintage Porto 1977. It was absolutely appreciated by someone like me, and I was gushing with thanks. I'm not sure what, exactly, I will do with it. I'm bad with wine - I like to drink it soon after I buy the bottle.

Thanks again to everyone who came out that night, thanks to Leslie for the bottle, John for the lottery tickets (we lost!) and my sister Stephanie for her book "Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise". Now I have a new book to read after Marley & Me.

Mini-Netflix DVD Reviews

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Now that I joined Netflix, I get 3 movies at a time. Here are the rentals that I watched and a quick blurb about them, along with my thumbs up (see it now!), thumbs sideways (eh - up to you) and thumbs down (you have better things to do) rating system:

Super Size Me - Lives up to the hype, very disturbing look at what happened when someone ate three McDonalds meals every day. Thumbs up.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - I read the book and played the video game on my commodore 64 when I was a teenager. I simply had to rent this because the geek inside of me ordered it. I give it a thumbs sideways, it had a few neat scenes. Otherwise, if you hate sci-fi, stay away.

The Incredibles - Very cool, not sure if it is really worth renting, but I wanted to see it before it came out on cable. Thumbs sideways.

Lords of Dogtown - Early pioneers of skateboarding in California and really was a cool movie if you were a skaterat, like me. Might not be as interesting for your girlfriend who wants to watch "The Notebook" for the 20th time. Thumbs sideways.

Murderball - An example of how the name of the movie simply killed it. People won't watch this movie because it sounds like a 1970s horror movie. Excellent documentary about Wheelchair Rugby, one of the best movies I have watched all year. Thumbs way up.

Constantine - Dude, you are like posessed by demons. No way. I'm having another cigarette. That's the movie, basically. Thumbs down - and I like bad movies, too.

Grizzly Man - very interesting documentary about a off-kilter environmentalist who took his fascination with bears to dangerous consequences. A history of his life, along with the reason why bears are "wild animals" and not "furry fun beasts".

40 Year Old Virgin - I thought this was going to be Wedding Crashers funny, but it wasn't. It was good, not great. Not too many laugh-out-loud moments and one-too-many "this seems familiar" moments. Worth catching more on cable, in my opinion.

Sickness

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Just when things were looking good last week, I get bitchslapped by Mother Nature with some infection. My entire weekend was me, in bed, feverish and oddly dizzy.

I took off work yesterday, and with the Super Bowl on Sunday that doesn't make my work ethic look so great to the boss, i'm sure. Fortunately today they can easily see that I look like shit, and i'm blowing my nose and sneezing every 10 minutes.

This Friday I decided to invite a few friends out to do something different than another night of drinking in Hoboken. I didn't want to invite every single person on my email list, and if I didn't invite you I hope I don't get the, "Why didn't you invite me" email. I tried to keep the list as small as I could.

Going to do bowling (come on, how often do you bowl anymore?) and hitting up a bar in NYC. I hope i'm not still sick by Friday.

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