Monday, July 15, 2013

Holy Cannoli, Hoboken!

I'm not used to having a formal "day off."  I might squeeze in a Saturday here and there, and I might have that occasional "holiday," but I've always been one to work multiple jobs, be in school, babysit, etc. Last summer in New Orleans was the exception to this rule, in which I was essentially on a three month vacation - and it was every bit as delightful as that sounds. This summer, I have a day off built into my work week - two actually, if you count Saturdays. On Saturdays I typically have plans with friends, or try to get caught up on laundry, or go for long runs. The usual stuff. But Mondays, Mondays are special.

The beauty of  Monday is that it provides a "buffer day."  I've never had Mondays off EVER, and I HIGHLY recommend it should you ever have the opportunity to make your own schedule.  Sundays are very busy and exhausting for me, so I'm usually not very rested for work on Monday - and that whole "taking a Sabbath" thing never actually happens. Seeing as how that's in God's top ten rules, and is one of Graffiti's mandatory requirements for its workers, I figure it's pretty important to take a day to rest and pray. So this summer, I'm taking advantage. I get that extra day before the work week to relax and just be with myself and Jesus - while everyone else I know is working. It's glorious.

My goal for each Monday during this very brief season is to find an activity I haven't done before and go for it. The rules are:

1. Must be free or almost free - I am cheap and broke.
2. Must not involve using excessive amounts of energy - so no hiking the Old Croton Aqueduct
3. At least part of my excursion must include a location I've never seen before.

Last week I took the Metro North Hudson Line up to Irvington, NY. It was cute, and it was relaxing, but I wanted something a little bit different this week.

I chose Hoboken, NJ. I've wanted to explore Hoboken since 2007, but because its SO easy to get to, I always put it off, knowing I can go whenever I want (seriously, its
MMM Chips!
closer to 14th street than my apartment is).  I took the PATH train over to the old Lackawanna Railroad station and set out with no plan other than to find a burger. I found my burger and enjoyed a yummy batch of homemade kettle chips .

While eating my burger Charlee texted me that I absolutely must go to Carlo's Bakery.  If you know me at all, you know that when faced with visiting the local "tourist" places - usually popularized by television, I am all "Oh you know where you can find the REAL deal..." So visiting an Italian bakery made famous by TLC of course elicited lots of "I am not gonna bother, I can go to Venieros, or Capultos, etc." But Charlee and I live vicariously through one another, and the line wasn't long, so I decided to stand in it at her request. I got a few cannoli (who doesn't love a cannoli?!) and an oatmeal cookie. It was good. Really good (but Venieros is still better....).

Leave the Gun, take the Cannoli
The hi light of my day came after my delicious pastry experiment. I decided to sit and read for a little while and to let my phone charge, so Foursquare found me a coffee shop on a side street where I could make this happen. As I'm pulling out my Bible and journal, I overhear the two old me having a conversation next to me.

"Nah man, I just watch the Yankees and listen to my Frank Sinatra," says one of the men. My mind says "OMG Thats the most Jersey thing ever." Before I can even get out my phone to text a friend who I knew would appreciate the exchange, the other man turns to me and says "what do you think of that?!" and I tell him exactly what I thought. He introduced himself and his friend to me and started talking.

He told me he and his three brothers grew up in Hoboken on Monroe street. His uncle owns the property where Frank Sinatra was born, and he grew up in the house next door - but not next to Frank.

My friend said he and his brothers learned to race horses on the streets of Hoboken (I still haven't figured this out...) and they all went into the horseracing business. He launched his career at Belmont - where he groomed some award-winning horses. One of his brothers worked in multiple places, including the fairgrounds in New Orleans. While in New Orleans, the "Cajuns" were very suspicious of this "east coast" boy. He nailed the New Orleanians on that front - skeptical of all outsiders. The local boys juiced his brother's horse's food. The brother's horse was a hot-pick for the bookies, and having ben hormonally enhanced, was the frontrunner to win. Right before the race, the horses were drug tested. When his horse failed the drug test, not only was the horse disqualified, he was put on a 90 day suspension. Because of the tremendous losses suffered by the bookies as a result of this, the mafia was not a fan of my new friend's brother. As the story goes, some mob guys showed up to his house, put a 45 to his head, handed him 100 dollars and told him to get out of town. The brother packed his Cadillac and headed to New Mexico.

Pat is 82. He's been around a while. He told me his dream is to write a book about the "stinks and smells" of Hoboken. He went on to describe the smells of the Maxwell Coffee factory, and the sweat coming off the handkerchiefs of the laundry maids. He seemed to be lost in his own memories.

When I told them I was from New Orleans, the reaction of both men was "Basin Street!" not "Bourbon Street!" which made me appreciate them all the more! Charlie, the slightly younger man, was a teacher for about 45 years and is now retired and has a successful Frank Sinatra impersonation gig.

I had the most wonderful hours sipping my tea and talking with these two old guys. Normally on these days I don't like to be bothered. I don't want to talk to the people around me, but I knew there was something special about this conversation. These guys lived around the corner from one another but had just met a few weeks before. Pat, knowing that Charlie was such a Sinatra fan, insisted on giving Charlie a tour of his hometown, which is what today was all about for them. Thanks to Pat, I also knew the address where I could find Old Blue Eyes' birthplace, so I made that my last stop before heading to the river for a pretty view and getting back on the train.

After the old guys left, I read my Bible for a little while, and I prayed for them - at their request - both are having major medical procedures in the next few days, and then I walked to 415 Monroe Street and paid my homage to Frankie, as well as to see Pat's childhood home.

I like Jersey, I always have. Today reminded me why. 

The View from the Hoboken Waterfront

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