What Happens in Jersey, June 4, 2014
The first time I went to Hoboken, it was enchanting – I kissed a man in a car in a snowstorm, we got lost together in the cold, we drank and played arcade games, we were the only people watching Manhattan across the river, and the only car on the road at 4 am (it had gotten late, somehow). The thing about New Jersey is that I don’t expect it to be anything, but then I’m always pleasantly surprised.
Two Sunday’s ago a friend wanted dinner, and after she had trekked to New York on my behalf a previously, I decided to cross the river and have dinner in Hoboken. It was a perfect, 80 degrees and windy type of day. Everyone was dining alfresco, and we would be too.
Kel met me right on the corner, our first choice restaurant was taken. “There’s tons down here,” she said, so we took to the streets. Hoboken feels like Everywhere USA in a good way – lots of hanging planters, storefronts, a smattering of chains. She suggested Cuban and knew the right spot. It was perfect.
Kel is a new friend, introduced through a mutual friend from back home. She’s funny, she knows how to time her jokes well, and how to say them with such an icy, straight face many comedians have mastered. You can’t tell if its planned or if she actually doesn’t realize how funny she is.
I’ve been itching for any travel I could get, and even though I was just across the water from the city, I was enjoying the change. Ah, see how people stroll here? And the restaurants, there’s hardly a wait! Look at all the young people!
After dinner we wanted an aperitif. Two of her friends were also eating few blocks away, “We’ll go say hi,” she said.
Back the way we came, her two friends were sitting on the porch having fruity mojito’s with sugar cane coming out the top, feet resting in flip flops and short pants. They looked eager about the weather, like me. We all chatted for a good while, and I felt my social circle straining itself to widen a little. We parted and went closer to the Path station, near the water, a little sushi bar called Teak. The sun began to set behind the Path Station Clock Tower. Incidentally the same place where I met my New Jersey date a long time ago.
After the drink I felt nice, calm and ready for another Monday. Maybe I should expect less more often.
The next weekend (last weekend!) L. invited me to finally see her new place in Union, New Jersey. After the good Sunday I’d had the previous week I looked forward to it. It was scheduled that we were to bake scones and a walk along Hamilton Park to admire the view. But of course, as I’m starting to learn: I always get more than I think I do in New Jersey.
Unlike Hoboken, I’d never been to Union. When I hopped off the bus Sunday, surmised that it looked a lot like Newark and parts of Jersey City. On my way to her door I passed through a parade going down main street. The side streets gave a wiff of Brooklyn with its house-apartment building-house-empty lot groupings. L.’s building was brand new, very pretty and well done. The scones turned out very, very well. As we got ready to go for a walk, her husband stopped us.
“We should go to dinner!” he suggested. Their two friendly roommates, a guy and a girl, both thought this was a good idea.
“We’ll go after our walk,” L. said, sticking to the schedule.
L. explained that a walk to the water would pass us through Weehawken, a sort of upper-middle class area east of her neighborhood. “You’ll see the difference in the houses,” she said, as her block became a lazy suburban street, lined with oak trees. We passed lots of wild roses, peonies, and hydrangea, and homeowners sitting on their front porches. At one of the houses, an elderly man was listening to turn-of-the-century music.
“Oh I love it,” I mused. “Wouldn’t it be great if at this very moment we both walked through a rainbow and were in vintage clothes and went back in time!?”
L. laughed. “Yeah.”
It was perfect weather at Hamilton Park. New York City looked beautiful. “I can’t believe I live in that jungle!” I kept telling myself. It didn’t even seem real. There were many historical markers along the path, including the spot where the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and A. Burr took place.
We met her husband and her roommates back at the apartment. The guy, a tall man named Jonathan who was very attractive in a learned way (well-chosen glasses, etc.) suggested a Peruvian place a few blocks away. We had tapas a pitcher of sangria and laughed for a good bit and glanced periodically at the World Cup Games.
I was very, very glad and didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Jonathan knew of a place where we could get churros. En route, L.’s husband spotted a taco truck and on the corner so we sampled authentic Mexican taco’s (her husband is Mexican, so he would know). He explained to us what the sauces and flavors for each were.
“I feel like I’m on an Anthony Bourdain show, ’36 Hours in Union, New Jersey’,” I said and we all laughed. “He’s always doing these street food segments.”
By 8 pm it was time for me to return back across the river. I left everyone still in good spirits. L. was holding her cat, her husband and their roommates were eating Gari-Gari Kun (partly in jest) and the sun had not yet set. I didn’t want to leave.