As I've noted in the past, the_boke's a bitch to park in. Normally on a weekend during the day, it's easy, but today is one of the two worst days of the year. The other is the 4th of July, as Hoboken's the best spot to see the fireworks over midtown, lower Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty. Today? Today's part of the massive drinking leading up to Saint Patrick's Day. Today is Hoboken's parade, which is going on outside as I write this. I've described Hoboken at length in the past, but the short version is that Hoboken's a 1.3 square mile old town with over forty thousand people, most of them yuppies working in Manhattan (which is on the other side of the Hudson river), usually in finance. Average household income of $62.5k, median age of 30.4 years, and tons of other data you can see over here. Not included on that webpage of facts is the fact that Hoboken has more bars than square mile or per person than any other town on the Eastern Seaboard or in the country, depending on which version of the fact you believe. Yes, more than New Orleans according to some sources. Appropriate for the home of the first brewery in the United States.
Hoboken's also a transportation hub, natural for the city just on the other side of the Hudson from Manhattan. Light rail to the suburbs north and south, PATH into the city and other suburbs, ferry to the city, train to the rest of the state most known for being a suburb of NYC, and don't forget the buses. So when Hoboken does something, it's easy to pack the town to the gills with its neighbors.
Hoboken's also in the Northeast, a region full of people proud of their old world heritage, whatever it may be. It really shocked my class, back in grade school, to hear that other parts of the country answered "American" when asked what heritage they are. People here identify as Italians, Irish, Germans, Mexicans, Koreans, Cubans, French, Russian, or whatever they might be. And usually a few of them at once. And sometimes without much claim. Your great great grandfather once was held up in Ireland for a couple of years on his way to the New World from Birmingham? That's enough to say you're part Irish. Your great grandmother's second cousin slept with an Italian prostitute once? Good enough to drop vowels and sling around the slang. That's not to imply that we don't have plenty of people with these heritages, but we're also full of WASPs that lust for a heritage they lack. Anthony Bourdain, god amongst men, wistfully expressed his envy of Italians in Kitchen Confidential and on No Reservations. According to City-Data, Hoboken's made up of:
- White Non-Hispanic (70.5%)
- Hispanic (20.2%)
- Other race (7.6%)
- Black (4.3%)
- Two or more races (2.8%)
- Asian Indian (1.6%)
- Chinese (1.2%)
- Italian (20.9%)
- Irish (19.2%)
- German (10.7%)
- English (5.5%)
- Polish (5.1%)
- Russian (3.1%)
So what happens when you take a town that's a fifth Irish and 95% wanna-be Irish, that's easy to get to via mass transit, and give them a reason to celebrate? In the short time that I walked jenniever to my car a block and a half from her apartment, I walked by two puddles of puke, and it was barely past noon. Every alcoholic (functioning or not), every degenerate, every former or current frat boy, every party animal in the region descends upon this little town and covers our sidewalks with a fine layer of puke. At noon, an hour before the parade, bars far off the beaten path had lines leading around the corner. jenniever mused that she wouldn't see much of the crowd she was fleeing near her place, but the bar between our apartments already had a loud crowd dressed in green. The Irish bar up the street had a line down the street, into a nearby parking lot. Deciding to people watch for a while, I took a tour of the mayhem, figuring that I'd get back home before the parade started at one.
Along the main drag, I was amused to see the lines for bars meeting, they were so long. The line for Bahama Mama's butted heads with the line for Mile Square, forcing people to push between the two drunken green masses in order to get to Maru. Want to get into Whiskey Bar or Black Bear? Fuggettabouwdit! Unless you were on line in the morning, prepare to sit in line for hours in the cold. I ventured all the way down to the train station, having to see something I'd read about on one of the town web forums. Sure enough, the local gay bar went from The Cage to it's former name, Hennessy's Public House, just for the day. The local New Orleans bar still had its Mardi Gras signs up, they were just partially obscured by the Irish decor.
Speaking of Irish decor, you could pick up a giant clear inflatable dolphin covered with shamrocks or even tackier kitch from one of the many towering carts being pushed around the town. I got to see plenty of girls in tight green sequined tops, or the even popular green tee over white longsleeve. People of every race and creed wearing green wigs, green poofy hats, and wearing giant green sunglasses. Every restaurant and bar, from Thai joints to the restaurant/bar East LA (certainly no Irish joint), is covered in shamrocks and other tacky decorations. Every place has their own special, trying to get as much money as possible from the drunks. One bar had a special from eight till noon, three bucks for a Guinness and a bagel. Another bar was offering a free Irish breakfast for the first hundred and fifty customers.
What was more amusing to me was the sights away from the bars. The balconies full of drunks in green, shouting to friends on the street. The lost people trying to find some more beer from a local liquor store, their friends already putting a major dent into their supplies at noon. The tearful couple yelling at each other just ten feet down the street from another couple heavily making out against a wall. The conversations that I heard a dozen times: "You excited for today?" "Hell yeah! What time did you wake up today?" "Ten. You got tons of beer?" "Hell yeah! Still waiting for my girlfriend and some others to arrive, come on in!" I swear, I heard that one over and over again, in front of every fifth or so apartment building.
I picked up my favorite drink for a walk around town, a chocolate monkey from Frozen Monkey Cafe. It's a blended mix of banana, coffee, and chocolate Tasti D-Lite (low fat non-dairy frozen dessert). The cafe was packed full of people waiting for the parade, drunks in green shirts downing tasty butternut squash soup (vegan except for the goat cheese and croutons). When swinging back home, I saw the stand for the parade start in front of City Hall, music already blaring as a techie checked the wiring. Deciding it was time to bail, I stopped for a quick bite to bring home. I'd been hearing stories and reading reviews about Piccolo's Clam Bar, this cheese steak place tucked away on a side street. All Sinatra all the time on the stereo, and walls covered in photographs of famous Italian-Americans. Picked up a real chunk of steak (none of this generic thinly sliced Maoist grey mass passed off as steak), some cheese, onions, and a bunch of hot peppers on a freshly baked roll. Heaven. Got my ass back in the apartment just after the parade started.
Right now there's the screams and shouts and drunken carousing that I'll be hearing well into the night. Later on, I'll take a walk around town. But right now, I've got studying to do.
If this sounds entertaining, also be sure to read this column from a local bartender about the special day. If you're looking for a drunk to date, male or female, today's your day to come to the_boke. As long as your liver can stay intact, by four in the morning you should find yourself next to someone who hopefully will remember you the next day. You'll be covered in vomit, cheap shamrock stickers, green glitter, and beer - but you won't care at that point.
If I wasn't studying, I'd have invited people up for the sights and fun. But shit, I've got two tests on Thursday. Time to hit the books.