I moved to Hoboken from Manhattan in 1987 with my best friend from college, Lynn; she had gone over to the town one night with some other friends and seen a band at Maxwell’s, and her single evening there had convinced her that it was imperative that we move there as soon as possible (she also told me about a bar across Washington Street from Maxwell’s where draft beers cost 35 cents, and that struck both of us as another perfectly good reason to live there).
At that time, Hoboken was a relatively inexpensive alternative to Manhattan; it hadn’t quite been gentrified yet, and it seemed that almost everyone who lived there (aside from the mostly-Italian “old-timers”) was an artist or musician of some sort, and under the age of 30. I loved it (and still do, and I felt terrible about what happened to it, and the people there, when Sandy blew through). In Holding Breath, I included an entry from my 1988 journal about “…my apparent moderate, and inexplicable, notoriety in this weird town full of people who refuse to ever grow up. I do love Hoboken, and I plan to for a while.” (In retrospect, it was no great feat to have any kind of “notoriety” in a mile-square town.)
I spent almost every night out at Maxwells, and various other bars around town (for a while I tended bar at a place that was, at the time, called the Beat ‘n’ Path, and had much too much fun doing it). Maxwell’s was always my favorite place; they had (and still do) a little room in the back where great indie bands came to play. It was cheap to get in, and very often I’d get in for free because I had friends who worked the door–a good thing, because I was always broke back then. As far as I was concerned, it was, and still is, the best place to see live shows.
At the time, my absolute favorite band was the Feelies. They’re a New Jersey band from Haledon, but I always kind of thought of them as a Hoboken band. I saw them every time they (or one of their various permutations) played Maxwell’s. During the day, as I made my way through Manhattan on my way to visit clients in the hospital or in their homes, or to see David, their music was often playing on my Walkman. It’s hard to think about that time in my life without thinking about the Feelies, and that’s why I’ve included the following song, “On the Roof,” on my playlist for the book: