I didn’t grow up in the city. I grew up in the heavily wooded suburbs of New Jersey. As a young man of 24, while studying fine arts at Ramapo College, I heard that Hoboken was on the verge of becoming an artists’ community. This was in 1976. I was looking for the next step in my life and took the commuter train to Hoboken with my younger brother Rich.
Hoboken was a few years from becoming anything resembling a haven for artists. It was still shaking off the racial tension of the 1960s and there was an uneasy truce in the air between all of the ethnic factions, the old timers—the Germans, Irish and Italians—the relative newcomers from Latin America, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the blacks from the projects.
It didn’t take but one visit to Hoboken to get me scrambling to secure the deposit on a two bedroom apartment on Garden Street. Rich and I moved in and I set to exploring the city. It was all new to me and I began writing down things I overheard and describing things I saw.
Breakfast Special isn’t anything like a classic memoir – there’s a lack of connective tissue. What the reader may want to keep in mind is I arrived in Hoboken broke and my first job was working as a cook at Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, a fast food restaurant. I eventually got a job at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhattan, which led to me operating an outdoor bookstand for them in Central Park. During this time, I worked hard on my artwork. I began drawing illustrations for the NY Times Book Review; my etchings were commissioned by the Pace Gallery on Manhattan’s 57th Street; and some of the writings and illustrations in Breakfast Special appeared as a six-part series in the Village Voice titled City Confidential. Week by week saw writers, musicians, dancers and artists moving into Hoboken, until it actually did become a bona fide artists’ community.
Back in those days there seemed to be a bar on every corner in Hoboken and I probably had a drink in most of them. A thread running through all of those evenings huddled over a 35 cent glass of Rheingold was a desire for true connection with a woman.
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