My house is for sale, it went on the market last week, and I'm planning to move to Hoboken once it sells, going from a homeowner with a low mortgage to a renter in one of the toughest markets for renting in NJ, which makes pretty much zero economic sense and which several of my friends would prefer me not to do, since I'll be further from them and perhaps starting a new or different life, away from the suburban New Jersey experience I've lived the past 12 years in this house, or in reality, my entire life. When I thought about selling my house last summer, sparked by an odd demand by my homeowners' association that I forget now but also because I'd been working from home for a while and had suffered my initial foot injury that left me somewhat incapacitated and therefore home all day almost every day and I began to hate my house, hate this home that I've now lived in for 12 years but when I began thinking about a move, my initial search was in the very same town I live in, just in a larger house with a larger yard and more rooms I guess that wouldn't bore me like I'd become bored last summer being stuck in my kitchen working all day and stuck at home with the foot sprawled out at night. I really do like my town, I have no real problems with my neighbors (despite my complaints to my friends) and like I said, I've lived in NJ suburbia all my life (other than a couple years in New Brunswick in college, if you can call that a "city"), and I've enjoyed it very much. But I came to realize during my initial search for a new house last summer (or at least the idea of a search) that what I really wanted, what I really was itching for, could not be found in South Brunswick. Or any suburb, really.
What does this have to do with Dan Mangan, you might ask. To those not musically inclined, you might ask "who is Dan Mangan?" Let me explain. No, that will take too long. Let me sum up. Last summer was a bit of a nightmare because of my foot injury and an overwhelming workload and then August I had a vacation that was nearly nonstop seasickness on a cruise and I got back just in time for a hurricane to knock out the power in my suburban neighborhood for close to a week. Not good times. And then I had to go away for work right after that and missed a concert to see Japandroids and I only knew I wanted to sell my stupid house but not much else. And then I saw Dan Mangan. This was almost exactly a year ago, early October, at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. I wasn't a huge fan of Mr. Mangan at the end. Probably barely a fan. But I kind of liked his first album and he'd just released his second album in August and I really liked it on a first listen and saw he was coming to New York and bought a ticket because I had no concerts planned for the fall at the time and I was miserable and did I mention my foot hadn't healed? But the night of the concert came and it was like a Tuesday night and I had to work late and I'd been constantly working late and I had to wake up early for work (did I mention how busy I am at work still?) and I really didn't have the energy to go. I mean, hell, I wasn't even really a huge fan of the band. But I'd missed Japandroids and I hadn't been to a concert since I think late July and it was October and my foot wasn't killing me so I said "Fuck it" and drove the hour-plus to Manhattan to see Dan Mangan. Andhe was amazing.
The concert was great but what I really remember, what I remember more than anything, was for the final song, Dan came out into the crowd with his guitar and his bandmates and they set up on chairs in the middle of the floor in the tiny space that serves as the audience at the Mercury Lounge. Right next to me. I held his chair while he stood up on it so he wouldn't fall. And he played "Robots," his sort-of "hit" song (in indie rock circles) and at the end, during the sing-along part, he encouraged the crowd to sing-along and we all did... a group of jaded young New Yorkers and me, a not-so-young but possibly more jaded New Jerseyan, sang out loud in a circle around a group of Canadian musicians to the repeated chorus that closes the song: "Robots need love too. They want to be loved by you." And it was magic. The lyrics sound silly and I'm not real sure exactly what Mangan means to say in the song but it was beautiful. It was magic. And it was one of the best moments I've ever had in the 100+ concerts I've attended in my life. How's that for jaded?
So what does that have to do with me moving? Well, the concert was the early show at the Mercury Lounge, so we got out pretty early, probably around 9:30 or 10, and the city -- or at least the Lower East Side -- was alive. The streets were packed, the restaurants were packed, the bars were bustling on this beautiful early fall night with friends and co-workers and strangers all out to enjoy themselves, to celebrate their ability to be out on a Tuesday night, just chilling, relaxing, living a life for something other than work and the next day of more work. Then I drove home. I had work the next day. And I had a long drive. And I was tired. And my foot really hurt after the concert. And when I got back to South Brunswick, nothing was open, no one was out, my neighborhood was quiet and everyone was asleep. And that never bothered me before, not all the nights I came home late and tried not to wake the neighbors on my own personal high (I had less success keeping quiet any inebriated friends who happened to be with me). But anyway, it was then that it hit me. That this wasn't for me any longer. That on most Tuesday nights in the past couple years, especially after the foot injury (which still hasn't healed) and especially after I graduated from my writing program, I was more like my neighbors than I would want to admit. I was home watching TV or writing or surfing the Internet. Or basically, wasting my life away. I work from home and I'm single. I could literally live anywhere in the country (or even the world, I guess). Why the fuck am I living in South Brunswick?
So that's when I started exploring a move to the City. I looked at Manhattan briefly but it seemed so daunting, I don't know it well enough to know what parts of the city and the prices... well. I looked at Brooklyn and that seemed a little more feasible but pretty much impossible to get from there to New Jersey in a timely manner and all my friends and family still live in Jersey. So I settled on this side of Manhattan, in Hoboken or Jersey City, and I kind of started looking. Then I had my foot surgery in December and my life's been a fucking mess ever since with the development of this debilatating RSD and the constant pain and I won't bore you anymore than I've already bored you but the odd effect of being basically housebound for literally months in this house that I had already hated and wanted to move from was to convince me completely I needed a major change, a more major move than another house in South Brunswick. And that for me is Hoboken. I'm not good with change. Anyone who knows me knows I like things to remain the same. And I know no one in Hoboken (well, a friend of mine is moving there next week but that's a coincidence). I know nothing about the town and I literally got lost on the NY subway system a few weeks ago trying to get from Jersey City to Brooklyn. I kind of hate the thought of living in a city and I hate the thought of moving from a house to a much smaller apartment to pay twice the rent than I'm paying in mortgage. And I hate that I'll have to pay to park my car. And with my foot not even fully healed yet (if it ever will be) I hate the thought of having to walk everywhere. But I absolutely love the idea that on a Tuesday night when I have nothing to do, I can hop the PATH into Manhattan and see a concert. Any concert. Every night. Or go to a reading. Or meet with a writers' group. Or take a writing class in the City. Or go to a bookstore. Or a bar. Or another bar. Or out with New Yorkers or Hoboken(ites?). Assuming I meet people. Because it's not like I've met anyone in South Brunswick. My friends are my friends and they will always be my friends but none of them are driving into Manhattan with me on a Tuesday night to see Dan Mangan play. And before I get too fucking old to want to do that myself, I want to move to a place where that is possible. Every night. I'm just renting so if I don't like it I only have to do it for a year. Maybe I'll move back to South Brunswick. Or somewhere else in NJ. Or Manhattan. Or Brooklyn. Or Philly. Nah, probably not Philly. But for now, I'll be a few blocks from the Turnpike which will take me to wherever all my friends and family live and I'll be a few blocks from the PATH into Manhattan where everyone is alive. Well, except for the shootings. But yeah, I think it will be worth it. Robots need love too.
This blog belongs to Bill Elenbark.
Lover of songs. Writer of wrongs.