The Wobbly Wagon

Want to stay sober for a month? The best idea is to move to the ‘burbs…

Joe Concha

Drinking is a gigantic part of Hoboken culture, both for single-minded and the whipped. It’s no wonder our town once had the highest number of bars per square mile in The Guinness Book of World Records. And with winter-like weather and daylight savings time making nights feel even longer, the boredom that inevitably follows invariably leads to a trip to the local pub.

Still, despite hangovers, weight gain and questionable moral decisions that accompany a night on the town, Hobokenites are infamous for their short-term memories. A declaration on Monday morning at 6:30 AM while getting up for work that, “I’ll never, ever, drink again” is quickly forgotten by the following Thursday night. Mortgage the immediate future, we all think. Because anything is better than sitting at home and allowing the few remaining years of total freedom go by before a life with kids in the suburbs eventually takes over.

But the physical toll sometimes becomes too much to bear. You’re a quarterback in a 24-0 game in the fourth quarter with no way to win the game. The defense (in this case, alcohol) is teeing off on you on every play. You begin to wonder: “Why the hell am I even out here? I need to take a seat on the bench and gather myself for the next big game. This is pointless.”

So every year many young adults in Hoboken decide to make a declaration, an early New Year’s resolution: “I will not drink for one month. I will find more constructive and productive ways to fill my nights and weekends. I can’t take the feeling of dragging through work for another day, or another night of avoiding the gym because of crashing from the three cups of coffee I had just to get through an afternoon at the office. Mark it down: Today will be my first of 30 consecutive sober days!”

Given Hoboken’s proximity to Manhattan and all of the diverse things that are available to an active soul right here in town, 30 days on the wagon should be easy to navigate as the Giants pass defense. A trip to the Museum of Modern Art here, a Devils, Rangers, Net or Knick game there, concerts to attend, cooking classes, volunteer work, quality comedy shows seemingly on every corner, and of course, there’s always the 143 classes being taught at the fitness club that you pay $90 for and attend only three days a month ($30.00 per visit…not too shabby).

The new you is so intent on accomplishing this simple goal that you even pull up your Microsoft Outlook calendar normally reserved for work and start filling in the usually blank evening portion of the page with various activities.

“Piece of cake,” you think to yourself. “I should have bet a few of my friends I could do this to make a little money on the side.”

After completing the CATS (Calendar Attributed To Sobriety), an email pops up in your inbox from the good folks at eVite.


It’s an invitation to an engagement party at Three A’s in Hoboken.

You could blow it off, but this couple has defied the odds and attended every one of your stupid parties over the past three years while they very easily could have done what most couples do when matters become serious…simply fade away.

Couples are usually forgiven for missing a Saturday night shindig or a Thursday night birthday-celebration Happy Hour in the city, but these two continued to value their friends when randomly hooking up was no longer on the table. In fact, they were the ones who normally helped you close down the pub at night. Couples like this account for about 6% of all those who exist in Hoboken…diamonds in the rough. You can’t blow them off now, right?

“What’s one night of drinking out of 30, anyway?” you mumble to yourself. That’s significantly better than the 10 out of 30 clip you used to endure. Besides, it’s an engagement party…just how fucked up could you get?

You proceed to place the engagement party in the CATS and delete the entry to go see American Gangster instead.

Then the phone rings. Its official: Your computer or apartment is bugged and your friends are out to make this resolution as difficult as possible.

“I’ve got two tickets to the Giants-Redskins game through my company!” your buddy exclaims. “The seats are on the 40-yard line and the tailgate is HUGE. It’s a 4 o’clock game, but we start the tailgate around 10:00 AM. You in?”


Of course you’re in. Giant tickets are impossible to get on your own (the waiting list for season tickets is currently at 25 years) and you haven’t been to a game in two years. Plus, the damn thing is completely free. Your buddy works for Merrill so you know the spread will be awesome.

OK, 2-for-30 sounds like A-Rod in the postseason lately, but it’s still manageable. These are can’t-miss events. Besides, your body will still thank you on Day 31…the day when you go to Hobson’s and screw up everything you worked 30 days for in a matter of five hours.

Things are relatively quiet for the next four weekdays until Saturday afternoon sees the perfunctory mass texts from friends looking to put together The Greatest Night Ever, Volume 387.

“I’m going to stay in,” you write back.

“Why?” your platonic girlfriend writes back faster than it would take to IM someone.

“On the wagon,” you reply. “Going to lay low.”

“But the Nerds are playing at O’Donoghues”, she shoots back in 1.7 seconds (how does she type on that phone so fast?).

You stare at your cell for a second. Forget the fact that you’ve seen the Nerds more times than your average Family Guy rerun (side note: Does TBS have anything else on it primetime schedule anymore? Not that I’m complaining). Forget the fact that The Nerds will likely draw a huge crowd, thereby forcing you to get there by no later than 8:30 to avoid a line around the block.


can’t do this.

So you turn to HBO to see what’s on tonight.

8:00 PM- Caddyshack II.

There really is no God.

Go to TNT…home of the new classics.

8:00 PM- Castaway.

Right about now, you wish you were Tom Hanks on an island with Wilson and without alcohol right now.

The phone beeps again. Apparently a large group has decided on OD’s as the only choice of the night.

So you make an impossible-to-keep promise with yourself: You’ll go out but not drink. Diet Coke, fine. Red Bull, sure. Water, definitely. But not one beer. Not one mixer and anything.

You CAN do this.

Upon arrival at the bar, the place is fairly empty. Seven of your friends are there, with the usual suspect holding a shot as you enter the area.

“Thought you might need this,” he says. “You know the rule when someone buys you a shot…you can’t turn it down. It’s insulting and even punishable by death in some countries.”

“Can’t do it, my friend,” you say with an air of confidence. “That’s out of my life for 28 of the next 30 days.”

“C’mon,” he says, sounding like the bad influence character in an old ABC after-school special. “One shot. You won’t be bothered by any of us after that.”

“OK, one,” you reply. “What could this possibly lead to?” you ask, generating a chuckle from the crowd.

 The shot is harsh (Jack Daniels), so you quickly grab a beer from the bartender. Nothing else will do for chasing. You finish it quickly and decide to order another one twenty minutes later after that Diet Coke just isn’t cutting it with the place starting to fill up and people are bumping into you left and right. Thoughts of what happened to Frank the Tank in Old School (“We’re going streaking! We’re going up through the quad to the gymnasium!”) keeps replaying in your mind.

13 drinks and six hours later, you stumble home, never feeling better in your life after getting two slices from 7-Star pizza. Sunday morning and the hangover that comes with it is a world away.

Even though it’s two in the morning, you check your email. Three new messages in your inbox:

The first is from your mother concerning Thanksgiving Day plans. You come from a half-Irish family, so the amount of wine and beer will likely be plentiful. Holiday get-togethers are nice, but oftentimes more than tedious, thereby making it another day to chalk up to falling off the bandwagon.

The other two emails are eVites…one to a birthday bash, the other to a house-warming party. Both are from long-time friends. You can’t say no.

So despite your best efforts, the wheels on the wagon have completely fallen off.

“It wasn’t my fault,” you say to no one in particular. “I had the best intentions in mind.”

Ah, but therein lies the rub of living in Sinatra’s Hoboken. Too many friends not on the wagon trapped in a culture where drinking is like the sun: Everything revolves around it.

There’s always a birthday, always an engagement, always a wedding, always a work function, always a band playing, always a dinner date with too much wine…always something for the functional alcoholic to make an excuse.

One day you may accomplish the 30-day goal. But until you’re married and living in a town on an exit off the Parkway, it ain’t gonna happen.

So in the meantime, cheers to that.