I headed up to Hoboken on Friday afternoon, hitting all of the lovely New Jersey Turnpike traffic. It usually takes me about an hour and a half to get there, this time took me clear over three hours. For some stupid reason I had decided against public transportation, so the drive there was coupled with the half hour searching for a parking space until I finally slammed into a resident parking space (Allen ended up forcing me to move it later, laughing that I’d have to use public transportation to get home because my car would be towed).
When I first got to their lovely brownstone only Paul was there. He is just a fabulous man, very kind, very unfiltered and all in a very upscale sort of way. We sat down and had a martini in their backyard garden (they have a backyard!) and gossiped. Allen came home, and after moving my car we all met up at their every-Friday-night restaurant. They’ve gone at least one a week to this restaurant for the past six or so years, so everyone there knew them. As we walked in the door, Paul shouted out “We’re here! We’re queer!” to the laughter of everyone there (see: unfiltered). After hugging and kissing every person there and introducing me to everyone, we sat at our little table and enjoyed our sparkling water, bottle of red wine, and appetizers. The food was amazing, but even more so I enjoyed the conversation- we gossiped nearly the entire time about my grandmother. Although she deserves an entire post just for herself (hell, she deserves an entire blog), I can sum her up by saying what I told them. She had called me earlier that afternoon cautioning me about going into a blue-collar industry, saying that I wouldn’t be able to cut it in a men’s profession, and also throwing in a few anti-homosexuality statements about Allen and Paul. We laughed at her, drank some more, and left the restaurant with tight bellies and a bit of an alcohol-induced stumbling. With a quick stop at home to pick up their dog, we walked a block or so down to the pier to look at the city scape at night. Which just further induced the “I need to live there” mode in my head.
After a great night of sleep in their gorgeous study (where I need to note that Paul is an interior decorator and has the classiest taste) I woke up to the puppy pouncing on my face. We trodded down the steps to join Allen for biscotti, coffee, grapes, and the New York Times in the garden. What a lovely morning. We weren’t rushed, and I took a leisurely shower before getting dressed for my exam and interview. We threw our things in the car, grabbed the dog, and headed into the city with plenty of time to spare.
We could tell right away where the exam was- there was a crowd of men and very few women wrapping around the building. A city block-long line. I said my goodbyes to my wonderful uncles, then jumped in line. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I’d heard that people don’t normally get dressed up for these, but I had figured that people would at least be moderately presentable. I stood there casually listening to the people in front of me and behind me. In the front, I had a group of five guys that sounded like the epitome of tv cops. The one guy kept talking about how he’d seen a man in a suit further up in the line- “What a jerkoff, he tryin’ to show us up?” Three of them had arms covered in tattoos, one of a rose with drops of blood dripping off onto the word DEATH that I kept staring at.
Behind me was a scrawny kid that looked like picked-lsat-for-dodgeball, hand-always-on-inhaler type. He had a small nervous wheeze, and I asked to borrow a pencil from him. His eyes went wide for a second, and he nervously fumbled for a pencil to hand me, but then went straight back to staring at his shoes. I realized why he was that nervous type a few moments later when his dad showed up. Listening in on their conversation (I have a bad habit) it turned out that his father was a NYPO, the scariest type. The kid was only 18, but his father was making him take it early, and kept running through advice that he had to remember- ” You gotta think each question through as if it was real life, place yourself in it and don’t fuck up. You fuck up, and a man’s lost his life.” Really.
After an hour or so of waiting we were filed into the building and given cards with our room and seat number on it. We were seated in the order in which the cards were given, so I was in the same line as the five in front of me and Wheezy behind me. I wished Wheezy good luck and he swallowed hard. We actually sat in our seats for awhile before our proctor said we could walk around for a bit, that our exam wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes. I got up to go to the bathroom and ended up walking with one of the five that was in front of me earlier. “You look ready for this,” he said to me. I told him I’d taken the practice exams a few weeks back and did fine on them. “Oh yeah? I failed one of them once and retook it and did ok, how’d you do?” I sort of felt like an asshole answering, mumbled quickly that I’d done well the first time around. “Did you get all your 60 credits done yet? I still have a few more to go,” he said. I told him that I’d just graduated college and had enough credits. He smiled at me, then walked down the hallway to the men’s bathroom. Wow.
The exam itself was fairly easy. The first part, they gave us a photograph to look, with ten minutes to memorize as much as possible from it. I’m fairly good at this stuff- I memorize phone numbers, license plates, credit card numbers really easily. In fact, I still remember every number that was in the picture they gave us. We had to answer the ensuing questions based upon the picture.
I breezed through the exam, checked my answers, and was the first person done in a third of the time allotted. I felt like such an asshole again, but even more so when the proctor collected my examination papers, looked at my name, and then said “Oh, you’re to be interviewed and have your language testing. A man is waiting for you outside the room, he’ll escort you to your interview.” My face got hot, and I could feel people staring at me weirdly, but I walked out. The man was indeed waiting, we talked on the way to the room, and I had a quick interview. I know I did well on that as well, and the language testing was just them speaking to me in a bit of German and having me respond.
When I walked out of my interview I threw on my hat to leave. I ran into one of the guys from my room on his way out too- he smiled at me, looked at my hat and goes, “I would have asked you out but it looks like you’re a Phillies fan.” I smiled and laughed, and said back to him, “I would have said yes, but it looks like you’re a Mets fan. By the way, how’d last week go?” He laughed, shrugged, and said “See you at the academy.”
I spent some time just walking around the city, which in a way was painful. The last time I’d been to Hoboken was with PK- in fact the pier I’d gone to with my uncles was the pier that I’d been on with him at night, where we kissed and it had started to snow. My exam also happened to take place about two blocks from where he had used to live, so I recognized the streets, saw the park that he and I had sat in together. It was too painful, so I walked to the trainstation (the one I took every time I went to see him) and took the train back over to Hoboken.
Three last bits that I loved from my train ride home: The first was that a woman approached me as I was walking along fourteenth, and asked for my autograph, and kept referring to me as Katie Holmes. I happen to look nothing like Katie Holmes, and she didn’t appear to be crazy or anything, so I couldn’t figure it out. The second was that I had two sets of people walk up to me and ask me for directions. The woman from the second pair, after I had given them directions, said “Wow, you’re such a New York lady!” Yes. The final quick quip happened on the train back home. I put on my Ipod really low and listened to people, something I always enjoy doing (see: the bit about me being a conversation whore). The girl sitting across from me looked to be about fourteen years old and was also about eight months pregnant. Her friend sat next to me, and the two of them kept conversing across the aisle. The friend was wearing a tiny scrap of a skirt and sat with her legs splayed open.
Pregnant friend: Girl, didn’t your momma tell you not to let your legs open like that?
Friend with legs open: Girl, your momma should have said the same to you months back.