Hoboken, No JokinŠ—', Robert Burczy, and Paul Divone

Apr 15, 2015 12:00 AM

Over here at the Life in Hoboken bunker the question came up recently: What in heck does “Hoboken, No Jokin’” mean? As far as anyone could tell, it was a phrase from the film Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, a film based on a popular novel. In the film, Nick and Nora are breaking the ice with some small talk. She says she’s from Englewood, and Nick says “Englewood, up to no good!” then tells her he’s from Hoboken. She responds in kind: “Hoboken, no jokin’!”

Okay, a sweet movie moment, but word is the phrase goes back to Hoboken’s old artist days, when the town was transitioning from a steep decline into its heyday as a refuge for artists and musicians seeking decent rents (long before its current incarnation as Condo Central). I started digging into this, and got very few answers, but did start thinking about the nature of change in a city like ours.

Burczy Art and Paul Divone

One rumor is that an artist named Paul Divone used the phrase in some of his public installations. Divone used to affix wooden paintings to telephone poles around town, and supposedly one of his installations had the phrase printed on it. Whether or not the authors of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Rachel Cohn and David Levithan) were somehow aware of this, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’d never heard of Paul Divone, and there’s almost zero information about him on the Internet, which is kind of sad. Someone who put his art up for free in public and may have inspired the phrase “Hoboken, No Jokin’” and I’m almost totally unaware of him.

What’s interesting is that the Hoboken Historical Museum website has only one mention of Divone, and it’s in reference to the artist Robert Burczy, who placed one of his own paintings on a telephone pole under some of Divone’s work and took a photo back in 2001. Now, Burczy I have heard of, because that was around when I arrived in Hoboken full time (after several years of merely being a menace in the bars and taverns). Back then eye-catching posters declaring BURCZY ART were everywhere. Without knowing much about the man or his art, I am at least very aware of his name (Burczy moved away in 2011 as far as I can tell, but is still prolific, and credits his time in Hoboken with his development as an artist).

The Last Remnants

On the Hoboken Historical Museum website, there is a single photo (taken and submitted by Burczy) that shows some of Paul Divone’s art. It’s a telephone pole outside 76 Hudson Street (where American Apparel sits) and it’s still there. It may be the only remnants of Paul Divone’s work left in the city, as far as I know (the large heart painting is by Burczy, installed as a tribute). And somehow that makes me a little sad: Someone was a passionate part of the city, and now is all but forgotten, and every day these paintings fade more, rot more, and will eventually be gone forever.

No jokin’, indeed. Do you know more about Paul Divone and his art installations? We’d love to hear about it!

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