What I remember is Tunes.
It was a little music store just off George Street that used to send out coupons to all the students. I can't remember if that coupon was for a "Buy One, Get One" or "Ten Percent Off", but every time you bought a CD, the guys behind the counter would sneak another one into your bag. So, every couple of weeks, on a Thursday after my last class, I'd saunter over to Tunes and see what they had--whether it was an illegal Pearl Jam bootleg or a brand new CD of a band I was trying out. It was a monthly reward to myself.
And, to me, it was part of the charm of old New Brunswick.
The old Murray Hall on College Ave Campus was where I spent most of my learning time. I also knew you'd get an extended bathroom break, because it always took about ten minutes to make your way through the maze-like basement to find the men's room.
And then there's Tumulty's, a bar on George Street where instead of the salad they advertised, you'd get a quarter head of iceberg lettuce with a gallon of dressing on the side. There taplist, back in the early 2000s, wasn't great, but I was just over 21, so what did I know? They had great burgers.
Stuff Yer Face still stands, and makes some of the best pub food out there. Strombolis. Bolis, I should say.
My days at Rutgers were spent wandering the streets--Easton Ave for the fast food, the bars, and the commotion. And Steve and Barry's, where you could get a rip off Rutgers hat for five bucks. The Olde Towne Tavern is loosely based on Olde Queens.
George Street for the charm. Tumulty's, Tunes, and the theater district. The theater district was the end of New Brunswick, before it became a bit dilapidated, with run down houses, and an old C-Town supermarket. New Brunswick had a pulse, had life, and had a culture.
Chris Cornell played the State Theater my senior year, and my rooommate--who worked there--went. The George Street Theater brought in real plays, pretty far off-Broadway productions. It was the town of my early-20s, a place I frequented even after I graduated.
It was also the place of my first novel, a Rutgers set crime novel that was released in 2007. It was the city, I knew, down to the plaque commemorating one of the first places the Declaration of Independence was read aloud (you know, after Philadelphia).
New Brunswick, NJ is home to Rutgers, the State University, and it's growing--a growth I haven't been able to keep up with. There's a convention center now. New bars, new restaurants. New hotels. Gone are some of the dives of the past. It's a happening place now.
But it's not the place of my books. Not anymore. I need to revisit, and let the place envelope me. It used to be a wonderful place.
Now it sounds like its turning into an even greater place.
I just hope it keeps its pulse.
Same thing for my second Donne novel, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO.