Folks, I feel like a renowned explorer. Like Magellan, Columbus, or any guy who can navigate his way to the bar on maximum-capacity nickel beer night in College Town, USA.

I have discovered a brilliant new world. A new world for me, anyway. A magical place where taxi cabs and pretzel stands compete in numbers that will make you recollect those friendly cola wars. That’s right…I went to New York City. The city that never sleeps-because Starbucks has a never-ending presence there. There are almost as many stores as people. If New York is water, Starbucks is the oxygen. So that part about it never sleeping is now literal. If you even think about dozing off, someone shoves a drink in your face with a fancy name like Double-shot Venti Caramel Macchiato (that’s Starbucks language for “large coffee”, only it must be yelled by some apron-wearing lady who reminds you of meatloaf day at the grade school cafeteria). The first time I heard that language I was excited yet confused. It was the term “double-shot” that did it to me: “I didn’t even know Jim Beam made a caramel macchiato, whatever that is.” Boy, did this southern boy have a lot to learn.

It was during an off week when I figured I would check out the Big Apple. So I hopped online to book a flight. If you’re a starving artist like myself, you have to be frugal. That means stuff like giving ketchup packets as birthday gifts and booking big trips on websites like Hotwire. The major problem with using a money-saving source like Hotwire is that you don’t know certain particulars. The only power you have is telling them the day you want to fly and whether or not you prefer a seat in coach or in the luggage compartment. What you save on airfare they make up to you with little inconveniences, like departing at 4 AM and having to help serve the peanuts. The amount of time between connecting flights is even up in the air. It’s a big gamble, like playing Yahtzee with the airlines. That is, if you can even gamble on Yahtzee, which I don’t think is possible. Well, I’m sure Pete Rose could find a way.

I flew from South Bend to Detroit for my connecting flight. If you’ve never been to Detroit’s airport, I encourage you to go. There is no need to see any other part of Michigan, because the airport must make up the entire state itself. The airport layout is something like this: Terminal A, Terminal B, Lake Huron, and baggage claim. There was so much ground to cover between terminals, and I barely made my connecting flight. If I had not been running, I would have been left behind like the old ladies I pushed over. To quote master philosopher Homer Simpson: “So long, suckers!”

But my trip was about New York itself, not about getting there. It was indeed a pain getting there, but it was worth it. I knew the trip would be incredible, so I kept a journal, which I have cut and paste below for your enjoyment. Keep in mind two things:

  1. This was a business trip with nothing planned in advance, so the unpredictability of it all was exciting… and
  2. Each daily entry reflects what happened the day before.

June 17 – First day in the city. I can’t wait to take it all in. I’m staying with my cousin Laura and her husband Kevin in Howell, NJ. Getting here was a pain, but I’m excited. “Kid on the eve of a Disneyworld trip” sort of excitement, not “Teenager on the eve of getting him some” excitement. But in the world of excitement, it’s all the same I guess.

June 18 – Unfortunately, comedy is not off to a booming start. When I found out the showcase at the Boston Comedy Club wasn’t happening, I did a show instead at an open mike venue called the Bliss Bar. It is aptly named if “bliss” is defined as doing stand up in front of three people. (Click here to see a photo.) I have no car here, so I take a bus into the city then walk to various clubs. I once tried walking across a street on a “don’t walk” sign and quickly learned that cabs only brake for important people-cops, firemen, and anyone who can issue a green card. Those specks on their windshields are not insects…they are tourists…from the South. I will try to be more cautious. I will also try to listen more. On the bus trip back to Laura’s, I couldn’t understand what the driver was saying. She mumbled the names of the stops, but I could hear her cell phone conversation just fine. I knew I had to get off at the stop called “New Friendship Road”. I instead had to walk two miles after getting off at a stop that sounded just like it…a stop known as “Rutgers”. When I finally got to New Friendship, I waved to the bus as it passed me going back east.

June 19 – Did a show at the Duplex last night, run by local comic Poppi. What a cool woman! Comics are actually cooler than I predicted they would be up here. There are so many funny people in this city, and most of them cuss a lot on stage. It’s like experiencing the shock and awe of f-bombs. I have no problem with that, especially if it’s funny and clever. But the use of certain words is rather gratuitous. Most comics up here do it successfully and are funny. But others seem to do it just to cuss. For example, let’s say that instead of a certain “f” word, society used the word “snapple”. I heard one comic last night say this joke:

“So I had to go to the snapplin’ grocery store yesterday, and I thought to myself ‘snapple, I hate the snapplin’ grocery store!’ But I know I gotta snapplin’ go, right? So I get in the snapplin’ express lane and we ain’t moving. Not a snapplin’ inch. So I’m like ‘What the snapple is goin’ on here?’ Then this guy looks at me and snapplin’ says ‘Can I jump ahead of you? All I snapplin’ got to buy is this snapplin’ Snapple.’ (Note: in this instance, Snapple actually means Snapple) So I tell him ‘No snapplin’ way. My old lady is snapplin’ waiting outside and if I’m late, I’m snappled.’ And he understood completely, because ladies…you got to snapplin’ go places! Right?”

When nobody laughed, he told us to snapple off and walked off stage. I was hoping that wasn’t the precedent in NYC, because the only joke I have with that word is “Boo, snappler”. (If you haven’t seen my Halloween bit, you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.)

June 20 – I got to the city early yesterday to walk around and take in some of it. I found that New York is a “giving” kind of town. For example, if you talk for a long period of time to someone you haven’t met, you’re given a mean look and then maybe a warning shot. Ignoring people is a way of saying “I care about your personal space and no, I don’t want to give you a quarter.” However, I learned that sarcasm is more appreciated up here than in some places. For example, when I boarded a very large bus, I asked the bus driver “Is there a Starbucks on this thing?”. I didn’t receive any high fives or free passes, but the lady driver acknowledged the witty remark with delightful international praise. I don’t know what “Callate, punta” means, but I can only imagine it’s good. I felt like one of the crowd.

June 21 – Laura and Kevin scored some tickets to the “subway series”-Yankees vs. Mets at Shea Stadium last night. So I took a night off from comedy and enjoyed America’s past time-beer. Oh yeah…and baseball. (Click here to see a fan’s view of Shea Stadium.) The Mets lost because they have the worst closer ever in the history of the game-Armando Benitez. In this age of “reality” TV, the fans should be able to vote him off the roster, or the Mets should trade him for some magic beans. Something. Anything! For the love of Tivo, please get rid of him! He sucks more than a diesel-power sucking machine on National Sucking Day. I was able to laugh later, however, when I saw the “mobile arrest trailer” outside the stadium (click here to see photo). A trailer for unruly drunks? I finally feel like I’m back in the South!

** July 29th – Hallelujah! Last week the Mets traded Benitez (aka Dr. Blown-Save) to the Yankees. As a side note, in his first appearance in pinstripes, he gave up the winning run in the 9th inning to lose to the Red Sox. Man… that guy sucks! **

June 22 – Last night was great. Did a short set at the famous Gotham Comedy Club. What an incredible place. It’s like loving baseball and getting to take a few cuts inside the batter’s box at Wrigley Field. That is, if the Cubs required you to bring six friends who had to buy two drinks each. Yes, it was a “bringer” show. I had to bring six people with me in order to get stage time. I was able to get Kevin and some other buddies there, and things went well. And it was happy hour too, so beer was only $7.50 each. Yes indeed, this is one expensive city. But with the economy where it is now, this is the time to go. I saw a Burger King that offered 0% financing on all combo meals. Beat that, Hotwire!

June 23 – Went to the horse track today in New Jersey. I lost every race, because I was stupid enough to bet what is termed the “exacta”. If they only had something called the “almosta exacta”, I would have been okay. You can win in horse shoes if you’re close, so why not horse racing? That’s just racist (hardy har har). Man, I’m stupid. After the races we went to the Jersey “shore”. They don’t use the word “beach” because that word does nothing but conjure up silly images of seashells that aren’t in the form of broken bottles and cigarette butts. Just kidding – it was actually nice. But it was colder than normal, so the local guys had to wear their wool tank tops. Later that night I went to do a show at a little bar called the Village Lantern. It was in the basement of a bar and it rocked. Great comics-thank you Lori Sommer and Karith Foster-and good times! It was the perfect end to the week.

I saw a lot and did a lot in my limited time in NYC. Clubs like Gotham, Caroline’s, Comic Strip Live, Comedy Cellar-landmarks in this business. I had a blast hanging with family (thanks, Laura and Kevin) and friends (thanks, Mike Siscoe, Karith, Lori, and Mike Burton). I will definitely be back. I have to…I need to pick up my milkshake on lay-away.

Go Mets!!! (But suck it, Benitez!)

Categories: Columns