new york city

Christmas in New York

Last month Sarah got me a really cool birthday present: tickets to see Jim Gaffigan perform at the Best Buy Theater in New York City. Since Sarah’s birthday is only a couple of days before mine, we decided to make it a month-late joint birthday celebration and go up for the entire weekend. Sarah had never seen the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, she had never seen Jim Gaffigan live, I was itching to get back to the National Comedy Theatre and watch a show, and neither of us had seen our pal Adi perform her stand-up live. What a great way to kill 4 birds with one stone. Or at least a couple of turtle doves.

We booked our train and hotel tickets and made yet another trek to our favorite city within a reasonable train-riding distance. We arrived without incident at our hotel and walked down to the comedy theater on 36th street where I knew our reservations were waiting for us. I had contacted my pal Kevin at NCT and let him know we were coming. There was a bit of a mix-up in our pre-NYC conversation. I thought I was letting him know we would be there to watch the show; Kevin thought I was letting him know I would be there to be in the show. As we got to the NCT doors, which hadn’t opened yet to the public, we had this entertaining text message exchange:

Fri Dec 17 6:45pm. Me to Kevin:
Hey dude. What time are you at the theater tonight? Sarah and I have tix for the early

Fri Dec 17 6:45pm. Kevin to Me:
You are playing the early show dude

Fri Dec 17 6:46pm. Me to Kevin:
Dude you are so mistaken

Fri Dec 17 6:48pm. Kevin to Me:
We saved a spot for you to play and you have to play

Fri Dec 17 6:51pm. Me to Kevin:
Dude I already paid for my ticket

Fri Dec 17 6:51pm. Kevin to Me:
Refund and you are playing

Fri Dec 17 6:53pm. Me to Kevin:
Dude who else is playing? I think most of the gang I knew is gone. Improv + strangers = awkward improv.

Fri Dec 17 6:54pm. Kevin to Me:
Dave and me and Andrew is all you need to know. You are playing.

Shortly after, Kevin came to the front entrance and let us in. As we made our way down to the green room Kevin continued to insist I was playing while I continued to give him reasons why I shouldn’t. Not only had I not played for nearly a year and a half, I also wasn’t wearing the proper NCT-approved improv attire, which included black track pants and gym shoes.

It wasn’t long before I realized my arguments were falling on deaf ears and I knew I would be playing. I was introduced to Stephanie and Zoe who were also in the show that night and Kevin found me a pair of pants and gym shoes I could borrow. Why they had so many spare pairs of pants and shoes – and whose they were – I tried not to think about.

The show went on and I had a blast. Although it had been so long since I did improv in front of a crowd, it felt like no time had passed at all. It was like putting on my favorite sweatshirt. Just right. In fact, if I hadn’t mis-identified a Justin Bieber song as Ke$ha, it would have been darn near flawless.

After the show – and lots of hugs and promises that it wouldn’t be so long until my next trek to The City – Sarah and I headed down to the West Village to see a night of comedy at the Humor Haus as hosted by another NCT alum, Adi Blotman. My good pal Paul – yet another NCT pal – was our tour guide and we grabbed a bite to eat at Joe’s Pizza on the way there. Paulie promised us it was “the best slice in the city” and I’ll be darned if Paulie wasn’t dead on. He shot some video of us experiencing our first slice of Joe’s and I’ll post a link to the footage as soon as we get it.

We headed down to Bleecker Street in plenty of time for the 11pm start. Adi did a great job hosting and introducing the other comics she’d hand-picked and we enjoyed ourselves and shared a lot of laughs. Although the room was a small one they all took to the stage like pros and it was a great time.

After the show was over, Paulie led our little group – which now included Adi – to what he promised to be “the best place to get pastries” and again Paulie was right on. Where else but New York City can you experience the world’s best cream puffs at 1 in the morning?

Sarah and I were standing on the subway platform waiting to take the A train back up to Penn Station and couldn’t believe it was 1:30am. It felt like 8:00pm and it was a refreshing reminder of why we love that city so much.

We got to our hotel room and immediately crashed. It’d been a few years since I was in the city during the winter and had forgotten some of the city’s nuances. How could I forget the sound of clanging radiator pipes that heated so many buildings and how, because many buildings are heated by radiator pipes with no individual thermostats for each room, you can sleep in the city in the midst of winter with a window open. Little details I forgot I loved.

We didn’t leave the hotel room again until noon the following day. We took to the streets and walked up to 51st to grab a bite at Mars 2112, a space-themed restaurant Sarah had been to when she visited New York with her family a few years ago.

From there we headed to FAO Schwarz, the world-famous toy store neither of us had ever been to. Unfortunately, we decided to make our first visit on the Saturday before Christmas and there was a line to get into the store that wrapped around the entire block. It was quite a daunting line upon first glance, but it moved quickly and we got in some great people watching.

A Santa made entirely of Legos inside FAO Schwarz. Why WOULDN’T we get our picture with it?

We walked back down to our hotel on 32nd Street to rest for about an hour, and then headed back up to Times Square to see Jim Gaffigan at the Best Buy Theater. Todd Glass was the opener and he was just as good as he’s ever been. Poor Jim was suffering from the flu and his voice was nearly gone, but he powered through and put on an amazing show. I’d never seen a show in that venue before, and I liked it a lot.

We headed down to Rockefeller Plaza after the show and somehow managed to make our way through the throng of spectators. We saw the tree, took about 3 photos, and Sarah declared, “OK, I’m over it.”

After that, we decided to brave the middle of Times Square to take some more pictures and grab a couple of quick video shots.

On the way back to the hotel, we happened to walk by a comedy club that was advertising dueling pianos. With a what-the-heck shrug we decided to catch the show. The two pianists – and one drummer – served as human jukeboxes as they took requests from the audience and managed to play each one of them masterfully, much to the mostly-drunk crowd’s delight. We especially enjoyed the show that wasn’t on the marquee: a big guy who looked like Biff from Back to the Future who was getting totally trashed. We watched him throw back bottle after bottle after bottle, wondering why the bartender wasn’t cutting off someone who was obviously as drunk as he was. If his forward-leaning barely-balanced walk to the bar wasn’t a dead giveaway, I didn’t know what was.

Oh wait, I know what the giveaway was. It was when he left the room to go out and throw up not once, but twice, all over the stairs that were the only exit.

I love this city.

We made it back to the hotel, caught a bit of the back end of Saturday Night Live, and then zonked out. We checked out of our room at noon the next day and headed back to Penn Station for the return trip home.

It was a nice weekend; a great weekend. It reminded us both of how much we love the city and also how much we love traveling with each other. We laughed a lot and traded a lot of goofy looks and by the end of our weekend, Sarah was zipping around others on the sidewalk like she’d lived in New York all her life. She made me proud. :)

As our train sped us back home to Lancaster County, I held Sarah’s hand while she slept, a goofy smile on my face. This weekend was my best birthday present ever.

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Year in Review (2009)

2009 – YEAR IN REVIEW

It’s time again for my look back at the goings-on of the past year. Feel free to read, skim for your name, or just find the bold links and click on them in the hopes you’ll find a video featuring  a midget dressed up as Michael Jackson and dancing in the NYC subway system…you might just find what you’re looking for.
JANUARY
  • January 4 – I auditioned for The Foreigner at the Fulton Opera House. I didn’t get it or anything, but call me weird, I like auditioning. It’s just another excuse for me to get strangers to laugh. On purpose.
  • January 11 – My pal John Allen was in town for a conference. I know John from my days working at Gotee Records in Nashville when I was in the Radio Promotions department and he was in Sales. Sarah and I met up with John in Hershey, PA. It was really nice to re-connect and introduce him to my better/crazier half.
  • January 17 – I went hiking with my friend John Blowers in the Pennsylvania mountains. Somewhere. I actually don’t have any idea where we were, only about a half hour or so from Lancaster, so if he wanted to kill me and hide my body he very well could have. But he didn’t. I guess that means John’s my friend. :)
FEBRUARY
  • February 3 – Sarah and I watched the touring production of Avenue Q at the Hershey Theater. There’s nothing quite as fun as introducing your wife to the world of foul-mouthed puppets. And Gary Coleman.
  • February 22
  • February 27
MARCH

  • March 17-24
APRIL
  • April 19 – My pal Mitch McVicker came to town and performed a concert at our church. Even better than watching him perform again was getting to catch up with a good friend.
  • April 24 – Sarah and I went to a Capital Lights concert with our travel buddies Alyssa and Ashlea. Weeks later, the band announced they are breaking up. Coincidence?
MAY
  • May 15 – Sarah and I traveled to New York City for the weekend. I rejoined my friends at the National Comedy Theater and jumped in the Friday night shows for a great night of improv. I am happy to report that JT, Chris, Paul, Dan, Cohen, Kevin, and Jason have not lost the funny.
  • May 16 – Sarah and I hit some NYC tourist spots and that night we were in the live studio audience for the season finale of Saturday Night Live. It was everything we dreamed and more.
JUNE
  • June 23 – I broke a molar eating an ice cream sandwich.
JULY
  • July 8 – After two weeks of temporary crowns, my molar was finally completely repaired.
  • July 17 – Sarah and I attended a barbecue at Dustin and Janelle’s house. It was a great evening of friends and hangin’ out, capped off by an amazing Roman candle fight between Jeremy and Dustin.
  • July 24-26 – Sarah and I returned to New York City and this time we brought our friends Ryan, Alyssa, and Ashlea with us. I performed at the National Comedy Theatre Friday and Saturday night and the rest of the time was spent giving them a whirlwind tour of the city.
AUGUST
  • August 8 – Sarah and I went to Nissley Vineyard (the place I proposed to her two years earlier) with friends to enjoy a nice evening in the countryside.
  • August 28 – Posted my 200th doodle.
SEPTEMBER
  • September 12 – Sarah and I saw Bill Cosby perform live at the American Music Theatre. Despite the fact that he looks older, he’s still the same old Cos.
  • September 18 – I had a voiceover audition at Max Films. Nothing has come of it (at least not yet) but again, it was something fun to do on a weekday afternoon.
OCTOBER
  • October 1 – I hung my doodles at a local coffee shop, Square One, as part of their monthly rotation of local artists. The theme for the month was Halloween, so I displayed my collection of doodles of movie villains
  • October 3 – Sarah and I went to the New Holland Fair and were shocked to find they imported everyone who attends the county fair back home in Indiana to attend this one, too. Either that, or everyone who goes to fairs looks the same.
  • October 7 – After months of hunting, Sarah and I picked up our new car, a Ford Focus from Keller Brothers. If you’re in the area, we highly recommend them!
  • October 26 – Married to Sarah for two years and she’s still my bestest friend.
  • October 31 – At our Murder Mystery Party, everyone got dressed up in fancy clothes and we pretended we’re a lot more civilized than we actually are.

DECEMBER
  • December 4 – We attended a surprise birthday party for our friend Alyssa. It was a successful covert surprise operation.
  • December 5 – My dear friend Nik (another Gotee Records survivor) is in town and Sarah and I get together with her for coffee. I probably sound like a broken record, but it’s so nice to re-unite with old friends and catch up!
  • December 12 – My pal John had a poker night (guys’ night out). We tried to keep it as manly as possible, considering the snacks consisted of deli meats, apple cider, and hummus.
  • December 24
  • December 26 – For the second year in a row, Sarah’s sister and her family (The Tatmans) visited us for a week . We played games, watched movies, and hung around the house. Basically everything you WISH you did on vacation.

There’s one highlight I didn’t post because it happens every week: Sarah and I have some good friends over on Tuesday nights to watch Lost. Our usual gang of misfits includes some of our closest friends in Pennsylvania (Alyssa, Ashlea, Dustin, Janelle, Monica, Tammy, and Tyler). Sure, we’re all fans of the show and enjoy the twists and turns, but most of all we love having an excuse to get together with good friends. In a time of virtual social networking, nothing compares with actually hanging out with others.

Thanks, everyone, for a great 2009. Preparing to enter 2010 is weird. 2010. It looks really super futuristic. If I don’t have a flying car by 2015, I’m going to be mad.

Too Good to Recap

Sarah and I had a GREAT weekend this weekend…so good, in fact, that trying to sum up everything in a blog is somewhat intimidating because I know I won’t do the weekend justice. So, rather than trying to capture the magic of the details in convenient paragraph form, I’ll list off the highlights in even-more-convenient list form.

FRIDAY

  • 1:00 pm – Our friend Ashlea drops us off at the train station in Lancaster PA
  • 1:30 pm – The crowded train leaves for New York City
  • 2:00 pm – The guy sitting next to me gets off the train and Sarah and I are able to sit together
  • 5:30 pm – Sarah and I arrive in NYC’s Penn Station on 34th Street. We make our way to the 1 subway train to go check in at our downtown hotel
  • 6:00 pm – We check in to the Marriott in the Wall Street District and drop off our bags in our 19th-floor room
  • 6:01 pm – We leave the room to head to the National Comedy Theatre
  • 6:02 pm – While swinging my backpack over my shoulder inside the elevator, it swipes the control panel and hits all the buttons. A fancy schmancy old white lady is not amused as we stop on every floor on the way down.
  • 6:30 pm – I am dismayed to find that the pizza shop on the corner of 36th and 8th is now a T-Mobile store
  • 6:35 pm – Sarah and I arrive at NCT. I am giddy with excitement to see the old gang again, including Adi, JT, Cohen, Kevin, Dan, and Paulie. I also meet Dave and Jen, cast members who joined after I left in 2006. After catching up and introducing everyone to Sarah, we head down to the green room to prepare for the first of two improvisational comedy shows of the night. Sarah and Adi find seats together and wait for the 7:30 show to begin.
  • 7:30 pm – The first show begins. I am billed as Ed “One Night Only” Placencia. Although I was initially nervous about not performing on the NCT stage in 2-1/2 years, once I’m up there with the gang, it’s like no time has passed.
  • 9:45 pm – Second show of the evening and another good night of comedy has been thrown down.
  • 11:15 pm – After getting notes, chatting with Eric, who showed up during the 2nd show, and saying our (for now) goodbyes, Sarah and I head back to the hotel. We are bummed to find that all of the Starbucks we pass are closed. Come on, people, this is New York.
  • 11:45 pm – As we walk past construction outside our hotel, Sarah and I see New York rats. Instead of being grossed out, we chase them, giggling with glee.
  • 12:30 am – Part of an episode of “Ghost Hunters” is all we can watch before falling asleep

SATURDAY

  • 8:30 am – I sort of wake up. I watch an episode of “Ghost Hunters” and then go back to bed
  • 11:30 am – I wake up again
  • 12:00 pm – Sarah wakes up
  • 1:30 pm – We finally leave the hotel and take the 1 to 79th Street
  • 2:10 pm – We make it to the Museum of Natural History. After watching 5 minutes of a boring video on telescopes, we make our way to the 4th floor (where the dinosaurs are)
  • 3:40 pm – After only making it through two floors, so much education makes us tired, and we leave
  • 4:30 pm – Sarah and I walk down to Times Square. There’s some sort of street fair going on, and we make our way to one of my old haunts, the Film Center Cafe. It’s been redecorated and is no longer the cool, dark, pub-like vibe-y place but an upscale trendy place. The prices are still the same, so it’s cool
  • 5:30 pm – Sarah and I head back to the hotel to take a nap before returning to Rockefeller Center later that night. On the way there, we see a midget dancing like Michael Jackson in the subway
  • 6:15 pm – We arrive back at the hotel and order coffee and dessert from room service.
  • 6:45 pm – Coffee, cheesecake, and chocolate cake all around!
  • 9:00 pm – We head down to Rockefeller Center to get in line for the taping of “Saturday Night Live”
  • 9:30 pm – We find our place in line and wait to be let in. The line is already much longer than we thought it might be. My email confirmation is traded for cool tickets with the date and the guests printed on them. I tell Sarah I hope we get to keep them (we don’t)
  • 10:45pm – They begin seating us. We turn in our tickets and are given nifty wristbands. We head up to the 9th floor.
  • 10:50pm – We are seated in the balcony and are transfixed watching the SNL crew prep for the show. The SNL band plays some amazing music as people are seated
  • 11:00pm – Don Pardo greets us and introduces Jason Sudeikis, who entertains us with some goofy bits, basic rules of the road, and then introduces Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen (on electric guitar). Kristen sings and, along with backup from the SNL band, we are treated to a great rendition of Blondie’s “One Way or Another.”
  • 11:30pm – The lights go down, Will Ferrell takes the stage, and the show is underway. It’s the season finale (and Darrell Hammond’s last show), a great show, Green Day sounds great, and surprise guests Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Paul Rudd, Norm MacDonald, and Artie Lang make for a fun night
  • 1:00 am – The show is over and the cast waves goodbye
  • 1:20 am – Will Ferrell takes the stage again and announces that if we wait around for 5 minutes, Green Day will play a couple more songs for us. The SNL cast gathers on the stage to listen
  • 1:25 am – Green Day plays the first of 2 bonus songs for us. They are accompanied through the duration of the second song by Will Ferrell on cowbell (naturally)
  • 1:45 am – On our way out, Amy Poehler sneaks past Sarah on her way down the hall. As she stops to talk to someone Sarah, only inches away from her and somewhat starstruck, can do nothing but stare at her and smile
  • 2:10 am – On the train ride back to the hotel, Sarah and I enjoy the “I’m Drunk On The Subway Show” as performed by a couple of wobbly-legged girls
  • 3:10 am – Nighty night

SUNDAY

  • 10:00 am – Sarah and I get up and around to make it out of the hotel by the 11am checkout time
  • 11:01 am – Sarah and I leave the hotel
  • 11:05 am – Sarah and I go to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast. It’s swamped, so we leave
  • 11:06 am – Sarah and I go to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
  • 11:07 am – After seeing that an omelette costs $21, Sarah and I sneak out and leave before they can even bring us water
  • 11:15 am – Sarah and I hop on the subway and head back toward midtown
  • 12:15 pm – Sarah and I have breakfast at the Westway Diner where an omelette costs what it should
  • 12:45 pm – We catch a showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine at the AMC theater on 42nd Street
  • 3:00 pm – We walk around, take in the city, and waste time before our train leaves for back home
  • 4:45 pm – We board the train (seats together) and make our way back home
  • 9:20 pm – Our friend Alyssa picks us up from the train station and our amazing weekend has come to an end

Wow. Good times.

Walking: Depends On How You Look At It

Funny how something as simple as walking can carry a different stigma depending on where you’re at.

In New York City, everyone walks everywhere. There’s a very small percentage of Manhattanites who have cars and since everything you need is within walking distance (or subway distance), having a car in the city isn’t a real necessity. It’s nothing to walk 10 or 15 blocks somewhere. Because there are so many people always walking around on the street one would never give it a second thought.

But here in Indiana (where walking 10 blocks seems ludicrous) if you see someone walking without an exercise track suit on, you think hey look at that homeless guy.

This blog brought to you by The People Who Talk Without Having A Point.

Eat Your Heart Out, John Cougar Mellencamp

I was born in a small town…

…and then I moved away and lived in a bunch of big towns and then moved back to a small town and am really getting a kick out of it. So many things I probably saw a million times but never noticed. Just a completely different outlook.

I was talking to my buddy Dan in NYC and he told me he was getting visions of Doc Hollywood in his head. It’s not that bad, but you can see it from here.

First of all, everyone waves. After spending time driving in LA traffic and walking the streets of New York I have grown accustomed to making eye contact with no one. And now all of a sudden people want me to wave at them. I don’t want to wave at them. I just want to go.

So, Indiana friends, if you see me in a car and wave at me and I don’t wave back, don’t take offense. Chances are, I didn’t even see you.

I also found out that the tousled just-got-outta bed look that was so prevalent in NY and Nashville is just that here in Indiana. It looks like you just got out of bed. And that’s not a good thing.

This morning as I walked outside to head to work with Dad he said “You look terrible!”

“I do?” I asked.

“You look like you just woke up! You didn’t shave! And why don’t you comb your hair!” (Granted, without being able to hear his inflection he probably comes off sounding like a grumpy old man and that’s totally not who he is; we Placencias are known for giving each other a hard time for anything we can think of).

We then went to have breakfast at a small local restaurant and the Police Captain (an old friend of the family) came in. Dad said, “You remember my son Ed, don’t you?”

And without pausing, the guy looked at me and said, “Sure I do. It looks like you shaved with a Hershey bar.”

And people wonder why this smalltown kid grew up and got into comedy.

On The Air Again

Had a really nice day yesterday. Got up bright and early at 4:30am to go in to the radio station with Lisa and see the gang at WJTL again. It was really great to see everyone. Fred, general manager of the station, co-hosts the morning show with Lisa and although I had originally gone in to just watch and hang out, he asked me to hop on the mic with them and it was fun to be back on the air. We even got a couple of really nice emails from listeners who remembered me from back when I worked there and it was encouraging.

I also got a chance to visit with most of the rest of the gang. It was fun getting to catch up with Stacey, Ann, John, and Darlene. I saw Stacey last year on my way into town as I journeyed to NYC, but hadn’t seen the others in like 4-1/2 years.

On Wednesdays Lisa usually does the morning show alone, so I am going in today to co-host with her. Just like old times. When I first started at the station I was co-hosting the AM show with Lisa and it’s been fun going back and hanging out again. John, Lisa, and Alex have been such great hosts and I am looking forward to a couple of evenings getting together with the gang and reconnecting.

Good times.

Movin’ Right Along

Well, my journey to Indiana is underway.

My good buddy Ethan from Lancaster was able to pick me up yesterday afternoon and bring me back to Pennsylvania (Long story short: Deanna and I only had one car. The car was in her dad’s name. I now am without wheels).

It was really good to get to spend some time with Ethan again on the ride home. Originally Ethan was going to bring me to John & Lisa’s house, where I will be staying this week until Dad is able to make it out here and drag me the rest of the way back to Indiana. After realizing we wouldn’t make it back to Lancaster until late, Ethan was kind enough to let me crash at his place so we wouldn’t keep John & Lisa up late.

Ethan and I rolled into town around midnight and then we stayed up with his wife Aubrey talking until 4 in the morning. It was a great time to catch up and reconnect with some friends I very dearly missed. We all woke up today around noon and pitched in to create a mondo breakfast: strawberries, pancakes, omelettes, potatoes; it was great.

Ethan and I arrived here at John and Lisa’s around 3:30 or so, unloaded all of my stuff, and it’s been great getting to be with the Blowers’ and their son Alex again. I am returning to WJTL tomorrow with Lisa and am very eager to see the gang at the radio station again. I’m looking forward to spending time with my PA buddies, many of whom I haven’t seen in about 4 years.

I already miss my NY gang terribly but if there’s any way to numb the pain of missing friends, it’s by spending time with more friends.