Last Wednesday I was working on a Lego set with Lucas when I got phone call from my friend Norm, who told me that after months of trying, he just got a call from The Late Show with David Letterman telling him that he had won tickets to go to a taping. That's pretty exciting news on it's own, but even more when he asked me to go with him. I said, "Of course, as long as the date works out."
"Well, here's the thing.." he said, "It's for tomorrow afternoon, so we would have to be on a plane first thing in the morning." I asked how long we had to figure it out, and he told me that he had to let them know in the next half hour.
Now keep in mind that this is just after 7 pm on Wednesday night, and I would have to be ON the plane in just over 10 hours. So I have under half an hour to make arrangements for Lucas and take the day off of work, but after a number of phone calls, it all worked out, and I called Norm to let him know that I could go.
But then, I went to get my passport and couldn't find it. Are you kidding me!? After racing to get everything organized so that I could go, now I can't find my passport? I literally tore apart every room in the house, and after about an hour, I was just about to call Norm and tell him the bad news when I found it buried under some papers on my desk.
So, after about 3 hours of sleep, I'm up at 3:20 am, off to Mississauga for 4:45, and at the airport at 5:15 for a 6:15 flight from Toronto to JFK. And at about 7:30 am on Thursday morning, approximately 12 hours after the initial phone call from Norm, I'm in New York City.
I've done a fair bit of traveling, but believe it or not, even with 25 years as a die-hard Yankees fan, I've never been to New York City before. This was the first time. We had essentially 6 hours before we had to be at the Ed Sullivan Theater to get our tickets prior to the taping, so we had to cram in as much as possible, because we would be heading back to the airport right after the taping to catch an evening flight back home.
We hopped on the LIRR train into the city, and got off at Penn Station. It was something else stepping out onto a NYC street for the very first time. We took a quick walk around the area, seeing Madison Square Garden and The Empire State Building (but didn't go to the top), and then hopped in a cab to head to one of our planned destinations. On the cab ride there, we drove by Washington Square Park, and I recognized the tell-tale arch at the North entrance, and later in the day, I wished we would have stopped there for a bit, because I would have loved to see the Scrabble players that play in the park every day. (They were featured in a 2004 documentary called Word Wars which was fantastic, and should be watched by anyone that plays Scrabble.)
I'm a big fan of When Harry Met Sally, and the classic scene where Sally fakes an orgasm while having lunch with Harry (see clip below) was filmed at Katz's Delicatessen in New York City. So, we decided to go there for breakfast and for the tourist-y aspect of me seeing it. It was a pretty cool place, and they have a sign up to commemorate the exact table where the scene was filmed. It wasn't very busy at 9:30 am, so luckily we got the table, and took a bunch of pictures. (On a side note, I love that in the clip--from 1988--the neon sign on the back wall says "Soda - 80 Cents", and in our picture, the same sign says "Soda - $2.50")
After that, it was a quick walk to find a cab, and play "Spot the Tranny" (I know that one had an Adam's Apple!) before heading back up to Times Square. We actually left the cab a couple of blocks south of Times Square, just to be able to walk a little more and see some more parts of the city. I mean, with only 6 hours, it's limited how much I could see, but we were content to stay near Times Square and the surrounding blocks, which is where the Ed Sullivan Theater is located. Norm has been to NYC lots of times, so he was deferring to me in terms of where we went, but it was great to have him as my tour guide to suggest where to go, and know how to get there.
So, we were walking up to Times Square, and passed the New York City Public Library. Being that I work with libraries in Canada, I wanted to go in and take a look, and it was a pretty amazing building. One of the funniest things, though, was when we came out, and we saw this area that was listed as a "Quiet Zone", and standing almost right above the sign, was a guy on a cell phone.
If I hadn't been to Las Vegas numerous times, then I'm sure Times Square would have been overwhelming, but luckily I'm used to the flashing lights, oversized signs, and hustle and bustle of pedestrian traffic. It was quite an experience, though, and I wished that I could have seen it at night instead of just during the day. But I wasn't prepared to complain about anything considering that a mere 16 hours ago, I was expecting to be at work at this time instead of Times Square.
We headed over to Rockefeller Center, which was one of the places that I had said I wanted to see, and it was really neat now having the perspective of where everything is instead of just how you see it on TV. It was one of my favourite spots of the day. And just a block away was St. Patrick's Cathedral, where we went inside and saw that they were just beginning the noon Mass. It was quite an impressive sight inside.
Then it was back to the heart of Times Square for lunch, where Norm had said he wanted to take me to Carmine's, an Italian restaurant on 44th street. When we walked by it on the way up, we stopped to look at the menu, and even though I should have been full from a huge breakfast at Katz's, my mouth was watering at the the options. I had no idea what I was going to choose.
We sat at the bar, and decided that we would get the veal cutlet hero sandwich and the meatball hero sandwich, and just take half of each so we could have both. First of all, both sandwiches were on nice, big, fresh, traditional Italian buns, and they were big enough so that they could easily have been shared by one person. The veal cutlet was fantastic, but the meatballs were even better. They were gigantic (see below), and were, without a doubt, the best meatballs I've ever had not made by a member of my own family. It was heartbreaking that we couldn't have had more of the menu...if we were there longer, I would have wanted to go back for dinner, and lunch the next day.
After lunch it was time to head to the Ed Sullivan Theater for the show, so we walked the 8 or 9 blocks up to the theater, which was a good way to work off that HUGE lunch. We waited in line to get our tickets, and after we got them at around 2:45, they told us to come back at 3:30 for entry to the theater. So we hovered around the stage door watching the paparazzi waiting for Kristin Davis to arrive, and met Rupert Jee from the Hello Deli, and Biff Henderson (pictures in post #2), but then it was time to head inside for the taping.
The theater was so much smaller than I expected, it looks so much bigger on TV. We were seated directly in the middle row, and directly in the middle of that row...the exact center of the audience area. They started up with some upbeat songs to get everyone clapping and happy (like Jet's She's a Genius - woo-hoo!), then the warmup comedian came out, followed by the band, who performed Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones and Synchronicity by the Police. Paul Shaffer came out after that, and then David Letterman himself came out to talk to us briefly.
He explained to us that the last two nights, the audiences he had weren't that good, and he thought it was due to the fact that he didn't talk about his recent "legal matter." He then told us that for legal reasons, he wouldn't be talking about it on the show anymore, so that we shouldn't expect that to be a topic. He made a few jokes, asked for audience questions, and then went backstage as the show started immediately at 4:30 pm.
The guests were Kristin Davis and Barry Sonnenfeld, and it was a pretty decent show. The most amazing thing was watching the band, and how they adjust to how much time is left in the break, wrapping things up early if necessary, or stretching it out. Very very impressive. The show itself was great, it was an awesome experience. It's too bad that no cameras were allowed inside the theater, so we obviously couldn't get any pictures from inside.
After the show, we hopped a cab and headed back to Penn Station, where we took the LIRR back to JFK for our intended 7:45 pm flight to Toronto. Norm works for an airline, and had made all of our arrangements, which meant we were flying standby. It looked like we weren't going to make the Toronto flight since it was overbooked, so we tried to get on an 8:00 pm flight to Detroit, which was in another terminal. But we were unable to change my ticket in time, so we couldn't get that one either.
A few phone calls and a slight bit of frustration later (I wasn't letting anything ruin this day!), we found out concretely that we were stuck until the morning. It was a very "Amazing Race" moment. So we got booked on a 6:30 am flight out of LaGuardia, and tried to figure out what to do for the night. There are far worse situations that we could have found ourselves in than being stuck in New York City for the night. (Can you say Colorado Springs?)
We discussed heading back to Manhattan and seeing the city at night, and doing something there, but we were both already so exhausted from lack of sleep and going all day, that we decided to just get a hotel near LaGuardia so we could take a shuttle in to the airport in the morning. So we went to the hotel, and checked into our room which had a perfect view of Citi Field, the New York Mets' new stadium that just replaced Shea Stadium this year. After that, we parked ourself in the restaurant watching playoff baseball with a bucket of ice cold beers, a platter of wings, a plate of calamari, and a traditional Margherita pizza...all of which were awesome.
Then the fatigue hit us and we crashed just as we were watching Letterman start his show. 5 hours later, we were up again and on the shuttle to LaGuardia. When we got on the shuttle, it was a bit of a shock driving through the residential area seeing the bars on everyone's windows. If we were groggy, however, the shuttle driver took care of that by blaring Led Zeppelin's Kashmir and The Who's Pinball Wizard on the ride.
So, the flight went off without a hitch, and we landed back in Toronto at about 7:45 am...almost exactly 36 hours after that initial phone call. It was quite a whirlwind adventure, and it was awesome. Thanks to Norm for making it happen, and including me on the trip.
We took lots of pictures that day, but I didn't want this post to be too full of pics, so I've added a second post with more pictures from the day. Remember to mouse over the picture for captions.