Escape to New York

It’s been an unusually-long time since I’ve posted, but there’s a good reason for that: I knew that writing about the trip I took to New York City a little over a week ago was going to take some time.  I’ll elaborate on some of these details in a podcast I hope to record soon, but here are the basics.

The genesis of this adventure was me noticing Mick Foley promoting a charity auction on his Twitter feed.  The Hardcore Legend auctioned off various pieces of memorabilia in order to help raise money for Vermont residents affected by Hurricane-Irene-spawned flooding of this past summer.

I barely paid attention initially because I’m not a memorabilia guy at all.  That changed when I realized there was one item up for bids that wasn’t meant for display on a shelf: An all-most-expenses-paid trip to New York City that included hotel accommodations, Survivor Series tickets, and lunch with Mick Foley himself.

I immediately contacted my buddy Mike to see if he had any interest in pursuing this.  We had previously discussed a possible WrestleMania trip that we estimated would run us a good $3,000 to $4,000 if we “did it right.”  I pointed out that that trip wouldn’t include the same type of experiences that this one would, and that the card, while not WrestleMania, would be very strong.  I also did a bit of research and realized that Survivor Series was already being advertised by Madison Square Garden as the long-awaited in-ring return of The Rock, a fact that was eight or nine weeks away from being announced on television.  Mike agreed that we should try to win the auction if the price didn’t get too high.

Someone who bid well over $3,000 won the original auction.  Mike and I weren’t disappointed, as that was much more than we would have been able to donate.  We were also happy that the flood relief efforts had brought in such a large donation.  So, we just laughed about it and nearly forgot the whole thing in the ensuing days.

A week or so later, an identical auction went up, for one day only[1].  Only my slavish, borderline-troubling Twitter addiction allowed me to notice it.  The auction reboot also happened to occur during Columbus Day weekend.  I realized that this would be a golden opportunity for us to win this auction with a bid that wouldn’t completely destroy us financially.

We won, and the next thing I knew, I was exchanging e-mails with Mick Foley.

This all happened more than two months before the actual weekend, so, by the time November 19th rolled around, Mike and I had discussed numerous outlandish scenarios involving meeting various WWE Superstars.  In reality, of course, we were being facetious for the sake of humor.

Wouldn’t you know it, though—upon arriving at the Millennium Hotel, the person checking in directly in front of us was none other than Kofi Kingston.

We were off and running.

Mike's "subtle" attempt to photograph Kofi Kingston and Sheamus in the hotel lobby.

We also saw the WWE referees checking in when we came back downstairs to go to dinner. Later, Mike returned to the lobby on his own and made a few trips to the gym for the sake of people-Superstar-stalking-watching.  He managed to see several other WWE talents, such as Sheamus and Jack Swagger.

To be perfectly honest, we were a bit apprehensive about Sunday.  Although I had communicated with Mick via text by this point, the plans had changed on the fly several times[2].  Mike and I maintained cautious optimism that everything would work out, but we also braced ourselves for the possibility that the plans might fall apart, mindful of the fact that this was all for a worthy cause.

Luckily, Sunday could not have gone better.

Our first break of the day happened when we left the Millennium to move to the Times Square Hilton.  The fact that we had been booked into two different hotels gave us pause . . . until we got to the Hilton.  The Hilton Club suite was fantastic and everything was first class.  We also caught a bit of a break by being able to check in early, thus preventing us from having to figure out what to do with our luggage during the check-out/check-in gap.

The texts were flying fast and furious between Mick and me by this time.  He had been out of town at an indy show the night before (and traveling extensively before that on his stand-up comedy tour), so he was literally coming straight from the airport to meet us for lunch.  We wound up eating at a place called the Café Un Deux Trois[3].  Mike and I got there first, and Mick arrived not too long afterward.

Despite the fact that he had a very full schedule, Mick honored the commitment and was as engaging and funny with the two of us as he is with an arena full of fans.  He’s an extremely gracious person who was very generous with his time.

We talked about a variety of topics, naturally focused largely on professional wrestling.  We also discussed his new stand-up comedy career (and a negative review he had gotten that had led to a bit of a Twitter hubbub about a week earlier).  Additionally, I made sure to ask him about filming his upcoming guest appearance on the forthcoming season of 30 Rock.

I have to say that Mike and I did a great job of balancing our interest in talking to Mick with our desire to appear Aspberger’s-free.  We probably came off as non-weird as the two of us are capable of under that set of circumstances.

After lunch was over, Mike and I killed a few hours watching NFL football in our suite, then made our way back down to the MSG area for the show.  After eating at Lindy’s, we walked over to the World’s Most Famous Arena.

We were seated in the front row of the first level, just above the floor.  Our eye level was just above the wrestler’s heads when they were in the ring.  The seats, in a word, were perfect.

The ideal seats at a show or sporting event depend a lot on your age and station in life.  Younger people want to be as close as possible to the stage (or ring), period, because it makes you feel like you’re almost a part of the action.  They aspire to have the means to obtain those sorts of seats.  The funny thing is, if they actually achieve those kinds of resources, they’ll probably want to go the luxury box route by the time they hit that point.

For a couple of guys in their early 30′s who don’t have any interest in having their views blocked by idiots with signs or dudes who want to stand up every five seconds, our seats couldn’t have been any better[4].

The show itself was very strong.  Highlights included the impressive opening match between the soon-to-be-departed John Morrison and Dolph Ziggler, the Big Show elbow off the top turnbuckle, and the main event and anticipated return of The Rock.  I didn’t have any complaints.  Even the under-appreciated Divas had a super finish to their match.  The only bump in the road (no pun intended) was the aftermath of the serious knee injury to Sin Cara during the traditional five-on-five Survivor Series match.  I’m sure it’s tougher to re-book on the fly in a match like that than it would have been in a simple tag match, and it showed.  The match essentially came to a halt for three or four minutes while everyone regrouped.

There were a lot of familiar faces at MSG besides the in-ring talent.  We saw Judah Freidlander, and, in one of the highlights of the entire trip, DMC (of Run-DMC).  I say the latter was a highlight because we were apparently the only people who seemed to recognize him, which was a source of incredible and understandable frustration to Mike.

We're opposite the camera in the second row (orange shirt = me), with the WWE guys right behind us

Mick had invited us to go to his comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater after Survivor Series and had been nice enough to reserve some seats for us.  It was good that he did, because a lot of folks made the short walk over to the UCB Theater after the PPV.  Getting a ticket would have been tough unless we had sprinted over there[5].

The show turned out to exceed all expectations.  Mick is a fantastic storyteller, and his stand-up act consists largely, but not exclusively, of well-crafted tales from his life that are funny and relatable even if one doesn’t have a strong working knowledge of professional wrestling[6].  As entertaining as Mick was, what we didn’t realize going in was that his stand-up was only going to be part of the show.

We were thereby initiated into the world of the UCBW, a full-on comedy wrestling show featuring UCB performers in outlandish and hilarious gimmicks[7].  Always a great sport, Mick took part in this as well and added to the fun.  We even got to see a UCBW Championship contest (a step-ladder match, in fact) that included reigning UCBW champ Whole Lotta Denim legitimately breaking his collarbone, yet finishing the match and retaining his title.  The cherry on top of the surreal sundae (and Sunday!) was that Zack Ryder, John Morrison, and Dolph Ziggler were sitting right behind us during the UCB show.

Anyway, I was familiar with improv and sketch comedy troupes putting on wrestling-themed comedy shows before, but the UCBW’s was easily the best I’ve seen.  Everyone from the phenomenal Wall $treet to championship contender Little Brother to reminded-me-of-half-the-girls-I-went-to-college-with Big Sister to the dead-on meta commentators were pitch-perfect.  I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: If you’re ever in New York City, and you’re at all a fan of wrestling or comedy, go see this show.

The same goes for Mick Foley’s standup act. Those who have read his books will know some of the stories, and it’s fun to hear them brought to life (and sometimes enhanced and/or embellished) by the man who lived those moments.  It’s also interesting to watch someone who is so accomplished in two other entirely different areas (pro wrestling, writing) begin a career in yet another form of entertainment.  If his past successes are any indication, I think that his growth as a stand-up will be (and is) exponential.  I’m confident that even people who enjoyed watching Mick perform in the summer of 2011 will be shocked at the polish he’s attained by this time next year.

After a day-and-a-half- that was exhausting on many different levels[7], we spent most of the next day sleeping on the train . . . but not before a pilgrimage to the Carnegie Deli that included the following:

Impractical!

1. The largest club-style sandwich I’ve ever seen.  To the point that it was too big.  I don’t mean because it was too much food (I ate half of it on the train home).  I mean because sandwich design becomes counter-productive once it’s so thick that you can’t really pick it up and eat it.

2. A three-dollar charge if you shared food.

3. A huge piece of cheesecake that, while excellent, still wasn’t quite as good as the ones that the Fourth Street Diner (RIP) used to make.

4. More celebrity pictures than I can ever remember seeing in one restaurant.

5. A money laundering cash-only policy, which means that I would estimate the Carnegie Deli handles something like $5,000-$7,000 in cash every single day it’s open.  Welcome to New York!

All in all, the weekend was a memorable, fun, and very welcome oasis in the otherwise-dull desert that is my life.

________

[1] Mike astutely and, as it turned out, correctly deduced that the original bidder backed out on payment. Prior to that, I just assumed there was a second set of tickets.
[2] Mick was very gracious and admitted that planning wasn’t his strong suit. As I mention later, our fears wound up being unfounded. Everything worked out great.
[3] It didn’t dawn on me until an hour after we had made the reservation that we would be eating in the “1-2-3 café.”
[4] As a sidebar to that sidebar, I’m enjoying the fact that the same narcissistic trait that created the wrestling sign phenomenon in the first place is now helping to speed its demise. There are still a few signs in the crowd, but nothing like what we had ten or twelve years ago. The reason? Everyone is too busy trying to draw attention to themselves in a different way: By taking pictures with their cell phones to post online, which doesn’t leave a free hand for holding up posterboard. And, yes, I know there’s an internal irony here that I’m discussing this cultural facet as part of a post on my own blog, but try to overlook that for the moment and enjoy the observation.
[5] Sprinting, like math, is not a strong suit of mine.
[6] Of course, knowing who Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is definitely helps.
[7] Including the extra three miles we walked looking for our hotel on Saturday night when one of us (*COUGH*) looked up the wrong location on his iPad.
This entry was posted in Commentary, General Culture and News, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Escape to New York

  1. Pingback: The Axis of Ego Podcast: Billy Beyrer and Stephanie Sottile | The Axis of Ego

  2. Pingback: SitCombat: 1-26-12 | The Axis of Ego

  3. Pingback: Best of 2011 | The Axis of Ego

  4. Pingback: The Axis of Ego Podcast: Mick Foley, Survivor Series, and UCBW | The Axis of Ego

  5. BSMB says:

    Good stuff MR. Sounds like a good trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s