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My first trip of 2017 involved both people and places that I am quite fond of along with a method of transportation that I find very enjoyable.

For me, an outing on Amtrak that is four hours or less is one of the best ways to travel. You don’t have to deal with TSA, the departure and drop-off in the city is right below the radio station, the ticket is usually relatively inexpensive and the trip is pretty comfortable. Amtrak offers decent Wi-Fi free-of-charge, you’re allowed multiple carry-on baggage items and it’s not a hassle to bring food or drink with you on the train, especially given that you’re departing from Penn Station (Don Pepi’s is my go-to and in my opinion, makes one of the best quintessential NY Deli sandwiches in the city).

With that, I grabbed my normal order (2 eggs on a wrap, prosciutto and mozzarella on a roll, bottle of water, small coffee) and walked over to check-in. Amtrak offers e-tickets via an app but I opted for the antiquated paper ticket. Thanks to a complimentary upgrade, I rode in business class on the trip; not the same as a first class plane upgrade. The seats are a bit bigger and more comfortable but not measurably more than coach. You also receive free non-alcoholic beverages with the upgrade, a note I found out after I made my purchase at Don Pepi’s.

My itinerary started at Penn and ended for Friday in New London, Connecticut. Then I hopped a ride to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville to spend the evening, see a few old friends and naturally, lose a bit of money. To be honest, the only thing I left the property upset about was that for my second consecutive trip, I failed to dine at Todd English’s Tuscany, my favorite restaurant in the resort.

Peak-boughieness right now on this blog.

Caught a Connecticut vibe this weekend. @mohegansun, the real MVP.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Saturday a car trudged through the snow and brought me back to the train station, where I rode Amtrak up to the Kingston, Rhode Island station. An Uber brought me across the Pell Bridge to Newport where Cumulus Media was having its annual holiday party.

This party is fantastic for a number of reasons: it’s scheduled after the craziness of the holiday season, it’s held in the Newport Marriott which is gorgeous (just like the rest of that beautiful town), the food is delicious (I love seafood) and most importantly, the crowd is lovely.


A different Uber brought me back to the train station on Sunday morning and I encountered perhaps the most New England Uber experience ever. It had stopped snowing at this point but there is almost no one on the roads; some areas are plowed more than others. I notice there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way and I could really go for one of their coffees (especially given the alternative was to buy one aboard the train; no offense Amtrak). I ask the driver if he’ll stop and he obliges. I then inquire if he wants anything.

“Yeah, you know what? I could go for a coffee,” he responded. “Medium dark, no sugar. Team work, getting the job done.”

You’re damn right. And just like the other people, places and methods of transportation I encountered over the weekend, what’s not to enjoy about that?

I rang in the New Year in Times Square. Just two nights later, my Father and I stepped on to the ice after the Sabres beat the Rangers inside Madison Square Garden.

Yeah 2017 is off to a pretty solid start.

So one of my Dad’s good friends from back home in Niagara Falls is this guy named Ron DeFazio. Ron is a little older than Ralph Sr. and the owner of my Dad’s go-to watering hole, a venerable spot called Stadium Grill on Hyde Park Boulevard. Now even though he lives and works in Western New York, Mr. D is a life-long New York Rangers fan.

And he’s never been to Madison Square Garden. Period. Not even for a non-hockey event.

A few months ago, my Dad and his buddies were at the bar and they decided that it was time for Mr. D to see the Blueshirts on Broadway, especially with Ralph Jr. (me) working literally above MSG.


I made a few calls and scored us tickets to see the Rangers, who conveniently enough were playing the Sabres on January 3. The men booked their travel accommodations and those few months passed in seemingly a few days; next thing you know I’m hanging out with my Dad, my cousin Mike Hooper, Paul Parise and Mr. D inside Smith’s in Hell’s Kitchen. We did a bit of bar-hopping on Monday night with stops at Rudy’s and Jimmy’s Corner. Then on Tuesday, we started off the evening with happy hour at the Oyster Bar followed by a beer at Stout, a tour of the radio station and then a trip downstairs to The World’s Most Famous Arena.


Thanks to my friends at MSG Networks we were able to get Mr. D’s name on Gardenvision during the first period. Then my friend Nicole hooked up this once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity after the game.

The Sabres ended up beating the Rangers to Mr. D’s chagrin but regardless, it turned out to be a trip that none of us will ever forget.

Imagine standing in the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Now picture that you’re live on the radio. And add in the fact that you have no producer, no intern, no assistant… no one. Well, no one to help you; there are obviously plenty of (read: a million) people surrounding you.

Welcome to my New Year’s Eve broadcast in Times Square on 95.5 PLJ. This was the third straight year that I had the honor of hosting the show and the second consecutive broadcast where we partnered with Dick Clark Productions so that I had space inside ABC’s Good Morning America studio. Thanks to our friends at Times Square Alliance, I had full-run of the “Center of the Universe” as well; I spent my evening literally running between the third floor of the GMA studio (without using the elevator mind you) and the crowd with stops in between to interview DNCE, Miss America, Gavin DeGraw and a few revelers.

But even as I managed to book, edit, produce and host the show, there were some difficulties simply out of my control. No my in-ear monitors didn’t go out, rather our entire wireless broadcast system went down. So as the clock struck midnight and the 11,800 pound crystal ball completed its descent, I dialed in to the studio to ring in 2017 over the phone.

When you’re live in a setting like Times Square for New Year’s, these are issues that you actually can prepare for; you simply create backup plans for everything because anything can go wrong. Over the 7 hours I spent in the Theater District I dealt with a broken audio recorder, a late interview and faulty internet connections on top of everything else you would normally expect: heightened security, large crowds and the weather.

Although the temperature hovered around a balmy 40 so that wasn’t awful, but I digress.

It’s stressful but in the moment, a lot of fun. At any moment I’m in a hotel suite with Joe Jonas, editing audio on my laptop, talking with a couple from the Philippines who is visiting the city for their first time or simply pausing to take it all in. Because despite all of the difficulties that I encounter with the show, I still couldn’t imagine spending my New Year’s Eve any other way.



Took me what, almost 10 years? But I finally figured it out. When I return home to visit family in Western New York for Christmas, I should stick around for about four nights.

Here was my issue in years past: I would only visit my parents back in Niagara Falls about three times a year. Also, I would usually end up with a ton of vacation to use before the end of the year otherwise it would be lost. So between not wanting to give up too much of my free days (I would inevitably lose some anyways) and falling victim to my mother’s guilt trip, I would stay home around Christmas for close to a week.

And by the sixth or seventh day, I would end up singing the same tune: next year, I can’t stay home for this long. I love my family but hanging out back in the house I grew up in just makes me a bit stir-crazy.

So this year I switched it up. First, I spread out my remaining vacation days over the final month-and-a-half of the year to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any. This also gave me a bunch of long weekends and quite frankly, one of my most enjoyable holiday seasons in recent memory. Then, I scheduled my trip to WNY around Christmas but made sure to just give myself enough time to see my family and attend an extra event or two, nothing more.

Mission accomplished. Saw all of my family plus a bunch of my friends, attended a few holiday parties, visited Orchard Park to watch my Bills lose to the Dolphins (don’t get me started) and drank a few Labatt Blue Lights in the process.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Other food highlights included my favorite meal of the year: Christmas Eve’s Feast of the Seven Fishes and a final night pit-stop to GoodFellas’s in Niagara Falls for my favorite pizza and wings.

Of course the most important part of the trip was my time at home. Almost as enjoyable was leaving Niagara Falls and not thinking that next year I should spend any less time there.

The following was written while I waited Sunday morning for my plane leaving Syracuse and headed to JFK to be de-iced. I had missed my flight to LaGuardia by about 60 seconds; thankfully the saints that work for Delta got me on the next flight to the city which thankfully was departing from the gate next door a few minutes after. It was originally posted to my Instagram and this version has been edited lightly for grammar and spelling.

Greetings from my ✈ back to the city. Let me tell you about my past 30 hours.

I snapped this selfie on AirTrain headed to JFK Saturday morning. The plan was to take-off at 9:30, land around 10:15 and make the noon tip of yesterday’s Syracuse/Georgetown game at the Dome. My cousin Anthony (who for those that don’t know is my best friend; I have the honor of standing as his best man next year when he takes the ole plunge) was riding the train in from Niagara Falls. He had never visited the Cuse so we were going to do it up – tickets at the game (thanks L) followed by a tour de force through my old stomping grounds: Marshall Street, Chuck’s, Faegan’s, Varsity – the whole thing.

And then my flight was delayed until it was canceled. Anthony ended up rolling to the Dome and subsequent venerable campus locations solo. I caught the first few minutes of the game from the bar at the LIRR Jamaica station (and yes they’ll make your cocktail to-go). Then I hopped back on a train towards Penn and checked the Amtrak schedule. There was a 1:20 Empire Service departure that could get me to ‘Cuse by 6:40. Should I go?

Stupid question.

I grabbed another cocktail from the Friday’s in Penn (no they will not make it to-go) and hopped aboard.
I had a great night in Syracuse. Ate dinner at an awesome spot called The York. Ran in to an old friend and his wife. Got to relive a bit of my college days with my best friend.

If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that family and friends have to come first in my life. It’s cliché but true and sadly, I haven’t always had my priorities straight. But I’m thankful for those around me who have always understood and supported me regardless.

I’m also thankful that I realized this now as opposed to never because that would be unfortunate… much more so than a canceled flight.

There are not a lot of photos from my trip last weekend and with good reason… or rather, reasons.

It’s funny because just today I was having a conversation with a colleague that centered around one of the causes; she asked me why I haven’t been as active lately on Snapchat. The app kind of runs clunky on my phone (yes, still the Android-driven BlackBerry Priv) but more so than that, I’m just trying to be more in the moment. And last weekend, which of course was another of the long variety for me, was about that: not worrying about documenting every little thing I did and instead just trying to enjoy the time I spent with friends.

For those wondering, that time was spent back in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a place I hadn’t visited since I threw out the first pitch at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game (Triple-A affiliate of my New York Yankees and defending National Champions). I showed up on Friday, hit up Wegmans to stock my buddy’s apartment with food for the weekend and then took an Uber downtown to a new restaurant called Terra Preta. The spot is very progressive for Scranton: craft cocktails, farm-to-table menu items and a gallery for local artists to showcase and sell work. I ended up purchasing this piece.


And if you know me and my love of Coldplay, you understand why. But also, I wanted to support a local artist and establishment. In cities all across the country, people want change but they don’t want anything to stay the same. You can’t complain that “there’s nothing cool to do” in an area but then when new, cool things open up simply refrain from supporting them.

We ended up visiting Terra Preta twice along with some other favorites of mine in the area: The Bog, Ale Mary’s and State Street Grill. There also may have been a stop at Sheetz and a trip or more to Mohegan Sun Pocono where I might have walked out ahead after a few hours of Blackjack.

But hey, no phones allowed at the tables so definitely no photos.

Yes, I have been taking what seems to be a lot of time off lately. Maybe I’m the only one who feels like it’s a lot because I can’t remember a stretch in my career when I went so many consecutive weeks without working a full one. But the perfect storm of my “American Music Awards” trip followed by Thanksgiving and combined with 10 vacation days created a rather unusual situation for me.

Hey, use ‘em or lose ‘em right? And I’m not in the business of losing… certainly not to the extent of two weeks’ worth of vacation.


So last weekend was another of the long variety, but what I found interesting about it is that I ended up at the studio every single day. On Friday I met colleagues in midtown before joining them at Kelsea Ballerini’s Irving Plaza show. I had to buy Syracuse/UConn tickets from the Madison Square Garden box office on Saturday, so eventually I went upstairs to use the restroom and check something on my computer.

Then on Sunday I was asked by our sister station NASH FM 94.7 if I could fill-in from 3-7 pm. Sure!


I had a lot of fun over the four hours and to be honest, didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the music. That Luke Bryan sings a catchy tune.

Then Monday I was back at the studio before heading downstairs to watch my Syracuse Orange lose… again… this time to former arch rival UConn.


Some other weekend highlights: family made their now annual trip to the city. I took them to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes. The show, as usual, was fantastic.

We followed up our trip to Radio City Music Hall with a trek up to my neighborhood for grab dinner at Carmine’s – the first time I had visited that particular location. The carbs were both plentiful and delicious.


Sunday night after my show on NASH FM I brought the fam to Snack Taverna in the West Village. I wanted them to experience what a typical New York City dining experience is like: dim lighting, close tables, small and large plates you order for everyone to share.

I enjoyed it but I don’t think that will be making the family’s annual itinerary. It was a rather unusual experience for them… and not the kind that leaves you with 10 vacation days to burn before the end of the year.

The week of Thanksgiving has turned in to one of my favorite times of the year. It starts in Los Angeles, covering the American Music Awards. A trip to In-N-Out Burger and red-eye flight later, I’m back east and for the next two days, my show airs at its normal time. Then Thursday morning, I’m up at 6 am so I can shower, grab a hot chocolate and walk over to the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I stay on the parade route until Santa passes me, which is usually about 10 am. Then I head back to my apartment, edit all of the celebrity interviews and videos I recorded from the morning and begin to figure out what the rest of my evening looks like.


Clearly, this week isn’t busy enough, so this year I added a new wrinkle: after the parade, I was going to fly home to Niagara Falls to see my family for Thanksgiving. It would be the first time in nine years that I was eating turkey in Western New York for the holiday.

This wasn’t my idea; my Mom was adamant on me returning home for the holiday. I think part of the reason is because she felt bad that for the first time in three years she and/or the rest of my squad wasn’t trekking to New York for Thanksgiving.


Back to my now-crazier day: I settled back in to my apartment and started to edit, (temporarily) wrapped at 11, finished packing at 11:30 and called a car to take me to LaGuardia.

There would be no editing at 30,000 feet because our Wifi wasn’t working. But there was this!


My sister picked me up from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport and drove me home. I spent the rest of the evening (sans a break for turkey) finishing the social media updates and editing necessary for both 95.5 PLJ and our sister station, NASH FM 94.7. A coffee and amaretto or three later and I was done for the night.

On Friday I slept in before running 5 miles through my old neighborhood and linking up with my cousin Anthony for some drinks and leftover antipasto at my house. Then I headed down to Buffalo, where I met some old high school friends at a spot called Buffalo Proper. It’s a dimly-lit cocktail lounge with a full kitchen and pretty fantastic vibe. I would recommend the Tatanka and this, the Smoke Break, served on an ash tray.


The trip home was a quick one, as I flew out Saturday morning because I wanted to catch Syracuse play South Carolina at Barclays Center, a game they would lose. But with friends in town for the weekend, I ended up having a fun Saturday night (slash Sunday morning) out, along with a solid Football Sunday that saw my Bills notch a win.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


And then, in a new Thanksgiving week tradition (because it’s the second year it happened), my Christmas tree went up.


After all, I clearly didn’t have enough going on this week.

Some news and notes from the American Music Awards red carpet…
redcarpet1
– Yes the rain was a major, major factor on the carpet and its impact on arrivals almost cannot be overstated. More on that here.

– It’s so nice to attend these and see familiar faces, whether it be publicists, fellow members of the media or artists. On the press front, great seeing The Insider’s Keltie Knight, Sweetyhigh’s Cassie DiLaura, the whole Sirius XM Hits 1 squad and Hollywire’s Chelsea Briggs.

– As far as artists and other invited guests: loved saying hello to Mark Cuban, Rachel Platten, Daya and Bebe Rexha, the latter who performed for Westwood One the night prior at our “Rooftop Live” event inside downtown Los Angeles’ Perch. Rexha’s catalog of hits she either penned and/or is featured on is impressive, and I’m rooting for her latest release “I Got You.”

– What I loved the most about the weather: the temperature. I’m used to melting every year on the AMAs red carpet; far from the case this year. I usually end up drinking 3 or 4 bottles of water in the process. I maybe drank one for the two-and-a-half hours I was out there.

– Another interesting note about my role: it changes from year-to-year on the carpet. This year, I served two purposes: grab content for my radio stations’ platforms as well as nationally and assist our red carpet reporter, Kerri Kasem, when necessary.

– After the red carpet, it was off to the one-on-one room. When the show wrapped, I dropped equipment at my room, called my mom, poured a drink and waited for my producer, Jay Buff, to arrive. After a quick download of the night’s events we put it all in the past and walked over to the after party. That was followed by an after-after party in where else, but the hotel lobby. We then ordered food from my favorite spot downtown, L.A. Café and devoured the grub before joining two different morning radio shows for American Music Awards recaps.

Eventually, I slept.

The genesis of my American Music Awards recap has become tradition: I usually begin typing it immediately after I check out of my hotel in downtown Los Angeles. My morning after the American Music Awards technically starts at the after-party. Then there’s an after-after party with my colleagues. That is followed by food, caffeine and a few live morning radio spots to handle. If I’m lucky, I catch about five hours of sleep before I wake up and begin taping my now (also) traditional AMA recap show, including interviews with some of the winners and performers from Sunday night’s show.

Then I finish editing video from the weekend, sneak in a two mile run, shower, pack and head to the lobby. I’m here now. Green Day’s drummer Tré Cool just walked by me with a security guard in tow. He tried to play it incognito with a forward-facing beige beret tucked down over a big pair of black sunglasses, but the aqua hair splaying out from the side was a dead giveaway. Coincidentally, I also saw him last night at the official American Music Awards after-party, before I ran into and met the band’s bassist, Mike Dirnt.

“I owned the ‘Dookie’ album on cassette!” I exclaimed. I may have had an alcoholic beverage or two at this point.

“I still own it on cassette!” Dirnt shot back. We snapped a quick selfie and went our separate ways.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


It’s nice to have tradition and routine; “typical” experiences like the aforementioned regarding two-thirds of Green Day.

But the unexpected can be just as, if not more entertaining. I wasn’t expecting to wake up Sunday to an overcast, mid-60’s day in downtown LA. Tents were pitched above the red carpet in L.A. Live, the area outside of Microsoft Theatre where the award show took place. And then, something took place that I don’t think has ever occurred in the history of the AMAs.

It rained. Steady, unforgiving rain. It even brought some wind. And people here lost it. The tents leaked. Puddles formed in front of the platforms where reporters and producers were frantically trying to adjust.

And as for the celebrities in attendance… to be honest, I think most of them don’t always need an excuse not to walk an entire red carpet. Even with our prime position for arrivals, we didn’t witness many first-hand. Gigi Hadid walked, or rather scurried by, clearly trying to get back inside to go over lines. Her co-host, the very relaxed and jovial Jay Pharoah stopped over to chat. Niall Horan was another one that sticks out; the Irishman talked with us ahead of his performance which was the first time he performed at the AMAs without his fellow One Direction mates.

As for our one-on-one room backstage, it is actually on the roof of a parking garage adjacent to the venue. If an artist wanted to stop by, they had to walk out of the venue.

In the rain.

We didn’t see too many familiar faces there, either. The very gracious Tim McGraw stopped by (greeting me with a “Hey, Ralphie boy!”). Maroon 5 hit the photo area before the band closed out the show with a performance of “Don’t Wanna Know” – I presume so that they could head home immediately after getting off stage.

After all, the rain along with two events at the Staples Center next door and the AMAs made for quite the traffic predicament in Los Angeles. But that’s expected around here.

A photo posted by 95.5 PLJ (@955plj) on