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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.

Bruno Mars responding to James Corden’s inquiry about his tour rider during “Carpool Karaoke” was hilarious but upon further review, far from revealing, at least at the moment.

“Some booze, some water,” the “24K Magic” singer first told Corden about what he needs in his dressing room prior to a concert. Mars then offered up a thoughtful pause before adding, “Wet wipes.”

“All Bruno Mars needs is some wine and some wet wipes,” the TV host joked while Mars cracked that the line could provide the inspiration for his next album, to which they then both agreed could be massive.

“Pop the cork and wipe down!” Corden quickly sang, to the tune of “Don’t believe me, just watch!” from “Uptown Funk.” And the host wasn’t finished, freestyling, “Stop! Wait a minute! Wipe my face, put some liquor with it!” as Mars beatboxed the Mark Ronson-produced beat.

The interaction, its likes which have become Corden’s trademark on the segment, was instant TV and viral video gold. However following a search for a leaked Bruno Mars rider online, two points became apparent: the rider has never leaked and Mars talked about wanting wet wipes and wine backstage in a 2013 clip posted on TMZ’s website.

If anything, credit Mars with consistency… and of course, cleanliness. Plus fast forward a few years, and who knows, you might even be able to credit Corden with the singer’s next LP title.

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.

What do Dennis Quaid, Lewis Black and Billy Bob Thornton have in common? Not sure, other than they are all in this video! I spoke with the three when I covered two red carpets in one night recently – the premieres for Quaid’s season two of the Crackle series “The Art Of More” and Thornton’s “Bad Santa 2” movie.

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

Last weekend was of the long variety for me; with an abundance of vacation to use before the end of the year, it won’t be the final time that happens in 2016 either.

It was also the last weekend before I began one of the craziest but also most enjoyable stretches of my year: flying to Los Angeles to cover the “American Music Awards” and then back to New York for the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.” So I knew that over the course of the three days I needed to find time to rest, run a few errands and work out.


While completing all of the above, I also decided to try something new on Friday night: I got a massage. My buddy Nick is a former massage therapist, so I called him for some advice on where to go and what to look for price-wise. I ended up choosing the performance massage at my local Equinox, which was the perfect way to wind-down from a day that included a 5.6 mile run.


On Saturday I got another run in before hopping aboard NJ Transit to pay Newark a visit. My Sabres were in town to play the Devils and even though I’ve adopted the Devils as my local team (I mean c’mon, they gave me a jersey with my name on it!), I had to show up to support the blue and gold. Yes, New Jersey won but me along with my colleague Dan and his son Justin had a great time at the game. Our seats weren’t too shabby either. Big thanks as always to Kerry and the Prudential Center for having us!

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


The weekend wrapped with, you guessed it, another run – followed by a Football Sunday and a trip to H&M to pick-up a few last-second items for the trip west. It was a very productive weekend, which was perfect, because I had a very busy week waiting for me.

The common thread between my last two weekends lies in the spectacular, breathtaking views I took in. It’s one of the many benefits living in the world’s greatest city, with so many great places to travel to an hour or two away.

But that’s where the similarities begin and end. When I drove up the Hudson Valley a few weeks ago, it was part of a free-and-open weekend I had following a party that was cancelled. This past weekend, it was a 9 am wake-up call to get down to Battery Park City by 10 am so that I could interview Charlie Huston, a star in Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and the new Naomi Watts thriller “Shut In.”

Like I said though, the view… still fantastic.


I attempted to get a quick jog in afterwards but my body was a bit worse-for-the-wear given my early call time and lack-of-sleep. Plus, I had to meet my friend Shaina at The Pennsy for a 3 p.m. lunch. We munched on delicious vegan sandwiches from The Cinnamon Snail before setting off on an impromptu walk. We started in midtown, went through Chelsea to the West Village, over to Greenwich Village and in to NoHo, then down to SoHo and back to Battery Park City. On my second trip downtown of the day, I actually walked the park in addition to seeing Brookfield Place Mall and The Oculus for my first time.


And, that sunset… the final one before Daylight Saving Time kicked in. My goodness.


Shaina was off to screen the new Harry Potter spinoff, and I ended up at a couple of my favorite downtown sports bars: Warren 77 in TriBeCa and Kelly’s in the East Village, drinking a few Blue Lights and cheering my Sabres on to victory.

The sports-theme poured in to Sunday, when John Foxx and I hopped over the George Washington Bridge and over to MetLife Stadium. The tailgate in the non-permit lot awaited us, followed by a long walk to the Stadium, where we watched the Giants beat the Eagles in a pivotal division game.


It was a great game… and the view wasn’t so bad either.