The Yankees won the 2009 World Series. I was living in a spacious one bedroom apartment in downtown Wilkes Barre, Penn. and of course the Bronx Bombers had just defeated the other popular team in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Phillies. Things were going well at work. I was about to start dating a girl. Life was good.

I logged on to Steiner Sports’ website and saw that they were holding a special autograph event in Westchester. The date would feature appearances from a number of baseball stars, including Yankees’ Manager Joe Girardi and third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Wait, A-Rod?! He never holds a public signing. Immediately I called my best friend, my cousin Anthony back home in Niagara Falls. We first bonded over collecting sports memorabilia and have been best friends ever since. The event was on a Saturday. So we devised a plan: he would drive from the Falls to me Friday night. We’d wake up Saturday morning, go to the show and come back. Depending on how he felt, he would crash with me Saturday or drive right back to Western New York.

The night before he arrived, I made a trip to Wegmans to stock up on groceries. There were a few new additions in the magazine section, including a special edition Sports Illustrated commemorating the World Series championship.
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I picked up two and continued on with my shopping. When I got home, I called Anth again and the idea dawned on me. I’ve never attempted a “team piece.” I truly lived through this championship, attending the most games in a season at the Stadium in my life including the division clincher and Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. Plus I was about to attend an event where both the manager and one of the star players, who rarely makes such appearances, would be signing autographs.

So I set out on a mission: I wanted all 10 lineup starters, the three starting pitchers, the closer and the manager to sign this magazine.

Rodriguez would be the first piece to the puzzle. We left NEPA on a crisp fall Saturday morning in November. There wasn’t a ray of sunshine in sight but it didn’t matter. The drive to Westchester was relatively easy and we immediately parked and made our way inside, picking up our tickets for the autographs and sitting in line for A-Rod. The third baseman was on time and in a jovial mood. The line actually moved slower than normal because Rodriguez took his time with each person. You could tell how much the championship and the love from the fans affected him.

I walked up and handed over my Sports Illustrated. A-Rod had yet to see the issue and instead of signing my piece, picked it up and started thumbing through the magazine! He held up the line for a few minutes (seemed like an eternity standing there in front of him) as he turned to his handlers to show them various photos, including this one.
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My cousin Anth snapped this photo, he signed the piece along with my cousin’s photo (which he also marveled at for a bit) and we went on our way.
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Almost seven years (and 11 magazine signatures) later New Yorkers will now bid adieu to the much maligned star when he plays his final game in pinstripes on Friday. A lot will be written about A-Rod, but I think most Yankees fans will center their memories of him on that ’09 championship. I know I will.

So what will the Song Of The Summer be in 2016? Funny you ask, I chatted about that Thursday on the PIX 11​ Morning News!

You’ve heard the song and your reaction may have gone something like this: “Wait, is there something wrong with my speakers? Why is my phone skipping? Is the radio messed up?”

There is nothing wrong with your speakers, your phone isn’t skipping and we’re fine. Hopefully you realized this 11 seconds in to “Gold,” as soon as the first verse kicked in. Hopefully you realized that there was still three minutes and 34 seconds left in the dark, twisted and rather interesting journey that 21 year-old Kiiara was going to take you on.

Or maybe you’re just transfixed on the song’s opening and chorus. It’s fine; you’re far from the only one.

“It’s interesting because I always knew what it was; like it’s a sample,” the Illinois-born emcee replied when I asked her on my show recently about people’s interpretation of the song’s open. “That’s all it is. So people trying to put words to it or like (ask) ‘What is she saying? What language is this?’ It’s interesting. It’s funny.”
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“Gold” first blew up outside of the U.S. even though Kiiara, nee Kiara Saulters, is an American artist. The single is already a Top 5 hit and two-times platinum down in Australia. It has cracked or is on the door step of the Top 20 in five other countries, including here where it sits at 22 on the pop radio airplay chart.

Chart success and critical acclaim are certainly propelling Kiiara’s career in the right direction, and she doesn’t seem to mind.

“It’s really fun,” she said of her time in the music industry thus far. Kiiara grew up in Illinois playing high school volleyball and would eventually dual-major in accounting and finance before dropping out of college after a year to pursue music. “It’s cool to like, experience everything with shooting music videos to seeing what rehearsals and touring is about, because I’ve never performed before.”

That changed last month when the singer embarked on her first headlining tour, a six-date jaunt that culminated with a festival slot: Lollapalooza in Chicago, back where she had grown up.

“It was really weird to be back; like it was a good weird but I haven’t been there in over a year,” she admitted. Kiiara moved to L.A. shortly after recording “Gold” and continued on to finish her debut EP, “low kii savage.” “And then I’ve never been to Lolla, so performing was really dope, to see it from a different perspective.”

Seemingly the only item on Kiiara’s itinerary at the moment is the promotion of “Gold” as it continues to climb up airplay charts. The 21 year-old hopes to drop her debut full length album in January and noted that a full tour could come shortly sometime thereafter.

I wanted to see more than one date on Coldplay’s “A Head Full Of Dreams” tour. I was looking for a reason to travel back up I-95 to Rhode Island. And, I had never been to Gillette Stadium before.

So last weekend on Saturday, the last Saturday of July, I booked a train at midnight to Providence. I then reserved a one-way rental car from the T.F. Green Airport to Manhattan for Sunday. Then, via the Hotwire app, I grabbed a room at The Omni in downtown Providence.


A few hours of sleep, some quick packing and a shower later and I was on the subway to Penn Station and off to Southern New England for a quick but exciting jaunt.

I arrived before 11 a.m. to a sun-soaked downtown Providence. The weather was simply fantastic; so much so that I had to stop and document the moment as I walked from the train station to my hotel.


After dropping off my bags, I walked from the hotel to the Providence Place Mall, which is actually connected to The Omni via a walk-way. Like other shopping centers, the mall is a bit antiquated (i.e. the H&M does not sell men’s clothing) but I welcomed a trip in to suburbia, even if only for an hour or so.

I snagged a new Yankees snapback, a couple jackets from Zara and a venti coffee from the Starbucks kiosk before returning to The Omni and checking in to my room. Wait, I have a fridge? Perfect. Even if for only 24 hours, one of my go-to moves when traveling is stocking up on essentials from a grocery store or convenience mart for my room so that I’m not left to pay coffee house or room service prices the following day.

But before I addressed that, I dressed in to my workout clothes and went for a fantastic five mile run downtown – through the square, up College Hill and across the campus of Brown University, over to the Newport Ferry and back.

I then grabbed those essentials from CVS (no grocery store downtown!) and showered. My colleague Barbi Jo picked me up around 4 and we made the 40 minute drive up to Foxborough. We parked and walk to “Patriot Place,” the surrounding area outside of the stadium which is lined with outdoor shopping, bars and restaurants. Barbi and I met Jess (and Jess) inside Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar and Grill.”

Again, a bit of suburbia but I didn’t mind one bit. We chatted, drank and eventually grabbed a table so we could eat before heading inside Gillette for the concert.

The lineup: Foxes (she sang on Zedd’s “Clarity” and won a GRAMMY for it), Alessia Cara (who is fantastic) followed by Coldplay a little after 9 pm. We made our way to the gate and attempted to get in but ran in to a small issue: Barbi’s purse BARELY didn’t fit inside this grey container that security provides you, so they wouldn’t allow her inside.

So, back to the car, dropped off some belongings and back to the gate.

Now inside, we grabbed our light-up wristbands and “LOVE” buttons and walked up to the 300 level where we were seated. As we attempted to walk around the upper bowl of the stadium we were met again by security. A portion of the stadium behind the stage was blocked off until the first three songs of the set were finished due to (spoiler alert) Coldplay’s fireworks. The issue was that this happened about 20 minutes before they took the stage and with no warning. So we either wait in place or walk all the way around the other part of this massive football stadium, probably not reaching our seats until the third song anyways.

Then our fortunes, albeit briefly, changed. We were approached by Live Nation and told that they were upgrading people from the 300 level to unsold floor seats.

Boom.

We grabbed our new tickets and wristbands and flew downstairs just in time for the opening notes of “A Head Full of Dreams.”


The only other issue: by the time we reached our seats and attempted to buy drinks, alcohol sales were cut off. It was only 9:30 and Coldplay had just taken the stage!

Whatever. Beautiful night, fantastic concert and a lovely impromptu after-party/night cap at Bar Louie in Patriot Place all occurred before I retired to my room in Providence around 2 am.

The next morning, I checked out of my hotel at 11 am and was on the go non-stop. I took an Uber to the airport, picked up my rental, drove to Eli’s On The Hill in Branford to grab lunch with my colleague Bartley, hit up both the Clinton Crossings Outlets and Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk and visited a friend in Bronxville before dropping off the car and plopping on my couch around 9:30 am.

It was a busy weekend, which probably explains why I am writing this, a week later, in the midst of a lazy Saturday on the aforementioned couch.

Andy Grammer needed to figure out how he was going to follow up 2014’s “Magazines or Novels,” his sophomore album which included his biggest hit to date, “Honey I’m Good.” So he decided to try out a new approach.

“Coming off the last two singles (also ‘Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)’) which were both pretty up-tempo, high energy… there was no higher to go,” Grammer explained on my radio show over the phone. “You can’t throw more of the kitchen sink in to a song.

“This one is my first single that I feel like lets the audience come to me a little bit. I’m really excited about it.”

“Fresh Eyes” serves as the first single from Grammer’s forthcoming third studio LP and sonically reflects his west coast home more than his east coast roots. The song is super laid back and Grammer’s voice doesn’t jump many octaves as he sings about a stranger that he is smitten for.

The track is certainly a departure from “Honey” but almost literally a product of it; Grammer’s gift to himself after the success of his second album was baby blue electric guitar.

“It’s my first (single) that I’ve done mostly on electric guitar,” he revealed. “I went in (a store) and picked up every guitar and amp for like, four hours and I left with this baby blue nucleus for my third album.”

If you’re checking out Grammer on tour this year, you’ll get a chance to see the axe in person. He plans on bringing the instrument out for his supporting gig with Train followed by his co-headlining jaunt with Gavin DeGraw. Of course, Train recently covered the “Led Zeppelin II” album, donating proceeds from sales to a charity that benefits kids fighting cancer. So if Grammer were to pick one act to offer the cover treatment to, who would it be?

“I think it would be dope to re-do an old Billy Joel album,” he replied, also noting that he doesn’t know the Piano Man (although his tour mate DeGraw has served as Joel’s opening act on a regular basis. “I guess I’d have to make the album first and then reach out.”

Besides his upcoming tours, Grammer will be spending the rest of the year working on his own project though. The “Keep Your Head Up” singer is bringing an extra tour bus on the road with him so he can continue to create the album. Grammer hopes that the LP drops after the first of the year.

“That’s what’s so fun about this game is that everything just keeps being new,” he said. “When you do one thing that works, like it’s done. Your brain has to come up with something different. That’s the whole artistic thing. It’s been completely fun and reinvigorating on this album to be doing something totally different.”

As Grammer tours the country and continues to work on his new album, he’ll also have the chance to find out if his fans feel the same way.

Day drinking, an extra-innings Yankees game and Guns N’ Roses at MetLife Stadium were just a few of the highlights from an action-packed weekend in which I commiserated with friends new and old.

My buddy Danny was in town visiting; he didn’t arrive until almost 2 in the morning. Thankfully it didn’t really matter that much because I work nights anyways and I happen to live in… the city that doesn’t sleep. There are bars and even kitchens open until 4 a.m. (or later in the case of the latter) throughout my neighborhood, so we settled in to one for some late-night grub and libations and ended up calling it a night… well, let’s just say the sun was rising when we finally went to bed.

And that was a common theme throughout the weekend.

After a quick breakfast on Saturday, we hopped in an Uber and headed to NoHo where I visited my friends at John Varvatos’ pop-up shop. They were hosting a Guns N’ Roses pop-up shop for the two shows in East Rutherford. Danny and I grabbed a couple of GNR shirts and made our way over to the 4 train, riding uptown to the Bronx.

The Yankees were hosting the Giants in the second of a three-game series and it was Military Appreciation Day at the Stadium. In addition to the ceremonies, the team gave away camouflage Yankees hat to the first 18,000 fans over the age of 21 (the cap was sponsored by Budweiser).


We snagged a few Bloody Marys and walked over to our seats in the bleachers; section 203 to be exact. The “Bleachers Creatures” section was far from full capacity but we did our best to assist in Roll Call (wherein the Creatures chant each name of the Yankees infield and outfield until they acknowledge the fans).

Then we sat. And sat. And sat. After a disappointing 12 innings, the Yankees were handed a brutal 2-1 loss. But, we made some friends who were visiting the Stadium for the first time via… Australia! So we felt it our obligation to at least bring them to Stan’s for a beer so they could completely their quintessential American baseball outing.

Saturday night was spent back in my neighborhood and let’s just say Sunday was definitely a sleep-in day. But even with waking up in the afternoon, we still got in a run before showering and meeting a few of my friends for drinks at a local watering hole nearby. Then we walked to the 1 and got off at Penn Station. Next stop: NJ Transit to the Meadowlands, via a transfer in scenic Secaucus. Lenny Kravitz took the stage around 8:30. Guns N’ Roses followed around 9:45.

Here’s what I thought of the show:

Believe it or not, but there was a Sunday night cap on our return trip to Penn: a walk to Times Square and a few rounds at the classic Jimmy’s Corner. Jimmy was a “corner guy” in boxing; worked with all of the big names. He’s owned this little gem forever and it is the only reason why anyone should want to go to Times Square.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Given my weekend, I slept in Monday too. But it was all worth it. Besides, when will I get to see Axl Rose and Slash on stage together again?

Probably not in this lifetime.

Violinist Lindsey Stirling stopped by to talk about her new album “Brave Enough,” which is out August 19. The lead single, “Something Wild,” is in the upcoming Disney film “Pete’s Dragon,” out August 12.

Stirling also chatted about performing with Celine Dion and meeting Steven Tyler at the Billboard Music Awards, the death of Christina Grimmie and the fact that she turns 30 in September.

Taylor Swift came out and said her phone conversation with Kanye West was secretly recorded. The video was posted to Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat page and depicts West and Swift discussing at least one line of his song “Famous,” in which he mentions Taylor. So can she sue Kim and Kanye for recording the call and posting the footage? We asked Attorney Reid Breitman what the laws in California state.
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The latest chapter in the bizarre um… narrative… that is the Taylor Swift/Kanye West feud played out through a reality TV show and social networks on Sunday night.

And as we’ve learned through both a magazine interview and TMZ report: lawyers on at least one side of the debacle are now involved.

Back in February, Kanye West released the song “Famous” from his album, “The Life Of Pablo.” In it he raps, “For all my Southside n—-s that know me best I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that b—h famous.”

Through a representative, Swift refuted West’s claim that he had received approval from the “Shake It Off” singer for the song. She took things a step further during her GRAMMY Acceptance Speech for “Album Of The Year.”

“I want to say to all the young woman out there: There will be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments, your fame,” she said. “But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get to where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know it was you and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”

You could say Swift sang a much different tune in newly released footage, which Kim Kardashian West uploaded to Snapchat on Sunday night, following the conclusion of “Keeping Up The The Kardashians.” The video shows Kanye talking with Swift on speakerphone. West recites the lyric of them having sex.

“I’m like this close to overexposure,” Swift replies. In a way this line provides a peak behind the curtain of fame and perhaps offers the most telling point of their conversation: Swift’s initial concern centered on coverage, not vulgarity.
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“I mean it’s like a compliment kind of,” she adds when West retorts that this mention would be “a cool thing to have.” “TLOP” was certainly a special album for West in that he decided to premiere it during his fashion show at Madison Square Garden, exclusively stream it on Tidal and then continuously change and alter the tracks to his liking even after the LP’s release.

“I mean, go with whatever line you think is better,” Swift tells him. “It’s obviously very tongue in cheek either way. And I really appreciate you telling me about it, that’s really nice!”

The video demonstrates that West not only went out of his way to seek Swift’s approval but even offered an alternative to the line. You could probably not say the same for the thinly-veiled and not-so-thinly-veiled songs Swift has written that were allegedly about others over the years.

At no point during the uploaded portion of the conversation did West run the b-word by Swift, which she touched on when responding to the video.

“You don’t get to control someone’s emotional response to being called ‘that b—h’ in front of the entire world,” she stated in an Instagram post. “Of course I wanted to like the song…being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination.

“I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”

Kardashian West revealed to GQ that Swift’s lawyers already fired off what amounted to a cease-and-desist letter. TMZ reports that the call was recorded in California, which would determine what if any legal recourse Swift could take regarding the recording.

Bottom line: the narrative is far from its conclusion.

The good news for Troye Sivan fans is that the singer has a busy year of touring the globe ahead, so chances are you’ll get to see him in your neck of the woods at some point.

The bad news is he seems nowhere near ready to begin work on the follow-up to his debut studio LP, “Blue Neighbourhood.” But of course, the album isn’t even a year old yet.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t started writing yet,” he told me on my radio show last week, prior to his Vevo concert with Alessia Cara and performance on “The Tonight Show.” “I mean I have so many ideas and think about new music every single day but for me I don’t think I can write an album on the road.”

This is a common conversation I have with singer/songwriters: some can easily churn on out tunes while touring but for the most part others find it at best very difficult. Sivan tossed his name in the latter category.

“I think I need to actually like, be somewhere stable and kind of just like chill out for a second,” he admitted. “I could throw something together but I don’t want to do that and I want my second album to be really, really special.”
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Sivan even floated the idea of waiting until his touring is finished at the end of the year before setting up a base somewhere to work on his next project. Before then he’ll tour the States a second time and promote his new single, a remix of “Wild” that features the aforementioned Cara, a singer he said felt like his little sister.

“It’s weird because I’ve only met her like, maybe 10 times but I swear I mean it,” he insisted. “I really honestly feel super protective over her and yeah, I just think she’s super special.”

Cara is younger than the “Youth” singer but only by a year; the Canadian-born artist turned 20 earlier this month while Sivan hit the big 2-1 on June 5.

“I sort of had my crazy nights when I first turned 18,” Sivan, who was born in South Africa but raised in Australia, revealed. “So for me, (not being 21 in the United States) was more of just an inconvenience like, ‘Can I please just have a beer with my dinner?’”

Sivan would even try his luck on occasion.

“’Hey yeah, I’ll grab a Sapporo,’” he’d order, before looking away from the waiter. “And hope to God that they wouldn’t card me and they always did.

“I’d have to go through the whole thing where I’d have to put on this performance and pretend I left my wallet at home but yeah, now I don’t have to do any of that.”

And that’s good news too, but just for Sivan and whoever he’ll be breaking bread with in the States this year.