The Pride Roars Into Boston


Like an NHL playoff game, Boston and New York conduct a handshake line at the end of the game

The schedule for the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins didn’t say so, but there was professional hockey in play at Beantown on Sunday. As expected, the home team wore black and yellow. As expected, the away team — from New York — donned red, white, and blue. Each team featured at least three players with international experience. It just so happened that all of the on-ice personnel, including the referees, were women.

Boston, welcome to a new chapter in your hockey legacy.

(Yes, this chapter has no checking and trapezoid, but who needs them when you have nameplates on the bottom of the jerseys?)


The Sunday afternoon National Women’s Hockey League contest between the Boston Pride and New York Riveters at Harvard Bright-Landry Center checked off a variety of firsts. The NWHL, which launched its inaugural season in October, is the first professional women’s hockey league in America to pay its players. Five days before the game, the NWHL and New England Sports Network announced that NESN would televise the Pride’s nine regular season home games — the first broadcast deal struck for the fledgling league. The Sunday match-up marked the Pride’s first ever home game. The final buzzer marked the Riveters’ first ever away win, a 3-2 triumph over a besieging Pride.

Just 1:11 into the game, Brooke Ammerman opened the scoring and gave the Riveters the early 1-0 lead. The Riveters stunned the Pride a minute later when New York forced a defensive zone turnover, giving Madison Parker a breakaway that she took advantage of to put the Riveters up 2-0.

The Pride finally came to life in a power play midway through the first period, when co-captain/US Olympian Hilary Knight jammed the puck past Riveters goalie Nana Fujimoto to make it a 2-1 game. In a nod to its NHL counterpart, the goal horn for the Pride was identical to the horn that blares when the Bruins score in TD Garden. So the celebratory song that follows the horn should be Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400,” right?

“doo doo doooo doo…”

Oh, hey there, “Chelsea Dagger!” When did the Blackhawks move into Cambridge? (Don’t worry. The audio guys restored “Kernkraft 400” when Boston tallied its second of the game.)

But barely 30 seconds later, Meghan Fardelmann took the wind out of most the crowd when she put the Riveters up 3-1. The row of Riveters fans behind me, die-hard fans of New York captain Ashley Johnston, were the only ones partying at that point.

After conceding the third goal, though, Boston took control of the game. The by-product of the no checking rule means the players have more opportunity to show off their speed, stickhandling skills, puck pickpocketing ability, and agility — skating seems to take on an escalated importance without that component of physicality. The Pride had it all on display as they pinned New York back in its own zone through the rest of the period. Boston would not get its reward until about a minute into the second period, when Amanda Pelkey converted another Pride power play to make it 3-2.

With the way Boston played after pulling within a goal of New York, it seemed inevitable that the Pride would tie it.

It never happened.

Boston’s potential tying goal with 4:47 left in the second period was overruled after Jordan Smelker was judged to have kicked the puck into the net. From that point on until the end of the game, regardless of whether play was 5v5 or they were on the power play, Boston outskated and outhustled New York to handcuff the Riveters in their own zone. The wall that was Fujimoto preserved the Riveters’ lead, though, through reflex saves, great positioning, and exceptional agility. Riveters Row behind me went through an unbearable number of emotional roller coasters between the great looks on net that Boston had and the variety of saves Fujimoto achieved to deny the Pride.

With 1:23 and one last “Let’s Go Pride!” led by youth hockey players in attendance, the Pride pulled the goalie for an attacking zone faceoff. As Riveters coach Chad Wiseman shouted to his team the remaining time on the clock, the flurry of pucks still couldn’t get past Fujimoto.

Just last week, the Riveters defeated the Pride 3-2 for New York’s first ever NWHL win on the back of Fujimoto’s 42 saves. On Sunday, Fujimoto stopped 41 shots — New York took only 14 shots — to claim another 3-2 win over Boston.


The game was about so much more than the result, though.

The crowd contained the expected group of men and women wearing jerseys; the pleasant surprise was seeing the majority of men in the jerseys sporting NWHL team sweaters. The crowd also included seven girls youth hockey teams, all of them wearing their jerseys to the game. Five of the seven teams I counted got to step on the rink and high five each player on the Pride during the team introductions. The daughter of Pride coach Bobby Jay, herself a youth hockey player, had the honor of performing the ceremonial puck drop with Knight and Johnston. These girls are learning that the boys aren’t the only ones who have the opportunity to grow up and become a pro.

Also in the stands were boys in Bruins shirts and other hockey apparel in tow with their parents and sisters. These boys are learning that talent and skill transcends gender. They’ll be well-equipped sports fans when they reach adulthood.

The commissioner of the NWHL, Dani Rylan, was also present for the historic game. The former college hockey player-turned-coffee shop owner first conceived the idea after the women’s hockey Gold Medal match in the 2014 Olympics, which makes the birth of the league in 2015 all the more remarkable. As Rylan told Shape in an October interview:

“Watching that caliber of hockey and realizing that there wasn’t an opportunity like this for my friends, it seemed like a no-brainer,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it didn’t exist already.”

Although she is the commissioner and General Manager of the Riveters — surprises like this are why you buy and read a gameday program — Rylan watched the game like a candidate on the campaign trail: she eschewed the press box and roamed the stands while watching the game, chatting up anyone who recognized her and Riveters fans who made the trip up I-95. Before the match, I got to say “Hey, Commissioner” as she entered the arena; she also asked Riveter Row to pose for a picture and told an elderly man wearing a red Riveters cap that she liked his hat.

After the match, the tight-knit sense of community in the world of pro women’s hockey became apparent. Pride fans lined up around the concourse for a post-match autograph session; the tables were about level with the center dot, but the line in the concourse curved past one of the goal lines. Riveters fans spoke to each other and then to the coaches and players who made their way up to the concourse for some postgame mingling. The folks in Riveters Row behind me had their trip made when they snagged a good five minutes with their hero, Ashley Johnston.

Meanwhile, I approached Commissioner/GM Rylan (finally got all of her titles right the second time around after we formally introduced ourselves to each other) to congratulate her on the great product we just watched. Talent and tension make for exciting games and New York surviving the Boston barrage on Sunday checked off both boxes. The only thing that could make the product better is more people gradually catching on and embracing the NWHL as it grows into a sustainable league that hopefully spans the rest of the country and parts of Canada.

Rasika: Land of Lamb and Love


Over the last three years I’ve traveled around the country to get away from Connecticut, I’ve somehow developed a talent of becoming a beloved third wheel/stranger accompanying couples on their dates. The cities of Los Angeles and New York can now add D.C. to this unusual club.

I took my Monday dinner at Washington’s Rasika Restaurant in Penn Quarter, a recommendation from one of my favorite coworkers. Because I was dining alone, I zipped straight to the bar for a seat, but found myself in an awkward situation: the people hanging out at the bar spaced themselves out in such a way that I would be forced to sit next to someone else. The horror!

I had the choice of sitting next to some dude on a date or next to an attractive woman alone in the bar. An easy choice like this previously only existed in scripted television.

(I took the seat next to the woman at the end, in case you needed it spelled out for you.)

The bartender about my age with the Billy Donovan haircut, Jeremy, greeted me and provided the menu and water. I told Jeremy that this was my first time here, so he went section-by-section through the menu and gave me his recommendation for each section: Fish Chutneywala, Tandoori Lamb Chops, Black Cod, East India Lamb, Spicy Reshmi Kebab, Eggplant Chili Garlic.

“He’s good…” was all I thought as I watched and listened to Jeremy, whose delivery had a Maitre d’ feel to it, describe each item and why he liked it.

My peripheral vision caught that my neighbor to my right had also been watching and listening intently to Jeremy deliver his lecture, so there was my icebreaker.

“This is tough,” I said in what could be considered a real life subtweet. She understood.

“Yeah, everything is so good here,” she replied. “The bartender who just spoke to you is my boyfriend, so I’ve been able to try a little of everything.”

Of course. I mean, there was no realistic shot because I’m cast away in Connecticut while she’s in DC — long-distance only works if you two have already built something before temporarily moving away from each other  — but the nonchalant revelation made for a better night anyway.

After I ordered the Tandoori Lamb Chops cooked medium rare, My Neighbor and I did the customary background queries: Where do you live? Where are you from? What university did you go to? What do you do?  (Uncharacteristically, the thought to ask her for her name hit me after she left, so I’ll continue to refer to her as My Neighbor)

My Neighbor grew up in Baltimore, attended Towson University, and became an Occupational Therapist through my favorite type of combined bachelor’s/master’s program, the 4+1. Even though she’s a fresh graduate, she’s already had her share of odd patient stories.

“There’s this young patient — young, in his 20s, because most of my patients are in their 50’s and older — who asked to take a selfie with me before beginning his therapy session,” she said. “I had to tell him, ‘No, you may not. Put that away!’”

Apparently they’ve been a couple for a long time because at one point, they were living together until her job took her to Virginia suburbs of Washington. She drops by Rasika often for dinner, watching Jeremy practice his craft and reading Occupational Therapy research papers on her phone while eating. This set-up seemed like the perfect 21st century date, as work and life continue to blend in with one another throughout society: although he couldn’t eat and drink with her, he could personally tend to her and talk to her in spurts whenever things slowed down at the bar or while he made a drink in front of her. My presence altered that dynamic a little, but they genuinely seemed to welcome my company.

After Jeremy taught a new employee how to pour a beer that bubbles over quickly, My Neighbor told Jeremy I lived in Connecticut. He noted that his favorite town in the state was Milford.

“No way! Mine too,” I said.

The coincidence was crazy. Who, outside of Milford’s citizens, would love that town besides me? Of course it’d be Jeremy. He had discovered the town through an old friend of his who lived there.

“It’s a beautiful part of the country,” Jeremy explained. “I loved the lake and the old-town feel to it.”

(I didn’t have the heart to tell him my reasons for loving Milford: home to the Dan Patrick Show, the closest Chipotle to me in Connecticut, and my favorite cupcake and ice cream shops in the state.)

Afterward, a man seated to my left (he took a seat previously hogged by the standing drinkers) received his dish of black cod: two fillets of cod glazed with a creamy sauce and served with what-looked-like rice underneath. He took a few bites of one piece of cod and some bites of rice, then put the plate aside.

“Did you like the cod?” asked Jeremy.

“Yep.” the man answered. “Could I see the menu again?”

Jeremy handed a menu to him. “Was there anything wrong with the cod?” Jeremy asked.

“It was good. I just want to try something else,” the man said.

My Neighbor and I turned toward each other.

“Did he just throw away a $28 plate after a few bites?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I cringed inside while watching that.”

“If I could, I would have taken the fish he didn’t touch,” she said.

I nodded in agreement. “I would have [taken that and] found a microwave in my hotel if I had to,” I said.

My Tandoori Lamb Chop arrived as I internally gave thanks that the man to my left didn’t escalate things by being outright rude. I struggled to find a word besides “great!” to describe just how good the lamb chops were. Although the medium rare cooking of the lamb chops meant that I need to apply a little more force to cut them, the meat wasn’t tough to chew and didn’t taste dry at all. The slow cooking was worth the wait; Jeremy was spot on with the recommendation.


Around the same time I finished, my neighbor finished her dinner and sample of aromatic white wine that came from a $2000 bottle. (I rarely drink, but I had a swig of it and I could understand why someone would pay that much for a bottle. I wish I got the name of it.) As the couple sorted out the payment details and she readied herself to take off for the night, Jeremy put out a bag that contained her lunch for the next day and said four words that scream “KEEPER!”

“I’ll walk you out,” Jeremy said to his standing girlfriend.

As he whisked himself to the other side of the bar, My Neighbor and I exchanged farewells. (Yes, I told her “He’s good at what he does.”) Jeremy took that meaningful minute to walk her out the door. It was a simple act that could have been easily overlooked because of the hustle and bustle of work; this relationship is in great shape.

After I paid the bill, Jeremy asked for my name, then reached over to shake my hand. For my first visit there, he and his girlfriend made an extra effort to treat me like a regular, which was a nice bonus to the superb food in the restaurant.

My final verdict on Rasika: great food backed up by great people. Next time I return to the capital, I’ll make a stop at Rasika to try another one of Jeremy’s recommendations. I hope that visit coincides when both of my new friends are also there.

The Holocaust Museum

We should all spend some time at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington.

Earlier this week, I spent a couple hours there. It’s sad that this museum exists because of the systematic and tragic murder inflicted upon the Jews during World War II, but the Permanent Exhibition at the Holocaust Museum poignantly humanizes the victims of the 1930s and 1940s. Looking at the individual names and faces of souls taken away from their loved ones and communities stun the heart just as hard as the numbers lost — Jews, Roma, the gay and lesbian population, the mentally and/or physically handicapped, the Slavs, and so many more who lost their lives just for being “inferior.”

There were the Polish teacher and Polish priest photographed before they were publicly executed, which was done to stem the Polish intelligentsia from challenging Nazi rule. There were pictures of nude bodies lying in a concentration camp, treated like they were roadkill by the perpetrators. There were the black and white images of Jewish families wearing the Star of David on their clothing and enclosed in the glass case below, a yellow patch in the shape of a star with a black outline and the word “Jew” written in the center. There was also artwork on display drawn by Jewish children confined in the ghettos, filled with color and innocent images of family, animals, and nature as the adults tried to shield them from the horrors within and outside of the walls.

The Permanent Exhibition restored the humanity that gets lost in the statistics that show how many died, the humanity that is now fading away because of time. It’s been 70 years since V-E Day and V-J Day; collections like the Permanent Exhibition and the oral and written histories passed down from generation to generation will be our only link to the Holocaust. Although man has failed to prevent genocides in Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Darfur (and in other places where the argument is semantic), the stories told in the Permanent Exhibition should be a reminder that groups of people are composed of individuals.

It’s our failure to see individuals — individuals with concerns for keeping a roof above and food on the table for the family, or where Mom and Dad are and when nap time occurs — that’s helped perpetuate the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe. The Holocaust Museum expounds on that with an exhibit of photos of the death that has flooded Syria. Bodies are stripped bare, except for the bruises and markings that signify violence and torture; faces are shown battered.

This is what the refugees fled home from. If they can’t return home, the least we can do is to help them build a new one without the ostracizing. Don’t let the big, shiny, round numbers everyone is tossing divert from the fact that each individual is invaluable to someone else.

In the Auschwitz portion of the Permanent Exhibition, there’s a haunting model that shows how the concentration camps industrialized the process of sending people to their deaths in the gas chambers. Everything, all the individuals and the buildings, is made of a ghost white plastic. The first stage is outside: where the individuals are unloaded from the train cars like chattel. You can discern each unique individual standing outside in line, waiting to enter the chamber.

The second stage is in the chamber where everyone is forcibly undressed. You can still pick out multiple individuals, but enclosed space starts to blend some of the figures in with each other.

The third stage is the actual gas chamber, where so many figures are crammed into the enclosed space that it’s difficult to see each figure as an individual. The individuals in the front of the display who are discernible have expressions of horror on their faces and flailing arms; the rest behind them are so tightly packed that it’s like they were no longer human as they suffered and died.

The final stage is the crematorium, just a blank, enclosed building.

Don’t let the numbers make you forget that these individuals are regular human beings — a reflection of you — whether they died over 70 years ago or are struggling to survive today just outside of the European Union.

An Hour Saved

For some reason, work booked me on the Acela Express for a recent business trip down to Washington, D.C. This meant that my comfy travel attire of a Florida Gators hoodie, jeans, and Saucony sneakers made me look out of place among all the business suits I shared my train car with.

The Business Class cars on an Acela are the equivalent to Coach Class everywhere else. I grabbed the first open seat I could find, a window seat in a four-seat configuration. Two rows of two seats each faced each other and shared one table that looked like a tight fit for four laptops; the window seat facing the opposite direction of travel was mine. The other three men who eventually joined me at the table restored some of the value my casual wardrobe knocked out of those seats. One of the guys seated across from me, a Fort Lauderdale native now in Connecticut, wore his “dressed down” look — slacks and a checkered and collared purple shirt. The other two men were French financial wonks in navy suits draped over their white dress shirts, heading down from New York to Washington for some business with the FDIC. (The Frenchman seated across from me had wide eyes that made him resemble Mesut Ozil. I wanted to ask him how many times he’s been told that he looks like Ozil, but that desire was outweighed by the fear of the two suits badmouthing me in French.) All of them were jotting down important work things in notebooks or on their phones or on their laptops, staying plugged in like the other spruced up folks in the car through the entire journey. The majority of other people in the car — in polos, suits, and dresses — also chugged away at emails, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets on Excel.

Meanwhile, I played Words with Friends and read a New Yorker article on Iceland’s collection of civilian search-and-rescue teams.

The presence of the suits and the sleek exteriors don’t stop the Acela from being an underachieving attempt at a high-speed rail between Boston and Washington. The “time is money” perspective  seems to convince folks to overlook the outdated infrastructure preventing the Acela from reaching its full potential. “Time is money,” so people taking the Acela spend at least $100 more than the price for a plain seat on an Amtrak Northeast Regional to reach their destination — drum roll, please — about 60 minutes faster on an Acela than on a Northeast Regional.

Unfortunately for me, my Acela train was running behind 11 minutes when it arrived at my station.

On the bright side, the Business Class on the Acela is equipped with the same leather seats that are provided to the occupants of any commuter rail-line between major English cities, such as the London-to-Birmingham route. I don’t know what splendor lies within the First Class car of the Acela, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the only difference between First Class and Business Class on the Acela is that First Class has a nifty closet to store their suits in, thereby freeing up more space for the overhead compartment for luggage, the expressed purpose for what overhead compartments are to be used for.

One day we’ll get these Amtrak rails and trains to the level of European and Japanese commuter trains. One day. Until then, I’m happy to be a man of the people in my hoodie and jeans on a Northeast Regional train, where I finished up this post. Just watch, though: the day America’s rail system enters the 21st century, Europe and/or Japan would have already found a way to install hover vehicles for mass public transportation.

The Wait is Over


It took 10 years, but my favorite band, Idlewild, finally returned to the United States last week for a four-performance tour that stopped in Chicago, Boston, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. To make up for all that lost time, I did what any reasonable person would do: I flew to Chicago to catch Idlewild’s first US show in ten years, then returned to New York City to attend what’s hopefully not Idlewild’s last US show for the next ten years.

Even when I woke up on the day of the Chicago concert, the reality that I’d be seeing Idlewild perform still felt farfetched. Idlewild — now composed of founding members Roddy Woomble (vocals), Rod Jones (lead guitar), and Colin Newton (drums) with new members Andrew Mitchell (Bass) and Luciano Rossi (keys), and touring member Hannah Fisher (fiddle) — canceled their 2010 US tour when Jones broke his collarbone days before they were to fly across the pond. The sudden cancellation, coupled with an “indefinite” hiatus that spanned 2010 to 2015, made the Scottish band my holy grail of concerts.

On October 19, 2015, I found that holy grail at Bottom Lounge, a restaurant and concert hall in Chicago’s Near West Side. Before entering the concert hall, I spotted the six members of Idlewild sharing a few drinks and laughs at the bar, like they were also your typical audience members waiting for the doors to open. Seeing them in the flesh in such an open location before the show was both surreal and the metaphorical slap in the face. Everything felt real now — this concert was actually going to happen.


After an enjoyable 40-minute opening act by The Jaguar Club, the members of Idlewild took the Bottom Lounge stage one-by-one shortly after 9 pm. A grin stitched itself on my face when Jones began the ramp-up of distortion in the opening riff of “Collect Yourself,” the lead song for both the band’s latest album, Everything Ever Written, and the setlist.

For 1.5 hours each in Bottom Lounge and in New York’s Gramercy Theatre, I always had at some sort of grin on my face as I listened to the 21-song setlists that Idlewild performed in both venues. Yes, I would nod my head to the music, but I refused to sing along — all of my energy needed to be focused on ensuring my ears snared every lyric sung by Woomble and every note played by the band, while my eyes captured the band playing their instruments and Woomble nodding along to the music. Singing out loud would only distract me from absorbing everything the band had to offer.

A lot, they offered. Although the tour was for Everything Ever Written, Idlewild plucked songs from every one of the albums from its 20 year history for the shows; the concerts promoted the present and reflected on the past. Jones, Newton, Mitchell injected more fervor into the instrumentals of Idlewild’s top rock songs (e.g., “Collect Yourself,” “Little Discourage,” “You Held The World In Your Arms,” and “Love Steals Us From Loneliness”); the heightened sound energized everyone in attendance without overwhelming the ears or Woomble’s voice. The new harmonic backing vocals provided by the band plus the softer sounds of Fisher’s fiddle and Rossi’s keyboard accentuated the contemplative nature of Idlewild’s melodic tracks (e.g., “El Capitan,” “American English,” and “Make Another World”). Idlewild also breathed new life into the edgier punk songs of the band’s early days in the 1990s (e.g., “When I Argue I See Shapes” and “Captain”) by slowing down the music a notch and then singing, as opposed to shouting, the lyrics. The band’s new interpretations of its earliest work played right into Woomble’s refined vocals and helped me better appreciate the thrashing days of Idlewild.


When I watched Idlewild successfully navigate through the entire spectrum of its catalog in both concerts, I saw a band that is comfortable and content with its niche in the music industry. It became a common sight over both shows to see each member of Idlewild — especially Newton at the drums — crack smiles not just upon the completion of a song, but during the actual performance of the tune as well. Between the smiles in the crowd and the smiles on the stage, these may have been the happiest concerts I’ve attended.

This iteration of Idlewild also embraced its strength in numbers. The members of the band, save for Newton, provided backing vocals for every song, while Mitchell and Fisher took turns exchanging their instruments for an extra guitar for the songs that required it. But perhaps Woomble best exemplified an embrace of the collective by always stepping away from the stage when the vocal portions of a song were finished, ceding the spotlight to the other five musicians while they jammed away at their instruments. While off-stage, Woomble nodded his head and tapped his feet to the music like a happy audience member.


After finishing both shows, the six members of Idlewild took to their merch table to sell t-shirts, greet grateful fans thanking them for returning to the States after a decade, and to take pictures with the fans after the aforementioned two items were accomplished. This is the same band that garnered commercial and critical success with 2000’s 100 Broken Windows and 2002’s The Remote Part — the latter album earning them a tour as Pearl Jam’s opening act — so it was a little stupefying for me to shake hands with Woomble and Jones and buy a t-shirt from Woomble. That feeling of being star-struck by Woomble and Jones — ahh, reliving those teenage days of awkwardness when I first discovered the band in 2002 — and having to think a little harder about what I wanted to say to them was definitely worth the long wait.

Whether or not I see Idlewild perform again in the States, the two performances were worth the decade wait. If I do manage to see them perform again in the future, whether it’s in one year, or 10 years, or even longer, I know that the silly grin I had at Bottom Lounge and Gramercy Theatre will find its way back to me in that concert.


Chicago Setlist

New York Setlist

A Quick Jaunt

I’m driving back to my place through the Connecticut portion of I-95 in the middle of the night. When traveling through I-95 in Connecticut at night, most of the highway is covered in darkness; the state hasn’t installed any road reflectors on the highway and street lamps are in limited use. Many drivers in the state exacerbate the visibility problem by driving with their brights on, blinding others on the road in their attempt to overcompensate for the lack of adequate lighting.

Thankfully, other drivers weren’t an issue here. At this portion of I-95, I’ve hit a short patch where street lamps provide some illumination. The lighting is unusual, though: it’s of the same red-orange shade that stove top burners turn when the heating setting is turned to the highest possible. Tennis’s “I’m Calling” is playing in my car and I’m traveling on the middle lane, five miles per hour over the speed limit.

As my car enters this lit section of I-95, I see a figure maybe 100 feet away in front of my vehicle. My brain processes this as a giant bird and I’m wondering why the heck is this giant bird swooping down on the road and when will it take off and fly as my car edges closer to it.

At about the 50 foot mark, I see these wide black eyes. A leaf-shaped ear. A long and slender body trailed behind those eyes and ear. The red-orange lighting made the creature seem devilish.

“Oh my God!” I blurted out when I finally realized that the creature my brain thought was an abnormally giant bird was actually a deer crossing the highway.

I slammed on the brakes and because there were no other cars nearby on the highway — thank God — swung a hard left on the steering wheel so that the car would be traveling forward diagonally, all in the slender hopes of avoiding a collision with a deer that was prancing perpendicular to me.

The screeching of the tires overcame the volume of the Tennis song playing in my car. No *thud* sound followed the squeal of friction.

I looked up at my rear view mirror and saw the deer in the distance, calmly continuing its walk toward the shrubbery adjacent to the shoulder of the highway. Somehow, my reflexes reacted quick enough to just barely change the trajectory of my car to aim behind the deer before I corrected the car and returned to my original lane.

While the deer seemed unfazed at the ordeal, the close call jarred me. My speed dropped to 10 miles per hour below the speed limit until I hit my exit. The paranoia set in that something else would magically apparate on the highway and catch me by surprise. Prayer isn’t something I think about when driving, but I diverted from that mindset in the aftermath and made a quick sign of the cross before uttering 11 words.

“Dear God. Thank you that the deer is still alive. Amen.”

I hope that deer lives a long and happy life with a family and that if it ever needs to cross I-95 again, it gets a better traffic scenario than the one I threw both of us into.

Breaking Curfew with Colbert


Stephen Colbert gave me two friends for life on October’s lone Federal holiday.

My attendance at the October 12 taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert required me to stand in two separate lines for a combined two hours. The waiting session consisted of standing outside of the Ed Sullivan Theater for an hour prior to check-in for tickets. Although the check-in process for tickets wouldn’t begin until 2:30 pm, I arrived at the Ed Sullivan Theater around 1:30 pm to increase my odds of getting a decent seat in the orchestra section of the theater.

Although we live in a time when smart phones can keep us preoccupied with (virtual versions of) family and friends to a disturbing degree, the shared experience of idling in line together for an excessive amount of time makes people comfortable enough to engage in conversations with complete strangers. Luckily for me, the pair standing in front of me was Matt and Kayla, married 20-something Texans taking a weeklong vacation in New York.

Our first interaction was a brief chat estimating where we stood in a line that had a max capacity of 400 people. (I was counted as number 93.) That topic would usually be the marker of a one-and-done conversation, but the incessant honking by impatient drivers on the southbound lanes of Broadway gave us more fodder for gabbing about how much we love the senseless noise. Eventually, the heat accompanying the peak afternoon sunshine convinced Matt to pick up drinks at Starbucks for himself and his wife, and when he realized he didn’t volunteer to pick up anything for me, the friendship was officially born.

After we checked-in a little after 2:30 pm, received a paper with our number in line — it turned out I was number 136 — and got our hands stamped with a cool caricature of Colbert as our ticket into the Ed Sullivan Theater, Matt, Kayla, and I went to Rumours on Eighth Avenue for a quick beer before we were allowed into the theater at 3:30 pm. While at Rumours, we chatted over the craziness of seeing other people work so many hours for a high salary, that they run out of time to enjoy the money; the joys of traveling; the rise of podcasts; and the importance of eating a balanced diet (oh, adulthood).


Our return to the Ed Sullivan Theater at 3:30 pm meant that we now had to stand in line for an hour in the cold foyer of the theater to complete our two hour quest for seats. The wait was worth it, though: Matt and Kayla’s party of two and my party of one merged into a party of three, and the usher sat us right in the center of the seventh row of the 14-row orchestra section — right in the heart of the lower-level seat with a perfect view of the entire stage.

When the 1.5-hour taping finished, we went to Shake Shack for dinner for their first meal at the restaurant. We relived the excitement of being inside the Ed Sullivan Theater, bonded over the caramelized onions on Shake Shack’s Roadside Burger and the shakes, and questioned the rush to buy a home. Despite our different upbringings, the three of us somehow shared many of the interests and priorities in life.

Under normal circumstances, I never would have had any reason to talk to this couple from Texas. Thanks for fixing that up for us, Steve.


The filming of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is like attending any other talk show: a warm-up comedian who indulges in audience participation for laughs, a small stage that appears larger through the lenses of a camera, the house band, and the rapid pace of filming the episode.

Despite the limited working space, Colbert and the CBS crew fit a lot into the two-level stage. Jon Batiste and Stay Human, The Late Show’s house band, get the entire right third of the stage for itself and the multiple instruments each member plays. The center third features the garage door that Colbert runs out of at the start of each show. The desk occupies the left third of the stage, with a wall of books kept under red lighting to the left of the main stage. The Captain America shield and other keepsakes from The Colbert Report are on display on the second-level wall directly above the red library. A long, wooden curio cabinet behind Colbert’s desk houses a bunch of odds and ends; one section has old cameras, while another section at the end of the curio contains a number of mugs for multiple local news outlets.

After the warm-up, Jon Batiste and Stay Human came out for a two song set to warm-up the crowd one last time before Colbert’s arrival on stage. The upbeat, jazz-influenced music — excellent music to dance to — that Jon Batiste and Stay Human played before the show and during the commercial breaks was some of the best live music I’ve listened to. If they were available, I would have purchased an album of the band’s commercial break setlist after the taping ended.

After the last song of the preshow set, Batiste took the guest seat by Colbert’s empty desk and said “How are you doing, Stephen?”

“I’m doing well, Jon,” replied Colbert as he sprinted past his desk and onto the stage to a standing ovation.

Because the stage is elevated against the orchestra seating, it’s hard to tell just how tall he is. The elegance of the black suit and pants, white shirt, and maroon tie made him look sharp on stage, though. After he convinced the crowd that they could now end their rousing applause, Colbert then took three questions from the audience that thankfully didn’t make anyone cringe:

  • What’s your favorite thing about Columbus Day? (“I’ll answer that during the show.”)
  • What was the earliest memory or moment that got you into politics? (His older sister forcing him to watch the TV coverage of Watergate and then explaining the scandal to him.)
  • Will you write a book as host of The Late Show? (If an interesting idea comes up during his time as host, sure.)

After answering the questions, Colbert kindly requested the crowd to “pretend you haven’t seen me yet” when he initially runs out onto center stage when they begin taping the show. With the help of Batiste and Stay Human — and the fact that all of us are mere feet away from the Stephen Colbert — the audience kindly obliged with the requisite noise, despite the lack of an “APPLAUSE” light-up sign on the stage.

(That’s one of the ironies of the refurbished Ed Sullivan Theater. Despite the money spent on the stained glass skylight and portraits featuring Colbert’s likeness in the mezzanine level of the theater, they didn’t budget for the “APPLAUSE” sign. Instead, the audience has to look out for the executive producer twirling his blue, rolled-up script above his head for the “APPLAUSE” prompt.)

Colbert’s monologue from the desk mocked CNN’s build-up for the Las Vegas debate between the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates, which included a podium for Vice President Joe Biden should he decide to run. CNN reporter Jim Acosta took the brunt of the jokes for his “fan fiction” on how Biden would announce his presence in Vegas should the Veep decide to participate in the debate. Colbert then borrowed the creative license CNN granted Acosta and made up a bunch of future political headlines that seemed tailor-made for a live tweet of the episode.

The brief commercial breaks/Batiste and Stay Human jam sessions always began with Colbert convening his producers for any last minute edits to the script and always ended with Colbert giving a unique applause for the band. The applause looked like he was clapping his hand against his cheek to make popping sound with his puckered up mouth, but I can’t say for sure that was it.

After the monologue, Colbert interviewed actress Carey Mulligan — who was incredible in Broadway’s Skylight earlier this year — about the upcoming film Suffragette and musician Elvis Costello about his memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink. Although Colbert’s interviews follow the tried-and-true late night formula, there is an earnestness that the CBS Colbert displays when he’s listening to his guests. It’s all in the body language that isn’t always shown on-the-air: Colbert always leaning slightly toward the guest, the tilted head while listening, and the held eye contact.

Colbert followed up the interviews by airing a segment that was cut from the October 9 episode of the show. (When he introduced the clip, Colbert finally admitted that he had to wear the same suit from that day’s episode for the sake of continuity.) The clip featured Colbert holding an on-the-air meeting with producer Liz Levin because his busy schedule already postponed it multiple times. While the clip aired, the audience got to see Colbert the producer/director in action. He watched the meeting segment intently like a coach breaking down tape; his face sporadically made quizzical expressions while he watched, as if he’s figuring out ways a shot could have been better framed or approached. In the end, Colbert burst out into laughter like a regular audience member through the clip more than not — the coach ultimately giving his approval for a job well done overall.

Finally, the great Darlene Love then performed “Forbidden Nights” with Costello providing backing guitars and then sang “Happy Birthday” for a comedy bit, because Warner Music no longer owned the copyright for the tune. While Love sang “Forbidden Nights,” Colbert chose to watch the performance through the monitors above the orchestra seats instead of facing the musicians directly. I’m guessing Colbert watched through the monitors to supervise the filming of the segment, but regardless of that, he was visibly moved by the performance Love gave for the show.

After Colbert said his goodbyes and thank you to a standing ovation, Batiste and Stay Human led the crowd out to the foyer for a little encore performance, snapping selfies with audience members and letting the rest of us record them while they played.

When you attend the live taping of a show, you end up producing your version of the episode, based on where and when you focus your attention on stage. Whatever decisions you make during the taping, the final jam session with Batiste and the band ensured that everyone got the same sweet ending credits to the episode they just watched.