Where I last left you on my quest to see a live episode of Saturday Night I was sleeping, or trying to sleep, on a sidewalk. On that sidewalk I made a discovery.
Do you know why homeless people are grumpy? It’s because they sleep on the sidewalk, and there’s no such thing as a good night’s sleep on a sidewalk. If there was only one lesson to be learned from my excursion to NYC it would be that. This revelation doesn’t mean I’m going to offer my bed to the next homeless person I see. That would be both unsafe and less than practical; I would have to wash my sheets more often than scheduled. But now, if nothing else, I can empathize as well as sympathize with their situation.
That all being said, I did get some sleep that night, and I must emphasize the brevity of this sleep. This sleep was only had after Will Ferrell drove past in a black SUV. If people in our line could trade one of their digits for his autograph there would be a lot of people counting to nine – or lower depending on their level of celebrity enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, morning came, and after the general physical, mental and emotional erosion that had been chipping away at Liam and I since we left Canada on Thursday night, we were looking worse for wear on the Saturday morning. After even a day on the sidewalk I wasn’t looking too terrific. Supersize the suffering with a night, and well, I’ll let your imagination paint that pretty picture. My passion for personal hygiene was rekindled.
Fortunately there was a light at the end of the dirty paved tunnel. At 7:00 that morning we would get our standby tickets for the show.
At the seventh hour of the sixth day, those who have proudly stayed the course are given numbered standby tickets to that night’s show. BUT, and I must emphasize the largeness of this caveat, you, the recipient of this ticket, must choose whether you would like a ticket to see the live show, which quite obviously is the one you and I struggle to stay awake for most Saturday nights, or you can get a ticket to the dress rehearsal that happens earlier in the evening. There are no guarantees for either, and after talking to some seasoned veterans – experts at waiting in line that is – there was no real strategy to be had. You pick and stick.
Having come this far, Liam and I took the ‘Go big or go home’ philosophy and went for the live show. Our ticket numbers were 25 and 26. We were told – by ‘experts’ – this wasn’t a terrible position to be in, that here was hope. The two hundred people behind us on the other hand, were, for a lack of a better word, fucked.
So pleased with ourselves and now unshackled from our concrete tether we fled to Central Park to sleep more, or sleep at all. We had our tickets, we did not have our Canada Flag chairs. In the thrill of the moment we had left our chairs on the sidewalk we called home. By the time we realized our mistake we were too tired, weak and far away to get our Canada flag upholstered chairs. I assumed a nice homeless couple would use them to masquerade as stranded Canadians. A Canada flag chair is as good as a passport at the border. We were wrong, but not about the chair passport thing.
In Central Park Liam and I did our best to get more shut-eye. Despite being more comfortable than concrete, neither of us got any more sleep. On some days it feels like my body and brain are not working towards the same goal of survival. Sleepless in the park, I decided there really is no where in Manhattan for a man without a bed to get a decent nights sleep. This should not come as a surprise.
After visiting the cultural institutions of New York – FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store – it was time for lunch. And through the miracle of mobile phone technology and roaming charges costing 75 cents a text – which Bell was happy enough to remind me about – I had arranged with my cousin Erin to meet up for a picnic in the park.
All of my relatives live in America. As such I don’t see them very often, but some even more seldom than others. Erin held the title of the most distant relative. It had been around fifteen years since our last meeting. With this in mind there were a few possible problems with our picnic.
1. Erin might not recognize me
2. I might not recognize her
3. Erin might not like me
4. I might make one or both of her kids cry – which happens a lot, especially in South Korea
5. I might make her husband cry – which doesn’t happen often
6. And finally, the biggest problem of all (cause everybody likes me ) what if we just couldn’t find them in all the madness of the city?
We did find them, and we had a swell picnic in the very park we had just tried to sleep in – Central Park was becoming something of a lifeline for the trip.
After parting ways with my long-lost cousin, Liam and I killed the rest of the afternoon walking around Manhattan and waiting to meet up with a friend of mine, Mike.
Mike is a fellow Canadian who is not a cousin of mine, but happened to be in NYC.
There were three reasons for meeting with Mike:
1. I like Mike. He’s a very fun guy.
2. Mike would likely show us a good spot to get food.
3. Mike was staying in an apartment that had a couch in it, possibly two, and even if there was one couch I refer to my earlier statements: ‘Sacrifices, both physical and philosophical, must be made in the pursuit of SNL.’
We were set to meet at some independent coffee-house, but when we arrived the doors were locked for a special event. The event was not our arrival.
Relying on our evolutionary instincts, Liam and I went to the nearest Starbucks to send more 75 cent text messages to Mike and arrange a new meeting place. After a brief back and forth, Mike sent me one last overpriced text: “Look behind you”. As it turns out Mike had also found the coffee-house closed and had also frolicked over to Starbucks. He was sitting behind us the entire time. The fact that both parties flocked to the nearest Starbucks when met with an obstacle makes me a little sad, but we found Mike, and this made me happy.
And it was while with Mike that the fate of our Canada folding chairs was discovered. As we approached the 30 Rockefeller there was no mistaking the two Canada flag chairs still right where we left them. There were a few problems with our discovery.
1. We couldn’t bring chairs into SNL
2. If we picked up the chairs people would know that it was us who left them behind.
I’m not proud of our decision but we left the chairs in their new home, the New York sidewalk.
Finally inside 30 Rockefeller we once more waited in line, but this time Mike was the latest addition to the ‘family’. As the clock counted down to 1130 – the start of the live taping of SNL – it became clear, not many people were going to make it into the show. In fact, only nine people out of the two hundred or so did make it into the show. Liam and I were not one of those nine people. No one part of our group was either.
The show started without us. Our group didn’t have much time to mourn either, every tear wasted precious seconds of the SNL show we had risked everything to see. Two of the members of our posse, Niky and Tim, had a hotel room within sprinting distance of Rockefeller Plaza. And so like any group of adults who had just slept on the streets of NYC waiting for tickets to Saturday Night Live and failed, we ran through the streets to go watch television in what was, essentially, a stranger’s hotel room.
But before we could start the sprint we had a run in with our chairs one last time. Right outside the entrance were our chairs, but this time they were in a garbage can. We asked the custodian cleaning the sidewalk – a thankless job – if we could take a photo of the chairs. He asked us, “Are they your chairs?” To this I responded, “No, we’re Canadian and we just think this ironic.” I was impressed I had the capacity to still be clever.
Kodak moment behind us, the race through the streets and the blur of neon lights and jaywalking was the most fun I have ever had running. It felt like something out of a Zach Braff movie, but nobody got the girl at the end.
And so, in the hotel room of someone who we had just met the day before, we all huddled around the television as if it was the moon landing. It wasn’t the Live show we had come so far for, but something about that hour was even better. Maybe it was because I could get up to pee whenever I wanted.
The show ended but our smiles didn’t for some time, but even with the show over the day wasn’t done. There was still the race back to the Rockefeller Plaza to try to talk to cast members.
We waited and jockeyed for position behind the crowd control iron fences that had been the walls to our sidewalk bedrooms. There I met my soul mate, Will Forte.
Will – we’re on a first name basis – had been a cast member in past years and had come back for a guest appearance. I am a big fan of his work, particularly MacGruber
Being a great guy, and my soon to be new best friend, Will came out eager to meet and greet his fans and satisfy their ravenous desire for autographs and photos. I was just like everyone else, frothing at the mouth.
I asked Will to sign my failure stub – my term for a never used ticket. He obliged. I asked Will if I could take a photo with him. Again, he obliged. Quietly, I asked him for a high-five. Oh, he obliged.
In addition to being hilarious, I discovered Will Forte is freakishly strong and has hands made of granite. After winding up with his entire body, Will performed a tornado manoeuvre that culminated with the skin nearly breaking from the impact on my hand. The sound barrier was broken, and Will went back to signing autographs. I squealed like a girl scout who had just sold the most cookies in her troupe when really her grandmother had bought them all.
In short, Will Forte nearly high-fived me into the hospital. And I say so proudly.
I moaned and groaned about the state of my hand. I then shouted to Will, “Hey man, I’m Canadian, I don’t have any health coverage down here!”
Will came over, and like a true gentlemen, confirmed that my hand was not in fact broken.
Will again went back to signing everything in sight, and someone in the ravenous crowd suggested Will and I patch things up over a cold drink, which would ice down my hand nicely. I tried to sweeten the deal, “I’m a warm hugger Will.” Will laughed… and then shuddered. We haven’t spoken since.
Liam, Mike and I left shortly thereafter. There was only one couch at Mike’s apartment, but it was a large L-shaped couch. No sacrifices of dignity or spooning was required.
After two hours of sound sleeping on a surface other than grass or concrete, the adventure to NYC was over, but the survival drive home was literally on the horizon. I can’t say with any degree of accuracy what the breakdown of my thoughts were for the drive, but I would venture to say 95% of my mental capacity and strength was dedicated to staying awake. Once and only once, I thought about sleeping, and lets just say, thank the pavement gods for the invention of the rumble strip.
Now you’re probably wondering how much, or more accurately, how little sleep I got on the trip. I’m proud to say between Thursday morning and Sunday night, a period of roughly ninety hours, I slept less than seven hours. Some people, actually a lot of people, said going to New York for just a weekend was a waste of time, but if you look at how long I was awake for I was actually in New York and conscious – to some degree – for nearly three and a half days. Good value if you ask me.
When I reflect on the entire saga I can appreciate how some people might chalk the entire SNL fail as a loss. I would like to think I got something better out of the trip, and it wasn’t a good nights sleep or the autographs that I could sell on ebay or two blog posts.