returning to nyc

On March 1, 2015, I left NYC to become a nomad. On September 1, 2016, I’ll be returning to NYC to stop being a nomad.

Over these 18 months as a nomad, I’ve traveled to all 50 states, 14 countries, and 3 continents. And I’ve spent 114 nights in the city that never sleeps (often times very much sleeping).

Returning to my former home of seven years was never a foregone conclusion, I anticipated that the allure of warmer weather would draw me to the west coast. But then fate stepped in. And by fate, I mean chance and choice.

During a recent trip back to the city, I visited Brady, Ian, and Matt, three fellow OSU / 8th Floor alumni, and friends who have hosted me countful times (28 to be exact) while nomadding. They just moved into a four bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with another friend from comedy, who stayed a whole month before promptly getting a writing job in LA.

So, they were in need of a roommate. I was in need of a room. Fate? No, but it sure was convenient.

And that’s basically the reason. I mean, yes, I had already done my research and had narrowed my eventual destination to NYC, SF, or LA, and yes, NYC is a great choice for professional, comedic, and personal reasons, and no, it has nothing to do with the fact that Chick Fil A is now in the city.

It really comes down to the fact that moving back to NYC means: I don’t have to find an apartment, I don’t have to research a neighborhood, and I don’t have to figure out roommates. Plus I get to live with three hilarious dudes who root for the Buckeyes (both the OSU athletic team and the delicious chocolate / peanut butter treats).

I look forward to eating $1 pizza and $15 milkshakes, seeing beautiful skylines and ugly subway stations,  interacting with passionate people and aggressive jerks, and using efficient grid layouts and streets that smell like trash in the summer.

All that’s left to do is load up my New York playlist. (And complete the lease paperwork, rent a car, drive to Ohio, remove my stuff from storage, load the car, drive back to New York, unload the car, go to Ikea, buy Lincoln Log-esque furniture, return to the apartment, put it all together, return the car, and take the subway home).

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A 5-minute set I did at The Stand in NYC.

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david and me

31 March 2015. New York, NY

“Who was the best teacher you’ve ever had?”

The question was posed to me as part of an interview. I was sitting in the The Flatiron School’s headquarters in New York. They were about to embark on a massive initiative to teach high school students how to code in 6 cities around the US during the summer; I was going to see how I could help.

I regularly lead for The Flatiron School’s adult programs. I help the students in their immersive programs learn how to communicate the skills they are learning so they can network, interview, and talk with colleagues more effectively.

And I’m a big believer in teaching kids to program. Even if they never become a developer, learning to program is learning a strategic way to thinking. It’s like improv, I think everyone should do it regardless of vocation or occupation.

Due to my passion for programming and my new nomadic life style, we were seeing how I might be involved. Unfortunately based on my schedule I wasn’t able to do much, but it still left me with this interesting question, “Who was the best teacher I’ve ever had?”

I’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible teachers in my life. Mrs. Kinney, my 5th and 6th grade teacher in middle school taught me it wasn’t enough to just be smart, you had to work hard as well. Mrs. Sherman, my 7 grade English teacher taught me to have high expectations for myself. Mr. Ferris, my 12th grade Theory of Knowledge teacher taught me to be inquisitive about the world.

But the best teacher I’ve ever had was my brother, David.

My mom likes to say the reason I did so well academically was that David, 2 years older than me, would come home and teach me everything that he learned in school.

And it was true, David always liked to share new things with me, though they weren’t always things he learned in school. It seemed that if David ran out of things to teach, he would just start making things up.

I’d then go spouting it off as fact and would learn that it was just fiction. As it turns out, there is no such thing as a “take off” bird. Birds typically don’t need to run on the ground for long distances in order to get enough speed to fly, nor do they come in and hit the group running when landing, like an animalistic airplane.

But whether what he taught was fact or fiction, he was very good at it.

Given my brother’s passion and skill for teaching, it’s no surprise that he’s now a professor at Texas A&M, where he consistently ranks as one of the top professors in the Communication department.

Here’s to hoping he’s just sticking to the facts with his students though.

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hit the road drew

08 March 2015

The last few people were leaving the upstairs bar at The Three Monkeys in NYC. My “was-maybe-going-to-be-a-surprise-but-was-easier-to-just-tell-me” Going Away Party had wrapped up and my friends had headed home.

Mike, an incredibly talented improviser, funny stand-up comedian, and all around great guy had organized the event as a celebration of me leaving (which I’ll still take as a good thing). In all of my rushing around I hadn’t really had time to organize anything, so it was nice to have an official gathering to honor my nomadic choice.

A number of CSz players showed, along with a few students I had taught in our program and some of my non-improv friends as well. Jill and Lynn Marie, co-owners of CSz NYC who had become great friends and mentors of mine since I had joined the group in 2008 also made it out despite both having 2 vivacious children at their homes.

It was low-key and perfect. A few people brought me cards and/or gifts, a completely unexpected surprise. Most were small in nature as they knew I couldn’t really carry much with me, all except the greatest gift I received, the brainchild of Mike:

hit the road drew

When I had announced my decision to leave NYC, I had sent a message to the CSz NYC players. In what I can only consider the greatest tribute possible, players had responded to my pun-riddled emails with Drew-based puns of their own. A truly touching response.

Mike had taken these responses and printed them on a large board, along with the ComedySportz logo I had helped usher in via the Branding Committee, and the signatures of the people who were in attendance that evening.

It was an incredible gift despite the fact that I couldn’t physically take it with me (Mike is still holding on to it for me), but it will be one of the first things I put up when I decide to finally settle into a home again, wherever that may be.

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looking out the window

I stood looking at my nearly empty apartment. The date was 01 March 2015.

The only thing remaining in the place I called home for four years were the last few things I’d be taking with me to Ohio and a bit of garbage. Outside, the snow was starting to fall. At first a light flurry and then harder, like an over-eager waiter grinding far too much salt on a city of french fries.

(Where you go that is fancy enough to have grounded sea salt that also serves french fries I do not know, but that’s what it was like.)

The snow would continue to fall, racking up inches of accumulation, making my planned drive to Cincinnati that day a risky proposition. I’d have to start my journey the next day.

Take 2

I stood looking at my nearly empty apartment. The date was 02 March 2015.

The only thing remaining in the place I called home for four years was a bit of garbage my super had agreed to put out for me on trash day. The last few things I was taking to Ohio were already in the rental van. Outside, there was no snow falling.

As I looked out on the dusty, wooden floor that I walked on for the past few years, Salsa music played from the restaurant underneath me as the workers prepared the grills for the day. That music, starting every morning at 8am while I, a definite non-morning person tried to sleep, was one of the prompts for wanting to leave the apartment.

An ambulance with sirens on full blast screamed by outside. The traffic was another noise contributor that had started to bother me in my apparent “get off my lawn” old age.

I started thinking about my upcoming adventure as a nomad. My first trip wasn’t all that exciting–back to Ohio to make some final preparations for my new nomadic lifestyle, then back here to NYC for a day or two before flying to Switzerland for my first “real travel.”

The Reality of the Situation

It started to sink in. As of that day, I was homeless.

Yes it was all a bit dramatic. I still had the most important stuff I wanted to keep, I had friends and family who were willing to let me crash with them, and I wasn’t unemployed. Though I am self-employed and sometimes I think the only difference between unemployment and self-employment is the illusion that us entrepreneurs are doing it on purpose.

But I no longer had a place that was “mine” (or even rented at astronomical prices so I could pretend it was “mine” so long as my check cleared each month).

And yet, I didn’t feel nervous. I felt confident about the decision. I had a little anxiety about what was to come, but the good thing about being a speaker / comedian is that any experience can become a story.

If it’s a phenomenal experience full of adventures and excitement, it’s a great story I can tell that hopefully people can learn from (myself included).

If it’s an awful experience full of calamities and dread, it’s a funny story I can tell that hopefully people can learn from (myself included).

One Last Look

I stood looking at my nearly empty apartment one last time.

I saw the place where I’ve lived for the last four years, the place that witnessed me leave my job at P&G and start Humor That Works full time.

I thought about the great times I had in the apartment. It had hosted a number of events, including my annual I’m Still a Kid Party that would celebrate my birthday, numerous ComedySportz NYC Townhalls, and more than a few viewing parties (even though we had no cable and relied on an Over-the-Air antenna and *ahem* things we “found” online).

I imagined myself in the final seconds of a movie, where the main character is looking at their place one last time and then dramatically turns off the lights and the credits roll (only to come back in a sequel later on).

I reached out to turn off the lights and … the lights behind me went on so I was doubly lit instead of in the dark. I never could remember which light switch turned on which lights.

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vegetarian for a week

I made a bet back on New Year’s Day that the Bengals would beat the Ravens. They did not, and, as a result, I had to be a vegetarian for a week.

The bet didn’t take effect immediately, so I had time to prepare. I picked last week as the time to do it, strategically starting Sunday early evening on January 29th so I could start eating meat again on the evening of February 5th–just in time for the Super Bowl.

Incidentally, my last meal before starting vegetarian was Skyline Chili Dip. My first meal back–Skyline Chili Dip as well. I could go on for days about how delicious that is, but let’s get to the vegetarian week.

Here’s what I learned:

  • You don’t have to eat vegetables to be a vegetarian. I could have survived all week on PB&J, Ring Dings and ice cream. I didn’t, but I could have.
  • While it’s not that hard to cut out meat for only a week, it’s not something I want to do. I love chicken too much.
  • Being a vegetarian is more expensive (especially meal-time). It’s either expensive with regard to time (cooking / preparing food) or money (veggie burgers are more expensive than regular burgers).
  • Being a vegetarian can be inconvenient. If you choose to cook the food, you have to have the time and energy to cook it, eat it and clean it (‘it’ being the dishes in the last case). If you’re on the run, it’s harder to find hearty vegetarian meals at fast food places and bodegas.
  • Vegetarian dishes that try to pretend to be meat are upsetting. My preference for vegetarian meals are those that have a unique flavor or style of their own. Trying to cook tofu or seitan like chicken or beef just makes you angry because you’re eating tofu or seitan and not chicken or beef.
  • I tried to use the week as an excuse to try new foods. Here’s what stuck out from the week: despite my previous bullet point, vegetarian chicken fingers are good; pierogies are awesome; steamed broccoli isn’t as bad as I remembered; seitan is meh; peanut butter is delicious on everything.

Here’s what I ate:

  • Monday 1/30: OJ and Frosted Flakes; Celery with peanut butter; PB&J with potato chips; Carrots; Baked potato with butter and cheese; Black raspberry chip ice cream.
  • Tuesday 1/31: Banana and Frosted Flakes; Carrots; PB&J with potato chips; Vanilla cupcake; Granola bar; Chocolate milk; Pita and hummus, seitan with mashed potatoes spinach and green beans; 4 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures.
  • Wednesday 2/1: OJ and Toasted bagel with butter / cinnamon sugar; Grapes and protein bar; Chocolate ice cream and cookie/pudding dessert; Cheese pizza rolls; Banana; Peanuts, veggie burger, cheese fries, Doritos and 2 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures.
  • Thursday 2/2: Banana and Frosted Flakes; Protein bar; Carrots, PB&J with potato chips; 3 slices of cheese pizza; 6 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures; OJ.
  • Friday 2/3: Pastry; Carrots, PB&J with potato chips; Granola bar; 3 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures; Celery with peanut butter; Salad, pierogies, mac n cheese and chocolate custard.
  • Saturday 2/4: OJ and bagel with butter and cinnamon; Vegetarian chicken fingers with green beans, 2 Reese’s PB Cups Miniatures; Banana; PB&J with Doritos and Chocolate milkshake; Slice of pizza; 2 S’mores cupcakes; Slice of pizza.
  • Sunday 2/5: OJ and Eggo waffles; Celery with peanut butter; Vegetarian chicken fingers; Carrots/cucumber slices… FINISH!

Final Thoughts

Overall the week wasn’t that difficult. I won’t be going vegetarian anytime soon (ever probably), but it was a good challenge and I learned a thing or two. I’ll probably try veggie burgers more often and every now and then choose a vegetarian option over a meat one.

I do think I’ll have to try eating vegan for a week (in the distant future). Not for any health reasons, I just apparently like to torture myself.

For a good vegetarian only restaurant, check out Candle Cafe (1307 3rd Ave, at 75th street).

For a good vegetarian friendly restaurant, check out Veselka (9 E 1st St, between Bowery and 2nd Ave). Go for the pierogies, stay for the chocolate custard.

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nyc experiences

One of my goals for 2011 was to have at least 50 new experiences here in NYC. They could be restaurants, bars, performances or an activity.

I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, so I didn’t just stop at 50, but made it all the way to 101. The full list of experiences, complete with ratings and one-line reviews, can be found here.

  1. Park Here. Indoor Park. Really cool idea, sadly only temporary.
  2. Pio Pio. Peruvian Restaurant. Incredible Chicken.
  3. Night Court. Judicial System. Very unique, interesting reflection on society.
  4. Book of Mormon. Broadway Musical. Incredible show, hilarious, even standing room only seats are great (and cheap).
  5. Sleep No More. Interactive Theater. Incredible experience and very unique. I want to go back.
  6. Down & Derby Disco. Roller Skating. Awesomely good time. $5 entry, $5 skates. Only happens once every few months in the basement of a hotel.
  7. HanGawi. Vegetarian Restaurant. Very cool ambiance, delicious korean vegetarian, more expensive.
  8. TV on the Radio. Concert. The venue (Williamsburg Park) was pretty cool and the band solid, but pretty expensive.
  9. Meatball Shop. Meatball Restaurant. Quite delicious, a new favorite. Tried all of the sliders.
  10. Cafe Lalo. Restaurant / Desserts. Amazing dessert place, a little expensive but quiet delicious.

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night court nyc

I finally got a chance to do one of the weirder items on my list when I went to Night Court with some friends last night. As I understand it, people who are arrested must be arraigned within 24 hours, and given the shear volume of people in NYC, it means the courts are open from 9am to 1am, seven days a week.

After heading to a friends going-away party Saturday night, we decided to check out Night Court to see our judicial system is process (and find out if it was anything like Night Court, the TV show). We made our way to 100 Centre St around 12:30am (we didn’t know it closed at 1am), unsure of what to expect.

After going through the security process, we made our way around the corner and into room 130, where they arraign the felonies. We quickly learned there is no talking allowed in the courtroom (even though the lawyers and police officers seemed to have their own side conversations) as we were shushed almost as soon as we entered.

There were a wide variety of cases presented, ranging from drug possession to domestic abuse. At first I was surprised by what the defendants chose to wear to court, but realized that’s because that’s what they were arrested in.  I was also surprised to find that you get a significant discount on your bail if you post it using cash (something to keep in mind I suppose?).

At 1:10am (must’ve been a lot of cases), we decided to leave the felonies room and check out misdemeanors in room 129. We saw the tail end of one case and then a quick release of another and they closed up shop for the evening.

Overall it was an interesting thing to see and though I don’t think I’ll plan any personal trips back, I’d go if people wanted to see what it was like. And for those of you wondering, “WHY?”, I was interested in checking out Night Court out of curiosity for what the court process is like and how the fact that it’s midnight impacts the process. Aside from lots more yawning, I’d imagine that’s what the normal process looks like.

Experience Date: 2011-03-19
Location: 100 Centre Street, Manhattan
Hours: 5:30pm to 1:00am, 7 days a week
Website: Things to Do in New York: Watch Night Court
Rating: ****

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