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iGEN by Ted Volk
The Place Where Radio and Records come Together Without Talking


“I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”

12/9: I know everyone’s been awaiting Part Two of my crazy December, so buckle in! I got back from Denver on the 7th and I had one day to regroup before I set off for a couple more of The 1975 shows in Chicago and Milwaukee. It’s always a guess as to when the best time is to travel east, especially in the winter months. I usually choose an early morning flight, so I left the house at 4:45am for a 7am flight.

I’ve been telling anyone who’d listen to go see The 1975’s concert. A couple of friends took me up on the offer and met me in Chicago. It’s always great to hang with Oedipus. Yes, the Hall of Fame Boston legend from WBCN! Lenny Diana, who programs WTTS-Indianapolis and WGBJ-Ft. Wayne, also joined! Lenny came back to Indianapolis last year and is killing it. I insisted before the show we stop at Mr. Beef, the home of Hulu’s The Bear. The 1975 concert was part of Q101’s Chicago Twisted Xmas, put together by the station’s PD, Troy Hanson. I’ve been fortunate over the years to be involved with some of Troy’s shows and he does a magnificent job with his events! Troy’s staff are amazing; Dan Pursel and Jeannine Moose Lombardo deserve a shout-out for the perfect setup. We were at the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom, which meant two things: we were going to see the band in a smaller venue and the set design (a focal point of the tour) would not be possible as it won’t fit into the building. It didn’t matter. I’ve seen some special concerts, but this one went to a different level. The energy was so electric that it’s hard to describe in words.

12/10: Shockingly enough, the next day was the easiest of all my travels. I actually got to the gym in the morning and then drove to Milwaukee that afternoon for WLUM’s 16th BIG SNOW SHOW with The 1975. The show was at The Rave/Eagles Club and was similar in size to last night. It’s always a good sign when you pull up in the afternoon and there are 2,000 people already waiting to get in. The station is programmed by Michelle Rutkowski, who does such a fabulous job. We’ve done some special events over the years, but once again, this was a different level. I didn’t think it was possible to match the electricity from the night before, but it truly did. It was an hour and forty minutes of concert perfection. These were truly the two best radio concerts I’ve ever been a part of (and that’s saying something). I also met Max, who programs WWWX in nearby Appleton. He said to me a couple of times throughout the night how amazing it all was.

I decided to change my flights as I heard a storm was brewing (of course, it was) so I drove back to Chicago after the show and spent a few hours at the Hilton O’Hare to get on an early morning flight back to L.A. Turns out it was good decision, unlike what happened the rest of the month!

Karen Glauber calls me the Clark Griswold of family travel. It’s hard to disagree with her. Over the years, I’ve taken the family on some pretty cool adventures, which requires a lot of moving around. It can get goofy at times but with the job I have, I like to squeeze in as much as I can into a small window. I call these window-shop vacations.

12/16: I decided to take everyone to Europe. We did a couple of these before the pandemic. They were amazing. I also figured this is probably going to be the last time to do this as my kids are now young adults and they will soon be going in different directions. We started in Berlin. I wasn’t planning to go there, but I got an incredible deal on Norse Atlantic Airways and that’s where they fly to. Hot tip—once you’re in Europe, there are so many discount airlines and its rather inexpensive and easy to move around. The highlight for us were the Xmas markets. Germany is famous for their Xmas markets and the ones we went to didn’t disappoint.

12/17: My wife Kelly has always wanted to go to Copenhagen. December probably isn’t the best time to go as a tourist, but that’s when we could. It was a 45-minute flight from Berlin, so we went for it. We stayed in the Nyhavn district, and it was amazing. One of the best cities we’ve been to. The people are tall and beautiful. It was more Xmas markets, incredible window shopping and a visit to the Tivoli Gardens!

12/18: I’ve been getting more into the bucket list thing in recent years. Naples has been on my list for a while, but I’vebut never quite figured out the itinerary. On this trip, I was determined to get to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. I can only describe Naples as true chaos. It’s New York City on steroids. Founded in 1870, Da Michele is one of the oldest pizzerias in the world. It was worth it. The pizza was perfect, and it was $5.

12/19: About 20 years ago, Kelly and I took a trip to Sorrento, about an hour south of Naples. We loved it then and loved it even more this time! Sorrento is beautiful. It’s a coastal town that has sweeping water views and a café-lined square.

12/20: We have done the Route 1 drive from Santa Barbara to San Francisco a few times over the years. It’s pretty special. What matches that drive? The Amalfi Coast. We did the drive from Sorrento through Positano and ended up having lunch in the town of Amalfi. It’s as good as it gets. It’s a lot of twists and turns on a one lane road, but by far the most beautiful drive imaginable.

12/21: I probably didn’t need to throw Venice into the mix, but it’s my favorite city and if I’m in the area, I’m going to make a day of it. It’s my fourth time visiting, and it still blows me away every time. I know some people like to go to Orlando every year, but for me, there’s nothing quite like Venice.

12/22: When you’re traveling on a budget, finding low-cost flights is a must. There was a catch on this trip. The family has been watching me live and die with the Buffalo Bills for as long as I can remember. I’m from Rochester and that’s my team. It so happens the Bills were playing in Chicago on Xmas Eve. What seemed like a good idea in September turned out to be a gigantic mistake. I found a flight through Dublin to Chicago that would get us there in time for the game. In Italy, we started hearing about a generational storm running through Chicago. Pro tip: Iceland Air doesn’t care if they’re flying you into a blizzard. Who would have thought the weather in Iceland in December would be better than Chicago?

12/23: Flying into Chicago, it was -20° with high winds. We landed at 5pm. It was uneventful until we left the baggage area and saw true chaos at O’ Hare. It was so cold; the trams couldn’t work and there was at least a 3-4 hour wait just to get a bus to take you anywhere inside the airport. Somehow in the hour, my daughter gets an Uber to take us to the rental car center two miles away. It was the best $50 we’ve spent. I’ve never felt cold weather quite like this. We get the last car and stop at Dick’s to load up on more winter gear for the game—did I mention the game was outside? We get to the hotel room at 11pm (coming from Europe with no sleep) and of course, the heater is broken—which they don’t tell us when we checked in. We had to find a new hotel at 1am. Not a good start to this leg of the trip.

12/24: The sun comes out and its now 10°, which makes it somewhat possible to sit through a football game. We keep checking on our flight, as we have one at 9pm flight on Southwest, and we’re learning about the cancellations starting to happen. Surprisingly, our flight was still listed on time. The game is great, and we survived the cold weather. It reminded me a lot of spending countless amount hours playing hockey as a kid on the frozen ponds in my hometown.

We decide to head to Midway early just in case. We stop at a nearby Fridays and learn our flight was cancelled. We rush out to get to the airport, but I realize a few minutes later I left my cell phone at the table. I get back and it’s gone. It was stolen in a matter of three minutes in an empty restaurant on Xmas eve. We’re doing everything we can to block the phone, change all my passwords and, at the same time, find out what’s up with the flight. We get to the airport and it’s everything you’ve read about. The lines were several hours long and there were hundreds and hundreds of bags just sitting there. We eventually find out the earliest they could get us back to L.A. was six days later. So, what do you do? I looked at my wife and said, “I guess we should start to drive West.” Looking back, it was quite stupid considering we were driving overnight in zero-degree weather in the middle of nowhere. We load up on candy and caffeine and hit the road.

12/25: Doing an all-night drive starts out with a lot of adrenaline. It fades quickly. You also can’t think about the fact that you’re 2,200 miles from home. Kelly and I take turns every couple of hours going through Iowa and Nebraska. It felt like we were in Nebraska forever. The hardest hour of any late-night thing is the 4-5am hour. My daughter played DJ and since the month was fueled by The 1975 concerts, we re-lived it by singing their songs at the top of our lungs, including my fave, “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).” That was the fuel we needed.

The daylight showed up and so did Colorado. We’re now living on Love Truck Stops as that was the only thing open since it was Xmas. And let me tell you, that’s not what you want to be eating on the road. At the time, we didn’t know how bad the Southwest problem really was, but we couldn’t find flights in any of the cities we passed through. We kept driving and finally at 5pm, we found the first open restaurant in Utah—Arby’s. It gave us enough energy to make it to Las Vegas at 8pm…25 hours later. We were seeing triple at this point, so we stayed the night. We found a flight the next morning but didn’t trust it, so we decided to drive the last five hours home. That flight ended up getting canceled five hours later.

12/27 and beyond: The rental car and gas cost $2,000 to get us home, but what other options did we have? As we read in the coming days, there were many of us faced with the same decisions to make. I’m happy to report Southwest reimbursed us for almost all of our expense—except the Arby’s dinner—and gave us $1,500 in flight credits for future travel. My phone ended up being stolen by an employee who was caught on one of their security cameras. I just got reimbursed for that as well. It really was a December to remember.