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The 2021 ‘short list’ (by my standards)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

When I try to think why I read so (relatively) little this year, I assume (just like I assumed in 2020) it’s because I didn’t have a commute. (And not just for most of the year, but ALL of the year!) So watching TV became more the default, and reading became more of a ‘going to sleep’ activity. That said, when I started thinking about this post late in the year, and looked at what I’d read, I pushed myself to knock off a few more so I could at least get to a nice, round number that looks intentional. So, without further ado, the TWENTY books I read in 2021. (And for what it’s worth, it may have been the weight of the times, but a number of them made me cry! So maybe it was a good year reading-wise in terms of QUALITY!)

  1. I Remember Nothing, and other reflections, Nora Ephron
  2. I Don’t Seem So Bright In a Well-Lit Room, Sean Browning
  3. Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman
  4. You Shall Know Our Velocity!, Dave Eggers
  5. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
  6. We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates
  7. Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film, Patton Oswalt
  8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
  9. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, Peter Biskind
  10. Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life, Christie Tate
  11. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab
  12. The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John
  13. Laugh Lines: My Life Helping Funnier People Be Funnier, Alan Zweibel
  14. Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up & Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House, Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz
  15. Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam
  16. Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener
  17. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Maria Konnikova
  18. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth: Book One), N.K. Jemisin
  19. Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
  20. Hamnet & Judith, Maggie O’Farrell

2021. Nuff said?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

I’m not going to lie: 2021 was not a good year. Now, normally, I might lie about this, try to brighten things up a little… but of course, it was a bad year for pretty much everyone. Especially those of us who took the pandemic seriously. And I may have taken it TOO seriously, at least relative to most people I know.

Now, I don’t particularly regret this. And as I write this, it’s never been more clear that the people who took it seriously are the grown-ups in the conversation. But what it does mean is the year is pretty short on trips, accomplishments, events, etc. And though none of them were COVID-related, as far as I know, it was a pretty bad year in terms of death.

I still have many blessings. I am aware. I’m just warning you in advance: I didn’t always track what I did, so this round-up is going to be a lot of random pictures and social media posts. Many of which got very little love, but I liked them, and hey, isn’t that what counts?! To that end, I’m also going to let most of them speak for themselves.

Okay, enough stalling. LET’S GO!

January:

Oh, right. I was still doing Quarantine Frasier. And oh yeah, American democracy was crumbling!
A picture I took so I could send it to Evan and we could say “DANGER ZONE!”

Okay, we’ve made it to the point where I have a life event to share. Kind of. I attend a McGill virtual event, discussing A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order with author Judith Flanders. I have yet to read it, though I still want to, but it makes me feel I’m at least exercising my brain a smidge. Salon living!

A nice shout-out from Ian and Jen. Hooray for pandemic fame?

Guess I was feeling creative on the 25th… because I also attended a virtual open house for the graduate program at U of T Theatre. Don’t know where I’m going in life, or even where I can go, but I guess it’s something I’m still looking?

A good reminder that I have no idea what’s going to be popular. Mara Wilson even retweeted it!

February:

I go to my parents’ for the Super Bowl. Which I mostly remember because they indulged me and ordered everything I needed to make loaded nachos, which Mom and I did together.

If nothing else, that was something I managed during the pandemic: partially because my folks do GoodFood/Chef’s Plate stuff when I’m over, and partially because I wanted to know I can in a pinch, I got more ambitious about cooking. So at some point, if there’s a party or some group who needs feeding, I know loaded nachos are within my capabilities.

Also in early February, I read a pilot Craig Brown wrote and give some notes on it. I mostly mention this here because he’s very funny and talented, so when it becomes a thing, I want proof that I was there on the ground floor. Well, outside looking through the window, but at ground level.

Okay, this is kind of a neat thing:

Yep. The AV Club profiled Quarantine Frasier, and I got a little singled out. For anyone who wants to read the article: https://www.avclub.com/it-s-frasier-s-turn-for-the-quarantine-fanfic-treatment-1846243019

Moving on…

This was my first tweet after the article came out. Gotta capitalize on all that traffic!
This wasn’t actually posted anywhere until now. But sometimes, I just need a picture of that punum!

And just to give some indication that I spoke to people other than my parents, I’ll mention that the month ended with a Google Meet with my high school friends. That’s PANDEMIC social!

March:

Okay, another month, another book talk. This time, put on by the Toronto Public Library, discussing Tamara Payne’s The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, moderated by Huda Hassan. Much like the last book talk I attended, I still haven’t read it over a year later, but I still intend to. (As you’ll see in my reading list post, I slowed down somewhat without a commute. But I assume I’m still well above average, so that’s something?)

Because of her interview with Oprah. And yes, I know she’s not a princess, but comedic license!

A friend of a friend wants to have an information chat with a “working writer.” I pretend to be one for the purposes of the call, and try not to feel too bad about myself after.

On the 15th, I explore two possible visions for my future: I get a consultation about having a wisdom tooth removed, and I attend an online lecture about working as a story coordinator. One of these possibilities comes to fruition before the year is up. Stay tuned!

I attend a virtual Sketchfest show. For anyone reading this, please do whatever you can to make Jon Blair a household name, because I don’t know what to do in a world where he isn’t.

Then a few days later, I attend another online lecture, this one entitled “How to Be a Great Writers’ Assistant and Script Coordinator.” Feels like I’m building towards something. Maybe. Then again, maybe I just like to think maybe someday I could? Ugh, me!

That day… was also Passover. There was a Zoom. Nice to see everyone, albeit virtually. It did make me hungry, though, as that group of people produces a Pavlovian response which will not be denied!

Remember that? With the canal?

And at the end of the month, I interview for a transcript proofreading freelance gig and get it! I only do it for a few months; even though I wasn’t going out much, adding an evening side hustle on top of a full-time job seemed a little much. Still, nice to work for a real company and get treated with respect for a bit!

April:

The month opens with me sucking up some screenwriting inspiration: talks from Karen Walton, and Elan Mastai & Mina Shum. This may be more relevant later…

My parents get their first vaccines. (For COVID, not ever.) It is a big load-off, certainly when compared to them not having ANY vaccine. Though of course, it’s a sliding scale of anxiety.

Anna writes a very cool article about Lev. Do I have it in me to give MY parents a tribute like that some day? I’m not as gifted a writer, but maybe? At any rate, here it is:

https://maisonneuve.org/article/2021/04/7/strong-family-resemblance/

I thought this one merited all the Facebook comments I could capture.

Okay, this is a bit of a hard turn. But it was in life too, so here goes: Samantha Albert passes away. She was the cool cousin who took an interest in me at an early age and made me feel more interesting to myself. It’s possible/likely she was just a really warm person, but I still felt special. Either way, I enjoyed her immensely, and as she took to writing, we had a bond within the family in recent years. Even though I/we saw it coming, still hard.

This is a sentence to act as a buffer between the previous paragraph and my return to nonsense.

As various age cohorts started to get vaccine-eligible. That’s the joke.

That last tweet had a little truth to it. This is when I get my first COVID vaccination shot. Despite all efforts by the province to make it as hard to book as possible, just a mad scramble by everyone for a modicum of immunity. At any rate, I got it. Around then, I also contribute to the Kickstarter for Kevin and Amber’s movie How to Ruin the Holidays. For some reason, I gave as much as I could without the reward of appearing in the credits, because at the time, I was being modest, I guess? But for whatever reason, I’m mentioning it here. Probably because they’re good people, and I expect it to be great!

I stand by this. Hard.

May:

UBC Creative Writing’s Virtual Celebration! I see a few familiar faces, most notably Linda’s. She was one of my biggest mentors and champions, so that was nice, and hopefully we’ll find an IRL reason at some point. (If nothing else, I believe she started following me on Twitter, so she now gets gems like…)

Okay, that cooking thing continues with a gourmet (pronounced with a hard ‘t’) Mac and Cheese!

If memory serves, based on Snoop Dogg’s recipe?

The Minnesota Lynx season starts! Inspired by Mr. Szczepanek directly, and cabin fever indirectly, several of us pick WNBA teams to root for. So that we may trash-talk each other. Most of the trash-talking died down pretty quickly, but I got REALLY into this team! The Lynx and the Raptors are basically the only two teams where I can name their entire rosters, at least DURING the season. So, even post-pandemic, they’ve got me… at least until Toronto gets its OWN WNBA team, and honestly, what’s the hold-up?!

Dwayne Gretzky does a music marathon for the long weekend. It’s pretty freaking epic!

I make more food!

And though I get inundated with fake friend requests on social media constantly, this one strikes me as extra-funny, because it’s an algorithm trying to be Jewish!

With the weather so nice, I play some tennis with Isaac. (Can’t be sure if this was the start of my ‘non-family tennis’ season, but I did note it.) And I meet up for a catch-up with Diane at Greenwood Park, where she gives me a whole bunch of books and DVDs. Because that’s what I need! (Though in my defense, I did devour them pretty well.)

June:

More tennis, now with puppies!
Meta!

I have another Google Meet with my high school friends. But it’s summer, so backyard hangs are ALSO a thing again! Thanks to Robin for the hosting and Ian for the photography!

The thing I’m about to post is a little weird. But I’m doing it anyway. I rag on social media a lot, and my reasons are good. But every now and then, I realize that I’m getting to share my weird little thoughts with people. And on the day I took this, I happened to notice that some of the people who those thoughts are being shared with are among the greatest comedy minds I know. (This was a good streak, for sure. So, BEHOLD!)

It’s very possible I’m muted, or removed altogether by some of these people by now. BUT STILL!

Within a couple of days of each other, my parents and I all got our SECOND vaccine shots. Very muted celebrations, especially because it takes a couple weeks anyway, plus I’m pretty sure we continued avoiding everything we’d been avoiding. Still, some relief.

Unrelated to the above tweet, I’m going to share this picture of Larry, to commemorate him at his most shaggedy!

“It’s not his fault, Grandma! There was a pandemic!”

I reach the point where I talk to a lawyer. I’ll leave it at that.

July:

Backyard fun at Tom and Lindsay’s, with Jenny also there. I think. This is in my calendar as “Cedervale crowd” and I know that this foursome met up at least once!

Then another night at Robin’s. Huzzah!

I had some time earlier discovered that Cherry Beach is a very pleasant (if not short) walk along a path from my place. So, after some polite encouragement, Larry and Marty make the trip, and I meet them there. It is truly an excellent dog park… and Marty is at least a VERY HANDSOME dog!

COVID was at a low ebb (SUMMER!), and I was feeling frisky. I go over to Ian and Jen’s… INDOORS, which was a big step for me. And I meet up with Jess and Matt at a COVERED patio, which is like being HALF-INDOORS, and near STRANGERS! Also, that last one was near Christie Pits, and though it was raining, I was early, so I walked by the basketball courts and noticed something I’d never noticed before:

Labyrinth! My labyrinth tour of Toronto just gained another spot.

Okay, another small perk of social media: the occasional celebrity encounter where I make writers I look up to laugh (well, maybe not, but I IMAGINE them laughing!):

Woo hoo!

Hey, so remember that teaser I gave before that probably wasn’t a teaser at all? Well, here’s where it pays off: I got a wisdom tooth removed.

Poor Man’s Ice Pack!

As a present, and in a blatant attempt to get our parents to sit outside more, the Hershfield boys purchase a bench/swing and set it up in their backyard. And yes, “Hershfield boys” includes Marty. (And if you ignore our chosen pronouns ever so briefly, Jen.)

My epic meetup month continues with Fionna at Christie Pits…

…and concludes with drinks on a St. Clair patio with Brad. (The work one, not the improv one.)

August:

The tour of taking Marty on nice walks to bask in his enthusiasm and adventurous spirit takes us to Sunnybrook!

He’s so petite!

After threatening to for quite some time, Ivimey and I manage to play tennis. We left it too late in the season, so it ended up being a one-and-done for the year, but he’s in the rotation now!

A very nice article about my sister-in-law Jen comes out. Read it at your leisure:

Another meet-up with Fionna at Christie Pits, this time with her brood, and the Maple Leafs. (The baseball ones. If you know, you know.) I walked there from my place, and it’s a pretty epic trek, so I took some pictures:

Shortly thereafter, I do what is undoubtedly my coolest event of 2021: a table read for my first-ever feature-length screenplay! Now, to be clear, just a read to hear what it sounds like out loud, i.e. a prelude to rewriting, not production. But it still feels like a monumental achievement. And the people I got to do it are the most lovable people in the world, and to have us all around a table, as a bonus, was wonderful and also the closest I’d felt to normalcy in ages. My love again to Christian, Ian, Jen, Lindsay, Natalie, and Tom, all of whom I love, so I listed them in alphabetical order so I wouldn’t have to rank them! (As of this writing, the screenplay is still being worked on, but has also been put out into the world, so it’s still my beacon of hope. But that day, it REALLY felt like a miracle!)

AND this immediately preceded my other annual highlight, though this one is a staple: the trip to the cottage! So nice to get away from everything and just be. The tennis was great, the swimming was great, the company was great. (But don’t tell my family I said that.) Of course, since I wanted to escape my phone, there’s not much photographic evidence. But as expected, here are pictures of Marty, one en route to the cottage, and one about to be en route home.

September:

So something good that got brought back from the cottage: Evan playing tennis! He’d putzed around with us before, a little, but this time, he got into it, and he and I kept playing back in the city. And we’re pretty well-matched! It’s certainly a lot of fun, and fingers crossed, it’ll stay “our thing.” (Well, one of them. And one of the ones that isn’t entirely reliant on Simpsons quotes.)

Then, after oh-so-many video visits, the high school gang FINALLY gets together for an IRL backyard beer session. It’s at Sam’s, and was on 9/11, lest we forget.

Hmmm. There’s a GAP in my memory here. Very strange. Well, hopefully, it’ll get filled sometime next year.

Okay, I’ll tell this next story with pictures. But it was kind of neat.

Neat, right? Also, I keep taking pictures of my television to capture Jeopardy moments. And I get a good one the next day!

The relevance of that one will, knock on wood, become clearer later. (In life, not in this post. Sorry!)

And the month ends with a visit from Uncleany. Which in pandemic times is a pretty big deal! (Oh, and Evan wanted attention for some reason.)

October:

Okay, I’m going to share this picture, but I want to make two things clear. First, I was intentionally making a goofy face. Second, I get that the camera wasn’t really able to capture what I wanted it to in this instance. NEVERTHELESS, this was a pretty cool day: my first time playing tennis on CLAY!

You’re next, grass! (And just for aesthetic reasons, it’d be cool to play on red clay. Those pictures would tell a very clear story. Still!)

I get notes on my screenplay from Sean Garrity. Though I don’t live the writers’ fantasy of being told my script is perfect, and that to move a single comma would be like pissing on the Mona Lisa, the notes are helpful, and I do feel like a big boy getting notes from a bonafide hyphenate!

A movie night at Ian and Jen’s. Particularly notable for Aaron and Maddy being there, as the idea of social time with friends of friends (I mean, I like them a lot, but we never make our own plans) seems very foreign at this point.

Roughly ten days after the fact, I put myself on the waitlist for the club with the clay courts. Apparently, the wait is at least a decade… but maybe I’ll be able to afford it by then! Look at me, thinking like a vision board!

With Toronto experiencing miraculously warm weather, I play basketball for the first time in forever! Outdoors, with Matt and friends, in Regent Park! It is incredibly fun, and since I’m VAGUELY in the neighborhood and have energy to spare (AND feel like maybe I burned some calories), I make my way to Bolet’s for a burrito. It had been too long for ALL of that!

The Raptors are back! And Maker Pizza moves into the neighborhood! I celebrate by combining them! (Seriously, though, I don’t know what I did to be walking distance from so many incredible pizzerias… but I’m glad I get to use the Futurama line so often! (If you know, you know. Right, Tory?!))

And though if memory serves, it had probably JUST become too cold for this, we get in another movie night in Robin’s backyard. And since Ian meets up with me so we can walk over together and grab some beers (Rorshach!), I take him to one of the Leslieville highlights: the What We Do In The Shadows set!

Yet another opportunity to take a picture of Jeopardy! This one’s for Dave Pearce, as the pun the writers came up with is the same one we used for our Globehead vampire team!

Well, we were Full of Beans Anne Rice, but BASICALLY the same!

Time for Cherry Beach Redux!

And on Halloween:

Granted, it’s not the most Halloween of posts. But I very much want to see that production. Hell, I’d love to see even just one line of it!

November:

The COVID picture is looking good enough that I get some of the figurative band back together. Figurative, because I’m talking basketball. Alas, our gym is still not available for rental, so we rejoin the TSSC fold (or whatever they’re calling themselves now.) It helped for my mental state that it was walking distance, albeit an hour’s walk. We go with the team name ‘Becky with the Good Handle’, and we mostly acquit ourselves all right. My scoring was low, but it was sort of like really good hockey scoring: basically one to three baskets a game, and all beauties! At any rate, it was PRETTY fun… but also makes me even more desperate to get my/our old run back!

There’s a dinner party for Jen’s birthday. SOPHISTIMICATED! But also, a baby step towards normalcy. Again. Kind of.

I get a flu shot. Which I never used to bother with. Maybe this culture war thing is real? Well, if it is, glad to be on the right side of it!

Unlike most of the food I’ve posted here, this one was a GoodFood selection. But nice to know that if the occasion demands it, I’m capable of making Sloppy Joes!

I get old friend Sarah Richardson (old friendship, not old person) to send me an academic article she wrote. I fully intend to read it at some point… but I’m putting it off, because I know it’ll make me feel stupid, and that’s a hard mood to plan for.

December:

Okay, this is a sad one, and there’s no way to get around it: My cousin Gabe dies. The youngest of my first cousins, he had been sick before, but it was thought that he’d been successfully treated and was in remission, which he was, until he wasn’t. It’s obviously tragic, but I’m at least grateful he lived long enough to do many cool things: travel extensively, become a genuine artist, front a band, etc. I inherited from him a fretless bass, an effects pedal, and an amp, as well as some art work, all of which are in my living room. So suffice it to say, I think of him often, and imagine I will continue to whenever I’m rocking out with MY band! (Even if I can’t rock as well as he did… but I guess that’s also kind of a tribute?)

It’s also a reminder to hold your loved ones tight when you can… which I’m using as a segue to the next thing, which was Mom and I making latkes for the family.

LOT-kes!

This article comes out, debunking something we like to joke about with Winnipeg. I imagine we still will, regardless:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/the-science-says-there-s-no-difference-between-a-dry-or-a-wet-cold-sorry-1.6268564

I wasn’t actually here for this. It was sent to me. But SO CUTE!

I eat a Slowhand Sourdough Pizza. I mention this because they’re hard to get! But quite tasty, if I do say so myself. Mind you, I have to order it several days in advance, and while I check the temperatures and see that they’re going to be reasonable, I don’t think to check the wind. (Not that I’m sure you can actually check that days in advance?) At any rate, my plans to grab the pie and eat it in the park are foiled by crazy winds, so I end up sitting on the steps to the side door of a church, mostly sheltered from the wind. So not IDEAL… but hey, tasty is tasty!

It’s the end of the month, and I’m off work, so I imagine I must have done a FEW fun things. But they didn’t make the calendar, and I’ve forgotten them, so I assume they were fairly low-key. Also, lest we forget, Omicron was going strong at this point, so I’m sure some more ambitious plans fell by the wayside. Still, I suspect there were walks with friends and the like. Just running out the clock!

And New Year’s is once again spent with the parents and Marty, watching Dwayne Gretzky through the series of tubes. I really hope next year, I can get away somewhere. Even if just to feel the sun on my face, and know I’m not here. But hey, year endured!

And to anyone who read this far: Congratulations! There will be no quiz!

2020: A Quarantine Reading List

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

I was a little surprised when I looked at this list that I actually read LESS this year than most recent years. I’m guessing it’s the subtraction of a commute? But it’s still one every two weeks – or “fortnight”, if you will – and I’m pretty sure that’s more than most people read. And that’s why I feel my glasses-and-beard combo are still justified. So, without further ado:

  1. Horror Stories: a memoir, Liz Phair
  2. The Revisionaries, A.R. Moxon
  3. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe
  4. Famous Men Who Never Lived, K Chess
  5. The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal
  6. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
  7. Hocus Pocus, Kurt Vonnegut
  8. A Fiery Soul: The Life and Theatrical Times of John Hirsch, Fraidie Martz and Andrew Wilson
  9. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama
  10. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  11. Seasonal Associate, Heike Geissler (translated by Katy Derbyshire)
  12. The Flintstones (Volumes 1 & 2), Mark Russell & Steve Pugh
  13. Assume the Worst: The Graduation Speech You’ll Never Hear, Carl Hiassen
  14. The 158-Pound Marriage, John Irving
  15. Trick Mirror: reflections on self-delusion, Jia Tolentino
  16. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: a true (as told to me) story, Bess Kalb
  17. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Mark Russell & Mike Feehan
  18. 88 Names, Matt Ruff
  19. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  20. Ball Four: The Final Pitch, Jim Bouton
  21. The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom
  22. The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe
  23. Mean Boy, Lynn Coady
  24. The Twenty-Seventh City, Jonathan Franzen
  25. The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff
  26. Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, Vincent Lam

A year best forgotten, remembered

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

It’s pretty tempting not to do an entry for 2020. Especially since I do these posts after the fact, so they’re usually me reviewing my calendar and social media to find “the big events”… and this year basically didn’t have those. But I did live it, and SOME interesting things did happen. So I guess I’ll do a bit of an overview, then my standard month-by-month breakdown. Though this year will have a heavier emphasis on posts I made, even if no one else liked ’em… because it was a year when even having a thought I liked seemed like a monumental accomplishment!

Socially, no duh, it was a pretty light year. But there were some routines that developed that were key to my mental survival. As someone living alone, I was allowed to bubble with another household, which naturally ended up being my parents (and Marty.) So every now and then, I would go and stay there for awhile. And we also talked daily, often after Jeopardy, so we could see which of us got Final Jeopardy right.

I also had two weekly standing ‘watch’ appointments. One was Bachelor/Bachelorette with Jenny and Lindsay (and occasionally Tom.) They were Messenger chats, but I’m pretty sure I could hear their voices… and of course, it was the only thing that made those shows tolerable. (And even then, just barely.) There was also a Thursday Night Movie Night with Robin, Ian, and Jason, which by the end had screens synced up (thanks, Robin!) and Google Meet for our running commentaries, which were, of course, the point.

Besides that, there were the random calls, which were in some ways harder because there was less to say. And basically monthly Google Meet meet-ups with my high school friends. I also got to know my housemates a little, which was nice (and silly not to have happened earlier); hopefully, more backyard hangouts in the After Times.

As for things I learned, well, I don’t want to call this pandemic any kind of learning opportunity. But I did learn a few things. One of them was Python, and I got pretty good for a beginner… but then I completely got out of the habit of doing it. That said, I liked it, and expect if I try to learn it AGAIN, it’ll go faster and further. As for food preparation, I wouldn’t say I LEARNED to cook… but I kind of did. I certainly did a lot more of it, and now use the inside of the oven, not just the burners! Plus, I’ve got a tuna casserole that I would actually serve to other people (in a pinch), and thanks to my parents and Chef’s Plate, I know that I can follow simple recipes.

And work… still work. Mind you, WFH has been great and actually a better process for all involved… so I’m certain it’ll be ended as soon as safely possible, if not before. Given that I was almost forced to return several times in early- and mid-pandemic, this seems like a safe assumption. But that’s 2021’s problem…

ANYHOO… let’s get to it, shall we?

January:

The first event in my calendar for the year seems to be a night at Mom’s Basement (the bar, not my mom’s basement.) That sounds right. It would have been with Ian, Jason, and Robin, I assume? It’s a night out over a year ago, and those all seem very far away.

I have brunch with Jess at the 3 Speed. If memory serves, she was living right, so we didn’t drink… and I ended up messing myself up thoroughly by having more coffee (not decaf) than I have in decades. Moral: stick to drinking.

Then near the end of the month, PK and Seiler have their going-away party, and I want to go but don’t, because I’m not great with parties. Oh, if I knew then what I know now! Well, actually, I still might have felt the same, but I’d feel even worse for not sucking it up.

I get a raise at work. So I’m less underpaid.

February:

Pete and I have plans to see Parasite. But because of work, he had to stand me up. Since I already had the tickets, I went on my own. And it was pretty great… especially in retrospect, since I didn’t pass up the chance to see a movie in a theater. Also, since it was at the Varsity, I used the opportunity to pool several of the Indigo gift cards I’ve accumulated over the years and pick up a nice bound version of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy.” So if I ever need to be sworn in for something, I’ve got that.

I go see ‘Nour Hadidi and friends’ at Comedy Bar (in the cabaret space.) One of those friends is Mark Little. They’re funny… as were the other friends, of course. Should I have done standup in the Before Times? Hard to say… but really think I should in the After Times.

Speaking of Before Times, I go to the theater (!) with Mom. We see Caroline, or Change. Quite good… though it may have fallen short of expectations, as the last Tony Kushner I’d seen was Angels in America on Broadway. (Is that a brag?!)

With negotiations having started in January, my group of McGill friends decides that we’ll have our twenty-year reunion on August 1st. Ha ha, suckers!

We make a trip to see Jen do standup at Tallboys. Good times, as she’s clearly impressive… but this is also part of my ramping up to trying it again that of course didn’t happen. Still, a room I’d want to return to.

I go see the Second City revue. I enjoyed it, and though my performing friends might be dwindling in number, the ones I have still plugging away are good. I don’t realize it at the time, but it would be the last time I’d be in that theater, which has since been destroyed. While it wasn’t my most important stage, I did have some memorable moments there (auditions especially), and it did always make me feel connected to something bigger when I strode upon it. (I can’t remember any sets in particular… but I must have got SOME laughs up there!)

The high school gang gets together for a dinner at Patois. PROBABLY my last group excursion to a restaurant for the year?

The next day, I go skating for the first time in forever. I am bad, as muscles I used to have don’t seem to exist anymore. Also, my skates are in desperate need of sharpening. I choose to believe I could get it back, with time.

(Pretty sure this one was about Elizabeth Warren. The important thing is I was bitter, as I was through much of 2020.)

There’s a jam with Boris Mortz. (That’s me, Evan, Peter, Jamie, and this time, Ariel.) Always fun to jam!

And I go see Jason do standup at Hirut Hoot. Part of my ‘building courage’ tour. He’s good, and I have Ethiopian food again for the first time in years. That’s also good.

March:

I get an email from a high school teacher in Richmond Hill. Turns out there’s going to be yet another production of Courting! Though of course it gets cancelled, so that’s a way the pandemic cost me money?

I go with Larry to see Knives Out. It was great… and the last movie I would see in theaters for the year.

Sketchfest happens. Right around the time we all realize our world’s going to be shutting down for awhile. But the festival basically makes it through intact (I think American troupes scheduled for the end didn’t make it), and I saw some good stuff:

  • Mark & Andy
  • Lusty Mannequins
  • Whisky Kids / Beggar’s Canyon
  • Anders Yates / Jon Blair
  • Erica Gellert / Girl Brain
  • Peter ‘N Chris
  • Cam Wyllie / Jordan Armstrong
  • Not Oasis / Sex T-Rex
  • Flying Solo
  • Dead Parents Society
  • The Weight of It All (Gillian Bartolucci)

Food Trucks has a jam. We rock. Do YOU like Food Trucks?

…and now, we enter the panic times.

So at this point, not being able to travel or see people, but wanting to maintain some sense of normalcy, I walk to the beach.

Art! Well, that’s done… back to Twitter!

Okay, this isn’t REALLY a digression from Twitter… but it’s at least a fun Twitter thing that’ll definitely be one of the few 2020 things I look back on fondly. Ian and Jen start the Quarantine Frasier account… and they let me contribute title cards! Here’s my first… and then some more:

A safe place for my ridiculous voice. But that didn’t stop me from posting silliness on my personal accounts.

April:

There was a virtual seder in here… but just for shits and giggles, let’s do this month entirely in social media.

(when tweets about celebrities become celebrities themselves?)

PHEW! That was exhausting!

May:

But let’s run it back anyway!

(Yes, this was Mothers’ Day.)
(Okay, I may keep track of when showrunners of shows I like like one of my tweets. Is that so weird?!)
(Okay, I may KEEP keeping track of it. Sue me! Actually, please don’t sue me…)
(Okay, so I may remember little exchanges that seem like near-sitcom dialogue. Stop judging already!)

I get this is an odd way to do a blog. Blame 2020!

June:

Okay, I’ll try to mix in some actual happenings now with this heavy blend of social media. But it’s slim pickings. For instance, on the 7th, Jo officially pulls the plug on our McGill reunion. It’s funny looking back to think we waited this long, but at the time, no one knew how long this pandemic was going to last. Also, in what’s an interesting bit of trivia (that I’m taking Jo’s word on), this was twenty years to the day from our actual graduation ceremony! Yikes!

Anyway, here’s some more social media, reflecting the events of the time.

So not to make too hard a tonal switch, but June 23rd was an interesting day for me in two ways. First, Larry brought me what may have been my last Gandhi roti. It’s still a little unclear if what’s happening there is really no more than a name change… but I don’t need an excuse to enjoy a chicken tikka masala roti!

And the other thing? Well, I never miss the opportunity to share when a hero retweets me! And though this may not TECHNICALLY be a retweet of ME, I’m counting it!

If I had a Firefly wallet (and I really should), I would print this up and carry it around with me always. Thank you, Liz!

Okay, quick return to politics…

Then, on the 26th, the Hershfields do something that’s been approved of but still makes me a little nervous: the socially distanced visit/picnic. I probably worry too much about handwashing.. and opt for playing with the dog over eating pizza, since it didn’t seem like I could really do both. But it’s nice to all be together again. (And they came to me, so I could do it as a lunch break!)

Then on the 29th, a dental appointment. Which I mostly mention because I refused to take a rideshare or the TTC… so I walked from Leslieville to Yonge and St. Clair for the appointment, and then from there to my folks’ place. Proving that I can still walk long distances when I have to! (Not sure this is a “skill”… but it’s a thing?)

July:

No longer able to explore Toronto in the social way, e.g. bars and restaurants, I look for the occasional nature excursion. One that I read about that sounded nice was Glen Stewart Park/Ravine, a nice little oasis from the urban jungle that also happens to be a reasonable distance from me. Though it would have been nice to share with someone (what are you going to do?), I enjoyed it fine. I also took a bunch of pictures, but I figure one will probably suffice.

With the pandemic being at a seemingly low ebb, we do a few more family picnics, and I pick up a library book or two. Basically, my policy is not to go inside any buildings but my apartment. So the library’s switch to curbside pickup for holds allows me to do that. (And as for groceries, I’ve been ordering them and having them brought to the parking lot since April.) But my policy of not having anyone into my apartment has to end because my bedroom ceiling develops a major leak.

Thankfully, it wasn’t over my bed. But it was in my closet, so it was a major pain waiting a few weeks for it to be fixed. But all’s well that ends well? Anyway…

Though I don’t really get into the whole Zoom show thing (they are barely a bandaid), I do catch a few decent ones. I see Rosebud Baker do standup (workshopping new material, but I enjoyed). And I watch the Happy Endings reunion, and once again miss that show. In anticipation of games to come, and bored, I order actual proper tennis shoes online (thanks, Merchant of Tennis!), and the month ends with a socially distanced BBQ at Robin’s. It ALMOST feels normal!

August:

I, along with thousands of other Canadians, submit to the Netflix Virtual Pitch. I’ll spare you the suspense: it goes nowhere (for me.) But good to be in the game?

I put in a big order at Rorshach Brewery, so we’ll have fancy beers for the cottage. (They have a pickup window, so my ‘not indoors’ rule, which I otherwise only broke to pick up fancy cupcakes one time, is intact.) I decide to take a winding path… and “discover” Maple Leaf Forever Park, a hidden little treasure of the neighborhood.

Then to my parents’ and from there, to the cottage. Not to keep harping on it, but the first buildings I’ve been inside (other than the one I live in) since March. And with people I can hug, no less! Good times at the cottage, of course: meals, tennis, swimming, etc. Here’s one tweet I made when Kamala Harris got her nomination… and one picture that I won’t explain, because MAYBE it’ll make sense somewhere down the line. (Though you might also figure out the visual pun all on your own…)

September:

I join the Green Party to support Dr. Courtney Howard’s campaign. Though she didn’t end up winning the nomination, IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THAT, AND I’M GLAD I DID IT, ‘KAY??

(Though I would probably guess this because of the year, when I look back, these soup jokes were related to something asinine Trump said.)

So I’m going to let a screencap of the announcement post do the heavy lifting here… but this will turn out to be, with any luck, a significant turning point in my writing career. So take note!

Spoiler alert for the 2021 post: I wrote it! That of course may end up being the end of the story… but as I write this, I have a completed first draft. So thanks, Daniela, and thanks, me!

(taken on yet another epic walk to the dentist!)

I use a BikeShare and make it to my parents. I am endlessly impressed with myself… but not really, because parts that shouldn’t have nearly killed me. I choose to think it’s pandemic atrophy. I also drop off the bike at around Bathurst and Davenport, because that giant hill wasn’t happening. But it’s a nice walk from there, through Wychwood Park!

And towards the end of the month, I play tennis with Mark Little for the first time, at Jimmie Simpson Park. I just want to rally, but he’s inclined to play a game. So we do, and it definitely works out better for him. Then I watch him play some basketball with Matt and Erin (I’m a little more cautious and also exhausted), then we all have a socially distanced visit. Good times.

And last but not least, my baby bro turns 40! I help Larry make a little movie for him, and it’s very sweet. Anyway, hopefully a family trip to celebrate in the After Times.

October:

I play tennis with Mark for a second time. And we agree to meet in Ramsden Park, as that’s much closer to the halfway point between us. I’m a little worried the walk will wear me out before we even start… but as it turns out, we have a long wait. And whether it’s that, or the cooler weather, I have a lot more energy, and it ends up being the most evenly matched game of tennis I’ve ever played. Mark took it 7-6 (5) in an ACTUAL TIEBREAKER… so that was fun. Sadly, the unseasonably warm weather dissipates and that’s it for the year. But bodes well for the After Times!

(Trump has COVID-19, and there’s a John Mulaney bit…)

Okay, now I’m going to show you a picture of a flower. But it’s only because it’s one I saw during one of my visits to the Leslie Street Spit, and days before, the film group had watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the Donald Sutherland one)… and I’m pretty sure this was the same flower.

This next picture was sent to me; I wasn’t there for it. But it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, and my current desktop wallpaper.

Food Trucks tries to do a long-distance jam (well, I’M distanced). It’s a bit of a gong show. But hey, worth the effort, and the reunion will be all that much the sweeter.

November:

So… a little history was happening… (and though I didn’t talk about it here, obviously the plague that was Trump and Trumpism cast a heavy shadow over this year, and the ones before, and it’s not entirely gone… but this week was good.)

And I apparently was relieved enough to also post this on the 7th.

This may not seem worthy of mentioning… but it was a big thing for me. I order pickup for the first time in basically the whole year! It’s from Billy’s Burgers (which has a pickup window, so rule intact!), and it’s delicious! Also, in addition to my burger, I get a poutine, and that’s the life I’m supposed to be living, damn it!

And other things that happened that month: I took in a Zoom talk by Raphael Bob-Waksberg (back in the twenty-teens, he was the writer of a very famous teeeeee-vee show), I did a reading for someone’s screenplay (not sure how much I can say here?), and I saw this:

December:

So I know this is bad to admit… but for some reason, I never mentally associate Cherry Street with Cherry Beach. So the day I went for a long walk, hit Cherry Street, and half-thought “I guess I’ll go south”, it pretty much didn’t occur to me that I was heading for Cherry Beach until I reached it. So that was lovely! And as a complete bonus, I checked my phone/map to look for an alternate route to get home… and discovered there’s a walking trail that takes you right to the foot of Leslie! Something to look forward to in months/years to come.

That was on a Sunday. And then the next day was Burrito Monday! And then the next day, more hope!

Then…

But that ends up not being the case. Someone at work gets the coronavirus (she’s fine now), so we basically shut down operations for the year. And though I still have to work, with hours more flexible, I decide to move to my parents’ for the very end of Hannukah, and am there until the end of the year.

Which, sadly, is why I’m not exactly there for this:

But there in spirit (and yes, in picture.) And funnily enough, the next day, I actually DO see a friend in person: I bump into Judy while walking Marty with Larry in High Park. No hug, because of the times… but so funny to have a bump-into in these times.

So… the holidays…

And as for New Year’s Eve, the Hershfields ended up watching Dwayne Gretzky’s livestream… for all FIVE HOURS, UNTIL 3 A.M. So don’t say we didn’t party in 2020!

Actually, you can.

Okay, one last picture of Marty for the road…

And the likely highlight of the year (that’s also being put here because I can’t entirely remember when it happened):

Year. Done.

Again with the reading: 2019

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

This year brought a long commute, which I was not (and am not) a fan of, but I will say, it did allow for some quality reading time. And of course, even time I wasn’t killing was sometimes spent reading, because, well, yay books!

Without further ado, here’s what I consumed (in order) in 2019:

  1. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Calypso, David Sedaris
  3. Becoming, Michelle Obama
  4. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  5. The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, Rowan Ricardo Phillips
  6. The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Leonard Mlodinow
  7. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, Bill Bryson
  8. The Comic Hero’s Journey, Steve Kaplan
  9. The Sopranos Sessions, Matt Zoller Seitz & Alan Sepinwall
  10. The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, Merve Emre
  11. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, Lori Gottlieb
  12. The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times To Live, Heather B. Armstrong
  13. Gingerbread, Helen Oyeyemi
  14. Normal People, Sally Rooney
  15. Charlie Savage, Roddy Doyle
  16. I Love You, Nice To Meet You: A Guy and a Girl Give the Lowdown on Coupling Up, Lori Gottlieb and Kevin Bleyer
  17. Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory: Stories, Raphael Bob-Waksberg
  18. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide, Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
  19. Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner
  20. I Miss You When I Blink: Essays, Mary Laura Philpott
  21. Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
  22. Educated, Tara Westover
  23. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
  24. The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, Josh Levin
  25. Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
  26. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo
  27. The Friend, Sigrid Nunez
  28. Fleishman is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner
  29. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein
  30. Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results, Josh Gondelman
  31. Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo?, Robyn Doolittle
  32. Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
  33. Wanderers, Chuck Wendig
  34. Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark, Cecelia Watson
  35. Spider-Man: Life Story, Chip Zdarsky & Mark Bagley
  36. Patsy, Nicole Dennis-Benn
  37. It’s Garry Shandling’s Book, edited by Judd Apatow
  38. Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the ‘80s Changed Hollywood Forever, Nick de Semlyen

20, 19…

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

I’m not going to lie (particularly since I’m not sure anyone but me reads this): 2019 was not a great year for me. I feel like I spent much of it in a light-to-heavy funk. Partly because the world is burning, and the likelihood that my life will now end in some kind of camp seems to have gone up considerably. But on a more micro-level, several changes at work also combined to drain joy.

The move across the city added two hours of transit to my days, and the fact we moved from downtown to an industrial park upped the bleakness. Also, my best work friend went away, and the writing staff was reduced from three to two, meaning each day is a slog just to get through. Lastly, my fantasy that new owners would mean the obvious impediment(s) to improvement would be addressed proved idealistic; and while it’s nice I still have that muscle, it’s now bruised.

Long story short, I spent a lot of the year feeling tired. And so, it feels like there’s more I could’ve done.

That said, I still have many blessings, and I want to remind myself (and anyone else who might be reading) that not all of them will be recorded here. My weekly rituals include a family dinner on Sunday nights and basketball on Wednesday nights, and both bring me great comfort. Movie nights at Robin’s continue to happen with regularity, making me feel like I’ve got a “crew”, Food Trucks got together enough to make me feel I’ve got a “band”… and hey, bimonthly blood donation makes me feel like I’m putting good into the world.

But of course, the name of this game is highlights. So here are a few.

January:

I feel like this first post of the year anticipated what was to come pretty well!

I joke, of course… but honestly, this Mensa calendar was a really great thing for me. (Thanks, Renee!) Even if it was just for five minutes a day, I got to feel smart… and that’s a good thing.

Evan and I go to see ‘A Kevin McDonald with an Evening’ at the Rivoli. He remains one of the most naturally funny people ever (Kevin, not Evan, who’s just okay), and he’s certainly got stories to tell. (The Shrink 2020!) And Bruce McCulloch opened for him, allowing me to make this post:

Huzzah for technicalities!

Okay, this is just a POSSIBLE preview of things to come. I still haven’t really decided. But I do make this joke, which I like:

A standup joke, perhaps?

Later that month, Evan and Jen take the family to see The Play That Goes Wrong. I think the moral is that when I tell people I don’t like farce, they should believe me and not argue that the one they have in mind is different. Still, a nice thing… and I did like the farce episode of Party Down, so I guess there is at least ONE exception!

And finally, a post no one much cared for, but I still feel there’s something there, and since it will continue to come up…

February:

I take part in a genetic research study, where for a full day, every three hours I have blood drawn and have an MRI. I think I mostly did it for the experience and the story (even though the previous sentence is basically the story)… and the money helped.

Pete takes me to a DGC event where I learn all about Star Trek: Discovery. Neat!

Two tweets, one in which I get excited about something that turns out not to be a big deal, and one which I think is funny, regardless of its reception!

And later in the month, the Oscars. I believe I tied with Mom in the family pool and won the pool at work. I *work* in the industry! (I don’t really. It’s just a fun thing to say.)

March:

Puns meet politics!

And since the world isn’t making me any less cynical…

After years of us all chanting it and only me having seen it, I invite a group of friends over to watch Barton Fink! (Simpsons’ fans will understand the chanting.) The movie is not the biggest hit (and as a writer, Ian may have felt a little targeted), but the night is a delight.

I play squash with Hillary, then a few days later with Evan. They’re my first squash games in forever. As I write this, I realize I wanted to play more, then didn’t. But hopefully I will!

A pretty low-key birthday. I assume, because I can’t actually remember. I guess it’s an important one in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sense?

April:

After months of making us wait, Toronto Pho opens around the corner from work. A very welcome addition… though this decorating choice evokes a dark laugh on the inside every time I see it…

I lose at March Madness once again, this time to a four-year-old. Which would be embarrassing enough, but he also beat us all when he was two.

I take this picture to commemorate the time I passed muster. (Yes, me dumb!)

I see Go on the big screen, possibly for the first time. Twentieth anniversary, so I guess I’m old?

I also see Jen do standup (for what I think was her first non-class show) at Dawn Patrol. Though I’m a little intimidated by how good she is right out of the gate, I start wondering if it’s something I should try. At this point, I’m still wondering… but I’ve also started compiling and organizing, so it’s more than speculation. Guess we’ll see what happens in next year’s post!

Passover happens. Details are lost to memory and lazy research, but this is kind of funny, right?

After years of having insurance and basically only using it for dental, I have an optometrist appointment. (This’ll pay off later. Kind of.)

And then late in the month, a bunch of nerds go to see Avengers: Endgame. I liked it… and them!

The Hershfield men catch Buddy Guy at Roy Thomson Hall. If anyone ever assumes based on the name that he’s a made-up blues man, well, now we can confidently say he exists!

Tim Burns is nice enough to meet for lunch and talk ‘the biz.’ Though my momentum feels largely stalled on that front, it’s always good to stoke the coals.

May:

At long last, a mini-vacation. Evan and I spend a long weekend in Halifax/Dartmouth to celebrate Brad’s birthday. I don’t know what I would do if I moved there… but I can see the appeal. Anyway, here are a few pictures, one for the Archer fans and one for the medium-old-school SNL fans. (And yes, the party had a theme.)

Loose cannons! Also the party was at the Mic Mac AAC, which I mention mostly because it’s a very specific regional reference I will have to drop at some point.

Later, in the month, I go from visitor to host. First, there’s a McGill reunion when Sam Sewall swings through (always a good time). A few days later, Dave is in town, and I show off some Leslieville, including the Saulter Street Brewery and the Broadview Hotel rooftop bar. Classy!

Game of Thrones ends. I could rant some, but I’ll leave it at this:

Then Larry’s 70th. Because Grandma is in poor health, the big party is cancelled… but we will not deny ourselves schnitzel! Also we realize that since the price of a wiener schnitzel has been creeping up, the cost of a wooden platter for two is actually a little less than the cost of two schnitzels. I think you know where this is going…

June:

Ian (the one from work) has his annual BBQ. Since the move, we rarely all hang out, so it’s a nice little refresher.

Having renewed my friendship with the lovely Jenny earlier in the year, I am invited to watch The Bachelorette with Tom, Lindsay, and her. Though I will have to repress my natural instinct to eeyore, it is fairly habit-forming, and a nice new ritual. (I mean, I check in and out, because you easily can until the end… but still, I am forever invested in Hannah and forever headshaking at Luke P.!)

Moving on…

Ian invites me to see Ghostbusters in Concert, with a ticket Jason couldn’t use. (Thanks to both!) We meet up for drinks beforehand, and I arrive first, which is when this happens.

But to be clear, the highlight is this:

Social media continues to be good and bad. But it does seem like I have some feelings about it…

Anyway, within a week of that, THE RAPTORS WIN IT ALL! I haven’t mentioned it, but obviously, I watch A LOT of basketball in the months leading up to this, and it’s all pretty glorious. My personal highlight from this all happens in December (Stay tuned!), but for now, I’ll just say this:

Huzzah!

Also cause for celebration: Jason and I follow through on our plan for an East Toronto Brew Pub Crawl! I helped quite a bit, but most of the credit goes to him. With ESPECIAL credit for commissioning this incredible map/itinerary!

There’s actually a version with times on it and everything, but since that one includes his home address (where we had a Mortal Kombat tourney after breakfast and beers at Louis Cifer), this is the map I’m sharing. A very intoxicating day, and thanks to flights, dozens of beers are sampled! (Though I haven’t been back since, Rorshach blew my mind.)

Okay. Putting in a transition sentence between paragraphs, because sadly, near the end of the month…

My Grandma Vera passes away. At age 96, and following several years of mental decline, so very mixed feelings. Still, never easy to lose someone who you love and who loved you. She’s also my last grandparent, and while it’s crazy that I had one into my forties, I can’t help but realize the next losses will come from the next generation… and that’s very bracing. At any rate, I am reminded of her constantly, not just by our similarities, but by a little shrine to my life I have in my bedroom.

That’s my intramural hockey sweater (Go, Rez Dogs!), a bra that was a cast gift from the first play I directed, and a sweater my grandma knitted me. Though I’ve got some good years ahead of me, knock on wood, it reminds me I’ve had a life, and there’s been some love in it.

July:

I see James live in concert. For some reason, it’s not as exuberant an experience as I was hoping for, but I do love that band and they’ve still got serious chops. Also, Sean is there with his daughter, and it’s her first concert, so that’s a pretty cool moment. That said, when the choice was between a ride or seeing the Psychedelic Furs finish their set, I pick the ride. So make of that what you will. At any rate…  James!

For her birthday (though not ON her birthday), Evan, Jen and I take Mom to the Science Centre to watch Superpower Dogs on IMAX. Though I do find myself distracted thinking about someone who used to work there, I focus enough to get reinforcement on our family’s wise decision to be dog people!

Fringe happens. I hope I saw more plays than I can remember (the years blend together!), but I know I saw the Lauras, because I remember thinking that was funny. Specifically, I saw Laura Anne Harris in Destiny, USA, and Laura Bailey in Clitoria. Both very good, and reminders of my fringe theatre glory!

Though I am not technically in a show, I DO get a black eye at basketball around then, and get to spend a few days pretending I’m in Fight Club.

Around that time, a visit from Becky! This was a long time coming, as we haven’t seen each other in YEARS, since my last visit to New York. (Where she no longer lives.) Though bad weather takes some of the shine off things, I drag her all over the city, and we talk and drink a bunch. She’s someone I’m very glad to know, and I am already looking forward to our next reunion. (Hopefully in America, though I’m waiting for sanity to be restored.)

The day after my Becky day, I see the new Second City revue Walking on Bombshells and hang out post-show with my buddy Chris and old showmate Stacey. The day after that, drinks with Jess. The day after that, I see Into the Spiderverse with Ian. The day after that, basketball. The day after that, a movie night at Robin’s, where I believe we watched Trading Places.

I mention all this because I think that’s about as social a stretch as an introvert like me can manage! Kudos to all involved for being people I can spend time with!

One last thing for July. The family went to Sunset Grill in the Beaches (yes, plural, rebranding exercise be damned!), as we’re wont to do, and I noticed something interesting about the omelette prices. I’ll give you a second to see if you can spot it on your own.

Give up? (Or “Get it?” I don’t want to presume you didn’t.) The vast majority of omelettes are cheaper if you “create your own”. The Green Omelette by a full two dollars! So I guess the question is, how much is it worth to you not to be “that guy”? In my case, the Sunset Omelette, it was worth the fifty cents.

Okay, I lied. One more thing for July, just because I made myself laugh:

August:

A reunion a LONG time in the making! Over a decade! Joanna comes to town, and I am reminded of the wonder that is old friends: so much changes, so much remains the same! As an aside, it may be my lack of kids AND moisturizer, but I always feel like I’ve aged the least personally and the most physically. For the latter, judge for yourself.

I manage to get onto another downtown rooftop for some cool people drinking. At least once a summer, whether I want to or not. And I almost always do!

Of course, days later, our parent company has us over for drinks and some BBQ on THEIR rooftop. Mind you, we’re basically their hillbilly cousins from the sticks, welcome only because our women are hot. Or maybe that’s just my take. Regardless, I live up to that understanding by stuffing my face then running off early. (It was a basketball night!)

Anyway, here’s an August post I quite liked. (I’m also sharing it because the hilarious Josh Gondelman just made a similar joke on Twitter, and while it’s parallel thinking, I want it on the record that I thought this thought first, so I can maybe use it in standup. That’s how this works, right?)

Then it was cottage time. Back to the Armstrongs again, and a good, laid-back, light-on-guests time had by all.

One funny thing: I burned a pair of pants. Intentionally. When I was getting my wedding suit, Evan’s friend Matt gifted me a fancy dress shirt, on the condition I burn the pants from my original suit. (The fit offended him.) In what is either a touch of karma or a touch of irony, the pants from my NEW suit have gone missing. Which is bizarre. Hopefully, they’ll turn up, but either way, I watched my ‘pants on fire’, and I ain’t lying!

Then back to work. I won’t say the effect of the cottage wore off too quickly… but this was a thought I had within a week of my return to civilization:

Johnny and Marla have a wedding dinner. Everything is very tasty, though I would expect no less. I’ll mostly remember duck being chopped up next to our table. How’ve I gone this long without experiencing this?

I apply for the Saturday Night Live ticket lottery again. As of now, it still hasn’t happened. But I guess I’ll keep doing it until it does, because that feels like how life works, right?

Also, I think I should go, because I saw a Kids in the Hall taping, so this would round out my comedy name-dropping possibilities. Plus, I keep having funny thoughts like this!

And on the last night of August, Kat and I take in an outdoors screening of Back to the Future. Because it’s there!

September:

Another September, another TIFF! Though, despite the exclamation point, I didn’t see much. And while I liked what I saw – David Copperfield and How to Build a Girl – I wasn’t really feeling it this year. But hey, it’s a blog, so here are pictures showing how close I got to famous people:

Around then, Tom and Lindsay have something of a housewarming. They live around the corner from the folks’, so it makes me extra-happy, and I hope to visit that backyard and fireplace for years to come.

Another September 8th, another iteration of this post! Okay, there seem to be diminishing returns from the audience, but it still makes me smile and it marks a real anniversary, so what the hell. See you again next year, post!

Also that day, the family heads down to Stratford to see Henry VIII. It was my idea to see a lesser work, and, well, it was lesser. But a noble venture, says I!

Through the series of tubes that is the internet, my McGill Twenty Year Reunion planning starts. So far, it’s looking like August may be the choice of champions. We shall see… but something to look forward to!

On the 19th, I have…  Jury Duty! I’m ambivalent about whether I want to be on a jury, but it turns out to be a moot point. Eventually. First, we’re directed to go directly to a courtroom, my first time making it that far; previously, I just made it to the holding room. While we wait, the bailiff tells us that it’s the biggest courtroom in Ontario and that the trial we’re being panelled for is expected to last at least six weeks. (I could be getting that wrong. I mostly remember the gasp!) Then the judge comes in, and after thanking us and noting that serving on a jury is a sacred duty, he explains that due to some procedural things and timing issues, there’s another panel scheduled for closer to the trial date that no longer has a case attached to it. So we’re all free to go! (Oh, the relief in that room!) Best of all, the whole thing took two-and-a-half hours, almost exactly the time to not make it worth going in to work!

That is also the first day of JFL 42. And me, Evan, and Jen went at the festival with gusto. Of course, the credit system makes it basically All You Can See, so we did. Here’s who I saw, in the order I saw them:

  • Roy Wood Jr.
  • Threedom (Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, Scott Aukerman)
  • Esther Povitsky
  • Todd Barry
  • Ronny Chieng
  • John Mulaney and Pete Davidson
  • Jen Kirkman
  • Sam Morril
  • Kate Berlant
  • Ron Funches
  • Michelle Wolf
  • Jay Pharoah (w. A.J. Foster)
  • Graham Kay
  • Jon Dore
  • Dan Soder
  • Jim Norton
  • Cristela Alonzo
  • Andy Kindler & The Alternative Show (Dave Merheje, DeAnne Smith, Nour Hadidi, Tom Henry, and Mark Forward)

Pretty crazy lineup, right? Mind you, seeing that much, there was a lot of “appreciating this is funny” rather than “laughing”… but hey, comedy is a hobby/business of mine too, so that’s still well worth it. Also, my baby stepping towards standup gets a little more of a nudge, and I do some valuable homework.

Here’s a picture:

Finally, a Pharoah who likes the Jews!

My McGill reunion streak continues with a visit by Rachel. Granted, it had only been a few years since I’d seen her, but hey, it’s always special. Here’s a picture, showing that my selfie game has marginally improved. If nothing else, my arms are long.

On the 28th, I attend the  Make ‘em Laugh for 90 Minutes workshop. So now I HAVE to write a screenplay. I just HAVE to!

The next day, we go for Chinese as a family, and I get this fortune which makes me laugh.

Thanks for the future tense, fortune cookie!

Then Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Evan’s birthday. He celebrates by not coming. Da jarit!

October:

Another big concert: Thrush Hermit! It involved some stress, because I got two tickets months before, confident that I knew people who’d be into it. Only to find out it’s a little more niche than I assumed. But Greenstein steps up, and we enjoy some fine tunes!

Then later that month, I’m the one (well, one of the ones) making sweet music. Yes, after years of threatening it and thinking about it, I make it out to a Choir! Choir! Choir! (For those not in the know, this is an ongoing event where a bunch of people congregate and become a choir for a night, learning a song and performing it as a group.) What may have prompted me to finally go was having someone to go with (thanks, Jenny!), but also, it was the fiftieth anniversary of Abbey Road, so they did Something. How could I miss that?

A few days later, on Twitter, I make what I believe is called a ‘witty rejoinder.’ It draws valued praise.

Continuing my string of firsts, I finally make it out to one of the Christie Pits basketball games. And the people I know didn’t show up, so I’m playing with mostly strangers. But a few familiar faces, and all friendly, and a good time had by all. No Stranger Danger here!

A few days later, a federal election. Though I get a little frustrated with people who don’t seem to know how strategic voting can work (e.g. in a safe riding, you can vote your conscience), it’s the rare election these days that doesn’t end with the worst-case scenario, so I’ll take it. Even though the Hershfields’ attempt to sway the vote through fashion did nothing.

A few days after THAT, I buy a pair of jeans. Which I mention only because it was the most extreme markdown I’ve ever seen. OVER 95%, BABY!

November:

Someone manages to drive through a window at work.

It’s very exciting short-term, pretty inconvenient long-term. It also means I move from open-concept with a window to my own office without one, so a lateral move, I suppose?

Boris Mortz jams for the first time. It’s my bro’s friends, who are more loosey-goosey, less rehearsey than I’m used to. But there are worse ways to spend an evening.

After a day of facial fashion show with Evan and Jen a few weeks earlier, I get new glasses. (It’d been years!) We do the appropriate Simpsons routine ad nauseum. (I probably miss my old glasses…)

Maybe they make me smarter, because I do a take on a Twitter meme that strikes myself as amusing.

I see that Pearl Court is closing, and since it’s supposedly the best Chinese food on the Gerrard Chinatown, and I’m kicking myself for never having gone, I leap into action. Will and I agree dim sum must be had, and we moved to rally some troops. Those troops turn out to be Jason, and the three of us eat a lot of dim sum and basically shut the place down. Better late than never!

And I end the month by directing at the 24 Hour Sketch Fest! It’s my first time doing it as a director, and it’s a ton of fun. Nice to spread some wisdom and help my lovely team bring their gold to the stage. Rihanna-matopeia! (That’s what I named the team , as we had a running Rihanna theme. Alas, we got announced as Rihanna-topia… which is still not bad.)

December:

The office holiday party. Kind of a meh experience for me. I’d much rather have dancing than a casino. But hey, different strokes. And this year, I was one of the very sober people helping the very wrecked people… so in theory, I can get wrecked next year? (I do have an ‘every second year’ streak going.)

So remember when I said my personal connection to the Raptors’ championship would happen in December? Well, my buddy Myles (who also plays basketball with us) is an MLSE exec, so he was able to make this moment happen for me!

To be clear, I didn’t get to keep it. Nor could my scrawny arms handle that much weight on a regular basis. But for a brief shining moment, my ring finger was a champion!

The usual suspects gather to close out the Star Wars series with an opening night screening of Rise of Skywalker. The movie is pretty much hot garbage, in my humble but not too humble opinion… but the company is a delight!

Because of the origins of this blog, I feel I should mention that I interview for the Second City’s new Directing Program… and do not get in.

Anyhoo…

Christmas is a nice event at the house. New Year’s Eve, I use a spare ticket my parents have to see Uncut Gems with them, then just go home and watch Inside Llewyn Davis. Midnight is not noted. Maybe I should have forced myself to go out… but I was happy to just run out the clock, so to speak.

Well, fingers crossed for a more groovy year in 2020, though I’ll settle for survival. And because I don’t want to end on THAT note, I’ll end on this one instead:

My year in books: 2018 edition

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

Well, for the first time in awhile, this list of books I’ve read represents (I think) a calendar year. I can’t tell whether I should be proud of how much I read without having to make an effort… or embarrassed by how much I don’t get out! Either way, I think I set a personal record for reading books written by people I know, and we can all agree that’s pretty nifty.

In the order I read them:

  1. What I Think Happened: An Underresearched History of the Western World, Evany Rosen
  2. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, Steven Pinker
  3. Tenth of December, George Saunders
  4. Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002), David Sedaris
  5. The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins
  6. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, Samantha Irby
  7. The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency, Lanny J. Davis
  8. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better, Monica Heisey
  9. The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish
  10. From Animal House to Our House: A Love Story, Ron Tanner
  11. Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
  12. SPARKS, Ian Boothby & Nina Matsumoto
  13. Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution, Jonathan Abrams
  14. Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, Barbara Ehrenreich
  15. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, Michelle McNamara
  16. Failure Is An Option: An Attempted Memoir, H. Jon Benjamin
  17. Like Brothers, Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass
  18. How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written, Sterling Archer*
  19. Land Mammals and Sea Creatures, Jen Neale
  20. Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City, Tanya Talaga
  21. All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire, Jonathan Abrams
  22. Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, Kory Stamper
  23. Just the Funny Parts … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club, Nell Scovell
  24. The Men Who Stare at Goats, Jon Ronson
  25. How to Fall in Love With Anyone, Mandy Len Catron
  26. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, Steven Johnson
  27. Hits & Misses, Simon Rich
  28. Sweet Affliction, Anna Leventhal
  29. A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age, Daniel J. Levitin
  30. Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture, Ken Jennings
  31. Property Values, Charles Demers
  32. Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most, Steven Johnson
  33. The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy, Paul Myers
  34. The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis
  35. I’ll Be There For You: The One about Friends, Kelsey Miller
  36. How To Be Alone (If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t), Lane Moore
  37. The Library Book, Susan Orlean
  38. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles
  39. All the Answers, Michael Kupperman
  40. Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice

Boy, when I finally get around to making a Goodreads page, it’s going to be a lot of work, and my reviews will be quite arbitrary! But hey, it’s nice to have a record of all this wonderful reading. Read on, my invisible book club!

Hindsight is 2018! (I couldn’t wait!)

Sunday, April 21st, 2019

This ‘posting once a year’ pattern I’ve fallen into is officially odd. I’m fairly certain there are big life events I’m missing, because I now get to the end of the year and try to cobble together what I did using social media and emails. Even though I’m quite certain the best moments in life leave no such trace. Nevertheless, since it is sometimes fun for me (and maybe you) to reread random moments from a year, here they are!

January:

I attend the Next Stage festival for what I think is the first time. Pretty embarrassing for a Fringer, especially given all the people I know who must have done it over the years. Well, consider yourself special, Jason, because Jonno is the one that finally got me out! (And proximity to Gandhi roti was barely a factor.)

Jess and I go for drinks at the Only Bar and Café. This is something we do fairly often (location varies), but this one felt particularly bondy. Or so I recall: it was a year ago, and there was drink involved. All I know is we went back there in October, and one of the times, we also ordered food from Big House Pizza, and it was very good and in my neighborhood, so I have no idea why I haven’t had it since. Time flies?

My on-again, off-again, approach-avoid relationship with improv continues. Matt asks if I want to team up with Ron Sparks, and as we’re all basketball buddies and I like to be asked, I agree. Then it turns out Ron can’t make it and I end up doing the tournament with another wonderful soul, Cameron Wyllie. We quickly establish that we’re going to be the team of two straight dudes who end their scenes by kissing but without making a big deal about it.

We advance to the second round. Naturally.

I see Reid Along with Browning for the first time in forever, and it makes me happy as always. I conquer my social anxiety nerves and go to BeslerMania. My social anxiety nerves win and Seiler and PK skip town without me managing a goodbye. (Though true to my form, I write them a nice note on Facebook.)

And for the first time ever that I can recall, I ask for a raise. I’m told to put it in writing.

February:

I am on the panel for this month’s Comedy Album Book Club, discussing 2000 Years with Cark Reiner and Mel Brooks with Jason, Martha O’Neill, and Sean Browning. Good time had by all, always fun when comedy nerds get together and nerd out. It’s a podcast, so depending on when you see this, you might be able to listen along?

I put my raise request in writing, with much help from my father and Kat Janicki. It takes several people to convince me to write nice things about myself.

The Super Bowl happens. This is where I should write things down. I’m sure I did SOMETHING for it…

Likewise, I know I went to Kama Sutra with my high school friends. Pretty sure it’s an Indian restaurant… but in this case, it’s probably more fun not to look it up.

Basketball night (Wednesday) falls on Valentine’s Day. With a number of cancellations, including several from subs who apparently forgot what day it was when they agreed, those of us who are there end up playing the full two hours 4-on-4. By the usual standards of Valentine’s Day, this one felt really good!

Along those lines, I shortly thereafter enjoyed a night out all by myself. (Well, mostly.) I went to watch Alaine coach at the U of T women’s basketball game, had a brief visit afterwards, then went to watch Black Panther on my own. Noteworthy, because I’m often reticent about going out on my own, but sometimes, when you lean into it, it’s lovely.

Jason and Helena have a party where we’re supposed to bring a dish that means something to us. I decide I’ll bring kasha… and then don’t have the time and also remember that liking kasha is a weird thing. So I bring Descendant Pizza and Radical Road beer, because I like my cool neighborhood. Good enough!

And I guess I remembered about this blog at some point, because I jotted down “Food Trucks: up to thirteen songs.” Don’t look now… but that’s a set!

March:

I have dinner with Laura Bailey, and she tells me about a one-person show she wants to do. It’s of particular note, because she subsequently got into the Toronto Fringe and said show will be happening this summer. Timelines!

Sketchfest comes, and working stiff that I am, I don’t see much. I see Cam Wyllie’s show (how could I not?!?), I see the Lusty Mannequins with Mark & Andy & Dave (a bill that’s pretty much a sure thing), and I go to the Inside The Ladies Writing Room panel (where I am one of about three men with over a hundred women, and I realize that might be as close as I get to experiencing what it’s like to be a woman in a room surrounded by men… but probably better for me, because women are better and privilege generally… anyhooo… )

Around this time, I see the Raptors play the Rockets. It is easily the best game I’ve ever seen live, with James Harden putting on a performance that was practically inhuman, Lowry refusing to lose, and the Raptors earning the win with Harden FINALLY missing on a shot that would’ve sent it to OT. Check it out!

http://www.espn.com/nba/game?gameId=400975725

We have a Movie Night at Robin’s, where we watch Jumanji. I can’t remember if this is our first proper movie night… but it’s become more of a regular thing, so when I’m someday trying to remember how long we’ve been doing it, we can know we started at least this long ago.

Seth’s bar mitzvah. It’s a lovely event, though I’ll mostly remember it for losing a library book and then obsessively trying to find it. (It eventually turned up after I’d lost all hope. Ain’t it always the way?!

I go to the WTTV for The Detail. It’s possible I’m a hobbyist now… or that I’m doing the job, and just don’t feel like I am because it’s a bizarro version of it… but either way, I do enjoy these things on occasion.

Here are some posts I made that I liked… as did a handful of others:

Round 2 of the World’s Biggest Improv Tournament. Cameron and I again do our thing, again we advance. He’s lovely, but my ambivalence about improv remains. I loved it so much for so long, but at this point, it feels like it’s easy to be pretty good and impossible to be great, or at least rare enough that it hardly seems worth it. At the risk of bleakness, maybe it just reminds me of better times I once had? But to be clear, I wasn’t nearly this overwrought at the time; it was just a pleasant night out, with people I enjoy.

So, for the first in a long string of unimportant birthdays, I play basketball (nice synchronicity), then dinner with folks, then out for a beer with Ian.  I slept over at parents and had dinner the next day at La Paella. We had the/la paella.

The seder this year was at Sandra’s. They do blend together, but this one was a little memorable for the  heat being out.

April:

A post that probably deserved better. But discerning people liked it, damn it!

March Madness was actual madness this year. Somehow, despite a very busted bracket, I only lose the office pool by one point… which may actually be worse? Either way, in my old Vancouver pool, Villanova’s win pulls me ahead of Shaun and Allen and also, perhaps most importantly, the bracket picked entirely by coin tosses. Oy!

Round 3 and then Round 4 of the World’s Biggest Improv Tournament. As previously noted, still pretty ambivalent, and doing shows two weeks in a row didn’t help. (Once every couple of months at most for this guy!) Still kind of nice to make the Top 16, remind people who I am, etc.

I make a 4/20 joke some fellow nerds like:

And I get a new cellphone. Which is noteworthy because it’s my first smartphone. At the time, I’m pretty sure I won’t get that into it. And while I’m still not a person who gets “excited” about phones or needs the latest, I admit there are some perks to joining everyone else in this century.

May:

Dave comes for a visit, and I use the opportunity to get the high school crew to come to Leslieville. Post-tennis, we go for donairs and drinks at The Thirsty Duck (feels very Canadian) and then for cocktails at Goods and Provisions. Sophistimicated!

Doors Open happens. Larry and I use the opportunity to check out a few of the movie studios in my neighborhood. Because, hey, the Doors were Open!

I make what may be the greatest joke the world has ever seen:

I go suit shopping for Evan’s wedding. Which is especially notable because it was done in a hotel suite! Yes, I got a custom-made suit. We went, got measurements taken, picked from various swatches of fabric… it was very grown-up and a little Rat Pack.

June:

I have a very nerdy email exchange with my father. I sent him this article about why rich kids are good at the marshmallow test: http://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/06/marshmallow-test/561779/?utm_source=eb

Then I sent him a website that has a fun (to nerds) visual representation of the birthday paradox: https://pudding.cool/2018/04/birthday-paradox/

Then he sent me this in reply: https://www.nature.com/news/replication-studies-bad-copy-1.10634

I mention all this to establish there are smart (or at least intellectually curious) people in Ontario. This is worth noting, because days after this exchange, Doug Ford becomes Premier. Ontario is officially too stupid to be a province.

In recognition of the fact I’m probably privileged enough to survive this new administration (Doug wil likely never get around to building camps, since that would involve creating something rather than tearing something down), I get a new tennis racket for the first time in a decade. I like it.

Bike Share Toronto offers free rental s on Wednesdays in June. So for a couple of days, I’m a guy who rides a bike rides to work. Mind you, I got to boot down to the path that runs along and under the Gardiner, so I wasn’t too much dealing with traffic. Still, close enough to the real thing to say I’ve done it!

I get something off my chest:

I make my first Instagram post. In retrospect, I don’t know if more social media was called for, but it’s fun to express myself visually. (Or more accurately, commenting on things that visually amuse me.) It’s also the social media that doesn’t seem to be a terrible hellscape. So there’s that.  For anyone so inclined: https://www.instagram.com/dan.hershfield/

I email Larry about this article about referential behavior in dogs. Well, he must have shown it to Marty, because suddenly, it seems to be all he can do!: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10071-018-1181-3

Evan’s bachelor party. Even if I never do another nice thing for him in his life, I’m still the best brother of all time. It’s Archer-themed, and I even request a very special favor from a wonderful old friend to sell it. The idea is that Evan had to be Archer for the day, so we had a lesson and learned to play lacrosse…

We got dressed up, me as Krieger, Larry as Bilbo…

Then the gentlemen had a dinner in a private room at Pearl Diver (thanks, Peter!)…

Then a karaoke party at the party room at Betty’s!

Okay, that last one took some work to fit thematically. But it got there. And then Evan foiled an assassination attempt by a Nova Scotian Separatist (thanks, Ian!) and was rewarded with a signed picture by Farty Dadams… an inside joke that only three people really understood! So yeah, I’m the best big brother ever.

Then life goes on. Realizing I dropped the ball on picture taking at the bachelor party, I take my best–ever selfie. Well, funniest. To me.

And I make another funny post where I invent an earworm:

And then my last noteworthy event of June (apparently) was a WTTV for the series Wishfart.

July:

I make a post that’s far too popular.

And Marty gets a summer do!

A pretty quiet Fringe year for me. I see: Al Lafrance: I Think I’m Dead; Morro and Jasp: Save the Date (with Stopher, in what is/was a lovely tradition); We’ll Be Better Tomorrow; and Featherweight (starring incredible talents Kat and Amanda). So I didn’t see much, but what I saw was good, so there’s that.

I go to Matt and Erin’s nuptials. After missing the arrival of my new suit by a matter of minutes, I go on a road trip with a brunch of improv types to this destination wedding, and a lovely time is had by all. A ceremony both touching and funny, a great honour to be counted among their friends, and a delightful weekend. (Even with me feeling I have to prove my comedy capabilities from time to time.)

Shortly thereafter, we go to the cottage. I don’t remember much of what happened, but I do know this happened as we were packing up to leave, and it’s the cutest thing ever:

August:

Okay, to be clear, the world falling apart isn’t good for comedy, and even if it was, it wouldn’t be worth it. Even to comedians, because we’re not psychopaths. That said, the “President” being a thoroughly shitty human being led to my most viewed tweet, due to me being retweeted by Edgar Wright! (And then others, including some of note.)

I go to Winnipeg with Larry, with Bobo and Zack visiting at the same time. Standard Winnipeg activities (not in a bad way), and I discover (better late than never) that the Shaftesbury is right next to Assiniboine Park and all its lovely hiking trails. Finally, something to do besides eating, sitting, and car rides! (It was VERY hot… but again, with all the eating, a little sweat was probably a good idea!)

I return, and Brad from work has his wedding. Or reception, I suppose. Either way, first time wearing my new suit out!

September:

I begin my quietest TIFF in years. Just two movies. The first was Greta. Not my favorite, but such is life.

I make a joke on Facebook that appeals to people who read closely and people who don’t read so closely. I feel a little guilty about it… but damn it, it’s funny!

Luckily, it wasn’t a purely arbitrary day, so I won’t mind doing it every year. Which I guess I have to now!

The next day (the 9th), I see If Beale Street Could Talk. Definitely my favorite of the two, and about as good a Q&A as you could hope for. (It made the news!) I think I’m pretty much over TIFF, but it is a bit of a nice family ritual.

Speaking of which, Rosh Hashanah at Shelley and Cindy’s this year. Good times had by all.

Shortly thereafter, I get a pink bass. It’s mostly so I can have one for home and one for the office, where Food Trucks jam… but it’s still very punk.

Pete takes a couple of us out for a spin on his boat. I get strangely close to motion sickness (as in I felt it but nothing came out of me) and then we had hot dogs at the RCYC. Queasiness notwithstanding, a lovely time that also feels like proper taking advantage of the city we live in.

I make a funny joke at work and then decide I want to share it with the world:

I go hardcore on JFL42. Largely with Evan and Jen. It turns out that its credit system basically encourages you to see countless shows, so between being cheap and inspired, I see a ton.

Fairly early on, I make this observation…

… but it’s still a lot of laughs. (And admittedly, a lot of mental acknowledgment that things are funny without actually laughing.) Here’s who I saw:

  • Theo Von
  • Rapp Battlez
  • Donnell Rawlings
  • Margaret Cho
  • Neal Brennan
  • Seth Meyers
  • Moses Storm & Jo Firestone
  • Talking with Canadian TV Comedy Writers: Monica Heisey w. Kevin White, Anita Kapila, Garry Campbell & Susan Coyne
  • Nathan Macintosh
  • Marc Evan Jackson & Paul F. Tompkins (improv)
  • Matt Braunger
  • Joe Mande
  • Adam Pally (Vino Diesel)
  • Tony Hinchcliffe
  • Ryan Hamilton
  • Lil Rel Howery
  • Chris Gethard
  • Todd Glass

A lot, right? But it’s like homework for funny people… or so I tell myself. Anyway, here’s the one picture we took with someone: the very funny, very friendly Ryan Hamilton.

October:

Another earworm of my own invention!

I don’t entirely remember my mood at the time, but on the 12th, I post this:

Perhaps not coincidentally, I begin volunteering around then at ReadUP. For awhile, at any rate.

A webseries I was an extra in goes live. Admittedly, I volunteered mostly to play basketball… but it was still a thing I did, and I’m in it. If you’ve ever wanted to see me play sports in slow motion (well, SLOWER motion):

Due to someone being too sick to go, I see Andy Zaltzman’s show Right Questions, Wrong Answers. I get there late due to the stupid TTC, so I’m in a bad mood for awhile… but fun show.

John Tory stays the mayor, in the Ford-compromised municipal election. Toronto’s spiral down the plumbing continues apace.

Anyway, here’s a post that probably should’ve been appreciated more:

Our office moves to the Dufferin and Eglinton neighbourhood. Suddenly, I’m a commuter and everything seems harder. But at least I’m getting reading done during my commute…

The month ends with a Halloween party at Ian and Jen’s. For the first time in years, I meet someone at a party and days later, successfully ask them out. Not much comes of it, alas… but good to know that’s still a possibility for Old Dan.

November:

A big month for me online. I get the app Untappd (my beer drinking is nowhere near enough to make it impressive, but hey, it’s fun). I get some Initiative Q cryptocurrency (current value: probably nothing, but it was free, so no harm done. And I get my first Twitter suspension!

I hold out from deleting the tweet for a long time, hoping that I can actually get a letter from someone who works there saying that they think a person exists who’s dumb enough to believe this is real. After about a week, I need my account for work, so I relent. But if you ever have any doubt that Twitter has chosen a side, and it’s the side of the fascists… well, don’t.

Evan and Jen’s wedding and assorted adjacent events). I MC (“yeah, you know me!”) and everyone does very well. I could go on and on, but I think I’ll just remember it as best I can. Here are some pictures (with a focus on me, because if anyone’s actually reading this, I have to assume I’m the one you’re interested in!):

As usual, the Hershfields know how to party.

Moving on… I have an experience that’s pretty well summed up by my post on the subject:

Speaking of nerds who read, shortly thereafter, I have a very Toronto experience. I go downtown to give blood, then have to go to the Reference Library to photocopy pages from a book not in circulation for Larry… and while there, I stumble upon a Susan Orlean lecture. Nifty! (And as you’ll see from today’s OTHER post, I did read her book!)

Around this time, I officially end my volunteering with ReadUP. My commuting time now means I have to go directly from work to it, and even doing that, I was hard-pressed to make it on time. Should really find something else good to do… note to self.

December:

I learn that Bathurst Bowlerama is closing down. The end of an era, etc.

Another year, another holiday party. Though with new owners, it’s a real party. I get far too drunk off the open bar, and (separately) the highlight of the party is a contest where people have to drop toonies into shotglasses from their butt cheeks. All this will probably feel less normal some day.

I make my last really good post of the year (if I do say so myself):

Okay, slightly overwritten, but that idea is solid!

Brad from work has big news. He’s moving on to bigger and better things. The presumption is that I’ll become head writer… and eventually that is the case.  So… that’s a thing that happened.

Then the holidays. I see Dave and other high school folks (we go for Indonesian), Lindsay and Tom, and other people I haven’t seen in too long. I finally check out the Second City revue: a lot of good stuff, especially (if I may say) from my friend Chris Wilson. And then once again New Year’s at Ian and Jen’s.

And that’s the year that was. More or less. (Okay, it’s probably less… but after all this writing, it feels like more!) Thanks for reading this, Future Me!

Back to the sea!

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

This blog may have evolved beyond its origins…but it remembers them!

I started this site to share my adventures aboard the NCL Jewel as a member of a Second City Theatrical cast. Well, Second City’s contract with Norwegian recently came to an end, and Second City made a video celebrating it. My appearances in the video come early and late, but hey, watch the whole thing, you might see some famous faces!

(Thanks to the email informing us about the video not being BCCed, I now have several celebrities’ email addresses…and also received a whack of ‘too clever by half’ reply-all messages. Kind of sums up my Second City experience nicely, come to think of it!)

Enjoy!

 

The Second City and NCL from The Second City on Vimeo.

Book ’em, Dano!

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

In some ways, this ongoing list of books I’ve read is more of a biography than my accounting of events from my life. It certainly tells basically the same story a lot more efficiently! But a few things I’ve been thinking I should mention.

Most importantly, inclusion is not endorsement. (See “Wicked.” No, seriously. See it. Don’t read it.) If I include a book here, it does mean I’ve finished it…but that’s a pretty low bar for me. At some point, I’ll have to start a Goodreads page and give ALL these books at least a starred review…but for now, feel free to ask. Or read them, and when they’re bad, commiserate with me!

Also, I list these books in the order I read them, but since the timing of some of this reading may be of interest…:

  • I read the Carrie Fisher books in the wake of her death. Yes, a bit of nostalgia and sentimentality. But they completely justified the decision.
  • Al Franken’s book I read BEFORE the revelations about him came to light. Ironically, I was looking for hope. Serves me right?
  • Matthew Weiner’s book I read AFTER the revelation about him…but I’d put it on hold at the library before AND I’d seen his reading for it on THE DAY the revelations came out AND it was so short, I had enough curiosity to power through.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The books I’ve read since my last post on the subject to the end of 2017:

  1. Postcards from the Edge, Carrie Fisher
  2. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip Heath & Dan Heath
  3. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
  4. Rhapsody in Schmaltz: Yiddish Food and Why We Can’t Stop Eating It, Michael Wex
  5. When to Rob a Bank…and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
  6. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, Michael Lewis
  7. The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World, A.J. Jacobs
  8. Based on a True Story (A Memoir), Norm Macdonald
  9. Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff
  10. The New Rabbi, Stephen Fried
  11. Superman: Red Son, Mark Millar
  12. The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey
  13. She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman, Ian Kerner
  14. The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country, Helen Russell
  15. Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, Al Franken
  16. The Uncollected David Rakoff (including the entire text of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish), David Rakoff
  17. King of the Jews: The Greatest Mob Story Never Told, Nick Tosches
  18. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 9, various
  19. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From A Happy Life Without Kids, Jen Kirkman
  20. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck (reread)
  21. Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Care, Dinah Miller, MD & Annette Hanson, MD
  22. Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, John Hodgman
  23. The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, Esther Perel
  24. What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton
  25. The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things, Charles Demers
  26. Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
  27. Heather, The Totality, Matthew Weiner
  28. Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese

Yep. I still don’t think I’ll read all the books I own before I die…but nice to see that I’m chipping away!