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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!

 

2017: The beginning of the end of the beginning?

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

I’ll admit that sometimes, I do wonder why I keep this blog going. It made sense when it started. I was working on a cruise ship, which meant I was far from home and people were interested in my day-to-day activities. But I’ve been home for nearly a decade. My routine is pretty routine, and anyone who wanted the details could just ask. Which is why I now post basically annually.

2017 has made even this seem questionable. Life goes on, of course, but the ascendancy to high office of the internet’s most infamous troll has made the idea of sharing one’s frivolous life online seem small and possibly insulting. And of course, if the forces of darkness succeed in repealing net neutrality, I imagine this site and many like it will end up in the digital dustbin of history.

Plus this site got hacked, and more than once dealing with tech support, I was very close to just scrapping it altogether. As I write this, the site is once again experiencing difficulties that I hope will be resolved.

So why am I bothering? I like having a record of my life (in broad strokes) that I can look at. And now, it feels in a very small way like standing up to a bully. More important fights need to be fought, of course, but in the meantime, I’m happy to overcome the Merchant of Despair in this small way. Plus, my life still matters to me, and I like writing about it. And maybe, just maybe, somebody’s reading it. Long live the written word!

 

January

It seems only appropriate, given that intro, that I should start my recounting of the year with a tweet I liked that barely anyone noticed:

 

Right?

Later came Second City’s Festivus party. I should probably stop going to these, since I’m pretty sure they’re only inviting me by mistake. Maybe the decision will soon be taken out of my hands. But I thought it would be a nice chance to catch up with people. And it was! Plus, free food and swag, which I don’t need as much for survival anymore…but will always take! More on this later…intrigue!!

According to my admittedly spotty records, my first party of the year was at Chris and Laura’s. I’m sure I was terribly awkward but had a lovely time.

I attend a lecture called ‘Hacks, Leaks and Breaches’ at the McLuhan Salon in the Toronto Reference Library. I quite enjoyed it, though I’m not sure it was worth (presumably) being placed on a CSIS watchlist. Ah well…

Trump gets inaugurated. Just so I don’t have to keep dealing with him, I’ll just reference that great speech in Office Space. The one where Ron Livingston explains that since every day is worse than the one before, every day is the worst day of his life. That’s the Trump era.

But to prove my invincibility, a tweet from a few days later:

 

 

February

I know it’s a short month…but I must have done more than the one thing I remember! But that one thing was a Japandroids concert, and I bumped into a (relatively) young(er) person (Leigh), so I got to feel cool and “with it.” It was also a pretty good show!

 

March (before the trip)

I saw Logan. Which I only mention because Evan got me into an advance screening. Thanks, Honda!

I visit with Andy. Which probably isn’t worth mentioning, because he subsequently moved back to Toronto. But I do like to mention my time with out-of-town guests…

This tweet sets Facebook aflame, with much subsequent debate:

 

The CBS website is all fucked up, and I can’t enter my old March Madness pool with all my old Vancouver friends. In retrospect, based on my bracket, that website did me a huge favor.

 

March-April (The trip to Ireland!)

I didn’t know quite what to do with my fortieth birthday. It was too big to ignore, but I absolutely did not want a party. Luckily, I have an indulgent and very loving family, so we sidestepped the issue with a trip I’ve always wanted to take. We went to Ireland! And assuming it might be the last big trip I take for awhile, I couldn’t have picked a better place!

 

Saturday (the 25th):

The first day was objectively not a bad day, but it was a bit of a worrisome start. Because the trip was my idea, I felt like I was responsible for the itinerary…but I didn’t want to dictate everything. Mom and Dad had gone early, travelling with a guide, as Mom’s vision meant she would have to enjoy the more urban settings while we were mostly planning to visit the pastoral. So they (in consultation with me) had booked hotels in our jumping-off cities, and also gleaned some on-the-ground wisdom, so many of the macro-decisions were made. And I of course wanted Evan and Jen’s input, though I am more skeptical of advice than they seemed to be, my skepticism coming from experience giving travel advice and taking it. When people come to Toronto and ask where they should go, I always blank, and unless they give me particulars, you just end up recommending the most touristy of crap!

Which is my roundabout way of saying our first big stop was one I suspected I wouldn’t like, but Evan was excited about it, so I conceded. Thinking that the second big stop would be for me.

We started our day in Dublin (after an early arrival and check-in) with a hop-on, hop-off bus ride. Not normally the kind of thing I like, and the cheesy jokes did grate (ugh!), but I will admit it’s a good way to see a lot in a hurry and figure out where everything is. We boarded at the St. Stephen’s Green pickup – right near a statue of Oscar Wilde. Ireland!

First stop, the one I wasn’t looking forward to: The Guinness Storehouse. Now, to be clear, I like Guinness, and by the time we got home, I loved it. I drank it every night I was there. But everything I’d read led me to believe the Guinness Storehouse was the Disneyland of Guinness. And that’s exactly what it was. (In fairness to Evan, he probably knew that was exactly it was.) Big crowds, lot of unnecessary noise. Which probably would’ve been okay, but it was also really dark in the museum part, so Mom struggled to get through it. And eventually had to give up, all upset. She insisted I park her somewhere and go through myself, which I did, but not fully enjoying it, given the circumstance. Her worst fears realized, and my guilty conscience activated.

But then we all met up for lunch, and it was pretty good. And as far as an unwanted trip went, it could have been a lot worse.

That said, I was very excited for my next stop: Kilmainham Jail!

Except we couldn’t get in. The last tour was already full. Clearly, I’d needed to do more homework and booked ahead. My goal of a flexible consensus itinerary, biting me in the ass. Thankfully, the very nice people at the front gave the last two tickets for a tour the next day. And we checked out the museum. But overall, first day, kind of a bust.

The night, however, was great. We went to O’Donoghue’s, and heard some fantastic traditional Irish music with wall-to-wall people. Admittedly, the walls weren’t far apart, but still, we were packed tight! Fatigue became a bit of a factor, but it did make it feel, in a way the Guinness Storehouse hadn’t, that we were in another land.

 

Sunday (the 26th):

After a bit of morning tension among the group over getting moving and then where to go for breakfast, we arrived at Trinity College. Very impressive, with a tour led by a current student that reminded me why we assume people with posh accents are smarter than we are. We continued our tour with a visit to the Book of Kells, where I made a concerted effort to learn history before admitting my limitations and just basking in it. Once I got there, it was pretty overwhelming.

Then Larry and I made it to Kilmainham Jail for our much anticipated tour. And it was worth the wait! I’m not a big picture taker, and I won’t try to recreate the feeling too much, but you could feel the history dripping off the walls. And again, a great tour guide with a passion for his heritage that I relished. Overall, I’m fine with Canadian humility, but hearing a recounting of history with no minced words, and an unabashed take on who the good guys and the bad guys were, was powerful stuff. I heartily recommend it…and yes, book in advance!

For our evening’s entertainment, we started at Mulligan’s, famed for having the best tasting pints in Dublin. Hard to disagree, and I enjoyed the old school feel. But as I was out with Evan and Jen, and we still had our energy, we went looking for a party! It took us a little while to get there, due to some confusion: Jen and Evan were looking for the specific Temple Bar, whereas I thought we were just heading to the area of the same name. So we started our second leg in a fake Temple Bar..but thankfully, we ran into some girls from Sheffield. After introducing Jen to the lady option of putting blackcurrant in your Guinness (not a hit, but good to know), they took us over to the REAL Temple Bar with its packed-to-the-rafters people and rocking band! Good time achieved, and a nice tipsy walk home!

 

Monday (the 27th):

It’s time for Mom to return to Canada and her beloved dog. I bid a fond (admittedly short-term) farewell to the woman who birthed me almost exactly forty years ago, as I see her and Larry on to the bus to the airport. (Larry, or “Dad”, will meet up us with later that day, in case you were wondering why he didn’t merit a goodbye.)

Evan, Jen and I do a quick walking tour of Dublin in the time that remains before we have to meet Larry at the train station to head to Cork. Highlights include Dublin Castle and Christchurch Cathedral. Then, a hiccup. We can’t figure out the commuter train that’s supposed to take us to the big train station. This causes some panic, but we end up grabbing a taxi, and panic subsides as we realize it’s not actually that far away.

After a train ride that was a combination of scenery staring and nodding off, we arrive in Cork. We don’t have too much of an itinerary, but we do check out St. Fin Barre Cathedral, which is astonishing. Then, in accordance with vacation tradition, the Hershfield men have Chinese food, while Jen, suffering her own forms of withdrawal, goes shopping and hits up McDonald’s.

A little music at the Oliver Plunkett in the evening, but we made it a pretty early night, appropriate to the amount of traveling we’d done and my impending age shift.

 

Tuesday (the 28th):

I slip quietly into a new age bracket and am no longer part of a valued demographic. Oh well!

We begin the driving portion of our trip, and Evan quickly proves a godsend. His competence has always been something of a genetic miracle, and though it’s always appreciated, here it was an absolute necessity. I can’t imagine doing this trip by tour bus, and it was not easy driving, so once again, very lucky to have gotten a baby brother rather than the puppy I wanted at the time. (And, as I often point out, that puppy would be long dead.)

In early appreciation of Evan’s contribution, we make the other stop he/they insisted on that I wasn’t keen on: Blarney Castle. According to my reading, there were better castles to be seen, and this one would attract a lot of traffic. But of course, I wasn’t (and still am not) so inured to the experience that I would get blasé over the QUALITY of a castle, and we were slightly off-season so it wasn’t too over-run. And yes, when given the opportunity, I kissed the Blarney Stone.

As far as I can determine, my charm level was unaffected. But I suppose that’s really for others to say.

The rest of the day was mostly, as I recall, about reaching our destination in anticipation of a big tomorrow. But we stopped at Glengariff (where I indulged in some Robin Hood fantasizing while running through trees in the rain) and Kenmare (very charming), then arrived in Killarney. I can’t remember where we drank that first night in Killarney, but we drank and heard live music every night, so it was somewhere.

 

Wednesday (the 29th):

The part of the trip I was most looking forward to. The part where I cross-referenced tour books and knew that I wanted to see it all. This was the day we tackled The Ring of Kerry.

First stop: Killorglin, a very pretty town that also had a nice little reminder of my Irish theatre past. There was a Roche’s Bar, which reminded me that many moons earlier, I had served as an assistant to Dennis Garnhum as he directed Rat in the Skull at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. One of the main characters, played in our production by (future) television’s Phil Burke, was named Roche. Kismet!

Then to the Bog Village at Glenbeigh. (Which we almost missed, but thankfully, there was a helpful man at the side of the road peddling wares). It was a little more museum-y than the living history and nature I was seeking, but no real complaints.

Then the incredible Cahersiveen, with its Cahergal and Leacanabuaile Stone Ring Forts. This blew my mind. Centuries-old forts…and there’s no price for admission, no hoopla…they’re just there! You just have to make a small hike and then you’re free to explore them however you see fit! The honor system at work, and it brought out the kid in me, just running around IN AN ACTUAL FORT!

It was hard to follow that…but Portmagee did boast what years earlier had been declared Ireland’s best urinal! While there, we also enjoyed a quick lunch, then went on a bit of a wild goose chase in search of fossils that smartly (I choose to believe) we quickly averted.

Next, we went to something that wasn’t on my itinerary, but we were suckers for marketing and couldn’t resist the signs advertising “Best Cliffs of Kerry.” That said, we would’ve been suckers not to have been suckers, because they lived up to the hype! Quite breathtaking, and though we may have worn out Larry with our running around, the views and the heights were exhilarating.

We then switched back from nature to history with the Staigue Stone Fort. I feel like we may have all had a bit of a funny “Hmmm…we already saw forts” moment at first, but still, a fort’s a fort!

By then, it was getting dark, and it was hard driving, so we just made for home. That said, we saw Molls Gap and Ladies View a bit on the drive back, so other than stopping to have seen them, we checked off all my must-sees and were all very overwhelmed. Not so overwhelmed we didn’t go drinking later, but a great day all around.

 

Thursday (the 30th):

I think this day was bound to be a bit of a come-down, as it was following such a highlight and it was somewhat the “remainder of things to do around Killarney” day. But it was still pretty great.

We started with Ross Castle. Between a good tour guide, a good display before entry, and furnishings, I think it was the castle where I got the clearest (still foggy) sense of what living there would have been like.Of all the times I could have been born, the time I was probably worked out pretty well for me.

Then Muckross Abbey, which I loved, as decrepit holy sites always appeal to the romantic in me. Followed by a healthy walk which took us to Muckross House. Not my favorite site, as a manor house is less the history which I was there to see. But interesting nonetheless.

We made a quick stop at Torc Waterfall on the way back. I resisted the urge to sing TLC or compare it to Niagara Falls. It was pretty, but our stop was brief.

As was our stop at Aghadoe Church and Round Tower, and its small cemetery.

The big salvation for this day came at night, as we discovered O’Conner’s, our best bar in Killarney. The band was playing traditional-sounding songs with aplomb (Larry and Evan bought CDs), and I made my version of flirting with locals. Which is pretty much just talking to locals. But at least I did that. Keep hope alive!

 

Friday (the 31st):

A day that made me believe in the power of marketing. I don’t think anyone would argue that Ring of Kerry sounds more impressive than Dingle Peninsula. Kerry sounds cooler than Dingle (tee hee!), and Ring sounds cooler than Peninsula (Thanks, Tolkien!) But it is definitely must-see!

Highlights of the Dingle Peninsula, i.e. places we went, include Inch (Evan and I ran along the beach!), Dunbeg Fort, Slea Head (with a great view of the Blasket Islands), and the Gallarus Oratory. We ended up in Dingle for lunch, and while the fish place that came most recommended was only open for dinner, we still had some very tasty and fresh Hake and Chips!

It was a late lunch, so our next stop, the Cliffs of Moher, we reached just before dusk. And stayed at well into the night. And also got soaked with more rain than I thought the skies could hold. Sorry, Vancouver, Ireland’s got you beat! Oh, and it was of course spectacularly beautiful.

We got into Galway late, and I’m surprised to find in what’s a party town, we can’t find food! We end up grabbing slices of pizza. Then I have my one moment of party pooping. Larry and I have an early morning tour of the Aran Islands, and Evan and Jen are carrying on to Edinburgh, so we say a quick goodbye. They go off in search of adventure, we go off in search of sleep.

 

Saturday (April 1st):

As you’ve probably gathered, I tend to be quite picky about tours. So when I heartily endorse the tour Inishmore we got from Michael Faherty, hopefully you’ll take it seriously. He was great AND a local, even pointing out his parents’ farm as we drove by! Very personable, you could tell he loved his home, and for further proof of my sincerity, a link…

http://fahertytours.com/aran-islands.php

 

Our tour started with the Dun Aengus fort and cliffs. I still don’t like taking selfies, or even really taking pictures…but I thought this one might be worth it. I stand by it. Also, I make my way up rocky paths faster than Larry, so I had some time.

 

I bought myself an Aran Islands sweater…not the brand, but a sweater from there that I liked more and was cheaper AND had the maker’s e-mail address on it, which I thought was a nice touch! It’s very green, and I quite like it. I would no longer allow any friend to call me Kosher Cosby (it was a simpler time), but I still like a good sweater!

 

Further stops include Seven Churches and its burial ground, some seal watching, and a stroll along Kilmurvey Beach.

 

Fun bit of trivia for Vancouver theatre types: there is a Canadian on my tour who I think I recognize but can’t place. Later, as I was making a TripAdvisor entry, I see that it’s Kaitlin Williams. Who I’m STILL not sure I actually know, but I must’ve seen her in something…Anyway, small world!

 

Then after a ferry ride and bus ride, we’re back in Galway. It’s not really our town, as it’s something of a drunken party town for youths, but there are cool buskers which makes for good wandering. Larry throws me for a bit of a loop, as I thought we’d agreed to ‘skip dinner’ in favor of snacks, when he suddenly throws me a “Where are we going for dinner?” at around 10. In retrospect, I should have guessed. Luckily, we are directed to McSwiggans, which is actually really tasty and open late. Reality starts to dawn. The trip is nearly over.

 

 

Sunday (the 2nd):

A travel day. We take the bus from Galway to Dublin, and though it’s not the most scenic route, I still stare out the window, trying to take everything with me. We spend a long time in the airport, though most of it is at leisure, as we breeze through security.

On the flight home, I watch Manchester by the Sea for the first time, and then make a donation to Unicef (keep it classy, Aer Lingus!)

I get home and spend several weeks walking around with Euros in my wallet.

 

April (continued)

It’s an odd thing getting through a month when you suspect that its best day will be its first day. But April turned out to be a pretty interesting month.

I write what may be the world’s greatest tweet.

Passover happens. I don’t remember anything of note happening, but it’s Passover.

I have the most magical reunion of my life.

At some point, for work, I write the phrase “a lady to the manner porn.”

And I redeem my Second City Festivus prize: an Elmline pedicure! In fact, I get there early and do a little spa-ing beforehand. Absolutely something I would never get myself, and would be hard-pressed to get for me and another…but life experience achieved! I’ve had hot wax on my feet, and it wasn’t a sex thing!

 

May

During my weekly basketball game, I make a trash-talking reference to Icarus. What can I say? Someone jumped when they should’ve stayed on the ground!

We do a Mother’s Day brunch. We’re good boys.

I go for drinks with Laura, Ian, Jamie, and Jason. I feel it bears mentioning because it’s an unusual grouping, and I experience an almost unheard of at this point mid-week drunkenness.

Ian from work has a barbecue. It’s not that warm, but I go in a T-shirt because I live around the corner from him and reason that I can always run home for a sweater. The sun sets, it gets cold, but I don’t go get a sweater, because I figure once I leave, I’ll never come back. I share all this so I remember a specific way I’m an idiot.

And there’s a dinner with my high school friends. Which is rarer than it used to be, but always fun.

 

June

A quick reminder/notification that I’m remembering what events transpired by looking through old social media and Outlook appointments. What I’m saying is I’m sure I did all sorts of fun stuff in June that I didn’t write down and thus can’t remember. I’m almost sure there was tennis. But anyway, here are some tweets:

 

 

 

Topical!

Something I do remember that involved leaving my apartment was going with Jess to see ‘The Adventures of Tom Shadow.’ If you ever get the chance, see it. I don’t think a cast has ever been as talented as performers and as wonderful as people. It’s almost sickening.

Faisal has a surprise party. He seems suitably surprised, and we have a very nice catch-up.

 

July

Ian’s bachelor party! My kind of bachelor party: archery tag (I’m not as good as I imagined I would be, but I last a long time in one showdown), some time-killing, a steak dinner, and speeches so loving that made the groom-to-be sick with embarrassment.

Relevant to this blog, the Second City and Norwegian Cruise Lines contract comes to a close. The ability of this semi-retired improviser to impress up-and-comers gets severely compromised.

Fringe starts. Still feels like I should be performing, but I settle for attending. My first two shows: Caitlin and Eric Are Broken Up and Murder in the Cottonwoods…

Then, in the middle of Fringe, Ian and Jen’s wedding! I am an usher and perform many undoubtedly invaluable usher duties. It is a lovely affair (weird word to describe a wedding?) and they are wonderful and I am delighted for them. I continue to be delighted for them.

Back to Fringe! I see 32 Short Sketches About Bees, Operation SUNshine, Shakespeare’s Ghostbusters, The Seat Next to the King, Peter N’ Christmas Carol, Life Records 2, About Time (by Templeton Philharmonic), and Weaksauce. I wish I did better on the quantity, but no complaints about the quality.

Shortly thereafter, I have the best week of my life.

Shortly after that, I have an It’s a Wonderful Life moment with basketball shorts. Basically, I send out an email saying I’ve forgotten my shorts, and three people bring me spares. I truly am the richest man in town.

My last social engagement of July is a trip to Stratford with the family. Sam and Dan throw a lovely party, where we bask in their loveliness…followed by a lovely brunch the next day, which we follow by going to Twelfth Night. A very nice time…but I still had to make fun of the hotel’s slogan.

 

August

I hurt my thumb playing basketball. It’s a serious bummer.

But I apparently recover enough to buy an acoustic bass guitar! So there’s that…

At a bit of a low ebb emotionally, I have a much needed night out with Ian, Jen, and Jocelyn. There’s grown-up conversation. And some catching up: despite Jocelyn being on my Preferred People list, we don’t actually see each other that much. But mostly, I’ll remember it as a night of riffing and just being funny, which turned out to be exactly what I needed. I don’t know that this will mean anything without context, but when we were riff-mocking Goop, I sad “The human body is 90% holes!” And I felt funny, and that meant, however briefly, that I was going to be okay.  So thanks, gang!

I go see Kat Letwin in VideoCabaret’s Confederation & Riel at Soulpepper. Theater! It’s great, she’s great…we grab drinks after and talk like artists. Again, much needed.

And another nice memory with another nice Kat, this time Janicki. A bunch of us end up on her rooftop drinking wine. A double dose of nice, because she’s a new friend and I’m always amazed when I have those…plus downtown rooftop drinking is the kind of thing us remarkable wits should always be doing!

As summer starts to fade, it’s time to enjoy beer. For Helena’s birthday, several of us end up at Birreira Volo and I try sour beer for the first time. Good to know if I ever find myself in conversation with a hipster. And just because the idea appeals to me, I track down butter tart beers (there were a lot of phone calls, and some serious travelling involved) and share them with friends. Good times.

I swear I wasn’t designing my social calendar alphabetically…but I move on from the Kats to the Kellys. First, a coffee with Kelly Richardson, who I had the pleasure of working with many moons ago. I’m the king of the reunion…and I maintain that royal status with a very nice and overdue brunch with Kelly Zemnickis. Yes, we walked by the scene of a homicide after, but still, a nice brunch. City living!

I attend my first Wolfpack game. We got tickets from work, and while I’m not sure I’ve become enamored enough of rugby that I would go when I was paying for it, I will definitely keep going if it’s free. Very entertaining and a nice time outside.

Speaking of nice times outside: solar eclipse!

Then a trip to the cottage. After much grumbling, the Hershfields finally rented a new cottage. And while it had many things going for it, not a great fit for us. And by us, I mean Marty. But always nice to get in a lake and be together…not necessarily in that order.

 

September

I go camping for the first time in forever. I might want to do it again at some point, but either not in September or in a new sleeping bag, because I was FREEZING! Also, it rained like crazy and the tent leaked and was subsequently thrown out. But someday…maybe…maybe… Either way, always nice to be with friends around a campfire.

My mostly-retirement from improv is interrupted once again by Bad Dog’s alumni week. This time, I do an Improvatron 3000, and though I felt rusty and off-kilter, I still like the people and the role improv has played in my life. Glad to be an alumnus.

I have my quietest TIFF in years. Just three films: The Current War; Professor Marston and the Wonder Women; Downsizing. Nothing that blew my mind, but no duds. C’est la vie!

In one of those weird synchronicities, I do another improv show this month. This time, it’s Matt McCready’s $12 Beer Beer Comedy Show. It was supposed to be a team of people from basketball, which seemed like kind of a fun hook. Of course, by show time, everyone who was supposed to play had dropped out, and it was me and a bunch of very talented randoms. I didn’t do great, and the lights went down while I was waiting with a good blowline, but it was a ton of fun. And watching the second half, for the first time in a long time, I remembered what I loved about improv. Compliment intended.

The crew from work returns to take in a Wolfpack game. Hopefully, it’s something we’ll keep doing in the upcoming season.

I pick up a hookah from Jan. I have yet to use it, but I mention it now so that I’ll remember to have a hookah party at some point soon.

Rosh Hashanah! This year, we do it in a party room. An embarrassing admission, but I finally realize that I should be chipping in. I know, I know…but you get into a habit where you’ve been doing something for your whole life, and because it’s your parents and their generation who host, you still think of yourself as one of the kids. Especially since you know you’ll never have a house and therefore will never host. But all the more reason to chip in, I figure…Oy. Adulthood.

To cancel that out, I play D & D for the first time. I get a little frustrated doing new things, and I made my character a little too broody…but it’s got potential for fun, and it’s a good group. Likely to be continued.

I’m supposed to meet someone at the Broadview Hotel bar. And when she has to cancel…I decide to go anyway. I bring a notebook so I could do some writing while taking in the view, and I also strike up a conversation with the people at the next table. I don’t know that it’s a turning point for me socially, that I’m now at peace going to places alone that are meant to be gone to as couples or groups… but it didn’t kill me. And that’s something.

And to end the month, I see the Pixies at Massey Hall. It was supposed to be a birthday present for Evan, but he had a wedding out of town. So I go with Sam, which works out nicely, because we don’t get to hang out as much as we used to, and he was one of my earliest concert-going friends. Nice to know there are things you don’t outgrow.

 

October

I go for drinks with Chris Gibbs. Always feels noteworthy to me. I wouldn’t call him my guru, but I do always feel smarter after being with him even though I should by all rights feel stupider. I don’t know if he’s aware he has that gift, but it’s remarkable.

I haveThai food with my family the day before Thanksgiving, and then have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Faisal and Lucy. So I’m able to be thankful for my two types of family.

I go with Ian to a Writers Talking TV event for Kim’s Convenience. In my conversation with Ian after, I am hit with an idea that I still haven’t developed, but I do like pinpointing moments of inspiration.

I have a Second City writing program meeting where one of the other attendees is Paul Bellini. Real me is cool about it, but high school me is slightly giddy.

Helena throws an Enchantment Under The Sea birthday party for Jason.  I would elaborate, but that’s a pretty solid sentence in its own right.

I do another Fireside Tales. For this one, I opened and Scott Thompson closed. Of course, it was a story I was telling for the first time that wasn’t remotely funny AND Rhiannon wasn’t there, so I felt odd about the whole thing. But the detail that I opened and Scott Thompson closed is something I imagine I’ll be dropping into conversations for the rest of my life.

And I have one of my State of the Union coffees with Jess. I imagine these may happen more often, but there’s something very enjoyable about having A LOT to catch up on.

 

November

I make my first ever attempt at NaNoWriMo. National Novel-Writing Month, for the uninitiated. I make it to a little under thirty thousand words, well below the standard benchmark of fifty thousand…but not bad considering I spend my day WRITING OTHER THINGS! And I’m still plugging away on the project, so maybe it’ll be something yet!

I go to my first Pizza Night at the gym. I just love that that’s a thing.

I attend a book reading by Matthew Weiner with Andy. My favorite part is the hanging out with Andy. Though credit to Weiner: there’s something fascinating about seeing someone so thoroughly convinced of his own genius. Plus his sexual harassment allegations had JUST come out (I learned about them from Keri near literally on our way into the theater), so that put some excitement in the air.

Danielle visits Toronto, which is celebrated in traditional Hershfield fashion with a trip for Chinese food. Ali also joins us and it is a lovely night all around. When the hell did we all grow up?!

I go to see an A.J. Jacobs talk with Larry. I still haven’t read the book, and I almost feel like I don’t have to now…but I still will, no doubt. Ah, the Hershfields…so sophisticated…

I go for drinks with Humber people. It’s fun, and for the first time in awhile, it doesn’t feel like all shop talk. I mean, some, but nothing I can’t keep up with. Anyway, good folks…which is pretty much what I have to show for that year!

And then a trip to Winnipeg to celebrate Vera’s 95th birthday! There’s a Rae and Jerry’s dinner, there’s a Chinese food dinner, there’s plenty of Jeanne’s cakes, and much more eating. Including dim sum…and den some! I have no idea what a day-to-day life in Winnipeg would feel like…and I’m not TOO sorrowful not to know…but there is some part of it that will always feel a bit like home. A home where I do nothing but eat.

 

December

I enjoy another Cape Breton Christmas. The Spock socks I brought were much in demand during the sock swap, and the people are great. That said, there’s something about me that always suspects the people who LEAVE Cape Breton are the ones who would like me and the ones who stay decidedly would not! I guess it all worked out for the best!

I go to see the Last Jedi with Ian, Jason, and Pete Hill. We all like it and, last I checked, continue to like it. The idea of being angry about it either way mystifies me.

We have our Naked News Christmas party. Like most office parties, I assume, except management contributed nothing and you aren’t remotely surprised when people expose themselves. We don’t always go out, but when we do, good times are had.

Tom and Lindsay have me and Jamie (separately) over for nogs and ciders, and then a few days later, following a basketball game, I meet up with them and Ian and Jen at Dave’s (the bar, not the place of a person named Dave.) It wasn’t my most social of holidays, but I saw these people AND my high school friends (including an actual person named Dave), so many important boxes checked.

I wasn’t too motivated to go out on New Year’s this year. I’m not a big party guy at the best of times, and this year, I was missing someone specific rather than missing someone generally. And that’s tougher. So I decided to spend my New Year’s with a small act of charity that was really mostly for me: I hung out with my parents’ dog Marty while they were out celebrating. I feel like Marty didn’t appreciate the significance of this gesture and was somewhat confused when I kissed him at midnight. (No tongue.) And that was the end of 2017.

 

 

Quite the year. Next year in Jerusalem, next year may it not be treated by America as the capital of Israel because the asshole president who suggested it is in jail.

As you can see, despite everything, I’m still capable of optimism.

 

 

Still reading after all these years…

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

A curator’s work is never done! I’m still compiling my list of books I read pre-blog (not all of them, but a selection of the ones that matter), but since I’ve recently posted, I thought I should probably do the no-brainer task of adding the books I’ve read since the last time I added the books I’ve read! (Speaking of no-brainers, this is also proof I’ve read more books in the last couple years than the current POTUS has in his lifetime!) Enjoy!

  1. Lizz Free or Die, Lizz Winstead
  2. Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, Thomas Maier
  3. Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers, Mike Sacks
  4. Hollywood Said NO!: Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings from the Creators of Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, with Brian Posehn
  5. The Gun Seller, Hugh Laurie
  6. UNorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, Deborah Feldman
  7. Wired: The Short Life & Fast Times of John Belushi, Bob Woodward
  8. Science…for HER!, Megan Amram
  9. Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  10. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt
  11. So, Anyway…, John Cleese
  12. Spoiled Brats, Simon Rich
  13. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson
  14. I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, Martin Short
  15. 11/22/63, Stephen King
  16. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  17. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright
  18. Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Attachment and Isolation, Adam Resnick
  19. A Load of Hooey, Bob Odenkirk
  20. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel
  21. Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy, Judd Apatow
  22. Show Me A Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race, and Redemption, Lisa Belkin
  23. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, Robert A. Caro
  24. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Michael Lewis
  25. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A.J. Jacobs
  26. Let’s Start a Riot: How a Young Drunk Punk Became a Hollywood Dad, Bruce McCulloch
  27. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari (with Eric Klinenberg)
  28. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
  29. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  30. Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes, Ted Conover
  31. The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, Peter McGraw and Joel Warner
  32. Half Empty, David Rakoff
  33. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell
  34. The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean
  35. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, Kevin Mitnick
  36. The Wealthy Barber Returns, David Chilton
  37. Rivethead: Tales From The Assembly Line, Ben Hamper
  38. The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, A.J. Jacobs
  39. Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
  40. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories, Marina Keegan
  41. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, Alison Bechdel
  42. The Story of Yiddish: How a Mish-Mosh of Languages Saved the Jews, Neal Karlen
  43. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer
  44. The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests, Chris Smith
  45. You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein
  46. Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be, Joel McHale, Brad Stevens, and Boyd Vico
  47. Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, David Sax
  48. You Blew It!: An Awkward Look at the Many Ways In Which You’ve Already Ruined Your Life, Josh Gondelman and Joe Berkowitz
  49. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Art Spiegelman
  50. I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President, Josh Lieb

Wow. I actually didn’t know the list was at exactly 50 when I decided now would be a nice time to post. There’s a nice little bit of synergy!

If you’ve read any of these and want to discuss…there’s a good chance I’ve forgotten them thoroughly, because I feel like I’m like that with books. But let’s try anyway! And if you haven’t, get on it!!

Pre-Apocalypse Post

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Okay, realistically, the odds of Donald Trump starting the nuclear holocaust that wipes out all life in North America within the next year are probably no worse than 50-50. And while I’m confident that if he manages to stay in power, he will eventually  invade Canada and will also round up all the Jews to placate his horrible mob for the cratering of the economy, that’s probably at least a few years away. Nevertheless, the timing seemed right to update this chronicling of my life, lest it come to an abrupt end and future historians take an interest. So here are some of the things I’ve been up to since my last post in….DEAR GOD, 2014!!

 

The Rest of September 2014:

So the big highlight of September 2014 was I started my weekly basketball run at Leo Baeck! It’s still going strong, and it’s one of my favorite things! I love the sport and I love the people, and as I’ve phased myself out of the improv world, it’s been a great way to keep many people I might have lost touch with otherwise in my life!

Another highlight for the month was saying goodbye to Brad and Lydia as they moved east…”highlight” in the sense of ‘big,’ not ‘happy.’ They are missed…though homebody that I am, I feel I almost see people more when they move because then I REALLY make a point to see them when they’re back to visit! But I’m sure some kickass videos that could have been made weren’t, though Brad has continued making kickass videos without me, the talented bastard!

Oh, and Cameron Wylie takes me to see Pete Holmes! This may not be noteworthy enough to have made the cut later in the post, but I took the time to do the homework, so I’m including it, damn it! Plus any hangout with Cam is cause for celebration!

 

October 2014:

I see Harmontown, both the movie and the live show. It’s a double bill. Did I mention all the homework I did to remember what I did over two years ago??

I’m once again retweeted by @midnight. I don’t know if this is bragworthy, but it’s leading up to something that may be!

At Midnight SECOND retweet

I do a Catch 23 with my dear friend Matt McCready. At this point, my improv career is pretty much winding down, mostly by my choice. I had a great run and I’ll always love it, but I stopped enjoying the performing of it and even watching it. Basically, it got to the point where something would have to be really great for me to like it, and even then, I’d appreciate it more than I’d really get taken away with it. But this was a very fun show with a hot crowd, and Matt and I did a Vietnam scene (always a classic) with him as the insane commander and me as the high-strung soldier that was very satisfying, and a nice memory.

I also went with Tory to see Bruce McCulloch’s ‘Young Drunk Punk’ (his solo show), and we had the municipal election that rid us of the Fords (at least for now) from the mayoral seat. We got John Tory, so it wasn’t exactly a full-throated vindication of the electoral process, but it definitely felt like a weight was lifted.

 

November 2014:

I move apartments. That’s a big life event, right? You’d be right to think so, but I do it twice in this post! For this move, I take over my brother’s old apartment at the corner of Raglan and Claxton, and it’s a definite upgrade! Well, okay, it was a basement and it was absolutely FREEZING in the winters (the windows may as well have been Saran wrap!), but it was dirt cheap, huge, and in a great neighborhood which was walking distance from both the subway and my parents’ place (where Martino lives!) It was a shame to have to give that place up (more on that later), but it was fun while it lasted!

With discount tickets from Stephanie Belding, I go to see Book of Mormon. (Thanks, Steph!) Worth mentioning because that’s what I started using “Turn it off…like a light switch!” in conversation!

I start taking Chris Gibbs’ one-person show workshop. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, and he’s one of the best at it, and someone I absolutely revere! The timing is fortuitous, because this is also the month of the Toronto Fringe lottery, and against all odds (literally), I get in! Suddenly, my vague idea for a show has to become a reality! And this blog and the stories recounted in its early days prove pivotally important!

I also have a wisdom tooth removed. Far later than it should have been, both because I didn’t have dental insurance and I’m kind of an idiot. Basically, I saw a dentist because I was in pain, and it turned out that only was my wisdom tooth kind of infected, the infection was growing and eating away at my jaw. Left untreated, at some point, my jaw would have just broken. Luckily, OHIP took care of most of the procedures and tests, but it still cost me a small fortune. Not bitter, just pointing that out for political purposes! Anyway, I’m feeling much better now!

And I participate in the first of Matt McCready’s 24 Hour Sketch Festivals, and it’s an incredible experience! On the one hand, I rock a very self-indulgent monologue, which was actually good training for doing a one-person show! In case that sounds facetious, it was actually kind of the idea. I wanted to see if I could do something that I knew would be funnier than to me than it would be to others and power through it. My monologue from a foreman assigning a temp the 12 Labors of Hercules seemed to fit the bill! I also came up with the original germ of an idea for a sketch that Lisa Gilroy and I built into something and the whole cast worked on, and it’s probably the greatest sketch I’ve ever been involved in putting together. After much debate, I’ve decided not to write out what it was here (it would lose so much), but it was called ‘Blondes’, and I will describe it for you in great detail if asked!

 

December 2014:

I think my big highlight for the month was finding out that my Short Play Writing course at Second City was going ahead. It’s something I was really excited to do, because it’s something I have a lot of thoughts about and I’m excited for the opportunity to help people do something that’s given me such joy! And, of course, I’m also a credits whore who was happy that I’d be able to say I’d performed AND taught for Second City!

I’m sure other important stuff happened, but who can remember? I did spend my New Year’s at Mitch and Claire’s, so that’s a thing I remember! (I think.)

 

January 2015:

So my course starts, and it’s everything I hoped for and more! I’m blessed with a very talented group that’s very good about giving and taking notes, and I feel that I really have something to contribute! Short plays are an often-ignored genre, but I’m hopeful I gave everyone tools that they are still using. And many told me it was the best Second City course they’d ever taken, which cynical me wanted to dismiss as something probably said to every instructor, but on good days, I choose to believe it!

The other big highlight for January was a trip to Vancouver, an old hometown I hadn’t visited in years! I went with my dad for my Uncle Bobo’s 70th birthday, but I of course saw many old friends as well! These include Vanessa, Jason and Helena, Eric and Shaun (in both Gentlemen Hecklers and ‘dudes at a bar’ modes), Ken, Morgan, Jens Neale and Wagner, Erin Macdonald, and my (pretend) baby sister Olivia! Oh, if only this country was smaller! The family stuff was also very nice, with Uncle Oz (he goes by both names, and many more besides, including on rare occasions his actual name) feted properly at Szechuan Chong Qing! (Again, if only this country was smaller….) Evan and I made this video for the occasion, which garnered enough praise for me to share it here…

 

February 2015:

Not much seems to have happened, but it’s a short month, right? I had drinks with my old buddy and sometime comedy partner Greg Komorowski before he skips town, and it is lovely, because he’s lovely. And I somewhat live-tweet the Oscars, so I can now say I’ve (somewhat) live-tweeted something!

 

March 2015:

I do another Operation 24, which you may recall is the show where a bunch of short plays are put together in a day, with the writing happening over night. This time around, the objects we’re provided for inspiration lead me to write a play based both on a theatre reference and a pun. And that’s why the world got ‘L is Other People.’

I go to Sketchfest and am once again blown away by all the incredible talent in Toronto! But I think if there’s one really indelible memory, it’s when I went to see Kate McKinnon’s solo show and saw opener (and buddy) Mark Little ABSOLUTELY DESTROY the theatre! How he isn’t on SNL yet, I’ll never know, but their loss is my basketball game’s gain!

And while I know I have a birthday in this month, I can’t remember doing anything for it. (I tend to play them pretty low-key in my old age.) But I do know I went to an escape room some time around then, and we escaped! So there’s that…

Escape Room March 2015

April 2015:

I take part in another 24 Hour Sketch Challenge. Much of the details escape me, but I did write a sketch with Natalie Metcalfe where she was Annie to my dying father, and she’s one of the most delightful people ever, so that’s a highlight for sure!

And the next day, I go with Evan to see the Kids in the Hall live. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen them live (it’s a fair number), but it never gets old! Even though they and we do!

 

May 2015:

Okay, I should probably be embarrassed that I have two highlights for this month and they’re both tweets! But one is a really good tweet and the other is praise (for a different tweet) from a personal hero who wrote for Buffy and Battlestar Galactica among other shows, so shut up!

 

 

 

June 2015:

Okay, much of this month was devoted to getting ready for the Fringe. I haven’t mentioned this work yet, because it’s not necessarily interesting to read about, but it was certainly occupying much of my time and mental energy for this half-year! But I did manage to do a few other things.

I attended the Mac and Cheese Festival. Which wasn’t nearly as heavenly as it should have been, but still a thing I’ve done.

I had my first Pimms Cup. (Alas, not in a Pimp’s Cup!)

First Pimms Cup June 2015

 

And we go to see Once as a family. Which I think proves that Evan and I must be (at least occasionally) good sons.

And that brings us to…

 

July 2015:

My one-man show Sloanliness debuts at the Toronto Fringe! It’s an incredibly rewarding experience every way but financially! And this blog was integral! Those of you who may remember reading about how hard I geeked out on Chris Murphy of Sloan when he came aboard the ship for Ships ‘n Dip and thought that would make a good one-man show, you were right! And those of you who thought it was amusing but didn’t imagine it could be talked about for an hour, nuts to you!

In all seriousness, it’s something I’m very proud of. I’m proud of it as a piece of work, but I’m even more proud of myself for doing it. To stand on a stage by myself just talking for an hour is something I wasn’t sure I’d be capable of, but I did it, and a lot of people seemed to like it, and I was of course incredibly touched by the people who came out to see it! (Including my old McGill roommate and dear friend Jon Dewolfe, who I think traveled the furthest to see it (Ottawa!))

Most of my real gushing happened on Facebook, but here are a few pictures I thought worth sharing:

Sloanliness posterThis is my poster, designed by the incredible Jon Blair! I take it as a sign of my burgeoning confidence that I have one of Canada’s funniest people design my poster, despite my suspicions that it might just make people think “Man, I’d much rather see JON’s one-man show!” And they wouldn’t be wrong! But I figured I already ran that risk putting Chris Gibbs’ name on the poster, so what the hell!

 

Sloanliness beers in the park

 

Knowing that my weekday matinee would be poorly attended, I put out on Facebook that I would take anyone who showed up to the park for beers. And a few people took me up on it! So I mentioned it wasn’t a financial success, but I’m going to slip in the brag that attendance kept growing over the course of the run, including a sold-out final performance!

 

Sloanliness poster with Rhiannon

 

So in addition to all the rewards of actually doing the show, I had a great time with the Fringe community! As someone who often feels the need for credentials to participate in things, I’ve got to say there’s nothing that makes you feel more that you’re a part of the Fringe than writing and performing in a one-person show! So besides hanging out with a bunch of old friends, I also made some new ones, key among them fellow solo performer Rhiannon Archer. I kept referring to her online as my Fringe sister, and I certainly got the better end of the deal!

And then the Fringe is over, and I have to move on with my life.

Taking my newfound experience with the form, I perform an improvised story as part of Mullet’s Night Show. It was very well-received and I had a great time doing it. Naturally, I never find occasion to do it again. But I really should. At some point.

Then it’s off to Winnipeg with Larry. Alas, not for the Fringe, just for a visit, but I was due. I showed a video of Sloanliness to some extended family, where there was a request to “fast-forward to the good parts.” I checked out the Human Rights Museum for the first time. And I had what turned out to be my last visit with my Grandma Rae. We’d heard she was having good days and bad days, but she gave us a command performance, and I’m very grateful that gets to be my last memory of her.

So due to dumbness on my part, I scheduled the trip to Winnipeg completely forgetting that I would be missing a Toronto production of Courting! (My brain was very much in Sloanliness mode, to the point where I forgot I might possibly have anything else scheduled!) It was part of the Social Capital Short Short Play Festival, was directed by dear friend Carmine Lucarelli, and starred Lynne Griffin, Jilly Hanson, Jamie Johnson, Sean Sullivan, and Kevin Vidal. I only got to see a video, but they did an excellent job and made some really fun choices I hadn’t seen before, and the feedback I got and reviews I read were excellent! Also as a bonus, one of my students also got a play into the festival, so there’s another feather in my cap! Here’s a picture of the cast in rehearsal (I didn’t take the picture, though I did thankfully make it to a rehearsal.)

Courting rehearsal July 2015

 

Courting and Wayne’s World: now one degree of separation apart!

 

August 2015:

So this is where I have to apologize to little Marty. It turns out he was such a pain in the ass his first time at the cottage because he was sick with a urinary tract infection! Well, I mean, maybe it’s that he needed some time with the Hershfields to become fun, but that’s certainly the best explanation for why he was pissing all over the place and wouldn’t sleep through the night! But this year, he was a lot of fun, diving into the water like a good boy and adorably chasing and then stealing our tennis balls as we played!

Alas, we were at the cottage when Grandma Rae passed, so our time at the cottage ended prematurely, and we were off to Winnipeg. It’s all something of a blur, but I do remember writing and delivering the eulogy. It’s a weird thing to feel good at, but I guess it’s nice to be able to take a task off people’s plates. And thus ended the summer.

 

September 2015:

September was a very showbizzy month for me! With my Fringe experience behind me, I decide to try my hand at storytelling. I haven’t really kept it up, but it was a lot of fun and something I hope to get back to someday! (If nothing else, I’ve checked another performance medium off the list!) It started with a Fireside Tales, which is Rhiannon’s show. I do two that month, at one telling the story of the time in Israel where I thought I’d inadvertently killed someone, and at the other telling the story of the English teacher who tried to fail me for using the word ‘whore’ in a short story. I also told the first story again at the Dare! Storytelling show, and it was better the second time, which is probably a good indication that it could be worth returning to. Either way, good times!

I go to an NDP rally to see Tom Mulcair speak. At the time, he was the odds-on favorite to become the next Prime Minister. I don’t know if what I experienced was the reason he didn’t win, but I will say that I’ve come to think I’m not a “rally person” even if I agree with the cause. Maybe it’s having performing experience, but the idea that a crowd is supposed to be applauding rapturously at everything that’s said and constantly chanting is gut-wrenching to me. Can’t we come up with a system that encourages and celebrates thinking?

Anyhoo…I also give my improv career a last hoorah! At this point, I’m really not looking to do shows, but I do them when they’re offered. And very nicely and unexpectedly, I’m asked to participate in Bad Dog Homecoming Week. I do their Micetro show…and win, for whatever that’s worth! Well, technically, it was worth five bucks! But seriously, I’ll admit that for the sake of my ego, it’s nice to show some people that I (once) knew what I was doing! I also do the Late Late Horror Show, which was a bit of a trainwreck, but a fun one, which is also a part of the improv experience I’ll miss. And lastly, I do a duos set with Lisa Gilroy, which I’ll also admit didn’t go great, but I was very happy to add her to the list of people I’ve played with. That may have actually been the motivation, because she’s definitely someone going somewhere, so I’m glad I’ll be able to say more officially that I knew her when!

It’s September, so that of course means another TIFF. A pretty good year for me, as I see:

  • The Lobster
  • Dheepan
  • The Fear
  • Brooklyn
  • Spotlight
  • Anomalisa
  • Men & Chicken

I also make the very showbiz decision to join a celebrity church. In this case, John Oliver’s Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption Church!

John Oliver envelope (address not blacked out)

 

It’s sadly been shut down since, but I’m sure my fortune is still coming any day now!

I also meet (briefly) Bruce McCulloch at a Writers Talking TV screening, so now I just need a Mark McKinney interaction to complete my KITH set! One of these days, one of these days…

And I do yet another 24 Hour Sketch Challenge! I believe my big laugh line was “Hi, I’m Steven Keele, and I’m here to tell you not to live life too fast OR too slow.” I’ll understand if you feel you had to be there.

 

October 2015:

History will remember this as the month Canada rid itself of Stephen Harper as PM. We’ll see when/if we can recover from the damage his reign of terror inflicted, but at least it feels like a pall has been lifted. However momentarily.

On a personal note, I take a big trip…that I can’t quite afford, but I take it anyway! And some parts of it are free!

So my pilot script for The Shrink had made it to the second round in the Austin Film Festival’s competition, which is supposed to be the equivalent of a quarterfinals for most scriptwriting competitions or roughly the top 10%. Whether that was a high enough placing to justify going is pretty questionable, but I was curious, sufficiently flattered, and hungry for adventure! Well, that, and I found out very-generous-soul Randall Willis had a spare pass he’d earned as a judge! So I decided to go!

But a funny thing happened as I was preparing for the trip. My buddy Tory called and asked if I’d be interested in a free trip to L.A.! He had two cats that needed to make the trip, and it turns out the easiest way to transport them is as carry-on, with a limit of one cat per customer! And he would put me up in L.A. and it would be a chance for us to hang out again as roomies! So even though I couldn’t afford EITHER of the trips, they were so heavily subsidized and promised to be such fun, how could I refuse??

L.A. was definitely an adventure. I of course took meticulous notes of what I got up to…and then misplaced them in the move (not to get ahead of myself!) I do remember quite a few of the things I got up to, but mostly I remember the feeling of being in an industry town. Though I of course did SOME of the touristy things (quite a few), I also allowed myself to imagine what life would be like there. And I sort of lived both realities: through Tory and Alyssa, I felt like I got a glimpse of the performer side of life (albeit with more success than I’d expect to achieve), and because I wanted to polish up some portfolio pieces before getting to Austin (just in case), I also lived a bit of the writer’s life. I even went to a cafe to write!

Because it’s L.A., I honestly think most of my time was spent driving around with Tory. It is actually a ton of fun, though I don’t think I could stand it if I was driving. We spend much of the week seeing how long it can take us to find Hotline Bling on the radio, and it’s usually about every ten minutes or so! Sites we hit (besides the familiar places that are ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE!) include Venice Beach, the Getty, The Grove, and I believe a cafe that Kristen Bell either used to work at or frequent. (At this brunch, with some more of Tory’s friends, I convince myself that MAYBE I could be one of those funny people beautiful people keep around. This is the kind of thing I found myself thinking about in L.A.) I also see a show at Largo at the Coronet with Isaac, and find myself in a conversation circle with Damon Lindelof and Amy Brenneman afterwards. (They were performing, I didn’t talk to them, but I could have. L.A.!) I also have separate reunions with my boat castmates Mike and Nate (blog comes full circle!), which were both very fun! (I was admittedly pretty wiped out when I saw Nate, but still…) Great guys, and I’m rooting for both of them in this show biz grind! I also try to make plans with director Matt which don’t come together, but it was lovely chatting with him again. And I try to make plans with Lauren, who was unfortunately (for me) in the middle of shooting Superstore…which would have been a good excuse regardless of the quality of the show, but has become an even better excuse now that I know how awesome it is!

One of these days, I’m going to return, screenplay in hand! (And I really hope it’s when self-driving cars are everywhere and easily rentable, because that would make a huge difference.)

Then it was on to Austin!

Again, meticulous notes missing! And while the conference itself left me with kind of mixed feelings, as all those writer conferences and seminars and podcasts tend to do (there’s obviously a lot to learn, but there’s only so much you can be taught through group lecture and without doing), it was a lot of fun! I met some very nice people (shout out to Paul and Leah!), and it’s also nice to feel like you’re part of a community of artists…even if it’s daunting to be reminded of how many people want to do the same thing as me!

Austin is also pretty great! In another life where I have time to revisit cities, I’d love to see more of it! I was staying with fellow Torontonian Andrea, and we did some especially nice exploring on my penultimate day there. Which come to think of it was actually in November…

 

November 2015:

…Austin continued! So we did a substantial walk that included a lot of UT Austin, which was very satisfying for me as a lover of Friday Night Lights. (Texas forever!) And we went to the LBJ Presidential Library, which was my very first Presidential Library! It was very impressive in scope, he’s a pretty fascinating character, and it was strangely awing to stand in the recreated Oval Office! (Of course, the whole institution has now been completely tarnished, probably beyond repair, but at the time, Trump was still an admittedly worrisome joke.) I probably should have been taking more pictures but didn’t want to detract from the experience. But I took this one!

LBJ and me

 

Then on to the nearby Texas State Legislature, which is very impressive, portraits of Dubya and Rick Perry notwithstanding! And a little more walking through UT, then Indian food for dinner! A very nice night!

For my last day, I grab some great Texas barbecue, then head down to the very Bohemian South Congress Avenue. It’s great and supports the theory that Austin is a bit of an outlier for Texas. I check out Allen’s Boots, where a man with a smaller or greater sense of irony might have gone full cowboy! I’m confronted on the street by a seemingly friendly guy with a camera crew who asked me “Do you think there should be free psychiatric care for people who are depressed about how bad a president Obama is?” I politely answered “I think there should be free psychiatric care for EVERYONE.” Which I thought was a reasonably good answer until about thirty seconds later, when I realized what I should have said was “Yes, because anyone who thinks Obama is doing a bad job as president needs all the psychiatric care they can get!” And I check out some really great eclectic stores including Uncommon Objects, where I buy a thermometer for my parents, a longstanding vacation tradition. This one looks like a stump with a gun and bullets resting on top of it. And with that, I head home!

Shortly thereafter, something kind of crazy happens:

Yes, after many attempts, a tweet of mine actually makes it onto @midnight! And I have to accept the possibility that more people saw that tweet than saw me perform live in over a decade as an improviser!

And as if to hammer that point home, I was then off to do Sloanliness in Collingwood as part of their new Fresh from the Fringe Festival. Pretty small houses, but pretty decent shows and very nice billets. It also feels like an accomplishment to be asked to perform somewhere, so there’s also that!

And to end off the month, I go with Ian to see Cameron Esposito perform standup at Comedy Bar. Don’t know if that’s blogworthy, but it was in the Cabaret Space, and that seems like the smallest room you’re likely to ever see her in, so why not mention it?

 

December 2015:

This is either the start of a dull couple of months, or I just did a poor job recording what I was up to. Anyway, here goes!

I perform in O Dat Dumb’s show, O Dat Show. I do a reading of ‘Casey on the App’, my version of Casey on the Bat except with a dating app (pretty much Tinder.) Comedy gold, I’m telling you! For the holidays, I have my first Cape Breton Christmas at Brian and Sihan’s, I spend Christmas proper with my family (I presume), and I believe I do New Year’s at Sean and Kim’s, where I believe I’m the only non-parent in the mix, but it was lovely!

 

January 2016:

Woo hoo, (when I started writing this) this year! (I mean, I’m obviously not cheering the notoriously awful year. I’m just ready for this post to be over! But please, anyone who’s still reading, enjoy!)

So I count three parties in January: Festivus at Second City (always a fun party where I feel I SOMEWHAT belong), the Royal Rumble Party at Matt’s (where I feel very welcome, if somewhat out of my element vis-a-vis wrestling (my references are decades old))…and Medieval Times with Mike Fly and company!

Medieval Times January 2016

I am now thoroughly prepared for my Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court moment, if it ever happens.

 

February 2016:

I see Air Dat Dum, which I mention mostly because it was hysterical and also because I don’t want to have an entire month (even a short one) with just one event in it. I also participate in a charity bowlathon. I’m not sure if I hit more pins or made more Big Lebowski references, but it has to be close!

 

March 2016:

I host Fridurday Sketch Live! (It’s a sketch show.) I was just supposed to be guesting, but I end up hosting. Though conversations with several castmates I’m friends with reveals that everyone is feeling pretty burnt out, it’s still a very good time…for me, at any rate!  I write and perform a song parody called Comma Police (pretty self-explanatory, I would think) and a sketch called Penis Portrait which was far cleverer than it sounds (probably.) Good times had!

I also write this tweet which I was quite proud of, so please enjoy the fine craftsmanship:

 

Then a real adventure. The Hershfields do what Jews do and escape to Florida! Uncle Ian rents a house and the three families congregate for a nice little vacation. Of course, from my vantage point, Florida may be the most repugnant place in the world, but it’s hot and we’re together. And of course, some fun times were had! When I could suppress my natural urge to be disgusted at the crass capitalism of it all, good times were had at Universal Studios…

Hufflepuff and SlytherinThe irony of the picture is that while these are our personas, I am obviously a Ravenclaw and Evan is obviously a Hufflepuff…but sometimes sacrifices have to be made for comedy! I’d say the other big Florida highlights are heading down to Dunedin for some Blue Jays spring training and the Kennedy Space Center, which, despite two jackasses constantly doing their ‘JFK from Clone High’ impressions (it was Evan and I), was pretty remarkable!

We also had a very nice road trip back, with stops in Savannah (or as I call it, Shavannah), Knoxville, and Cleveland. And yes, we got to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and yes, this is Robbie Robertson’s double guitar from The Last Waltz!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (March 2016)Somewhere around here would have been my birthday…so I’ll just say it was here!

 

April 2016:

Sloanliness goes to Montreal for the Solos Festival! Sixteen years after my first ever play was put on at the McGill Drama Festival, I make my triumphant return. The circle is closed. It was a wonderful time all around. Mitch and Claire were nice enough to put me up and we got in some fun hangouts, including the mandatory Montreal poutine and bagel runs. I meet the Chief for lunch at Amelio’s, which is nearly nostalgia overload, and I top it off with a long walk around campus. So many memories! And while the show once again drew a pretty small crowd, I think it may have been my best performance of the show ever!

But this is amazingly not the highlight of my April. The highlight is applying for, interviewing for, getting, and starting my job at NN! (Acronym not for shame purposes, but rather to keep me out of unsavory Google searches.) I won’t pretend it’s not an odd job…though it’s probably not as interesting as everyone imagines it is! But it’s definitely a privilege to get to write every day and get paid to do it, and the people there are great! And it’s very nice to have steady work and, I believe they’re called…benefits?

And the month ends with the Toronto Screenwriting Conference! I’d volunteered to work this before I knew I’d be employed, so my first weekend was actually spent STILL getting up at the crack of dawn, but it was quite a good conference! It was generally pitched at a higher level than Austin, which even though I’m not entirely a professional TV writer (though an argument could slightly be made now), I appreciated. And because I got my first choice of assignment, I was volunteering as an usher in the main room, so I got to see all the big lectures. Even if I turn out to be a hobbyist, it’s still a world I really love, so good times!

 

May 2016:

Day 2 of the Toronto Screenwriting Conference. See above.

Evan and I take Mom to see James Taylor for Mothers’ Day. Good sons that we are! Okay, I admit, he puts on a pretty good show…

And I do this tweet, noteworthy only because when it appeared as a Facebook post, it was liked by members of some of the finest sketch groups in Canadian comedy. And that tickles me!

 

 

June 2016:

I do yet another 24 Hour Sketch Challenge, the best show not on dirt! I’m running out of steam here AND someone actually took pictures of this show, and since a picture is worth a thousand words anyway, in lieu of more description…

24 Hour 1 June 2016 24 Hour 2 June 2016 24 Hour 3 June 2016

 

So that’s me with the kids. Back in the world of the grownups, my high school buddy Mark gets married! I am more and more the outlier as a lifelong bachelor (though not in the euphemism sense)! But hey, that’s why I have time for things like blogging every couple years, right? Right? (Tumbleweed blows through my mostly empty apartment.)

 

July 2016:

The Fringe happens again. It’s a little odd not having a show, but I’ve still got a lot of shows to see. And I get to hang out with many people I don’t hang out with enough, including my old Vancouver pal Ryan Beil! Worth noting because our plans almost always fall through!

I’m also noting a decline in interesting life events, but I believe that’s one of the definitions of having a day job! That’s when I’m chalking it up to anyway! Although July was also largely occupied with plans for…

 

August 2016:

I move! So a few months back, my landlord Mike told me that he was going to have to be moving to a retirement home and thus they were going to be selling the house. That’s a very hard thing to begrudge…though I knew it was going to be a pain. As expected, without my stroke of luck, apartment hunting in Toronto is a miserable experience. Luckily, I found a nice place in Leslieville, which I quite enjoy and it’s way closer to work! But oy, the rent! (It’s standard, maybe even a little better than standard, for Toronto, but not the insane bargain my previous place had been) And just like that, the job that I thought was going to make me flush instead gives me just enough to live off of! But just imagine how screwed I would have been if I didn’t have it!

And we make another trip to the cottage. Because that’s what the Hershfields do in August. Though as a working stiff, I both got less time there and needed it more. Don’t remember many specifics (besides listening to the last Tragically Hip concert on the radio), but good times were had.

 

September 2016:

Again, being a working stiff meant I saw far fewer TIFF movies than I normally would. Nothing too exceptional this time around, but nothing bad. I saw:

  • India in a Day
  • American Pastoral
  • The Journey
  • The Exception

Some celebrity sighting, but the most fun was seeing my old buddy Phil Burke, who I assistant-directed (assistant to the directed?) in Rat in the Skull at the Berkshire Theatre Festival back in 2005! We met working on a very Irish project, so seeing him after The Journey (a very Irish movie) when he was standing with his very Irish ‘Hell on Wheels’ co-star Colm Meaney was possibly the most Irish moment of my life. And maybe that’s why I’m (spoiler!) going to Ireland with the family for my birthday! But since that hasn’t happened yet…

I make the following topical tweet about Ted Cruz deciding to endorse Donald Trump…

 

…which, yes, I’d probably be sharing anyway just because it’s funny to me. But there’s also a story! So as the tweet got passed around, Wynonna Earp showrunner Emily Andras happened to see it and happened to comment…

Which, very cool in and of itself! But I also met her at a Writers’ Talking TV event a few days later and used my authorship of that tweet as a means of introduction! We then had a lovely conversation (she’s INCREDIBLY nice, and not just to me, as I observed while working up my nerve) and she said she’d look at a writing sample of mine! So I sent her The Shrink and will follow up when her season wraps up! I’m not expecting anything more out of it than perhaps the opportunity to buy her coffee and glean some wisdom…but I admit, I love the possibility that my big break story might start with a tweet about Ted Cruz eating shit!

 

October 2016:

There’s a party for Fiona, who becomes a Canadian citizen! Arguably just under the wire, as it turns out!

I also have my first band practice! Yes, probably two decades or so after it would have impressed girls, I’m in something of a band! I forget how it came about exactly, but head writer Brad is a guitar virtuoso and editor Nate is a drummer, and at some point, we joked about making a band, and how I could be the bass player. And then we found someone selling a bass for $50 on Kijiji, and things pretty much went from there. Oh, and I’m also the lead singer! So far, we just rehearse and do mostly ’90s covers (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Better than Ezra, etc.). Maybe someday we’ll do a show, but even if we don’t, it feels pretty cool…if somewhat Weekend Warrior!

And my friend Vanessa comes for a visit. It’s all too brief, but brevity is the soul of wit, so good times were had!

 

November 2016:

Western democracy comes to an end. It had a pretty good run. Very little good comes out of it. All I can think of is that Ian took me to see Josh Gondelman at Comedy Bar, and he was able to wring some comedy out of it. (Mind you, it seems like there’s a lot of comedy being made, but it all leaves you sad.) And I have a mini-Twitter conversation with David Simon, which I have to admit is awesome, circumstances notwithstanding…

 

 

United by bleak outlooks. Very ‘The Wire’!

 

December 2016:

Much of this month is spent in a Trump-induced fog and depression. (Of course, he’s since proved as bad as could possibly be imagined, which was already beyond terrible.) But it’s also a time for parties…specifically holiday parties!

I take it upon myself to organize the office party. Seems like a good task for the new guy, and I’d say it was a success! It was essentially a dorm party format, with a karaoke kicker! Smelling the freedom of the impending holiday, I drank way too much. I believe I was on pace to have just drank too much when Eila brought out the Jello shots! But I was rocking the karaoke thoroughly and body shots were exchanged before I passed out with head over garbage can (strictly precautionary). Still got it!

New Year’s was spent at Matt and Erin’s. Which would have been perfectly lovely regardless, but they also got engaged! The closest I’ve physically been to a couple getting exchanged, and they’re an incredible couple, so it was a very nice start to the year!

 

 

And I realize that it’s now February, so by all rights, I should be writing up January, but I’m going to succumb to unit bias and say it makes sense to end at the end of a year! (Also I’m tired.) If anybody’s still reading this, thank you for being way too interested in me! And be sure to come back soon for my ongoing list of every book I’ve read since this blog started! (And I think I’ll throw in some favorites from my pre-blog life…curation and all…)

 

Stay gold, Ponyboys.

Book Club for one!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Okay, so my Book Club show didn’t take off.  That doesn’t mean I’m not going to subject cyberspace to my literary tastes!

Here are the books I’ve read since last I posted the books I’ve read!

  1. Fletch and the Widow Bradley, Gregory Mcdonald
  2. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  3. At Home: A Brief History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
  4. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
  5. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
  6. The Sentimentalists, Johanna Skibsrud
  7. Becoming Canada, Ken Dryden
  8. The Stench of Honolulu, Jack Handey
  9. The Guts, Roddy Doyle
  10. Confessions of a Late Night Talk Show Host: The Autobiography of Larry Sanders, Garry Shandling
  11. Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, Chuck Klosterman
  12. Double Down: Game Change 2012, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
  13. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
  14. Attempting Normal, Marc Maron
  15. The Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida
  16. I Hate My Neck (and other thoughts on being a woman), Nora Ephron
  17. Cockroach, Rawi Hage
  18. What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, Daniel Bergner
  19. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman
  20. Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage., Rob Delaney
  21. Behind Bars: Surviving Prison, Jeffrey Ian Ross & Stephen C. Richards
  22. Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, Ted Conover
  23. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges
  24. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B.J. Novak
  25. Mad As Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, Dave Itzkoff (side note: anyone who wants to visit Paddy Chayevsky’s old office, it’s at #1106, 850 Seventh Ave.!)
  26. Crazy Town, Robyn Doolittle
  27. Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, Ken Jennings
  28. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, Nick Offerman
  29. Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, Ken Jennings
  30. The Last Girlfriend on Earth, and Other Love Stories, Simon Rich
  31. The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, Lance Dodes, MD, and Zachary Dodes
  32. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

And plenty more to come!  Reading’s the best!!