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London Calling!

Saturday, April 27th, 2024

As promised, my (for me) epic travelogue! I assume this post will mostly be for me, but in addition to the hope that it might be a fun read for those loved ones that stumble upon it, it should also be a useful reference if I’m ever called upon to make recommendations! And also, because no one wants to see slideshows anymore, PHOTO DUMP!

Day 1 (Friday, July 28th)

The trip got off to a rough start. Our departure – which was supposed to be at an already late 10:45 p.m. – didn’t end up being until 1 in the morning. Because someone was smoking (or possibly vaping) in the airplane bathroom BEFORE WE EVEN TOOK OFF! So they were removed after much rigamarole – and the only good thing I have to say about it was I got to hear good working-class British griping as the offender and her fella were booted off the plane.

A funny moment shortly after arrival: I end up having a laugh with a security agent, because I’m shocked enough that I can just walk out without declaring anything or having anyone look at my passport that I actually ask if I’ve made a wrong turn! Oh, innocent Canadian me!

I’m not too much of a gawking tourist… but I do enjoy the view on the train ride in! The Strand! London Bridge!, etc.

I get to the flat (look at me with the lingo!) and am very delighted. What a deal/friend! And the cats are, well, cats. This day was mostly about getting settled (and maybe dealing with a wee bit of fear), but I did step out a little.

I headed down Market Road to check out the Islington Tennis Centre and Gym, thinking this might be a thing. It didn’t up being a thing. But while I was there, I also checked out Caledonian Park and its clock tower, and as I was walking by, this guy and gal were kicking a football (or, if you prefer, “soccer ball”) back and forth, and I heard her say “I’m from Toronto.” So I chipped in a “Me too!” (the good kind), and I ended up kicking the ball around with them for twenty minutes. She was a U of T student from Saskatoon doing research in London for the summer; he was from Nigeria, actually playing football for his uni and a Tier 7 team. Making friends! (Single serving, but still.)

Then I grabbed a burger on the way home… noteworthy mostly because it’s how I learned that the numbers of buildings across the street might be off by hundreds!

Day 2 (Saturday, July 29th)

I head to the Camden Market… and got a little lost on the way. It wasn’t until the next time I went that I realized I could just stick to the canal, which takes a little longer but is well worth it. I did a good proper wander and did find the Amy Winehouse statue.

I was also guided by this – from the Frommer’s Easy Guide to London 2020 – “food halls of fame: “The downmarket choice – mostly cheap and simple – but bountiful. Star attraction: The Cheese Wheel, where hand-rolled tagliatelle is tossed in a bowl made of a huge truckle of melting Parmesan.”

So how could I not?! (

From there, I went to Hampstead Heath. In retrospect, it’s kind of funny that I went to the park so early in my trip. I didn’t really need a temporary escape from the urban jungle at that point! But it was still neat to see, with some people-watching and -listening. (I also went on a Golders Green grass courts goose chase, based on some out-of-date online info. But what are you going to do?)

And since I was (vaguely) in the neighborhood (or should I say, neighbourhood), I checked out the Spaniards Inn.

From their website,  :

“Built in 1585 as a tollgate on the Finchley boundary, The Spaniards has more than a few tales to tell.  This characterful inn was named after the Spanish Ambassador to James I of England and rumour has it highwayman Dick Turpin was born there, whilst his father was landlord in the early 1700s.  

Immortalised by Dickens in The Pickwick Papers, and allegedly the place in which Keats penned ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, The Spaniards has a romantic, nostalgic air and a feeling of time stood still. Boasting an open fire and many a cosy corner, its charming walled beer garden offers ample comfy seating, sheltered tables and barbecue facilities for the summer months, as well as patio heating for those cooler days. Perfect for laid-back afternoons, al-fresco dining or just a glass of something special on a sunny day.”


And from there, a pretty lengthy walk home, and that was my day.

Day 3 (Sunday, July 30th)

My wandering to explore came to a pretty early pause when I saw the Canopy Market and all its splendiferous booths. I went with the chicken tacos.

(I’m just going to put as an aside here that there were some sites close enough – and between me and King’s Cross Station – that it doesn’t make sense for me to note every time I go through them. But shoutouts to Granary Square, Coal Drops Yard, Regent’s Canal, etc.)

Today’s first (and basically only, not to get ahead of ourselves) stop was the British Library. I’ll let some pictures tell some of the tale, but highlights that stand out include two copies of the Magna Carta, the Diamond Sutra (the oldest known printed book), a Gutenberg Bible, a Shakespeare First Folio, and yes, original Beatles lyrics.

Also, if only because I’m an excellent son, stamps.

Admittedly, some of this stuff I remembered from having been there about eighteen years earlier, but still pretty nifty. (Leaving aside the stuff that probably shouldn’t be there.)

Upon leaving, I got caught in a HARD rain that I had only partially prepared for – I was wearing a windbreaker – and that made me cut my day short. Lesson learned, London! Though I did wander through St. Pancras Station and saw Platform 9 ¾. (Thought it would be a short-cut. Not so much. But still.)

Things calmed down by the evening, and I still hadn’t really done any shopping, so I took Other Kate’s advice, and checked out the Lord Stanley. A very solid local, and I enjoyed me some lamb pizza and beer. ( )

Day 4 (Monday, July 31st)

Far from my only one of the trip, but this was a long walk day!

As in, I was doing the Frommer’s Walking Tour #1, but I also had a long walk to get to the starting point of that walk!

Thankfully, I found some incredible fuel fairly early. The falafel I had at Just Falafels, a stand in the St. Pancras Church yard, might’ve been the best I’ve ever had. And even if it wasn’t, it damn sure felt like it at the time.

Then my long pre-walk continued, taking me by Somerset House, then along Fleet Street, then along the Thames.

As for the walking tour proper, stops included: Victoria Embankment at Westminster Bridge; The Palace of Westminster; Parliament Square; St. Margaret’s Church; Westminster Abbey; Birdcage Walk; St. James Park; The Cenotaph; 10 Downing Street; Horse Guards; Nelson’s Column & Trafalgar Square.

(For a running gag I’ll carry through this post, this is when I first clocked where the Churchill War Rooms were.)

It was basically 5 o’clock when I finished, so I decided of the close options, the National Portrait Gallery was the one I could best run through. I’ll let pictures tell most of the tale… but I love those Tudors!  (Thank you, Reign!)

Then, I tried to go to Café in the Crypt, but it was closed, so I took the Tube home. And honestly, it was remarkable it took me this long to ride the Tube. But the seal was now broken…

Day 5 (Tuesday, August 1st)

This seems like a good time to mention that though I took a fair number of days off, I was working throughout this period. With the time shift, my 8 to 4 become a 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., so I was often able to squeeze in a morning activity before starting. But this was my first proper workday abroad. So mostly, I just did that.

BUT I did make a shopping excursion. I mean, I ate out a lot during this trip, because why wouldn’t I?! But some meals had to be eaten at home, obviously, so we’ll call this a practical day.

That said, in terms of “fun” purchases, I had two. I got “Frosties”, which is what they call “Frosted Flakes” in the UK. That’s fun, right? I also picked up some Jaffa Cakes, a snack I’d been curious about since seeing them in The Commitments.

Well, moderately curious, I suppose, since I’d been to Europe after that movie came out in 1991, and hadn’t bothered before. But this time, I did, and they were quite tasty! In fact, I wish I’d brought some home… and as I’m typing this, I’m wondering if they’re available somewhere here… Hmm…

Day 6 (Wednesday, August 2nd)

Still in classic tourist mode at this point, I go to the British Museum! Luckily and inadvertently, I found the back door, so I didn’t have to deal with a line (or “queue”) to get in… but it was quite packed. As it should be!

I’ll let the pictures once again tell most of the story, but here are the notes I jotted down when I returned home: “totem pole (taste of home!); Rosetta Stone; Egyptian mummies and sarcophagi, etc.; Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs; Parthenon sculptures; Lewis chessmen; clocks; Book of the Dead” Sums it up pretty well!

A funny moment in terms of how I was acclimatizing: I realized on my walk home that I had gotten (more or less) used to what side of the street people were driving on… but I did walk by a car and think “Where’s the driver, and why’s that guy just sitting in the passenger seat?”

Back home, a day of work, and then… reunion with Merv and Caz!

These are two people I went to Israel with (as part of a bigger group), and though at one point I’d had ambitions to make a huge reunion of nearly everyone, these were the two I had the most vivid memories of as being “cool.” And my memory proved right! (I mean, I guess I can’t definitively say they were “the coolest”… but they were certainly cool. And if I were to live there, I’d want them in my friend group, and I might be obnoxious about making it happen.)

And, in what was pure but delightful coincidence, this reunion happened to be EXACTLY thirty years from when we’d last been together. (Well, the last day didn’t line up, but we had been together on that day thirty years ago.) Hopefully, it won’t be so long until the next one. What with them internets and all.

The highlight was of course seeing them… but after the tasty dinner we had at Arcade, we also hit up the Princess Louise, which is an old-school (as in Victorian) pub I highly recommend, especially for those who like a little history with their hooch. (See links below)

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Day 7 (Thursday, August 3rd)

Another pretty pure workday. But after, I did manage a quick walk along the Canal, then sat to catch an outdoor flick at the Everyman Screen on the Canal. It was an audience pick, which ended up being The Devil Wears Prada. So, not the MOST me… but one I hadn’t seen before, so that somewhat balances out. And it still felt like “a thing done.”

Day 8 (Friday, August 4th)

I brought my tennis stuff with me specifically because I wanted to play on a grass court and cross that off my bucket list. But I also didn’t want to go a summer month without playing, AND I thought it would be nice to have a little human interaction and exercise to boot. So I got on an app… and that’s how I found Joao!

He was from Brazil, had lived in Philly for a few years, and now lived here. Though he had a decent serve and I don’t usually bother with one, we were pretty well-matched, and a good time was had by all! (And also a helpful reminder that if I WERE to move here – or for that matter, anywhere – this IS an option!)

And on the way back, an accidental excursion. As it’s smack dab in the middle of a neighbourhood, I stumble upon Emirates Stadium of Arsenal fame. I don’t do much with that fact, as everything seems to be fully closed, but I do walk around it.

Day. Of. Work!

Then nighttime of play! Seeing that there were three things on my potential to-do list that were all fairly clustered together geographically, I decide to do all three. Which made the first two kind of rushed, but I stand by the decision.

First stop is Chinatown, Dumplings Legend. “Why?”, you ask. For a very stupid (or at least silly) reason: it’s where the old Lee Ho Fuk was. You know, from the Warren Zevon song, Werewolves of London? Oh, me! Anyway, I wolf down some dumplings, and I stand by the decision.

Then, to the John Snow. And yes, that H belongs there, for this is not a bar dedicated to the Game of Thrones character. No, it’s dedicated to the man who figured out the source of a cholera outbreak, and in so doing, basically invented epidemiology. (I used to know the history better, specifically when I was reading a book about it… but that’s the gist of it, and it’s neat!) Anyhoo, I had a pint of lager and saw a replica of the infamous cholera-spreading pump!

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Then – last stop – the Top Secret Comedy Club. It ended up being quite memorable… and a little bit scary. Performer scary, not scary scary. But let’s take things in order.

After getting slightly lost, I find the place and there’s a considerable line. By the time I get properly inside, it’s fairly packed. But luckily, there’s a seat on the aisle, so I ask a nice couple “Is this seat taken?” and it’s not. Which led to the following exchange:

Me: Good to be a single.

The guy: I miss it.

Me again: We can always switch seats!

And with that, I’d made single-serving friends. And their inside scoop did make me feel like I was doing something underground. Which wasn’t particularly the case, but it was a young crowd, which made me feel like I’d made a hip choice.

And I stand by that… but things got out of control fast. I don’t know if there was much that could’ve been done, but the host did a lot of crowd work, and when showtime came around, the crowd didn’t seem to realize that they weren’t the show anymore. So there were a lot of people having loud conversations throughout, dozens of hecklers just shouting out random things (including “Pedo!” – turns out that’s a real thing!), and just general mayhem!

Now, my new friends claimed this was just sort of the vibe of the place, but even they admitted this was extreme. And when the headliner essentially walked off after the crowd turned on him after HE went after an individual audience member… well, I felt my belief that this had to be worse than usual was confirmed. But hey, it was an experience – and one of the three comics managed to get enough of the audience’s attention to succeed, so maybe that’s the exercise?

At any rate, part of the “shtick” of the place (thus the name) is that you don’t know who you’re going to see in advance. As it turns out, these were the three I saw, in this order:

Good additions to my list. And hey, if I’m ever back that way, I think I might roll the dice again!

Day 9 (Saturday, August 5th)

I see the floating bookstore that Caz had been asking me about, and that was kind of neat… ( ) but the real highlight of this day was seeing some football (and South London)!

Specifically, I went to see Crystal Palace vs. Lyon. Yes, a friendly, so maybe I wussed out. (Very little chance of a riot breaking out!) But there were basically only two games available while I was there that had a Premier League team in ‘em… and Selhurst Park is a must-see for Ted Lasso fans like me, so I stand by it!

It was not only fun, but I’m of the age where it brought back memories of Exhibition Stadium! Especially with its, let’s call them, idiosyncrasies! Like how the seat next to me had a pillar DIRECTLY in front of it – as in you’d have to straddle it to sit there, and you certainly wouldn’t see anything. And the dripping that was quite literally onto just my seat! (Not too bad, so long as I kept my raincoat on.) And they ran out of hot dogs, so I hadn’t up having the more common snack among attendees: a meat pie! Okay, clearly, I lucked out there!

This is also where I did my first real shopping for gifts for the fam: team fridge magnet bottle openers! And a toque for me… which they call a “beanie”! Probably a situation where we both think the other is silly. And since this is a team somewhere in the middle, with no strong chance for Champions League or relegation, I feel it’s a good choice for my agita!

As it turns out, it was a 2-0 win, so I can say Crystal Palace is perfect when I’m there. Game details here:

(Note for the gallery below: this last guy came into the stands and the people around me went fairly crazy. Feels like at some point I should find out who he is…)

Day 10 (Sunday, August 6th)

My sporting weekend continues with a trip to the All-England Club, where Wimbledon is played. So, basically my Mecca. (With all due respect to people whose Mecca is actually Mecca.) Though not surprisingly, it’s a slightly more hollow experience when there are no games happening. In fact, the nets weren’t up… and we were told so many times that we weren’t allowed to touch the grass that I presumed it was a bit, and at the end, we’d be taken somewhere where we could roll around in it, but no, not a bit.

Still, it was pretty neat to see the grounds, the museum was solid, I got some souvenir wristbands (one for me, one for Lar)… and at the little café, I managed to get “eat clotted cream” checked off my list. Very tasty with scones and jam, it turns out!

That was basically the highlight of my day, best as I can recall. I did try a brief Canal walk heading east, though it occurred to me that I should try to make the Canopy Market in time for dinner. I JUST missed it, so instead, I grabbed a poutine. Perhaps I was homesick? If so, the poutine probably made me more homesick, but good on ‘em for trying!

Day 11 (Monday, August 7th)

After realizing the night before that the Archives aren’t actually open on Mondays, I switched up my plans. I decided my next day would start with the Churchill War Rooms.

But then I got there, and there was a long line, so I pivoted. And thankfully, it was a neat food pivot!

I went to the Café in the Crypt. Which Frommers describes thusly: “Super-central and unquestionably memorable, it’s the tastiest graveyard in town! Under the sanctuary of the historic St. Martin-in-the-Field church at Trafalgar Square, atop the gravestones of 18th century Londoners, one of the West End’s sharpest bargains is served.” That sums it up pretty well! And I had the fish cakes, which were delicious.

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So since I was right there, and it had to be done, and it was a weekday, I headed to the National Gallery. Now, the thought that it might have been less crowded on a weekday MAY have been true, but it was still quite the mob scene. So I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it in the contemplative gallery way, but in a strictly tourist way. Which is to say, I had a checklist and I got through it. But no big regrets.

I’ll let my pictures ONCE AGAIN do some of the talking here (though there are of course better ways to see these works online), but the works I saw included: The Entombment, Michelangelo; Samson and Delilah, Peter Paul Rubens; Venus and Mars, Sandro Botticelli; Bathers at Asnieres, Georges Seurat; Self Portraits, Rembrandt; Sunflowers, Vincent Van Gogh; An Old Woman, Quinten Massys; plenty more from Manet, Monet, Van Eyck, Hans Holbein the Younger…

Day 12 (Tuesday, August 8th)

I guess this was inevitable at some point: I get a 3 a.m. phone call from home. A mistaken redial, but still a moment of panic. All’s well that ends well.

Another day of work, but I also had a reunion scheduled for that evening, with a step that started in the morning. I virtually queued with Julia for that night’s BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. (Now I know how many people, etc.) It’s actually quite a good system where if you’re on the site when the queue opens, they randomly assign you a spot. So, by random chance, I was about 380th in line to start… but Julia was in almost immediately, and we got choir seats!

I’ve included a picture of the program, and here’s a link:

But also, if you don’t want to skip around, we saw: the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Jaime Martin: Dora Pejacevic, Overture; Grace Williams, Violin Concerto; interval; Holst, The Planets

Catchy tunes, and it was neat sitting somewhere behind the musicians, so we were facing the conductor and seeing the sheet music. Like orchestra fantasy camp!

But more than anything, it was nice to see Julia again after so many years. The hang continued post-concert, though the pub we were going to go to – Churchill’s – the kitchen was closed, and we just wandered until we found another. We talked mostly writing, and I ate fish and chips.

The night ended a little poorly when I realized that a cat had pissed on my bed – which I unfortunately realized by sitting in it. But hey, still a good night in London. Did I mention Royal Albert Hall?

Day 13 (Wednesday, August 9th)

After work, another walk along the canal, but this one with a destination! Specifically, the Roundhouse, for their comedy festival. I would’ve gone twice if I’d been able to snag James Acaster tickets, if only for the paroxysms of jealousy it would’ve provoked in someone I know… but I was quite excited for this lineup, particularly the headliner.

Oh, and lest I skip over a fun memory, a nice couple who also presumably timed things badly were eating a box of doughnuts in line… and when they got full, they gave the remainders to me! Dinner of champions!

Anyway, this was my lineup for the Roundhouse Comedy Festival: MC: Suzi Ruffel; Nish Kumar; Zoe Coombs Marr; Sindhu Vee; Reggie Watts; and Dylan Moran. Not bad, right?!

Day 14 (Thursday, August 10th)

A workday without too much adventure, but a fun little reminder that London is a truly international city. Specifically, I got visitors from Toronto, who of course (well, not OF COURSE) weren’t there to see me. Neil and Melanie (and kids, but they didn’t emerge) stopped in on their European adventure, and I met them at their hotel and enjoyed some rooftop drinks! Ah, the view!

Day 15 (Friday, August 11th)

I finally made it to the famed Borough Market! Armed with recommendations from the younger Mr. Barnes and some guidebooks, I have a spectacular chorizo sandwich from Brindisa and a smoothie. I also grab a spicy lamb sausage roll and scotch egg from Ginger Pig for later. (At the time, I was too full to even buy doughnuts from Bread Ahead or a cheese toastie from Kappacasein… but to be continued!)

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While I was in the neighborhood, I checked out London Bridge (which was decidedly NOT falling down!) and Southwark Cathedral. I’ll spare you its illustrious literary history, but here, enjoy:

I also moseyed over to the George Inn, about which Frommers had this to say: “Unquestionably one of the most important ancient pubs still standing, the George traces its lineage to at least 1542, when a map of Southwark first depicted it; the Tabard Inn, where Chaucer’s pilgrims gathered in Canterbury Tales, was then a few doors south (it’s gone now). Shakespeare knew it (check out Pete Brown’s 2012 book Shakespeare’s Local), and Dickens memorialized it in Little Dorrit.”

And sure, it was rebuilt in 1676, but c’mon! So, in recognition of the moment, took out my notepad and wrote a sentence just so I could say that I too wrote there. It wasn’t a great sentence, but hey, first drafts, right?

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Then, some work! Once again, the time shift works in my favour, as my start time is 2 p.m. Vive la difference!

Then in the evening, some more hangouts with Neil; Mel, alas, was under the weather. We wander around Covent Garden, with stops for dim sum and a pint. The more things change…

And on the Tube home, I pointed out a dropped lighter to a guy and got a fist bump for my efforts. Just a nice moment that I bother to mention because they stand out in a big city.

Day 16 (Saturday, August 12th)

As promised to myself, and I suppose you the reader, I get back to the Borough Market. Okay, maybe a little obsessive, but I was going to that neighborhood anyway. That said, when I had the Kappacasein cheese toastie, it truly was mind-altering in how incredible it was, and it had me licking the wax paper for melted cheese like a wild animal!

Then, as I’m moseying on, I pass Neal’s Yard Dairy, where they give me an excellent cheese sample … and it’s at that point I decide I’m going to learn how to make cheese! That is since been downgraded to “I want to learn more about cheese”, but that’s not nothing, and making/mongering is still on the table!

Then off to the Tate Modern. Perhaps because of the “modern” part, and because of my National Gallery experience, I’m determined to focus less on the famous stuff. My plan is just to go through and see what made an impression. Though, yes, I did occasionally find myself saying “Oooh, Lichtenstein!” Or “Hey, Man Ray!” But I did art okay, and even saw the Tower of Babel!

Which brings us to the evening’s big activity: closing night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe. With a Groundling ticket, partially for cheapness, but mostly for the experience! (Okay, I skipped ahead a little for the sake of the reveal… but since I had a little time, I did also check out the original site of the Globe and the Rose beforehand. History!)

So, the show. Quite good. The Groundling experience could’ve gone south (so to speak) as I found myself up against a group of American youths (by which I mean teens or twenties) and they seemed like they were going to be “talky.” But I mentally reminded myself that the “hoi polloi” experience was part of it, and hey, they really laughed when they were supposed to! As for the play, they lost me a little at the Mechanicals, but that’s been a problem with most productions I’ve seen. (Also, I’d forgotten about the Hermia “dwarf” comments, so something I’d thought was “blind casting” turned out very much not to be, and the system was shocked a little. But the actress was truly excellent, so no complaints.) And as mentioned earlier, it was closing night, so the crew and creative team also came out for the curtain call, which I always enjoy.

Day 17 (Sunday, August 13th)

Today’s adventure: Spitalfields! Now, I don’t necessarily think of myself as a “market guy”, but there’s something to be said for the walking and the people watching. And, as it turns, out the food!

Yes, probably inspired by that episode of Atlanta, I get very excited when I see a food truck offering joffal rice. (Which, as a white guy, maybe means I missed the whole point of the episode, but overall, I have to think supporting Black business is a good thing. I mean, EATING shouldn’t really count as cultural appropriation, right?)

Anyhoo, the truck/restaurant was called 2 Nigerian Boys, and my joffal rice was delicious!

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Then I go through the stalls, mostly browsing, but also on what turned out to be a quixotic search for a thermometer. (This was a tradition started when I was a kid. Wherever I would go, I would bring my parents back a decorative thermometer, generally to be wall-mounted. Apparently, possibly because of the mercury, this is not a thing anymore. But it was fun to have something to seek out!)

Anyway, that’s when I decided to hit a pub that had been recommended through an Instagram video Tom had shared: The Golden Heart.  And though it would’ve been a nice experience anyway, it also led to my big SOCIAL adventure, what I think I’ll call a Platonic Meet Cute!

Which I suppose is really just meeting someone… but she was cute, so let me have this.

Anyway, she was sitting alone at a big table, and I asked if I could sit at the other end, as there were no other tables free. This was something I did a lot in London, but eventually, a conversation was struck, and that’s how I met Larry from Denmark!

Yep, a strange coincidence that I would meet a woman named Larry and could say “That’s my father’s name!” Though, admittedly, Larry was the anglicized version of a much more Danish name that I’d like to someday say properly. ANYHOO, she was a documentarian who was fascinated by my job, so somewhere out there is a video where I drunkenly probably said too much. And I also learned fun facts about her, like the concussion she got from her ex-boyfriend. (I forget the details, but it was a much cuter and more benign story than that sentence would imply.)

At some point, she said she needed to go get something to eat, and took her leave of me. I thought “Well, that was nice, but I guess she’d had enough.” Then minutes later, she texted and asked if I wanted to join her. And I did. (“Want to” and “join her.”) We went for noodles, more fun conversation was had… and eventually, we walked for a bit, and when we needed to go in different directions, we hugged and said ‘goodbye.’

Okay, my adventures remain moderate. But dinner and drinks with someone I just randomly bumped into? For me, that’s the Poseidon Adventure! (I don’t actually know what that is. But it’s got “Adventure” right in the title.) And, though I skipped over the detail, yes, she texted – as in we exchanged numbers. So, someday, if I’m ever in Denmark…

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Day 18 (Monday, August 14th)

My Oxford day. Which got off to an atrocious start! Following what I thought was the route Google was telling me to follow, I ended up going through a gate that closed behind me… and I was trapped on a service road near the train station that seemingly had no escape! Well, the escape was jumping over a ten-foot-high fence, which I managed to look over… but then got really nervous about snapping my ankle like a twig!

Thankfully, as I was about to make the jump (encouraged by someone I’d called over for help), another truck came through, opening the gate and allowing me to escape. And then, the person I’d called over for help offered me a ride part of the way I was going. Which was nice.

But then, I got to the grass tennis courts – basically the reason I’d brought my racket and a whole pair of shoes – and you needed a code to get in. Which I either never got or long ago forgot. And I couldn’t find it.

But again, things slightly miraculously worked out. Though there were six courts, almost all of which were empty, there were two people on one court, and they were willing to open the gate for me. And then, when I explained my situation, to play with me a little!

Okay, this is where it could potentially get embarrassing, but I’m not embarrassed: I got my ass handed to me by a (I’m guessing) 12-year-old. Well, actually, once we got to rallies, it was fairly even. But he could serve and I can’t. (Even the degree I can was failing me under the pressure! Though I also had a number of lets, which I think a cooler kid would have just played! 😛 ) And the surface threw me some, since it turns out balls don’t exactly bounce as much as they skid. But I could now say I played on all three surfaces! And I let the next Rafa – yep, he was from Spain – feel good about his game!

Plus his aunt indulged me by taking some action shots, which I think we can agree were worth it!

With that major checkmark checked, I raced off to do my tour of Oxford. The university, that is. Pretty damn nifty, and I was the nerd on the tour who knew that the first thing the kids see in Narnia is a lamppost. (And then we saw the lamppost!)

Then a hangout with Darcy (and a bit Courtney, and a smaller bit their kids) at a pretty crazy time. They were scheduled to leave the next day… and if you check the news for that day, you’ll see it was an extra-crazy time to be returning to Yellowknife. (As it turns out, they did have to hold up elsewhere for a stretch.) But it was for sure nice to see them all, and Darcy and I had some laughs, and he showed me some picturesque spots. (Thus the pictures.) And a neat little almost hidden bar along the canal.

And despite some panic from that morning, and some from the setting sun, my walk back to the train station along the canal was successful, and my big sojourn out of London ended without incident.

Day 19 (Tuesday, August 15th)

Clearly, the day before (and maybe weeks before) took it out of me, because this day, I just worked and stayed in. Like, not even a picture was taken! But hey, I was going for the “living abroad” experience, and days like that happen when you live somewhere!

Day 20 (Wednesday, August 16th)

In the morning, I tour Highgate Cemetery, with a very good tour guide.  Informative and entertaining, at the risk of being macabre. I do recommend it. And if you only tour one side (as I did), be sure to check out the other. They’ve also got good maps that show you the biggest people of note.

As for the graves I left stones on, that would be Douglas Adams (many left pens, but I feel like he would want me to keep mine), Karl Marx (because F the haters!), and Anthony Shaffer (playwright solidarity!). Others that made a bit of an impression: on the west side, Alexander Litvinenko and George Michael (I dared to take a picture because other people were… including one who looked so much LIKE George Michael, I took it as a sign), and on the east side, George Eliot, Malcolm McLaren… and someone who owned a Chinese restaurant! I loved that!

Then, a full day of work. Thank you, time zones!

That eve, not having too much energy but not wanting to stay in, I went to nearby Happy Face for a pizza dinner. Not bad.

(  )

Day 21 (Thursday, August 17th)

Mostly a work day, with touches of ‘getting ready to leave’, but for late lunch, I did get back to Camden Market for more Cheese Wheel, this time with pesto and sundried tomatoes. Which of course entailed a canal walk, and I did also explore the market a little more than I had previously. So, that was that.

Day 22 (Friday, August 18th)

At long last, as promised, I make it to the National Archives. As it turns out, I think what I found could’ve been found remotely if we’d been willing to pay for it, but it was neat to find British passage records in Britain. Plus, good father-son bonding, and my interest in genealogy was piqued for a spell. I don’t know that I need the whole tree, but I do find it neat learning about my direct antecedents, plus problem-solving!

To that end, even talking to the experts there and having them agree that, on one front, we’d likely hit a dead-end was satisfying.

And then, the other reason I was in that ‘hood: Kew Gardens!

It was quite lovely in that manicured British way. I saw quite a bit, as I walked through The Wander Project (the exhibit at the time), which also took me by Palm House, Temperate House, Treetop Walkway, and Lake Crossing. Then I also got to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, Woodland Walk, and Syon Outlook.

I arrived at the Royal Kitchens just in time for the last tour of the day… and I felt very guilty, because I was the only one there, so the tour guide stayed just for me. But we had quite a nice chat, and I enjoyed that and the tour proper, so if you’re seeing this, much thanks, Nina!

And from there, I more or less wrapped things up, with a few quick stops at The Hive, ‘cause it sounded neat, and the Temple of Aeolus, which sounded mythical!

And because I wanted another historically nifty meal, I headed to the Mayflower Pub, which I believe was recommended by both Julia and at least one of my tour books. It was certainly loaded with history, which you can find here:

I had the steak pie and cask ale, so check and check, plus one more ‘sitting with strangers’ situation for the road!

Day 23 (Saturday, August 19th)

Much of this day was consumed with packing, but once I got out, I managed to get through a lot of my remaining to-do list.

First, Portobello Road. Where I had a fairly disappointing paella, but I’d had such a good run with street food, I couldn’t feel too bad. Plus, I didn’t have the confidence to do street seafood, and maybe that would’ve been better.

At any rate, my mission was once again and one last time to find a decorative thermometer. Which I didn’t. And so, before getting back on the Tube, I stopped in at a Notting Hill pharmacy and got a regular medical thermometer. Which I thought would be cute, and it was received as such.

Then to Gordon’s Wine Bar. Much recommended to me, and now by me. I also had a funny time entering. When I got there, there was a line, and as I was alone, I thought it would be worth inquiring if I could be squeezed in. So I went to the front and asked how long the wait for one would be. The host told me “About half an hour… unless you want to eat inside.” And of course, I did… as did the people who were at the front of the line, who’d waited who knows how long without thinking to ask! Seriously, though, not sure who wanted to be on the patio, but me and those others got into the vaulted cellar right away!

I had the Mozafresca wine with Manchego and Mayfield as my cheeses. The alphabetical theme was not intended. They all paired wonderfully together, and remember how I told you earlier this trip set be down a path of cheese appreciation! This was a big part of it!

( )

So, after that, I found myself with some time to kill, so I wandered around Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus. Yup, those were my “nothing better to do” walks… though in fairness, I knew I’d been to them years before.

And then, my last big excursion/expense: some West End theatre! Again, a closing night, this time for Patriots, starring Tom Hollander as Boris Berezovsky and Will Keen as Vladimir Putin, with a script by Peter Morgan. (At the Noel Coward Theatre, certainly a pertinent detail.) Not a transformative night at the theatre (perhaps I’m too old for those), but a good play with some exceptional performances, and its interpretation of Putin is now basically my interpretation of Putin.

For other opinions, several reviews:

And just like that, I was (basically) done.

Day 24 (Sunday, August 20th)

An earlyish flight, so basically a wake-and-run situation. But it was a fairly easy trip to the airport, as everything was easier by that point. Almost a shame to leave, really. But all good things, etc.

Airport shopping included Cadbury chocolate for Ian, Whittard ‘mulled wine’ tea for Myles (and me, since I was there), and a Tortilla Burrito for me. (Neil had recommended it. And it was fine. Nothing to write home about, but that worked out, since I was already on my way home anyway.)

One last link for anyone who’s read this far:

And that, my friends – though let’s be honest, you’d have to be more than a friend to have read this far -was my London adventure! (And I’m not sure I ever really paid off that Churchill War Archives story… but yeah, kept thinking I was going to go, then didn’t. You always have to have at least ONE regret, right?)

2023: A(nother) Year in Books

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

I’m not going to be too defensive about my count this year. Twenty-five books is a perfectly acceptable number of books to read. Far more than most people read in a year or even a lifetime, no doubt. Nevertheless, I will point a few things out. One: several of the books were long, and I’ve noted the page counts of the three longest. Two: There were some graphic novels, which I’ve included separately at the end but could’ve totally counted. And three: Toronto’s library system was hit by a huge ransomware attack, throwing my whole reading plan into chaos!

Okay, that last part is a half-truth… which is to say the part about the ransomware attack is true. But all it really disrupted for me was my plan to get through all the A books on my holds list. (The decision was made because I always add new books onto the list as I take others out, and consequently, it never feels like I’m making any progress! And while I mostly accept that I will always have more books that I want to read than books I have time left in this life to read, it was nice to create some semblance of progress!) Of course, as I write this, the website has been down for something like five months (curse you, hackers, and I mean that!), so it’s possible my holds list is gone forever! But at least I got through all of the A section but ONE BOOK… which I remember, so I’ll still get to it either way.

Anyway, that did get a little defensive… so I’m also going to add in some self-criticism. Looking at the list, I’m realizing it’s a lot more homogenous in terms of authors than I would like. Something to keep an eye on again next/this year. But for now, without further ado (or as a certain someone said many times this past year to my amusement, “without further adieu”), here’s what I read in 2023:

  1. We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, Fintan O’Toole
  2. Dune, Frank Herbert
  3. Joan, Katharine J. Chen
  4. This Is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World (and Me), Marisa Meltzer
  5. My Dark Vanessa, Kate Elizabeth Russell
  6. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
  7. Antkind, Charlie Kaufman (705 pages!)
  8. All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told, Douglas Wolk
  9. American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, Shane Bauer
  10. King: A Life, Jonathan Eig (557 pages!)
  11. Autopsy of a Boring Wife, Marie-Renee Lavoie (translated by Arielle Aaronson)
  12. The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees, Ben Mezrich
  13. All This Could Be Yours, Jami Attenberg
  14. The Fake, Zoe Whittall
  15. Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr (626 pages!)
  16. The Marriage Portrait, Maggie O’Farrell
  17. Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America, James Poniewozik
  18. Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, Melissa Maerz
  19. Who Gets In: An Immigration Story, Norman Ravvin
  20. The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet, John Green
  21. All the Knowledge in the World: The Extraordinary History of the Encyclopedia, Simon Garfield
  22. The Adversary, Michael Crummey
  23. How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question, Michael Schur
  24. Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America, Elizabeth Wurtzel
  25. How Basketball Can Save the World: Thirteen Guiding Principles for Reimagining What’s Possible, David Hollander

Bonus (comic) materials:

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (I can’t remember offhand which ones ‘cause the library system is still down, but several!)

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, Frank Miller & John Romita Jr.

Daredevil: Born Again, Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, Jody Houser & Adriana Melo

’23 and me

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

2023 felt like a pretty big year. Ups, downs, and, by my standards, a big adventure. And at the dawn of 2024, I felt like I was in a bit of a better place than I was the year before. Of course, the continued diminishment of the pandemic helped. But for a variety of reasons, life seemed a little less bleak. (What passes for good news these days…)

And hey, circumstances had to line up for it to happen, but when they did, I did have that big adventure! But let’s take things in chronological order!


The first thing that shows up in my calendar is I went to see Withnail & I at the Revue Cinema with Jennie Apps. I hadn’t seen the movie OR her in forever, and I thoroughly enjoyed both! (That sounded dirty. But for the latter, I just meant her company and the drinks after, you pervs!)

In the spirit of trying to learn some family classics, I make sesame chicken with my mother. For some reason, it looks like I forgot to take a picture of the food, but I did take one of some ingredients.

I think I meet up with Jess B. for drinks on the 13th. (It’s in my calendar with a question mark. But probably, right?)  I for sure meet up with Ian and Jen on the 14th, as we went to Descendant Pizza (where we had the “Brotherly Love”), then went to see Josh Gondelman at Comedy Bar East. He’s still got it!

I prove my commitment to tennis by playing several times in a bubble. The UCC Tennis bubble, to be specific. It’s of course nicer to be outside, but such is life/weather.

A long overdue reunion with Kelly Z. at Betty’s East. It is a fun thing to do, I’m realizing… and Kelly always has interesting things going on in her life!

Speaking of interesting things in life, I learned about rebuses doing the NYT Crossword (well, I found it interesting!) and about Laura quitting. Truth be told, still a little hurt I didn’t hear it directly AND never got a proper goodbye… but I guess I too at times have lived by a “No goodbyes on the road” code, so I’ll just assume it was that.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese, with a recipe taken from my Milk calendar. Quite tasty, though I learn quickly (and often) that the recipes in that calendar are RICH!

Then a Food Trucks jam… and let’s close out January with some Cheesy Mexican Rice Casserole! (It photographs well, and is usually quite tasty, but even a year later, I remember that this turned out surprisingly and unpleasantly salty!)


I could start by mentioning I had a dental appointment… which is a reminder that I piece much of this together by looking at my calendar! But hey, let’s (more officially) start with the Super Bowl, by which I mean the honey garlic wings we made! Tasty!

A movie night at Robin’s, where we watch Punisher: War Zone. It is exactly the kind of movie to watch with funny friends. And probably under no other circumstances.

I don’t know if I should get too heavily into my finances here. But let’s just say this is the month something goes from red to black.

And on that happy note, let’s look at some Tuna Corn Casserole! (Particularly noteworthy because I made it in my own apartment. Most of my culinary experiments happen at the folks’, with their far superior kitchen.)

I renew my passport and pee in a cup! (These things aren’t related. But it’s funny that they happened on the same day.)

And another Food Trucks band practice. Back-to-back months, just like the Monkees!


It would be great if I could say March was more eventful, what with special days and all, but it seems to have been fairly low-key. I did continue trying out new recipes in my apartment, though. So here’s some Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad…

And some Skillet Turkey Pasta Supper. (Thanks again, Milk calendar!)

Okay, here’s a fun memory: going to see Creed III with Ian! Now, this wasn’t a particularly memorable movie in and of itself. (Though I guess it will be remembered as one of the last acceptable Jonathan Majors movies?) But what makes it stand out is it was my first time in a (non-indie) movie theatre since the start of the pandemic. (I’ll admit, I assumed the Withnail & I crowd would be a little more sensible. But this was a POPCORN movie!) And I really had to psych myself up. And when we got into the theatre… we were literally the only two people in there. And I use “literally” literally!

And then, towards the end of the month, Allen wins March Madness and I have my birthday. Those two things are very unrelated.


The Bachelor Talk group meets up for merriment and light birthday celebration. A good time had by all.

Days later, a seder at Lori and Joel’s. The road back to normalcy continues. I seem to recall a fairly heated discussion about the ethics of bowdlerization. Which is just a fun word to say/write!

Also fun: looks like I played some Easter Monday Tennis with Isaac. Huzzah!

Then, what would have been my big adventure in most years: a trip to Roatan with the family! Though if I’m being really honest (and I assume no one else reads this, so why not?), it wasn’t my favorite trip.

Admittedly, some of that might’ve been getting sunstroke or accidentally inhaling too much saltwater… whatever it was that happened, I spent one day thoroughly out of commission. Also, there was a literally daily failing of our key card, where I had to go to the front desk (in a different building) and get someone from maintenance to come let us in. AND I brought a very poor beach read!

But I think it’s mostly that I got bored, sadly. Some of which may ALSO be that I did my cruise ship time, so that Caribbean itch had been scratched (albeit a decade earlier.) That said, it was neat to go snorkeling and see coral reef, and time with my family in warm weather was nice, and I’m grateful we did it. And hey, some great pictures!

And then shortly after I got back, another Covid booster… which I mention mainly because the timing strikes me as funny.


Let’s get sporty! This May, I take another tennis course, this one Serve and Return. Though the lessons don’t much stick, and I haven’t really kept it up, I think SOME progress was made. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it eventually, and until then, good on me for trying, right??

Then the WNBA comes to Toronto! Not to stay, alas, which is stupid… but hey, I’ll take an exhibition game, especially since it featured my beloved Minnesota Lynx! I end up taking Faisal, who I hadn’t seen in ages, and we had a delightful time. Much more delightful than these pictures might make you think!

I blame the Chicago Sky! (But also, good game, grumble grumble…)

Then, the next day, a big Mother’s Day dinner! Seemed like a nice opportunity to show off my new cooking “skills” and have everyone together! I make an ambitious menu and manage to complete two out of the three dishes I had planned. Time flies! But hey, I did manage to make spicy honey chicken with broccoli and a caprese chocolate and almond torte! (Also, the salad I had planned with a sherry Dijon vinaigrette did get made, just by Evan and Jen.) A good time had by all, and Mom even called the next day to say she appreciated it! (She’s often appreciative; the phone call was notable mostly for its earnestness.)

There’s a new tree in front of the parents’ house! Bring back the old tree!

I see “It Gets Bitter” at Comedy Bar with Ian and Jen. It Gets FUNNY!

More Food Trucks!

I go for drinks with Amanda, which does happen from time to time. But this time is particularly notable because construction means I can’t go in and out of my apartment without going through hers!! Toronto! (I guess it could in theory happen anywhere. It feels pretty here, though.)

Then, Doors Open! This year, I only get to one location: Atura Power’s Portlands Energy Centre. Kinda neat, though maybe it’s a boondoggle? That would take more research than I’m inclined to do right now, so here’s a picture of me in a hardhat.

More drinks with Jess, I think.

AND this actually started in April, but I mention it here because this is when I thought to take a picture: I start learning German on Duolingo! Not sure how much I’m actually learning, but it’s fun enough, and less of a timewaster than most of the other things I’d be doing on my phone while pooping.  Enjoy!


My tennis bravery continues. I play in a Round Robin! It goes… okay. In my first match, there was one stickler on the other team, and she gave a hard time to my elderly partner who was recovering from some kind of surgery and wanted to do a bounce serve. And then before we could rotate, we got rained out. But I still went, and far as I can remember, I acquitted myself okay!

Then we had Ian’s annual BBQ. Which has taken on greater significance now that I see everyone from work so infrequently. Good time had by all.

Okay, so the story I told about Creed III earlier? Same deal, except this time, it was Across the Spider-Verse and there actually WAS a crowd! Return to normalcy! (Though Ian (different from BBQ Ian) and I did see it at Rainbow Market Square, so in those ridiculously comfy reclining seats, which helped with the transition away from couch viewing.)

(I find a choir for Mom, which she won’t go to. I put it in parentheses because it’s not inherently that big a deal, but I figure I might want to remember roughly when this happened for various tracking purposes.)

A high school reunion (in miniature) at Sam’s, after tennis with Greenstein. Throwback!

I go to see my doctor because of a lump. It turns out to be nothing, which I guess is better than the alternative but still irritating. Anyway, this is the point where I start being a person who sees a doctor. Carlsberg years!

I go to see Amy Shark in concert. It feels a little odd, because she’s someone I discovered through someone I miss, and an (irrational) part of me even imagined seeing them there. But hey, regardless of how I got there, I’m a fan, and she did not disappoint. Plus, some fun covers mixed in for good measure (Simply the Best, Mr. Brightside) and a very charming intro to Adore, where she expressed gratitude to what her big hit brought her. AND I drew some inspiration for the screenplay I’m currently working on… so if THAT becomes anything, this show could be an interview anecdote!

Then, about a week later, with a dental appointment and ultrasound in between (Carlsberg!), my first Jays game in forever! Much thanks to Neil for taking us and Dan for buying much of the food. Alas, a loss, but an exciting game – funnily enough, we were late, so they won the game we were there for! – and it was neat seeing all the stadium upgrades! Not to mention the ridiculous quantity of stats that now go on the scoreboard!

[For anyone who wants to do the deep dive: ]

Then, the municipal election. Which would probably have been depressing, except the outcome was good, I’ll take it. Also, I make “meatloaf bombs”, which is kind of a celebration.


I see the new Indiana Jones movie with Ian and Jen at Scotiabank. To the extent that I can track my mood half a year later, I was amused rather than pissed off at how ludicrous it was! And then the next day to Cherry Beach… which I probably wouldn’t mention, but I haven’t shown enough Marty pics!

The next week, a couple of new recipes tried. Harlem Chicken, which didn’t turn out that well, but I’m almost inclined to give it another try. And definitely enjoyed the Tahini Swirl Brownies!

I also learn a few German phrases I can use all the time!

It’s summer, so lots of visits. There’s a gathering at Tom and Lindsay’s; a meet-up at Blood Brothers with  Jess, Callum, and Matt; and a movie night at Robin’s. I also win three books from Penguin Random House in an online contest! But this is all a lead-up to that big adventure I was teasing before: LONDON, BABY!

Yup, because we live in a Work From Home era, and due to crazy (albeit unfortunate) circumstances wherein my longest friend Kate let me have her place FOR FREE in exchange for cat- and plant-sitting, I go to London for the better part of a month! Because it was so jam-packed with adventure and activity, I’m going to make it a separate post, called “London calling!” (It’ll also be convenient to have it all in one place, should anyone be looking for recommendations.) SO, because it’s so epic, let’s skip ahead to…

(Late) August:

I return to Toronto, basically just so I can go to the cottage. Je ne regrette rien! (Oh, and much thanks to Ian for picking me up at the airport. It was much more of an ordeal than expected, and worse than usual by a stretch! As it turned out, we went straight to meet people at a bar, which was unexpected, though luckily, I was much more conscious that I was expecting.) Anyway, MOSTLY good times at the cottage, though Mom’s enjoyment continues to decline, and the rising popularity of pickleball means the formerly abandoned tennis courts are now crowded all the time!

And shortly after my return to Toronto, I go to Vaughan with Ian and Robin to watch Oppenheimer in REAL Imax format. It big! And luckily, we’re nerds, because as a perk we didn’t know about, the movie actually started right on time. No trailers or anything! (Which was extra-appreciated, because good movie, but LONG movie!)


I am desperate enough to watch Canada FIBA action – and emboldened enough from my times dining alone in London – that I go to watch the game at The Queen’s Head, even if that means sitting alone. My faith is rewarded. See you in the Olympics, lads!

Duolingo is on fire with useful phrases this month (and next, if I’m being chronologically honest)!

A day of fun hangouts and gut-stretching! Brunch at Neil’s with the high school gang, then a dash to eat  Chicago Beef with Ian. Meaty and Bear-esque!

After much trying, Larry and I (mostly Larry) finally start getting Jer out for tennis. It’s a lot of fun, as he’s quite good. The first night we played, I afterwards retreated to Casa del Hershfield and made one of the New York Times’ highest-rated recipes: Blistered Broccoli Pasta with Walnuts, Pecorino and Mint. If memory serves, I used the listed substitutes of cauliflower and pecans. Still pretty tasty!

A few days later, I see Good Grief (Gangl’s latest) with Fionna. That guy continues to be Toronto’s gold standard for solo shows. And of course, catching up with Fionna (including the pho apres-show) is always great.

The next day, I went to Roy Thompson Hall for my only TIFF show of the year: “Next Goal Wins”, a Taika Waititi joint. It was fairly meh, but there was an in-person Olivia Chow intro with Cameron Bailey, so I guess that’s kind of neat? And that evening, Rosh Hashanah at Sandra’s. Always fun, and boy, what a spread! (To which Mom and I contributed meatballs. Tradition!)

I guess I’ll say this part, because it’s embarrassing and thus funny: I got turned around at Tommy Thompson Park and ended up going for a substantially longer walk than I intended. I had jumped off the trail at some point, jumped back on, and I guess I lost count of the number of turns I made. At any rate, was hiking along, lost in my own thoughts, when I suddenly notice the CN tower was on the wrong side! Thankfully, I was with it enough to realize the tower likely hadn’t moved and reversed course. It did get pretty dark, though!

Okay, we’re up to JFL! Always a treat, and as always, I saw a lot! The token system makes you! (Though I am increasingly conscientious of the sunk cost fallacy, and act accordingly.) Here’s who I saw, in the order I saw them (with apologies to openers, who I should keep track of but consistently forget to write down):

Andrea Jin; Sam Morril; Drew Lynch; Nigel Grinstead & Ajahnis Charley; Ron Funches; Ariel Elias; Neal Brennan; Joke Signals (Dakota Ray Hebert, Clifton Cremo, Savannah Erasmus, Chad Anderson); Patti Harrison; Colin Quinn; Chris Redd; Catherine Cohen; Rory Scovel; Let’s Make A Horror; and Maddy Kelly.

And that’s in nine days! No pics with celebs this time around, but here, there’s this:

So, if you’re a fan of Canadian podcasts (and presumably me), you’ll know that Let’s Make A Horror includes my old buddy Ryan Beil! Though I also met (or re-met) Mark Chavez, Maddy Kelly, and their guest Tricia Black (plus Sarah Bennett, mostly notable because Facebook asks me if I know her every few days)… the big headline here is the reunion! Like riding a bike, friendship with this one, and we’ve been Zooming a lot ever since.

By a lot, I mean every ten days or so. But for me, a lot! And we might be developing stuff, so stay tuned!


This year for Thanksgiving, we got our prepared meal from Farm Boy. It was pretty good, if memory serves… though as you’ll see, come Christmas time, we returned to the familiar.

The big event of October was a trip to Winnipeg, for a long overdue unveiling for Vera. Which – though we did a reasonably good job keeping them separate – also included some mourning for Oz. And even Lev, since this was our first time there IRL since.

Here’s what we did, as best I remember it:

Day 1 (the 12th):

Basically, we drop off the bags, and seconds later, we are picking up Joanne and then off to Bernstein’s. Matzoh ball soup and Reubens, naturally. Then, the cemetery tour! Okay, that was a little glib, but it’s true. Largely for genealogical purposes. (As you’ll see in the London section, I have become Larry’s research assistant.) Here’s a brief glimpse of my past and possibly my future.

That night, Larry has other plans, and knowing it’s the only time I’ll have for days WITHOUT family AND wanting to do something I can only do in Winnipeg, I go to Rumor’s Comedy Club (sic)! Because Charlie Demers is playing there, and I remember him being great (as a person and a comic)! And while I wussed out on saying anything (would he have remembered me?), he was probably even better as a comic than I remembered. (Which is actually probably him getting better, which makes sense, since it had been about fifteen years.) I also didn’t take a picture, since you’re not really supposed to… but I did get one of their menu. It could use some updating, possibly with a sharpie!

Day 2:

We meet Jonesy at the Pancake House. If memory serves, I get something Benedictine, but have a healthy portion of Larry’s apple pancake. Not as good as Mama makes (so to speak), but tasty and tradition. And always nice to see Jonesy!

Then to the Manitoba Archives, where I do some advanced genealogy of my own! (Which is actually looking into a bit of unspoken family history. I won’t get to into it, but suffice it to say, archives are neat!) We also go to Vital Statistics on a separate genealogical mission; as it turns out, they can’t help us then and there, but they give us the proper form to inquire, and it ends up paying big dividends!

And dinner that night at Gail and Jerry’s. Good times (and food) had by all.

Day 3:

Evan arrives. This time, instead of a race to the deli, it’s a race to dim sum. With Delta, who it was nice to see after many years. Then we probably did something during the day, but darned if I can remember it. I do know we went for Chinese again that night. Then a visit with Uncleany and Shawn. (I actually move there at this point for a few days, as Evan took over my hotel bed.)

Day 4:

The unveiling itself. I think we did right by her, all things considered. Nice turnout, good rabbi, Larry making it through his speech with a reasonable amount of crying. My grandma. I wore the sweater she made me, ‘cause I’m sweet like that. And I guess I should mention the lunch, because I mention all the meals?

An afternoon visit with Paula, where we see (and phone-scan) the Mad Magazine “homage” Oz and Lev had made in high school. Pretty neat, I must say.

Then dinner with Ian, Shawn, and Al. (Auntie Ess was feeling sick.) A nice visit, and basically the end of (extended) family time.

Day 5:

In the hours before we fly out, the three of us go to Stella’s (they still make a damn fine breakfast!), a Safeway (I believe) where we get an unreasonable amount of City Rye bread to bring back to Toronto, then to Assiniboine Park to check out the Leaf. Huzzah for tourist time!

My return to Toronto life has – in fairly short order – a Zoom chat with Ryan (it begins!) and a movie night at Robin’s. One of two we’d have this month, and in accordance with Hallow-Ian, we start with Ready or Not. (A modern classic, I say!) Which I actually saw in a movie theatre with Ian, so full circle… by which I mean a loop along a line.

I take Kate for a much-anticipated ‘thank you’ dinner. It’s very funny to me that it’s our first time seeing each other in roughly thirty years, given that I’ve spent several weeks with her cats… but it’s a friendship that comes back quick. We go to Greta Solomon’s, and I have steak tartar for the first time in my life. (Which is to say, I have some of hers. I’m not THAT big a gambler!)

Then on Monday, I join a trivia team! (Part of my not saying “No” to invites policy!) I’m recruited by Ian from work, and it’s a fair bit of fun. As expected, I’m dynamite in certain categories and staggeringly embarrassing in others. But it works out to a decent enough average score, and I’m responsible for a fair number of steals, thanks to that esoteric knowledge base. If nothing else, I’m out of the house, and they’re nice people.

Another Food Trucks rehearsal… and thanks to some unseasonable warmth, another movie night at Robin’s, back in the backyard! We watched Dead End, and wow/yikes. Kind of fun if you’re watching with people who’ll make fun of it with you, but otherwise, steer clear!

Speaking of Halloween-adjacent fun:


On the third, I play tennis with Ivimey. Good times had by both, but I mostly mention it because it was TENNIS IN NOVEMBER! Bad news for the planet, but (for now) good news for me!

The next day, Mom and I make that good ole chicken curry and a recipe she wanted to try for a La Vina-Style Cheesecake. Quite tasty, quite simple… and I think it photographs fairly well!

A few days after that, I get my flu and vaccine shots… and then it seems like I don’t do anything of note for several weeks. But it was a fairly exciting last week!

For instance, I take my father to a Raptors game! Pete has spare tickets because he got a pair to take his “cousin” to a game – those quotation marks make it sound unseemly, but it’s just that they’re related but not exactly that way – and then upgraded. So as a thank you, I treat the party to some pregame dim sum (and DEN some!)  I impress the Hungarian with my fandom for Dorka Juhasz (go, Lynx!) and hopefully made enough of an impression that when SHE becomes a WNBA star, I can get some tickets/swag.

Some neatness about the game: it was one of the in-season tournament games, and this was the inaugural year for that, so in theory, that’s something cool I can say years from now. (It also explains the different and not great floor.) And it turns out it was my last chance to see many beloved Raptors before the big rebuild. So long, Spicy P and O.G. (and Precious, Malachi, Thad, and Schroder), and thanks for the memories! (They were also playing the Bulls, so, hey, nice to see you again, Demar!) And we won, a rare treat for that season.

For those looking for a recap:

Then, Beer Beer Comedy with the inimitable Steve’s Thieves. I remain deeply ambivalent (in the literal sense) about improv, but it was nice to hang out with some basketball people outside of basketball, and flex that old muscle. (It was also part of my policy of not turning down invites… and thankfully, I get invited to do things seldom enough that it’s not an onerous policy!)

And I closed out the month watching the Golden Bachelor finale at Tom and Lindsay’s, with Jenny (of course) also in attendance. I don’t miss that franchise/universe at all, but I do like my hangouts with those folks!


A fun hang with Jess at Bellwoods. Pretty sure we solved the Middle East, if anyone was inclined to ask…

My first trivia banquet. FWIW, it’s where I learn that someone in our league was a Jeopardy contestant, so that’s kind of neat!

I have an incredibly unhealthy day. I celebrate Burrito Monday… then a few hours later, I meet up with Ian, we head to East Side Mario’s for dinner (best option at the strip mall)… then Robin meets us and we see Godzilla Minus One. Which was great, but I also had an unnecessary popcorn.

I mention the unhealthiness… because that “few hours later” was a doctor’s appointment. Love me some irony!

Anyway, here’s my traditional Burrito Monday pic:

And things don’t get any healthier the next day, because it’s Hannukah, and we made latkes! I ALMOST forgot to take a picture, but thankfully, the “ennial” part of “Xennial” kicked in!

A couple days later, the 14th, which turned out to be a fairly epic day. For one thing, I make this submission to the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, and it goes more “viral” than anything I’ve done in a long time. Now, I was going to set this up as a cliffhanger… but I’ll just say now that it wasn’t selected as a finalist. I was hopeful, because it got more likes than any others on Instagram (for ANY of the weeks, as far as I could see). In fact, I was the only one to crack four digits. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Still, pretty funny, no?

Then, the office party! Well, not quite THEN. I went to see Three Days of the Condor as part of the Designing the Movies series at the Revue. Because I got to be me! But after that, the office party, where I was reunited with some people I hadn’t seen in a while (in some cases, since the pandemic) and met a few people who I’d been writing for for years! (I was mostly there for a good time, but I was curious to see if the new people and I had a shared belief… and they had it as much or more than I did. And were very vocal about it!) Anyhoo, sorry to deprive you of the racy content you no doubt come here for, but I’m choosing to share the only SFW pic from the event.

The next day, I made my first Egg in a Hole. Not that I was really hungover, but I was in the mood for a breakfast, and it’s something I’ve wanted to try ever since I saw it in Moonstruck. (RIP Norman Jewsion) Don’t know if I’ll bother again, really, but kind of a tasty treat. Not sure it merits a pic here, but since I took one…

Okay, sometime after that, the office potluck. Which I don’t go to, out of principle. The office party alluded to before is from/for our parent company. We get this pot luck… which to me is the opposite of an expression of gratitude. “Hey, if you all want to share your lunches with each other, go nuts.” But it did lead to this, which I found hilarious. And which I am going to share without context, so see if you can find the “joke”. (Hint: it’s not the “side of dick.”) IYKYK.

Shortly after that, the last day of work… and it seems I was ready to attack the break with gusto! Look at how I do something every day for a week!

The 21st: It’s the last day of work… and we have a Food Trucks jam!

The 22nd: I go see Swordplay with Isaac. And Paul and Shannon are there, as is Nadine, so reunions abound! I also introduced myself to Lowen, and though I felt incredibly awkward (my attempt at a conversation felt more like I was doing press), I have now met all of Sex-T-Rex. Which is cool, because they’re very good.

The 23rd: I have brunch with Ian at What A Bagel! That exclamation point is part of their name, but it is in fact a very good bagel. (And I got more to take back to the ‘rents.)

The 24th: I make Marry Me Chicken. In what could be read as a sad statement, I make it for my parents. But hey, what’s in a name, right? And also, if I WERE ever to make it for someone I wanted to marry, it’s good it wouldn’t be my first time attempting the recipe!

The 25th: Much Ado About Stuffing! (As always, thank you, the Simpsons!) Okay, we do our Christmas dinner on Boxing Day, like good Jews… but this is the day I make the cranberry stuffing. (A more standard stuffing comes with our order.) Damn, it’s tasty… and fairly photogenic, if I do say so myself!

The 26th: The actual dinner. Bertie and Setch come and bring far too much food, and we STARTED with way too much food! But still, it’s absolutely delicious… and gods bless us, everyone!

The 27th: I play tennis with Isaac in the UCC bubble. Very necessary, because as you can see, there was mostly eating going on this week! (And I also had a financial appointment, which I only mention because it makes me feel so adult… which is silly, because chronologically, yeah, I’m very much one.)

The 28th: Swatow with the Northern folk.  I think it’s pretty tasty, though if it sticks, who’s to say? There are also beers after.

Well, I made it a week! And then either took a little time to recuperate, or just didn’t note what I was up to. But, to close out the year, NYE was spent at Ian and Jen’s, with Andrew, Diana, and Luke also in attendance. Good times had by all… and I was right about Jeremy Lin being a mid-season acquisition, though I kept that to myself. Beyond mentioning it here.

And that’s the year that was! (Albeit with the brushing past my big adventure. That other post is coming soon, I promise. But if you thought THIS one was epic…!) Thanks for reading, hypothetical person who might be reading this, and I’ll see you soon!

“Reading is what? Fundamental!”, 2022 edition

Sunday, February 19th, 2023

Okay, my numbers were still down relative to my top years… but I managed more than a book every two weeks, and there were some long ones in there! I apologize for nothing! Ahem… please enjoy my reading list for 2022:

  1. Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes, Jessica Pan
  2. Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart
  3. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
  4. The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles
  5. Superman Smashes the Klan, Gene Luen Yang (art by Guruhiru)
  6. Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, Amanda Montell
  7. Yearbook, Seth Rogen
  8. Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, Alexandra Robbins
  9. All’s Well, Mona Awad
  10. The Comic Hero’s Journey, Steve Kaplan (reread)
  11. The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Alison Bechdel
  12. New Teeth, Simon Rich
  13. Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos, Michael Imperioli & Steve Schirripa with Philip Lerman
  14. The Innocents, Michael Crummey
  15. Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama, Bob Odenkirk
  16. Butter Honey Pig Bread, Francesca Ekwuyasi
  17. Hench, Natalie Zina Walschots
  18. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, Les Payne and Tamara Payne
  19. Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel
  20. The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale: Finding the Formula for the Cost of Love, Haley McGee
  21. The Butterfly Revolution, William Butler (technically a re-read, but it had probably been about thirty years)
  22. The Topeka School, Ben Lerner
  23. How To Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy
  24. Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, James Andrew Miller (975 pages!)
  25. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
  26. I Met Death on the Avenue Road Bus, Samantha Albert
  27. A Star Called Henry, Roddy Doyle
  28. Seven Games: A Human History, Oliver Roeder
  29. Audience-ology: How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love, Kevin Goetz with Darlene Hayman
  30. People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present, Dara Horn
  31. Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory, Sarah Polley
  32. Hola Papi: How to Come Out In a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, John Paul Brammer

2020 II (…or “2022”, if that was confusing…)

Sunday, February 19th, 2023

Every year I do this, I think it’s going to be the last. I’m almost certain the only person who ever looks at this is me, and I suspect most anyone else who might be looking would be doing it for nefarious purposes. Perhaps data-mining, perhaps to catch me in a lie of some sort, perhaps to laugh at my existence? It’s also a surprising amount of work, and I spend a lot of time thinking that if I’m going to spend this much time on a piece of writing, it should be a DIFFERENT piece of writing! A script, perhaps?!

But for three reasons I can think of, I keep coming back to it.

The existential: I’m here, damn it! I exist! And the world should know!

The practical: I’m paying for this website. And I’m not prepared to let it just disappear. And if it’s going to be here anyway, it should probably be up-to-date.

The romantic: I refer more to the romance of an artist’s life than the italicized romance… but in both cases, it’s nice to believe there’s someone out there reading this that I don’t know is reading it. Maybe just one person who it means something to. Even if that person won’t be reading it for years. In which case, I suppose, that person might even be me, Krapp’s Last Tape-style!

Sigh. Okay, guess I’m doing this. Here goes…



Yes, I was still tweeting. It was the style at the time. But that wasn’t all I was doing. At some point, I realized that I was entitled to more visual coverage through my health plan, so I got new contact lenses. Productive member of society here!

Our movie group gets together. I think. It’s in my calendar, at any rate.

In a sign of where we were as a society at this point, I’m able to successfully order a bunch of N95 masks and it feels like a real accomplishment. Speaking of “real accomplishments”, Wordle doesn’t really qualify, but like everyone else, I got into it.

Comedy Bar puts out a call for screenplays. I submit mine and never hear anything. Such is life… but if nothing else, I’m reminding myself here, just in case someone ever mentions having read it. Now, I won’t say “What? HOW?!”

In case you didn’t piece it together based on what you know about my sardonic wit, that last tweet was about Meatloaf dying. And since I’m in the world of pop culture, here’s my NBA All-Star ballot. (Time capsule!)

Some hometown bias, but I stand by it!

I watch an online chat with the creators of Yellowjackets, Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson. Thanks, VIFF! (Even though my writing dreams are getting pretty faded, I’m still a fan of writers and the process. Like a nerd.)

I have a dental appointment. Mostly mentioned because, if memory serves, this was at a point the pandemic was peaking once again, making every trip an adventure.

Okay, we’ve reached the first noteworthy event in what may be my most noteworthy achievement of 2022: my continued development as a cook. I’m still not great, don’t really have a feel for it, and certainly can’t improvise much. BUT I can follow a recipe, I know how to do basic ‘mise en place’, and the results are consistently edible-plus. Perhaps most importantly, it’s an activity I do with my mom, and frankly, it’s nice to see her engaged.

Our first major attempt of 2022 is chili, based on the Binging with Babisch recipe for Kevin’s chili from The Office. We make some substitutions, and it feels like it could’ve been better, but still, quite tasty!


I meet and go for a fairly lengthy walk with Clare, where we discuss possible projects we might pursue. Which is admittedly a little odd to do with someone you’re technically meeting for the first time, but such is a world with social media. (I was a big admirer of hers, and I guess she was at least vaguely familiar with me.) I note it here mostly because we came up with the germ of an idea that I think has potential, but we never really did anything with it. So, if it ever revives itself, I’ll want to know when that happened! (Later that month, I do make a Google doc where I flesh out my thinking on it a bit. So that much progress has been made.)

The Toronto Hershfields get our inheritance from Gabe, mostly of the keepsake variety, though mine is slightly practical. In addition to us all getting glasswork, I got a fretless bass, an effects board, and an amp with some muscle. The amp came with a note from Gabe taped on top asking people not to put their drinks on it (from a gig, I presume), and while it’s not necessarily the most profound message to remember someone by, I’ve of course left it in place. Using all three also feels like a nice tribute to his memory, in that I’m doing a thing that he did, and substantially worse than he did it.

How did that not get a like?!

I share my script with Jeremy L. It doesn’t grab him, but I’m very appreciative he took the time, and I feel cool for putting it further into the world. Though it does also start to feel like it might be time to move on to the NEXT screenplay…

I renew my membership at the tennis club. Clearly, the pandemic’s still happening at this point, but I’m willing to travel to get my game on. I want to live, damn it!

But not too much, clearly, because I was also doing Quordle daily.

And at the end of the month, another Food Trucks jam! I don’t know if they’re all noteworthy, but I mention this one because I finally thought to take a picture. Mind you, it’s a selfie done badly because I already had my bass on, and I also had to do it while we were warming up, because how the hell do you expect me to do it when we’re playing?! Still, photographic evidence!


Let the culinary adventures continue! We made what Mr. Burns would call (and thus, what I would call) a “meated loaf.” This one’s turkey-based. I also make my biggest culinary fuckup, and part of the paper from the ground turkey ends up in it. I mention this because hopefully it’s my low point… and also because it was still quite good! (Nice when the failures in life are partial!)

You can barely taste the paper!

I have a Zoom hangout with the Northern folks. This is late in the Zoom hangout era, and though I can’t say I miss them terribly (Zoom hangouts, that is), in a pinch, they’ll do.

Good news and bad news, and I’m going to give them in that order because while it’s worse narratively, it’s better emotionally. The good news is there’s a (relatively) good kind of leukemia. The bad news is my mom has it. My understanding is that you can live with it forever (well, not FOREVER, but… you know…), but it does have to be treated. And the medications take a long time to figure out, at least in terms of avoiding nausea. So yeah, fairly rough times. But we endure…

A movie night at Ian and Jen’s. Which, if memory serves, was fairly pandemic-bold for me. But even bolder: with my run still on the shelf, Matt starts a basketball run of his own at Eastminster United Church. And I get to go just as a player! And the relatively low ceiling makes it feel like a prison game… but very white collar, given our temperaments.

I get accepted into the GAP. (Not the store. A different thing.) I end up doing absolutely nothing with it, but I guess there’s something to be said for flirting with options. Beats my normal modus operandi of waiting for death… which I guess is basically what I’m doing now, but hey, I’m maybe thinking about things, back off! (And see next year, ‘cause you never know!)

Kind of odd that’s what I tweeted on the 29th, because on the 30th, I go to Second City for the first time in forever. Albeit with a mask on, despite clearly being one of the few to bother. But it was Natalie’s last show, and I wanted to pay tribute. Also pretty curious about the venue that now exists as Comedy Bar East or Comedy Bar Danforth, depending on who you ask. As it turns out, it seems pretty likely that Evan and Jen got COVID that night… but from the sub place they stopped at before!


I do one of my standard walks. But I decide to go THE OTHER WAY along the boardwalk. And that has made all the difference, etc.

I’m officially NOT a quarterfinalist in the TSL Free Screenplay Contest. I will say, screenplay rejection feels better when you’re not relying on it to live. Though maybe I take it TOO easily?

The Winston Churchill season opens. My tennis odyssey (re-)commences!

We don’t PASSOVER the opportunity to cook! Mom makes a matzo ball soup, and we make a sweet potato kugel. As I write this, I really wish I had both those things right now!

I have what I believe is my first tennis game of the season with Larry. (I’m working off my calendar eight or nine months later, folks!) I really don’t remember how it went, but I assume it was fun.

Jen has a couple of us who gave notes on our screenplay write a release. It feels very grown-up, and gives me hope that I might get a big-screen Special Thanks credit one day. Which I’d mostly be okay with… although I would think people who stumble upon my IMDb page now probably just think I left the business, so it might be odd if suddenly credits start appearing again. But them’s (admittedly hypothetical) good problems!


I take some Excel courses, and they are Excel-lent! Well, actually, I retained relatively little, but I’m pretty sure a lot of it would come back to me, and I still have the syllabi and cheat sheets and whatnot, so time well spent.

Dave comes to town and we hangout in Greenstein’s backyard with Mark also in attendance. It’s a hang that’s memorable to me because it’s one of the only times I’ve been in the bottom half for COVID-caution.  (And Dave lives in America, so he was obviously going to be the most cavalier!)

Google makes me sad…

And I resist the urge to make a VERY dark joke about the following tweet. (See if you can guess what it was going to be. For what it’s worth, it was strictly about the logic!)

And speaking of tweets…

We do brunch at Tom and Lindsay’s. Why don’t we do this every day? Well, I guess that’s impractical…for now…

Someone about to quit shares a text of the boss drunkenly shitting on me. Well, drunkenly shitting on a choice I made, at any rate. Happy to report my reaction was almost exclusively amusement!

More Marty at Cherry Beach!

Then another Food Trucks jam….

And then Ian’s annual BBQ! Always a good time, but this one means a little more because I’m seeing everyone so seldom these days!

I find a nice spot at Tommy Thompson Park. Especially if you don’t mind geese!

A big development for me at the end of this month: I start taking TENNIS LESSONS! Guess you’re never too old! (Or possibly you can be too old, but I’m not… or I am and don’t know it. Either way, it happens!) They’re group lessons, and it’s called “Attack Drills and the Art of Volleying” Finally, after all these years, I start going to the net. Not all the time, but a lot more, and when I do, I slightly know what I’m doing!

And to close out May, I have a fun text exchange with my downstairs neighbor Amanda. Because of the dark humor involved, I’m not going to share it. But suffice it to say, she’s Dutch, I’m Jewish, and I essentially live in her attic.


The Ontario election with the lowest voter turnout in history. Not only is the province becoming a shithole, there’s little or no hope it can be salvaged. But I digress…

More Excel learning! As Clay Davis would say, “Sheeeeeeeets!”

I play tennis with Andrew I. (That’s an initial, he’s not Andrew the First.) It’s especially noteworthy because unlike most years, we don’t just talk about playing more than once, we actually do it! Also, I think he’s the only one I kept score with (as of now, tennis is mostly for rallies), and I won… albeit with some generosity on my serve. (We counted “close enoughs”, which benefited me much more than it did him.)

Beware the Ides of June! I believe I had Churrasco for lunch, ordered JFL tickets, and enjoyed a movie night at Ian and Jen’s. (In my mind, All of Me holds up… but a few parts haven’t aged too well! Yikes!)

Food Trucks rehearsal, more tennis (including a veritable tennis tour with Isaac)… let’s hear it for summer!

Okay, time for another sad one. Guess I’m at that point of life. I attend (virtually) the memorial for Bryan Wade. I learned a lot from him, he boosted me well, and he’s the reason I’m a published playwright with productions from people I’ve never met. Nuff said, I suppose…

I reach a major milestone for the pandemic: I get back on the TTC for the first time. So go, me? It was also to get to my last tennis clinic session, which I followed with singles with Larry. So a couple hours of tennis, which I guess is the organic version of a COVID test?


July starts with a two-dog weekend! I get picked up by Larry (and Marty) and spend a little time at the house… then we go to a BBQ at Evan and Jen’s where we meet Kelly Kapawski!

Very cute, I’ll admit… but I’m staying loyal to Marty! HE’S A LITTLE ANGEL SENT FROM HEAVEN!

Anyway, this was also part of a hardcore tennis week, maybe my most thus far? Anyhoo, tennis with Larry on 1st, Rob on the 3rd, and Ian McD on the 7th!

I go to Jimmie Simpson Park for an Alanis Morrissette tribute band. Just thought you oughta know!

And one of those likes was Brent Butt. Thanks again, Liz!

Another year, another Fringe! I didn’t see much, and what I did see, I wore masks to.  But I supported the right people, starting with Isaac’s 1-Man No-Show (9th), Sketch T-Rex (followed by a roti and a walk to Jenny’s for the Bachelorette), and back to back (on the 14th) Jon Blair’s Clip Show & Devon and Connor’s Flight of the Ballooncaster. Efficient!

And having survived all that, I get a booster a few days later. Then we take Marty to Cherry Beach, where he’s both cute and petite!

And that night, I wrap up my Fringe with Aliya’s “Where You From, From?” As she was at one point a playwriting student of mine, I choose to give myself a very undeserved modicum of credit for her success!

Then the next night, a movie night at Ian and Jen’s (EEAAO, maybe?). And the next night, tennis with Greenstein. Who is this social fella?!

I return to homebody status, albeit not at my own home. I stay at the house with Janet and Marty while Evan and Larry are in Vancouver for Gabe’s Celebration of Life.

Towards the end of the month, tennis with Judy. Suffice it to say, in the years since we last played, she has improved substantially more than I have. But she plays down nicely enough to give us some long points, and it’s a hell of a workout. She also recommends a pro to me for lessons… which I mention because, hopefully, in 2023…

And keeping up the ‘friends from high school’ run, the boys gather at Sam’s on the 30th.


Another movie night at Robin’s. Independence Day! If there has even been a more popcorn movie…

A long overdue reunion, as one of my Vancouver cohort comes to town. I take Shaun on my patented (patent pending) Leslieville+ Brewpub Walking Tour, with stops at Radical Road, Slowhand Pizza, Avling, and Saulter Street Brewery. Good times abound!

Then it’s off to the cottage! Rest and relaxation and redundancy! The one bit of excitement was there was an incredible windstorm (at least), so I have to jump into the kayak and rescue many of the cushion from the Mitchells’ deck furniture, which are strewn all over the deck. Nice to have a LITTLE urgency to deal with, especially since by and large, it was nicely lazy!

Then the cottage ends. And I tweet this.

The next day, I talk to Christian B. about maybe doing a production of Chinese Coffee. Very shortly after that, I flake. And I feel bad about it. I mean, it wasn’t breaking a commitment or anything… but I suggested it and then immediately began to question it. It just feels like a huge project, and if we were to take that on, it would likely be my ONE project for awhile. Anyway, I mention it here because if we ever get back to it, it’ll be interesting to note the timeline. And also, because I have to decide (still) what I want my project (or projects) to be! Because while I probably can only choose one, it’s terrible if I end up choosing none!

Okay, moving on… but sort of speaking of which… the next day, I end up ordering running shoes and shorts online. It leads to one run, but maybe next/this year?

Another combined BBQ and movie night at Robin’s. We watch Commando… and I honestly can’t believe it took me that long to see Commando. Obviously, it stinks, but in the right way!

Mandy and I do some work in the front yard, then have some drinks in the backyard. It’s like attending Homeowner Fantasy Camp.

And the month ends with Evan and I starting work on a special project. More on that when we get to October, but for now…


The CNE Ghost Walk… which truth be told was for me more a walk around the CNE grounds with a little history and some fun conversation. No regrets, but it is does get me thinking about how I would do a ghost walk if I were in charge. Possibly more on that later… or it’s just one of those fleeting ideas.

The aforementioned second tennis date with Mr. I. happens. Though I don’t think he meant to, unless he’s playing 4-D Chess, a comment he makes messes up my serve. Humiliations galore… though, if memory serves, I still win, with thanks to our generous treatment of serves!

On the 13th, I have a nightmare about someone I’m no longer in touch with. If we should ever reconnect, this is my note to see if I was indeed registering a disturbance in the force… or if it was just a standard nightmare.

A major change and the biggest return to normalcy in the late pandemic (I still can’t bring myself to say “post-“): the Leo Baeck basketball run returns! Though being the “commissioner” is at times a bit of a headache, it’s my favorite run with some of my favorite people. If nothing else, it means I’m talking to people IRL at least once a week who aren’t my family… and in these end times, that’s something. Plus, basketball! (At this point, my skills seem to be in some decline, but I make a nice basket every now and then, and I do seem to get my fair share of rebounds, so not quite ready to retire just yet…)

Other things that get me out of the house: more Food Trucks and more tennis!

Around now, I also send a birthday greeting to someone I haven’t seen in a while. It’s not something I do very often anymore… but this one leads to things…

JFL Time! I kick things off with some of the free outdoor drag shows with Fionna. The big highlights for Drag Race fans would be Bob the Drag Queen and Monet X Change, though we also saw Tynomi Banks, Gisele Lullaby, Full Time Toddy (an unofficial introduction), and more.

After that, I move indoors with the comedy. (Still masking with the big crowds!) The headliners I see (with Evan and Jen) are Craig Ferguson, Laurie Kilmartin, Nick Thune, Mike Birbiglia, Marc Maron, Beth Stelling, and Ivan Decker!

Also somewhere in there is a Rosh Hashanah dinner and original cancelled plans. And that was September!


Settle in, everyone. October was a very eventful month. Possibly the most eventful month of my life. Major ups, major downs, and I won’t try to weigh them against each other, but will say it was a big month for pondering existence. Anyway…

Let’s start (as the month basically did) with Samantha’s unveiling, which was combined with the launch of her book. Obviously a lot of feelings there. Sad to think of the circumstances that brought us all together, but also some joy (mitigated, naturally) at being reunited with family after so much time apart. Also a bit of a transition time for masking, so it compounded the feeling that we’d been in dark times but were slowly emerging from them.

Also, I found out when they were read aloud as part of the book launch that I’d been included in the Acknowledgments section. And honestly, it hit me a little. My contribution was very early and minor, and it frankly hadn’t occurred to me with all the people who’d need to be thanked that I might make the cut. So the fact I did, I took as proof that sometimes, those moments that you hope will stick with people actually DO stick with people. And the person I was then remembering had at some point remembered me.

And the next night, I watched a horror movie. (The two aren’t related. But it’s funny to me.) At Robin’s, in the backyard, The Descent.  All of that is recommended, if you get the chance.

Then my parents’ FIFTIETH anniversary! After going all out for their fortieth, with the surprise party and the best family movie ever, Evan and I knew we were going to be hard-pressed to top ourselves. Also, times were still too pandemic for another party, which Mom also wouldn’t have enjoyed even if we were inclined. BUT we still managed to impress…

We made them a board game called Escape From Winnipeg, in which you have to move from Winnipeg to Toronto. And it could basically only be played by them. Full of trivia and quotes and family history! With a proper board and game cards! We also got those milestone certificates from the federal and provincial governments… and Evan had the fun idea that the winner would get the certificate from Justin Trudeau and the loser would get the one from Doug Ford! Politics!

But mostly memories. And oh yes/of course, we also got Chinese food. (New Sky, if you’re wondering.)

(Shame about that one little typo if you happen to see it, but still, pretty great stuff, right?!)

Anyway, shortly thereafter, I voted in the municipal election. Despite the overwhelming hopelessness that will soon be justified by the results. At least the anniversary night was a hit… and my stop at Sir Winston Churchill to use the bathroom led to this moderately humorous tweet. (Just the first one below. Though they both got important endorsements.)

I go for a walk with Ian and Marty in the ravine and quite unexpectedly bump into Chris and Laura and kids. Since this is a reunion I can never make happen through planning, it becomes an extended hangout. Watch out, Laura; something like that is going to happen again one of these years!

Dave is back in town, and I rope him (nicely) into playing doubles tennis against Peter Marks and Larry. The youths (relatively) win, then Dave and I retreat to Casa del Hershfield for awhile to hang out and make plans with the Northerners. While this is going on, Larry is dealing with some upsetting phone calls… and while I need to get involved shortly, I’m given permission to head out. So we all meet up at the Pour House, and in the last vestiges of the pandemic life, we do our drinking outside.

So, those phone calls. It turns out my Uncle Bobo is at death’s door, and if my dad wants to say his goodbyes, he needs to get there as soon as possible. Because we know he’ll need emotional support to get through that, it’s determined that I’ll go with him and Evan will move into the house. So I play my Wednesday basketball, cancel a date for Thursday, and that next morning, we fly to Vancouver.

I’m not going to get to into the details here. It feels macabre, and I’d just as soon not dwell on the end of my uncle’s life when we had so many good times together. He was quite a character (with all that comes with that), a big supporter, and the family’s foremost silly talker. I will say that he passed within half an hour of us arriving in his hospital room, so to the extent I believe someone can “give up the ghost”, I believe he did. That on some level, he waited for my dad to get there, and then left. Though it won’t get written and finalized and all that until we get back to Toronto (continuity error!), here’s his obituary, for as long as the link lasts.

At this point, we decided it made more sense to stay in Vancouver for a bit than to race home. Not that it would be a “vacation”, but there were things we could do to help that were done as easily there, and it’s not like either of us would be (more) productive at home.

That night, we went to Sfinaki for dinner… and though the name had escaped me, as we walked in the door, I recognized it as a place I had gone to with Bobo and the kids. So that was nice… synergy, I guess? And as we were leaving, I happened to be talking to Larry about triskaidekaphobia, and the hostess overheard us, and we got into a fairly long discussion with her and our waitress about it. (We spared her the details of our visit and described it as “visiting family.”) Just one of those funny details that’ll stick with me for a bit.

The next day was mostly dedicated to the administration of the thing: compiling email addresses and sending out the notifications. But knowing that the trip is going to be a lot of sitting around and eating (not to mention being sad), I do something for my and Larry’s sanity: I get on Google and find us a walk that’s near to the hotel we’re staying at. Though it ends up being nearly too much in terms of distance (for Larry, I’m a spring chicken!), we go to the Deer Lake Trails. It’s pretty great.

That night, we go with Zack to Rideau to do a small amount of cleaning out of the apartment and see if there’s anything we want to take. I mostly take books that I think will have sentimental value, and though I don’t take the majestic chickens (a regret, since I declined not wanting to overstep and then they ended up being thrown out), I do take chicken salt-and-pepper shakers, which also seems fitting. (And one of the books I took was “Cluck”, in case I need to be reminded of their significance.) Also, in case I can’t see them again in whatever location they end up in, check out that shell collection!

On the Saturday, having no more reason to stay in Burnaby, we move to the Blue Horizon Hotel. But we get there separately. Larry goes to shul with Sarah and her husband, and I spend some quality time with Vanessa and her wee one. It’s exactly what I need: time with a dear friend, in full thrive. (The kiddo is also, as we like to say, sweeter than Jewish wine.) Much of that afternoon is spent on correspondence and the like, and that evening, feeling the nostalgia , I take Larry to the Eatery. I mean, maybe you can’t go back in time, but there is something to be said for revisiting your old haunts. Especially the food ones, Remembrance of Things Past-style! It quickly becomes clear I did the right thing bringing him along, as it means I’m only the SECOND-oldest person there!  (And thankfully, they have a covered heated patio, so we get a diluted sense of ambiance, in terms of sounds and smells.) I continue my nostalgia with a longer-than-necessary walk (including a pass by my old place on 6th) that also includes the Burrard Bridge.

On Sunday, I meet Jason and Helena for brunch at Templeton, while Larry enjoys an IrvCo production. The timing is good, because brunch is very much needed, and we get to shock Ian and Robin during a fortuitously timed chat with pics such as this.

Our Tribute to Bobo tour of Vancouver adds a much-needed non-food-related stop: we walk through Stanley Park and go to the aquarium. I haven’t been there in years (if you ever Google yourself, Sharla, I believe you were still working there!), but it’s a good excursion, and it felt appropriate to see some very demonstrative turtles!

Then that night, dinner at Szechuan Chong Qing on Commercial. It’s honestly the most fitting ‘last Vancouver dinner’ imaginable under the circumstances. That place was really our home away from homes when I was in Vancouver, with Bobo, Zack, and Gabe gracing it more times than I could count. Not to reference Proust again so soon, but it really does bring back memories. Plus we’re there with Zack and the missus, plus Karp and Burton, so it’s a low-key memorial on top of that.  A good time, given the circumstances.

 (I also make plans with Ryan which fall through. That too is nostalgic! I still love that guy, though.)

Then on the Monday, we fly back. Highlights include taking the SkyTrain to the airport (when I left Vancouver, it was still at the “construction killing businesses” stage!) and nearly becoming the person on the airplane who goes viral for arguing with a steward. Seriously, though, I get that no one wants to check their baggage anymore, but you shouldn’t get to use the overhead if it’s nowhere near your seat! Okay, not going to rant, it’s too boring and hack… anyway, we get home. And I’m still apparently in something of a mood…

On the 22nd, I have a night with someone that’s wondrous and terrible and horrifying and intense… maybe let’s just go with “memorable”? Which works out… but not for this blog. A lot of the details are still locked in my head, but they don’t really feel like they’re entirely mine to share. So, sorry, readers who aren’t me, and readers who are me, retain what you will.

The next day, I get the bivalent booster at Walmart, and the day (well, night) after that, back to Robin’s, this time for Blood Quantum. Lives up to the hype! (I refer to the movie, but so far, so good with the booster.)

So this is less of a development than some of the ones that came before… but as of now, those are my last tweets. I still have the account, and on occasion, I lurk. (Sometimes for work.) But I no longer post or interact, i.e. no likes, no retweets, no comments. I realize it almost certainly makes no difference, and it’s possible certain future artistic endeavors will make me decide to return. But for now, it turns out I am susceptible to omission bias. OR I’m actually right that E**n M**k’s active encouragement of white nationalism and the accounts that spread it is substantively worse than when Twitter just didn’t do enough to combat it. Either way, I’m exercising the small amount of power I have. Sigh.

Then on the 30th, I attend the Parkdale Ghost Walk with Ian, Jen, Aaron, and Maddy. And it’s such an incredible trainwreck, you’d think it sprung from the head of Christopher Guest! (That’s a compliment to him, in case that was unclear.) Every choice is seemingly made in the moment and they’re all bizarre! But maybe that’s what I need to inspire me to make a ghost walk of my own: a low bar! We’ll see!

Anyhoo… told you it was a big month!


At long last, being a member of the Leslievillian Facebook group gives me some valuable information.

On the 6th, Isaac and I play tennis. I know I’ve been listing a lot of tennis games here, but I do think it’s interesting/worrisome that we managed an outdoor game in November. Sunny side of global warming, I suppose…

I also start a Mastodon account. I’m barely on it, and no one’s watching, but occasionally, when I have random thoughts that need to be put somewhere, I put ‘em there.

Larry takes an old friend to lunch, so I get my first visit from Marty! I take him for a walk, but he also spends time in my place, so while I would never take him away from his parents, his group, or his forever home, it’s nice to know he can spend time here without going crazy!

Another movie night at Robin’s, this time watching Weird. I’m sure it was pretty good regardless… but for whatever reason, that night, it feels like the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. And I was not stoned! (Slightly drunk, but like two or three beers, so that’s not it.)

I attempt to register for winter tennis through Jam Sports. It is sold out within seconds, so it doesn’t happen. But the WILL was there, so maybe next year…

We have a bit of a memorial for Bobo on Zoom. (Technically, I think it was the end of shiva, but de facto, if not de jure…) A lot of people show up, which is very nice to see.

In the ensuing days, another Food Trucks jam (looks like we got together more than I thought this year!), I download my Twitter archive (for whatever it’s worth), and at basketball, one of the baskets is stuck out of position, so we play a side-to-side game. For whatever reason, I excel, which makes me wonder if the thing that’s kept me from stardom this whole time is the orientation of the court?!

So this is where the part about Jon coming to town and the two of us going to see the Lemonheads was supposed to go. Only the concert was cancelled. And we only found out when we got there (after some drinking) and found no one in line, so we went up to the door and saw the littlest cancellation notice ever! AND my phone died, so my options to travel were somewhat limited. Thankfully, Jon is a delight to hang out with, so we just did more of that, eventually meeting up with Sam for an apartment reunion. (You were missed, Adrian!)

Then the next day, Faye’s bat mitzvah. Always amazes me that that’s a thing we do at 13, especially when it’s done well, as it was here. It’s also remarkable that we were sat at “the kids’ table” with the cousins… but we’re all actually grown-ups now! With that branch of the family, the generations are a little staggered, so I’m about halfway between the ages of them and their parents… but left to our own devices, and with no worry about sacrilege (we usually gather for high holidays), we all talked about, well, the grown-up stuff, and it was very neat. Turning point!

I get (most of) my GAP fee back. ‘Tis better to have hoped and lost hope, etc.?

Through my reading, I’m turned on to the site Backgammon Galaxy. I’m not on it all the time, but it’s pretty neat! (Though there are some things I’ll never unlearn, no matter how much it schools me.)

Jess and I have another one of our long-awaited drinking reunions, this time at Rorschach. A very good night, as – among other things – I have dating stories, which are always fun to pull apart with her.

And then the month ends (basically) with me dogsitting, and then playing tennis indoors at Chestnut Hill DRC with Evan. A perk of suburbia!


A reunion too long in the making, especially because of the pandemic: Gordo! We get down at Eastbound, with many flights of fancy… and for what it’s worth, my threat to give standup another try is now a pact. We gave ourselves to the end of 2023!

The next day, the Cedarvale-adjacent gather at Tom and Lindsay’s for mulled wine, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with fancy cheese. So sophistimicated!

I go for a long walk in the general vicinity of the AGO. (“A long time, AGO, we used to be friends…”, etc.) I find out the next day that the recipe I handed off was a hit!

I go for pho with Ian. The time is good, but the pho feels a little underwhelming. But because I suspect it’s just a bad night (with a weak broth), two nights later, I go AGAIN for pho, this time with Fionna. After a one-woman show called Popped Out. It’s a bit better (the pho, that is), and also of course a nice night.

Between those nights of pho, I give a try to Daddy’s Chicken, a new addition to the neighborhood. My adventurousness is rewarded! Then, a few days later…

Burrito Monday! I get that this was an inside joke by my old director Matt Craig that I wasn’t really a part of… but damn, if there’s an EXCUSE to have a burrito, I’m not going to turn it down! This year’s selection was a large Spicy Pulled Pork Burrito from Burrito Bandidos!

There are a couple office parties I didn’t go to. I’ll spare you the extended rant, but work throwing a “lunchtime potluck” means, to me, “We don’t value you at all, but if you want to spend your own money to have your own party, we’ll let you use the space for a limited period of time.”  So yeah, not worth the time or money… though at some point, it’d be nice to get everyone back together and meet the pandemic “coworkers” who may not know I exist. Also, the parent company has a real party, but there’s a Secret Santa, and that doesn’t feel like it’d be fun with strangers, and also, meh.

I see Adam Bailey’s The Truth! at the Deanne Taylor New Play Festival. A thought-provoker… and also nice to discover another indie theatre walking distance from my house.

A walk through Tommy Thompson Park. A discovery of the perfect spot to watch the planes coming in, especially if you want to play “Billy Bishop or 9/11?” for ages. A trip to Starbucks when all the more interesting coffee shops are closed. All the same, hands are warmed. A goodbye that turns out to be a longer goodbye than anticipated, based on upsetting phone calls the next day.


Being part of a Facebook group for Toronto tennis players pays off. (Admittedly, the payoff is in 2023, but the initial action happened here.) Someone posts that they have indoor tennis court time at UCC they’re looking to get rid of. So I take four dates in January and February. I will not be denied!

I’m pleased with my contribution to this Instagram exchange, and also with myself for having funny friends.

To end the year not alone, I make a move to my parents, just in time for Boxing Day dinner. We make spaghetti and brownies (separately). I also officially start my recipes binder; such a chef am I! The brownies make it to Ian and Jen’s a few days later, where we (including Tom and Lindsay) enjoy each other’s company and take in See How They Run. More importantly, I see Ian’s Christmas gift for Jen…


But even the immortal have to eat now and then. For the Hershfields’ last big cooking experiment of the year: an Irish Stew!

Larry and I thought it was pretty tasty; Mom (as is her wont these days) was underwhelmed.

Anyway, proving that, to me, it really is just another night, New Year’s is once again spent watching Dwayne Gretzky on a livestream, then toddling off to bed.

And that’s the year that was! Hoping that 2023 will be a little more light/photogenic, with a few more trips mixed in… but hey, however it works out, I don’t have anything to prove to you people!

Just kidding! Of course I do! Please come back and see how I’m doing! (Seriously, if you’re reading this without having just skipped to the end, I’m both grateful and impressed, not necessarily in that order.) Buh-bye!

The 2021 ‘short list’ (by my standards)

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

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

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

2021. Nuff said?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

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

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

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

Okay, enough stalling. LET’S GO!


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Okay, this is kind of a neat thing:

Yep. The AV Club profiled Quarantine Frasier, and I got a little singled out. For anyone who wants to read the article:

Moving on…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember that? With the canal?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stand by this. Hard.


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

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

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

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

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

I make more food!

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

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


More tennis, now with puppies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Then another night at Robin’s. Huzzah!

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

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

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

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

Woo hoo!

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

Poor Man’s Ice Pack!

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

My epic meetup month continues with Fionna at Christie Pits…

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


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

He’s so petite!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for Cherry Beach Redux!

And on Halloween:

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

2020: A Quarantine Reading List

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

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

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

A year best forgotten, remembered

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYHOO… let’s get to it, shall we?


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

…and now, we enter the panic times.

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

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

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

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


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

(when tweets about celebrities become celebrities themselves?)

PHEW! That was exhausting!


But let’s run it back anyway!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Okay, quick return to politics…

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

So… the holidays…

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

Actually, you can.

Okay, one last picture of Marty for the road…

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

Year. Done.

Again with the reading: 2019

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

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

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

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