I too had an emotional experience in Katz’s Deli

Little known fact about me. I love romantic comedies. I also hate poorly made movies. I’m bothered by flimsy narratives, bland chemistry, unnatural dialogue, unearned connection and low stakes. I very much don’t think two people should be together purely because they’re both attractive. It may sound like I don’t like romantic comedies after all, but I certainly do. It’s about finding the right ones.

I’m not gonna get a medal for saying When Harry Met Sally is great. It’s the genre’s worst kept secret. It turns out that in real life, relationships often come together after years of friendship. That the aspects you look for in a partner emulate those you want in a friend: Emotional honesty, an ability to bring effortless joy into the most mundane of activities, caring about your struggles, because their happiness swells when yours does. Much as the logline of men and women can’t be friends because sex gets in the way is a relic of times gone past, the film holds up incredibly well. Firstly, let’s look at what could be better.

Times have changed and the whole binary Men/Women:Mars/Venus mentality is all too outdated. The film deals in constant generalisations that simply don’t hold weight. Now, the strength of this movie is that it doesn’t get bogged down by it. As the characters grow, they mature. Their core tenets remain, but their emotional aptitude and ability to empathise ages with them. They do see the failings of prior values and course correct. Both characters were immature in their 20s (Harry more so, but the point still stands). By the end of the film, Harry has reached a place where Sally’s emotional distress is enough for him to put aside his feelings for her and simply give her the comfort he knows she needs. The fact that it ended up being the catalyst for them getting together is irrelevant. That wasn’t why he was there, which is the important part.

All those sticking points with romantic comedies that I mentioned back at the start? This movie does a tremendous job of sidestepping them. The narrative isn’t convoluted or overly simplistic. It’s well constructed and weaves the years without getting bogged down with unnecessary detail. The film covers 12 years in just over an hour and a half and none of it feels rushed or slow. The chemistry is palpable, built off numerous encounters that grow to a solid connection. The fights they have and obstacles they face aren’t clumsy or shoehorned, their reactions are congruent with their personalities. We’ve all had those will they/won’t they friends where the window never comes, right? Where it seems bizarre that nothing has ever happened between you? The thing I love about Harry and Sally’s burgeoning relationship is that at the start, they wouldn’t have been right for each other. They needed to evolve in order to come to a place where it made sense. If it didn’t, they probably wouldn’t have.

Most of all though, it’s well written. The dialogue is fantastic and even now rings true. The two leads inhabit the characters in a way that feels lived in. They obviously did a bunch of work together re-working the script to make it seem natural. There are more than a handful of line reads and shots that tear me up. Harry’s front porch apology, the shot where they’re both slow dancing at New Years and realise the depth of their feelings, the “I love/I hate” monologues when they actually get together. It’s a wonder what great writing can do, embodied by actors who get it. The film has such a salient beating heart that it’s impossible not to feel it resonate in your own.

If you like romantic comedies and haven’t seen it, give it a watch. If you haven’t seen it in years, give it a watch. If you think you don’t like romantic comedies, I challenge you, give it a watch.

Maybe you like them after all, you just don’t like shitty movies.

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In Britain, “fancy” means to like someone, eh?

Well that was the only, but most, British wedding I’ve ever attended. As soon as the word “Vintner” is included in the name of the venue, you know some fancy ass bullshit is going down.

I’m being crass only to levy the sincere grandiose nature of the wedding. Stately would also be an appropriate word. Please don’t confuse that for pomposity, because that really wasn’t an issue. That kind of mentality wouldn’t gel with the bride/groom, who had a literal cheese cake (stacks of cheese rounds) for their wedding cake. It was delightfully gluten-free too. I couldn’t believe how many moving parts the wedding had. The ceremony was in a room downstairs, guests were then escourted upstairs to a courtyard and introduced one by one to the couple (by this amazing ex-navy dude). Then there was the reception, during which attendents were on hand roughly every 90 seconds to top up champagne. It was nuts. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a situation before where I had to say “no thanks” so often to free champers. “Champers”. Listen to me. I’ve nary been here a week and I’m already picking up the lingo. The place also had a super exclusive (it could only safely hold 25 people) rooftop patio that we visited in turns via elevator. Then after the reception, we were ushered into the dining hall by our favourite ex-navy MC announcing “ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served.”

Dinner was a riot. One of my favourite things about the event (which was stacked with a lot of my favourite kind of things. I mentioned the cake o’ cheese, right?) was that we got set up on the table with a ton of old uni friends/collegues. I knew the groom from uni/work/living together for several years. Naturally this meant a stack of radio people present. Getting to catch up, hear where they’d all gotten to in their lives and just hang out with old friends was almost a gift. I’d suspected one person who might be there, then another three or so unexpected guests ended up being placed on my table. It was fucking great. It was also surreal to see friends who, maybe I’d stalked on Facebook once in a while, in the flesh ten years later. Thing is, people are doing really cool shit. Some are still in the industry, doing audio work and/or DJing. Others have gone freelance. One pal is licensing films for Amazon Video. They’ve all travelled and moved up in the world. Some are married, have kids and all that etc. It was so fuckin neat to enjoy a bunch of drinks and fine food in their company.

After dinner, we were shepherded off to a (predictably, I guess) fancy bar. Everything looked like it was tailor made for maximum instagrammage. There was a bar tab in place, which I hadn’t expected. This was the second wedding the couple had gone through (which I guess is an option when the groom is a New Zealander and the bride is from Oxford), so I kind of thought they might look for the cheap option. I mean, you’ve probably read the entry thus far. That clearly didn’t happen. I had a few drinks, but also felt like it’d be shitty to take advantage of generousity, so started paying after my first bunch. The music was all Cheesy Wedding 101, in that it could’ve been lifted straight from a Spotify playlist. I mean this only as a compliment. My girlfriend and I tore up the fucking dance floor. Naturally, her and I are both total hams. So there was impromptu Macarena-ing (which the DJ endorsed by actually playing the track) and all kinds of silly interpretive dance. It’s who we are and I wouldn’t change a thing. Most importanly it was wonderful to see the bride and groom having such an excellent time. It was her birthday the day after, so the groom planned with the DJ to play the cheesiest birthday song he could at exatly midnight. We all blew up balloons in secret and cheered once it came on. Drenched in sweat, my girlfriend and I peaced out just after midnight. I mean, we’d been drinking and dancing for hours by that point. We caught the tube, got a ginormous kebab and settled into bed around 2am like boring old people.

Fantastic company, awesome wedding. I don’t know about their bedding, but for us crashing hard felt pretty damn great.

Wounded by going pound for pound

They say the way to a country’s heart is through its large scale low cost supermarkets. I don’t know who “they” are in this scenario, but I do know that I saw some dude grab five or six cheese samples from a sample platter at Tescos and nobody batted an eye.

Whenever I go on holiday by myself, I spend too much. I’m not chastising myself for having a good time, I’m chastising myself for making lazy decisions based on some unnecessary holiday splurge policy. Don’t worry folks, I’m a hit at parties. Simply put though: I go out for every meal. It’s a lot. There’s no reason nutritionally I need to grab a full English breakfast every morning. They’re made for hangovers and I’m not greeting each day praying for death or anything. Last time I came here I’d end up spending something around £10 on my morning meal. Thing is, last time I came here Brexit had just passed. The Pound had tanked and my Canadian dollars went pretty far. It was something like 1.6 CAD to the Pound, so £10 came to around $16. That’s a stack of coins for a morning meal.

This time around people have sort of forgotten about Brexit, or it’s the mosquito idling in the back of their mind. It bites when they think about it, but if they don’t hear a thing they forget it’s such a pest. Now I’m the one getting bitten, because we’re getting 1.9 CAD to the Pound. It’s basically half the price and that’s a hard pill to swallow. My girlfriend and I have had to force ourselves to pretend it’s trading at 1.7 or so, because otherwise thinking of how much we’re getting shafted would have the capacity to ruin the holiday. If we look at the prices as about 75% of what they are back home, that seems commensurate. So we’re gonna choose to do that, because it’s not worth the emotional hangover of realising we’re bleeding money from every pore right now.

So Tescos it was. You know what? Tescos seems pretty decent. The produce wasn’t cheap, but most packaged products were. Also their Tesco branded low cost variants actually seemed both reasonably price and of reasonable quality. We wanted to buy breakfast foods (to save ourselves that sweet, sweet £10 per day), so we checked out yoghurt and muesli. The Icelandic yoghurt we grabbed was priced at £1.80 each, or three for £3. One yoghurt wouldn’t have been enough for both of us for the week, but we’d literally be losing money if we bought two rather than three. It’s great stuff. High protein, low sugar. Are we “Boring Olds”, sure, maybe. It’s proven to be a pretty satisfying breakfast foundation though. Tescos had a decent gluten free section too, so we got some awesome buckwheat muesli to round out our meals. We figured the £6 we spent on breakfast materials for the week was better than throwing down £10 each per meal per day.

Also the alcohol selection at Tescos was amazing. Of course they had a variety of beer, but all the spirits you could want were there. I guess I’ve become used to the LCBO’s stingy government regulated liquor deals, but it wasn’t uncommon to see “£5 off this bottle of Famous Grouse” or the like. That’s a decent chunk of change, especially when most bottles were in the £11-16 range. At Tescos, you can roll as high as you like, but affordably. Want single malts? Sure, Tescos has you covered. Veuve Cliquot? Why not toss it in your cart alongside the Jaffa Cakes and cream eggs? We didn’t, but you should.

While you’re there, maybe grab five cheese samples and see if anyone bats an eye. We didn’t, but you should.

And my gal? She’s a right ol’ bird eh geezer?

The first thing I noticed this morning were the birds. Gleeful chirps from a summery sympony. Then cicadas, I think. I can’t remember the last time I heard cicadas. Toronto’s been steadfastly locked into its wintery apocalypse for so many years now that Spring seems a fictional concept created to ideologically imprison the proletariat. In London, however, cicadas join in the chirping.

Of course, looking out the window, London’s as dreary as ever. If Toronto has eternal snow, banking on grey Londony skies is a safe bet.

Have I fulfilled my weather quotient yet? Great. We’re in London! It’s the morning of our first full day and I’ve got no idea what it’ll bring. Yesterday felt like a murky dream where we put a couple of foundations down. Namely, we spent around 40 hours awake with only an hour or two of slumber tossed in there. It was like a big ol’ lucid dream where we had to mind the gap. It took longer than we expected to sort out transit and phone details, so we didn’t get to our friend’s place until at least three hours post tarmac. My friend was working from home, so we got welcomed in and shown to the spare room. Last time I stayed here there was basically a floor, ironing board and boxes. This time there’s a queen sized bed, book shelves and tasteful wall-art. The morning after, I’m stoked to say that the bed is comfy as fuck. We made good on our sleep deprivation and dived deep into slumber.

Of course, London is more than a plush spare room. We were gonna meet old friends for curry at Brick Lane, so we took the tube to Liverpool street and wandered a bit. As an aside, I forget how wonderful the London Underground is. From it’s perfect iconic signage to the intuitive flow of its subway network, the lines intersect in what seems to be a haphazard assortment, but also just kind of makes sense. The maps are easy to follow, people seem to be generally respectful of not wasting one another’s time (or rather, openly disdainful of those who do) and getting from A to B with a stop off at Q and Y is all too doable.

After some recalibration, I found my bearings and worked out my internal compass. After wandering into Brick Lane earlier than expected, I realised my internal compass was a couple of years out of date and surrendered to my own ignorance. We strolled around looking at the endless vintage stores and markets. We took in the street art, plus both the hustle and bustle. It drizzled a bit too. London, y’know? The one thing that we discovered was that we were 100% exhausted. We sat down at a hookah lounge for a beer and some specialty tea as we let the waves of fatigue wash over us. I found a chair with a back and had all I needed. I fretted over dinner choices. I knew the idea had been to join in the raucous curry haggling of Brick Lane, but neither of us had the energy. It’d be uncharitble to our friends if we collapsed at the table. Friends don’t make friends drag their unconscious saag stained bodies out of an establishment. I looked up a bunch of Reddit suggestions for the best curry place on Brick Lane and 99% of them suggested “just don’t”. They listed a couple of decent places all of ten minutes’ walk away, so we skipped the streetside kerfuffle and went to Lahore’s Kebab House instead.

It was a little grimy, but the smells wafting from the active kitchen promised something far greater than generic tourist trap fare. They didn’t lie. The curries were rich and flavourful. Mostly mild, but one chicken dish had a nice kick on the aftertaste. We got a butter naan and some kind of dessert-y pistachio one to soak up the abundant sauces. We ordered too much and compensated by stuffing ourselves silly. It was awesome to catch up with old friends and hear how they’ve blossomed throughout their EU experiences. By the sounds of it, they’d been travelling to a new country or two every fortnight. With everything so accessible, they’d often book a cheap Ryanair flight, then figure out transit and accommodation on the eve of their trip. They said often the price of a bus between countries and the Uber once they got there was comparable. With the cost of exploration being so low, what reason did they have to not take advantage of it?
We tapped out of dinner earlier than we normally would, but with the proviso that if we didn’t sleep, we’d quite likely just die. After almost falling asleep on the train several times, we found an umbrella and walked back to our friends’ place, brushed our teeth then collapsed into bed.

Then this morning, grey skies and birds. We’re in London proper, kids.

In my day, we had flesh and blood corporeal forms and reproduced sexually instead of memetically.

I feel like I’ve been using the word “perfunctory” a lot lately. Is that a reflection on my life choices? Or just a recently expanded vocabulary leading to unnecessary shoehorning of an otherwise innocuous word?

I’m leaving for the airport in an hour, so the word seems particularly apt.

This trip seems unreal. I don’t mean that in some wide eyed dreamer style ZOMG ALL MY LIFE I’VE BEEN WAITING. Rather, it’s been shoved in the back of my mind for so long, it looks a little messy holding it up to the light. I feel like I just came back from Austin and now I’m jet setting off to London. England, not Ontario as everyone around here has assumed. I’ve done very little in the way of planning. My girlfriend and I have been particularly laissez-faire (is that a euphemism for “negligent”?). We have no itinerary outside of a wedding, and a beer/curry catch up with some friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a colour coded interactive Google map with an assortment of activities and coffee spots, it’s just that we haven’t pinned down particular days to anything. We’re as free as the wind, or Willy the whale.

It’s also meant that today has been a shitshow. Not because there was an overwhelming amount of stuff to take care of. More so that we created hurdles for ourselves to then o’erleap. I’ve created this bizarre tradition where, before a big flight, I create an enormous sandwich to take on board. I figure in flight meals are excessively costed, so why not have a little fun and bring something made with love… and a gratuitous amount of deli meat? The plus is, that since I’m not travelling alone this time, I have someone to share it with. We bought a gluten-free loaf (for my GF GF) and hollowed it out a bunch. We’ll use the innards to make gluten-free stuffing at Thanksgiving. First up was the mayo layer. The mayolayer, if you will. I mixed a healthy spoonful of mayo (is that an oxymoron?) with sriracha, then spread it across the base. I sprinkled lemon pepper, then grated in some sharp cheddar. Then it was meat time. In went 125g of aged black forest ham and 75g of paio hot salami. I folded the slices in half on the borders of the sandwiches, crescent side pointed inwards. Then I made little bi-folds and did a centre line to keep a dense consistency to the sandwich. I ain’t no schoolyard sandwich architect. Then a layer of gouda to break up the meat selection before tossing on 100g of smoked chicken. I wanted a little more moisture on my half, so I put in some chipotle barbecue sauce. My girlfriend opted to leave it au naturale. Next came slices of sour dill pickles and sundried tomatoes. One layer of dijon mustard on top and we closed the lid on it. It must’ve weighed about a kilo.

I must stress, that sandwich was the most planning we put into our entire trip.

Then I decided for some reason it’d be a good idea to go for a swim. I hadn’t swam in a few years, but why not then, right? Turns out it was an excellent idea. My muscles (and back in particular) were munted from going all out at the Kpop party on Friday. The swim really sorted everything out and I left feeling relaxed. That was maybe two hours ago. I came back and at the consummate protein packed lunch: A tin of tuna tipped into the remainder of our cottage cheese tub. If it was gonna go off while we were in London, why not, right?

I came home and decided it’d make sense to start packing. As always, I put too much stuff in there. Imagine the horror of wanting a yellow hoodie and not having one? Madness, right? I learned once more how to fold a suit, remembered to stuff in both of my knee braces and most importantly, packed my bluetooth keyboard. It’s been a godsend for travel writing. One day I’ll tell my future grandchildren how their grandfather used to write by hand on his tiny little phone screen.

They’ll be like “hey grandad, what are phones?” “What’s typing? You mean you weren’t all connected on a grand scale mindmeld? How archaic and inefficient.”

Then I’ll tell them about how I boarded a plane and the thought of non-instant teleportation will blow their sweet little minds asunder.

“How perfunctory” they’ll say. My grandkids, after all.

I want my next job to be naming IKEA produkts.

In my Friday night Twitch viewing, I’ve found a stream that sounds like it’s gonna be a blast commencing in 15 minutes. So it looks like I need to blitz through this writing and miss only the first 15 minutes.

Let’s get frenetic.

A friend and I went for Korean today at my favourite haunt. As always, I got the gamjatang. As always, zero regrets. An interesting thing happened while we were there. See, I’ve been mainlining Kpop in an attempt to get ready for a Kpop dance party next Friday. I’ve found that since I can’t understand the lyrics, it’s upbeat music that helps me be pretty productive. You also know that something must be pretty goddamn catchy if it’s stuck in your head while being in a language you don’t speak. It’s so slickly produced and takes its musical cues from all different matter of world pop. I think that by this point, I might just be a genuine fan. Usually when I go there to eat I’ll be on my own. I’ll eat my meal and watch Magic draft videos, peaking periodically at the Kpop videos. This time I had my headphones off, since I was with a friend. I noticed that I recognised a notable number of songs. I’d be like wait, is Hellevator on right now? Or is this A.C.E? I think I’ve reached a turning point in my appreciation of the genre. I regaled him with my love of their music videos. The saturated colours, the elaborate sets and dynamic camera work. The complex choreography and almost eerily attractive people. The weird commodification of Western tropes and English sentences. I’ve started to understand that I have a very sincere love of Kpop and this party next week may quite well blow my mind out the back of my head.

Six months ago, I’m not sure that would’ve been a sentence I’d have thought myself capable of writing.

In other news, my girlfriend and I visited IKEA and managed to spend under 20 dollars. Excluding food. I’m not gonna say what amount of our consumption was frozen yoghurt, suffice to say that we bought more cones than the number of us who went. The two of us, that is. IKEA on a Friday night was a good time. It wasn’t super busy and was actually a better date night than we could’ve imagined. We got to play house in all manner of environments. The lighting was perfect, with a pleasant atmosphere. We may not have been entirely sober, which only made it more of a madcap adventure. We lost our way more than once and felt like we were playing in a big maze. They had this novel style of cart which was just a soft canvas style bag with wheels and straps. You could hang it over your shoulder or drag it behind you. I wasn’t paying attention and every so often it’d careen off at an odd angle and gently hit someone else in the legs (was it sentient and trying to bolas them?). Thing is, it was soft enough that it’s not like they could be anything more than mildly miffed. We had fun. Then mid-trip we got to hang out and eat delicious meatballs with a side of soup and lingonberry juice. What could be better?

The excursion really brought home how particular I am about the tactile sensations of my kitchen/tableware. We looked at stacks of bowls trying to decipher what the right combination of depth, material, angles and weight was. We tried holding various forks and spoons, but to no avail. Maybe their tines weren’t long enough or bowls deep enough. They just didn’t feel right. I got full on KonMari and wasn’t feeling it. These items weren’t bringing me joy. So we escaped with a soap dispenser that looks kind of like a garbage bin, a milk frother and… something I can’t remember right now. Hence the sub $20 total purchase. Also food. We spent considerably more on food than we did on home products. Had we been sober, maybe that wouldn’t have been the case. I was eyeing up some balloon lights something fierce for our spare room. Because it’d be kind of neat to have that kind of whimsy a mere light switch away.

We’re adults, right?

You may not have seen it, but I definitely winked at the fourth wall.

I’ve been doing some deep diving navel gazing lately. Wow, that sentence was a mouthful. In preparation for a Very Special Episode of I Have My Doubts, I’ve cast an eye back into my past to see what I can dredge up. No, it’s not for some clip show style entry (though if I get lazy enough on the day, who knows?). I’m doing a “live episode” for a select group of close friends. I’m gonna read a bunch of entries, then invite others to read any entries that resonated with them.

It’s 100% the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever done, but then again so is this project. In a few days it’ll turn five. One thousand eight hundred and twenty five days of writing in a row. At least nine hundred and twelve hours spent on this. If we estimate that each entry has had at least 500 words, that’d be nine hundred twelve thousand, five hundred words. It’s spanned continents, careers, relationships and haircuts (mostly all the same, to be frank). A lot has happened. I think it’s fair for me to celebrate that by indulging in a couple of blasts from the past. To see who of my friends actually read this project (because honestly, I have very little idea) and hear what my words sound like from the mouths of others.

Something I didn’t expect was how gratifying it would be to have years of my life catalogued. Scrolling through the archives, I was pulled instantly back to my mental state while writing. It was all intimately familiar. So much that I’d forgotten, I was able to recollect all too quickly. It felt lived in, experienced. Without stomping too hard on the narcissism pedal, it was all kinds of fulfilling to realise that the writing is actually pretty decent. I shit on myself constantly for churning out drivel. Still, casting an eye to what I’d done, most of it was better than I’d thought.

It was incredible seeing change over time. Particularly in regards to my attitude towards women. In possibly the most heartbreaking, disgusting, cringe-inducing entry, I recounted my thoughts towards a crush at the time. It reads straight up like a PUA manual. It’s all manner of gross. I hate myself for once thinking like this. I remember feeling lonely, desperate and so in need of validation. I can’t even recall who it was I was pining for, but I sincerely hope nothing happened there. She deserved better, whoever she was. Reading that entry, however, gives me faith. If I could grow the fuck up and develop healthy attitudes towards women, maybe other shitty young dudes can too? With patience, education and unfortunately necessary emotional labour, MRAs could be a thing of the past. As I said, wishful thinking.

I read a bunch of entries and thought oh wait, this is actually pretty funny. Others left me profoundly sad or wistful. The story of my first relationship struck me hard, not so much because I missed her, but because of how well I’d captured it. At times my own creativity surprised me. Whether it was the Rob Ford song I wrote, the freestyle rap or the 30 minute dad joke fest. It was better than I’d expected. A couple of choice words I’d swap out here and there (I’m a lot less comfortable with the term “prostitute” than “sex-worker” these days), but aside from that they weren’t too shabby.

Most of all, it was affirming to note just how much of my current self was in those entries. While I’ve definitely grown in leaps and bounds, I’m still me. In some ways I’m more me than ever. I see the seeds of who I’ve become in so many of those early entries. From life at the university, getting ready to travel, losing myself in the adventure of my budding immigration and finding my footing. From branching out to blossoming, all while never losing sight of my roots. Learning how to integrate metaphors, even.

It’s crazy to think that at 960 entries, I wondered if I was reaching the end of my creative tether. I’d be lying if I said that those thoughts hadn’t plagued me at periodic intervals. Why not? It’s baked into the very framework of this whole endeavour.

I Have My Doubts, after all.