The only good thing about the death of Roger Ebert is that it has provoked an outpouring of Internet content residing far from a realm the critic never stood for: “snark.” It’s been one heartfelt, spectacular, memorable article after another, a tribute trail that includes a wonderful April 4 essay┬áby Studio City-Sherman Oaks Patch editor Mike Szymanski.

Szymanski was lucky enough to forge a relationship with Ebert that went much further than most such Fourth Estate brushes. It started on the red carpet of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in 1986 and blossomed into a fantastic same-time-next-year tradition north of the border:

We got to know each other by covering many, many film festivals together, and later found out we had a close mutual friend, [the late] Canadian-Italian journalist Angela Baldassarre, and for more than a dozen years always scheduled a dinner or lunch together no matter how busy we were during the crazy Toronto Interational Film Festival.

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