In this issue:
Ann Bjornseth found this passage in Martin Sloane, a recent novel by Michael Redhill (page 89): "By the fall of 1999, I had been living in an apartment on Havelock Street in Toronto for almost seven years. My backyard looked over a park where mothers gathered every Tuesday to stoke a stone oven that had been built there by the city. They baked bread in the oven and made fresh pizza for their kids, and afterwards they all sang songs together, songs my own mother had sung to me."
Huh? Singing? (Novelists can make things up, it's allowed.)
Events for September:
September 2 (Sunday): the annual Morris Dancers "Ale", 3-5 p.m. Morris dance groups have been coming to our park for five years now on Labour Day weekend, to show off their latest dances to each other, and to eat bread and drink ale. Its not strictly speaking a public event but the Morris dancers dont mind at all if you come and watch. Its a joyful, energetic spectacle, with costumes and sabres and staves, sometimes wooden shoes, and bells tied to muscular calves, jingling with every leap.
September 8 (Saturday): the annual Dufferin Grove Neighbourhood Street Fair. The main organizer is once again Liz Martin, with help from Zsuzsa Harsman, Leemala Ragubance, Elizabeth Bohnen, John Dent, and others.
10 a.m.: giant neighbourhood lawn sale (east side of park at Havelock Street).
12 noon: free hot dogs for lunch.
2 p.m.: games in the park (with prizes).
6.30: the annual potluck beside the pizza oven (bring plates and cutlery, and make your own pizza if you like), followed by the cakewalk at 7 (cake baking competition). A great way to see neighbours you havent seen all summer. The oven will be hot from 4p.m. for those of you who want to make your potluck contribution in the oven you can roast your chicken or your potatoes or your corn, or bake your pie.
September 9 (Sunday): the fourth annual Celebrating Our Children Pow Wow, put on by Native Child and Family Services. The sacred fire will be lit at sunrise, in the park fire circle. Prayer and song begin at 9.09 a.m. with Posawajek. The dancing usually gets underway around noon. As in other years, there will be free food, lots of crafts for children, lots of vendors selling traditional crafts, lots of wonderful costumes, and lots of drumming and dancing. Host drum is Red Spirit, co-host drum is Biimskonodin. Besides the free food you can also buy Buffalo burgers and Indian tacos, prepared by the Native Centre and located near the field house. The pow wow ends around 5 p.m. This year the pow wow is one month earlier than usual, to coincide with International FAS Day (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).
September 10 (Monday) at 7 pm at the Rinkhouse Clay and Paper Theatre is holding a Community Production Meeting for Night of Dread, to begin the planning for the second annual parade, which will take place October 27. Everyone is welcome, to make their contribution to ideas for this years parade.
Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 1 pm to 5 pm: you can come and work with Clay and Paper Theatre to prepare for Night of Dread. You can join workshops in Mask and Giant Puppet Making, Dread Threads and Head Dreads, Stilt and Giant Puppet Dancing and Parade Drumming and Shouting. Just drop in at the field house or call 416-537-9105 or e-mail email@example.com to register or check out what workshops are running each weekend.
September 22 (Saturday) from 11 a.m.: The first Karma Co-op all-day bread baking picnic. By the bake-oven. A chance to bring bread to bake or start from scratch at the park and learn a new skill. Organizers are Stefani (416/787-3585) and Marina (416/531-7839). They say there will also be games for children and the preparation of "stone soup" (not really made with stones, but rather, a soup that starts out with nothing but water and gets more and more delicious as people bring ingredients to add in). There will be information about Karma Co-op, and the evening will end with music-making around the campfire.
Staff this past summer:
The wading pool/playground area in particular was always busy this past summer, even more so during the many hot days, since we have one of the few city wading pools and playgrounds that are mainly in shade. The pool staff this year were Isabel Perez, Elizabeth Duarte, and Kathryn Bellissimo, along with Fidel Perez as a volunteer. As well as looking after the pool and the playground they had the food cart at the pool on many days (this year, by urgent popular request, we finally had coffee), and they built a colourful play kitchen near the sand pit. (Donations of pots, pans, spoons, plates always very welcome!) Sofia Oliveira worked with Johanne DeCastro at the pizza ovens and around the clubhouse, with Lily Weston joining them on the busiest days (and there were many such days). John Labau picked up trash two mornings a week. In addition, Dan MacLeod (electrician) and Tom Feeney (plumber) dealt with special problems (1. a valuable donated dough mixer had to be hard-wired into the electrical panel, and 2. the pump on the marsh fountain gave up the ghost after two and a half years, and had to be replaced with a new one). Warm thanks to all of them.
Noisy sound systems:
Twice this summer there were events in the park involving prolonged use of sound systems. On July 15 it was the "Cosmic Kids Rave and Fundraiser" and on August 26 it was the Dufferin Mall Youth Services three-on-three basketball tournament and karaoke barbecue. City permits specify that all amplifiers have to be turned facing into the park, away from houses, but at Dufferin Grove Park there is no place to turn them. Because its pretty flat and not that big, the park gives no protection from amplified sound. Park neighbour Bob Mills reports that when the Dufferin Mall Youth Services held their barbecue, he could clearly hear the rapping (which included uncensored lyrics) at his house with all the doors and windows closed, and that after two straight hours he went to the organizers and complained. He says he pointed out to the youth that since there were only a few dozen people in their audience, they could turn their volume right down and still hear it. They tried to cooperate. But in the long run, maybe the most sensible thing is to divert all special events involving prolonged use of sound systems to Christie Pits or Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Both parks have a hollow with steep banks, where sound can bounce harmlessly off the hillside.
A decision about such a policy could be discussed at the October park meeting.
The long drought in July was hard on the park gardens. The native plant bed near the field house lost two of its three tamarack trees, and all the native flower beds looked thin and wilted in places. Arie Kemp did a lot of watering as usual, and he made the annual gardens near the rink house look lush despite the dryness. The re-circulating fountain pump in the marsh garden quit in the middle of July, but the marsh was wet enough that none of the marsh plants suffered from the interruption while a new pump was purchased. (In fact, native plants gardener Gene Threndyle had to cut some of the marsh plants back to that people could still see inside everything has grown so much.) Now in the fall, Arie Kemp is once again collecting seed from all over the city. For those local gardeners who want to trade or purchase some seed from Arie, he says he has extra. Come and see him in the mornings when he is at the park, or leave a message for him on the web site e-mail and he'll have it passed to him by a park staff (Arie does not personally have either a telephone or an internet connection.) Web site address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Around the middle of July, there were several weeks of frequent drive-throughs by police, with young men at the basketball court being questioned and even, on some occasions, being searched for weapons.
Nancy Winsor wrote: "I was in the park playground with my daughter on Saturday, July 21 between 8:15pm and 9:30pm. When I first arrived, there was one police car parked near the bake ovens. 15 minutes later two more police cars had arrived. I wandered over and politely asked a policeman what was going on. He answered, "we're just checking out these guys."
I replied to the policeman, "you need three police cars!?" He said, "well there are twelve of these guys..." I asked him what they had done and he answered, "to be honest with you I don't know." He did not appreciate my questions. I thanked him and went back to the playground. A little later the police cars and the young men were gone.
The next day I heard that five or six of the young men had been searched for guns and drugs. I appreciate some level of police presence in the park, but I don't appreciate police intimidation. I want the park to be safe for everyone, not just a select group. I would welcome police in the park on bicycle or by foot, but police cars make me feel uncomfortable in Dufferin Grove especially three at a time for no good reason."
Since this has been one of the most peaceful years at the park, with less broken glass, less swearing, and less trouble of any sort around the basketball court, the targeting by police was puzzling. Jutta Mason contacted Sgt.Bob Guglick of the Fourteen Division Community Response Unit to find out whether there might in fact be reason for community concern: do the police have reason to believe there are issues with guns or knives in the park?
But Sgt. Guglick turned up the welcome information that after checking through all police records, he could find no reason to be concerned about any crime occurrences in the park this summer. The searches stopped for a time. But then on August 23, when a young man was assaulted near Bloor and Dufferin Streets, three officers came into the park and very energetically searched the usual group of young men at the basketball court. Inquiries with Crime Prevention officer Terry Lucko again turned up no reason why police would be concerned about regular park users.
The basketball youth are concerned, however. They say that these frequent searches are demeaning and that they seem to focus on a particular group of black youth. It would be helpful to have some clarification about what is going on here: a call is in to Inspector Jim Dicks (Superintendent Paul Gottschalk is on vacation), and no doubt there will be some additional information in the October newsletter.
An unnecessary call to 911: When Clay and Paper Theatre was performing its new play, Gold, outdoors in the park on August 18, someone called 911 to report that a person was screaming and in trouble in the park and that a huge crowd was watching this. Four police cars quickly arrived, with police wearing special riot gloves. It was obvious as soon as they got there that this was a play (the "knight," Sir Gawain, had been lamenting his fate, rather loudly so the crowd could hear him that may have sounded like shouting). To avoid future misunderstandings, park staff will try from now on to notify police of special events happening in the park, so that their dispatchers will not be caught off guard with such false alarms.
Vandalism in the park: This has been another year of very little vandalism in the park, with one exception the area by the wading pool and the playground. The bulletin board was knocked over, the checker table trampled, the locks on the rain shelter benches twisted and broken, and there was lots of broken glass. (Much of the damage was repaired by playground volunteer Fidel Perez with the help of the summer staff.)
It turned out that a new group of young (Portuguese and Spanish?) drinkers had established themselves beside the wading pool this summer, and even though they were rather pleasant when sober, they constantly did stupid things when they drank too much (which was often). Despite four or five talks with them, there was no lessening of the damage. Then one morning the staff had to spend an hour and a half carefully picking up broken glass at the side of the wading pool. That was the last straw.
Late that night, Jutta Mason went to the playground and asked about thirty young fellows, in three different groups, to get up and leave the playground area and never party there any more, not one more time. To her surprise, they all got up and moved elsewhere in the park. In the following week they returned twice, and although they argued each time, they got up and left when asked. The rule now is, in Dufferin Grove Park, nobody parties in the playground, period. If you're sitting in the playground with your friends and there's even one bottle, you move elsewhere in the park.
If anyone sees this rule being broken, please remind the young people and ask them to move to elsewhere in the park. Chances are, they will. If they refuse, please leave a message on the rink house phone to report them: 416/392-0913.
Mimo: Mimo is the homeless Italian man who keeps on plugging the men's park toilets with cardboard. Despite a letter of trespass that bars him from the park, Mimo always drifts back. He says Jesus tells him to plug the toilets, and so this summer again the men's toilet had to be locked for most of the season.
The park staff escorted Mimo out of the park countless times this summer, sometimes waking him up when he was sound asleep on his cardboard "mattress," sometimes interrupting his (infrequent) dinners or his very frequent cigarette constructions (he manufactures his cigarettes from butts he finds in the trash).
Mimo looks energetic, but he smells very bad. He is not violent and therefore he cannot be taken to a mental hospital. Park staff Johanne DeCastro called homeless shelters but they said they don't make visits, they only deal with people who come to the shelter. Mimo doesn't come to the shelters, apparently.
For about five weeks this summer Mimo was without shoes, walking in socks with holes in them. Through the holes one could see bloody blisters. Once he asked for bread at the rink house and then ripped off pieces of the loaf and ate it all at once. Is he sometimes starving?
There are people in this neighbourhood who give Mimo money or who get food for him from time to time. At present Dufferin Grove Park has only this one really troubled homeless person (others, the drinkers, come and go, and can often get what they need). He wants, apparently, to keep living out-of-doors. Does anyone know where he comes from, or anything else about him? Does anyone have ideas of how our neighbourhood could take care of Mimo a little more, for example, where he could get food, where he could get money, where he could wash, and where he could clean his clothes?
Ideas-about-Mimo hot-line: the park clubhouse, 416/392-0913. Or use the list-serve email: email@example.com.
A thanks to the bank: The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park set up a bank account at the CIBC at Bloor and Dufferin in 1994. The manager at the time agreed to waive the monthly service fee, to show support for the neighbourhood. But in the past four months the service fee suddenly re-appeared, nibbling away every month at our very small bank balance. When we called the present manager, Terry Wyatt, she agreed right away to drop the service fee and even said she will credit our account with $25 to make up for the times we were charged. Thanks to Ms.Wyatt for being so helpful.
Sports in the Park: the huge Toronto Eagles soccer program has finished for the season, and neighbourhood soccer has begun to take its place. The Sri Lankan Volleyball players have played more often this year than last, beside the basketball court. They are hoping to meet with Councillor Mario Silva in October to discuss a long-standing request for lights so they can play in the evenings. The Dufferin Grove Basketball regulars took all the trophies at the Dufferin Mall Youth Services three-on-three tournament on August 30. There is talk of setting up an invitational match with a group from the Harbourfront basketball court, more suited to the considerable abilities of our local players.
A more unusual sport: Strollerfit, an exercise class that meets in the park on Tuesday mornings, for mothers with young babies. They do stretch and strength, muscle endurance, and low-impact aerobics, during a one-hour class, as they walk around the park with their strollers. Skylar Hill-Jackson (known to lots of people in this neighbourhood) leads the class, which will continue until October 9. For information, call 416/604-2249.
We found out at the end of August that even before Toronto was turned down as the host of the 2008 Olympics, our city councillors voted to sharply restrict their citizens outdoor shinny hockey and pleasure skating this year. They instructed Parks and Recreation to reduce the outdoor artificial ice rink season to 10 weeks, not opening the rinks until Dec.22. To make this stick, they reduced the outdoor rink budget by a further $75,000.
In this neighbourhood, the local kids will start banging on the door of the rink house by the middle of November, asking when the rink will open. By then, kids are seized by the excitement of winter, and when they get the chance, many of them play shinny for hours every day. The adults are often less thrilled about the cold weather arriving, but in the past few years the rink has provided a place where families can take their young children and enjoy the social atmosphere as well as the chance to play and exercise.
It's hard to believe that in this winter country, in a city that has excellent outdoor rinks built at considerable expense, these rinks would be moth-balled for an extra month to save less than $100,000 (out of a total Parks and Recreation operating budget of $140 million this year).
Bob Crump and Carmen Cogliano of Parks and Recreation, who are in charge of the rinks this year, say the amputation of the rink season is not yet written in stone. Readers of this newsletter who wish to register their opinion about the 10-week plan, or to change it, could use the list-serve e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Much more about this next month.
An award for the park:
At the end of July, there was a four-day "Great Parks, Great Cities" conference in New York, and on the final day they gave out some awards. Mayor Daly of Chicago got one, Prospect Park of Brooklyn got one, the Philadelphia Greens Movement got one, and we got one too: Dufferin Grove Park was given the title of "great community place." The award came with two Paris-style park chairs, which were put out at the side of the wading pool during August (beside the coffee-maker). The chairs will be near the ovens in the fall, in the rink house during the winter.
Please take note: these are magic chairs. Whoever sits on one of them will immediately be able to think of how to open the rink longer, how to get Mimo a shower, what to bring to the Street Fair potluck, and so on..
Open oven (hot, about 375 F): available for anyone on Tuesday and Friday 4-8 p.m. The "cook-your-own-dinner" program has been quite successful recently, people have cooked a whole salmon, a roast, chicken, various breads, vegetables, a pie, even biscotti. On Tuesday August 28 Judy Simutis invited dog owners (about 30 came) for a dog meatloaf she baked in the oven, as well as homemade olive bread.
Open oven (warm, about 250 F): Wednesday nights and Saturday daytime during the fall. This works for slow stews, which can go in for about 5-10 hours depending on the recipe. Anyone wishing to bake a slow stew overnight please call the clubhouse at 392-0913, to arrange for your own oven key. Stews and casseroles done in this traditional way taste different than the ones you do in a stove or a slow cooker try it.
Bread: Last May, Elizabeth Harris came to the Dufferin Park oven workshop to learn from oven-builder Alan Scott. Since then she spearheaded the building of an outdoor bake-oven at Riverdale Farm, which is now complete. She also started an organic farmers market there every Tuesday (3.30-6.30), and persuaded Jutta Mason to come there with bread, so people could taste bread baked in a wood-fired bread oven. Jutta has had to learn how to bake 70 loaves at a time in our park oven a tasty lesson! To learn more, she spent a weekend in Vermont watching Bread and Puppet director Peter Schumann bake a hundred loaves of rye sourdough at a time in his huge Quebec-style clay oven. Watching and talking with Schumann changed Jutta's outlook on sourdough bread and meant that she started over, baking it in a different way. Soon she'll try to make bread of all kinds available on a regular basis at Dufferin Grove Park too.
The Riverdale Organic Farmers Market has gained momentum every week. For those who like to get to know the people they buy food from, this is a wonderful way to do it.
Grapes: Ben Figueredo's grapevines, on the chain link fence at the rink pad, grew many little bunches of purple grapes (Ben says theyre small because of the drought). Long before Ben said they were ripe, they were already delicious, and the only ones left by now are high up. Some have been used to make a different kind of sourdough starter for bread there is natural yeast on grape skins just as there is on the outside of wheat. Anyone who wants to taste the grapes, hurry and sample some before they're all gone. And sourdough starter is available.
Parks and Recreation Fall Registration for Community Centre Programs: This is on September 12 at Wallace-Emerson Community Centre and Bob Abate Community Centre. Registration can also be done by telephone (416/392-0039).
You may register for swimming classes, skating classes, Karate, arts and crafts, drama, a herbal medicine course, and other options. Prices range from $25 to $65 per course.
Many this month so far. Weeknights are easier than weekends, but there are still spaces left. For more information, call Johanne at 416/392-0913. One problem has been the tendency of the park staff to close the park washrooms early on the weekends. If youre in the park and you find there are no washrooms, or the trash bins are overflowing, contact the city maintenance crew by calling 416/392-0041 and leaving a message.
Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason; Illustrations: Jane LowBeer
Technical support: John Culbert
Web site: Joe Adelaars, Henrik Bechmann, Caitlin Shea
Park phone: 416 392-0913; street address: 875 Dufferin Street
List Serve: Emily Visser, Bernard King