friends of dufferin grove park
March 2002 Newsletter

In this issue:

Mimo gets a warm bed:
Mimo, the homeless man who spends a lot of time in the park in summer, has been living at Seaton House for a whole month, on a special floor where the residents may live for long stays. Walter Brierley continues to work with Mimo. He says that residents don’t have to leave the building during the daytime hours if they don’t want to. There are mental health workers, there are three square meals a day, and the caretaker is "on board" about Mimo’s habit of plugging toilets with cardboard and flooding the bathrooms. (That means that Mimo has been doing this less, and when he does, he doesn’t get kicked out.) There is money for clothes, and Mimo was able to get (at his request) six of everything (socks, pants, etc.), which he can secure in his own locker.

Mimo still likes to go on his walk-abouts, and often comes back to our part of town, to the restaurants that have been helping him stay alive for years now. Jaime Batista of Kubata Café says that Mimo still comes and gets a coffee, a proof (laughs Jaime) that Kubata coffee is so delicious it’s worth going a long way to get some.

A new merchants’ association on College:
Jaime Batista
also says that the new association on College between Shaw and Lansdowne is called the College West Village Association. They have worked with Councillor Mario Silva’s office to get city lamp-post banners that will announce the new district, and these banners are now being designed.

Gardening news:
By the last week of February the tulips were up two inches in front of the rink house. At the same time, in the garden beside the ovens, the arugula was still growing from last fall. And when students from Ursula Franklin Academy came to skate and make flatbread in the oven, they were able to use fresh garden sage on their herb breads.

On February 22, Rhonda Teitel-Payne from Stop 103 (the innovative "food centre" on Davenport near Lansdowne) joined Arie Camp and rink staff member Jenny Cook to bag Arie’s seeds at the rink clubhouse for the second annual Seedy Saturday (March 2 at Scadding Court Community Centre). Arie donates masses of the seeds he gathers in the fall, to help raise funds for this gardening fair. And he still has enough California Poppy seed left to cover half the city. If you want to get some (50 cents a bag), call the rink clubhouse at 416/ 392-0913 and leave a message.

Alan Gasser, director of the Darbazi Choir, and his wife Becca, have donated $50 to the park, in appreciation of the choir having the rink clubhouse as their Sunday night rehearsal space. This money will be used to order this season’s supply of vegetable seeds and seed potatoes. This year we’ll try to grow more pizza herbs, salad stuff, and root vegetables for use in the ovens. If you have a green thumb (or want to get one) and are interested in gardening at the park, call the rink clubhouse at 416/392-0913 and leave a message.

Food at the park:
BREAD: Jake Mitchell has been baking sourdough. Jake bakes like a scientist would, with exact measurements of ingredients that he weighs on a sensitive electronic scale, and any recipe changes made with the help of a calculator. Jake grinds his organic wheat seeds on our park grain mill, then painstakingly sifts the ground flour to a finer consistency. The last time he baked, he decided to do a second batch around two a.m., with the help of a friend. (The energy of youth!) He has to bake so many loaves, he said, because all his friends want them, and so they’re all gone too fast.

And no wonder. Jake’s sourdough loaves are light and delicious. As well as his skill as a baker, another important ingredient is the park’s sourdough starter, made from the grape skins of the grapes that Ben Figueiredo grows up the chain link fence by the oven. Anyone who wants to have some of this sourdough starter to bake their own bread can get it for free at the park clubhouse.

On Friday February 15, we brought a basket of park bread over to Ossington Old Orchard Public School at lunchtime. The whole school was in rehearsal of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Parents and teachers and friends of the school were working with the students of every class (various scenes from this play will be performed on March 6 and 7). The school’s lunch room was full of familiar faces from the park. In the auditorium, some people were putting the finishing touches on an enormous papier maché tree, others were painting backdrops. Every classroom had kids rehearsing or working on costumes or dance steps or songs. As we left, the principal, Agnes Adams, was in the front hallway painting a giant cardboard "wedding cake," with the help of the school caretaker and a young student. It all looked very exciting.

On February 23, Sally Dundas, Gail Carr, John Botelho, and Barb Kerr came to bake two Portuguese specialties in the outdoor bake-oven: bread with sardines baked right into it, and another kind of bread with sausage baked right in. Sally returned a few days later to bake a bread containing not only sausage but also chicken and a Portuguese kind of bacon. All four of these friends work in films, and share an interest in slow food cooked in the bake oven.

PIZZA-MAKING: On February 27, the rink staff forgot to look at the appointment book, and so they were quite surprised when a class from Howard Public School turned up with their teacher Warren Ringler, planning to spend the day skating and making pizza. Nothing was prepared for them, but it turned out okay. One of the fathers who came along with the class for the day was Nigel Dean, the contractor who built our big park oven and part of our small one. One of the mothers who came along was Donna Bartolini, who was working in the test kitchen at Canadian Living Magazine when we built our first oven. Donna taught us the park cookie recipe, and she baked bread in the oven right at the beginning. So for this class visit she stepped up and helped make the pizza dough and worked the oven while everyone else put out the pizza ingredients and Nigel helped supervise the kids making the pizzas. Who needs staff when such visiting experts are on hand?

COOKIES: On that same day, students from Ursula Franklin School had their third and final "skate and bake" day. They baked cookies with the help of rink staff person (and best cookie maker) Nada Basur.

CAMPFIRES: Also on the same day, Dawne MacFarlane brought a whole class from the Toronto Waldorf School, to skate and have hot cider over a campfire. In all the activity, no one could find the fire stand for the pot to stand on. But as Dawne’s son Sam said: "who cares? We just drank cold cider by the campfire, and we skated and had fun. We were hot anyway from skating fast."

For future reference, though, for anyone who uses the friends-of-the-park fire permit for a campfire: the fire stand for the pot is in the green shed by the garage, hung up on a hook on the left side. (The fire permit is available on two days’ notice, $10 and try to bring some scrap firewood; call the park at 416/392-0913.)

SOUP: Donations for the winter soup in February: we got vegetables from Cathy Meckes and Ann Bjornseth, and soup bones again from Longo’s Grocery. (And Judy Simutis donated - not soup ingredients - but Valentine’s Day cookies, which we gave out to the school kids who came skating on February 14, along with baby marshmallows donated by Councillor Mario Silva’s office.)

MEAT: Beretta’s Organic Meats have said if friends of the park want to place their orders individually by e-mail, they should just specify that the order is going to Dufferin Grove Park, and then it will be counted as part of one order (that is, as part of the $70 minimum order), even though there will be individual bills and labelled bags. Delivery days have changed to Wednesdays. For more information, call the park at 416/392-0913.

was on Sunday March 3. The season went out with a whimper rather than a bang, since the rink was covered with water until about noon (temperatures too mild, too much bright sun on Saturday afternoon, too much rain on Saturday night). The staff thought the rink would be closed all day Sunday, but then in the late morning a strong wind came up and soon after, the temperature began to fall quickly and the ice reappeared. For those hardy skaters who came out for one more skate, there was delicious slow food - organic meats from Beretta’s cooked very slowly in the oven, and a casserole made with tripe, and cauliflower risotto cooked by park staff person Anna Bekerman. It was too windy to cook over a campfire so the cooks stayed inside.

Then came trouble. The rink operator who runs our zamboni was picked up in a city truck by another rink operator soon after his shift began, perhaps to go to a final-day lunch (they wouldn’t say). After a while a rink compressor alarm went off and a rink foreman came to check on it. While he was there, he told us that there would be no more ice maintenance that day, anywhere in the city, period. The west end rink supervisor, Brian Green, refused to speak to us when we paged him, and so, even though the ice was choppy and needed the zamboni, we were out of luck.

\Much later in the afternoon our rink operator did return, but said he wouldn’t fix the ice. A group of rink users followed him around and argued and pleaded with him until he got the zamboni out. As soon as he finished, the operator got in his car (2 and 1&Mac218;2 hours before the end of his shift) and left, for good. This was all the more amazing because we has notified the rink operator staff three weeks ago that we would be using our rink right to the end of the scheduled last day.

At 6 p.m. the seasonal family shinny permit organized by Tracy Heffernan played their final game and then they went off for a potluck at Tracy’s house. At that point, another zamboni operator suddenly arrived – too late to undo the public relations damage, though. But at least that meant that when Lawrence Barichello’s adult learners shinny hockey permit came on the ice for their last game of the season at 7.15, they had good ice. (This permit had a surprisingly successful run, and the novice shinny players, some using figure skates, have rented additional indoor ice time at McCormick Arena to keep playing during March.) Meantime, indoors, the Darbazi Choir sang six beautiful songs for the people inside the rink house, ate some slow food, and then began their regular Sunday night rehearsal.

Our message machine had said we would keep the hockey rink open and the rink lights on right up to 11 p.m. Despite the bitter cold that had developed by 8 p.m., some rink rats heeded this message, and stayed until the lights went out and the hockey gates were locked, right to the last minute of the last official day (and the coldest night of the whole winter).

Post-rink-season hockey: The day after the rink officially closed, we discovered that someone had got hold of the padlock key that the rink operators use, had got into the hockey rink, and had poured so much salt on the rink that there was a long gash on the west side of the ice. But it was so cold on March 4 that the rest of the rink had stayed well frozen even though the compressors had been turned off. So some youth just moved the nets away from the salt damage and made a smaller rink to play on. When it snowed a couple of days later, other young people brought shovels from home and shoveled the snow off to the sides and still kept playing.

THE BEST RINK SEASON EVER: There was a record number of skaters and shinny players this year, and our rink continued to be a fine place to see neighbours during the cold months. Also, we were able to maintain our "mostly shinny hockey" policy on the hockey ice by only having permits after the regular rink hours. This meant that there was much more public use (as opposed to private permits) at our rink than at many other city rinks. Which is as it should be, for a publicly funded rink.

Don Boyle, the director of Parks and Recreation for our region (the whole former City of Toronto) has e-mailed that he will investigate our troubles getting the rink staff to do their work on the final day. We’ll report on his follow-up in the April newsletter. And Bob Crump, the manager of all the city’s technical services (like rink ice maintenance) has said that next year the zamboni operator will not be assigned to do a two-hour job for eight hours pay (i.e. working at only one rink), as was the case this year and all the years the rink has been running. This should mean that the money saved by sharing zamboni staff between rinks can be used to keep our rink open for the full season next winter – the third week of November until the last week of February.

To ensure that our rink is available for maximum community use again next winter, there is now a large friends-of-the-rink e-mail and telephone contact list at the rink clubhouse. If you would like to be on that list, please call the park at 416/392-0913 and leave your name and number/ e-mail address.

A hockey story:
One of the features of this winter was that after-hours permits were free for youth. These permits were very popular. The rule was you had to book at least a day in advance, so that the staff could make arrangements for late closing. But the night Canada lost to Sweden in men’s hockey at the Olympics, Morgan Loveson called Jutta Mason at home and asked if he and his friends could please have a permit on short notice, right away. He and his friends had just watched the Canada-Sweden game on television and they were really frustrated. They were just itching to replay the game better. Jutta had to tell him no, since there was already another group using the hockey ice. But she reminded Morgan that the pleasure-skating side could be used for shinny hockey after hours. That was all he needed to hear. That night, anyone who went by our rink could see two separate groups of shinny players, one on each ice pad, replaying the Canada-Sweden game better.

The garbage-can gift:
sometimes when the staff enforced the age rules on the shinny hockey side of the rink, it made people angry. One day in January a young man was asked to leave the ice because it was parent/child hockey and even though he was there with a couple of boys, he was not their parent. In the past it’s been the staff’s experience that if any older friends are allowed into the young children’s shinny time, pretty soon the ice will be dominated by older friends and the little kids won’t get to touch the puck anymore. But this young man became very angry at being asked to leave the ice. On his way into the rink house he called to staff names and finally kicked a garbage can over, taking a big chip out of it. Then he had to leave the building altogether.

One of the skaters watching this was worried about the staff’s feelings. Dejoy Santos told the staff he really likes our rink and how it’s run, and since he works for the Rubbermaid Company, could he get a new, donated garbage can for the rink? Three weeks later he came back with two brand new big garbage cans, and told us he was sorry we’d had to wait so long – he’d just been promoted to supervisor and he’d been too busy to come skating again. So now Dejoy Santos has a better job and we are rich in garbage cans. And next rink season if the young man comes back, maybe we can sit down and talk about all this before he gets so angry again.

A violent death in the neighbourhood:
On February 1, an attempt to arrest a stolen-car suspect ended in the driver being fatally shot by police while still in the car, at the corner of Havelock St. and Bloor Street. A two-block area of our neighbourhood was sealed off for more than 12 hours by order of the Special Investigation Unit. The person who died is John Menga, a man in his twenties. It turned out he was known to many of the youth who use the park. They called him a "legend," in a negative way: he was known for "punking off" (extorting money from) young people regularly, a loner, not part of any gang, but scary. Older kids told younger ones, "watch out or John Menga will come and beat you up with a baseball bat."

It may be that an intuition about the driver’s lack of sense or restraint made the police officers fearful enough that they shot him dead. It turned out, though, that John Menga had a wife and two small children. The hydro pole at the end of Havelock, where this sad drama was played out, was wrapped around with flowers for two weeks.

Then the rains came and most of the flowers fell down and were taken away, until only a small bunch of white roses remained wedged to the pole.

Being a bully and a small-time thief does not normally carry a death sentence, and neither does stealing cars. But there has been very little public reaction to this death. We asked many young people at the park: do you know anyone who regrets that John Menga is gone? So far, the answer was always – no. Such a sad answer, but there it is.

In the meantime, there are unanswered questions. Not the least of these is whether car chases or shooting at people for stealing cars is worth it if people die – either non-involved people who are hit during a chase or by bullet crossfire, or police officers, or the car thieves themselves. Do we value our cars that much?

The yurt has arrived:
Ian Small and Michelle Oser finally received delivery of the traditional tribal tent, a six-meter-diameter felt dome called a "yurt," which they bought before they left Uzbekistan. (They spent four years there with "Doctors without Borders," working with people who have tuberculosis.) The yurt will be stored in the rink house garage, in pieces, until it's put up outside some time in May. There has been lots of interest in this yurt, and it may be set up later on at Harbourfront and Toronto Island. But Ian says we’ll have it first, and the Parks Department have said they’ll help when it’s put up. More news about yurt plans in the April newsletter.

Lost and found:
The park staff have concluded that people who lose things in the park must have no faith that anything is ever found. Very few found things are ever claimed. At the moment the park clubhouse lost-and-found has these items: 1 pr. of shoes, 1 hairbrush, 5 skating helmets, 2 cloth bags, 1 snowsuit, 8 sweaters/shirts, 5 scarves, 6 hats, 26 pairs of gloves/ mittens, 1 baby blanket, 13 sets of keys, 2 pairs of glasses, 1 pair of skates plus two unmatched skates, and two sets of skate liners. COME AND PICK UP YOUR STUFF between 12 and 4 p.m. Mon. to Friday or leave a message on the park phone if you can’t get there during those times.

Dufferin Grove Park "Citizens’ Hall" meeting, and playground discussion:
A meeting to discuss the running of the park was scheduled for last November, but it had to be postponed because we were unable to get enough specific budget information from the Parks and Recreation management to have a useful public discussion. But now we’re getting closer. On February 28, technical services manager Bob Crump and the two technical supervisors Bill Gaudet and Dominic Fantauzzi spent more than two hours with Jutta Mason patiently explaining wage costs, benefit costs, equipment costs, and materials costs related to Parks department work. Jutta will now work up the calculations specific to our park, get them checked, and post them in the April newsletter. Then in the spring the Citizen’s Hall meeting can take place.

But even before then, at the end of March, there will be a smaller discussion, about the playground. Beth Stockton, a friend of the park and parent of small children who has a long-standing interest in and knowledge of children’s playgrounds, has suggested that it’s wise to talk about the playground before it comes under threat of demolition. That way the good features can be preserved and the problem features can get the best solutions. If you are interested in coming to this (daytime, kids welcome) playground discussion, call the park clubhouse at 416/392-0913.

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason
Web site designed and maintained by: Emily Visser
List Serve monitored by: Bernard King and Emily Visser

For ongoing updates on Dufferin Grove Park, and to share your views on community issues, join our Friends of Dufferin Grove email listserve. Just click here to join.

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