In this issue:
- Hydro Blackout!
- Blackout Aftermath
- Kyla and the Bike Rings
- Dave the Dog Walker
- August Events and Programs
- September Events
- Kitchen Update
- Friday Night Supper
- Racial Profiling Follow-up
The Big Hydro Blackout
Thursday August 14 (4.30 p.m.) to Saturday August 16 (9.20 a.m.): 41 hours with no hydro! The power went off an hour after the farmers' market began. By nightfall the park was totally dark except for small groups of people sitting around with guitars (or battery cassette players) and candles. The next morning Dan DeMatteis and Emma Cook came to the park and began cooking Friday night supper. They decided to stop taking reservations and just make as much food as possible. (Many people couldn't cook at home, but of course the park's bake-ovens are off the grid, so we can always cook as long as we have wood.) Down at the wading pool we were not permitted to open, at first, to conserve water. So we just set up some sprinklers, so that people who had no water at home (that means most apartment high rises near the park and all over the city) could come and cool off. By noon there was a municipal change of mind: in the interest of cooling people down, we were allowed to fill the wading pool. We served organic hot dogs, water melon, and cool drinks, and the whole playground was packed all day. By evening the scene moved to the ovens, where extra tables had been set up and the food was ready. Supper was delicious, as always. People also brought their own food to cook. Others borrowed our park gas barbecue. But during the evening we noticed more and more people coming in to the rink house to fill water containers, and we began to hear unsettling stories about the apartment next to the rink house. It had no water, no elevator, and not even light in the stairwell.
Many of the people living in that building are older, and we tried to find out if there was a city crisis number to call for help with getting water to the old, overheated apartment tenants. NO LUCK!!! Not the city councillor's office, not the ambulance headquarters, not Access Toronto at City Hall , not even a very nice-sounding dispatcher at 9-1-1 had an idea of who might be going around checking on apartment dwellers.
And no luck the next morning either. There was no crisis number. Thankfully, by 9.20 the power came back on, and within a few hours the apartment buildings had water again.
The next day we called around to find out how it was that so many apartment buildings had no back-up generators. Adam Giambrone, who's running for our ward councillor's seat in the November election, called us right back. He said he's found out that the legislation requiring access, water, and emergency lighting for apartment buildings only applies to the newer apartments. Giambrone said that in his opinion this must be fixed by a better law. We agree!
We asked Ben Figueiredo, the park's grape grower, who lives in the apartment next to the rink house, how he had got up to his fourteenth floor apartment during the blackout. Ben, who's 76, said, "I walked." Once on Thursday and twice on Friday. And then, when the elevators came back on, Ben walked up the stairs once more: just to prove he could do it even when he didn't have to.
Everything more or less returned to normal at the park when the power came back on. But on Monday, when the administrators returned to work, they decided that public facilities should be seen to be cutting back on hydro use, to inspire others. So the decision was made to close all community centres, all libraries, and shut down all evening sports lighting (youth basketball, park baseball tournaments, tennis, etc.). That meant that during the week following the blackout it was possible to have a drink at Hooters or shop for a new outfit at any air-conditioned mall, but it was not possible to go to the library or play basketball in the cool evening of the park. Attempts to reason with the city administrators (for example, about sports lighting being required only after the peak hours were over, or about libraries being allowed to open under the same 50% power rules as all commercial establishments), got no response. The unfortunate effect was that if you could pay for your pleasures, you had access to everything, whereas if you wanted to use libraries or community centres for free, you were right out of luck. We think this unseemly haste to shut down public space - wanting to be seen to take any action rather than picking sensible actions - shows a wrong-headed approach to civic resources especially in a crisis. No doubt the ways of handling the hydro crisis will become an issue in the fall municipal election - and so they should.
Kyla and the Bike Rings
It looks like we might get some bike lock-up post-and-rings at the park this year. We've asked the Parks Department every few years whether they could get bike racks installed - because so many people come to the park on bikes. But there are many other concerns, and the racks never made it onto the "to do" list. A few weeks ago Kyla Dixon-Muir told us that we could contact the city's Pedestrian and Cycling Infrastructure Unit directly. We called them and the forms are now in the mail. Kyla says that this department counts on ordinary citizens to alert them to places where bike racks are needed. They send out an evaluator and if he agrees, the posts are put in. Kyla says she was able to get five posts put in on College Street near Dufferin. So hopefully we'll get that many in the park, and people can stop locking their bikes to the skating rink railing and the gas meter guard. If you want to call for your street, the phone number is 416 392-9253.
Dave the Dog Walker
On a hot Wednesday we met Dave Monette in the park, walking two dogs: Sally and Chomsky. Many park users would recognize Sally: she's the rangy-looking dog who is always running up and rolling down the snow hills beside the rink in the winter, because she loves snow so much. We asked Dave whether he walks other dogs too. He said, lots, and he told us he belongs to a group called the Professional Dog Walkers Association (PDWA), which has a web address: www.prodogwalker.com. He said that to belong to this organization he has to have a pet first aid certificate, and he showed us the contents of his knapsack: balls, homemade dog toys, a water dish and a water jug, grocery bags for picking up after the dogs, and a brush. Apparently each dog gets brushed once during each walk. On top of that, Dave says he's just about to get his certification as a dog trainer, and indeed, Sally and Chomsky both looked perfectly well-behaved, waiting in the shade beside Dave as he answered our questions. Lucky dogs! Dave said he's in the neighbourhood parks so much he sees lots of what's going, and sometimes steps in to help with tricky situations. Sounds like a good man to have in our neighbourhood. His phone number, in case you want to talk to him about your dog, is 416 788-3319.
It's this year's giant-puppet play, outdoors in the park, presented by our park's resident theatre company, Clay and Paper Theatre. Based on the 2500-year-old Greek heroic war poem, this version has been adapted by director David Anderson, Michael Bougun, and Mark Keetch, as a political satire touching on modern warfare. It tells of a rogue state that uses a kind of double language - peace means war, etc. - and it features not only giant people-puppets but also a huge, mysterious black boat, a Trojan Horse, puppet S.U.V.'s, and other ingenious Clay-and-Paper devices. There is live music throughout, by Andrew Timor. Choreography is by Yvonne Ng. The actors have been a familiar sight in their rehearsals at the park all summer. Park users have strolled over to watch as they put their play together and practised on the giant stilts: Emma Brown, John Hombek, Robin Hurlow, Christina Kostoff, Karen Mitton, and John Slavik. Many of the actors are new to the troupe, but some are familiar friends of the park. John Slavic has been featured regularly for some years now: he was Toronto's Victorian "Mayor Howland" in The Ballad of Garrison Creek, and he was the befuddled knight, "Sir Gawain," in last year's production, called Gold, when he was followed during every performance by a swarm of laughing children from the audience. Samantha Nisbett is assistant stage manager, and Kate Heming manages the company. Performances of Sylliad are: Wednesdays through Sundays at 7.30 p.m., south of the baseball backstop.
Portugal 2004 soccer club car wash:
Saturday August 16, 10-4 by the rink house. This is a new soccer club at our park, playing every Thursday evening. If you want to support their club and get your car really clean, turn in at the traffic lights by the rink house (Dufferin Park Avenue) and the kids will be waiting for you with their hoses and their sponges. (If you can't make it then, Dufferin Mall Youth Services is holding a car wash beside the rink house on some Friday afternoons, to make money for a trip to Wonderland.)
Tenth Annual Dufferin Mall Soccer Festival
with kids aged 6 to 9 playing at our park and kids aged 10 to 14 playing at the Bloor Collegiate field. This includes soccer skills workshops put on by the LUSA Soccer Academy and teams from the neighbourhood (notably from the Toronto Eagles Soccer Club and the High Park Baptist Soccer League. This is meant to be a family day, with the younger kids having a mini-soccer tournament and the older kids playing for the Dufferin Cup. The Dufferin Mall is providing free refreshments, prepared by the parks staff and Friends of Dufferin Grove Park: bake-oven pizza and Beretta's organic hot dogs and Gatorade. This was set up by mall marketing manager Mary Thorne, who has been a pretty steadfast friend of the park since she came from the Maritimes to work here. The soccer festival is on Saturday August 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Morris Dancers
Their annual "ale" will be held around the bake-oven during Labour Day weekend. Groups from all over Toronto, usually with a few groups from the U.S. and the U.K. thrown in, meet at our park once a year to show each other their latest dances and eat fresh bread and other good things from the oven (and to drink ale, of course). Although the picnic part is for the dancers only, the dancing on the basketball court is for anyone to watch. When they're all on together, it's spectacular. Sunday August 31, usually from about 3 - 5 p.m.
Sunday Chants in the Park
on Sunday afternoons this summer there has often been a group of people singing "hare krishna" near the fire pit - accompanied by hand drums, guitars, and sometimes an accordion. They have a sign that says: "Meditation. Everyone welcome." Madhavendra, the meditation leader, explains what they're doing this way: "It doesn't look like they're meditating - they're having so much fun. Every Sunday at 1.00pm they spend a few hours singing and playing musical instruments, chanting ancient mantras. Believe it or not, it's a form of yoga that has been practiced for thousands of years. Anyone is welcome to join. You can bring along a musical instrument, a drum, or friends. It will relieve stress and anxiety and give you a feeling of peace and happiness - and it's free." Madhavendra, who originally came from Australia, gives a class for an hour before the chants begin, for people who want to learn how to practice this kind of meditation on their own. She says people can just turn up for it, no need to arrange ahead.
Is open at the playground seven days a week to the end of August in good weather, 11 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.; longer when the temperature is over 30 degrees celsius. There is also a free craft each day of the week as well as paper, paint and crayons for drawing set up near the pool.
Is available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12 to 2p.m, and Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. $2 buys a piece of pizza dough, some sauce, and some cheese. Basil and other herbs can be picked from the park garden. Rolling pins and wooden peels are set out on the tables, and the fire is so hot in the oven that the pizza takes only a few minutes to cook. For more information, call the park at 416 392-0913.
At the playground, the sand pit has the portable tap and the real shovels set out for children's construction projects seven days a week during wading pool hours or longer. (In the middle of August the tap lost its turn-on knob. We bought it from Lee Valley Tools in 1997, but now when we tried to get another knob, they didn't have them for sale separately. Instead, they sent us another whole tap, brand new, without charge. They said they don't like it when one of their tools breaks - even six years later, with all the use this tap gets all day from the kids. They said they liked hearing our story, about how the kids make rivers and caves and play with the tap - little engineers.)
The market has certified organic and/ or local/organic-transition meats, vegetables, fruits, honey, coffee, baking, park oven bread, olive oil, Greek cheese, and (sometimes) dog treats and Mapleton's ice cream. Every Thursday 3.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Recently, Paul Safarian, a friend of the park who is a graphic artist, brought over a fat envelope full of farmers' market posters which he had designed and made up to advertise the farmers' market in the wider neighbourhood. He made them as a gift to the park. Great! We'll be putting them up all over the area, and if you want a few to post at your workplace, please ask for them at the office.
Farmers' market banner: four young artists have begun work on a giant banner for us to put up on Thursdays, so that all the cars and passersby on Dufferin Street will know what's going on at all those booths. Christie-Ossington Neighbourhood Centre has employed these artists for the summer, and they funded the banner for us. Vanessa Rieger, George L.Patterson, Joey Yoon, and Danilo McDowell-McCallum form a group called Cypher. They did some of the murals behind Honest Ed's, they did the long, story-filled railway mural on Melitta Crescent, they did the wading pool at Christie Pits, and now they're doing our banner. The sketches look very good, they're priming the canvas as this newsletter goes to press - and the farmers will be gratified to finally have a sign.
Annual Havelock-and-Neighbourhood Street Festival
Once again, the tried-and-true formula: a great lawn sale along the Havelock Street park border (bring your stuff and sell it, so you can buy other people's stuff and take it home) at 10 a.m.; free hot dog lunch at the lawn sale at 12 noon; sack races and other childish games at 2 p.m.; neighbourhood potluck supper and make-your-own pizza at 6 p.m. at the park bake-oven, cake walk at 7 p.m. A fine way to meet your neighbours from all the surrounding streets.
Last year David Craig introduced something new: a street square dance on Havelock Street. There was a band set up on his porch, a square dance caller on his porch stairs, and there were about 300 people dancing on the street. It was so much fun that the organizers are trying to make it happen again this year. The cost of the caller and the music would be covered by passing the hat; we are trying to get Councillor Mario Silva to help us get the street permit fee waived since volunteers would be staffing the street barricades and this is not a fundraiser. Watch for the next newsletter to see if this can happen. The neighbourhood street festival is on Saturday Sept.6 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon
A play based on a Norse folktale about a woman who marries a bear. A workshop production (funded by the Toronto Arts Council and the Laidlaw Foundation) put on by Stranger Theatre. This is a Halifax-Toronto company that includes two part-time park staff known to many park users: children's summer camp staff Kate Cayley (director and co-writer) and park baker/ Friday night supper cook Lea Ambros (designer and stage manager), as well as summer camp staff Noah Kenneally (as the bear). Noah is also a frequent participant in Clay and Paper Theatre productions.
Kate says: "East of the Sun, West of the Moon is for children and adults, and will include masks, puppetry, live music, singing and storytelling. It will hopefully get a longer run next year as part of The Cooking Fire Theatre Festival, a festival of outdoor performance that is being tentatively planned for next summer. Since this is a workshop production, it is very important to get feedback from the audience, especially small children. Please come and see and say what you think." Saturday September 6 and Sunday September 7. Times to be announced in the September newsletter.
We have an old 16mm film projector in the rink house, and park staff Matt Leithold is going through the 8000-title film catalogue that the Metro Reference Library gave us a few years ago. A while back, park friend Leemala Ragubance talked to the staff about her recollections of watching outdoor films in the parks back home when she was growing up, and the park staff have been considering how to do this. In June and July the light is too long and the films would begin too late, but from the middle of August there is enough evening darkness to start films around 8. So we can have old jazz films or gardening films or kids' films - let us know what interests you. And watch the park bulletin boards or the web site for a notice of times - if this ends up being made to happen.
Hockey players' hootenanny
Our Monday evening shinny hockey permit in the winter time includes a lot of musicians. They are applying for a permit to make music in the park on September 13, together with some other musician friends. This was discussed last winter as a talent exchange for their hockey time and now it's getting serious. But there's an obstacle: the permit fee. We think the hockey player/musicians should not be paying for a permit to make music in the neighbourhood, when they're already giving their time and their talents. However at this time the rule is that all park permits cost money, regardless of whether they're given for an event promoting an international brand of running shoe or for an afternoon of music-making by local hockey players. We'll see if we can get an exemption for neighborhood events, from Parks Division Director Don Boyle. More on this in the September newsletter.
The park kitchen and our new park clothesline
In spring we got a $20,000 grant from the city to put in a proper (though very small) community kitchen into the garage alcove at the rink house. Now the Geoffrey H.Wood Foundation has added their promised $8000 to finish the work. The kitchen is about two-thirds done and Dufferin Park Youth Works students will be finishing drywall and painting the first week of August.
Part of the grant was for a washer and dryer to launder all the dishtowels and aprons we use for pizza days, Friday night supper, and so on. But in the middle of July our donated bread mixer unexpectedly needed a transmission job, costing almost $700. The mixer is an important part of our new kitchen, so we got it fixed using the money allocated for the dryer. We have the washing machine, and instead of the dryer, park summer staff Shawn Thomson bought a clothesline for $29.95 and put it up beside the rink house. On sunny days you can see the dishtowels flapping there in the breeze. A side effect is, we gain some good Kyoto points for less energy use (balancing the Kyoto points we lose for producing all that wood smoke from the bake ovens)
Friday Night Supper
The pressure on making reservations has been a bit less during the summer, and it's often possible to book dinners up to an hour or two beforehand. (416 392-0913) On August 1, Dan DeMatteis made an experimental dinner of Beretta's organic beef heart, tongue, and oxtail. That one was never fully sold out, but the meat-eaters who switched to vegetarian on that day, missed a delicious meal. Out-of-town visitor Daio Okunlola told us that where he comes from in Nigeria, those parts of the cow - the organs and the heart, tongue, tail - are the most expensive parts of the animal. Here they are sold off cheap or made into pet food. But the philosophy of using the whole animal - as traditional peoples did, when waste was not an option for anybody - was expressed at that Friday night dinner.
Saturday night supper! this is only until August 16, in conjunction with Clay and Paper Theatre's performance of the Sylliad. Supper is at 6.30 at the bake oven, and tickets don't need to be pre-booked.
Dinner price and philosophy. At $5 for the main plate and between $1.50 and $2 for the soup, the salad, and the dessert, it's hard to spend more than $10 per person for supper at the park. Considering that much of the food is organically grown by local farmers, this is obviously not a money-making venture. It's not meant to be. It's also not meant to provide a "bargain." The point is to celebrate local food and make a good place for neighbours to meet, as well as to ease the burden of work on young families. Friday night supper is when you can change out of your week work clothes, round up the kids and meet your friends at the park - no cooking and few dishes, and the kids can run around with other neighbourhood children until they're so tired they're ready to drop into bed.
There has been some unhappiness by people wanting to book birthday parties at Friday night supper. With a very few exceptions, the answer to such large group bookings is no. It's a wonderful way to have a bargain birthday party, but any block bookings will displace the ordinary supper scene that we intended. Birthday parties can be booked separately through Dufferin Park Youth Works: e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The days when there's room in the oven are Saturday daytime, and Sunday to Thursday suppertime. All other details are negotiable. In fact, Sunday pizza days can accommodate smaller parties from 1-3p.m. (without the usual extra labour charge - that's a bargain) or larger parties from 3.30 on. Big birthday parties are another wonderful form of sociability in the park, and we honour them: only not at Friday night supper.
Racial Profiling Follow-up:
One evening in May, Jutta Mason watched as three police officers questioned a young black man who was walking along the sidewalk, talking on a cell phone, beside the rink house. On the basis of what she observed, she wrote a letter the next day to Chief Julian Fantino, of the Toronto Police Service (also posted in the park). She wrote that it seemed to her the officers were "fishing" when they questioned this young man, and quoted one of the police officers, who had told her, as she stood there watching, to "go hug a tree". The letter resulted in a request for Jutta to come to Fourteen Division and be interviewed. This interview, which was taped, lasted over an hour and resulted in a formal police report complete with cover page, index and appendices (available at the rink house for anyone who wants to see it). In defence of the apparently random police questioning of the young black man, the report cited (1) a statistical increase in car thefts in Fourteen Division, (2) the fact that car thieves tend to use cell phones, and (3) that as they observed the young man, he changed direction from westbound to eastbound (actually walking back up the sidewalk toward the police).
The report also suggested that anyone who, like Jutta, stops to observe police questioning could be charged with obstructing police, a charge carrying a possible jail sentence of two years less a day. In addition, the report reported as fact what the officers recalled about the event. Their version contradicted what Jutta had said both in her letter to Chief Fantino, and in the taped interview. In effect, it suggested that she must be a liar or a meddlesome fool, or both.
This is another unfortunate episode in our regrettably lengthy history of unhelpful relations with Fourteen Division. Our attempts at building a working relationship first ran into trouble ten years ago, when we wanted to change the threatening, uncivil atmosphere at the rink house in winter. The police told the park supervisor then that we couldn't count on them to help park staff enforce the city's own public-space by-laws. As a result the city's park supervisor had to make a contract with Intelligard, a private security company, for one winter, until the rink problems began to resolve.
Attempts to meet with individual community police officers, to explain what we wanted to do at the park, were largely ignored. (We can remember the frustration of waiting at the rink house at scheduled meeting times and having the officers never arrive, nor even call to cancel.) When the CAP program gave police extra millions to give closer attention to public space, the result was more random questioning of youth (mainly but not only black) who were sitting at picnic tables, but continuing slow (or no) response to calls by either park staff or park users reporting park drunkenness or threatening behaviour.
A 1999 police-community partnership grant for $22,000 from the provincial Ministry of the Solicitor General had many good, long-term safety effects in the park, except that the final report had to regretfully conclude that no partnership had been established between police and the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. The same year, a charge resulting from group vandalism in the playground was lost in the detective's drawer and never came to court. (The list of missed connections is long and it's archived on the park web site.)
Even major incidents had uncertain responses. This newsletter was started the month after a vicious public beating-and-kicking incident by a group at the basketball court in September 2000, watched by many witnesses. 911 calls brought one cruiser (and an ambulance for the victim) and a denial, the following day, that the incident had happened at all. A neighbourhood petition to the Fourteen Division superintendent asking for clarification turned up the information that the kicking was to settle an issue between basketball players, and that since the victim (who was black, as were many of the attackers) did not want to lay charges, there would be no follow-up. And there wasn't.
Most recently, when a man with two pit bulls was threatening park users, police did not arrive at the park until 45 minutes after the first call for help - not until the pit bulls had attacked a second dog and its owner and all the Havelock Street porches were full of people who heard the screams. Then there were three cruisers, fast, and the man was arrested on a charge of assault with a weapon, but the damage had been done.
There is a problem of responsiveness to public concerns here. Discrediting people who speak up about it, or suggesting that they might be subject to arrest, are not good ways for police to address this problem. A more constructive connection between police and our community would be good for everyone. We urge Chief Fantino to actively promote such a connection. We are ready to begin whenever there can be a real conversation.
One stipulation, though - our community includes young men who are black. Obviously, every person who is a danger to others should be challenged, in court if necessary. But merely walking along the street and talking on a cell phone, during a statistical fluctuation in car thefts, should not result in being stopped by police. The young man who was questioned while walking by the park in May must have felt the same. On that evening, he smiled and nodded as police pressed him for his identification papers. But eventually he politely asserted his legal right to leave without showing his i.d., and walked away.
When he had left, Jutta stayed and argued with the police about their fishing. They maintained that she was ignorant of the real dangers of living in this area and being in the park, and that if she had any opinions about their procedures she could keep them to herself or get them off her chest at a meeting. As this tedious and certainly fruitless argument was still going on, the young man came walking back. He shook Jutta's hand - a risky gesture in that situation - and thanked her, and then left again. Jutta felt ashamed at his courage and at the history that may have prompted his handshake. She was glad, however, that the laws of this country do not forbid any person from standing and observing while police question another person. If the observer is an older middle-class white woman, good citizenship is not as risky. She recommends it to others in her situation.
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