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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Future Projections

Years ago, Pioneer used to jump on our little red scooter and drive across town to help with the Save the Revue campaign, an effort to save the art deco Roncesvalles movie theatre from turning into condos. This was the first time we witnessed community activism in action, and the power that volunteers can have on urban neighbourhoods. The Revue is now a mega-successful neighbourhood theatre, run by a not-for-profit group of locals.

In our neck of the woods, there's the Roxy, which was unfortunately turned into a Tim Horton's.....sigh.

However, we still have a single-screen theatre close to home. Thanks to the efforts of co-owners Nadia Sandhu and Jonathan Hlibka, the former Gerrard Cinema is now called The Projection Booth (1035 Gerrard) and runs "art, schlock, indie, foreign" films, as it says on their marquee. They've currently got a couple of great films running. Check out the schedule here. They've just celebrated their first anniversary!
Photo courtesy of BlogTO.

This community is very lucky to have their own rep cinema. Some of the best movies we've ever seen have been arthouse and/or indie films, hidden gems in the blockbuster movie metropolis. Small cinemas are hard to operate though, and unless we support the Projection Booth, it could suffer the same demise as the Roxy one day. So forget "the Batman" and take a gamble on an Irish psychological drama instead.....

Friday, August 24, 2012

Photo fun

Pioneer loves history and can often be found perusing through old-timey photos on the Toronto archives site. Here are two of our neighbourhood that we wanted to share.

This is what Felstead Park used to look like:

Here is a 1936 photo of a Hollinger bus. Hollinger bus lines was East York's first bus service with a really interesting history. Hollinger himself started out driving one, lonely bus and in between fares, he would deliver milk to housewives. The line expanded rapidly, and during the war, Hollinger ran multiple bus lines to take factory workers from Leaside and East York all the way to the GECO (a major wartime industrial plant) on Birchmount Road. When the TTC took it over in 1954, it was the largest independent bus line taken over by the TTC. Every weekend, we can eat pancakes and eggs at the Bus Terminal cafe as a wonderful reminder of this legacy!

And this gem below is a peaceful look a Donalands, north of Glebeholme from 1948. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TEGH and Safety

Over the past year, there have been two episodes of concern regarding mental health patients at Toronto East General Hospital. The shooting death of Michael Eligon on February 3 of this year, left the neighbourhood scared about flying bullets and patient safety. Last month, the city was on alert looking for another TEGH patient that had walked out of the mental health unit and disappeared (unofficially, the TEGH calls this an 'elopement').

A community meeting was organized last month and according to a Pioneer source, the hospital and 54 Division have both committed to working with the community to address ongoing safety concerns. One of the biggest challenges facing the hospital is that TEGH is undergoing a multi-year re-development project which, on top of more traffic nightmares, could quite possibly open up even more opportunities for safety issues to arise.

Here are two important items that Pioneer wanted to share:

a) If you are in a situation that you feel requires hospital security, for instance an eloping patient, you can call TEGH Securiy directly at (416) 469-6016. They have trained security staff that will respond 24/7.

b) Councillor Janet Davis has started a petition to bring a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team to TEGH and the area. These teams include a nurse trained in mental health support and a partner police officer. Their role is non-violent intervention and support during a mental health crisis. The petition was signed by community members at the community meeting and is being supported by community organizations such as DECA. Davis will be presenting this to LHIN to ask for funding in September. If you support this initiative, please don't hesitate to email the councillor's office with your endorsement. You can find all her contact information here.

Creating a safe community involves everyone's participation. While this re-energized relationship between councillors, the hospital, the community and the police is a great thing, it should not have been lacking in the first place. Will this renewed vigilance create an immediate effect on the neighbourhood? Probably, but maintaining it over the years will be the tough job.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Just Peachy

It's August and Pioneer has so much to do and so little time!

In case you haven't seen the posters, or heard the buzz through the Mary-Margaret grapevine, East Lynn park is the place to be tomorrow (Thursday).

First up is the East Lynn Farmers' Market Peachfest - which you can read about over on DECA Diaries. This is the third year that the market is hosting a peachy extravaganza and it's worth attending, if only for the freshest Ontario peaches you can imagine (anybody else have childhood memories of mom's August peach cobbler???).

The festivities won't end with the market at 7:00. Instead of heading home, pull up a lawn chair, break out your picnic baskets and settle down to watch a movie under the stars. The film they are showing is the family-friendly animated comedy called Rio, which Pioneer can attest is pretty funny. So sit back and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

News Blast

Pioneer has made a whole bunch of discoveries this week and wanted to pass on the inside scoop.

First, a Pioneer neighbourhood filled us in on some changes at Sugarmoon spa (1509 Danforth). The good news is that Sugarmoon is growing and offering more and more aesthetic services, but the bad news is that they don't have space any longer to offer massage therapy. However, if you don't mind the long trek down to Leslieville, all of your favourite Sugarmoon massage therapists can be found at Hands On You at 349 Carlaw Ave. Alternately, within the neighbourhood, Bomb Wellness also has a cozy massage suite and their own RMT, so check out their website for more info - the bonus: he even makes house calls!

After months of passing by the gorgeous sidewalk alphabet all along Danforth, Pioneer has finally solved the mystery! We've discovered that a local artist by the name of Victor Fraser is behind this sidewalk art, and according to our sources, he has a whole bunch of cool projects in his portfolio. Stay tuned for more about Mr. Fraser and some of his recent international "installations.

And last but not least:

For years, Pioneer has been walking by the window display at Clay Bodies (1910 Danforth), hoping that the door would be open and we could be nosey and see what's inside. A chance encounter with a fellow fitness buff during a workout one morning, led us to another discovery: Clay Bodies is no longer. The sign is still up but alas, the studio space inside is a private studio space rented out by local artists. Pioneer has gotten the golden key to visit the space and see what's in the works for the Danforth East Arts Fair, so stay tuned for that in an upcoming post!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Saucy lady

Let's be honest....Pioneer has always wanted to write a post with a title called 'saucy lady', ha! It's a perfect segue into the news that the mysterious lounge called Sauce at 1376 Danforth will finally be opening it's doors this week. Thank goodness, because it had become a bit of a Pioneer obsession to scan the QR code in the window whenever we walked by.

When Pioneer stopped by for a first sneak peak, owners Michelle and Johnny were hard at work putting the finishing touches on their Victorian bordello, a concept that is hard to visualize until you step into the perfectly styled, crimson wallpapered space. With gilt mirrors, brocade walls, a player piano and bohemian chic stuffed armchairs, the space is the perfect place for a late night rendezvous, a stiff gentleman's drink or a night with the girls.

"I've been collecting great vintage pieces for years, and this is sort of the culmination of that collection, but now our house is empty. We've promised our kids we'll get new furniture soon," laughed Michelle.

Everyone who walks by will notice the lovingly restored stained glass window.

"It had been covered under a sign for thirty years or so, but local artist Victor Fraser immediately came to the rescue and helped us to restore it," Michelle explained.
Owners Michelle and Johnny ham it up at the player piano.

She and her partner Johnny have both been working in the restaurant and bar industry for two decades and after some time in the corporate world, Michelle decided that it was time to open up their own place close to home and close to their friends.

They say they want this to be a classic lounge. Indicative of the current backlash against "fancy cocktails", the pair are big fans of going back to the basics.

"We're talking way way back to the basics. Prohibition era drinks are the types of things we want to have on the menu," said Johnny. "But don't worry, there won't be any bathtub gin. We want only top shelf bourbons, tequilas etc. Things you can't find easily on the Danforth."

The pair are hoping they will be able to open this week, pending some administrative loose ends being tied up. A rear patio, with a secluded French Quarter flair, won't be open right away but is in the works for the near future. The lounge will also offer craft beers, and Pioneer is looking forward to their specialty cocktail in the works.

"It will probably be red," laughed Michelle. "Whatever colour it is though, there are going to be a few late nights ahead of us working on that surprise!"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Grills on!

The long weekend is almost here, and Pioneer knows that Daddy Pioneer will be itching to immediately turn on the barbecue and get some meat grillin'. We have a small confession to make though: We buy our meat (and most of our groceries) at big box grocery stores... sigh. I know, I know - we can hear the tears and hair pulling from here!! Shame on us. Not only are we not shopping local, but we are only a stone's throw from the best place on the Danforth to buy our much-needed long weekend BBQ sustenance. 

Royal Beef (1968 Danforth) is the place to head if you want something special. Over the years, we've passed by this bastion of beef many a time, but it has been at least a few years since we've gone in.  A recent visit was an eye opener when we noticed that a multitude of delicious, savoury, pre-marinated and speciality meats abound.  

Head butcher Jason Teasdale
Head butcher Jason Teasdale gave Pioneer a tour of what's ready to grill and it truly is astounding, but before we get into the meat of things, we should mention something important: almost 99% of Royal Beef meat is hormone and antibiotic free meat, purchased from mainly Canadian sources. Teasdale is passionate about this point - he also stressed there is a lot of gluten-free products available in store.

Owner Carmen and Teasdale couldn't agree whether they have 37 or 48 different types of in-house, gourmet burgers, but it didn't really matter. When they started rattling down a list of burgers such as steak and stilton, jerk chicken, turkey spinach feta and rosemary garlic lamb, Pioneer's mouth was watering (you had us at Stilton!). Teasdale pointed out that their Bison and Basil burgers are the most popular - at $5 a patty, it's a steal for bison and also the most nutritious meat you can consumer thanks to the gentle bison's diet of greens and more greens. 

Pioneer could have spent a small fortune on their marinated meats section, particularly their "flat" chicken breast packs drenched in Tandoori, Coconut Thai, Madras curry or Piri Piri marinade. The downside is that these pre-marinated options are quite pricey, but that's ok, because Daddy Pioneer is always a big spender on holiday weekends (the upside of our self-imposed 'staycations').

Happy grilling everyone!