Keeping Kenn Zeller’s name alive

In a crowded classroom at OISE a couple  of weeks ago I listened politely as a woman told how she had been influenced so positively by a Toronto school librarian years before.

“I was going through a rough time – abuse and all kinds of shit at home,” she said.

“He spent a lot of time with me and I always felt better better after our talks.”

“Then he was murdered in High Park and my world crashed.”

Suddenly very alert, my mind raced back to a murder that had touched me deeply in June of 1985; my God thirty years ago?

A forty-year-old school librarian had left an end-of-year staff party and driven into High Park to see if he might find some opportunities for anonymous sex. Instead he found five drunken teenaged boys, ranging in age from 15 to 18, also celebrating the end of school, who had been heard earlier declaring they were headed to High Park to “beat up a faggot”. As Kenn Zeller walked past the youths, one of them stuck out a foot and tripped him . He managed to get up and run the 10 metres or so to his car but, after getting the door open, he didn’t make it inside. In the minutes of kicking and beating him around the head which followed, his increasingly lifeless form was left for dead. His car was then vandalized.

The five each pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to nine years in prison.

“That was Kenn Zeller,” I said to the woman nodding. “I adopted the spelling of “Kenn” as a memorial to him. I don’t get the opportunity to tell the story behind it as much as I might like sometimes.”

His death was a catalyst for the Toronto District School Board implementing a program aimed at eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a foreshadowing of the board’s Triangle Program for LGBTQI youth.


The bells and whistles of Windows Live Writer

I’m test-driving a blog program from Windows Live which offers a few neat tricks the results of which I can upload to WordPress.

One of my favourite areas of downtown Toronto is the Gooderham Building and adjacent park.  A mural on the back of the building is a mirror image of the Perkins Building, located directly across the street.  The very public art was created by Canadian artist Derek Besant.  He employed the trompe l’oeil effect (“trick the eye”) which create an optical illusion that nearly persuades the viewer that we really are looking at windows and a giant tarp.

2668834500058663828yVgHCo_fs 2665464100058663828rpzcZB_fs

Map picture
Map picture

 Wellington and Front Streets merge at Church Street and the former Gooderham Distillery’s “Flatiron Building” fills the easternmost part of the triangle.  This is the best time of year to see the mural as that tree in my photograph becomes quite flush with foliage in warmer weather.

Retirement wishes for Andy Barrie – and memories of the Montréal days

It’s only right, I suppose, that someone – even Andy Barrie – who is fifteen years older than me and fifteen years younger than my mother would be retirement age.

When he made it official today, however, it reminded me how ageless the medium of radio can make somebody – and, as the Globe and Mail reported, how rough he has had it lately.

I was introduced to Andy Barrie as a listener to his Montréal radio show (CJAD) back in the 1970s. He followed George Balcan‘s early morning drive program and, if I have the schedule correct, preceded Neil McKenty‘s call-in show. One of my fondest memories was during the city’s notorious Olympics year in 1976 when Andy and his colleagues launched an April Fool’s Day joke wherein the Queen was insisting that her Olympics visit include a solid gold toilet seat. It was astounding how many, already so pissed with the Olympics’ over-spending, bought the joke. Just remember how maddening this debacle was outside of Quebec and try to imagine how it felt to us in Montréal!

Best wishes, Andy, and thank you for waking up with us – before us! You guys at Mountain and Ste. Catherine Streets – oh and Ralph Lockwood over at CKGM on Greene Ave. in Westmount – helped spark my interest in a radio career, however short-lived mine was. I thank you!

Autumn Writing Group

Following three successful summer workshops seventeen participants, including facilitators Linda Dawn and me, have signed up for the fall writing group starting 15 September and continuing most Tuesdays thereafter through 8 December from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. You do not need to have attended the workshops to join us nor are you required to commit to coming every week. Writing is focused in the memoir genre, beginning with the theme Identity on the topic of Place.

At our first meeting we will begin to get to know one another better, discuss the group’s guidelines, fall dates and topics. (There is a sink and kettle in the room so we can make tea or you could grab a coffee from plentiful shops in the area.) Generally, we’ll sit in a circle, first focusing on the evening’s topic, then writing on it using clipboards donated by one of the workshop participants. At the second meeting on 29 September approx. six writers will take turns reading what they wrote about Place, the first week’s topic. (Please note there is no meeting 22 September.) Reading of a previous week’s writing will begin at about 7:40.

We work on the premise that all writing is good writing. The goal is to get stories of our life on these topics on paper in our own words from week to week at home then bring them to the group to share at the next meeting. This group is not about grammar or spelling or punctuation (those mechanics come way down the road). We all have stories to tell. This is just the beginning, so come on out and be part of it!

Where: Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor St. W., Toronto (just west of Spadina)
When: Most Tuesdays, beginning September 15, from 7:30 – 9:00 pm

AIDS Vigil to mark its 25th year

The AIDS Memorial

Cawthra Square Park, Toronto

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | 9:00PM

Hosted by Quinn Johnston, Billy Newton-Davis, Shari Margolese

For More Information | 416.392.6878 Ext 4012 |

The public is invited to attend the 25th Anniversary of the annual AIDS Candlelight Vigil, on Thursday evening, June 25, 2009, at 9:00 the AIDS Memorial in Cawthra Park.
The program includes many special features, including three co-hosts, a new approach to the candlelighting, additional performances by local artists, and a song written especially for the 25th Anniversary of the Vigil.

This year’s program will focus on the courage and commitment of long-term HIV/AIDS survivors as well as the broader HIV/AIDS community who have shaped and sustained the fight for over 25 years.

This year, 25 names have been added to the AIDS Memorial.

Please come and honor, remember and celebrate the Vigil tradition – a very meaningful part of Pride Week.

AIDS Memorial long view 519 Church St Toronto

A view of the memorial on World AIDS Day, Dec.1

Montreal Canadiens just squeaked past Boston last night in the first round but…

…the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs went all the way, winning the Stanley Cup, was the year before the assassinations of Martin Luther King Junior and Robert Kennedy – Canada’s Centennial and the year of Montreal’s world fair Expo ’67.

This is where the Leafs played back then. It was 37 years old at the time, built in 1930, is no longer used by the team, and plans for a supermarket to be built within the historic site are still just that – plans.