The Black Bars: Dartmouth
June 24, 2020
This contribution from Lezlie Lowe is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.
They were our second home — scrappy, paint-chipped metal tubes marking the end of a cracked asphalt parking lot for the adjacent low-rise apartment building. The black bars couldn’t have stopped a car from careening down the small hill of dust, weeds and cigarette butts.
And they never stopped us, either.
We neighbourhood kids could heft our hips up onto them and swing head-first in a 360, our feet slamming back onto the ground at completion.
We were gap-toothed; sticky from Freezies. But in our mind’s eye, we were grace incarnated on those bars. In the sometimes-wretched urbanity of deep north Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, this was our chosen exercise, our chosen leisure spot. Our chosen park.
Of course, there were park-like places — the yard of a nearby apartment building, and a wooded-by-way-of-neglect scrap of land between the school and the rink where we scanned the path for discarded Playboy magazines. There was a playground, too, with always-broken swings, a tennis court, and a giant metal caterpillar climbing structure with a painted-on smile.
The caterpillar was class-A terrifying — too high, too rusty. The tennis courts? This was low-income 1980s Nova Scotia. The only use for a tennis court was as a place for small children to master the transition from tricycle to two-wheeler.
At the black bars?
We swung. We sailed. We were Katarina Witt, sans figure skates. We were Mary Lou Retton, fat rolls escaping our terry cloth tube tops.
No park. No problem. Needs must.
Recently, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, I relied on that mantra when all municipal and provincial parks were off-limits to encourage social distancing.
My daily morning jaunt through the Halifax park across from my house halted, I walked blocks and endless blocks with my dog.
There was no more off-leash time, no more running and chasing. No more scouting the treetops to see if the family of cardinals had returned. No more nipping into the park’s forest trails to walk together silently on the spongey path of fallen needles, both of us sniffing.
During Covid-19, we instead stalked the sidewalks.
Cover Photo Credit: van Radic
About Lezlie Lowe
Lezlie Lowe is a freelance journalist and journalism instructor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has been recognized for her long-form journalism by the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Atlantic Journalism Awards. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of King’s College, where she also teaches in the Journalism department. No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail our Private Needs is her first book.
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This contribution from Lezlie Lowe is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.Choose Another Park Story