PS Kensington: more than an afterthought?

In our last post we threw in the comment that a bicyclicious thing to do on a sunny spring Sunday would be to ride down and participate in the car-free celebration in Kensington Market.

Although it’s called “P.S.” Kensington, it stands for “Pedestrian Sunday” not “post-script,” as many of our readers were led to believe. For this little misunderstanding the ALLDERBLOB apologizes.

After all, a “P.S.” at the end of a letter or note implies an afterthought, something not germaine, something extraneous to the important business of the letter or note foregoing.

But what of the “P.S.” that was Kensington Market on Sunday? Was it also not merely an appendix to the bloated stomach that is Toronto? If it were lopped off, would anyone miss it?

We went down to investigate this question.

We took up a station at the corner of Oxford and Augusta, at an outside table with a big umbrella to block the sun. Behind us was a bakery, “Alchemy” by name, and before us a mug of coffee and a cinnamon almond shortbread cookie or two. Luxury!

And just beyond that, the ballet of the sidewalk, writ large. Writ across the whole street, in fact. The ballet of the streets, sans cars.

Our desk, it turned out, was well chosen in one regard. For the restaurant across the street, “La Palette,” held a great big banner proclaiming “volunteer headquarters,” and from this restaurant came and went a steady trickle of City Idol candidates: Shamez Amlani, and Kelsey Carriere, and Michael Louis Johnson, and others. Out front were parked two bicycle rickshaws, a steaming mountain of lesser bicycles, and a woman-powered phaeton cabriolet which periodically saw service towing smallish children up or down the crowded street.

[Crowded? Tell us more about the crowds. –ed]

We got to counting at one point, but ennui overtook us as the seconds crept past. What hell it is to count! Still, in sixty seconds we counted 65 people walking north or south. Twelve of them wheeled bikes along (two astride). They filled the streets from curb to curb at most points. They tended to stay off the sidewalks, except where they paused to look at some vendor’s display or to manoeuvre around some slower-moving person or group.

Strange to say, except for the expected at La Palette across the street, we saw no familiars: that is, no one we recognized, or thought we recognized, or had ever seen before. And we sat with our coffee and cookies for a long while. Many multiples of the aforementioned sixty seconds. We could do some multiplication, in fact, and turn up a number: say two hours’ worth of sixty second periods times 65 people. Um… What’s that, like a zillion? And each one stranger than the last.

We watched a little girl, maybe 4 years old, for a long time. She was waiting while her dad talked on his cell phone, sitting there on the curb, but she wasn’t bored. She amused herself with a variety of little movements, swinging her arms, posing as a swan, pirouetting, and then, for variety, throwing in a couple little karete punches. Most of this was accomplished within a four-foot range of her dad, who seemingly paid her no attention at all.

We watched an old lady pushing an even older lady along in a wheelchair, swooping along right on the centreline. People got out of their way in a hurry.

We overheard another little girl, this one boasting “watch me, mommy” as she crossed the street by herself: normally, perhaps, a forbidden activity.

We saw a guy with an infant strapped on his chest, and another one, and at least two more. Moms and infants too, but lots of dads.

Which is to say what? Is P.S. Kensington drawing in a different crowd than we might have expected? Where were the Reclaim the Street activists? The political junkies who frequent St Lawrence Fora? The renegade C-Mers? The run-of-the-mill ARCistas?

P.S. Kensington was crowded all right. But it was filled with normal people. People with kids. People with bikes. People holding hands and back cars. The “Real People,” as a Toronto city councillor named Shiner once called them [City Idols, take note! –ed.]. They own houses and hold day jobs and run errands and pay real estate taxes. Most of them own cars, we might assume. Most of them were there for a day out of the ordinary, away from the hated, the dreaded, automobilious everyday.

P.S. The cost of a day in Kensington filled with pedestrians, Kelsey Carriere told us, is about $2000–this covers liability insurance, overtime salary for cops, and the rental of the gates and signs to indicate streets now “open–” for pedestrians that is. We call that a bargain. Pass the hat and do it more than just once a month!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.