By Sean McCallum The area in and around Queen and Roncesvalles in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood is a veritable Cannery Row of misfit storefronts; outcasts of entrepreneurialism peddling a whimsical array of antiquarian items ranging from chandeliers and chemises to bicycles and birdhouses. But nowhere is this gritty neighbourhood’s paratactical personality more thoroughly embodied than on the sidewalk at the foot of 49th Apparel, Andy Pepall’s retail answer to Steinbeck’s Palace Flophouse. Anyone who has recently promenaded Roncesvalles Avenue on their way to or from the lake will know Andy’s establishment, if not for its unique amassment of wares, then for its equally eccentric congregation of characters. Since December of last year, Andy has been providing Parkdale’s passers-by with a place to lay down their burden, setting up a mismatched selection of chairs straddling the sidewalk in front of his store. Any and all are welcome to take a seat, and the unprejudiced affability has created a type of neighbourhood clubhouse, much to the chagrin of local law officials. “That the idea of offering chairs can be controversial is sheer lunacy” says Pepall, hammering home his point with a variety of references to Oliver Twist and Gulliver’s Travels. Andy is being evicted at the end of this month, the result of a select few having voiced displeasure over the spilling out of 49th Apparel’s merchandise; an overflowing assortment of outdoor gear, wall-sized maps, and rock and roll T-shirts; onto the sidewalk. Those who complain accuse Andy’s setup; best described as an outdoor living room, complete with music, artwork, and seating for twelve; of impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic, with some going so far as to claim the clutter a potential hazard for footsloggers. In response to his notice of eviction, he and the rest of his citizenry have taken it upon themselves to keep 49th Apparel and its outdoor living room open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, for the final 1000 hours of its existence. The reality of this decision didn’t dawn on me until late last Monday night when I was walking home and happened upon one of Andy’s pals keeping watch over the store, sprawled out across the chairs and sawing logs at three in the morning. Part protest and part business strategy, the 1000-hour vigil has become, over the course of the past month and a half, a kind of institution along lower Roncesvalles. In the two plus hours I sat with Andy in front of his store, those who took a seat to take a load off and shoot the breeze came from every imaginable walk of life: well-to-do couples, elderly Polish women, young hipsters, people with dogs, people with kids, even the guy who routinely asks me for change in front of the local McDonald’s. They talked about everything from the state of the neighbourhood to the ephemeral nature of weather, and why it will always be the first and last conversation. After a particularly hard luck character had come and gone, Andy turned to me and pondered: “The meek shall inherit the earth. Is that a prediction, or a command?” These truly were Mack and the boys: the virtues, the graces, the beauties... At one point in our conversation, a lady strolling past picked up an antique magnifying glass and studied it for quite some time, eventually inquiring as to its price. Andy responded by telling her that it was priceless. After a few confused moments, he clarified that it wasn’t for sale because he’d only just picked it up. He wasn’t willing to part with it quite yet because it looked so good as part of the current living room décor. An interesting retail strategy, and hardly what you might expect from a store with less than 130 hours of business left. I found myself wondering exactly what Andy would do with himself come the end of the month. The veracious street philosopher and sometimes canoe guide happily apprised me that he would move on to the next rapid. Probably Temagami, if he could find a way to get his stuff there. There’s little doubt that he’ll find a way to land on his feet. As we speak, he cradles a broken canoe paddle with the inscription: “Live to Trip”. Fitting, I think to myself, but I wonder where those who have come to rely upon his vacant chairs and whirlwind words will eventually fall. In Steinbeck’s sequel to Cannery Row, Mack and the boys are ultimately redeemed for their love and big hearted humanity in what is known around town as Sweet Thursday. But this coming Thursday, as the Sheriff arrives at the stroke of midnight to take Andy Pepall’s chairs away from the sidewalk and the people that have come to be defined by them, the sentiment along that once welcoming neighbourhood streetscape will be anything but sweet.