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Leaside’s free spirits

Some have said that all Leasiders are law-abiding and hard-working conformists.

The evidence that presents itself in front of our house is distinctly to the contrary. Judging by what we see out our windows every day, Leaside is visited almost entirely by free spirits: free spirits of all kinds, ranging from the stupid and dangerous to this generation’s unchained avant-garde.

The stupid and dangerous free spirits are the hundreds of motorists and bicyclists who every day ignore the Stop signs at our corner of Broadway and Bessborough. This very busy intersection, processing huge volumes of traffic of all kinds, including pedestrian, is a kind of every-driver-for-herself circus, with cars turning left, turning right, turning around, heading straight through, getting stacked up and angry waiting for the Bayview lights, almost never actually coming to a full stop in the right place.

The bicyclists, most of them heading east down what the city has designated as a major bike route, generally seem not to notice the Stop signs at all, or, if they do, assume bikes are exempt. Already gathering speed on the long downslope of Broadway, they just cruise right on through, trusting that the cars will miss them, and hoping that the silly pedestrians will get out of the way.

When I’m one of those pedestrians, I sometimes feel like I’m taking my life in my hands crossing what used to be a quiet little crossroads. It’s no longer quiet, lives are being put at risk every day at Broadway and Bessborough, and someday the worst consequences of freedom from traffic laws are going to happen here.

Lightening up a little, the Bessborough parade always features a pleasing variety of street people of all shapes, sizes, and states of dress. Actually multiple states of dress one afternoon we observed. A young male construction worker had parked his car in front of our house, came back from work, opened his trunk, and proceeded to change his clothes.

We admired his torso as he stripped to the waist, were bemused at the viewing when he went on to change his pants, noted his application of underarm deodorant, and guessed there was no need to brush his teeth. Having given himself a sponge bath from his water bottle, changed into his good clothes, combed his hair, presumably done his other business at the construction site, the worker got in his car and drove off for a night on the town. Too bad we couldn’t invite him to a Bessborough block party.

And of course there is a permanent floating party on Bessborough, as on most Leaside blocks, as the freeest of all spirits, the beautiful little children of our community, toddle, waddle, wander, run, and whiz their ways up and down, in and around, the homes and streets where we live.

Isn’t it wonderful to watch 2-year old Suzie or Sammy exploring the world? Why shouldn’t he or she turn up our walk, maybe to come to visit us? Why not enjoy our lawn? Why not walk on our driveway walls? To toddlers in a state of nature there’s no such thing as private property, nothing so fascinating as a single dandelion or a lump of bird poo.

You feel for the poor hovering parents, struggling to inculcate law and order, frustrated at every turn by little ones’ total impulsiveness, torn between their own sense of propriety and their certain knowledge that spontaneity is beautiful. Oh go on, Mom, let them run, let them play, let them knock on strangers’ doors.

But for God’s sake, be careful at that intersection.