Einstein and I headed into town and instead of walking the main drag, we camped out under the patio of the old Kennett Cafe. There is a sordid history to this old bar, maybe a little wild west, but today it waits its fate as a chic furniture store. Until then, it is our front row seat to all that is Kennett Square. Maybe Einstein and I are taking a little of that soulful rowdiness from the old building by sitting on the steps.
There aren’t many pit bulls in town and even fewer writers sitting on a stoop taking notes, but the day is beautiful and we are just taking in all of the sites.
State Street is jumping. The Sunday morning traffic ebbs and flows without the same congestion as the rest of the week. A rush of mini-vans just went by. Their formation could never be mistaken for a motorcycle club of Harley-Davidson’s coming down the road, but the moms driving by are no less intimidating. The all have the post workout look, sweaty and worn out, but it’s easy to see that their post-workout high will soon be replaced by whatever is next on “her” list of things to do. Laundry, dinner, groceries, toes…the list is too long for my male mind to begin to understand.
Other cars have solo drivers who are trying to find out where to go or what happened last night. These are usually younger drivers who are willing read and type without any worry of sideswiping one of the cars parked on the narrow streets. I’ve only seen one car take off a side mirror, but that was on the other side of town where a short curve makes parking a bit of challenge. Occasionally, the texters are brought out of their self-absorbed haze by a different kind of distraction, the low riding mobile boom box. These are micro cars that have been lowered to the ground and packed full of speakers. They produce weld snapping base tones and volume suited for the largest arenas. The music varies, sometimes mariachi, sometimes rap, but never classical. One of my students drove by today and the quarter panels on his vintage 1980s Honda Prelude where shaking. I now understand why he never seemed to hear anything I said in class.
The foot traffic is busy as well. It should be as the summer day is not yet in full force and the humidity seems to have gotten a late start. Chris, the coffee guy, is walking with his kids. He seems like a really cool dude. I love going to his coffee shop, Philter, because of the peacefulness of the shop and the amazingly good coffee. I don’t know much about coffee, but Chris, and all the staff at Philter, answer questions about little spoons
without being judgmental which truly beats the attitude at either of the conglomerate coffee hucksters anchoring either end of town. Like a true business person, Chris asks if I’m planning a business in town as I was taking photos of a vacant building across the street. I’m not and explain that photography is just a hobby and then Chris must go into dad mode. His sons have found two baby chicks, probably pigeons, that have fallen from a nest. Unfortunately, neither survived. With patience and reverence for his sons’ curiosity, Chris explained that the boys should not touch the birds and someone will take care of them later. The boys buy in and off they go.
As other people walk by, I am struck by how much Kennett is changing. I have been around this historic town for nearly twenty-five years and it was not too long ago that I would have never hung out in the middle of town. That’s not because of any violence or gang situations, it’s because the town was too vanilla, mostly there was nothing going on. Now the businesses are starting to come alive and the people are returning. Art and beer are making Kennett a happening place and instead of the simple Kennett look of old, there are people with different fashions walking the streets. There is a couple who would seem a better fit for South Street in Philadelphia than sleepy, old Kennett Square. The man is short, chiseled from stone, and imposing in his Johnny Cash meets the Rock clothes. His head is shaved and tan, yet for all of this intimidation he does not show one tattoo. The woman is tall, wearing black combat boots, heavy red lipstick, abrupt bangs, one arm covered in crazy tattoos, and a gravity defying bodice that is sure to ensure no man will ever look at her eyes first. There are families who have just left church, a Korean contingent walking their labs through town, men from Mexico in their boots and cowboy hats, and a lady walking her dog in pajamas and slippers. Kennett looks like any city on a Sunday morning.
With it being mid-morning, Einstein decided to take a nap. He stretched out on his side and became something of a shock to the walkers. The sight of seeing a pit bull in full out relaxation mode is something that seems to cause a bit of confusion for those who don’t know the breed. A few people moved further away as if they were afraid he might spring into a crazed maniac at any moment. Others know that pit bulls are like any other dog and would ask if they could pet him without the fear of him becoming some lupus dei. He didn’t. A waitress from the Italian restaurant, La Verona, brought out a bowl of water just so she could pet him. His wagging tail was the exact “thank you” she was hoping for.
I’ll be a little sad when Einstein and I lose these worn steps as a hangout. It will be good for the borough to have another store and I hope it is able to succeed. Until it’s official, though, he and I will keep going there and watching this little town, with its really cool people, continue to evolve.