InRe: What We Have Lost
from Kent Bruyneel
Ah, Matt, my boy, it is a hard rain falling out my window and I am laid low with grief and sadness: the King is dead.
The great Al Waxman, one of Canada's finest small screen stars is gone. He has died suddenly at a tender age from an apparently routine operation. A true Canadian tragedy.
My earliest memories of Waxman were of him in his crowning role, as the loveable King of Kensington. Don't remember? Yes, you are so young, and I am so old and full of wisdom for you on this the cultural event of our past century from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Al Waxman, King of Kensington.
The theme song grabbed you by the balls right off the bat: to wit, "when he walks down the street, he smiles at everyone, and everyone that he meets says 'he's King of Kensington.'" Now I don't know if you have been to Kensington market, but seeing as you are The Cadre's award winning travel columnist I should like to describe it to you.
Kensington Market is a kind of Charlottetown Farmer's Market on uncut cocaine: gone mad on the blow and the ability to sell anything the place is electric as an activist's bathroom. I lived around the corner from Kensington Market for about a month and half one summer, so I know. The apartment where I lived had no air conditioner and the windows barely opened and I was always always sweating and I thought for awhile about just going back to Vancouver, which is not so urban and mostly not so hot. But the thing was, by then, I was addicted to cheese ends.
It's true. I would line-up with the other junkies around three in the afternoon, at the World of Cheese, which is not the actual name but represents the spirit of the kinds of places I was frequenting, and dreaming about.
I called the cheese guy sir; he called me Kent.
Usually I would get one (sometimes three) a day, always trying something new, whatever they had. Giving all worlds of cheese a chance. Or more specifically the world of cheese ends the greatest chance as I would stroll through the streets and fondle clothes and smell foods stuffs, and love the world. All for two bucks an end.
Cheese ends, as if you didn't know, are the ends of the cheese not suitable for slices. They are that part of the particular block that no part-time cheese-eater will even consider. But this, I am telling you, is the meat of the cheese: where the flavour goes to die. Like the last drink of red wine.
Anyway by a month into the cheese in the afternoon, unbelievable unstoppable heat all the rest of my waking and not-sleeping hours, I had decided that I should stop eating so much cheese. It promotes heavy perspiration and makes even a small man hard to cohabitate with, and as we well know I am far from a small man. The bigger problem, however, was that by then I spent so much of every afternoon in the market almost invariably singing "King of Kensington" only semi-audibly past the local merchants as I walked, endlessly walked, that I felt an obligation to them. They needed me as any monarchy needs its ruler.
And I was a good King. I was benevolent and jovial. And in sweatpants. Just like Al. One day at the cheese store while I was waiting my turn, humming and not paying attention to anything, the counter man interrupted me, and said, in the aggressive style of a man who spent his entire day around food he couldn't look at, never mind eat, "hey, you there, ahh... King of Kensington. You're up!"
My eyes welled up, which I was used to because I had moved recently to the Belgian Cheeses and they produce intense tears if you eat them too fast, or too often. But this time it was not the cheese. I smiled bravely at my subject and held out six dollars. "Three of whatever you got," I said regally.
But back to Mr. Waxman.
During his TV time as the Recreation Centre co-ordinator, which is probably not his actual title but represents the spirit of the actual one, and before, when he worked at a bar or something, he was, by God, the King of all Canadian Media, not just Kensington market. And the show was so good.
Sometimes the King was wrong, and sometimes the King was right, but we always took away something other than it does not matter what size you are, tight gym clothes are attractive if you are the King, though we learned that too. Elvis knew it, just as Waxman knew it, just as I will know it well someday.
But there was more to the King of Kensington than Al Waxman in tight clothes and Canada's smallest, and most turbulent community centre on Wednesday nights, which is not actually the night the show aired, or rather it could be, I can't remember, but since people from all parts of this great and massive country watched him at varying times, what day I actually watched him is quite unimportant, and since I am not certain I thought I would pick Wednesday because, well, it's Wednesday and fuck all else is happening. Race and sex and equality, and immigration: all topics on the show. You think that Degrassi was cutting edge? Degrassi was Charles in Charge next to King of Kensington. But that was not enough for Waxman.
After the show was inexplicably cancelled by some half-wit who probably spent the CBC money allotted to Al Waxman's genius on hookers in Calgary during the Stampede, you would not have blamed Waxman for calling it a career. After all once you are the King everything else is a demotion. Ask Presley.
But Waxman went on to save American TV after that. That is why he became the grizzled Lieutenant on the hit show Cagney and Lacey. He inspired stars Sharon Gless and Tyne Daily to new heights, and to stop worrying about their weight. In fact in the years since the hit detective show Waxman got steadily thinner while Daily/Gless got continually bigger.
But Waxman was more than just an overweight, yet strangely attractive television actor. He was more than just the grizzled forerunner to othered grizzled authority figures in primetime TV shows, the finest of which is crusty Adam Schiff on Law and Order, who I hear has been replaced by a Diane Wiest, a considerable step down, because Al was unavailable. He was Canada, and that keeps a man busy.
I am tempted to blow out of this dump right now. Pick up one of those ice breakers and strap it to the front of whatever vehicle is available: your Nova maybe. Put her to the boards until we reach Toronto and beat the city, smoke some cigarettes and line up for my cheese end. And stroll through the Market, and bring those words to my lips again, and sing for the merchants more than anyone, more than Al. Sing so they know that the King, though he is dead, still has subjects who remember, and mourn. And that if they asked me right now I'd unzip my jacket and go for that walk again, and sing that song, and I can be King again, if only for that one day.
Kent CC. Forget Magazine is correspondence between two people with a carbon copy, or cc., sent to ForgetMagazine.com (makes sense what with the title and all). The above missive is from Kent J. Bruyneel, to Matthew Dorrell.