Thursday, December 01, 2005


Tonight was spontaneously declared laundry night, as I decided to find another time to do the washing that wasn't so popular as Saturday mornings, when the public laundries are bursting at the seams and people shark around the dryers like they're the last boat off of prison island. I'm certain at some point in my public or not so public writings I have pontificated on the negative attributes of doing one's washing in public, but since it's something I feel so strongly about, I don't mind mentioning it here again: there is something very disconcerting and maybe even just plain wrong about a bunch of strangers gathering together in one typically very cramped, dirty space, and using and re-using the same rusty machines to clean their clothes and then all stand hip to hip by one another as they fold everything from their 1999 Volleyball All-Star Team t-shirts to their g-strings and their bath towels to their kids' Kermit the Frog underpants and onesies that have been stained with strained carrots so many times that there's really no salvaging them. Not that people should be ashamed of their underpants just because I'm ashamed of mine, but the laundromat seems to be a space that combines public and private sensibilities in a way that I just can't get over. The addition of community bulletin boards in many of these establishments further contributes to their strange ancillary function as gathering place. While my underpants tumble dry in full few of about thirty strangers, I can read about opportunities to have a self-proclaimed "very efficient and helpful" woman named Lisa be my personal assistant, changes to get discounted gym memberships if I am willing to host students from Cyprus and Greece in my apartment for six months, find out about tango lessons, guitar lessons, computer support, and moving services, as well as mark my calendar for the next meeting of the Hell's Kitchen sewing circle. I'm totally there.

I took a walk while my clothes washed. On 9th Ave there are two machines that dispense superballs that are within very close proxemity to one another. It took all the restraint I had not to unload all of my dryer money on them. One of the machines sells bigger balls for 50 cents and the other one just sells the basic tiny ones that have won my heart perhaps more times than any other toy. There are marbled ones, ones with glitter suspended in the rubber, and a relatively recent bastardized incarnation that resembles a billiard ball. I have been trying to curtail my superball bouncing over the past year and a half for a number of reasons. 1) A fairly obnoxious "creative" type with whom I was once somewhat associated bounced a superball as his/her nervous tick that they probably read in a book that all creative types have. That's annoying. 2) Who's got the money to just buy superballs all the time? 3) It's a pretty dirty habit. Each time you bounch that ball, it its the ground, which is also covered with human feces, urine, dead pigeons, sometimes dead people, dirt, spilled Chinese food, etc. This city makes you think twice about bouncing something on the ground and then catching it again. That said: I nearly blew all my dryer money yet again.

Instead I went to the record store, which is something I do even less frequently than bounce dirty balls in the city. I purchased Low's THE GREAT DESTROYER, which I am of course extremely happy about. The man at the record store said that it was a great album, but people in positions like his probably make judgments about every record people buy simply because they're in the position to be authoritative about it and say so. Nothing wrong with it, but I just wanted to be careful not to let his approval flatter me and my tastes too much. What did end up appealing to me, however, in a weird and probably troubling way, was what he said when I was leaving, which was "be good." Recently, I've been getting that one somewhat frequently. "Be good." It almost always comes from men who are slightly older than me and who are kind of hip. You know, not investment bankers or something. It's something that should annoy me. It's a little patronizing, a little paternalistic, but somehow, I typically kind of like it. Here I am, mild-mannered and good-humored as anyone on earth (for this particular instant, at least) purchasing a record of a band comprised of a Mormon couple and a bassist, and the guy is telling me to be good. Did I look like I wasn't planning on being good? Because I was. At least planning on it, I mean.

And on the way back, a limo is parking next to a homeless man pushing a shopping cart full of mysterious bundles and broken mirrors and who is shouting lots and lots of swear words at anyone nearby. Only in the city of dreams.

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