Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coupla Nomads Keepin' It Clean

Hey All,

So, here I am in the Laundromat. No, I am not out of town again, I am just at the Laundromat. The little shit-hole bungalow where I live doesn’t offer a washing machine. Not even a shed with a couple broken down machines and dryers for the tenants to share. I could have bought one of those stacked units when I moved in, but figured, hey, it’s only a few bucks a week to go down the road, and besides, I get to hang out with strangers wearing the most unsightly, unpresentable ensemble they own. Every decent thing, of course, being in the washer.

I’m tapping away at my lap-top, looking, I assume, like some loser writing a screen-play that will never be produced. Whoever assumed that would be wrong, demonstrating their callow inability to spot a loser writing a blog that will never be read. Let that be a lesson to them.

There is at least a scrap of intentionality here though. A while back I noticed a gentleman cruising the neighborhood in a pretty clean, early-nineties vintage RV, an A-Class (the type not built upon a standard van front-end). I was out walking, and he slowed to let me cross, before continuing slowly down a side-street near my shit-hole bungalow. I, being tuned into such things, pegged him as an urban nomad. It’s legal to park overnight on the streets of little Altadena, and he was looking for a curbside refuge I thought.

Later, my suspicions where confirmed when, again at the Laundromat (the one with the big parking lot and more bustle than the one where I sit writing), I saw the same gentleman pull in. He parked and as I sat watching, rapidly losing interest in an LA Weekly article about recidivist youths being aged-out of the foster-child system, he began a ritual that I vowed someday to emulate.

First he opened up all the doors of the RV. Then he got some funky music going. Then, visible through the open side door, he wrestled an enormous gaping duffle onto the floor where he topped it off with his last attractive bit of clothing, while cloaking his own fit form in a circa 1985 mesh T-shirt that he musta rocked at Venice in the day. He came in, grabbed a cart, and went to fetch it all to the waiting machines. This guy filled six washers. Then, the cool part … he went back out and after disappearing into the shadowed interior of the motor home for a second, emerged with a step-ladder and a bucket full of cleaning supplies.

I guessed that he had visited the quarter-car-wash earlier, because what he did now was the detail work. A proper windexing for all the glass, stretching from the top step of the three-foot ladder, a quick once-over to round up unsightly water spots not cycloned off by the trip here from there, and finally Armor-All for the tires and window rubber. He even cracked back the wipers and ran a rag wet with rubber preservative down their blades. He had it down to a science. Not a science so much as a ballet, choreographed crisply to a seventies-funk soundtrack. He finished the exterior just about exactly in synch with the six red lights of the washers blinking off. 1-2-3-4-5-6 … and he’s got the bucket and ladder stowed and he’s strolling in out of the sun.

He had the dry-cycle similarly sussed, but this bit of work happened inside the RV and out of my view. Oh sure, I figured how I might pass by for a closer look. I had to go all the way to the corner market and buy a diet-Coke, but a snoop-job is a snoop-job. It seemed that my friend was doing for the inside what he’d just done for the outside. Windows, dash, countertops, coffee-maker … the mix of automotive and domestic chores that an RV suggests. He finished by backing out on hands and knees through the side door finishing a good sponge-off of the linoleum kitchenette floor and leaving it to dry (he wore cut-offs that were, I think, Jordache). I could hear his dryers thumping to a halt one by one as I drank his health with a frosty, possibly carcinogenic soft drink.

I got a folding station as close to his as I could, and passing asked, “You a full-timer?” which is code for a guy who no longer has a mailing address.
“Naw”, he said, “I got a girlfriend and some other spots”.
“Cool”, I said. “I been thinking of getting one myself.”
“I was sure glad I had it when the shit came down.” He said this while smoothing a shirt and slipping it neatly onto a wooden hanger. I didn’t ask which shit in specific. Didn’t matter to me.

I don’t yet have a motor home, though I am searching and researching, or I would be out in it, maybe dusting the blinds or some other chore only the laundry ritual could make pleasant. Instead, I am using this time to make a blog-entry, which feels to me like the leading-edge of my traveling life.

I had no intention of writing about that, but now that I have, I suppose that I’ll just hit PUBLISH and let it go. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how my friend Dwayne escaped his limitations Monday night and became a singer. It nearly made me cry.

I fold up my lap-top and sigh with self-satisfaction. I'm wearing flip-flops, ancient gray sweat-pants, and a deep-vee fleece with no under-shirt. I look gooood. And my dryer is … wait for it … off!

Bye for now,


  1. tell Dwayne I said hi. I'd like to hear him sing someday....

    nice piece.