Laundromat Diaries

I’m going to miss doing my laundry here.

Outside a homeless man just pushed his cart up to a garbage can and began to ferret around in it. He pulled out a plastic bag that was stuffed with orange paper that appeared to have phone lisitngs on it. He tore the bag apart, looking for anything of use, I assume, but then paused and started to read the pages before barking “fucking cunt, I told you so.” and stomping off with his possessions.

For a Saturday in Sepetember in San Francisco, I suppose the weather today is pretty nice. The fog is rolling quickly over town and towards the bay. It’s warm enough to wear shorts but I still have two t-shirts on to keep me warm, just in case. The sun pokes through every now and then, filling the laundromat with bright blue light as people stroll in and out, as if taking the light with them as they go. The shadows move just as quickly like a giant bird is flying over head, circling its prey.

Where ever I end up moving, there won’t be a laundromat quite like this. I’ve enjoyed sitting here observing the world pass by while I tried to get a grasp on my life here.

Just now a man came in with a bag and a skateboard. He stands in front of a machine and strips off his tshirt. He’s painfully thin for man who appears to be in his 30’s. It’s obvious he lives a life that’s more difficult than mine and I can smell him from 20 feet away. It occurs to me that despite all the stress from trying to find a place to live, I’m actually not in bad shape. More than one person has offered their home to me if I don’t find a place by the first. For that I am deeply grateful. I also have a job that I am starting to feel like I have a grip on. This man probably doesn’t have that. Again, I am grateful. He pulls a bulky sweater out of his bag and pulls it over his shoulders exposing a bruise on his rib cage. Did he get that from falling off his skateboard or did something else happen to him? He pulls off his sunglasses and his eyes appear suken into his skull. I look at my two tshirts and my lap top and realize that I am indeed grateful.

Yet I am finding myself back in a funk. I know that the uncertainty of where I will be living is taking its toll on my mood. Despite my desire to live a life of my own choosing, I also choose to have a certain level of predictability in my day to day. The uncertainty is causing me to look inward at my circumstances and for answers. I mentioned this to a friend and he said “But don’t you think you’re in a better place emotionally than when you got here?” I wasn’t sure. I am most certainly more stable and secure, yet the same insercurites and the same fears are still stopping me like a test car against a brick wall. But as my friend pointed out, I am indeed not reacting to them the way I was in my last months in NYC. I suppose with a full time job again, I have more structure and more things to keep me occupied. Even if I sometimes feel like I’m rowing upsteam without a paddle, I at least have a boat.

Two men come into the laundromat with 4 garbage bags and drop them off at the counter. They get their receipt and I see that one of them is so bowlegged that limps out. The attendants put on a martial arts movie that is so badly dubbed its funny. At least to me. The other attendants materialize and they all begin loading the contents of the bags into the big washers. Again, the smell wafts over to me. I notice that they’re all wearing surgical gloves. I take the opportunity to move my clothes from the washer to the drier as one of the attendants asks “Mucho?” and the other replies “Si, mucho mucho.” She then dumps three heaping scoops of wash powder in each machine with an equally hefty dose of fabric softner. Hey, at least the smell will be gone when they’re done.

Skatebaord man comes out of the back where the bacthroom is. He’d been in there a while. It dawns onme that he was probably bathing… or something. He packs up his stuff and leaves with out actually washing any clothes. His smell is still there and I am reminded of what people said about the shelters in New Orleans. The smel,l they said, was over powering. A few whiffs of people who are worse off than I am is nothing compared to that. Again, I am grateful.

My phone rings and it’s the man from the apartment on 18th and Sanchez. He says I’m his first choice in a roommate. I am quite releived. I have an option now. I still want to meet and talk with the two other options this week end to make sure that I am making the right choice. For all my whining about where I’m going to live, I am actually undecided.

The movie continues to play as the characters try to convince the hero to come back to the small village and enter the fight competition and save the honor of the town. He brushes them off and wanders the streets of the city before he is finally attacked by the men from the competition. His girlfriend squeals in terror and he beats them off, just barely. He sees the error of his ways and says he’ll do it, but only for her. She gasps and cries. He says “I have no choice.”

Outside, the fog has burbned off completely and its turned into a really nice day outside. A group of people have gathered with their Vespas and they seem to be all headed somewhere in a group. It’s kinda cute. One girl is holding hands with a cute guy. She has a mullet and it’s tied back with a big rubber band. They hop on their Vespa and scooter away. On Market Street people drive by in convertables with the top down and people wander by with their hats off. Summer in San francisco indeed.

More people come in and drop off their dirty laundry. It’s just too beautiful out there to be inside watching your possessions tumble around, regardless of the smell. The Vespa people are laughing and talking while a ruggedly handsome man walks by with a huge box under his arm. It says its a printer but could be anything.

The movie contunues to play. The big fight scene is on, complete with growling competitors, screaming crowds, barking announcers, and a squealing heroinne. The attendants all stand around watching it as the mystic portion of the hero’s past is made clear and he realizes his true potential. The fight scene recedes as he becomes truly powerful and the villains threaten the woman and he explodes with power. The attendants laugh at it.

I suppose no matter where I end up moving, it won’t be the same doing my laundry there. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a machine in the apartment or at least in the building. Maybe I’ll take my laundry out just for the hell of it, just to watch people, just to have the time to stop and think about things.

A beefy red headed guy comes in holding hands with a woman. They’re laughing as they come in and drop things off. Quickly they’re backout onto Market, strolling out in to the sun. In here I’ve still got 20 minutes on the dryer as the attendants start folding clothes from someone else’s laundry. The big machines are almost done with the stinky loads and in the movie the fight has moved into the spectators crowd causing them all to scream while the heroinne struggles to break free.

I realize that perhaps my friend was right. I am doing better than I was when I first got here. Many of the things that I struggled with in NYC just don’t matter here and I’ve got mor tools at my disposal to break free of things. Knowing this is one thing. Feeling that it is true, is another. I still wonder at times why I bother with certain things. I still struggle to not get overwhelmed by my own doubts. I just can’t help wonder why a man who’s almost 40 years old still behaves like a 16 year old in study hall sometimes.

The F Line train lumbers by breaking me out of my pondering. Traffic moves in two directions on the street and I somehow see it like an electric race track set that I had when I was a kid. The cars never went fast enough for my tastes and the set quickly disappeared in peices to the bottom of my toy chest. Instead I disappeared into my own fantasy world with my action figures and my imagination. It was safer in there and I got to control how things went. I suppose in many ways I’m still there, struggling to make things happen the way I want them rather than accept the contructs of a toy that didn’t do what I liked. As the F Line goes by, the people inside look like those action figures, trapped inside, looking out on the world as it goes by. Yet in seeing that I’m not that scared kid anymore, I’m free of being trapped in my own mind more than I was when I was in NYC.

The credits roll on the movie and the big washers stop spinning. The traffic on Market St continues. My own laundry has 10 more minutes left. More people come in and start their own loads. Nothing is resolved. Yet life goes on. Life goes on.