Laundromat Diaries

Back at the laundromat. It’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday and it’s just me in here.

I lost my job last week so I can’t afford to drop $40 with the Chinese couple on the corner. I see them eyeing me as I lug my giant bag of unmentionables past their doorway. They have my shirts and dress pants, which for now will have to satisfy them.

I got here early to just get it out of the way. I want to get a lot done today and this is just the first thing on the list. I also want to get out of the house. One week into unemployment and I’m bored enough that I couldn’t stomach watching the View.

The laundromat was empty when I got here. All of the big machines were free and I easily filled all of them up with underwear, socks, towels, sheets and jeans. It’s been a while since I did a huge load of stuff, usually just dropping off the necessities at the corner. Today I’m getting through a pile that would have swallowed a toddler and discovered underneath it a belt and a hat I thought I had misplaced. The hat smells like my father’s closet that I remember from childhood. Am I really getting that old?

As I dropped the last quarter in the washer, I turned around and noticed a young woman staring at me, obviously put out that I had used up all of the big machines. Sorry toots, I think to myself, I got out of bed and hustled myself here before you. Plus I’m over 40, don’t dye my hair an unnatural shade of blond and dear god, no I would never wear ugg boots. For the boots alone I smugly looked at her and shrugged. She was not amused. Poor thing. Part of me wanted to tell her this was one of many lessons in life where you just don’t get what you want.

Take my job, for example. I had hoped it’d lead me to a more creative career and possibly as a step into advertising. Instead it became a litany of check lists and project logs and deadlines and conditionally formatted excel spreadsheets and corporate organizational behavior training sessions. I was miserable and my performance reflected it. When they dismissed me I openly accepted how it had come down and said “Let’s just get on with it.” They did the right thing by me though and offered severance and occupational assistance and assured me they would not fight me on an unemployment claim. For that much I am grateful. Three years of feeling like my personality was being slowly chipped away at is over. I’m relieved, clear headed and ready to move on.

I toss my clothes in the dryer and stare out the window for a minute wondering where Petulant Paula went after she whipped out of here. The sun is poking through the cloud cover and the day is beginning to warm up from the cold and rainy weather of yesterday. My mood is similarly brightening the further I get away from from that job. I just didn’t belong there, and that is the end of that.

Any minute now though I am expecting to have a complete and total “Come to Jebeezus” moment where I realize the enormity of what has happened. I am unemployed in an economy that is shaky at best. Job listings are increasing in number but the salaries being offered are not reflecting what I need to live on. I’m probably going to have to take another admin job just so I can get by.

But is that really so bad for me at this point? Probably not. I’ve got the opportunity here to move forward with purpose and clarity. I’ve got skills as a photographer I didn’t have when I started that job. I’ve still got my cooking skills. I’ve got the chance to combine them. I’ve got the chance to be that person I’ve imagined myself to be. Strong. Quiet. Creative. Stable.

A man steps into the laundromat and looks around before leaving. Aside from the blond girl, he’s the only person I’ve encountered in here today. Usually it’s a bit of a freak show, but I’m grateful for the calm. The sound of traffic coming and going outside is slightly soothing as the world continues to live on. A mayfly bounces around on the floor and I wonder how many hours it has left in it’s short life.

How many hours do I have left in my short life? And what am I going to do with them?

Maybe I’ll figure that all out while I fold my underwear.

Laundromat Diaries

One of the benefits of having a decent paying job is being able to replace all the things that are broken. My glasses got a tune up, I’ve bought shoes and clothes for work, and I managed to get a new battery for my laptop. I haven’t been able to work from the laundromat, and therefore away from the TV for a few months.

Things really haven’t changed at this place. Daylight still pours into the tiny windows and gives the place a slightly decrepit look, which a hell of a lot better than the border-line condemned one that I went to once on Haight and Pierce. Every other machine there was broken and it just depressed me. Why was I doing my laundry at a place where the owners couldn’t even be bothered to fix the machines?

So I’m back in my usual place. The owner shuffled by in her bhurka and takes a screw driver to some caked on laundry detergent. I’m the only one in the place and she walks over and shows it to me. She asks what would make laundry “daytooorgeent toorn into sayment”. I shrug and say I don’t know. She goes back to trying to pry it free and a woman in a brown business suit comes in and says hello to her calling her by name. I don’t quite catch it because a motorcycle whizzes past. She continues chipping away at the blockage in a perfect rhythm that I think I heard on a dance floor in Ptown. Which a thud, it comes free and she strolls past me and throws it in the garbage can, muttering something under her breath.

The woman in brown pulls a brown blanket form one of the dryers. I’d say she’s wearing milk chocolate and the blanket is bittersweet.

I have a short coughing fit and mutter to myself that I really need to call the doctor again. The coughing is nowhere near as bad as it was but it’s still here. Still annoying. Still keeping me awake at night. At this point it’s more about me getting organized and calling in. I’m still on the allergy medications, which is helping a lot, but I’d love to sleep through the night again.

I suddenly realize that I’m alone in the laundromat and quickly snap off some pictures. Looking around me I see textures and shadows that I never noticed before. Details that I breezed past. For a second, everything seems brighter. But then the owner comes back out, babbling to someone in the back, and the spell is broken.

There is an unusually low volume of foot traffic tonight. Perhaps because it’s a sunny day. Perhaps because it’s a Monday. Perhaps it’s both. But once the owner disappears behind her half door, I’m alone again. Soon enough she flows past again, the fabric of her bhurka trailing behind her. She calls into the back, firing off words I don’t understand quickly. Vowels and consonants in combinations I’ve never heard. A small girl comes out. She has her mother’s eyes as she looks at me cautiously. She wears something resembling a veil… and reeboks and bedazzled jeans.

The brown dressed woman comes back and pulls a red and white sheet from a dryer and leaves again. She’s replaced by a woman who couldn’t be 4’10”. She empties a washer and heads to the driers. She lets out a sigh and begins to load her things into one of the top driers. It’s the only one free. The rest are either in use or broken. She removes two black lacey frilly bras. Even from here I can see that for a woman of her height, she’s rather well endowed. With a grunt, she gets the last of her stuff in the machine and begins piling quarters into the slot, which is at about eye level for her. I’m tempted to try and sneak a picture, but the camera has an idiotic sound effect that I don’t know how to turn off.

Another man comes in and reads the Chronicle while he waits. He’s wearing what can only be described as anklet stretch pants. The kind favored by women of a certain social class, who wear Christmas sweaters with shoulder pads, and who hair is shade of yellow not quite found in nature. Yeah, those kind of stretch pants. He looks comfortable though. Reading his paper he bops along a little to his iPod.

There seems to be free internet here. Didn’t notice that before. I may just sit here and look at pictures of naked men until my sheets and underwear are done.

Just as I’m about to load some big muscley nasty filthy site I get the sense I’m being watched and see a small child peering at me over the end of the bench I’m sitting on. She has one pink bow and one purple bow in her pigtails and she’s chewing on the green string fringe of her little rainbow jacket. She gives me a giggle filled smile and the man I assume is her father takes her by the hand and leads her up onto the bench. He gives me a look and to assure him I’m not some sort of molester, I give him a smile and verbally say hello. He smailes back and begins loading a washer as she kicks along to music that only she can hear. Her pink shoes and blue striped socks a little blur. She’s also playing with the little rhinestone flower on her jacket and giggles as Daddy makes faces at her. Soon enough though she notices something on the floor, climbs off the bench and waddles over to it. Her father calls her over to him. “Don’t touch that.” he says gently before calling her by name and asking her come help him. As he does she speaks to him and then begins to sing again from somewhere on the floor behind the counter where I can’t see her.

There’s a flurry of people suddenly. The owner comes in and talks to the father about bleach. They too seem to know each other by name. He picks his daughter up, sits her on the washer and lets her insert the quarters. It’s a quick little thing that she won’t remember, but probably will mean the world to him. While he does that, a Polynesian woman comes in lugging a trash bag. As she walks by, I get a full view into her purse where she’s got a pack of Marlboro lights waiting for her. Little miss pigtails lets out a sudden shriek that startles all the adults. About what, it’s not clear but within a second or two, she’s forgotten all about it. The owner’s daughter makes faces at her until she laughs.

Outside, two men are having an argument and it sort of shatters this sweet scene in front of me. The father looks out the window… almost nervously. As the fight peters out he goes back to his laundry. A police car floats by almost silently, it’s sound muffled by the rhythm of the dryers and washers.

I look and see that the little girl has opened a garbage can, and begun to attempt to climb into it. I glance at the father but he doesn’t see her. She’s gotten one leg over the rim and is about to go face first into it. He still doesn’t see her. So I get up and walk over and gently pick her up. Suddenly he sees me with his child. For a breif second his face registers “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TOUCHING MY OFF SPRING??” before he sees where she was and thanks me. I say no prob. My clothes are dry anyway. He takes her by the hand and as they walk out the door, he squints into the sun and she sings herself a little song.

Laundromat Diaries

I finally got around to doing laundry today. Despite the beautiful weather, I needed to get it done. Once my clothes were tumbling around, I grabbed my copy of Grastronomica and sat outisde and read in the warm sun while my laptop stayed in my bag. I figured Icould blog once the sun went behind the trees. But two women getting into a screaming match over a dryer is enough to make Kitchenbeard think twice about blogging at the Laundromat. One homosexual with a laptop and a food cultural magazine isn’t enough to get in the way of that.

I shoved everything in the laundry bag and high tailed it out of there. I dropped the bag by the dining room table and made coffee. I set to folding the items of my life that give people their first impression of me. Aside from my face, my clothes say more about me than my voice, my words, my smell. It may not look like it, but each peice has been carefully chosen.

I was annoyed today to see that in my haste to get out of the laundromat, I had removed my whites from the dryer before they were actually fully dry. Damp clothes had wrinkled and cooled. Warmer clohtes from the other dryer still held their heat and folded neatly.

But I was safe in my home, with my identifiers, with my coffee, with the sun pouring in the windows. I folded each peice carefully and deliberately.

Not a bad Sunday.

Laundromat Diaries

Mid-week laundry.

It had to be done. Really. I had just worn my last pair of non-gym acceptable underwear. You know that pair. The pair you only put on when you know for 100% certain that no one will see you in them. Or at least that pair that you wouldn’t mind being seen in a sex club wearing. That pair you would never wear to the gym lest some one see you in a pair of yellowed and stretched out and holey underwear that you only really wear when you’ve been too lazy to get up off the couch and wash the rest.

In all honesty, it’s a nice night to be out. Summer is here in San Francisco and it’s almost balmy. As I sit here, I realize that perhaps mid-week is a good time to do laundry. It’s just two women and me. One is outside smoking (jealous) and reading some book. The other one ran in and shoved her stuff in a washer and closed them up and then ran out… without putting any money in. Minutes later a screech of brakes and she sprints back in and inserts the money. Car horns blare outside and she runs out again once the transaction is complete.

I’ve gotten very systematic about my laundry. I procrastinate about doing it to the point that if I don’t plan it carefully, I’ll be here for hours. So I multitask and bring my laptop. This place doesn’t have a wireless signal I can piggyback off of so I actually en up getting work done.

Outside a little boy and his mother walk by. The boy’s shoes have squeaky sound making things in them and he’s gleefully stomping down the street as fast as he can. The smoking reader and I exchange a glance of amusement before she comes inside and pulls her clothes form the washer and puts them in the dryer. I notice she picks her nose while she does it.

In the middle of this a really handsome younger man comes in. He’s wearing Members Only style jacket and when he bends over to put his clothes in the machine, I can see a tattoo exposed above his jeans. He’s maybe 25 at the most. Completely not my usual type but he has that look that once he hits 30, he’ll fill out and be astonishingly good looking. I hope by that point, his black hair will have grown the bad frosted tips out. He catches me looking at him nervously looks away while grabbing his book and moving to the other end of the room.

The smoking reader has set up on one of the counters with her book. Organic Chemistry. She sighs as she takes notes.

I never took organic chemistry. I took regular chemistry and barely got through it because of the math. I think today with time and patience, I bet I could.

Another younger guy comes in and starts throwing his stuff into a machine. He’s in a turtleneck. I think to myself ”Dude, it’s hot out.” Before I see that he’s wearing shorts that are just this side of hot pants. His thick tightly curled hair sprouts out from under the red baseball cap as he tries to get change out of the nonfunctioning coin changer. I’d offer him some of mine but I used up almost all of mine on the dryer. He looks around sheepishly before heading out the door.

I suppose with all the students in town, this area is prone to attract the young and the studious. I’m kind of amused to watch some of them kids coming in and out as they do their laundry a little hesitantly. Is this the first time for them? Aren’t they used to it by now? I know I was doing my own laundry at 12.

Kids these days.

Mr. HotPatns comes back, with change this time and says a quick hello to Organic chemistry smoker. Classmates?

I’d been thinking a lot lately about where I’ve been since I got out of school myself. My path could have been so much different. It’s not to say that I regret anything, but there’s very little that I do. If anything, I regret not trying harder to create things in my life that made me happy and that I stayed in a city that was sucking the life out of me for so long.
The students I’m watching tonight have a lot ahead of them, and I envy them for it a little. I suppose if my circumstances at the moment were more stable I wouldn’t feel like this.

The Sprinting Chain Woman comes back languidly strolling and carefully sorts her clothes into two dryers. Mr MembersOnly sits cross legged on the counter and plays with his blonde streaks while a new twenty something student type walks in with a paper bag of clothes and looking mildly confused about the whole process.

The sun sets over Haight Street and the night cools as the fluorescent lights from the Laundromat spill out on to the street. I catch a whiff of marijuana and look around for the source but don’t see anything. The light dims enough outside to allow the headlights of passing street cards to make its way inside with a sweeping brightening of the room.

I remember the washing machines when I was in college. You always had to look in them before you sued them because this girl who lived down the hall had a propensity for getting stinking drunk, hiding in the laundry room in her embarrassment and then puking in the machines. It was smart to do your laundry before Saturday night and after Monday afternoon.

Mr MembersOnly jumps off the counter suddenly with his book and walks over and sits down next to me on the bench with an uncomfortable smile. He puts his feet up on the garbage can and I wonder if I’m developing a foot fetish. He’s less than 3 feet away so it’s hard to watch him with out being obvious.

My own feet could use a pedicure. I could use a manicure. I could use a full body massage. I could use a day in bed with a man I love. But since I’m poor and single, none of that’s going to happen, at least not for a while. I’m ok with that as I watch the building across the street take on the orange glow of the setting sun.

Miss OrgincChemistry has a sneezing fit and stepps outside. Seconds later I can smell her cigarette and Mr ConfusedAboutLaundry is now working on filling his 4th machine.

The driers make a slight whistling noise as eight of them tumble and turn. My things can’t have that much longer, can they? It’s as if I’m on top of some mountain in a poor built cabin, or at least Hollywood’s idea of it.

Mr MembersOnly gets up and pulls his clothes out of the washer and in the process catches me looking again. Once he’s got his clothes tumbling around, he leaves….quickly.

For a minute I was Miss Organic Chemistry pull her clothes out of the dryer. I’m impressed at the amount of leopard print she’s in possession of. Mr ConfusedByItAll comes back…with a rolling suitcase to replace his big paper bag.

I think I’ll fold at home instead of here and watch tv and chat online and realize that I at least am not in the middle of papers and studying and running up student loan debt.

Laundromat Diaries

A new Laundromat.

I haven’t done my own laundry since October. Now, facing losing my job, and an unexpected trip east, I find I have to do it myself again.

This place is smaller, more your standard Laundromat. A few machines, a few driers, lots of buzzing fluorescent lights over head on the stucco’d ceiling. It’s clean though, even if three of the washers do not seem to work and one of the driers is also labeled with an “out of order” sticker that looks like it’s been there a while.

I notice that there’s a room in the back where the people who operate this place do their thing. They talk to each other in high-pitched voices in a language I don’t understand, away from my view and my curiosity.

There are two women here. One is studying something and she occasionally looks up and studies what I’m doing as I’m load the three machines up with white, darks, colors and my sense of cleanliness.

Once I get the machines going I find a spot to sit down near the door. There’s not really any view to the outside except for a small window to my right. There’s no people watching from here. I could go sit outside, but it’s a little darker out there and it’s going to be cold out tonight.

I watch my clothes roll around and watch as the other woman fills the driers up. I’m curious if I will have a drier when it’s my turn.

A door I hadn’t noticed open up and a woman comes out. She’s covered from head to foot in black fabric and she looks like she stepped out of the evening news. Iranian? Iraqi? Or just Muslim? A little girl, whose features are more clearly African appears behind her dragging bags of folded laundry. The fabric covering her head is edged with a delicate lace and she wears jeans and Addidas sneakers underneath the rest of her more traditional clothes. I don’t know the name of the dress like piece she’s wearing, but it’s turquoise colored with beautiful pink embroidery on it.

Outside a car horn beeps and she leaps up and begins to hand the bags out to some one I can’t see, telling him they’re heavy. He comes in a minute later. Tall, also covered in black except for the coffee colored corduroys and work boots. He looks me in the eye and says hello and I smile and nod at him. In a flash, all three of them are gone.

Driers begin to beep and the woman who had been filling them up comes and begins to selectively remove items from them. She tosses another quarter in one and condenses her stuff thankfully.

A man I recognize from somewhere comes in and walks up to one of the driers and shoves it’s contents into a leather bag. He walks out, giving the two women unloading the driers a nervous look. One begins folding, tentatively, after placing her purse to one side. The other one continues pumping quarters into machines.

Another woman comes in. Blonde, stingy hair and some heft to her hips. She buys soap and then walks in front of the top loading machines and then just stands there, scratching her head.

I look up and notice that the Quarter Pumping woman has Aborigine features. She looks nervous about whether or not her clothes are secure.

Blonde and stringy woman begins unloading clothes and tossing them into driers as the other woman begins finally freeing up the others. Just in time, as my whites are done.

I manage to get three washing machines worth of clothes into two driers, being careful of course to read the directions on the machine and check for small children and pets before loading and starting this device. I set the first machine for 47 minutes. The second machine’s time monitor seems to be broken, and I loose count how many quarters I’ve pumped into to it, so I put another one in, just to be sure.

I plop back down on the bench, turn on my iPod and let Carol King tell me how much of Natural Woman she is. The women here keep folding and I get to see aspects of their lives. Their choice in towels and colors and sheets and their condition tells me more about them than if I had walked up to them and asked them. As they fold their belongings and stuff them into bags or a rolling cart, they’re maintaining something about themselves. Their coral colored towels that don’t quite match their lime green sheets show the efforts of a student making those first adult choices. Or maybe Mom just wanted to get rid of the old linens and passed them onto her daughter when she left home. Does she miss her mother?

Or better yet, do my towels (which are barely being held together by a force of nature yet to be discovered by science) expose me as someone who misses his mother?

The Aborigine woman pushes her cart of clothes out the door, peering at me out of the corner of her eye as she goes. The other woman is matching socks and dropping them into a Leprechaun green mesh bag and the rest onto a large backpack. I notice her bottle of detergent, with its green label and the word ORAGNIC splayed across it. I catch sight of a man’s jockey shorts. Boyfriend? Husband? Roommate? Or maybe she’s just got weird tastes in under garments. Doesn’t matter. Her towels are in better condition than mine. She finishes packing up her possessions, does a last scan around the room, before she leaves me alone in the laundromat.

I catch a whiff of a cigarette from outside and for a minute wish I still smoked. Barry Manilow comes on the iPod and somehow makes the fluorescent lights seem a little more painfully bright. The song comes to an end and in the lull between the next one the sound of the driers creeps in. Johnny Cash comes on. I look around the room, feeling more alone than I need to.

I think briefly about what is going to happen in NY this weekend and decide I can’t deal with that now. I’ll just have to deal with it then.

A few minutes later a different woman comes in and I begin to wonder why so many women come here. She does the washer drier swap, pulling quarters from a Ziploc bag. Her quarters seem to require a second push after inserting. For some reason this just leads me into no clear thoughts as I stare off into space watching the clothes in the drier reflected in the window.

This time a man comes in, clothes bag in one hand, motorcycle helmet in the other. He sorts his clothes into different machines. He wears boxers apparently. As he bends over the machines, he keeps pushing his glasses up on his face. He finishes sorting, eventually throwing the laundry bag in with his whites, dropping his quarters in. He checks his pockets, as if looking for something and then leaves.

As, he does, another woman walks in, bumps into him and they share an embarrassed laugh before going their separate ways. She gets quarters from the machine, the sounds of the falling coins breaking through the Simply Red remix on my iPod.

Motorcycle helmet guy comes back and heads to the change machine. I notice he’s limping. He drops one more quarter in the machine he had left a few minutes ago and then leaves again.

I know my roommate does his laundry here. He shuttles back and forth between loads. Something in me just isn’t comfortable leaving my clothes unattended like that. If it means sitting her alone, I suppose I can deal with that. Yet I wonder if I could run down to the burger place and grab dinner. I don’t see any signs that say no food. Just lots that say “Please do not sit on top of the washers”. I wonder how many women have been caught sitting on them during the spin cycle.

Blonde and stringy woman comes back with a man. As the walk past me, I catch a whiff of alcholol on them. I notice their skin is flushed. They remove the clothes from the drier and stuff them back in their bags with out folding them.

I get up and check my driers. The one timer I can read says twelve minutes. I can wait. Besides, tomorrow, I’ve got a long trip. Waiting a few minutes for my laundry is small compared to what I’ve got ahead of me this weekend.

A man sticks his head in the door and asks me what time its. I tell him and realize that in 24 hours I’ll be circling over New York, coming in for a landing, returning sooner than I expected, for reasons I never considered. I may not be mentally prepared, but t least I’ll have clean clothes when I get there.

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.