Laundromat Diaries Part Three


Ten saga-long years later, a mere decade passed like water down a mining slews-box. I had had to put my dog Chops down due to his getting brain cancer from lawn treatment chemicals. I moved many times in those years. I eventually slowed to a pause in a western, shoe-box sized suburb of Chicago, hold up in a two bedroom ranch apartment sans a laundry facility. This suburb was adjacent to an older, slightly more affluent one, but there wasn’t any discernible difference from the curb. My apartment was sixty feet from a raised commuter train track and I was going through an on-again, off-again relationship, which at the time was definitely off. At this juncture in my life, I had decided on being a musician for my career. Glamorous and carefree as that may sound, I found I still had to chauffeur my laundry in my old duffle, now accompanied by a plastic basket to a laundromat.

The nearest traffic-abused laundromat was embedded in a small strip mall, sandwiched between a Chinese restaurant and a Korean dry cleaners. I sometimes pondered if there was any irony in this arrangement. I had long since stopped taking my shirts to be dry cleaned due to budgetary sanctions and only commissioned the dry cleaners to do my tuxedo and tux shirts. The dry cleaners was a family run business, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews etc. I was usually greeted and helped by the same comely -past prime marrying age- Korean woman at the customer counter up front. I think she was interested in me by how expediently she would retrieve my dry cleaning and blush a modest smile when I’d talk to her- but neither of us knew how to broach the subject of going on a date. I wasn’t sure she spoke much English and I sure as heck couldn’t handle my own language, let alone Korean.

On the other side of the laundromat was the Chinese restaurant. A little ten table establishment fit snug into a stunted L shape corner of the strip mall. The owner, a hot and spicy single Chinese woman just touching forty, was very out going and industrious. She openly complained about her cooks and would regularly bring out free samples for me and my occasional dates to try out. I designated Tuesdays as official Chinese food day, whether I dined in or took out. I liked the little restaurant and I think the owner liked me, although I doubted I could ever be industrious enough for her. Just smiling seemed to be communication enough.

Old habits never die they say and I continued my habit of tackling crossword puzzles when doing my laundry. In addition, I now took along a thick novel to try and slog through amid the rotary din of rattling old washers and dryers. Focused reading was a challenge in that environment. At this point, I was in my mid thirties. I already noticed a fading of my mental acuity. The flushed decade of singles bars, trysts and one night stands accompanied by generous amounts of alcohol had in theory deteriorate my physical and mental capacities. Doing laundry was no longer a test of my patience, but had evolved into a welcomed period of respite.

On this particular laundromat visit, I had a huge load, my duffle and basket were full of dirty garments. I packed them into the hatchback of my “poor man’s” sports car, and drove around to the front of my apartment complex- an alley drive. The last rows of ranch apartments lay perpendicular to the railroad crossing. This meant that every time a commuter train passed not only would those renters be treated to the sound and fury of the passing train, but also the prelude and finale of the crossing gate bell and lights. I always assumed the feckless landlords rented those apartments to the deaf. I then turned left and headed four blocks south and took advantage of a seldom green light, to pull straight into the strip mall parking lot.

Thursday was a slow day in the laundromat. Only two other people were there, an old woman washing workman’s clothes and a late thirty-something woman with below shoulder length streaked hair. I went to the back of the laundromat and dug up a couple of available washers. After dumping my clothes into the machines and shoving my quarters into the money breach, I settled down to work a crossword using a ballpoint pen. I occasionally looked up to watch the two vastly different women do their laundry.
The older woman seemed to be doing her husbands clothes, rough overalls and coarse blue cotton shirts. She had four machines going as she vigorously, rammed as many overalls as she could into each machine. When the cycles were over, she unceremoniously clumped each washer load into rolling carts and pushed her mans laundry over to the bulk driers where she again gruffly handled the work denim, as if her husband might still be in them. Her time spent here couldn’t be mistaken for anything else but a chore.

By contrast the younger woman was only doing her own laundry. Her machine loads mostly consisted of slim pants, designer jeans and some skimpy knit tops along with some sweat pants and Heavy Metal T-shirts. She also attended a separate load of undies and lingerie. She appeared unhurried and examined each article of clothing before depositing them into the machines. While waiting, she finger combed her long streaked hair from her face and looked out the front windows bored. I got tired of scribbling the wrong letters for answers in my crossword and took up my book instead. I tried to read, picking up where I left off again and again, but the urge to watch these two women had me frequently peeking over the top of my book.

The old woman sat slouched while waiting, her head held wearily in her wrinkled hand, her puffy eyes closed, praying for sleep. The younger woman chose to stand, one leg cocked on toe behind the other, her elbows resting on a high table for folding clothes. The whole placed smelled of singed cotton and fabric softener. When their loads were finished drying, the old woman quickly folded, almost rolled her husbands laundry up into crumpled wads and stacked them in her huge basket, then lugged them out to a rusting Ford Ltd. The younger woman took her time folding each and every piece of her laundry, especially holding up her bras to the window light as she cupped them together. It seemed she might have been doing that for my benefit. At any rate, I had to wait for her to finish her drying because half the driers were not in service.

I loaded my laundry into the last dryer she had just vacated and again sat back down to read my book. But I kept looking up at the young woman, trying to figure out why she was taking so long to fold her laundry. We never made eye contact, but I was almost sure she wanted me to make a move. It was my policy, prudent or not, never to start up small talk with women at the laundromat. She soon finished and left the laundromat, loading her laundry into the trunk of her ‘86 Camaro. I watched her leave, her car burning oil as it left the parking lot. I was alone to finish my own laundry. Presently, the dryer buzzer sounded and I left my seat like a aging boxer leaves his corner.

As I removed my last dryer full of laundry and separated it into my basket and duffle, I found something unexpected. A silk, maroon colored pantie with black lace trim. Here was something I hadn’t expected nor ever experienced. Did the young woman leave it in the dryer on purpose for me to find mixed in with my own clothes? Was it a ‘come-on’ signal? The overhead florescent lighting flickered and blinked. I absently twirled the panties between my two index fingers as I pondered the meaning of my find. These weren’t a generic pair of undies one would casually leave and forget, they were in a word, sexy. I felt a little titillated with the possibilities. I took my time folding some of my laundry, expecting the woman to return and ask about her missing undies. She never returned. Did she leave the trophy behind to tease me or taunt me for not having hit on her with at least one pick-up line? I’d never know.

As I left the premises and loaded my laundry into my hatchback, I gave her panties one last stretch and twirl with my fingers and then hung them on the radio antenna of the car parked next to mine, kind of a capture the flag gesture. For as long as I lived at that address and frequented that laundromat, I never ran into anything like that again. And I chalked-up the maroon and black lace panty escapade to the ‘draw’ column.


The Sky Is Melting


“The sky is melting, the sky is melting…” As told by a little chicken once upon a time. He was only looking for closure to his Gestalt Happy Meal. Just a little fryer looking for the real world, trying to be a mind in his own legend. Maybe that wee fowl discovered the bandwagon wasn’t singing “Happy Days are Here Again” anymore. Maybe he finally realized lemmings are just stupid, furry little rodents that eat their own feces.

“The sky is melting, the sky is melting…“ Would you like a nice Biscotti to go along with that hobo-shoe coffee while you’re waiting? Sorry, the trendy local coffee house is closed. No more wireless cloud network, so sad, too bad. Maybe you can find a wire-frame, fur covered surrogate mommy hen to kiss it and make it all better.

“The sky is melting, the sky is melting…” Chicken Little’s agitated barnyard cries and frantic running around would make more sense if his head was lopped off. The beat poets’ had it right, life’s all groove and
no vinyl, it’s all skin and no bones, it’s living jazz that doesn’t let you resolve back into the same life ruts and routines that chained and suffocated you in the first place.

“The sky is melting, the sky is melting…” Yeah, in trickles of back-stories, scribbled and dribbled on huge Pollock canvases, then scrutinized for DNA viruses. The clip-on-tie lie all for grandma’s apple pie. A deadened sight on a memory. How do you go about compartmentalizing a Kraken? China Syndrome hunks, puddling in humanity’s radioactive abyss. Everything comes to rest, collects in the crevices and gutters like so much ticker-tape confetti.

“The sky is melting, the sky is melting…“ You know what? Any  hold-outs were minimized to such an extent that they just gave up trying to communicate their last shreds of sanity. Up became down and these misfits couldn’t re-orient themselves anthropologically upright. They were too tired, too depressed, too medicated, and trans-humanly degraded. Must’a been somthin’ in the water, but who cares, whatever. Yeah, wtf, right?

If I were you, I’d Just go on vacation
Consume umbrella-drink libation
an’ dream ‘bout spiritual revelation.

Come on, gimme some skin
by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin
Just don’t lose your dopamine grin

Time to circle the wagons
drain and stack mead flagons
you’ve slain the very last dragon.

There’s a new Renaissance a comin’ called the Apocalypse… be there or be square little chicken.

Spies Stare

Spys Stare Stan pic

Is that guy staring at me?
I can’t let him see me staring back. Why would he be staring at me? This could be dangerous.
Two men in a park, one sitting on a bench under an elm tree, the other across a pavilion sitting at a small chess table. One wears a grey Burberry trench-coat the other a button up cardigan.

If I start staring at him he’ll be sorry. but that’s not my concern. He’s not my assignment. Yet I can’t help wondering why he’s staring at me. Could I be his assignment? HQ should have alerted me of any personal assassination attempts.

One man gets up and walks casually along the park’s walkway, keeping parallel with the other man sitting at the table. The walking man pulls thick, black-rimmed glasses from a pocket underneath his cardigan.

I’ll move to the bridge and see if he follows me. The technique doesn’t work on a moving subject. If he follows to get a better advantage, I’ll know something is up.

The other man leaves the table donning a dark gray fedora and walks away, towards the city streets. Confrontation averted.

Later in the afternoon outside a midtown bistro, a carafe of hot coffee is brought to a man wearing a cardigan. Inside the bistro is another man reading a paper at a window booth, a dark fedora lays on the seat. One man notices the other one looking at him.

That was a look. There, another one. He’s gaging the distance and angle. I’ll have to protect my peripheral vision from here. He has window glare advantage that’ll shielding my counter gaze.

The indoor man turns his paper over and reads the back. The outdoor man drinks his coffee. Many people pass by. A waitress brings the inside man his check.

He has a diversion. He can attack at any moment. I’m at a disadvantage with the window between us, I’ll have to move, pay my bill and relocate. This guy is very good.

The evening rush hour begins. Commuters head home. One man sits in the subway car, looking across at an advertisement and adjusts his dark rimmed glasses. Another man enters the back of the car and holds a strap, his Burberry collar turned up. The train lurches forward. One man notices the other.

He’s trying to stare at me. It would be self-defense. Without an assignment, I have no legal ground for an offensive strike. It would be unauthorized. I’ll have to protect myself with defensive glances until I can glare at him dead in the eyes without question of intent.

The subway car careens around the underground skyscraper foundations. The interior of the car is lit only by dim ceiling lights and reflectors around the doors. Most people are closing their eyes and half dozing.

Now would be a good time for him to make his move. I’ll stand and force his hand.

The train lurches and a woman with packages falls against the man standing holding the strap. They tumble against people seated. The seated man rises and holds onto a pole, taking a deliberate stance to look directly at the second man.

Damn! So many people jostling around, his focus is broken. I have a chance to catch him unaware. I just need three seconds of lock and he’s toast. He might not notice if I switch sides, I’ll have a definite advantage once he takes his original position.

The train pulls into it’s first stop, the doors slide open. Everyone in the car shifts positions and either leave the car, or take emptying seats for the next stop. The second man, fedora low over his eyes, leaves. The night wears on and people busy themselves with the routine of their private lives.

A man is walking his dog before bedtime. They pass under city street-lamps twice a block. Other’s are out grabbing take-out dinners, renting movies and strolling with loved ones. Another man leans against a lamppost and smokes a cigarette, his eyes shadowed by the brim of a dark fedora.

The man with the dog nears the man under the street light. There’s a brief but arrestingly cough and the man with the dog looks up, straight into the eyes of the man with the fedora. At the same instant, a butane cigarette lighter flicks into flame as he lights a cigarette revealing the intensity of his slate-gray eyes.

The two men lock stares and wrestle in a cerebral game of death. It only lasts seconds. A dog barks, then whines. The light of the street lamp reveals a fallen body in a cardigan sweater, a pair of dark-rimmed glasses lay near by. There is nothing else to be seen here.

Night Train


Glass microscope-slide windows on a bush-rail night-train smeared firefly-glow cave paint against tunnel walls. Mine-shaft drilled wormholes ventilated windy canyons.  A beautiful young blonde stared out her private compartment window into an ocean-dark night.  Overhead lights scraped Yellow-tinged reflections against the window. Her thoughts melted into a hypnotic daydream. Her innocence had escaped a heartless city that was now being devoured by a phantom fog. Catching her reflection, she brushed aside a loose strand of hair, not noticing the train being chased.

Insect-winged flight cages -a failed military design- swarmed behind, tracing a holding pattern above the rail-slithering diesel burner. Twisting demons rush with storm cloud force, exerting mindless, heart-crushing weight upon individual carriages. Sitting in other railcar compartments, wax museum figures -some deformed by flame- peered into fire-lit water basins. The young blonde unpacked her suitcase for sleeping attire.

Further ahead, pedestrians piled on top of each other as gravity upended the train depot platform, folding it over onto itself, over and over again. Departures were canceled. Detached faces from the train’s passenger windows witnessed bared-knuckle conversations as the widower engineer screamed the diesel non-stop past the depot, washing it in oily exhaust.

There would be no more climbing ladders for the single librarian. She wouldn’t have to arch her back reaching for an out of print volume of the Kama Sutra while scuffed ladder rungs looked up her skirt. She now climbed the bunk ladder for sleep. Marionette strings attached to fondling Incubus fingertips danced along her taught thighs. Her satin panties meant for someone else, the winner of a race after a prosthetic rabbit on a rail. Her seduction had become tiresome, self manipulative.

Rocky heights, steep canyons, jagged edges. Steep falls. The night train whistle blew. Undressed for sleep, the blonde pulled the curtain sealing her in an oblivious charnel house. She no longer had a destination to arrive at.

Summer Magic

There’s a magic time that announces summer has arrived. It’s not the warmer weather or the ending of another school year. It’s not embarking upon of a long awaited vacation or even the ding-a-ling of a neighborhood ice cream truck.

Summer arrives at a special moment when the sun begins to lower in the sky, the night starts to seep in and the air is humid and warm as breath. At this very moment, heady scents on the evening breeze meld together in a brew of ambrosia. Like an organic pheromone tantalizing your imagination that laid dormant the rest of the year.

This scent, this aromatic vapor invades the body like a succubus, seducing mundane thoughts into anticipated adventure and conjured fantasy. This scent plays and blends with temperate fertile earth and stirs together with sweet blooming flowers, herbs and hidden honey combs.

It’s a sensation that hints you might have stayed dormant too long and spurs in your stomach a butterfly tingle of curiosity. Your anticipation is heightened by a cool trickle of sweat on your neck as the first summer scent wafts under your nose and introduces the magic of summer.