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Queen of the Laundromat


This is a field note for sure and I need to get it down while the moment is still fresh.

Every Sunday night almost without exception I keep a date with the queen of the laundromat. The exception being when it is a holiday weekend and I go on Monday night. When this happens the queen invariably asks, "Where were you last night?" It used to be asked with a Korean accent. Now it's southern Black.

I don't need to visit the shop. I could easily afford both washer and dryer. I owe nobody nothing. Periodically I make a credit card purchase just to keep the accounts active. Still, and for 8 years, I've been trudging on down the street almost every Sunday.

Almost always I am the only white person in the laundromat, man or woman. Occassionally there is a latino or a latina, less frequently a young white of college student age. Following Katrina there were some displaced white folk for awhile. I remember them. They always looked embarrassed. Or maybe they looked like deer surprised by the oncoming headlamps. Either way they were uncomfortable. But I like the shop. And the residing queen is always good to me. By now I've made some friends. Men and women who don't first see white folk when I come in. Funny huh?

People watching in general, just like girl watching in particular, can be so much fun. But you got to be good at it. It is nothing less than an art form. You have to become the perfect observer. You have to take in everything without being observed. The child play, the frustrated mom, the lonely man, the quarrelling couple, the little boy so tired he is having a meltdown and his back is arched and he is crying hysterically, and, most poignant of all, the teenage girls and boys whose bodies are youthful and vibrant and whose bodies will soon become old, used, and hateful to them. That, speaking as an observer, is the real sadness when watching the underpriveleged. But then there is always the well dressed man coming in. Natty in the way Nat King Cole was natty. And the older woman still dressed in her church Sunday best enjoying every movement in her step.

Next door to the laundromat is Avo's. Avo is an Armenian-American. He has a small store. He sells liquor, soft drinks, chips, and he has a small take-out order kitchen. I've discovered he makes the best gyros in town. Most Sundays his gyro is my dinner, as it was tonight. Most Sundays he wants to talk the thick headed stuff. Once it involved an archeological dig that had persuaded him both civilization and Christianity had originated in Armenia. Tonight it involved God and Darwin. Truth be told I can never figure out Avo's perspective. Is God right? Is Darwin right? I still don't know what he thinks. And I decided it would do no good to tell Avo that Darwin was a Christian. Instead I walked out the door, watched a pair of nighthawks in the sky, and let him finish making my gyro. But then he walks out with my sandwich, asks me what I am looking at in the sky, then wants to know why God made bats blind. My answer suggesting the evolutionary trade off between sight and keener hearing falls flat on his ear.

Back inside the laundromat. Clothes are dryed. It was a small load tonight. Folding clothes. The man...was...huge. Said again. The man...was...huge. In tow was a boy-child not even three feet tall and with a voice so young it could have been a girl's voice. !@#$. I am not a small man. Size 12 shoes, 6 feet plus. Maybe I could use some ballast in belly and butt. But this man was huge. He wasn't fat. He was big. He was going about his business. Does that come through? The man was washing and drying clothes with his son looking to help.

It is clear the man is like me. He really wants to get the job done and get back home. His son doesn't yet get what his father gets, that the horizon is closer than it appears. But the boy's father, this huge man, never stops the child. He talks, he instructs, he leads the boy through how to operate the machines. All the while the little boy keeps close, keeps asking questions. And this huge man keeps working while keeping his son involved. Twice I saw him lift his boy, let the child drop quarters into the dryers.

Once the huge man and his son passed by close where I was folding my clothes. I asked, "God damn, man. Is he going to be as big as you?" He didn't miss a beat. He turned back and said: "I ain't hopin' it on him."

Check that answer out. Check out its prosody. Check out what it speaks to racial profiling.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Jul/12/2010, 6:49 pm
Jul/12/2010, 12:04 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Queen of the Laundromat


Another absorbing field note, Tere. I'm noticing how the narrator is a character, holding his own among the others without dominating. Of course, they're not intended to be stories in a formal sense, more like journal entries, but they do tell stories, very natural sounding stories.

Thanks,

Chris
Jul/12/2010, 9:16 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Queen of the Laundromat


I always look forward to your take on this stuff, Chris. I got the story down last night immediately after putting the laundry away and while the scenes were still immediate. It is a trick I long ago learned. With bones of the beast in hand I can now return to it, flesh the puppy out. And sure. The narrator is just another character among his characters. I hope he is as implicated as anyone else, which is the intention.

Field Notes proves to be the perfect medium for this penchant I have for the lyrical essay. The term is Camus's and I got the trick from him. Sure he was a novelist and a philosopher. But he was also a trained, professional journalist, a reporter. He turned this skill of his to the lyrical essay. I am not much into making fiction anymore. I am in to the story taking place all around me.

On a different note, I keep parsing those seven sound units of the big man's reply to my question. "I ain't hopin it on him." To my ear here is how it scans: - - ! . . - -. Any like measure in prosody is not coming to mind. I'll probably end up stealing it.

Tere
Jul/12/2010, 7:54 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Queen of the Laundromat


Terreson,
You are probably the finest prose writer on the two poetry sites I visit. As Christine90 said, they're not intended to be formally structured stories, yet they carry the weight better than most formally structured stories I've read. Well, the big print magazines don't print a lot of good prose like in the 20's thru the 50's so now it can be done for a smaller audience through the internet. More and more people go to movies, internet and video gaming. But there is a small crowd that still loves this sort of thing. Part of it is because of the lack of pretense. Part of it is because of the ability that is granted at birth, would be my guess. Zak

I was a little intrigued by the "racial profiling" -- but probably only because that word has taken on connotations that you probably didn't intend here. The piece is high caliber and untouched even by the good poetry of most people. This type of writing beats most good poetry, in my view.

quote:

Terreson wrote:

This is a field note for sure and I need to get it down while the moment is still fresh.

Every Sunday night almost without exception I keep a date with the queen of the laundromat. The exception being when it is a holiday weekend and I go on Monday night. When this happens the queen invariably asks, "Where were you last night?" It used to be asked with a Korean accent. Now it's southern Black.

I don't need to visit the shop. I could easily afford both washer and dryer. I owe nobody nothing. Periodically I make a credit card purchase just to keep the accounts active. Still, and for 8 years, I've been trudging on down the street almost every Sunday.

Almost always I am the only white person in the laundromat, man or woman. Occassionally there is a latino or a latina, less frequently a young white of college student age. Following Katrina there were some displaced white folk for awhile. I remember them. They always looked embarrassed. Or maybe they looked like deer surprised by the oncoming headlamps. Either way they were uncomfortable. But I like the shop. And the residing queen is always good to me. By now I've made some friends. Men and women who don't first see white folk when I come in. Funny huh?

People watching in general, just like girl watching in particular, can be so much fun. But you got to be good at it. It is nothing less than an art form. You have to become the perfect observer. You have to take in everything without being observed. The child play, the frustrated mom, the lonely man, the quarrelling couple, the little boy so tired he is having a meltdown and his back is arched and he is crying hysterically, and, most poignant of all, the teenage girls and boys whose bodies are youthful and vibrant and whose bodies will soon become old, used, and hateful to them. That, speaking as an observer, is the real sadness when watching the underpriveleged. But then there is always the well dressed man coming in. Natty in the way Nat King Cole was natty. And the older woman still dressed in her church Sunday best enjoying every movement in her step.

Next door to the laundromat is Avo's. Avo is an Armenian-American. He has a small store. He sells liquor, soft drinks, chips, and he has a small take-out order kitchen. I've discovered he makes the best gyros in town. Most Sundays his gyro is my dinner, as it was tonight. Most Sundays he wants to talk the thick headed stuff. Once it involved an archeological dig that had persuaded him both civilization and Christianity had originated in Armenia. Tonight it involved God and Darwin. Truth be told I can never figure out Avo's perspective. Is God right? Is Darwin right? I still don't know what he thinks. And I decided it would do no good to tell Avo that Darwin was a Christian. Instead I walked out the door, watched a pair of nighthawks in the sky, and let him finish making my gyro. But then he walks out with my sandwich, asks me what I am looking at in the sky, then wants to know why God made bats blind. My answer suggesting the evolutionary trade off between sight and keener hearing falls flat on his ear.

Back inside the laundromat. Clothes are dryed. It was a small load tonight. Folding clothes. The man...was...huge. Said again. The man...was...huge. In tow was a boy-child not even three feet tall and with a voice so young it could have been a girl's voice. !@#$. I am not a small man. Size 12 shoes, 6 feet plus. Maybe I could use some ballast in belly and butt. But this man was huge. He wasn't fat. He was big. He was going about his business. Does that come through? The man was washing and drying clothes with his son looking to help.

It is clear the man is like me. He really wants to get the job done and get back home. His son doesn't yet get what his father gets, that the horizon is closer than it appears. But the boy's father, this huge man, never stops the child. He talks, he instructs, he leads the boy through how to operate the machines. All the while the little boy keeps close, keeps asking questions. And this huge man keeps working while keeping his son involved. Twice I saw him lift his boy, let the child drop quarters into the dryers.

Once the huge man and his son passed by close where I was folding my clothes. I asked, "God damn, man. Is he going to be as big as you?" He didn't miss a beat. He turned back and said: "I ain't hopin' it on him."

Check that answer out. Check out its prosody. Check out what it speaks to racial profiling.

Tere



Aug/1/2010, 10:50 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Queen of the Laundromat


Thanks, Zak. That is quite the compliment. Deserved or not I do know that story telling is instinctive for me. Only after the words are down do I let myself think about them, their placement, weight, selection, and so forth. And too I am an inveterate story teller. So is a brother who is a professional historian. He said something once that struck me. He said that all history is nothing more than a matter of good or bad story telling. It seems to me that that is true of all writing, ne's pas? Even science writing, which is something I've been thinking a lot about lately. Anyway, they tease me at work. Hell, I can be putting in a fence post and a story will come to mind.

What you say about lit's smaller but determined audience makes sense. It's true. A certain kind of literacy is on the decline, at least viewed comparitively. But I figure the audience, people like you, me, and everyone else here, will always be around. Besides, when you think about it this same kind of literacy has always been the exception anyway.

About the racial profiling mention. I just reread the note. It does stick out awkwardly. I was running down the night I wrote the note. If and when I return to it I would highlight what struck me the most by the scene. There was that giant of a man with a little child in tow. The gentleness of how he handled his son was beautiful. The boy's love for his father was nothing less than enveloping, big enough to wrap around the whole man. But where I live the smallest sight of the black man would put animal wariness in a white cop's heart on a Saturday night in any neighborhood. And that is how I registered his response to my comment. That is what I would highlight. Thanks again, man.

Tere
Aug/1/2010, 1:24 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
vkp Profile
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Re: Queen of the Laundromat


It's beautiful. It captures the moment perfectly. The Armenian gyro maker is a hoot, but you are right. Big daddy is just a lovely man with a way with words.
Feb/22/2012, 2:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to vkp   Send PM to vkp Blog
 


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