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Brother Clark, Old Lady Hickey and the sweet by and by

November 20, 2009

It seems the only thing almost everyone hates to do is laundry - especially at the laundromat.

But not me. I like going to the laundromat.

And why's that? Well, I've got a bunch of reasons.

The first is the results. For a mere hour-and-a-half of my free time, a few bucks and almost no effort, I end up with a week's worth of clean clothes. It's something most of us take for granted, but if you think of the world before washers and dryers it should be considered a fabulous luxury.

But the laundromat does more than just get my clothes clean. Say I'm in there and no one else is? That's a perfect setting for both work and relaxation. With work, I can correct papers with no fear of distraction (after all, what else can I do, other than watch the action in the front loaders, like the nearsighted Mr. Magoo?). As for relaxation, I can read to my little black heart's content.

But if other people are also in there, it opens up a world of possibilities. If I don't know them, I get to work on my eavesdropping skills, which although quite advanced can always use improvement. After all, no one in My Home Town can ever be TOO good a busybody.

And if I know the people? Well, then I'm guaranteed of some sort of gab session or other. Last Sunday was an example of both people situations.


Rapid rap

When I first arrived, there were people there, but I didn't know them. No biggie. After I stashed my clothes in the washers, I set up watch at one of the tables.

To all the world (at least all the laundromat world) I appeared to be a scholarly type, bifocals perched on my fine Semitic nose, absorbed in Che Guevara's classic, "Guerilla Warfare," In reality, I wasn't reading at all. In fact, I've shlepped that book around for a couple of years and never got into it. I mean, what is it about those wild-eyed, iconic revolutionaries, who can galvanize the masses but can't write three interesting sentences?

Anyway, I wasn't reading but was zeroing in on the adjoining conversations. And "zeroing" is the perfect word, since I heard zero of interest.

And just when I thought I was going to force myself to read Guevara's opus, I was saved by none other than my pal Clark Cummings.

Clark and I go way back - like to last year. We kept bumping into each other in Nori's, started chatting, and found out we had some things in commonsort of. We were both in the Navy, though he made it a career and I made it an exception to my preferred lifestyle. We're also loyal Hammerheads (of the Adirondack Bean-to type), though he takes his to go and I can't go anywhere till I drink a bunch of it at home. We also both like read, but have different preferences in authors and subjects.

Anyway, several weeks ago I told Clark about the Elks Club's veteran's dinner - a must-go on my social calendar and asked him if he wanted to go. He said he was interested, but as it turned out, he couldn't make it, and our laundromat rendezvous was the first time I'd seen him since then.

"So how was the dinner?" he asked.

"Great," I said. "As always."

"Any highlights?"

"Well, the lasagna was delicious, and I got to see folks I hadn't seen since last year. Plus I went with my friends - Dave and Marilyn Riotto, Brother Hal Wilson and Johnny J the Silver Fox. And beyond that was the usual highlight."

"What's that?"

"With almost everyone else there being either WWII or Korean War vintage, I got to feel like a mere slip of a lad."

We chatted some more and suddenly he launched into Completely Cranked Cummings Conversation.

Lest you wonder, CCCC is an interaction like no other. What happens is you start talking about one subject, then jump into another, then another, then another, with no transition between any of them. The effect is like being in a completely foreign wilderness, with a compass but no map. So while you've know the direction you came from and the direction you're going, ultimately you've no idea where you are.

For example, at one point we were talking about teaching and coaching, then how the works of Tolstoy were vital to the careers of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and next how the only people who got the flu vaccine were paranoid conformists -- like me.


A plotz about plots

When my washer clanked to a halt, I had to tear myself away to tend to my domestic duties, and when I did, Clark split, leaving me once again alone. And once again I started painfully slogging my way through Che's prose when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and there was my neighbor, Old Lady Hickey.

"Hey, where've you been hiding?" she asked.

"Whattaya mean, hiding?" I asked.

"Well, I haven't seen you in a long time."

"Yeah, I've almost been working for a living," I said. "Besides, I think this year our schedules are completely different so we're never around at the same time."

She agreed.

It's an odd thing: OLH and I never visit each other, and rarely run into each other, but when we do, we always have fun chats. And since that hadn't happened in a while, we played catch-up.

First and foremost was news of our dogs. Then news of the neighborhood. And after that, there was a sudden Cummingsesque shift and the next thing we were talking about was our cemetery plots.

"So, do you have a plot?" she asked.

"Sure do," I said.

"Where is it?"

"At the Jewish cemetery in Pine Ridge," I said. "Luckily, my forward-looking brother copped the last three spaces for him, me and my sis-in-law."

"That's nice," she said.

"Yeah, it's surrounded by a wall and a bunch of trees, so it's almost always in the shade and slightly gloomy - a perfect final resting place for an Edgar Allan Poe fan like me.

"And how about you?" I asked.

"Yep," she said. "Got mine at St. Bernard's, toward the back, in the newest plot."

"Oh yeah," I said. "It's by that little pond there. Lovely little spot."

"It is," she said. "But there's one thing wrong with it."

"What's that?"

"Well, after I got the plot, some invasive shrub started growing in front of it, and now it's huge and getting bigger all the time."

"So what?" I asked.

"So," she said, "it's obscuring the view."

"Hey," I said, "that's the last thing you'll need to worry about."

She laughed.

"Besides," I added, "Where you're going, you'll have a perfect view of everything."



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