Saturday, June 16, 2007

eye candy friday -- 3rd st laundry

Hey. It's the Saturday Night Edition.

Gracie is a tough act to follow and I really wasn't inspired by anything else enough to call it eye candy.

Until now, that is.

With Laundromats, I have a hate/hate relationship with a deep fascination chaser. I never, ever want to go but once I'm there, something about these places intrigues me.

3rd Street Laundry is probably my all-time favorite. When I lived in Harlem, Steven and I favored this place on Lenox Avenue. It was the cleanest laundry in our neighborhood and it was across the street from a cafeteria-style restaurant that had a decent buffet. Some Sundays we'd do the wash and head over for a meal during the dry cycle.

The only hitch was that we'd have to be back at the laundry the minute our clothes stopped drying or risk getting cussed out -- by other patrons and the attendant. The place was small and often very crowded and if a patron was to try to use more than, say, two machines at a time all hell could break loose. Steven and I took to taking offerings to the attendant so she'd be on our side and let us slip in an extra wash if no one was packing heat.

Laundry in Harlem required cunning, to say the least.

But 3rd Street is a bright spot in my thousand bitter years of washing my drawers in public. It's never too crowded (although yesterday was my first time there on a Friday and I think that's the day somebody declared the Hipsters' Holiday 'cause all the cool kids were washing their dungarees). Not only are there paper towel dispensers but those dispensers are invariably filled with a roll of lovely, crisp brown paper towels. The sink works. The place is old but any out-of-order machines have signs and if they don't fall in line they're replaced with newer models. The coin machine runneth over. All the washers and dryers take its old-fashioned quarters, unlike the new wave of scam-o-mats that require patrons to purchase and fill plastic cards to stick in the machines. Cards that come with a no refund policy, so if you're dying of thirst and need a little silver so you can buy a soda, tough titty. These have become the order of the day in Harlem.

At 3rd Street, there's never an attendant monitoring how many machines I'm taking up. This is good, because lately I've always got something to felt or some fabric to wash, as in some crafty business occupying extra washers. I figure I make up for this with the fact that I'm not there nearly as often as I ought to be.

Who owns 3rd Street? Who's in charge of the place? I don't know. No one ever seems to be running anything. Times I've been there right before closing I've seen a couple of cleaning people, always older Mexican women, sometimes with a kid helping out, but I don't recall seeing the same woman twice. There's also a resident homeless guy. He washes clothes from a duffel bag and folds them with precision. While his things cycle, he combs his hair and puts on deodorant. He carries a radio and plays old-school R&B. He's there a lot. But I don't suppose he's the owner.

I am left to assume it's owned by the same people who own the connected dry cleaners, whoever they might be.

Once I was there late, at closing, and all alone I felt vulnerable. That night I wanted to know these owners, wanted them to show up, to stand near the doors and protect me. Other than that night, I like 3rd Street's anonymity. I like the feeling that I've got propriety over the machines and free reign over the paper towels (which is why the hipsters bugged me. Don't they know 3rd Street is mine?). I like that no one ever tells me differently.


6 comments:

Deborah said...

I'm afraid to admit that I enjoy the laundromat. My dryer died and I've been fighting with the company to get it fixed now for weeks. I really should buy another one, then that'll probably take weeks to get it delivered...

On day I did something revolutionary. I packed up all the laundry in my house and washed and dried them in one shot! Cost me $70! When I got home, for the first time evah, I had no dirty clothes in my house!

Ellen Bloom said...

excellent commentary on our local l-mat. In my younger, pre-home washer/dryer days, we used to have sip 'n suds parties there. We'd bring wine, cheese, crackers and have a party between the wash and dry. Ahhhh...the good ol' days....thanks for the memories.

Laurie Ann said...

This sounds like I have no life, but--nothing thrills me more than finding a good laundromat. I know the owner of my local fave, and he's super nice. He buys donuts or cold beverages for his patrons on the weekends and helps me carry my baskets to and from my car. It's always clean, has a sink and a bathroom that I'm actually not afraid to use.
I hate Lucy's because of those damn cards. I still have $2 on a card but refuse to go back there.

sahara said...

I once read in a survey, that the task women in the world hated most, was doing laundy. It didn't matter whether it was in a stream or using their own machine. I don't like the time it takes. That said, I'm fortunate to have top-loading machines in the basement of my building––what I call, "the crafter's washing machine."

Whatever happened to the eighties idea of the laundromat/entertainment venue, like the laundry/bowling alley in New Orleans?

sappmama said...

Deborah, goodness! $70 later you're still a good sport about it? Okay. I'll think of you and enter 3rd Street in a Zen state from now on.

Sahara, I figured if I had my own machines I wouldn't detest it so much, but I'd probably be right there with the rest of the women of the world. Laundry needs to be combined with SOMETHING fun!

woolanthropy said...

Your quilt top is bright spot amongst those machines of utilitarian drudgery. The chore stinks but the smell of clean laundry is comforting.