The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reverie in the Laverie

Tuesday night is Laundry Night here at the Fortress of Solitude, though unfortunately since moving from a 152-square-meter dee-luxe apartment (in the sky-hy) to a 25-square-meter converted gardener's shed, I no longer have the space or the connections (ha!) for a washing machine. A guy living alone doesn't generate all that much laundry, but enough that each week I take a load of either lights or darks down the hill to my nearest laundromat (J-P Laverie), wedged into a tiny space in a Renaissance-era building, in between an antiquarian bookseller and The Metal Cafe.

There are 5 washers here, 3 dryers, a detergent vending machine hung on a wall, a narrow table for folding, and that's it. A load of wash costs 3.50, which is kind of a lot, but that's not the worst of it: the 3.50 must be in the form of three 1-euro coins and one 50-centime piece [see green sign in photo]. There is no change machine. There is no attendant to make change. There is (usually) no one else around at all. There is only a corner bodega 3 blocks away, run by a hard-looking snag-toothed Arab who makes his living selling cheap wine and 9%-alcohol beer to the bums who hang out on the riverbank, and who does not give change unless you buy something. So next to the the jar where I dump my pocket change each day there is a neat stack of 1-euro and 50-centime pieces awaiting the next Tuesday. (Dryers also take only 50-centime pieces).

So each Tuesday, I stuff my laundry into one of the washers that are actually functioning (3 out of 5 ain't bad) and hop up on the table with a book to help pass the 40 minutes. There are no chairs. I lean my back against a wall covered in posters and flyers [photo]: Concerts, films, plays; flea markets; a lost dog ("flea-bitten, fearful"); and "Recherche Desperement Marine"--that's a girl's name, not an occupation--followed by a little squiggle that is either initials or a drawing, and a cell phone number. A clown for hire, named Freddy, 30 euros; unclear whether that's per hour or per appearance.

Into the dryer with my clothes. The proprietor stops by to be sure I have my last load in; it's nearly eight o'clock. She is a tiny old woman with a tiny quivering dog, and she totters back out as the dog pisses on the stoop (which is why I sit on the table and not the stoop). The insistent repetitive beat of Eurodisco comes from The Metal Cafe next door. Why don't they play metal at The Metal Cafe? On the wall behind me is a poster for a triple-bill rock show by an Iron Maiden tribute band, a Helloween tribute band (!) and a Thin Lizzy tribute band (!!!).

I load my sorta-dry clothes into the bag, cross Place de la Trinite and head up the hill toward home. [photo: the lower third of Montee du Gourgillon; note angle of street vs. angle of level windowsill at left] The moon is full and the narrow street echoes my slow footsteps (and by the time I reach the top, my heavy breathing). Inside the Clos Vendome, I pause to look out over the city from the esplanade that connects the gatehouse and old orchard to the Big House and inner garden. [photo: crummy composition on my part, lining up the steeple of Eglise St. Georges with the Credit Lyonnais tower behind it; Saone river and Quai Tilsitt in foreground; Place Bellecour lit up at center] It's good to pause and look around myself sometimes, remind myself where I am and what I'm doing. I don't do it enough.


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