Where Do You Do Your Laundry?

July 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

As I may have mentioned, I live in a six-story apartment  building (54 apartments I think) in the middle of Brooklyn, NYC. At a certain point, in an attempt to gentrify the neighborhood,  they started calling the neighborhood “Ditmas Park,” which was the name used by the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who lived here when Brooklyn was the suburbs of Manhattan. But really, we live in west Flatbush.

Our apartment is on the first floor, which means it can be  pretty dark. All kinds of plants have died here from lack of light. One advantage to being on the first floor, though, is that we can sit and watch the neighborhood walk by on its way to the street where the stores are, Cortelyou Road. It’s not everywhere that you can watch Hindu women  and saris, Muslim women and their daughters from Pakistan and Yemen veiled  head to foot (even their faces), couples talking Russian, families from across Latin America talking Spanish, Jewish families, mostly not wearing overblouses and yarmulkes (the Orthodox having moved farther out decades ago), very many Caribbean folks talking the Queen’s English (sort of), and old and young white gentrifiers yakking along with everybody else.

I really love living here. But I have to confess that sometimes it also makes me feel superior, to have transcended (as it were!) the kind of boundaries that diminish our supposed democracy. Until there’s a laundry crisis, that is.

Something has gone wrong with the laundry in our basement. My financial consultant has advised me not to tell you just what. But my usual bi-weekly trips down to the basement to jam the laundry into the washing machine, followed forty-five minutes later by another trip to transfer it to the dryer(s), followed an hour later by folding or hanging the clothes onto hangers and sliding them back into the closets, are in abeyance. When the baskets under the bed got stuffed beyond functioning, we had to think of something else.

The something else was a trip to the commercial laundromat six blocks away, at the corner of Cortelyou Rd. and E. 16th St. Compared to our basement laundry, the local laundromat is really something. Forty washers, more or less, some requiring eighteen quarters, some requiring eight. No spiffy money cards as at home. Forty dryers. Fifteen or twenty folks using them, almost all women. We were the only white folks in the place. Lots of different kinds of music playing pretty loud. Seriously hot and muggy.

Keith had helped me carry the laundry down to the laundromat–three big bags. The plan was that we would get the machines going, I would sit there while the clothes washed, and then call him to help me fold them and carry them home after they were dry. But I more or less became a nervous wreck as I was trying to get the machines going–poured the bleach into the wrong slot, put the laundry detergent in too soon, and was being driven nuts by the music. So I was the one who went home.

Eventually Keith called me on his cell and I returned the six blocks for the folding and carting part of the adventure. The woman on the folding table across from me had clearly been doing this for a long time; if one sock got over the dividing line, she would say “Is that your sock there? You wouldn’t want to lose track of it.” From which I took it I’d better be more careful with our socks. (Keith assured me that she had been every bit as tough with the Caribbean woman who had preceded me.) At a certain point I just threw all the unfolded and sometimes damp clothes back into the bags and dashed home to deal with them in our quiet bedroom. Some are a little wrinkled as a result, but oh, well.

Rumor has it that our laundry room in the basement will be accessible by the time the baskets under our bed are full once again. And if it’s not, there’s a Chinese laundry down on Newkirk that will pick up our clothes and wash and dry them and bring them back, even if that means I have to iron them all afterwards. I’m kind of proud of living in such a diverse neighborhood, but you don’t want to get too carried away with such things.

Muslim-Christian Dialogue on the B.Q E.

October 14, 2009 at 9:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From time to time I think back with pleasure to an experience I had last summer. My flight from Dallas to LaGuardia had been very much delayed and I decided to take a cab home to Ditmas Park. By the time we got onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the cab driver and I were deep in conversation. 

The cabbie, as it turned out, was a young Muslim who had recently emigrated to the United States. When I asked where he was from, he made me guess. The Middle East? Nope, he responded; Africa. But where? Algeria? I guessed. Close, he said: Morocco.

I complimented him on his English. Oh, it’s not nearly as good as my other languages, he replied. Arabic? I asked. Yes, he replied, but also French, Spanish and Berber.  Seems like with all those languages, I responded, you could do something besides drive a cab. Oh, but I like driving a cab, he said.

And did he like living in the United States? Yes, very much. Were people nice to him? Mostly. A few not, but nonetheless, he still likes it here. Some Americans do not  understand, he mused, that you cannot be a good Muslim and hate other people, or be a terrorist. The two things don’t go together.

And did he have a family? Yes, he replied, two girls. The name of the first girl has vanished from my memory, but the younger, the driver told me, was named Mariam, after Mary of Nazareth. Many Christians do not realize, he added, that there are more references to Mary of Nazareth in the Koran than in the Bible. I responded: my name is almost the same as your daughter’s: Marian.

When we got to Ditmas Park and I began to get out, the driver also got out and began to walk around to my side of the car. Oh, there’s no need to get out, I said; my suitcase isn’t very heavy. But he came around anyhow, and when he got to me, he gave me a hug. 

Things are not be going well in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran and even Iraq. But on the B.Q.E. that day, my new friend and I made a little progress.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.