23 February 2008

Making A Clean Breast Of Things

I happen to own a lot of t-shirts. I've never attempted to count them all, and the fact that a number of them are identical or nearly so would make such an undertaking too complicated to be worth bothering with, but the net effect is that it's possible for me to put off doing laundry for a long time.

I'd rather not do that, since having clean laundry generally gives me a brighter outlook on life in general. And although I have many things I can wear, I only have a handful of things I genuinely enjoy wearing. So it would really make sense for me to do laundry every week or so and to throw out all the junk that I only wear because everything else is dirty.

But although I say I'd rather not put off doing laundry, some part of me must want to, because it happens time and again. And this latest stretch possibly may have been the longest yet, a month at least, I'm guessing. It's not as though it such a challenge dragging my stuff down to the laundromat, which is all of two blocks away and open 24 hours a day, though I suppose I could rationalize that I'm operating under a handicap, as the last two places I lived had a washer and dryer in the apartment. And it's not as though I can't spare a couple hours from my oh-so-busy schedule of procrastination, dithering, TV-watching and internet doodling.

Even still, from the time I started penciling in "laundry" on my daily "to-do" list (yes, I do keep such a list, if only for purposes of informing myself just how much I still haven't done), it was at least another week or ten days before I finally dragged myself and two giant bags down the block just as the skies were lowering and an after-midnight snowstorm was about to set in.

At least I had the place to myself, well, myself and the night janitor, who looked none too happy to see me sauntering in (on very slow nights, which last night was, he likes to lock the front door and pretend the place is closed so that no one will step on his freshly mopped floors and he can listen to his music as loudly as he likes). I managed to cram everything into three large machines (that whole separating whites and colors has never been a high priority with me, and no, that's not a racial comment) and settled down to read a couple chapters of Ian McEwan's Atonement (yes, I know it's also a movie, and no, I haven't seen it).

I'd never read anything by McEwan before; I was prejudiced against him for the often perfectly sound reason that he was inordinately popular with the Guardianista chatterati. But in this case my suspicions were completely unfounded. I originally decided to give him a chance because Lee Gomes, that Wall Street Journal reporter who interviewed me about Latin (you'll remember if you're longtime readers of this blog; if not, it's not important) recommended two books to me. The first was Eliot's Middlemarch, which turned out to be a ripsnorter, so I decided to give Atonement a chance as well.

And Mr. Gomes was right on the money again; it's an absolutely stunning book. I'm not quite finished with it yet, so please don't write in with any plot spoilers, but I find myself especially riveted by McEwan's powers of description. Much of the book is set on a country estate in deepest Surrey, and for some reason, it evoked powerful memories of my own years in the Mendocino wilderness, especially the sounds of warm summer nights, like the almost deafening clamor of the crickets, the sudden soughing breeze that sent fir branches swaying and bits of leaves and twigs clattering onto the roof.

My next reaction was near-despair at the seeming impossibility of ever honing my own descriptive abilities to anywhere near that level, followed by the usual fit of pouting to the effect of, "Why do I bother writing at all? I don't enjoy it all that much, there's no great demand for it, and with several kajillion other bloggers already jamming up the internet with thoughts and opinions that are at least as interesting and entertaining as my own, why wrack my brain and ruin my posture just to add to the glut?

I would have pursued this line of thought further, but by now my laundry was done and I walked out into a transformed world, whiter and cleaner than even my whitest and cleanest whites. The scattered flakes that had stung my face on my way to the laundromat had turned into massive glops and globules that seemed to hang on the near-motionless night air for a quiet eternity before plunging to earth and piling up on the cars, streets, and sidewalks at an alarming rate. My two bags of laundry, fresh from the dryer, were half-soaked again by the time I traveled the two blocks home. I put everything away, put clean sheets on my futon, and by the time I was finished, much of the night was gone.

The weather forecasters had predicted two to four inches, but by morning they had changed their tune. Now they were talking about seven to ten, which would have been the most snow I'd seen since my Mendocino days. I staggered to the window, having had not quite enough sleep as per usual, and discovered they weren't far off. I decided to give myself a snow day, not that I had planned anything more adventurous than a trip to the gym, and as soon as I got settled in, of course, the snow stopped, and by late afternoon had turned to rain.

At that point I caught a train over to the city, where it was raining harder and the mountains of freshly minted snow had dissolved into rivers of graying slush. Back home in Brooklyn there were still piles of white snow scattered along the edges of sidewalks and in between cars that hadn't been moved, but the magic had moved on. It's still the most snow we've had all winter, but like the other times, it barely lasted a day. Which is all right with me; we're closing in on the tail end of February, and I'm about ready for winter to be over.

1 comment:

Colin said...

Hey, I'll take some of those old t-shirts off your hands if you do't want them! :) -Colin