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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

 

The Belmont Laudromat o' Doom

If you've ever driven by it after dark, you know what I'm taking about. On SE Belmont, near Peacock Lane, there's a 24-hour Laundromat. After the sun goes down, shifty people hang around outside chain-smoking and...generally acting shifty.

So did I go there on a dare? Naw. I was out of socks and didn't want to waste a Sunday waiting for clothes to dry. Laundromats are almost a thing of the past in Portland and finding one open after hours is almost impossible.

So on cold, dark Saturday night I parked up the street and headed in with an overflowing hamper filled with all the stinky clothing I hauled back from Japan. The inside of the laundromat is much like the outside, beaten down and dirty. Ancient green machines pitching soap linger among surprisingly new washers. The tiles were covered in grime, the garbage can was overflowing and as I loaded my ironic Mexican wrestling t-shirts into a washer, a florescent bulb overhead buzzed on and off. It looked like the set of a gritty Levis commercial.

There were only four other people in the place, a pair of bicyclists waiting for their stuff to dry and a couple covered in flannel that looked like extras from Drugstore Cowboy. Her: off-duty cashier working at a bowling alley (?). Him: truck driver (?). While waiting, I noticed the back of the "24-hour" sign in the window. It's covered in graffiti and bizarre drawings of free-floating heads. Like everything else in the place, I was afraid to get too close.

15-minutes later, the bicyclists left and the couple started making out in the corner. Every once and while, the guy turned and glared, pissed that I wouldn't abandon my stuff so he could move on to second base. With my clothing locked in the machine, I had no other choice but to wait. I could have taken a walk over to Walgreen's but, when I came back, I would have had to awkwardly gather my clothing while ignoring all that flabby, pale flesh flopping around in the corner. There's no way they were going to leave but no way they were going to get it on with me sitting there. Instead of fleeing, I hid my head in the Living section of a three day old Oregonian.

Fortunately, they kept their clothing on. The second the machine stopped spinning, I threw my stuff in the hamper, stupidly not going over every last millimeter of cotton for wayward hypodermic needles. Sensing my quick departure, they started picking up the pace.

Will I be visiting Belmont's Laundromat o' Doom anytime soon? To do laundry, no. To score more pointless anecdotes or gawk at nauseating displays of public affection? No, no and, yup, more no.

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