laundromatHere I am in the 21st Century. And I have no washer or dryer. Would the JETSONS be in this situation? I suppose if I had a nice cushy job at Spacely Sprockets I’d be able to afford a damn washer and dryer. And a house. And a bunch of stuff that hovers. My immediate $$$ situation (i.e. Sprocketless and hoverless) seems bleak.


So I have to schlep my dirty laundry to a heavily-flouresced laundromat (a mile or two away from where there is an empty space adjacent to my back door which is exactly the size of a stackable washer/dryer unit). I hate doing laundry. I always go as late as I can, hoping I’ll avoid the largest number of annoying people. But tonight I got the Grand Trifecta:


  • noisy children running around WELL AFTER they should have been strapped into beds in a sound-proofed bungalow in someone else’s neighborhood
  • a chicklet in an oh-so-this-minute fashionably slouchy hat, chattering away on a damn cell phone
  • AND a gum-snapper


As a bonus, there was an elderly woman standing in front of a dryer, watching her stuff go around. Then around again. Then around again. She stood there with her arms crossed in front of her, purse hanging from her shoulder, whistling. Not even a tune. Just a tuneless whistling (c.f. Rock Hudson, I Love Lucy, circa 1955). I’ve seen a lot of old MEN do this — but never a woman. (Just like I’ve never seen a woman spit in the street.) So that was kind of a treat, I guess. There was also a guy who looked like the Homeless Everyman. He had a kid’s shiny new BMX bike kick-standed outside, waiting for him like a trusty steed tethered to a hitching post. I’m guessing he probably doesn’t have a receipt or a manufacturer’s extended warranty for said steed. But in a city like this, even the homeless will not deign to be mere pedestrians.


So. Laundry. Laundered. Folded. Done. I escaped and drove home smiling, the re-mastered All Things Must Pass album blasting in my car, happy to be listening to “Apple Scruffs” — the happiest George Harrison song ever.




I’m almost finished with Strange Peaches, the novel by Edwin “Bud” Shrake (frequent escort of former governor Ann Richards). It’s an interesting book, mostly as a sort of pop-culture snapshot of the hepcat lifestyle in Dallas in 1963. In the book, the main character has just witnessed the JFK assassination and has described the immediate aftermath. For someone of my generation who’s grown up here, sure, the assassination is a part of the city’s history, but it’s kind of like the skyline or the climate — it’s just there. It’s like being born with one leg shorter than the other: you’re so used to it that you never think of it until you’re reminded of it occasionally by someone ELSE. I came along too late for this event to have affected me personally — I know it only from the Zapruder film and newsreel footage and newspaper articles that sprout up every November 22nd. It might as well have been a Civil War battle. But then I see the ever-present tourists wandering around the old School Book Depository, pointing at Dealey Plaza and the Triple Underpass and the Grassy Knoll, discussing their theories, some even dabbing at tears, and that’s when I’m reminded how important this event was to the whole world once upon a time. It’s just kind of weird.


I have no emotional connection to the Kennedy assassination. At all. So it was very illuminating reading Shrake’s description of it, from the point of view of someone who lived here. Shrake was a newspaper reporter at the time, so I’m sure he’s written thousands and thousands of words about it. The panic, the fear, the disbelief, the paranoia, the shock and the hatred that swept this city that day seems unbelievable two generations removed. It was just absolute pandemonium. But now it seems like something that happened in a movie. Because that’s the only way I’ve experienced it. I DO remember growing up, hearing Dallas described as “the city of hate” and “the city that killed Kennedy.” I remember a teacher telling us that when she had travelled to other countries as a young woman she would never tell people what city she was from because she was afraid to.


Zapruder image


Then suddenly “J.R.” changed everything. Not only was he the only human being who wore a cowboy hat in downtown Dallas in the 1980s, he also, single-handedly, crammed a new stereotype into the popular consciousness and diverted attention away from that pesky assassination. Instead of being “the city of hate” we became “home of the Ewings.” I’m not sure which was worse, quite frankly. A stereotype is a stereotype is a stereotype. I guess it’s marginally better to be associated with cut-throat, back-stabbing, morally-bankrupt oil barons who live on a big ol’ ranch than with right-wing extremists and a sixth-floor sniper’s perch. But even J.R.’s iconic stature has faded. There is a whole generation of kids who have no idea who “J.R. Ewing” is. A couple of years ago I mentioned “Southfork” to a young co-worker who had just moved to town from Maine, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I don’t think Dallas really has an identity anymore. If someone were to write a novel based in this city NOW, what would they have to write about? We might as well be Toledo!


Time for something NEW.




J.R. Ewing

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