Doing Laundry on Rinpoche's Birthday

I feel like Rene Zellweger.

O.K., so I went out again with my dirty clothes on my back, after having Googled laundromats in Berlin, and ended up in an empty place in a younger, hipper part of town. In the laundromat, all the signage about detergent and money and machines was in German, except one: Achtung! No change! On top of that, this was a laundromat out of “Bladerunner,” and there was this large Fifties-style computer with many buttons and lights and numbers, and it seemed to run the show. You put the money in it, I figured out, and then you punched in the number of the machine you’d already put your clothes in (the machines, large and orange, were numbered in a lovely blue. Do you already know about this?) It was much more complicated than that, though—believe me—and I didn’t have exact change. Fuck it, I wanted clean clothes. I started feeding the Dr. No computer Euros and it kept asking me for more.

The thing is that it’s so damn great knowing you’re fundamentally safe but having no idea what’s going on. That is, it’s a relief from living in the groove that’s worn pretty deep.

So, anyway, Rene. She was a newcomer to Hollywood when she auditioned for “Jerry McGuire.” I know this because I interviewed her about it before the film came out. It seems that the director, Cameron Crowe, liked her, and he set up an appointment for her to meet Tom Cruise at the studio (I can’t remember which—maybe Sony). Anyway, she was waiting tables for a living at the time, and, on the day that she was supposed to meet Cruise, she’d done her laundry. Unfortunately, she ran out of money before she’d had a chance to put her clothes in the dryer.

Later that day, when she got to the lot before her meeting, she parked her car and just sat there for a few moments, laughing out loud. How absurd was it, she said to me, that she was about to meet Tom Cruise, and she’d just had to hang her clothes all over her apartment, having run out of money?

Life is like that, I find, sometimes.

I didn’t run out of money, but I was so psyched about having worked that big computer and sat in the empty “Bladerunner” laundromat doing a little meditating in front of the big orange washers with lovely blue numbers, that I just couldn’t wait for the dryer. I wanted, instead, to rush home and hang my laundry on doorknobs and the back of chairs. I felt like I was about to meet Tom Cruise. No, much, much, much better: I was about to go out into the afternoon sunlight, dance around the bicycles on the sidewalk, buy a bag of milk and some bananas, and be among the Berliners, drinking beer and watching the game, and the kids, and the night.

Drunk and Dirty in Berlin

I take it as a compliment, that not one but two people stopped and asked me for directions in German this evening. The first one probably had to do with the fact that I was humping my laundry up the street, socks hanging out of my pack like a newly bought bouquet; the second with the fact that, having had the big glass of wine, I was weaving down the wide, cobblestone sidewalks with rosy Alpine cheeks. (By the way, what does “Einschtein, bitte” mean? And if the word schmuck means “penis,” then why is it on so many storefronts? )

Anyway. It was a crazy idea, shoving my laundry into my backpack and another plastic bag, and wandering the neighborhood looking for a laundromat. I’ve been around these blocks some, and I haven’t seen such a thing. At one point, though, I walked by a trio of hipsters talking on the sidewalk outside a store, and realized that they were leaning up against empty washing machines, all in a line outdoors. Through their legs I saw that the machines were Miele, and empty, and—a really good sign—their portholes were wet and steamy.

I lost my nerve. I couldn’t do it: “Excuse me, but are these washing machines, like, for, like, strange Americans?” One of them, a pretty, spikey-haired brunette in black, looked at me, and I ran up the street, my socks bouncing on my back. It’s good that Julia finally taught me how to wash my underwear out in the sink like a pro, or tomorrow I’d be using a wife-beater as a diaper.