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The Princess Is Dead

Laundromat’s Dryer Fire Leaves Urchin in a Lurch

History has a storied roll call of burning. Chicago in 1871. San Francisco in 1906. Los Angeles in 1991. And in 2003, tragedy befell team Rated Rookie when its home laundromat, the Princess, blew up and displaced the neighborhood’s crack whore.

The Princess Laundromat was located cattycorner to our headquarters, adjacent to a Jamaican bakery vending blobs of dough stuffed with animals. In the holy name of convenience, we patronized this establishment. We forewent laundromats that, although further away, nonetheless offered modern conveniences like running water and dryers that worked with quarters, not right hooks to the door. But Rated Rookie is lazy like you, and we washed our delicates in Third World squalor.

Upon entering the Princess, you would not be wrong to describe the atmosphere as “hell’s armpit.” In the narrow, rectangular room, only about 10 of the 20 washing machines functioned, as well as six of the 12 or so dryers. But just because an object “functions” in the electrified sense, you may not wanna use it. For example, the washers were crusted with three president’s worth of laundry detergent, as well as patriotic red and blue stains. The dryers? Oh, goodness. Their functionality was based on the quality of your punches. If you hit the door just hard enough, you’d create the ideal combination of door suction and heat dispersal. Any more, any less, and your clothes would come out as cold as Washington’s men at Valley Forge. Brrrr!!!

And to make these machines operate, well, let’s let someone else do the talking.

“Walking to the offices to get change, now that was so much fun,” said Megan R., Rated Rookie’s erstwhile lesbian neighbor. The Princess was change-machine free. Several women in the rear offices, though, gladly morphed crumpled dollars into quarters. Such transactions were typically painless, another shimmy in America’s capitalistic dance. But not always.

“My favorite was when the door was shut and they’d be inside smoking pot,” Megan R. said. “I’d knock and hear a cough and someone would say, all nervous-like, ‘What do you want?’ Then they’d open the door a crack and give me my change. A cloud of smoke would billow out and their eyes were so red.”

Now, Rated Rookie can hear the hamster wheel squeaking in your brain. Pothead laundresses? How could that not be the good shit? Well, the pothead laundresses were so stereotypically lazy they’d never kick out C.W., the crack whore.

Pixie-stick thin with closely cropped hair and boobs the size of #2 pencil erasers, C.W. made the Princess her daily kingdom. According to Megan F., another neighbor with half-lesbian tendencies, C.W. would walk between dryer and washing machines, constantly rearranging the laundry carts to create a uniform walkway. “When she was done she’d pick up all the trash on the ground, then stand by the washing machine and wait for someone to move a cart,” Megan F. said.

Adding to her (pardon the pun) laundry list of quirks, C.W. spent hours working her skull with an Afro pick. An acceptable act, yes, but not so much when nearly bald. C.W. was diligent, however, picking and picking and picking and picking, reaching for ’70s-era glory. Outside the occasional squabble with invisible hobgoblins, C.W. was benign.

Without the Princess, C.W. wanders Prospect Heights aimlessly. No laundromat has embraced her. Her hobgoblins are louder. She picks her hair less. But, on the bright side, her obsessive-compulsiveness has resulted in neighborhood beautification. C.W. skitters like a Chihuahua from Burger King wrapper to grocery flyer, scooping up trash and depositing it in a receptacle. Maybe crack has an upside.

But the Princess. And its demise. One spring day, the fire trucks roared down Classon and doused the smoking Princess with water and foam. Fire, be gone! The brownstone housing the Princess was saved, but it was ruined. The corrugated metal grate was pulled over the storefront and padlocked tight.
As for the reasons, I bring you to Jess, our lesbian librarian neighbor. Oblivious to the disaster, Jess brought her clothes to the Princess a few days after the fire. Two women from the Jamaican bakery stood outside. Megan F. recounted their interaction.

The women noticed Jess’ consternation, and helped her with the obvious. “The laundromat, it burned down,” one woman said.

“What caused the fire?” Jess asked.

“Was it the dryers?”

“Ya, it was the dryers,” the other woman said as the bakers sent peals of meat-scented laughter into the air. Then Jess walked away from the story about the Princess Laundromat, her dirty laundry searching for a new home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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