Monday, May 16, 2005

Robins, Rabbits & the Laundry Ladies

Dixie, the Airedale dog, and I have been talking walks along the Charles River. The Charles, where Harvard, MIT and other universities and colleges use it for their rowing teams and also on which people canoe and kayak, stretches from its origin in central Mass. to where it flows into the Boston Harbor. The Charles winds, serpentine-like, from west to east and is home to many types of fish and wildlife. Over the years it became, like many rivers in America, disgustingly foul. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a concerted and sustained effort to clean the river. Today, some people say it’s clean enough to swim in – but I don’t think so. Nonetheless, it is pleasant to walk along the bike/hike trail that runs along it in patches. There is a movement to create a continuous path, or promenade, that would run along the Charles all the way from somewhere west of Waltham in to Boston.

Dixie and I walk along a short piece of the river that runs through south Waltham. It’s a pleasant walk, quiet and peaceful. As we walk on the macadam path along the rivers’ edge we find many birds, including Robins, Towhees and a small group of double crested Cormorants. The Cormorants are cool to me because I’d never seen one before. They sit on big branches of sunken trees that stick up out of the water.

The other day I saw a rabbit and, a few feet in front of it, a Robin. They were both sitting quietly on the swath of grass in between the rivers’ edge and the path. As soon as we came along they of course scurried away. To digress just a little, on Saturday Dixie and I joined a small group of people on a hike in the Blue Hills Reservation. While walking along the trail we saw a Baltimore Oriole.

Dixie and I have also stood along the bank of the Charles river at the unofficial dog park in Newton. The park, formally called Norumbega, used to be an amusement park. It was in operation from 1854 – 1954. During those 100 years the park offered many amusement rides, including a ferris wheel, and other rides typical to amusement parks of that era. People could also take boats out onto the Charles river and paddle around. The park also housed the Totem Pole. The Totem Pole was a dance hall and, during its heyday, the biggest swing bands of the day played there. Frank Sinatra sang there. The Totem Pole was considered the top place to hear swing music in all of New England. Sadly, like most other amusement parks borne of that era, Norumbega Park fell into decline as people became more mobile, as the rise of the theme parks (Disneyland, Six Flags, etc.) took hold and as people found other places to go and spend their money. Today the grounds house a Marriott hotel and what used to be the trolley stop and the parking lot has today become the dog park.

Walking down to the Charles from my apartment takes about 5 minutes. Sometimes I walk Dixie down and along the river as part of her morning walk. We can make the trip a nice 30 – 40 minute circuit hike. On laundry day, which is either Saturday or Sunday mornings, I’ll put a load in one of the two apartment building’s washing machines and take her out. Just about the time we’re finished walking the wash is done. I don’t like to leave clothes in the washer for too long after the spin cycle finishes the load because the clothes get and stay wrinkled. Pulling the clothes out of the laundry machine right after the machine has stopped spinning was one of the tricks the laundry ladies taught me.

The laundry ladies, a group of women who did their laundry in a commercial Laundromat that I went to after breaking up with my (ex-) wife, taught me the fine art of laundering. They taught me to separate clothes not only according to whites and colors, but also according to texture. They took the time to explain to me about how I should never mix the lights and the heavies together. Jeans and other heavy cottons went together and dress shirts, underwear and socks went together. I’d already known about not mixing towels in with the rest of the clothes but I always listened to them, regardless.

They also taught me to put the clothes into the dryer just long enough for the heat to get out the wrinkles. They showed me how to hang a dress shirt on the hanger and, using my thumb and forefinger, to slide down the front of the shirt placket and smooth out that part. Then, I would button the top and second button of the shirt. Finally, after arranging the shirt neatly on the hanger, to grasp it by the shoulders and give it one good snap. Oftentimes, after my dress shirts dried I never had to even touch them up with an iron. The laundry ladies were that good teaching me about doing my laundry.

Now, however, I find that having to use six quarters to do a load, and often I have to do at least 2 loads per week, has made me become too miserly to want to use the dryer – which would also cost 6 quarters. So, instead, I use a drying rack for what fits and for the dress shirts, pants and t –shirts, I use hangers and hang them from the shower rod in the bathroom. This method doesn’t work nearly as well as what the laundry ladies taught me but I am saving a little bit of money. I now have to iron my pants and shirts; one trick I did learn though was to iron the clothes (not the t-shirts, underwear or socks) while still slightly damp. In this way the wrinkles come out much easier and the ironing takes much less time.

Jamey George used to call me fastidious and another person called me obsessive-compulsive. I figure that I just like to look neat and clean and, hey, if that’s what it takes to do so, then call me what you will. At least I don’t iron my underwear, t-shirts or my socks.

I just want to look good while I’m out there on the path watching rabbits and robins and reminiscing about times in my life when I’ve learned something useful. Thinking back on the laundry ladies, like others who’ve crossed my path and/or walked with me for however long on my path, I’ve learned something from each of them. I’d like to think that everyone I meet has something of value that I can learn from them. I just need to keep an open mind and pay attention to what’s going on around me.

Now, if I could only just learn to keep my mouth shut.


Blogger Silver Streak said...

Hey, Frank, if the clothes get totally dry by mistake, sprinkle them lightly with water and leave them overnight in a plastic bg in the refrigerator. They should be evenly damp when you take them out for ironing.
Your new laundry lady.

11:03 PM  
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