b Papa Dog's Blog: Bachelor Laundry

Papa Dog's Blog

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bachelor Laundry

Out of our kitchen window I’m able to see an alternate universe version of my life. Specifically, I see neighbour Mike’s laundry strung sad and lonely on a line in his back yard. It’s always shirts, for some reason. When he first moved in last year, it was a neat line of thematically consistent t-shirts. I think he had a few Hawaiian things out for a while. Lately there’s been a row of striped button-down Gap shirts identical except for the colour of the stripes. “He’s the sort of guy,” Mama Dog observed, “who finds something that works for him, and then sticks with it.” Or stocks up on it, at least. It’s the laundry line of a bachelor, clearly. It’s laundry that stays out sometimes days at a time because he forgets it’s there. Does he bring it in before it rains? I guess so. But maybe sometimes he forgets. There but for the grace of Mama Dog go I.

We don’t know neighbour Mike very well. Or at all, really. He’s older than us, we know that – divorced, with children somewhere, maybe grown. He seems very much by himself. The house where he lives had been previously tenanted by some students from Japan, who mysteriously disappeared last summer. We noticed the change when we realised that Yoshi’s cigarette smoke had stopped coming in our kitchen window and that the line of t-shirts had appeared. We found out later that Mike had bought the place, and that it was an owner move-in situation. It made me kind of sad; other than the cigarette smoke, they’d been good neighbours. As it turned out, we have no complaints against neighbour Mike either, and in fact he was very helpful during Mama Dog’s birthday bash, loaning us some extra chairs and staying a while at the party. He seemed a nice enough bloke. His initial appearance in the neighbourhood was strange, though. A bunch of file boxes heralded his arrival. The room facing our kitchen, which had stood empty for some weeks, began to accrue stacks of boxes, a few more every day. We thought at first the old owner had kicked Yoshi and the girls out just to use the place for file storage. “I think I get it,” I said, as the boxes started to brick over the window, “he’s putting these up instead of curtains.”

It made me think of the days when instead of furniture, I had boxes and boxes of comics books, the leftover inventory from my failed publishing empire. Three boxes stacked on top of each other were an end table. Two were a bed-side table. Ten arranged carefully could make a chair, but the back had to be against the wall or the whole thing would collapse when you leaned back. I felt I knew very well neighbour Mike’s file boxes and t-shirts and his Eleanor Rigby laundry cycle.

I thought also of another poor sad bachelor I once knew – let’s call him Horatio – who would buy new clothes or new shoes and then leave them in his closet untouched and still in the original packaging until he decided to return them for store credit. Simon, who knew Horatio better than I, told me about Horatio’s closet over coffee one day. It was one of Horatio’s many self-defeating ways that drove Simon crazy. “Why does he do that?” Simon asked. At the time I had no answer, but looking back over a distance of years I have a guess. I think Horatio was always looking for a change, but could never quite believe in his ability to pull off even something so small as a new kind of shoes.


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