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Thursday 20 February 2014

Richard Brautigan: Lonely at the Laundromat


 Laundry day. What's he looking for? (Albany, California): photo by efo, 18 October 2006

This poem was found written on a paper bag by Richard Brautigan in a laundromat in San Francisco. The author is unknown.

By accident, you put
Your money in my
Machine (#4)
By accident, I put
My money in another
Machine (#6)
On purpose, I put
Your clothes in the
Empty machine full
Of water and no   

It was lonely.

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984): San Francisco, from All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, 1967

Wash Dry 10 Cents Laundromat, 806 Divisadero Street, Western Addition district, San Francisco: photo by Dave Glass (Dizzy Atmosphere), 1979, posted 2 January 2008

Laundromat, 3040 18th Street, Mission District, San Francisco: photo by Dave Glass (Dizzy Atmosphere), 1988, posted 5 May 2010

Jesse, laundromat attendant, Fulton and Divisadero, Western Addition district, San Francisco: photo by Dave Glass (Dizzy Atmosphere), 1977, posted 17 December 2009

Little Hollywood Launderette, 1906 Market Street, San Francisco. Art Deco storefront, Market and Laguna: photo by Dave Glass (Dizzy Atmosphere), 1 January 2008

Wash 20 cents. Old laundromat sign in Oakland. (This one I took because it's closed and I'm afraid the sign will go away soon...): photo by efo, 16 July 2005

Adeline Wash House, Oakland: photo by efo, 1 September 2013

Abandoned laundromat -- holgarama: photo by efo, 8 February 2014

Laundromat (San Francisco): photo by efo, 19 February 2012


TC said...

Many a lonely night have I known, none more lonely than the night spent locked in a laundromat in East London (c. 1964). With nowhere else to go, I had accepted the invitation, a decision the full meaning of which did not sink in until the key had been turned in the lock. Vainly attempting to fall asleep on a wooden slat bench approx. 18 ins. in width... dawn took an awfully long time to come. Watched by all those great round glass eyes.

tpw said...

The Brautigan poem is really nice but, again, I think your comment is a better poem.

ACravan said...

It is great to see Brautigan in this context (i.e., among these pictures and your anecdote, under the BTP rubric), separated from the environment (my memories of first becoming aware of and reading him and the facts of his life and death) where I usually experience him. It's a real pleasure and reminds me of the qualities I first noticed and liked in his writing. Curtis

Jonathan Chant said...

Enjoyed this post and all of the comments above. Never tire of RB. What a lonely, dispiriting night that must have been.

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, I agree. Love your comment, Tom. Definitely a poem.

Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

Brautigan... truly missed. Gone in that terrible Lonesome. And this poem, apparently a found poem, carries me back a ways... both to San Francisco... and to the lowest of baseball's minor leagues, the Lone Star League in 1977, when Dirty Al Gallagher (then manager of the Texas City Stars) and I (the bullpen coach) drove the team bus one early morning, with severe hangovers, to a McAllen, Texas, laundromat to wash worn-already-for-a-week uniforms. We watched "Abdullah the Butcher" wrestle on TV, drank Lone Star Beer, and waited for the uniforms to wash and dry. The details come back easy; we did this more than once. "Abdullah the Butcher" was a big time pro wrestler in those days. And back in 1977, there were a lot of real printed-on-paper literary journals... and there were quite a some great poets alive-'n-kickin', like Richard Brautigan. Well, today... at least we can still embrace Tom Clark... a poetry immortal. And the laundromats... they're still with us, though I,luckily, ain't been in one lately to drink Lone Star and watch pro wrestling.

TC said...

Thanks, all. Good to dwell among the loyal. Reconsidering Richard and his work, a bittersweet contemplation, yet instructive in many ways. We're reminded that the trade winds shift with the times; and that great short-term celebrity, seemingly the immediate desideratum of every start-out writer in these days post the death of modesty, can do more harm than good in many cases, especially once the descent from the heights begins, and the taste of aloes and the score-settling set in.

Richard's stated and quite touching specific stipulation for this and the other poems in this small book put out by The Communications Company in 1967, by the way, was that the work might be used by anyone for anything, so long as profit wasn't involved.

Just imagine that. So you'll understand, it was a different kind of time.

Laundromats are forlorn places even if you're not locked in overnight.

As recently as a few years back, when still ambulatory, I often sought shelter from the storms in a late-night laundromat, where one might meditate indefinitely (well, until eleven). And there, with the attendant absent and the place empty, one found oneself surrounded by stray articles of clothing, sad abandoned and lost, most typically socks separated from their partners, or whatever the other half of a pair is called

And good heavens, Red -- you've just had me spend my entire shut-in's stay-at-home evening watching the 500 pound Madman from the Sudan (well, make that Lawrence Robert "Larry" Shreve from Windsor, Ontario) mutilate, batter, crush, carve up and drink the blood of hapless local hulks from all over the Caribbean and Japan (where he's a grand star it seems, there are funny Suntory vodka commercials in which the compulsory bevy of bikinis parts before him as he appears from the surf much like a raging World Champion Wrestler).

All one can finally say is -- invite this man to your local book festival.

Abdullah the Butcher Takes Decatur

Nora said...

When I lived in Santa Fe, I used to sit in the laundromat and watch the prairie dogs across the street. It didn't make the hard wooden benches or the hot, heavy inside any more pleasant, but at least it passed the time.

Nora said...

Also, I agree with tpw.

TC said...

I also agree that watching prairie dogs pop up out of their holes, then pop back down while two or three other prairie dogs pop up close nearby, as is the wont of prairie dogs, at least in their native Plains habitat, is better than laundry watching or for that matter tv-watching. (Though how would I know about the latter.)

The most wonderful place on earth to visit -- Devil's Tower.

Back when I did that trip, people were still thinking Close Encounters.

But on the approach road, there it was -- the real wonder -- a vast prairie dog village with dozens of prairie dogs popping up and then back down.

Kirby Olson said...

I also love Brautigan. I hate the aching loneliness in my own life, but he mines it effortlessly.

I wrote about that gigantic Brautigan bio here in Christianity Today, but you can only read the first of about seven pages unless you subscribe.