Saturday, February 27, 2010

The utopian laundromat

This morning as I was getting ready to go out, I noticed the beeping of the washing machine downstairs. The washer is shared by me and by the married couple who live below me. I shouldn't complain about having to share a washer with just one other apartment, but I still groaned to myself, because usually when I hear that sound it means the washer will be occupied for the rest of the day. And suddenly I remembered a dream I had last night. A dream inspired by a general desire for more convenient laundering for everyone.

I dreamed that I was over at MIT for some reason, at night, when I noticed a neon sign peeking out from behind another building. The sign said "Utopian Laundromat."

I went toward it, abandoning whatever chore had brought me to the school. I was curious. What is a utopian laundromat? It sounds like an oxymoron.

The laundromat was near the student union. It comprised a series of private rooms organized around a large central courtyard. Each room was quite spacious and included a desk, a well-stocked bookcase, a computer, an HDTV, a sofa, a bed, a private bath, and other amenities, including the defining appliances: a washer and dryer. Every room had a glass wall overlooking the courtyard, so I could see most of the occupants. They were studying, socializing, and doing other tasks while their clothes washed and tumbled dry.

I didn't really feel like talking to anyone, but I had to find out more. After I questioned him, a student passing by told me that any of these rooms could be reserved, by an individual or by a small group, for as long a period as was needed.

Later on, I visited one of the rooms and found out more. A student doing his laundry said there were only 10 rooms, but that usually you could get a reservation with no problem — you just had to set it up a couple of weeks in advance. He said that the longest he'd made a reservation for was eight hours. He wasn't sure if you could reserve for a period of days, but it sounded like it was possible.

I concluded that this truly was the most utopian style of laundry facility out there, if you can't do it at home.

I think I dreamt this because I've been reading a lot about Jonestown lately, and the word "utopia" comes up frequently in that context.

Also, a book I read recently mentioned the Jonestown laundry facility, referring to it as the "laundromat," which immediately jumped out at me as a mild copyediting error. The word "Laundromat" is trademarked, and — at least when I was a copy editor — using the term in the generic sense is considered a mistake, one that my dream apparently was guilty of as well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The oatmeal of my dreams

In my dream, I was at the home of an acquaintance who was making oatmeal. He was combining all sorts of weird ingredients, but the stranger the combinations, the more delicious the concoction became, or so it seemed.

My acquaintance, John, stirred the oatmeal in a big bowl with a wooden spoon. The oatmeal looked light and smooth and creamy, more like a cool chocolate mousse than a hot cereal. John's house was a bit chaotic, with kids running around, the phone ringing, and guests coming and going, but he put the dish together with the grace and confidence of Kim Yu-Na channeling James Bond.

By the time John was finished, I knew I had to have his recipe and I said as much. As he rattled off ingredients and procedures, I tried to write everything down. But each time I went back to check my notes, I realized that I had missed not just a few but many important points, and no amount of checking and rewriting seemed to correct the errors. I began to have the sinking feeling that I was not going to be able to record the recipe, but I also refused to give up.

As my alarm intruded, I began realizing the recipe was just a dream. Yet for several minutes I still believed that, even though it wasn't real, and dubious as some of the ingredients were, the recipe should be tried — that it might be transcendent. As sleep slipped away, I struggled to remember the ingredients.

Today I can recall only two: barbecue sauce and Greek whipped cream. Or not quite enough to make the magic happen.

Copyright 2009-2010 by Sasha Sark. Please don't reuse without permission.
"West African Dark Blue Cloth" image is displayed courtesy of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University.