In a Laundromat in
I like the Laundromat, it has a quiet that the libraries and the sad bars could never approach. I like it because I am a tourist; it has nostalgia for me, and I don’t have to come here all the time, and I am there for a special occasion, I have brought a book to read. No one else there has a book to read; they just stand or sit, and wait. One man plays a soccer game on the old Neo-Geo machine for what seems like only seconds. The children pretend to play the attract modes on the bar-style touch-screen games, their mothers watch them, everyone waits, and I think I’m in the best fucking library there is. The Laundromat is a good place to be a tourist.
The last time I was in a Laundromat was 1994 or 1995, in
Occasionally when I came over to his house, which was a good twenty-five minute drive from mine, if I was there long enough and they had too much dirty laundry Jake’s mom would take Jake and me to the Laundromat. Sometimes I had quarters, or would beg them off Jake’s mom and have my parents pay her back, but I forget what games they had. I remember at Pizza Hut there was a Neo-Geo with King of Monsters and some game where you fought a robotic baboon at the end of the first level. At the Restaurant back in Whiteriver there was an old Ms. Pacman, and at some other Pizza Hut by a highway of my childhood there was Primal Rage, but I no longer remember what games this Ruidoso Laundromat had. Some sort of fantasy side scrolling game, I believe, but the memory is muddled by static from The Legend of Zelda. But I went and Jake and I played, or more often Jake didn’t have the quarters, and watched me play, but it was fun. I don’t remember the arcade machines but I do know that there was a crane game. The very last time I went to the Laundromat with Jake and his mom my dad picked me up there on his way home from work. At my insistence he played the crane game until he won. He won a stuffed spider, green with black legs, and I kept it for years. It was the only time I had ever seen someone actually win it, and I watched every time someone tried. It was a hard one, I guess. He won it, and we waved goodbye to Jake and his mom and we left the Laundromat. Soon after that we left
We are tourists because we have had every advantage, because the education we have received ensures that we may often be broke, but we will never be poor. Because we have the ultimate luxury of perhaps wishing we could be. Or could be Hispanic, black, redneck, urban, anything you have to be born into; of wishing that we could not be the norm, that our mobility and advantage did not mean that while we can go anywhere we want, we can never be from or of it. We are tourists because we have washing machines in our own apartment buildings, because it is likely that one day we will own washing machines ourselves (together? or separately?), because our parents own washers and dryers and we grew up with them and therefore it is a novelty to be in a giant room full of giant washers, moms with five kids, Hispanic guys in trucker caps with moustaches who can’t be but five or six years older than us. Novelty is tourism. So go ahead: don’t look up at the buildings, neck craning and mouth wide, don’t wear fanny packs or a camera around your neck, don’t walk around with a subway guide in hand, wipe the grin off your face, but as soon as you aren’t visibly miserable to be there, as soon as the vaguest hint of interest widens your eyes, you’re a tourist and everyone will know it. You can no more help being a tourist than anyone can help hating you, than you can help hating them when they’re a tourist in your town, your work, your life, your Laundromat.