Ace Backwords airs his dirty laundry in public



One of the annoying things about living on the streets. Sometimes, even accomplishing the simplest of tasks can be incredibly complicated.

Take doing the laundry. Something you probably take for granted. At the end of the day you toss your dirty clothes into the hamper in the corner. And when the hamper gets full you dump it in a nearby washer and drier. No problem.

But not so simple when you’re homeless and living on the streets. You can’t walk around carrying your dirty laundry with you everywhere you go. And it can be difficult to find a spot to stash your laundry where it won’t get stolen or thrown out.

Every street person makes their own unique adjustment to this quandry. Many street people just wear the same set of clothes for weeks (or months). Until it finally gets too filthy, and then they simply toss it in the trash and get a whole new set of clothes.

Myself? I came up with this odd adjustment where I do my laundry once a year. I have enough clean clothes stashed in my storage locker to last me a year. And when they finally run out, I grit my teeth and face the convoluted task of “doing my laundry.” The complexities of which are like planning a military expedition.

Generally, during the course of the month, when my clothes get dirty I’ll put them in little black bags and stash them in the bushes in various spots all over town. Then on the first of the month — when I have to pay the monthly fee for my storage locker — I’ll gather up all my dirty laundry and stash it in my storage locker.

But after about a year it gets complicated. By this time I’ve amassed four BIG garbage bags full of dirty laundry. So now I’ve got to find a big shopping cart somewhere (Berkeley Bowl shopping carts are the best!) and haul all my dirty laundry to the nearest laundromat a mile away from my storage locker.



Last year when I did this I totally fucked up. By the time I got to the laundromat it was the middle of the afternoon and jam-packed with people (and a stifling 90 degree heat in there). I needed 7 washing machines to accommodate my years-long load of laundry. So I had my laundry in 7 different machines scattered all across the laundromat. Making it very difficult to keep track of which machines were mine (they all look alike). And they were staggered to finish at different times. So it was hard to keep track of which machines were done and ready for the drier. PLUS people kept bumping into me and knocking into me while I tried to get from machine to machine (did I mention I suffer from hideous claustrophobia when it comes to being jam-packed into tight spaces amidst mobs of my fellow humans?). PLUS I’m POURING sweat from every pore from the stifling 90 degree heat. By the time I FINALLY finished the ordeal 4 hours later I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and it’s a miracle I didn’t kill the next person who bumped into me, or kill myself.

So this year I decided to play it differently. I went down to my storage locker with my shopping cart and hauled all my dirty laundry a mile back into town. But THIS time I stashed all my laundry in a friend’s garage instead of taking it directly to the laundromat. Woke up the next morning at 7 AM right when the laundromat was opening. The place was virtually empty at that point. So I was able to get 7 washing machines all lined up in a row. Knocked off 7 big loads of laundry like clockwork in 2 hours (spent about 50 bucks in quarters). And when I finally finished and managed to stash all my nice clean clothes back in my storage locker later that day I let out a big sigh of relief like you wouldn’t believe.

And this all might sound like a pretty stupid and impractical way to operate. But now I don’t have to do any more laundry for a whole ‘nother year.

I bet you wish YOU could say that.



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