Tuesday, April 19, 2011


It's well after midnight on a Monday night. A police car has driven up onto the brick plaza, one cop on either side of a guy with long blond hair and blotchy red cheeks. The hair looks like a wig, parted in the middle and straight curtains on either side. The blotches might be scrapes, or sores. I want to look more closely as I pass, but it's rude to stare. An arrest feels oddly personal.

I'm stopping for a quick snack; dinner was missed. The only choices this late are Donut World and Carl's Jr. I don't want doughnuts. The man in front of me orders loudly, startling me, but the guy behind the counter only blinks. He sees it all, at the Civic Center Carl's Jr.

Outside on the plaza, a man is pressure-washing the pavement. It's not one of those tiny wands; it's a wide-open hose, and the man leans into it like a Laurel & Hardy bit. He leans forward, held up by nothing but the force of the water.

Something about his hat, the high-visibility suit, his calm eyes - he looks like he belongs on the Mongolian steppes.

I watch him slowly wrestle the hose from one spot of pavement to another. I'm envious. He begins his work with filthy pavement. He turns on the water and makes it clean, washing away the pieces left behind by the masses of people: dead skin, vomit, hair, excrement, food, all of it, clean as the day the world was born.

The best job I ever had was washing pots at a restaurant. I came in early in the morning and worked my way through the stack of pots, sunlight streaming in the back door, music on the radio, me and the pots, each one moving through my hands until it shone on the rack.

This is a beautiful thing, just this: begin with something soiled and make it clean. Reset. Start over.

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