Posts Tagged ‘Nicholson Baker’

Doing my laundry

One time, I remember, I was in a laundromat. It was a laundromat in Marseilles, France. “Marseilles.” Do you hear that? It’s a mattress of a word, with a lot of spring to it. “Marseilles.” I was in there, doing my laundry, and I look over, and there’s this guy there, this little guy. He was kind of pale, pasty looking. But moving with a methodical grace. And I said, Ed? And he looked up slowly. He nodded, cavernously. I said, Ed Poe? And he said, Mm-hm. And then he peered closely at me. He said, Paul? Paul Chowder? And I said, Yes, Ed! How are you doing? Been a long time. He nodded. I said, I see you’re folding some underpants there. He said, Yes, I am. Doing my laundry. You? I said I’m doing my laundry, too. And I mean, if you’re going to do your laundry, this place is probably as good as or better than any place I can think of. Marseilles, France. Or “Fronce,” as we say. And I said, Can I venture to ask how the poetry’s going? He said, It’s going pretty well, pretty well. I wrote a poem, and I got paid for it, and it was in the newspaper. And I said, That’s fantastic. What’s it called? And he said, It’s called “The Raven.” I said, Holy shit, Ed, “The Raven.” Great title. What’s it about? And he said, It’s about a man who has a visit from a raven. And I said, That sounds really promising. What does the raven stand for? Death and fate and horror and government wiretapping and stuff like that? And he just looked at me. He wasn’t about to explicate his poem for me. Which I understand. And I said, Well, listen, take care. I grabbed my bag of laundry. I said, It’s been great seeing you. Stay happy. And he said, You too, it’s good seeing you. We waved again. Take care, bye-bye. Watch out for the big swinging blade. And I walked out the door of the laundromat. Off down the street. And that was the time that I ran into Edgar Allan Poe.

Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist


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