I've written a few time, here, about living in what I call Dude-Central, also know as Venice, California. I've lived in Venice a couple different times in my life, and have planted roots in my current apartment for more than four and a half years now. It is Dude-central, not just because Venice is where The Dude lived in The Big Lebowski, but because the ACTUAL Dude lives here, the Original Dude, the guy who the Coen Brothers based the character on. His name is Jeff Dowd. Look him up.
I share a laundromat with him.
This isn't really about the Original Dude, though, although now that I've mentioned him, I'll stick with him for a little bit. No, this is more about the laundromat, actually. More on that later.
The Dude - the Original Dude, Jeff Dowd, is a recognizeable character in the neighborhood. His crazy long 70-ish white hair can be spotted from blocks away. Even if he didn't have the crazy hair, he could be spotted from blocks away because he is usually struggling to steer his bike down the street, with grocery bags dangling from the handle bars, going about 2 miles per hour.
Anyway, enough about him. Let's get to the laundromat.
Venice is a diverse neighborhood. You might find yourself carrying your laundry down the street to the local laundromat, passing between million dollar condos and homeless campouts.
I was doing this one day recently; carrying my laundry in a backpack to the laundromat. This is where I encountered a very startling man.
I made the mistake of leaving my backpack on top of the washing machine while my clothes washed, and I went off to do other things. When I came back a half-hour later, my backpack was gone.
Rage bubbled up in me (I can already hear my sister saying, "Dude, you're being very un-dude right now"). "Where's my fucking backpack?!" I demanded of the world.
I went back out the front door, onto the sidewalk of Rose avenue, looking for someone to confront.
I went back into the laundromat, I searched high and low. I went out the back door of the laundromat, into the alley.
Aha! The culprit! There he was, bearded, un-showered, the face of death warmed over, with MY BACKPACK dangling casually from his shoulder.
"Hey, man!" I said, not fully in control of myself, "That's my fucking backpack! You stole my fiucking backpack!"
The crazy, death-looking homeless guy looked at me calmly....and this is where my brain did a summersault, and my world went upside down.
Out of this death-like face, this un-shaven, un-showered, barely alive being, came a voice as proper, British, and refined as any I've ever heard.
"Pardon me. Pardon me," he began, sounding like a posh waiter at London's finest restaraunt. "I don't believe I stole your backpack."
I was disoriented, but tried my best to stay angry. "That's my fucking backpack, man!" I said. "You fucking stole it!"
At this point Posh-death-looking-guy raised his hands in a calming motion and tried to bring me under control.
"Now, listen to me. Listen to me," he said. "I did not steal your backpack. It had been placed by someone else on the sidewalk, and left abandoned. I was lead to believe it was unclaimed. I will of course return it to you with no harm intended."
I couldn't be mad anymore. It was hopeless.
Was I just talked down from my rage by some crazy bearded British homeless guy? I asked myself.
And I wanted to ask him...where did your life go off the rails, that you sound like The Queen's press secretary, but you're living on the street in Venice, California?
The whole incident ended on this weird anti-climactic note.
I had my backpack. The British homless guy had been polite, calm, and reasoned. I had lost my cool, and was talked down from the ledge by bearded un-showered homeless Shakespeare.
All I could do was walk home shaking my head. What just happened?
I still haven't quite figured it out.
Life in Venice, Calfornia...
May 15, 2019