Excerpt from a new book 11 (draft)

December 27th

Once the rain had effectively washed away all remnants of that pretty scenery that had brought such delight to our eyes during the first two days, the sun came out and the air warmed up intensely making it feel like one of those early, early April mornings.  Everything was gone.  Winter had vanished.  That snowy, frosty magical world of my nostalgic and selective memory of my youth, featuring jingling Clydesdales trotting heavily down country lanes which those awesome Budweiser commercials had depicted so well, had disappeared all too rapidly.   I was almost half-expecting to spot a crocus bravely crane its head out of the ground to greet the world and announce the coming of spring, but that would have been asking a little much for December 27th.

      Looking back objectively, I know this month had been known to experience enormous temperature swings, from the frigid to the balmy, so this change in the weather should not have come as a surprise.  I just like things to be as close to ideal as possible.

         Plans for my day were limited to practically nothing.  We had some friends who were going to hop on a train and take the girls into the city to see the Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet, which is about as traditionally New Yorkish as you can get.  It’s a Russian ballet as we all know, but George Ballenchine’s memorable version is the one that has captivated certainly millions of American spectators over the decades.  I had an itching to go and see it myself but it was girls’ day out, and I didn’t meet the minimum requirements.  On top of that, I had been commissioned with the all important task of retrieving a car which another good friend of ours was going to lend to us for the next couple of weeks.  It was truly a wonderful gesture on their part.  And we could save a few bucks while we were at it.

       In the meantime, I had been commissioned with a domestic task: putting a load of wash in the washing machine in the basement and, here was the challenge, turning it on.  I plodded down the stairs and regarded the metallic couple sitting in the closet.  They were two uncouth, bulky blocks lacking any aerodynamics or sleekness to them.  None whatsoever.  Hurl them towards the Earth from a satellite and their impact on this planet may easily cause a nuclear winter.   I cannot tell you just what kind of clothes-cleaning machinery the town’s finest estates would house, I am sure there are models that tell you the time in Zurich, Switzerland while they sanitize your fabrics, but I do know that many still employ those mammoth washers they we did when I was a child almost forty years ago.  I can think of few gadgets that have evolved so little since my childhood.  They seemed to have been totally unfazed by progress.  With the exception of maybe a slight almost imperceptible improvement in technology here and there, the tiniest touch of sophistication, and option or two that would have been unthinkable years ago, the general impression I get is that not a thought had been given to improving the rest.  I am not all that unsure that this has a psychological factor to it, like the way the make medicine taste a little bitter just so you feel that it is really string and effective.

       The second half of this challenge asked that I engage the dryer, which had become an entirely foreign world over the previous two decades.  InSpainpeople prefer to hang dry their wash.  You can do that in places likeMadridbecause more often than not it doesn’t rain and the dry air provides a natural dehydrating process that goes unparalleled.

        To peg your clothing onto an outdoor line in Greenwich is to beg for a satellite to hover above and take shots of your property to determine whether or not you are infringing on certain unwritten laws here.  People can become mortified by the thought.  What would the neighbors think?

       That I was drying some clothes, that’s all.

        Yeah right, people from Greenwich do not hang out their laundry.  It would look hickish and unsightly.  I am not putting you on.   I have seen this kind of reaction.  What in Europe would be considered standard and even a more natural way to dry your clothes, here in Greenwich it is regarded as unthinkable.  But in that sense,Greenwichpeople, who so dearly admire European standards, would have nothing to do with that.

       American washing machines like to make noise.  I am convinced that it has more to do with marketing than actual effectiveness.  They are there for the effect once again.  It’s the thumping knock you can hear in the distance while you do something else that contents the heart.  It assures you that the machine is beating the crap out of the grime in your clothes.  It suggests everything is in order and working the way it should.  And it will be clean.  I especially enjoy the metallic echo that emanates as you toss clothes into drum.  I feel as if I am tossing everything into a cauldron.

       I was no expert on the subject but I knew the basics from my college days when I would do the wash every time I started to notice the insects dying off in my dorm room.  My standard approach was to make sure the water was cold and then started flicking around buttons and dials until something happened, and something always did.  I don’t really know how, but it did.  My biggest concern was just what size the clothes would come out as when it did and whether or not we would end up using it for my daughters build-a-bears, but I kept quiet and crossed my fingers.

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