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I have had a ongoing and lifelong obsession with laundry. It was one of my first household tasks, and also one of my first memories of reading an unexpected word was off the side of the little blue jug (that’s Dynamo!) of 70s-era laundry detergent while my mom was sorting lights from darks. I read “Caution.” I think I was four, and my mother nearly fell over.

Laundry, laundry. When I was a kid, we had a laundry “room,” more properly an alcove in the basement where we laundered. I would sometimes listen to Billy Joel’s Glass Houses on my record player (also in the basement) in the time it would take the laundry to dry (all for lena!).

I love laundry. I dislike piles of dirty laundry, and love having everything clean and in its place. I’ve been known to string up a laundry line in the hotel room on a variety of continents, just to do a little washing. It’s therapeutic. It feels like being a boyscout. Four-day delay? Don’t worry! I’m prepared. I come home with a suitcase of clean laundry. Except from Cuba. Remind me to tell that story sometime.

Here in Santiago, in the winter (check your globe, southern hemisphere, wintertime here), laundry takes on a whole new dimension. You see, I don’t have a dryer. I have a lovely Consul washing machine in my oversized bathroom, a seven-kilo affair that swishes and whooshes and drains into my bathroom sink, through a hose, which God-willing, I place into the drain upon starting every load, and do not leave trailing on the floor so it can flood the neighbors in 505.

And then the laundry comes out of the washing machine, a little furled, still wettish, and then… Then begins the task of hanging it around my one-bedroom apartment in a way that still allows me to fritter to and fro, and doesn’t require me to use a bicycle as a drying rack. I have a system, yes I do. It involves (as does everyone’s system) hanging the laundry in the windows. I also have a tension rod in between two rooms that gets a good breeze, and there’s always the shower curtain rod in the bathroom.

I’m not crazy about the system, but it is what it is. I don’t have a place to put a dryer, and the truth is, with the exception of the winter, clothes dry so quickly in this northern-californian climate that having one would be excessive. But on days like today, when it’s breezy and cool, and leaving the windows open is an obligation, but not a privilege, I kind of wish I could just toss my clothes in, listen to a CD and be done with the whole thing.

Except that I just found a little pot of sheabutter from L’occitane in the wash. And if I’d had a dryer? If I’d just tossed my clothes into the heated ecstacy that is electrically-dried clothes? Well right now I’d be bemoaning the loss of my favorite lipbalm (Lush‘s Honeytrap notwithstanding) and fretting over the new oilspots in my freshly-dried clothes.

So I guess living a frontier-life isn’t really that bad. Next up: making my own fresh cheese (paneer).