Living Out Loud: : Laundry, Groceries and $20 Hookers

Mornings at the Alpine

Jul 18, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Downtown living is fine. Despite some surprises with electrical problems and miscellaneous other shit at the beginning of my move, I can't complain too much about my living space. If I had an apartment like this in New York City, it would probably cost me about four times as much as what I'm paying here in Cincinnati.

I'm living in an old building — over 130 years old. It has lots of charm and character; and after years of neglect, the new guy in charge is starting to fix it up and making it attractive for new tenants to move in. I feel like I'm involved on the ground floor of something big.

Thing is, this great old building has no place to do laundry.

To be honest, I haven't done much checking around downtown when it comes to Laundromats. Apparently, there was a place on Court Street to do laundry, but it closed a few months back. Or is that a few years back?

I don't know. I've been busy.

Fourth of July week, I was starting to run out of clothes. Panic sat in. Debbie, whom I work with at my consulting job downtown, works part-time at a Laundromat on the weekends. She said it wouldn't be much of a bus ride to Price Hill and suggested I get there early. The Alpine was going to be open on the fourth.

I got up early on the Fourth of July, put my dirty clothes and detergent in a suitcase, walked to the bus stop on Main Street and hopped on the #33 bus toward Price Hill. After a 15-minute bus ride, when I saw Saint Lawrence Avenue, I pulled the chain. The Alpine is right there on the corner.

Price Hill isn't new to me. I lived there for a number of years in the 1990s. I can't say I remember the Alpine but I was never looking for it. All the apartments I've lived in have had laundry facilities. Going to a Laundromat was something new.

The place wasn't crowded, and Debbie hadn't got there yet. I found the washing machines — $1.25 per load. Not bad. I loaded up a couple machines, put my money in, then pulled out my cell phone to call Debbie, who was walking down the sidewalk to the Alpine.

She introduced me to some of the people there but I'm terrible with names and don't remember a one. But it was a melting pot of people — black, white, Mexican, old, young — but what I sensed above all that was poor. There were a number of small children — all of them flat out adorable. This one little girl kept looking at me and smiling, and my heart completely sank.

Most of the adults looked at me suspiciously with my long hair and CityBeat T-shirt, and I have a feeling that, if Debbie hadn't been around, I wouldn't have gotten any kind of greeting at all.

The dryers were 25 cents, and Debbie told me three quarters per dryer would get my two loads dry. That would give me enough time to walk over to Kroger's on Enright. I did my grocery shopping there in the 1990s and to my surprise saw a lot of familiar faces. I picked up a few things, said some hellos and then headed back to the Alpine. My clothes were dry.

The following Sunday, I headed back up to Price Hill again to do a couple more loads. Again I went over to Kroger's, and again I visited with my friend Debbie.

While we were outside the Laundromat smoking a cigarette, Debbie sort of pointed over to the bus stop across the street and made me aware of Betty. She's a $20 hooker. I thought Debbie was kidding, but she was dead serious. Apparently Betty gets customers every once in awhile.

Now Betty's pretty overweight and not very attractive and, frankly, she would have to pay me to do her (even then I wouldn't do it). But something tells me sooner or later I'll end up striking up a conversation with her. Chances are I'll also talk to other people who live in the area or do their laundry at the Alpine. If I keep coming back, maybe they won't consider me a stranger. I kind of like it there and enjoy the mix of people. I want to get to know them, and I hope they will share some stories with me.

I'm a writer. If nothing else, I'm nosy.

Larry Gross' book, Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Stories is in bookstores now or can be ordered through