This is going to take a little explaining.
During the first couple years of my marriage, when we lived in Wanaque, New Jersey, I did the weekly laundry for the two of us at a rinky-dink, down-home establishment called the Midvale Laundromat. In a previous incarnation, however, the place was known as Peggy’s Wash & Fold. I thought (in my fiction writer’s brain) that the earlier name was much better than its replacement. More evocative, more personal, a place anyone would like to visit, because….well, you could hang out with Peggy, whoever that was.
Fast forward to present times. My plan is to recreate Peggy’s Wash & Fold–-a nonfunctional recreation, with plenty of artistic license-–as an art installation for the upcoming Burning Man festival. For the unaware, Burning Man is a spectacle held annually in Nevada at the end of August. The site is an evaporated lake bed about 100 miles northeast of Reno—aka, the middle of nowhere—and the attendance is north of 70,000 people. A LOT more could be said and learned about Burning Man, but the curious can find such information elsewhere.
So who exactly was this “Peggy?” I needed someone, and exactly one candidate came to mind. Peggy will be my old high school classmate, now deceased, a woman named Peggy Seymore.
I solicited classmates for their memories of Peggy Seymore, and the responses were all quite heartwarming. The most poetic: “Her clapping with gleeful abandon while the band played our school song was like watching a wounded Angel praise the Lord for all the blessings in life.” The most straight-forward: “She was a mainstreamed special-needs kid before anyone quite knew what that meant.” Others described her as shy and sweet, or expressed regret for teasing her or speaking badly of her.
I did not treat her badly, but neither was I especially friendly. The truth is that I did my best to avoid and ignore Peggy S, an easily achievable goal in a school of more than 1,800 students. I spent the subsequent decades continuing to avoid and ignore and not think about this person—an even easier task than it was before–and YET….well, here we are.
Peggy, if you’re out there somewhere and reading this little diatribe, then hey, guess what? You’re getting remembered at Burning Man. I can only imagine whether such an event would have appealed to you when you were alive, and I’m assuming that your attendance this year is either impossible or significantly easier than otherwise. For me, the logistics of a pilgrimage to the Nevada desert are neither easy nor inexpensive, but that analysis comes from the flesh-and-blood, airlines-and-car-rentals, dust-and-sweat world that I inhabit.
I have no plans to conduct a seance at the art installation, but if the mood strikes among the patrons…well, be advised.
Just what is this project, you ask? Here are the planned components:
–An elaborate, professional-quality sign that reads “Peggy’s Wash & Fold”, size 2 ft. x 9 ft., held by posts about 7 feet above the ground, and that lights up, Vegas-style, at night.
–Brightly-painted clothing strewn about ropes, drying racks, and 4 “Haiku posts”, which are wooden posts upon which haikus will be…um…posted.
–Lots of hoses and ducts
–Flags, bunting, blinky-lights
–One (1) nonfunctional washing machine
–With luck, some orange chairs made of injection-molded plastic, and a magazine rack.
–A few printed words in memory of Peggy S.
We’ll have photos for you as they become available.