In the parking lot of the Save-a-Lot on Howard, there is a 24hr laundromat known as the Spin Cycle. Due to its premium location and infinite hours of operation, it is the ultimate weapon in the arsenal of inclusion, and opens the city of Baltimore like a busted stitch opens a wound. (Or like a coat hanger opens a car door? Eh?)
On the many occasions that I have taken advantage of this particular laundromat, I have encountered a great variety of neighborhood folks. Once a slimey guy handed me a business card for the Kitty Cat Club, and invited me to its barbeque (which I missed because of a preexisting engagement, despite his promises of all you can eat ribs). Another time a baby clarified for me the fuzzy lyrics of Beyonce's 'Halo,' and told me about her own dreams of fame and glory. Yet another time a stupid boy told me about breaking his skull open "at a punk show," and how he didn't realize it for seven days, and how now he can't play chess because he mistook his brains leaking out for symptoms of the flu. Even a lady's simple speculation of the possible cost (in five minute increments) of the dry-time for six pairs of jeans can create a forum for further shit-shooting about Judge Judy and The Bowel Cleanse Diet.
Not only the Spin Cycle itself, but the entire area surrounding the establishment is mega-inclusive. There are guys pacing around trying to hawk stolen DVD's, there's a secret mechanic operation that changes oil and performs tune-ups on the sly, hack-taxi drivers are loitering around spitting sunflower seeds, and there are hooligan kids pretending that the parking lot is a paradise.
There are a few reasons why I nominate the Spin Cycle as one of the most open parts of Baltimore. Firstly, there is truth in the age-old phrase about 'airing out the dirty laundry;' when you're folding your tattered dainties alongside everybody, there really is useful shamelessness and a facility for interaction. Secondly, the vending machines are significantly cheaper than most, which is a tangible and friendly sort of openess. Thirdly, all sorts of people have to be there around the clock: children, olds, night shift security guards, hard-working moms, club girls, construction guys, friends, acquaintances, you know, everybody. Finally, the laundromat's role as a functional - yet fun!- utility of the lived everyday seems a more satisfyingly organic opener, rather than the standard commercialization that city's tend to apply as an opening tactic. The Spin Cylce zone is a spontaneous and necessary inclusionary tool.