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Original Essays | September 18, 2014 0 comments
On a hot July evening years ago, my Toyota Tercel overheated on a flat stretch of highway north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A steam geyser shot up from... Continue »
Pete JordanDescribe your latest book.
For twelve years, I was the most prolific dishlicker of them all. From 1989 to 2001, I dished my way around the country, unwittingly searching for direction. From a bagel joint in New Mexico to a Mexican joint in Brooklyn, from a dinner train in Rhode Island to the Lawrence Welk Resort in Branson, Missouri, and from an upper-crust ladies' club to a crusty hippie commune I washed the nation's dishes. And I wrote a book about it all.
[From the book jacket:] Dishwasher is the true story of a man on a mission: to clean dirty dishes professionally in every state in America. Part adventure, part parody, and part miraculous journey of self-discovery, it is the unforgettable account of Pete Jordan's transformation from itinerant seeker into "Dishwasher Pete" unlikely folk hero, writer, publisher of his own cult zine, and the ultimate professional dish dog and how he gave it all up for love.
In the few years after I ended my dishwashing quest, I had no desire to write a book about it. My wife, though, had other ideas. If I wasn't going to write the book, then Amy Joy continually threatened she would. During games of Scrabble, she'd allow me to take as long as I wanted with my turn if only I answered her questions about my past. So while shuffling my letters and scanning the board, I told Amy Joy my life story, which she eagerly scribbled down. After about six months, that project petered out. Which was just as well since, a couple years later, I finally wrote my own book.
I just asked her what the name of her book would've been. She replied, The Dishwasher Pete Story: As Told to Amy Joy Jordan. She added it was just a working title and that, as the project neared completion, she would've come up with something catchier.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
But Jess wrote another amazing book that's a little more accessible. It's titled Hi Friend (2001). Everyone should read it.
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Little Richard would reply, "A wop-bop-a-loo-mop, a lop-bam-boom!"
His way of cussing out the boss without getting axed became the basis for the song he wrote while dishing "Tutti Frutti."
But the bus station on Broadway where Little Richard had worked was gone. A few blocks away, the closest thing the new bus station had to a diner was a candy vending machine. The site of the old bus station was now but a tiny grassy square overshadowed by a large parking garage. Since I was unable to pay proper homage by dishing on the very same spot, I did the next best thing: I commemorated the site sacred not only to dishwashing history, but to rock-n-roll history as well. Christening the square "Little Richard's Dishwashing Days Memorial Park," on sheets of paper that I posted around the square, I wrote the new name of the park along with a quote from the man himself:
"I was the most beautiful dishwasher in the world!"
What? "A wop-bop-a-loo-mop, a lop-bam-boom!" isn't considered literary? Ya gotta be kidding me!
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
Just two hours ago, I was rummaging around the apartment looking for a needle with which to pop a ready-to-blow blister on the bottom of my right foot. Though I couldn't find a needle, I didn't want to ask my wife lest she become concerned about the state of my shoes. Then Amy Joy entered the bedroom, sat on the bed, and told me I needed to buy a new pair of shoes. Now, she didn't know anything about the blister or the needle hunt. She just has that instinct. And I suppose her instinct is right. I mean, after two years of faithful daily service, the soles of my socks are thicker than the soles of those shoes. (And pretty soon, there'll be nothing but socks between my foot and the sidewalk!) So I reluctantly agreed to get new shoes. And thus, soon I'll have a new favorite pair.
And oh, I just resorted to using a screw to pop the blister.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
The remark was meant to be dismissive yet, actually, it was perfectly apt.
"Yeah, exactly," I said. "Like a turtle!"
What section of the newspaper do you read first?
After that, the excitement dies down as I flip through the culture, business and sport sections of the Parool. I wish I could claim that I'm a faithful reader of the checkers column, but I can't. Maybe if there's a write up about the Dutch national checkers championships I'll read the whole piece. Otherwise, the checkers news only gets a cursory glance from me.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five Books that Feature Great Dishwashing Episodes:
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell Whether or not Orwell was "slumming it" when he dished at a Parisian hotel in 1928, it's immaterial. The dude busted his ass to bust those suds and lived to tell the amazing tale of his weeks as a plongeur. After all these years, he remains an inspiration to those of us writing books about dishing.
Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy I love the scene where Joe Buck imagines what will happen when he arrives late to his dishwashing job. He'll tell the boss to bend over so he can shove the dishwashing machine up his ass. While the boss is doing as told, Joe then snatches the wallet from the boss' back pocket and walks out the back door.
The Same River Twice by Chris Offutt After the author sent me this book, I grew terribly jealous of him. Offutt devotes a chapter to his dishwashing gig at the lodge on the rim of the Grand Canyon. When I had once tried to interview the dishwasher at that very same lodge, the park rangers grew so suspicious of me and my "dishwasher journalism," they threw me out of the park and banned me for life!
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley Malcolm X was no one-hit wonder when it came to dish work. First he dished in Michigan; later on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in the 1940s, making the run between Boston and Washington D.C. His tale inspired me to dish on a train myself.
The Dishwasher by Dannie Martin I was already a big fan of Dannie Martin's prison writings, so imagine how pleased I was that, upon his release, he wrote a novel about a recently released ex-con who lands a dishwashing job in Fresno. Written in a way only a disher/parolee could write it and appreciated in a way only disher/reader could appreciate it!