Midnight Pub

The Impermanence Of Architecture


I've probably told the following story more times than I can count:

The year was around 2008 or 2009. I remember distinctly that I was young, that my sister was getting laundry done at Smiley's Laundromat, which used to exist a few blocks down the street. It was a fixture of the neighborhood, a cheap coin-op with a bluish tint falling over everything and greasy tiles on the floor. I remember the layout vaguely, one large room to the north with a big window facing out onto Colfax, on the west side there was a room with dryers, and on the south side there was a mysterious flight of stairs leading up to what I can only imagine were some administrative offices and apartments.

I was sitting outside in the car with my mother, as was often the case whenever my sister had something to do. She would ask expressly to be driven, and driven back and in the meantime, having nothing to do, we'd sit out in the city air, bored out of our respective heads. I can't imagine it was much more interesting for her, inside.

But I remember this one night when Colfax was especially active- and by active I mean active in a distinctly 2000s sense, in that it was well before smartphones were yet a common fixture among the general public, and encounters with random weirdos were a lot more common. The weirdo in question was a well-dressed guy, mid-to-late 20s. If I'm remembering this right he could have had a beard, however I could be mistaken on that. He was extremely bold, he stuck his head in our car window as if he owned it and asked something along the lines of "Hey, Fam. Listen, I have these burritos. They're the bomb."

My mother was startled at first, but she could see that he was for real, that he probably actually did have some burritos. The burritos themselves were nowhere in sight, he didn't have a vending license or a food cart on him, yet the way he carried himself, his stature, indicated that he was for real, that the hypothetical burritos did indeed exist in some capacity. So she asked what types he had and he said he had some hamburger ones which were especially tasty. After a long period of contemplation, she decided to pay him, probably just so he would shut up and go away for a little while.

He returned around a half hour later holding two small foil-wrapped objects. I remember holding it in my hand, turning it over and letting the scent of homemade trash waft into my face. Upon further inspection, we realized that the burritos were full of this vile unseasoned macaroni, with a few chunks of hamburger every now and again. But it was mostly macaroni wrapped into a soft tortilla. To this day I've never heard of anyone putting macaroni into a tortilla, under any culinary guidelines. I ate it all the same, however, proud to partake in authentic Colfax Avenue cuisine.

I've probably related this anecdote a few dozen times over the years, in school essays to prove a given argument and to general audiences for entertainment purposes, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's one of the few childhood memories I'm able to recall with definite certainty, or maybe it's because my childhood was particularly bland and uneventful, and being the recipient of such a lousy burrito from this eccentric trickster was one of the few events which livened it up. The process endowed my life with a sort of interesting exclusivity. I, out of everyone, could brag about having met the notorious burrito man, even if nobody else knew who that was and he probably just cooked the burritos at home in half an hour and then tried finding some sucker to dump them on. I remember, after eating these things, my mother said, "He was right. These are the bomb. They're they H-bomb."

I say this because Smiley's laundromat is long since dead. The building which housed it existed until only around a half a year ago, with the windows boarded up and the parking lot fenced off. I remember, only a few months back, going for a long walk down Colfax and taking photographs of every building possible. I didn't even know then that the building had been scheduled for demolition, but in the end it didn't matter because the film I had taken never developed.

I do, however, have one captured image of the building which used to house the famous laundromat where so much went on. Ironically, it was part of a short science fiction/horror film I made about the impermanence of life and the constant change time imposes. The film features what I presume are some of the last images ever taken of a building which had long overstayed its welcome, an anachronistic remnant of a Colfax which, by the day, is ceasing to exist, full of building and people nobody bothers to record or recognize. The shadows of the past, burrito man among them, are all gone now, unless people like myself relate them to the public, and I hope I've done justice in telling this tale yet again.

Where Smiley's Laundromat and its respective building once stood, there's just a blank dirt hole. It took around 2 months for the construction team to clear out all the rubble, wrest down every last wall and cart it away to the landfill. It was probably for the best, the building had probably become a cockroach paradise. Even so, its absence is tangible, even bizarre. I imagine that in the near future a modern swanky hotel or something will be built in its place, or maybe a gym or something tacky and useless like that. The Colfax of yesteryear is slowly being gentrified, and I'm glad I impulsively captured that video when I did, because there is something very eerie and very impressive about viewing a phantom akin to the building which once housed hundreds of washing machines and dryers and detergent dispensers and then fell silent one day and remained empty for almost a decade before its ultimate end.

That's the power of film for you, I guess.


On the corner of the house where I grew up, now where my mother resides alone, was an electric cinema house complete with an elaborate spire that jutted out over the road.

It never functioned when I was a kid, and was boarded up for a long time like most defunct cinemas were back then. The area I lived in was originally a well-todo Victorian suburb that throughout much of the 1900s saw a decline in its former prominence, allowing more disadvantaged families such as my own to live there.

It's now being rapidly gentrified, to the point that the old cinema house was converted into a block of flats, and a few supermarkets sprang up next to it. All the decrepid allure of the structure is gone, and although they kept the spire (due to some local outrage) it looks nothing like it used to, and is more of an oddity than a historical marker.



Awesome, I really enjoyed this (the writing, not the loss of Smiley's Laundromat). Nice stuff :)