| Ray Beldner’s Bernal Heights Laundromat of the Future
By George McConnell Aug 05, 2006
Ray Beldner / Photo by Jennifer Pickens
In the laundromat of the future, you might expect a bevy of attractive, scantily clad attendants busily washing, drying, ironing and folding your togs to your exacting specifications as you relax in a comfy recliner with a tray of exotic drinks and tasty canapés while catching another mesmerizing episode of reality TV. Unfortunately, even with current technology, that possibility is more than a few years away. What you have today is the classic storefront laundromat complete with washers and dryers, and if you are among the very lucky, a soap and bleach machine. All in all, however, it's still much better than beating your clothes on a rock down at the stream, which is how they used to do it way back when.
But Ray Beldner, former college professor and now full-time artist and laundromat owner, wanted to dance the light fantastic when he opened his Bernal Bubbles back in March. Once known as Angel Wash, it is located in ever-sunny Bernal Heights, with its byzantine labyrinth of streets and alleyways, and plethora of sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and unique boutiques of every persuasion. You can amuse yourself to no end watching the 24 Divisidero electric trolley bus lurch its way up and down busy Cortland Avenue right outside while Ray's high-tech Dexter washing machines suds your duds ever so efficiently. It takes just 23 minutes, says Ray, for the triple loader, which can handle an awesome 25 pounds. Each machine is equipped with an automatic soap and bleach dispenser that operates all by itself just like magic so you don't have to think about when to add all that stuff ever again if you don't want to. And when your wash is done, a computerized drying machine is conveniently located right above each washer, making passé that long, painful trek to the dryer across the room with your wet wash drip, drip, dripping all over yourself and the floor. Drying time takes just a mere 20 minutes, which is way better than nearly anywhere else, so Ray says.
Ray has proved himself prescient, too, by installing Wi-Fi at the 'mat. It doesn't cost anything to use, unlike a lot of other places, he says. All you need do is turn the bloody thing on and then it’s surf baby surf to your heart's content, check your email or send that certain someone a note friendly or not while you launder, weak and weary.
But even with all that, if bigger thrills are your game, then boogie across Cortland to the
Progressive Grounds Coffee Shop and tie on a double buzz with a double expresso, or do the locomotion over to Red Hill Books on the opposite side of the street to browse the latest masterpieces, read the 'zines or play a heady game of hide and seek among the stacks. And four doors down, there's Stray Bar, where you can, if you're legal, imbibe a zombie or two, get wasted or maybe just mildly relaxed and then quite possibly forget you left your clothes in Ray’s place. Ray says it happens all the time and he thinks it’s hilarious and he just leaves your stuff in the washer or dryer overnight so you can pick it up the next day because he’s a nice guy and probably knows you from somewhere anyway. He used to live like nearly forever in Bernal Heights, he says.
If you don’t want to do your own wash, Ray will gladly do it for you for a small fee, all clean and neatly folded. You can find him, or his trusty assistant, Ophelia, behind the counter in the back, clad, but not scantily, from six pm to ten pm Sunday through Friday. So do drop by and unload all your soiled linens on them if you might be feeling lazy or perhaps too busy solving the mysteries of the universe to do the wash. These exhilarating experiences can be yours as frequently as you wish because Bernal Bubbles, bless their hearts, is open from 7 in the morning to 10 at night every day of the year. Ray knows all too well, just as you do, that the laundry, unlike death, never takes a holiday. In short, the perils of boredom from doing the weekly wash never has to be if you use your “sweet little magination”, as Simon and Garfunkel suggested, so why not go where angels fear to tread and indulge yourself already?
Bernal Bubbles is located at 397 Cortland Avenue at Bennington. (415) 821-9530.
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