Mr. Staaach!



When I was a bachelor in New York City my casual attire was mainly khaki pants and a polo shirt. But, those khaki's had to be starched. Ultra.

From my Army days I developed a preference for my uniforms for what is called "Military Starch". If you don't know what that is, imagine your pants coming back from the laundry so well and thoroughly starched they could literally stand up by themselves. Well, almost. But the exaggeration helps make the point. Putting a leg in for the first time was like squeezing between two pieces of cardboard glued together.

The preference for mucho starch carried over into my civilian life. Also, if you happen to know what I'm talking about and happen to have the same fastidious preference, you'll also know how damn difficult it is to get said "Military Starch" from just about any dry cleaner/laundry. Akin to the imposibility of getting a fluffy, airy omelet at just about any diner in the good old US of A. I suppose if you lived just outside a military base you might not have any difficulty finding a proper service for your slacks.

In New York City there were dotted among the many neighborhoods the trusty and local Chinese Laundry. Often with a forest of potted green plants in the window, with the heady intense aroma of years of the scent of scorched cotton.

My Chinese Hand Laundry used to sit near the corner of 87th Street just west of Amsterdam Avenue on the north side of the block. I don't think it's there any more. The neighborhood was never shabby, but now its posh. Barney Greengrass is still there. Lox at $36.00 per pound, mind you. Like I said, posh. And, that's a few years ago when I checked that price.

After many moons as a customer I became known to the Chinese couple who operated the laundry as "Mr. Starch". Pronounced as "Mr. Staach". Spoken at high pitch, loud. I'd no sooner walk through the door, but I'd hear, "Mr. Staach! Mr. Staach!" They must've liked my business. I do know it does take some extra doing to get all that old fashioned (as in starch dissolved in water, not from a spray can) starch into those pants. But, I insisted, and they delivered. 

The old lady in fact could be a dead ringer for the landlady character in the wonderful movie, "Kung Fu Hustle".