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Life of a Dish Dog

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on May 23, 2007 8:19PM

May%2023%20Dishwasher.jpgIt’s true that everyone has a story; some people’s are just more interesting than others. Such is the case with Pete Jordan. “Dishwasher Pete,” as he became known, had a mission. A mission to wash dishes in every one of the fifty states. His aptly named book, Dishwasher, details over a decade of dishwashing and hitchhiking from state to state, quitting a diner 45 minutes after he’d taken the job and walking into a town and dishing within hours. Dishwasher Pete was at Quimby’s last night to read from the book and distribute the final issue, 16, of his zine.

An instructional video, possibly from the sixties, started the reading featuring vomit, lots of vomit, due to salmonella poisoning. The video was just getting to infected food preparation when Pete, wearing a green baseball cap, blue t-shirt, jeans and sensible black shoes that wouldn’t get wet easily from washing, stood up and not so much introduced himself as softly said “Is anybody watching this?” We shook our heads and he turned it off. “That’s just something to calm me down.” He told us if he was too quiet reading, to tell him to speak up because his wife had to do it all the time.

Pete began chronicling his adventures in dishwashing around the country in a sort of “open letter” zine with a run of 10 copies, hand-delivered to stores in January 1992. Over the next decade, Dishwasher Pete gained a following so large that for the 15th issue he printed 10,000 copies. David Letterman even invited Pete to the show. Pete accepted, but had a friend go on while he remained eating food in the green room. Part of the zine's popularity must come from Pete's life lessons such as, never start drinking until halfway through a shift, when the end is in sight.

When asked about stories of Chicago, Pete says he passed through a couple of times, but refused dishing jobs because the only place he wanted to work in Illinois was Shelbyville, the birthplace of the dishwasher, by socialite Josephine Cochrane in 1886. It was a dream that went unfulfilled, Pete only washed dishes in 33 states at the final tally, but Pete also mentioned many trips to Quimby’s, one of the first carriers of his zine, as part of his love for Chicago.