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Dishwasher: One Man's Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States (P.S.) Paperback – May 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For 12 years, Jordan (aka Dishwasher Pete) tramped about the U.S. washing dishes. Despite a survey of 740 occupations in which "dishwasher ranked #735," Jordan, then in his mid-30s, sees the inherent benefits of the job: downtime in between meals, free food (and beer), being able to quit at a moment's notice and an abundance of similar opportunities all over the country. The writing is lucid and earnest, and Jordan's passion for dishwashing and, even more so, for blowing-in-the-wind traveling, is infectious. As his quest extends from one year to the next, and he questions the worthiness of his goal to "bust suds" in all 50 states, he demonstrates an ability to convey his deepest fears without losing the upbeat, fun tone that pervades the entire memoir. What does hurt this rather lengthy book's pacing is that every dishwashing job (save a few) is pretty much the same, and the descriptions can get as repetitive as a wash cycle. Still, Jordan's knowledge of famous dishwashers (Gerald Ford, Little Richard, etc.) and dishwashers' roles in creating unions adds a substance that juxtaposes nicely with the author's slacker lifestyle. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jordan, sometimes known as "Dishwasher Pete," serves up one of the most entertaining memoirs to appear in quite awhile. The kind of guy who liked drifting from job to job and place to place, Jordan found his calling in the late 1980s: washing dishes. Surprisingly, he thought the work was fun; it was easy to get a job (restaurants were always looking for dishwashers); and it was no problem moving around a lot. Soon he had his brilliant idea: he would wash dishes in all 50 states. His quest took him from an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, to a fish cannery in Alaska, to a commune in Missouri (and a whole lot of diners, restaurants, and cafeterias in between). Somewhere along the way, he became a cult celebrity: Dishwasher Pete, publisher of an offbeat newsletter, radio personality, and, in one of the book's many high points, a scheduled guest on David Letterman's show (although he never actually appeared on the program). The book's exploration of the dishwashing subculture is fascinating (it even has its own terminology, like "bus tub buffet"), and the author, who now lives in Amsterdam, is an engaging and lighthearted storyteller. Imaginative marketing, from author appearances to radio ads and postcard mailings, should drum up substantial interest in this delightfully offbeat book. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060896426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060896423
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Abelaye on June 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
Dishwasher Pete approaches the craft of washing dishes like some couch-surfing Zen Buddhist wearing a smirk and a food-stained apron. He, along with Aaron Cometbus, are this generation's answer to Jack Kerouac -- wandering around the nation free, unencumbered, and sticking true to their ideals of a minimalistic approach to life. And always with a sense of humor and a knack for pointing out the idiotic and inane.

Jordan's epic journey through the restaurant kitchens of America is testament to the fact that not everything is celebrity-this, reality TV-that, mortgage payments, and gas-guzzling SUVs, and that it is indeed possible to survive in this modern world on less than $5 a day and still get a kick out of life without cable TV and a highspeed Internet connection.

If you enjoy reading Bukowski or Jesus's adventures in the New Testament, if you can appreciate the absurdity in just about anything that has to do with surviving in modern-day Suburbia, USA and having to commute two hours every day to a job you hate to support a lifestyle you didn't know you needed, then you will find "Dishwasher" to be an enjoyable read.

-- anthony
[...]
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Huffman on December 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is about Dishwasher Pete's (aka Pete Jordan) quest to wash dishes in all fifty states. Why anyone would want to do that, or would even care to read about a slacker trying to do it, is hard to imagine, but I found it a great read.

Perhaps I found it interesting just because I wanted to understand why anyone would want to wash dishes (the Dirty Job's slant), or perhaps because of my brief (two-day) stint as a plongeur, or a desire to travel the country. But most likely it's my love of a real-world adventure told by a great story teller.

This type of book often has the danger of the author who takes themselves far too serious, or on an ego trip. I mean who really cares about a dishwasher. But this is really a book about a lot more.

There's the cultural differences throughout the country, where it's easy to get a dishing job, and where cultural prejudices precludes it. It shows you that dish washers are an important part of our world, and that despite their low-standing they still are needed, and that whether you're on an oil-rig, dinner train, commune, jewish nursing home, cannery, or Oktoberfest, there's someone in the dish pit taking care of business. And of course, I found it amusing that if it weren't for the cyclist unfriendly roads of Pittsburgh, he could be my neighbor.

And finally there's the philosophical perspective this book tries to provide towards the end. After ten years soaking suds, sleeping in a van, traveling the country, and bouncing between jobs, what else can you do with your life. Well, if your like Dishwasher Pete, you can become a pretty good writer.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By fra7299 VINE VOICE on June 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
One man's dirty dishes are another man's paradise...

As far as entertainment and humor value goes, Pete Jordan's self-proclaimed quest to wash dishes in all fifty states is quite high. Pete seems to be just your average-Joe type who begins the book trying to figure out what type of work is best for him. He doesn't want something that entails too much responsibility or pressure, so he continues to search until the day when he discovers "dishing"--it is his calling and seemingly an employment epiphany.

From here Pete learns the ins and outs of dishwashing, going from place to place, and picking up experience as well as dishwashing "street" lingo: three-day soaker, dish dog, pearl diver, the dish pit, "busting suds", and the dishmaster. When he finds discovers how much he enjoys moving around, he decides that he is going to add traveling from place to place in search of "dishing" in all the states to his ideas. He develops a check-list of "to dos" and also finds out about the history of dishwashing, such as known celebrities who have "dished", and begins to write a zine about his journeys.

What makes Jordan's book humorous and entertaining is his experiences (although sometimes he is a little too honest about the restaurants) and the philosophies he acquires as he moves along. For instance, he openly admits that the best part about finding a job is to be able to quit it without moment's notice, which he does quite often. Later, he muses about what he deems an unnecessary interview question about a job: "If her house had been on fire and someone arrived in fireman's gear raring to put it out, she wouldn't have stopped and asked him where he saw himself in five years. She'd get....out of the way and let the pro do his job.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael H. Frederick on July 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Dishwasher" has a take that few of us would have thought of, a travel narrative about washing dishes around the country. The proliferation of travel tales has resulted in many approaches but this has to be a first.

Pete Jordan comes across as a decent fellow with absolutely no ambition. Some would call him the ultimate slacker but at least he had the gumption to write and publish this book. It took a while for me to warm up to him, however. His tales of outright theft from the people he works for, as well as drinking himself into oblivion, lack of respect for anyone other than fellow dishwashers and lack of empathy for the hard-up restaurateurs who employ him make the reader wonder, why should I like this guy? Scarfing food from dirty plates (the "bus tray buffet") and sponging whenever and wherever he can go a long way toward testing the public's natural willingness to give an author the benefit of the doubt, especially when shelling out hard-earned cash.

Eventually, however, Jordan grew on me. I think my opinion turned about the time he began to research the early days of the American labor movement and discovered that quite a few of the rabble-rousers were abused dishwashers. This is a tale of what it's like behind the scenes, in the back of restaurants and cafes where the "dirty work" gets done. Pete's rule insisting that he have the freedom to walk out on any job, whenever the mood strikes him, is the dream of many an overworked, disrespected service industry grunt. While I often felt sorry for the employers who trusted him enough to give him a chance (as he drank their beer and ate their food when they weren't looking), the other side of the coin is that too many business owners still don't get it.
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