Cleaning up plates across the 50 states

Friday, June 15, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:57 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Piles of picked-over food, bursting bus tubs and soap suds have long been occupational hazards for Pete Jordan.

The man who found nationwide fame as a professional dishwasher brings his story of, as he puts it, “One guy ... 50 states ... lots of dishes ... plenty of time” to Columbia on Sunday in honor of the unsung backbone of the restaurant industry.

If You Go

What: Celebration of the American dishwasher. When: 10 p.m. Sunday. Where: Ragtag CinemaCafe, 23 N. Tenth St. Admission: $2 to $4 at the door; dishwashers get in free.

Beginning in San Francisco, “Dishwasher Pete” has been washing his way across the country for some 15 years.

“When I fell into dish washing, some fellow dishers at a job site were bragging about all the places in the country where they’d wash dishes,” Jordan said in an e-mail. “I was embarrassed because I wasn’t nearly as prolific as them. But then, in just a matter of seconds, I decided I would wash dishes in all 50 states.”

Along the way, he began writing and publishing his experiences in his own “zine” — a low-budget publication — called “Dishwasher.” The 16 editions that began coming out in 1992 developed a cult following by the late 1990s. Now, Jordan has a book, “Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States,” published last month by HarperCollins.

Although Jordan is going around the country promoting his book, the celebration of dishwashers is unique to Columbia.

The event, at which Jordan will read from his book, will include screenings of classic dishwashing ads, dishwashing trivia and food.

“Pete came through town in ’98 and stayed at my house while doing dishes at Main Squeeze,” said Paul Sturtz of the Ragtag. “I lost track of him until about two weeks ago when I was looking at The New York Times online and saw an article about him and his book. I sent him an e-mail and he replied, which brought about this event.”

No word yet on who’s doing the dishes at the end of the night.

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