Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To Boldly Go

Where: Third Avenue Cafe, Louisville, KY

This post is quite photo-heavy enough as it is, but I wish I could share with you all the glory of Third Avenue Cafe. It is located, ironically enough, not of Third Avenue but on Third Street-- there is no Third Avenue.

Anyway, if you could see the interior of the restaurant, you'd just know it would have a cool bathroom. It's one of those places-- very artistic, very independent. There are star-shaped metal light fixtures, blue glass bottles everywhere, and monkey see no, hear no, speak no candelabras. There is a mannequin of Elvis (wearing a crown, the white jumpsuit, and Ray Bans, natch) parked permanently in a hand-painted chair next to a table that is shaped like a fish. One of the walls is painted with the silhouettes of the old-fashioned houses across the street. It's just... that kind of place.

I'm starting with a rather lackluster picture of the mirror to make a point, which is this: there is always a mirror. Usually, as in this case, there is a light fixture above it and a sink beneath. The awesomeness and cleanliness and decorating scheme vary, but never this. It is these touches which make the public restroom familiar, even when you've never been in it before.

Oh, and you might want to look closely at the wall surrounding the electric blue mirror frame. See the cool viney thing? Did I not mention that every surface of this restroom has been painted to form an elaborate mural of the outdoors? My mistake.

I begin with these shots-- the one at top taken just above and to the left of the lights as seen in the previous shot, of the sun and a cloud. I picked that one over the perfect picture I took of a cloud and the perfect, neat, not at all disordered black and white check border, because we have to limit ourselves somewhere. Seriously I took so many pictures of this bathroom. Like thirty.

Below it is the wall above the toilet in one of the stalls. Not the handicap one. That's right, that much effort was put into a wall invisible to most of the clientele. That's detail. I have to assume the handprints belong to the owner(s) and their families, because... yeah. In other news, look at the widdle baby handprints!

These are the doors (?) to the stalls, in reverse order from how they appear when you enter the restroom, because I haven't got blogger's weird photo uploading thing figured out yet. The handicapable stall is protected from view by a hand-painted floral shower curtain, because of course. To its real-life left and photo-blog right, the second and more geometrically irregular stall has a real door with some cool star-shaped flowers on it. Just on the outside.

What was my favorite piece of artwork in this bathroom? That would be the seasonal trees inside the second stall (the one with the door.)

I placed them in order according to Carole King, because I can.

On the inside of the stall door was a mountain of graffiti and places people had scratched the paint off, because people are dicks. It's a shame that we can't see most of what was painted on the door other than those cute little purple flowers underneath where Hailey scratched her name.

The vandalism problem was evidently bad enough to prompt a baffling and passive aggressive Sharpie message from the management, which has since been vandalized over to the point that all I could make out was "scratch or" and "Thanks!! MGMT," which suggests to me that the plea was less than successful. Which I kind of feel was obvious, because anyone willing to ruin the artwork by scratching it off was not going to be dissuaded by someone willing to ruin the artwork by writing over it in Sharpie.

Now for the next part, which is a surprise:

Yes, that's right. That's a urinal. You see what I do for you.

You see, after the last post, I was issued a challenge. And lately I've been trying to not back down from challenges.

So I present to you a men's to women's restroom comparison!

I'll say this: I expected the men's room to be a little more like ours.

Like the women's room, it was painted green to about hip height, and then blue, as if to simulate grass and sky. But there were no cutesy flower and butterfly nature scenes for the men. Oh, no. For some reason cuttings from tabloids are much more manly.

It was much smaller than the women's room, though, and was a single-use, which just gives more credence to that stereotype about women going to the bathroom in packs versus men's more solitary animal.

I'd have to say the biggest disappointment about the men's room, though, was the mirror. I mean, seriously, what is that?!

Oh, what the hell. Have some pictures of the restaurant. Not the whole thing, though, or else I'd be here all day-- I mentioned I took thirty pictures of the women's room alone, right? So I have just a couple of shots from the surreal alcove outside the restrooms, set off a little from the main part of the dining room. It has lattice under the skylight and there are Christmas lights and silver glitter paint everywhere.

First, the cardboard Elvis who stood guard outside the men's room with my mom while I snuck in for my daring escapade.

It's a good thing Elvis was there. You never know when someone might sneak up on a little blogger while she is in her first men's room. (Seriously, it's awkward enough taking pictures of the bathroom you're supposed to be in if anyone else is around.) The men's room door is right in plain view from most of the dining room!

Next, the Marilyn Monroe who spooks every single person coming out of the women's room into thinking someone is standing right outside the door waiting for them to finish.

Fun fact: there's a deadbolt on the bathroom door even though there are (and have always been) stalls. So back before they took the wood panel off the doorway to prevent it, it was totally possible for someone to be forced into waiting to get in.

That's all for now. But, remember, folks: if you try to leave out the emergency exit, Barney Fife will see you. And he will give you a ticket. He's a real stickler that way.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

Where: The Safeway That Started it All, Louisville, KY.

It was just a gas station bathroom. You've been in many like it before: small, smelly, possibly infected with hepatitis. I wasn't expecting it to be anything special. I just stopped in on my way out of town.

What I found was so completely out of the norm that I busted into giggles. For months afterward, I found myself telling the story of this gas station bathroom I'd been in. That's when I knew I could no longer stay silent about the bathrooms in my life.

When I was five or six, I was really into stickers. I had a sheet of sparkly butterfly stickers which I stuck to my bedroom door (which, as you can imagine made my mom really mad.) Years later, once I had realized what a bad idea that was and wished to repaint, I had to scrape them off myself.

This bathroom reminds me a lot of that, except that instead of an unattended six-year-old, a bored Safeway employee (or an aesthetically advanced lady hobo) had put giant glittery butterflies, roses, and ivy all over. There were two kinds of butterflies used, meaning at least four packages of stickers contributed to this piece of genius. This was clearly not the work of a child, because no child could reach the ceiling.

It was equally clear that somewhere along the way someone had rethought the decision, because, as is visible in the pictures, most of the stickers had been partially removed. Finding an intact butterfly for the close-up took more than a cursory glance. Even the fixtures were covered. The toilet tank, soap dispenser, and mirror each had a hefty dose of cut-rate decorating.

Whenever you doubt that the world can still surprise you, remember that even a Safeway can have a hilarious portion of glittery magic at its disposal.


Everyone has their weird thing, and this is mine: I have an obsession with public restrooms.

I like to visit them and assess them. Everywhere I go, I make a point to visit the toilet. I think you can tell a lot about an establishment based on how they care for their restroom. The good, the bad, the ugly-- I've seen them all. I have a set of criteria and I've found that if you're paying attention, even the most standard of bathrooms can surprise you.

This blog is for me to share with you some of the outlandish and extravagant things I've seen, from my favorite Safeway to luxury restaurants.

So many of the places I go deserve this recognition from the world. And so I give to you Potty Mouth: the story of one girl on a mission.