Bathrooms used to be a work of art, now they tend to look like a work of art in the finished product, but really under all the fake marble and shiny gold and silver lies a flimsy look alike and a cheap imitation of the real thing. I grew up using one of those normal NYC bathrooms that grace almost every pre-war building on the upper Westside. We had a solid tub that filled up all the way, we didn’t have to content with one of those holes midway up that prevent the water from getting too high, no siree we had the hole almost to the top, meaning deep waters, and lots of messy spills as we were children who did splash around in the tub.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to appreciate my childhood bathroom, the white octagonal pattern tile or marble with the black in between the cracks that form the floor making for one groovy albeit dizziness inducing floor. Everyone in the city either has one or at one point lived with one, they are classic, none of that fancy linoleum crap they make look all fancy but you can still feel the sponginess and wonder if the marble you are trusting your bare, wet, slippery, freshly cleaned feet to is in fact real marble or just some fake material made to superimpose the marble look onto you.
Not until my later years did I notice the fact the bathtub of my childhood up had two sets of faucets, one for bath and one for shower, none of that initial screaming in the shower when you realized that it was all the way on hot but didn’t have the slightest idea how to change that, no more fondling the drain to try and figure out how the shower would switch from bath to itself. No more questions to the host prior to shower taking on the secrets and tips of taking a shower in their apartment. There’s always the classic situations in which the hot is really cold and visa versa, or if you flush the toilet before you shower you are essentially screwed, or if you adjust the faucet a bit it throws the schematics of the shower completely out of motion and one has to wait 7.5 minutes to let the shower and hot water heater gain its composure. Nope, growing up with the double faucet ensured our family and whichever guests ventured into our apartment a streamlined shower experience. Of course nowadays that has been ruined by our wacky shower head, it either sprays a bunch of jagged jets all over the place ensuring not one part of your body gets wet, or packs its whole punch in one powerful watch your balls jet, do not turn into the stream keep your back to it at all times I tell anyone who decides against the calming deep waters of our bathtub. Baths are always sketchy, fill it up and the once clean tub all the sudden features floating nails, pubic hairs and other unmentionables, that my theory on why most folks take showers everywhere, they don’t want to admit the sad truth, that they use toilet seat covers when its just fear of their butt cheeks touching nastiness, yet when it’s a whole body touching a bunch of nastiness they go in fully naked ready to let all this stuff cling to them, disgusting man- toilet seat covers for showers would be like wearing a wet suit.
The most important aspect of the bathroom has been saved for last, ah the toilet, the porcelain throne, the john, the crapper, the levorotary, the poop deck, the privy, the excrement receptacle, the outhouse, the washroom (Canadian), the loo, the powder room –for the ladies, the shitter, all lovely names for the bowl shaped item that receives and gets rid of our waste. While in Greece I tried but failed to squat at a shole in the ground surrounded by a stall that cost me half a euro, on top of that toilet paper cost money too, though I didn’t need any – because I simply couldn’t go, my rectum was saying “dude are you f—-n crazy?” Oh how I longed for my simple yet powerful toilet of my youth at that moment in a bus station in Athens. I longed to look at the rusting steam pipe spewing forth heat that made my bathroom growing up like a smelly sauna, how I longed for the powerful flush that it seems only exists in buildings older than 1930 and how I longed for thick non rash inducing toilet paper, none of this skinny “I don’t care if there’s a little on my hand poor excuse for” toilet paper.
It was of simple fair with one of those extroverted flushers, not the kind you see in suburban homes, but of the sort that grace public park restrooms and buildings in Manhattan. The large extended silver handle for more leverage and power, it makes you feel like you won the jackpot on the slot machine when yanking a classic NY flusher handle, and none of that watching your load funnel down slowly as it takes its time skidding all around the bowl, nope, the NY flusher merely sucks it out of your sight removing any reminders of what was just there. It’s a pretty intense seen, not that I sit around with a bowl of popcorn and my video camera, no but in comparison it is one of real precision, no honky dory smooth less than audible flushing here, oh you will hear the flusher from two floors up signifying what has just happened, and furthermore the farther uptown you go the higher pressure that the flusher receives, in Washington Heights it is probably twice the pressure of that here on 86th street.
If I were to be wealthy one day there is one thing that I would want most to grace my levorotary, no not one of those cheesy saunas, or a large sustentations Jacuzzi, no, I want one of those full wall urinals of the vintage you see commonly in the restrooms of Riverside Park and of course some of those old decaying half dead synagogues that usually hang on for deer life as the neighborhood around them becomes a crack den, Syringes and pennies scatter about the steps while inside the men wish for better days yet fail to realize that under its syringe laden stoop lies a pristine Prohibition era bathroom with full wall urinals that allow these kidney diseased old men to pee all over the place and still get it in the toilet. For me there is something of intrinsic value to these pieces of art not only is it functional it also beholds a certain sense of beauty and is cheerful to the eye.
Almost all urinals, toilets, and so on are created alike with few variances, but the full walled urinal and protruding slot machine flusher set the winners and losers apart.