Sunday, January 3, 2010

Is There Toilet Paper on Mars?


After describing what is plainly a non-threatening yuppie bar yesterday, I was reminded again of the co-worker of mine at ABC News years ago who said he intended to take a group of children to Mars Bar, by which he meant to say Mars 2112, the latter being a sci-fi-themed kids’ restaurant but the former being perhaps the skuzziest booze-hole on the Lower East Side — which would have delighted the kids’ parents, I’m sure.

(And just for the hell of it, let’s pause for a moment to watch the great Bowie video for “Life on Mars” again, directed by Mick Rock, who Dawn Eden and I met once backstage at a Tony Visconti concert. On a related note, I see the MST3K-like Raspberry Brothers are showing and mocking the millennials-pleasing Bowie/Muppets film Labyrinth tonight, if anyone’s interested.)

I still sort of like Mars Bar — part of the eternal Upper East Side/Lower East Side dichotomy in my soul (one for living, one for debating — debating this week about a Lower East Side deli that we’ll also visit, as it happens). Mars Bar remains, however, one of only two establishments where I have concluded the restroom was simply too frightening to use.

The other — some place in DC when I was visiting libertarian intern friends there with Chris Nugent many years ago, I think — had a pool hall atmosphere and a bathroom door easily visible to patrons that opened upon a rather large space in which there was only one stall, with no door on it (or worse, I think it may have had a damaged door dangling to one side of it unusably) and a the toilet within raised up a foot or so above floor level, so that if you dared do your business there, you would potentially be greeted, as if by commoners seeking audience with the monarch, by anyone who walked through the bathroom door or even passed by it. I refrained.

It’s amazing, really, how many establishments, even mostly-decent ones, neglect their bathrooms. My ex Indrani (a Lower East Side resident herself — and perhaps the ex whose musical tastes most closely match my own, so she likes the punk and the New Wave, too) says that I emerge from restaurant bathrooms with minor complaints so often, I should consider becoming a professional bathroom critic. It’s not that I’m all that picky, but you begin to realize just how many things can go wrong with a poorly-maintained bathroom, from lack of toilet paper to lack of paper towels and/or soap to blockages in need of plunging. Hot water, an obvious necessity if the staff are supposed to be washing their hands after using the bathroom and before making your food, seems to be a rarity in public bathrooms. Sometimes it’s little non-essential things, like no mirror. Often it’s big things like no lock on the door (I’m looking at you, Reservoir Bar).

Over the past few chilly days, I’ve also been reminded of the problem you occasionally run into of the restroom somehow being perfectly insulated, temperature-wise, from the rest of the building, so that you are in effect outside in the middle of winter while using it, as if urinating on Mars.

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