Speaking About the Unspeakable

March 30th, 2013 § 0 comments

Natural functions being what they are, the bathroom (also known as the sanitary facility, the toilette, the Head, the W.C or the stately “Gentlemen’s Lounge”) is a necessary adjunct to dining, movie going and other pleasurable activity. In HG’s experience, the vilest bathrooms can be found in New York’s Chinatown. The smallest are in coffee bars in Italy. The most inconvenient are in Paris bistros where they are often tucked away in a subterranean alcove. The most luxurious can be found in the best London hotels like the Connaught, Savoy and Dorchester. The Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel in New York had a splendid bathroom supervised by a deft and distinguished attendant (The Plaza has undergone vast changes and HG hasn’t visited the Oak Room for decades so this may no longer be true). HG had a memorable experience in that bathroom. The super debonair actor Cary Grant (a frequent Oak Room diner) entered the bathroom with HG. Unlike HG, he did not remove his jacket. Instead, Grant unbuttoned the buttons on the jacket’s sleeves, did a quick fold and washed his hands. HG was dazzled, having long believed that sleeve buttons were merely decorative. From that time on, HG went to the extra expense of having his suit jackets tailored with operable buttons. The most architecturally distinguished bathroom HG ever encountered was the art deco masterpiece in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. In HG’s recollection, its walls had a mural extolling smoking and tobacco cultivation. It was also the first bathroom with a warm air blower for drying hands. Little HG found this innovation as exciting as any movie and spent far too much time drying and re-drying his hands. Bathroom attendants were usually anonymous personalities, obsequious gents who trolled for tips while handing out towels — but not the old guy at the Polo Grounds, the rickety old uptown New York stadium that once housed the baseball and football NY Giants. He regaled his customers with this bit of doggerel: “No matter how you shake and dance, the last drop always falls in your pants.” And he was not shy about promoting tips, singing out “After you’ve had your little pee, don’t forget to remember me — old Sam.”

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